Daydreaming about the simple life
Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30
Whenever I visit the Burren or pretty much anywhere in the West, my thoughts always turn to the attractions of moving to a small house with perhaps an acre or two.
Those of us who live in cities or miles from the coast have all surely dreamt of this and WB Yeats, while living in London, longed for such a location when he wrote The Lake Isle of Innisfree.
"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade."
Honey bees may be scarce these days but the wonderful wild flowers of the Burren would keep those that are still around happy.
In my mind's eye I can visualise the perfect cottage; small, thatched and whitewashed, with maybe a bright blue half door and a dozen chickens scratching around in the garden. It would be within walking distance of the sea and on wild winter evenings I could sit at the fire, listening to the wind and rain and reading all those books I have yet to enjoy. Fine days would be spent pottering about the garden and ensuring there were enough vegetables growing to keep me fed.
A friendly nearby farmer would supply farmyard manure and along with the bean rows, there would be peas, carrots, cabbages and onions and, of course, the essential spuds in neat drills.
One modern touch would be a polytunnel and there I would grow salads and spinach and maybe a few strawberries for a summer treat and sit in its warmth on sunny days.
Once a week I would walk or get a lift to the post office and collect my pension, buy the few groceries and catch up on the local news. Beyond that, a radio would be sufficient company.
Much better not to have a car or a television for both would only provide temptation to stray beyond the immediate locality which I feel sure could amply supply the needs for a happy and fulfilling life.
Having just returned home from a short stay in a cottage near Ballyvaughan where I attended the Burren Winterage Weekend Festival, my thoughts are drawn towards the undoubted attractions of "downsizing" and living a simpler life.
In his semi-autobiographical book Memories, Dreams, Reflections the renowned Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, was of a similar mindset when he described time spent in a small house he had built, mostly with his own labour.
"I have done without electricity" he wrote "and tend the fireplace and stove myself. Evenings, I light the old lamps. There is no running water and I pump the water from the well. I chop the wood and cook the food. These simple acts make man simple; and how difficult it is to be simple!"
First published in 1963 it is still in print and if you want an absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking read, get a copy, for it is one of those books you will keep returning to for years to come.
In many of the more isolated places on our island, you will find people who have downsized, leaving well paid but stressful jobs to live at a slower pace and perhaps bring up children in a more meaningful environment. I can easily relate to this aspiration and to anyone who wishes to get away from a daily commute, probably through heavy traffic and only then being able to have some time with their kids.
Most who take the downsizing option manage very well on a far smaller income than they previously enjoyed but feel much richer in terms of the freedom they now have to pursue their ambitions to write or paint or grow their own food or whatever.
The funny part is that I have met a number of such individuals who have started up small businesses in West Cork or Kerry or wherever and found themselves overrun with work as their new occupation succeeded beyond their expectations and rather cancelled out some of the benefits of downsizing in the first place.
But then they have the pleasure of living in a beautiful rural place, something most farmers enjoy anyway.
We just need to keep reminding ourselves of this and of how money doesn't buy happiness.
Now where will I choose to retire to, the Burren or the Bahamas?