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Thursday 17 October 2019

Reflections on rural life by a 'country person who has finally made it home'

LIFE’S RICH TAPESTRY: ‘Lay of the Land’ author Fiona O’Connell with Eamon Ryan at the book launch. Photo Ger Holland
LIFE’S RICH TAPESTRY: ‘Lay of the Land’ author Fiona O’Connell with Eamon Ryan at the book launch. Photo Ger Holland
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Lay of the Land, Fiona O'Connell's collection of columns from the Sunday Independent is "very human, very humble and a really good read", said Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD at its launch last Thursday night.

Dublin-born O'Connell's ''reflections on life in rural Ireland'' is centred on where she now lives in Co Kilkenny, but her column takes readers on a very personalised journey from there to motorway fast-food restaurants to reflections on Tom Moore's great song The Last Rose of Summer to living above a butcher's shop in Wexford Street, Dublin.

Her weekly columns are a "lovely antidote and reaction to the fast pace of modern life", said Eamon Ryan, "slightly nostalgic and old fashioned".

Characters who sometimes appear reminded him of his grandfather, he said, and scratch most Dubliners and a "country person comes through".

Rural Ireland, with its hardships and Valley of the Squinting Windows mentality, was a very different place to what it is today, but "it wasn't all bad and we should be respectful of past traditions".

Fiona started writing the column in the Sunday Independent seven years ago and it is now one of the paper's weekly fixtures.

"I was born in the city but consider myself less of a blow-in than a country person who finally made it home," she writes in the introduction to Lay of the Land. "Certainly I have always felt more comfortable when close to nature. My father's rural roots instilled a yearning in me for the land; visiting relatives down tree-lined avenues in Ireland's lush midlands fed this desire for a wilder world."

Her columns are short and pithy, with titles like ''A facelift alone won't make a town shine'' to ''Beware the brutal Rambos in the night wood''.

She concludes: "Each week I try to look at some tiny part of this rich web, hoping with words to make a few strands vibrate so that readers can share with me what I see and feel."

An eclectic gathering joined Fiona to launch the book, published by Red Stag, in Hodges Figgis in Dawson Street, Dublin. They included former minister Conor Lenihan, artist James Hanley, novelist Julia Kelly, who is currently working on her fourth book, publisher Daniel McCarthy, editor Treasa O'Mahony and many family and friends.

Launching the book, Eamon Ryan referred to the new ''Green Agenda'' and the tensions that arise between city and rural folk as a result. "We are all on one island, we need to break down this disconnect," he said.

Read 'Lay of the Land' this week and every week in the 'Sunday Independent'

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