Summer in Ireland
It’s been a long, slow summer, so long and slow that I feel as though I’ve slipped from view (from a digital perspective, my inactivity means that I have). Earlier this year I debated intensely with myself whether to stay in New York or not, and I reached a compromise: I would stay one year more, but spend a substantial amount of the holiday period at home with family in Ireland. So here I am.
Being in Ireland is something that evokes mixed feelings, which mirror, in a way, my mixed feelings towards New York: Ireland is slow and familiar where New York is swift and ferocious. Ireland is full of friendly, over-curious relatives and neighbors, while New York is a wilderness of diverse, different folk. This is the trap of the emigrant/immigrant: no place is really like home.
Besides the extreme relaxation of being on holidays for nine weeks (I’m working part-time, but it’s nothing like the usual), my stay has had some highlights. With my mother I visited her home-county, Leitrim; which is normal enough in itself, but this time I persuaded her to drive up the iron mountain, Sliabh an Iarainn. It was dusk when we started off, and we drove as far as the road would go — it was one of those roads that just stops, inexplicably, at a deserted house. The grey terrain that unfurled in front of us under the dark sky was stunning. There were perhaps one or two houses in sight, tiny white dots, and a fire spread through the fields (deliberately started by farmers to get rid of brush), making the view even more dramatic and ominous.
Another highlight, entirely disconnected from that one, was an evening in the Central Hotel Library Bar in Dublin. It is old-fashioned and smells musty. The walls are lined with dusty tomes, and guests lounge in armchairs from which, if you’re by the window, you can peer out into the dark city. The Library Bar is quiet and intimate and perfect for a conversation with a friend, and it offers a welcome break from Dublin’s raucous drinking culture (a surprisingly persistent aspect of Irish life, which I’ve participated in but never like very much).
The chatter in Ireland is quite fascinating: everyone talks about money, though this time it’s their lack of it, whereas in Celtic Tiger days the talk was of conspicuous consumption, the price of houses and holidays. Rather bewilderingly, restaurants and bars remain full — really full! — and everything is expensive. I pay €2 ($2.90) for a coffee here, compared with $1.75 in Queens or Brooklyn. Having also had the good luck to visit Germany and the UK this summer I can assert that Dublin remains pricier than London, New York, or Berlin.
Ireland had its coldest summer in fifty years this year, and there have been about four moderately sunny days since I arrived in July, so as a heat-lover, I’m looking forward to being back in States. But it’s not just because of the fantastic weather: for now, NYC is where I’m at. I appreciate the earthy scent in Ireland’s air, which, even in Dublin, constantly reminds you that you’re not far from the country; but I still crave the liberating anonymity and carefree chaos of a big city.