It does not lessen or go away. I keep finding it a challenge to find a place to stay in the evening. I always find something, all I have to do is ask and people help me. But still it’s a hill I have to climb every evening. It makes me look with longing to the houses where people go to in the evening, be it a mansion or a mobile home. Their home.
It has nothing to do with the people I meet. They are always friendly, hospitable and eager to help. Peter says that has to do with the fact that the Irish are not so many. The population almost halved between 1840 and 1854 during ‘ the famine’. Over a million Irish died and some 1,5 million emigrated, mostly to the US. It is a crucial part in their history and it is well remembered. Also, until some 100 years ago there weren’t a lot of roads, transport took mostly place over waterways.
People depended heavily on each other. You can see the principle at work at the hay-making and the silage that is going on in June. Farmers combine machinery and workmen to get everything done as quickly as possible.
This Sunday, I want to be amongst people. It is a lovely sunny day and there will be thousands of them at the historical and archeaological village of Glendalough. So that’s where I am going. I sit myself on top of little hill and look at the masses of people at the archeological site. Slow, pushing, pulling, quiet, driven, smiling and bored people. People with hats, with caps and sunglasses. Old people, young people, interested, talking, shouting, joking, kicking a football. People alone, following each other, from all nationalities, families, couples. Mothers with a pram and young girls with a doll-pram. “Look daddy, there is grandfather”, a little girl says, pointing at one of the many ancient tombstones. I am happily anonymous in this crowd, a little dab of serotonin, maybe?
Later that evening in the last pub in the village I meet Peter. Over fish and chips and some pints of guiness we start talking about our life’s journeys, where they have taken us and what we have gotten out of it. No one gets away without a few scars it seems. Funny how you can have deep conversations with the Irish. Or would it be the guiness? Peter works at the local radio and media. A lot of his work is done from home, he only has to go into the office once a week, he says. Personal events have changed his outlook on the perspectives of life. He tries to make his way through life as best as he can, live today. He has commercial and political antennas. He knows when and how to strategize. (At the radio station we have a couple of seconds after the obituaries, there might be room for a commercial there: ‘O’Connnor undertakers: we are the last ones to let you down’). Behind us in the pub an amateur band is playing Irish folk music. He says: “I may sing a bit as well in a while.” It’s all allowed, it’s all part of the easy going way people deal with each other.
Peter says that this is the Irish way. They were conquered many times by forces coming from outside. “You know what we did?”, he says. “We married them, or at least our women did”. Another word for the assimilation, that Niall used. “What makes us Irish stand out from others is our purity and our sincere naivete”, he says. “I can’t do that anymore, I’ve become too much of a politician.” But he knows how to sing, a couple of minutes later.
We talk a lot that evening, about politics, about Ireland and about life and share another pint. When the band plays ‘the town I loved so well’, he says: “this sums up the sad parts of Irish history of the last decades”.
I also see the larger sad analogy of a home that will never be the same anymore.