Saturday 24 September 2016

I don't want your pity – life outside Dublin is fine

John Fardy

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

The picturesque countryside of Laois
The picturesque countryside of Laois

I am to be pitied. You might not know it necessarily to look at me. I'm a normal enough looking fella. The facts of my life are also pretty normal – wife, child, mortgage, job, etc. But, you see, recently I moved to Co Louth and now I commute into Dublin every day and thus I have discovered a very contemporary phenomenon: 'commuter pity'.

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Commuter pity is played out in exactly the same way every time; you tell people you've moved outside of Dublin and the first response is invariably the incredulous, "You come in from there everyday?" and then that is followed by a "poor you".

Occasionally that's followed by an inquiry about your life that might explain your bizarre choice? "Do you have a sick relative?" "Are you on the run?"

Many people just can't seem to fathom why people commute.

But at the heart of commuter pity is really something more sinister: Not-living-in-Dublin pity. For many, the fact that you would choose to pitch your tent somewhere other than Dublin is an affront to common sense.

It's particularly worse in my case because I'm originally from Dublin. It's like I've traded in my BMW for a Lada. The people who are most aghast at my move away from Dublin tend to be people who themselves began life far from it; it's natives of Carlow or Cork that seem to find my move so astonishing.

These refugees seem to have forgotten their roots. Now wholly ensconced in the capital, they seemingly can't conceive of a life outside of it.

So why have I moved out of Dublin and chosen to spend 55 minutes on a train every day? Life has changed now that we've got kids. I've moved to an area where my wife is from and she has lots of family around. Being a ten-minute walk away from Lillie's Bordello pales in comparison to having three different people who will take a child with chicken pox when the creche can't.

The fact that we're surrounded by my wife's family might sound like the stuff of a Les Dawson joke but it's manna from Heaven.

Aside from all that, there is a simple fact that those commuter pitiers don't grasp: there are benefits to living outside of Dublin. I now live in a detached house by the sea that hasn't cost me a body organ. I'm a three-minute drive from the centre of town and there's always a parking space. Saying hello to strangers on the street doesn't make people think I'm an escaped lunatic.

And, most importantly, you can still get a pint of Guinness for four quid.

Life doesn't only go on, it blooms. In the playgrounds, on the football pitches, in the bars and all the other places you'd imagine. I myself have probably always been guilty of thinking that life beyond the walls of the cool capital was somehow duller with much less going on. We forget in a country of nearly five million people that nearly two-thirds of those live outside Dublin.

There must be a reason for that. It can't simply be an accident of birth or the fact that they can't find their way out. Maybe it's because life is good there.

Of course you've probably known this all along. But I've only started to realise it now.

Moving out of Dublin has given me a greater appreciation for the rest of the country. Look at me: I've become a patriot.

I'm not going to start bashing Dublin. I spent most of my life there and as the title of the poem many of us learned in school says 'Dublin made me'. It's in my bones and it's part of my emotional make-up. I'll always be a Dub.

But there's something very freeing about giving it a go somewhere else. There's a new sense of possibility. I can try and dream some of it up again.

The real vote of confidence, though, is my two-year-old's repeated pronouncement of "new house ... nice". I'd gladly do 55 minutes on a train for that.

So please, all you fair city dwellers, go easy on the pity. We commuters are doing fine.

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