Running Away


To Ireland last week for a few days, to catch up with old friends, and to spend some time in a country that’s in even worse shape than we are. But the delightful thing about the Irish is that they don’t really seem to care that much. They’ve only had about 15 years of chucking money about; five years before that they were still saying goodbye and leaving the country. Plus, at least it’s euros they’re chucking about. My pounds are making a very tinny sound these days.

I moved over there in 1990, when things were still grim. Every summer my classmates would leave for bar jobs in the US or canning factories in Germany. In 2003 I moved back home, leaving Ireland awash with BMW key fobs and overpriced wine. The country had been good to me but I didn’t recognise it any longer. And another thing: my career path had arced alongside the country’s prosperity, and I wasn’t sure that its gleeful-optimism-curdling-to-bloated-sense-of-entitlement didn’t murkily prefigure my own midlife crisis. So being a grown-up, I ran away.

Five years later, in London, staring down the barrel of unemployment (I haven’t really mentioned that yet, have I?), I ran back. Back to being skint, to pints in the afternoon, to laughing at how screwed everything was, to embarrassing reminiscence, to political hogwash, to gossip, giggling and maybe another pint.

A postscript to my rose-tinted Oirish delight: the trip was achieved despite a foully sore throat (see below, those hot marbles really turned into a nasty one) and a strong, almost constant desire to lie down. The trip started in Dublin and ended in Limerick, specifically Shannon, that weirdly busy airport on the edge of Europe. It struck me that Christmas and airports are really strange bedfellows, particularly when you’re running a bit of a temperature. Anyway, God knows if I’m breaking some sort of security protocol, but the place was full of American soldiers in grey desert fatigues, which would surely blend in a treat with a multi-storey car park, but didn’t really work in the lush west of Ireland. So I bumbled about past shelves of Bailey’s and buzz-cut soldiers reading their star signs until I happened upon perhaps the weirdest sight of all: a bunch of knee-high animatronic Santas waggling and bouncing to the strains of Ring Out Solstice Bells. Nothing says Christmas like soldiers, Jethro Tull and cold cures.


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