Thursday 8 December 2016

So much to be proud of in this country of ours

Fiona O’Connell

Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30

'No wonder so many flock here to make it their home'. Stock photo: Getty
'No wonder so many flock here to make it their home'. Stock photo: Getty

Summer is sizzling, so everyone in this country town is out and about. But grey skies and downpours never fully dampen our sociable spirits, though they drive us indoors, where not just drink is taken, but also partners in dances, as well as sides in discussions and lively debates.

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Because beautiful weather is just a bonus that doesn't essentially change anything. Even when it's cold, folk are forever beeping their horns and hollering at familiar faces they pass, while, in time-honoured tradition, the traffic behind waits good-humouredly, the drivers understanding that greetings and gossip must be exchanged.

Life in an Irish country town means you don't need a fictional bar for everyone to know your name - and more besides. But so much is tolerated with a casual kindness, casting seasonal light on the fact that we don't have such a bad set-up here, especially when you consider some of the truly appalling alternatives around the world.

Because it has always been our way for men and women, young and old, to generally get on together, like the snowy-haired grandfather with his matching westie dog and blond toddler grandchild who roam the floodplain most days - whatever the weather, while very few young folk plod about with their heads down, focussed on their mobile phones. Plenty more boisterous boys and equally gregarious girls cradle hurling and camogie sticks, full of beans as they prepare for the next big match.

Meanwhile, the green, white and orange flutters in the balmy breeze, though official commemorations are largely complete. For many communities countrywide are still conducting centenary celebrations, proud of what this Republic has achieved. Despite the knock-backs, corruption and recessions, we have mostly maintained our reputation for resilience and tenacity, compassion and cleverness.

Which prompts many to hold their heads high. And all the better if they get burnt to a 'Tayto' crisp in the process.

No wonder so many flock here to make it their home. Certainly, there are a fair few foreigners in this town. So much so that 'The Salmon Pool', which is hosting a local version of The X Factor, could consider putting on not just the Eurovision, but a global vocal fest too.

Because while we no longer 'dial M for doctor', 'S' is for the superlative German GP who took his place, part of the veritable United Nations in this rural neck of the woods that includes Indians and Africans, an eclectic mix of Europeans, Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos - including my neighbour across the road, whose name matches this month. While last but most certainly no least, are our neighbours from just across the water, adding the sugar and spice of natives new and nice to our already well flavoured seasons!

Sunday Independent

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