Written November 2011
The thing is, when you change location in the middle of a recession, people automatically believe it’s for economic reasons. That starvation, or disgruntled creditors, or creditors disgruntled by starvation chased me out of Cork. That coming back to South County Galway has a whiff of desperation to it, a contrail of choking sadness that rudely dilutes the smell of silage and Zetor fumes. After all, didn’t Cromwell say, ‘To hell or to Connacht’? That I’m in South County Galway instead of in the People’s Republic suggests lack of options and a foolhardiness not seen since my assumption that Jedward could win the Eurovision song contest.
But a hearty feck-the-fuck-off to that! I had tons of options. I am optioned out the wazoo. Oliver Cromwell didn’t like stones in his fields or lakes that had a habit of disappearing in the middle of the night, but I’m only thrilled with both phenomena. Coming home to South County Galway is coming home to South County Galway; there’s no more enthralling explanation than that. I like it here. I like a bit of limestone in my drinking water.
It has deeply perplexed my family.
‘What are you going to do, though?’ they ask, peering at me from the end of their poking sticks. ‘What? Are? You? Up to?’ To which I smile mysteriously and stick the kettle on.
Because I’m assumed to have economic motives, the next step from the quizzical is to suggest I get myself a job in one of the local establishments. Well, when I say establishments, I mean filling stations. There isn’t a lot else of great establishment in South County Galway, apart from a ludicrous amount of towers and keeps, as if the land was once ruled by warlike lunatics who thought the best way to protect their favourite stones was to build houses out of ‘em. It’s a bit like Skyrim around here, minus the interesting climate and general happenings.
‘Why don’t you ask if there are any hours going in the garage?’ the family tell me, swapping poking sticks for seesawed eyebrows and cats-arse lips.
‘I’m alright for the time being,’ I reply. ‘Maybe I’ll do a bit of freelancing.’
I think they believe freelancing to be some sort of fencing flourish, and have dismissed me accordingly. Certainly no one’s asked me to elaborate. Nor has anyone asked what exactly I used to do for the last half decade in Cork. What my skills are. Where I’d been taking them. You come home to South County Galway, and people automatically assume you’re on the lam and can best atone for your nefarious deeds by donning a bright red polo shirt and dinging a till for forty hours a week. To jail, or to Connacht: where questions shrivel and die.
But it’s not a bad place to be, South County Galway. The rents are cheap and the sunsets are spectacular. And it’s not a bad place to raise a smallie. Me and my cousins had a whole fantastical landscape to carve into; the Burren, the round tower, the woods, the river that keeps disappearing into dangerous swallow holes and caverns. The Famous Five had nothing on us, apart from fame and lashings of ginger beer, something I’ve never laid tongue to in all my years masquerading as middle-class. I’m losing nothing by coming home, apart from half a Cork accent and pubs you’re not afraid to sit down in.
And I get more time to write now, and more breathing space to do it in. Hopefully the move home will be a productive one. Hopefully good things will spring from this, overnight, like a turlough around a startled cow.