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Slán go fóill

In Plenary on August 27, 2010 at 1:59 pm

If there was something missing from this blog so far, with its focus on our move to Spain, life in  Andalucia and the little town of Tarifa, it was a post about County Donegal in North West Ireland. Did you spot that? Consider the issue addressed.

We had always wanted to go to Donegal – K had never been and I only had the dimmest childhood memories. With our move imminent we finally got out there a couple of weekends ago. It would be our last chance to do it for a while – and I’m all about last chances – so off we went.

Many of you will be aware that Ireland is a tiny island off the coast of Wales, but what you may not appreciate, given its size, is what a giant pain in the ass it is getting from one side of the island to the other, and even worse, getting from a to b once you are out West. Of course, if driving down an unmarked track, riddled with potholes as deep as the wheels of your car and leading to precisely nowhere is your idea of a good time, then it isn’t painful at all; but if you like knowing where you are, or if there’s somewhere you need to be by a particular time, God help you.

For once though we had managed to leave early, and so we weren’t in a hurry – the tiny pockmarked roads that wind through Donegal, moreover, will take you through some of the most beautiful country you will ever see. Because of the early departure we hit the Atlantic coast mid-morning and headed straight for Bundoran Beach where I was determined, despite the ice cold water and the fact that I’d forgotten to bring any swimming trunks, to take a dip.

The love of one’s own country, as it plucks the heartstrings, makes a sad music. It’s a dubious feeling; my native landscape is the concrete and tarmac of the Dublin suburb – noisy with traffic during the day and lit up in bright, unnatural orange light at night. Building sites and tower cranes, bustling shops and bus stops; what then has this magnificent Atlantic coastline got to do with me? Or the gloomy mist-clad mountains that shed dark rain into drizzle-drenched valleys, their green slopes wrinkled with waterfalls and stony streams?

My God, this country broods and glowers; it has been a poor place for most of its history and the Irish have had their share of suffering, but if we’d never felt a moment’s pain or heard a bit of bad news we’d still have written sad songs, with a landscape like this to inspire us.

So what has it got to do with me? I don’t know. Something. I took my shock-inducing dip and we spent the next two days in open-mouthed awe; the coastline, the mountains, lakes, castles – all of it. We were walking one evening, hand in hand along the harbour in Killybegs, when it occurred to me that what I was doing out here was saying goodbye. We’d driven across the country to a town we’d never set foot in so that I could say goodbye to the place we’d set out from. Or something like that.

Anyway it was poignant.

That’s all I have , Ireland. Slán go fóill.

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  1. So well put about Ireland, Robin! On our last trip back, I was getting sentimental about my strong connections to the land- every strand of my DNA evolved from here! My mom, who immigrated to the US from Co. Kerry in the 1950s said “Well, you can’t eat the scenery.” I suspect she is a little more sentimental that she lets on. The rugged west just feels like it is in my bones, a lot more familiar than the dull American suburban landscape I grew up in.

  2. Thanks so much. That part of the world will do that to you if you have an Irish bone in your body. I don’t know what it is; foolish sentiment quite possibly, but something more, I think.

  3. I lived in Ireland for a year and your post took me right back! Oh the difficulties of driving – it really was hard to get “from one side of the island to the other”. I remember all the tiny roads with hedges, following tractors at 10 miles an hour with no way to pass. What fun!

    I think it’s always hard to say goodbye, even if you don’t really like the place you’re living. Good luck on your new life in Spain. I’m sure it will be fantastic and exciting!

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