Quiet airport sceneOn Wednesday afternoon, I went to the airport. On Sunday afternoon I was back there. In between, I hurtled through the skies in a metal tube, kept aloft by nothing but will power and loud noises, as far as I can tell, to a small country 3000 miles away; and then did it again in the other direction.

It’s a strange life we lead, in this twenty-first century, where people can do things like that.

The first time my dad visited the US, he came on a boat. It took five days. He’s not so old that they didn’t have flights back then, but it was probably much cheaper by sea. But I can imagine that doing it that way at least gives you a sense of distance. You use the time in between to come to terms with leaving one place and going to another: you’re not so surprised when you finally get there that you’re a long way away now.

But when I walk onto a plane, time stops. (This does not apply when travelling with children. Then time becomes infinite.) Then I walk off, and – inexplicably – my surroundings are more familiar than anything I left behind me. The air is damp, the streetlights are orange, daylight creeps into being, voices sound like home. I can navigate to the other side of the city without thinking too hard, just heading in the right direction. I know which way that is.

I spent three days seeing a very few family members and friends. I did some useful things. I threw away a lot of ancient pieces of paper. I brought away a small amount of memorabilia and another tranche of my teenaged bookshelf. I decided I will live the rest of my life quite happily without being in possession of my piano exam certificates, my secondary school homework notebooks, or even my terrible teenage poetry.

Back in the airport before I left I couldn’t shake the feeling that, even though I was returning to nothing but a delightful life with the people I love, Ireland was the right place. Ireland’s just better, in spite of no concrete evidence to support that fact in almost any direction beyond scones and jam, cheese and sausages, people in the service industry who are genuinely happy to help, not finding your presence at their counter a tedious imposition.

The feeling persisted on the other side, at least for a while: I felt displaced, even after all this time, not at home.

Home. Other home. Wrong home, right home, different. It doesn’t matter, really, does it? Here I am.

Harbour scene



4 thoughts on “Hurtling

  1. Angela O'Donovan

    Hi, yes, I went through a lot of that. I left Dublin for London in 1980 having asked the bank for London but would take rural Ireland otherwise as I needed to ‘get out’ of home. It’s only been in the last 5/6 years I’ve had the true gut feeling there here in London is home.
    I had lots of trips home – literally dozens – in 2008/9 when my 95 year old mother’s health finally failed. As my husband had just retired early then i got to spend a lot of time there and all of a sudden Dublin seemed wonderful. Clearly, the financial situation in Ireland was better, there were great motorways to the rural cousins, Dublin was the perfect size too – small enough to walk around most of the centre but big enough not be feel so parochial.

    Now I know here is home. What is sad is that my son, who considers himself Irish, will probably have children and they won’t have the same connection. That’s life I know.
    Culture is so much more than a language and my move here means our Irishness will dilute over time…


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