Life Lessons from Ireland

Aug 25


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Helen Whitten

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Life Lessons from Ireland

The Ring of Kerry

There’s Something about Ireland

The peat bog for a start.  Seeps its way into everything, including the water supply in the cottage we rented on the Ring of Kerry.  The bath a delightful brackish brown as one stepped in and I wondered idly whether it would top up a tan.  The water in my glass likewise looked like mud and we questioned whether the well was pure enough to drink.  But being close to nature felt right in order to shake off the London neurosis for bottled water and slide into the Irish ways where possible.  The views outside our window across the water to the Kerry mountains took our breath away and we relaxed into its beauty.

I remember a colleague of mine who was raised in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, saying he had Africa and its big skies with him all the time.  There are things about Ireland and the Irish that I would like to bring home with me to England.  The banter for one thing.  It’s everywhere – in lifts, on pavements, at a bar, on a bus, in shops, people starting to chat and banter with one another.  Strangers, family, friends.  It’s friendly, witty and upbeat and there’s much laughter to go with it.  You are left with a sense of connection and that all is well with the world.  I decided to try this friendly open approach more often back home rather than follow the typically English way of avoiding a stranger’s eye.  I shall let you know how it goes!

That sense of community and connection.  In every conversation our Irish friend had with apparent strangers as well as family and friends, he discovered that in every county we visited – Kerry, Clare, Limerick – people knew someone he knew.  It’s good to remember how many contacts one knows around the British Isles, from childhood, work, family and adult life.  Often more than one has kept in one’s consciousness.  I have just taken a mental tour of the world and brought to mind people I know or have met in a surprising number of places and countries.  It feels good.

The music – that’s everywhere too.  Irish music is a stirring blend of jigs and reels and music that starts one’s foot tapping with involuntary immediacy interspersed with soulful slow airs that conjure up the wilds of the moors and the history of troubles and hardship.  One cannot but have one’s emotions stirred one way or another.   I have brought home CDs and downloads to enjoy here too.

So, having recently discovered that I have some 24% Irish DNA, I shall bring home with me all this rich experience and landscape.   I want to keep in mind those hills and valleys, the clear night skies we enjoyed and that sense of good-natured humour and camaraderie … let’s see how long it lasts in the midst of the crowded city streets of London!

And where might you want to bring into your mind and take around with you, I wonder?


2 Responses

  1. What a beautiful distillation of our days in Ireland. At a time when it seems we are retreating into our own small worlds, it is good to be reminded that we can expand to include and take with us other worlds and hence grow to have larger horizons.
    Since you ask, I would like to remember and take with me the open skies, rugged mountains, fast rivers, and the warm and hospitable people of Iran.
    Thanks Helen for as ever inspiring introspection and the journey into wider horizons.

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