Tuesday 21 November 2017

Clash of local heroes marks the end of my Irish summer

London's calling but my heart will be with Waterford today and a dear old friend who's the best of our country, writes Fergal Keane

Fergal Keane in Ardmore, Co Waterford. Photo: Tony Gavin
Fergal Keane in Ardmore, Co Waterford. Photo: Tony Gavin

Fergal Keane

I am by nature an enemy of national exceptionalism - whether it is the American idea of 'manifest destiny', a late-born first cousin of imperialism, or our homegrown, and admittedly much less problematic, 'ah sure there's no one like us'. Every nation has some claim to make for itself. None is perfect.

But after a summer largely spent in Ireland, more specifically in the counties Waterford and Kerry, I am heading back toward London with a heavy heart. More than in previous years, I feel I am leaving too much that is important and what is unattainable anywhere else behind me.

I declaim without fear of contradicting myself at some later stage: there is nowhere like this land when summer begins to give way to autumn and the skies over Ballinskelligs draw the star watchers; when I sip a bitter coffee in the early morning and follow the progress of the sun on the water from Waterville to all points west; when the kindness of cousins and old friends is a blessed mercy; when John and Paula King make the coffee in Ardmore and we are as comfortable together as we have been for nearly three decades.

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