"Although I can see him still,
The freckled man who goes
To a grey place on a hill
In grey Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies,
It's long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man...

... And his sun-freckled face,
And grey Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream:
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And I cried, 'Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn."

From "The Fisherman": WB Yeats: 1919

In Ireland, hope can be a secret weapon ...

First published in the Redstone Review, November 2005

Sometime during the summer of 2005, a survey claimed that of all the countries in the world they'd like to choose for ancestry, most British people would pick Ireland. Cleverly aspirational marketing campaigns by Guinness and Bailey's may have something to do with this: to be sure, Oirland is the homeland of relaxation so laid-back it's horizontal, of Oscar Wilde and WB Yeats, the place you go for oysters and craic that last all night long and extra-cold pints of the black stuff that slip down smoothly and even collectively don't leave you with the slightest trace of indigestion or hangover.

Or maybe I've just been luckily selective in my out-take from all that careful cultural messaging?

Once upon a time, I really was in love with Ireland. That Emerald Isle from which my own forefathers genuinely sprang - my grandfather one of ten children brought up in a Tipperary rectory to captain his country at rugby, my father sent back to school in the North as war began, herding cattle in Greenisland and crouching under blastproof tables as the Junkers grumbled overhead to bomb the shipyards - all that ancestral juju pulled on me. In all of what felt like four hundred years, I was the first of my line not to have studied at Trinity College in Dublin. But to make up for it, I saw three corners of Ireland from an inside track. Belfast, Cork, Donegal: after all, to learn a language properly, you should always fall for a native speaker.

Page 1 2 3 4