Sunday, 17 December 2017

Why do I love the people of the West of Ireland?

Welcome aboard Adley Airways flight 202 from Londoner to Chilled Out Scribbler. We’ll be departing from Terminal Stress and today’s flight time to our arrival at Not Very International Airport will be just over an hour.
Every time I return to the West of Ireland I appreciate the feeling of being home. I spent decades wandering around, looking for somewhere I belonged in and to, so the gratitude I feel for having found my home echoes each time I come back.
I do a lot of coming and going, because my family and many life-long friends live in England. Mind you, for the past few years I’ve barely seen my mates, as I go over to hang out with my Octogenarian mum, whose energy puts me to shame.
My joy at returning to the West in no way reflects poorly on my love for those in London. I’m not pleased to get away from them, but I am delighted to revert to the man I become when in Connacht.
On a late Summer’s evening a lifetime ago, I climbed into my car at Knock Airport to drive to my home, which was then in Killala. Winding down my window I punched the air outside, compressing a powerful cocktail of joy and relief into the sound: 
I’ll never experience the power of having lived your entire life in one place, as so many do in rural Ireland. To have that blood connection with the same land for centuries must create a profound feeling, but I too have a wonderful perspective: I found my home.
Like you, I feel a strong connection to my birthplace, but I live here, not there, and see this place and its people through the eyes of a stranger, a blow-in, and I always will.
I am with ye, but I am not of ye.
Amen. cof cof. Pass the mustard.
25 years on I still can’t wait to board this Aer Lingus flight to Shannon, but it’s delayed due to bad weather.
Outside the sky is cloudless. 
The sun has been shining all day over the British Isles (it’s a geographical term, so don’t be getting yourselves all bolshy) and it’s only a 20 minute delay, but give us ‘Technical Difficulty’ or ‘Operational Disfunction’ on a day like this. 
Any old blatant lie will do, but not the weather. 
Not today.
Anyway, the plane’s outside, so all is good. Passing time is my number one talent. I can sit calmly and space out in silence for hours.
What I can’t do though is wait here beside this woman who’s come to sit next to me. She’s texting what appears to be three or four people at once. This I know only because her phone’s alert signal is that birdy tweet
which she has set on cranium cracking volume levels. Two or three 
arrive every ten seconds, as each person replies to whatever is so bloody important.
Why does she think it’s okay?
Rising to my feet and above such a minor irritant in the order of things, I see that boarding is starting. Yer man at the gate refuses to reply to my “Hello’, and when I thank him he says nothing back.
No eye contact.
Entering the plane I’m welcomed by two female Aer Lingus stewards with warm, calm, friendly smiles.
“Yer man back there could do with a bit of charm school !” I suggest, telling them about his performance.
“Is he wearing one of our uniforms?” she asks with pride, as she raises her fists to show what she’d do to him, if he turned out to be one of theirs.
She makes me smile.
The trip’s been great. I hung out with mum, saw my sister and one of my nieces, and had a meal with a great friend. Couldn’t ask for more, but three days in London gives me a granite neck and guts twisted this way and that. 
Ouch, and oh, it’s lovely to settle into my  my plane seat at last.
Looking at the Irish passengers as they file in, with their goofy teeth and gentle smiles, I wonder what it is about them that I find so comforting.
Is it something to do with they way they’ve suffered for so long?
Is it the poverty and bad weather, or is it in their genes?
Today it’s easy to feel kinship with the people of the West of Ireland, because I’ve just been in a country where the culture is driven by a desire to recreate what is believed to be a great past. 
After months of listening to the delusion, pomposity, ignorance and arrogance that English leaders offer Europe and Ireland, it’s naturally comforting to be among humble people, who know who they are; people who prefer to leave their past behind, rather than dream of it; people who do not punish others for being poor - well, unless they're asylum seekers or refugees.
Well nobody’s perfect.
The answer to my quandary comes quickly after arrival at Shannon Airport.
Off to the Gents, where I think I might need to sit down, but oh no, and yuk, and oh no again, every toilet is filthy.
Just a peeper then. 

No soap in any of the dispensers.
Oh come on, you're ‘avin’ a larf.  
This is an airport isn’t it?
Back in arrogant Heathrow, remote-controlled sensors supplied hot water and soap, while under-mirror blow-heaters dried your hands.
Filthy toilets and no soap.  
Is this why all these folk are happy?
In England they expect everything and are permanently disappointed. Here in the West of Ireland we have zero expectations most of the time, because that brings no disappointments
The woman at the baggage carousel spots my UK passport.
“Over for a visit, are you? You’ll be back home for Christmas, I suppose?”
“Home for Christmas? Yes!” I smile back at her. “I’m already here.”

Charlie Adley

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