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June 2019
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2010-09 Home is where the heart is

a column for the Sligo Weekender

As the old black Wolseley (registration YZD 247) turned off the Rosses Point Road into the lane at Cartron, it was typically my responsibility to bolt the white iron gate behind us. The steaming damp dogs vacated the car, then raced me up the tarred lane into our characterful farmyard, past the stables, henhouses and barns, to the familiar sight of that imposingly lofty ash tree, and its improvised swing  a Michelin tyre at the end of a long blue rope. The higgledy-piggledy nature of the rear of our 18th Century house at Cartron, with its assorted jumbled add-ons, gave it its chaotic quirkiness.

But it was home.

Later as I returned from school and college in Dublin, like so many as I crossed the Curlews, the welcoming panorama of Lough Arrow seldom failed to elicit a satisfied smile. The equestrian metal masterpiece - that commanding Gaelic Chieftain  now further exalts the entry to our county. As I made my way down Pearse Road, the sight of our friendly Sphinx-like Benbulben winking in the afternoon sun meant at last I was home.

Now, as I traverse the globe for nine or ten months of the year I detect  tiny fragments of Ireland in every corner of the world, whether in the form of a pub or a recounted memory. Mine is the kind of touring which means that when I get home even my cactii are wilting, my vacuum cleaner is dusty, and my spiders grandkids are webbing my interiors. And so, even the sight of Irelands greener-than-green west coast, or Poolbeg and Irelands Eye, every time stimulate a fuzzy feeling deep within.
When I returned from opera tours to London throughout the 1990s, while I enjoyed and valued the best part of my ten years residing in the English capital  it was never home, until I came back to Ireland. In the words of Randy Newman& Feels like Im all the way back where I belong.

And yet, when I listen to the RTE News and become jaded by NAMA, the HSE, the Bishops, Ministerial Expenses, and their numerous tiresome bed-fellows, I am reminded of Bob Geldofs Banana Republic of the 1980s, and our at times still truly septic isle. I get angered by our little land, and its wasted potential. But despite my countless grievances with the New Ireland, and our terminally-ill Tiger, somehow Ireland, and Sligo, appear more beautiful each time I return home.
Perhaps its a memory build-up, an ever-increasing number of departed loved ones coupled with each of their individual stories. Or the faces of familiar news-readers, catching up on all the drama and street-gossip in Weatherfield, or the Angelus (are we the only country in the world who still airs the Angelus twice a day& and when, where and how did I commit The Angelus to memory?).

Perhaps its the quality sleep (without the aid of ear-plugs), and being woken by the pitter-patter of tiny bird-feet on my roof-tiles, or the exchanges about the weather with my local check-out ladies, lingering coffees with my neighbours, extended walks in heathery hills, or all of my comfortably familiar daily routines  familiarity breeding content n all.

My pride in being Irish, and more specifically a Sligoman, was highlighted recently when I was fortunate enough to attend the Leonard Cohen concert in the picture perfect setting of Lissadell - my late Mums favourite Sligo beauty-spot. I attended the concert mostly out of curiosity, and admittedly not his most devoted fan. But after four hours of hearing this deeply spiritual 76-year-old Canadian with the voice of a Russian Bass deliver much of his extensive songbook, enjoying his banter and dry wit, learning of his adoration for Yeats and Sligo, and marvelling at his generosity to his fellow musicians and to his public - I am now a loyal fan!

At times on my travels, some cities have an immediate positive impact on me, and I think to myself&Well, if I didnt live in Ireland&maybe I could live here&  cities such as Victoria and Vancouver in British Columbia, Chicago, Siena, Dresden, Amsterdam, and others. However, no matter how much our little land, and more specifically those in charge, anger and annoy me at times  Ireland will always be home.

As Charles Dudley Warner said  The best thing about travelling is coming home.
And as Bean Uí Higí imparted to me all those decades ago... Níl aon tinteán mar a thinteán féin.