It’s been a tough week. Bollicks you say! We don’t want to hear your whinging. Fair enough but it’s not a whinge. Context is everything so I am merely prefacing my piece by putting it in the context of a tough week.
For someone who travels around the world so much for work I don’t half miss home when I’m away. Home for me is not a place of course. Home is personified in my darling Joanna and I am always home whenever we are together. But there is also the broader context of home for me. For the last two weeks pretty much, I have travelled throughout this beautiful little country that I call home on a very specific work related activity. Don’t worry I won’t bore you with the details.
Stripped of the comfort of my car, I drove a big beast of a thing up following a smaller vehicle with the driver using his sat nav. I got the distinct impression he was trying to find roads that my vehicle just simply would not be able to drive down but somehow I managed to survive without a scrape. Early 0600 a.m. starts, 12 hour days and driving cold winds made for an unfamiliar work environment, but it had to be done.
At one point along the Wild Atlantic Way as it is called, somewhere in Donegal, I was struggling with the terrain and the weather. I barely had a chance to catch my breath let alone enjoy the scenery. But when I did take a moment to look out to the rugged coast on my right or the spectacular landscape to my left and despite the sideways rain, my breath was quickly taken away again.
I realise as a writer that I am truly of this place. Home is for me, centred on a person, but I realise too that home is very much the Island of my birth, this beautiful green bauble at the edge of the Atlantic, this Ireland.
It is a part of me. I am its dramatic landscape. I am the wind and rain that steals away the sky. In my spirit, in my reasoning are the generations who came before me, shaping the land, marking their passage through time with their own unique culture and style.
Ireland is an Island of accents. You can change suburbs and there may be a dramatic change. Town to town it changes and while I consider myself adept at cutting through the local nuances, even I encountered some doozies on this trip. A man in his seventies with one tooth, fell out of a ten year old Land Cruiser in a cloud of smoke and ash and approached me. He had the look of a man dug out of the soil. There was the hint of a life lived in harshness and a whiff of the wildness of the countryside about us on him. He muttered something unintelligible and laughed and my colleague looked baffled. It was written all over his face. I just spoke to him in a loud voice for I suspected he might be half-deaf and the wind was catching each word and carrying them away along with the combed-over hair on the top of his head.
“What did you say?”
He repeated something that sounded like,
“Sure an anarled garfunkle ina gombroiled ge ge gargo effing a dib.” And then he laughed as though I might enjoy whatever joke he had just made. I laughed in agreement and answered,
“Ah but come ‘ere, don’t be talkin’… and what would a Dub like me know about that anyway.”
He cracked up and agreed. I still hadn’t a feckin’ bog’s notion what he was talking about.
“True – true, A jackeen maw dawb de finkler becnch, haw haw de hup.” He slapped me on the arm as though we’d known each other for years and dug his hands into his pockets to settle in for a good chat. Now I’m not tall, but I felt as though I was towering above him as he tilted his scraggle head and squinted up at me.
“And sure what in de grandooby aye a for naw hack in the shambeen.”
Still completely lost as to what the feck the auld lad was saying I rubbed my chin.
“You’re a man who knows his way around. I can tell by the yoke you’re drivin’; I’d say she owes you nothin’ at this stage.”
It was a diversion and it worked. He was clearly a man who knew the value of a shilling and he seemed pleased that I had noticed.
“Nawthin’ for sure.” Finally a sentence I understood.
“You should trade her in for a nice flashy sports car. A good looking man like you in this neck of the woods, sure Jaysus the auldwans would be queueing up for you after mass.”
The very thought of it cracked him up; I thought he was going to lose the last remaining tooth in his head he laughed so much. But then he rubbed his chin and looked at me with a serious face and for the first time spoke quite clearly, or maybe I was getting used to him.
“A man id be tinkin you had money iffing you wore to be drrrivin’ somethin’ wid a bit a flash on her. Nooo I’ll schtick to me old girl.”
I stood there talking to a random stranger for a good ten minutes barely understanding a damn word he said for no other reason than he stepped out of his car beside me. And there in a nutshell is how I am off this place. I have travelled the world and nowhere have I encountered such a natural gift for conversation as I have on this twinkle at the edge of Europe.
Home is who you are. I have lived abroad with comfort and I am not one to get teary-eyed an homesick for the old sod, but I do recognise the impact my culture, landscape and heritage has made on me and they are indelible. Most people have a love for their homeland but it is often misguided and used in what for me can be an uncomfortable way. When I see conflict and crises, it is easy to see how individuals, groups and even governments can manipulate this sense of identity into zealous nationalism. It is not uan unfamiliar thing to us Irish.
For me, it is more an ingrained thing. It is in my speech and in how I look at life and think, the way I look to nature or see other people. It is stamped all over my personality and it is very much part of me as a writer. Literature has a special place in Ireland. We were thought in school that we come from an Island of saints and scholars and that it should be something to be proud of. Pride is overrated but I am certainly grateful for those that came before me for they gave me the sky to write on and I do my best to write my story there.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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