Sunday, 7 April 2019


“So what was it that made a London boy like yourself feel at home here?”

Group Editor of Tribune newspapers, Dave O’Connell is sitting in for Keith Finnegan on Galway Bay FM.

“Well, just off the boat from France in ’92, I was working as a kitchen porter in Kinsale, but my eyes were drawn to Connemara on my map. When I went there, phwoohh, it was like meeting my soul in a mirror.”

Yeh, dead poetic, but actually I just made that last bit up. 

Can’t remember exactly what I said on the radio, but it wasn’t as good as that.

Point is, ever since that interview, I’ve been pondering the idea of home. What I said was true, but it set me wondering, because it’s far from the whole truth.

(Indulge me please, as I give thanks that English is my native language. I know but cannot explain why ‘wondering’ and ‘pondering’ do that. English must be a nightmare to learn. Monkey Donkey. Digression over.)

When I finally moved to Connemara in ’94, I experienced home at last. For the first time I’d a little house all to myself. 

2 miles from the village (pub), the 12 Pins everywhere, moonscape moraine and Granuaille and Donal’s auld ruined love-nest out of my kitchen window.

I felt I’d run out of countries. There were still untold places I hadn’t been to, but that house was the end of my own long road.

How perfectly ironic that after I’d hared around the planet twice, I ended up in the country next door, where I’d never been; never thought of going to; knew nothing about.

When I’d hitched in new countries as a teenager I treasured contact addresses and phone numbers.

A sofa to sleep on, a hot shower and conversation with a local: comfort to the young traveller.

By the age of 32 however, I was delighted that I knew nobody in this country.

Not a soul.
A clean palette.

I was done with doing countries. I wanted Ireland to happen to me, and it did, both socially and professionally.

Here in the West I feel that I’m swimming with life’s tide.
Within a single month of arriving opportunities personal and professional appeared: Salthill nightclubs and King For A Day Tuesday afternoons in an Tobar, a job working with young Travellers in the Rahoon flats and this colyoom.

Given the job of blathering opinion at the locals, I was handicapped only by the aforementioned fact that I knew nothing about the country, its people, history, culture or politics.

No divorce.

No contraception. 
No skin colour apart from excruciatingly white. 
No ruling parties of the Left or Right.

Had I walked through the wardrobe? 

How come this place was hanging out just to the left of England, where all of the above were entrenched; unquestioned?

In the process of trying to learn about Ireland, I realised I’d found my home. Asking questions earned answers that twisted my brain and knotted my funny bone with paradox and intelligent nonsense.

I loved it, but then I loved another more, and left Ireland. All my life I’d wholly moved on, always forwards. Now I felt a yearning; a strong need to go back.

Is that what made this home? 

No, not that. 
Not because when I left it I grieved. 
Not that, even though it was so powerful it drove me insane.

I don’t want the reason this place feels like home to be as pathetic and drastic as ‘I can’t live without it.’

There are countless reasons more positive. The compassion of the people in the West is unique and incredibly welcome.

I love that here nobody blinks when you say you're a writer. The old fella at the bar in my very first Irish pub grunted at me:

“Ah, a scribbler is it? Sure, doesn’t every fecker have a novel stuffed under the bed?”

For years home became North Mayo. Before a marketing miracle turned the West Coast of Ireland into the Wild Atlantic Way, on February mornings I walked DownPatrick Head and Kilcummin Back Strand, utterly alone in overwhelming majesty.

Part of my home will always be London, home to my family and lifetime friends. One of them is turning 60, so recently I trawled my photo albums for ancient and hilarious pics of him.

In the process however I kept on seeing three male faces. Page after page they turned up.

Thankfully, it wasn’t only work that fell my way when I arrived in Galway. I met Blitz in the Jug o’Punch, and he introduced me to The Body and Whispering Blue.

I hadn’t moved to Ireland to hang out with Crusties from Reigate, so it was beyond brilliant to meet three local lads, all of whom had travelled and lived life.

Last week Blitz was in town, so we put the band back together for a midday coffee outside The Quays.

Was a time when that arrangement would've been absolutely lethal. Decades older and altogether achier, we actually drank coffee. I looked at the lads and realised another reason I feel at home here.

Long ago these three local men insisted I feel at home in their homes, and I did.

Later that night I walked into a bar to meet Blitz.

A friend waved his hand from far across the bar. I waved back, catching the eye of another in front, who thought I was waving to him, which I would’ve, had I seen him.

The barman said my friend had just paid for my Jameson, and it was all rather a bit too wonderful, when Blltz’s better half (proportionately unfair to the woman) appeared out of nowhere and gave me a great big hug.



©Charlie Adley

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