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The Big Move: From ‘Beirut’ to Ballyv.

August 12, 2012

It had been creeping up on me for a while. It really started once the family holidays began again. We all go our separate ways in our twenties – then someone marries, has a child and bingo! we all meet up…second time around. 


As with the generations before me, I moved from the West of Ireland to work in Dublin. I built a life there and in my mid-twenties, when all my friends were living the free life, I bought a house. I moved in to no heating, no fridge, no electricity, no curtains. For weeks I slept on the floor on the mattress.  Home.

It had been love at first sight. I called the house ‘Knole’.  I was in a play about Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville- West at the time. I was playing Vita; Knole was her ancestral home.

Knole, Kent.

My little cottage in inner-city Dublin would have fitted into Vita’s house many times over.  It was years before I got to Kent to tread inVita’s steps. 

It took a lot of work and tears but, smells from Victorian pipes and visits from rodents notwithstanding, I loved my little house. I will always love it best.

I’d always said that if I moved back to Co Clare it would have to be somewhere by the sea. West Clare was a bit lonely in the winter, I thought. A friend suggested, at the height of the boom, that there was better value to be had down the Loop Head Peninsula. I replied that there was still a whiff of The Famine about the place. Which is unfair, because it’s very beautiful – but wild. So, as the annual family get-togethers – or the Waltons-on-acid tours as I called them – proceeded, I spent time looking at cottages and dreaming about moving. I hadn’t a bean – I’d have to sell my beloved ‘Knole’. Living in Portobello meant there would be no going back: once I sold up, I’d never be able to afford to return to the same area.Make one of your famous lists, my friend Mairéad said. So I did. And in the end it boiled down to this: My friendly little cul-de-sac and Camden Street, with all its cafés and Middle Eastern shops, versus the Burren, with its…beauty. 

I would just have to jump.

One day, in June 2006 I fell for a cottage in need of love and attention. I rang the estate agent who had been to see my home a few months earlier. ‘How quickly can you put it on the market?’  ‘Next week.’  And that was that.  ‘Knole’ and I made our debut in the property pages of the Sunday Tribune. I didn’t get that cottage, but I steamed ahead anyway. I quit my job, abandoned the Arabic lessons, and hit the estate agents of Co Clare. ‘Knole’ sold within a month. I had bought my new house in Ballyvaughan by August. In September I had a few old friends over for one last evening. The next day I attempted to say goodbye to my lovely neighbours without bursting into tears. Some people believe that our lives are lived in cycles: every seven, or whatever (you choose a number) years, we stand at the edge of the precipice and jump. Displacment isn’t always necessary – the leap can be in our heads or hearts. Nevertheless, we do it. Something tells us it’s time. 

 The noise levels were unbearable –   house and car alarms blared  incessantly. Every day, it was a battle on the pavement to get to where I worked in the inner-city. Upon arrival at the new office, I had christened the place Beirut. Windows were smashed in; temporary boarding was kicked down as fellow workers in the office put their backs up against it and yelled for Security. Phones were snatched from people hands right outside office entrance.  Overtime in the dark winter evenings was not welcome. Mean Streets indeed.

Nevertheless, The Move didn’t come easy.  There was more to Dublin than this little Beirut. There was the cherry-blossom on Wellington Road in springtime. There was Merrion Square and dear Oscar Wilde sprawled on his perch; where I’d left a bunch of flowers on his rain-sodden 100th anniversary. There was the National Gallery, and Harry Clarke’s glorious Eve of Saint Agnes up in Parnell Square. There was the Writers’ Centre, and art -house cinemas.  And my swans on the canal.  And the Bretzel Bakery. Was I making the right decision? 

I still don’t know. All I know is this:

  • The first time I returned to Dublin, I felt nothing as the train drew into Heuston Station. This was good. There was no regret.
  • I have learned to drive. I had to – I live in ‘the country’.
  • I have not lost my old friends, and I have gained new ones.
  • My attempt at getting a job in the property industry came to naught. As has the property industry. So –
  • that dead end led me to apply for a University degree with a specialism in Writing. Only a couple of places were available to mature students. I got one.
  • I am writing. I was writing in Dublin; but I have spent a whole year just writing, as part of my University course. I have been published. There’s a lot more in me.

                                                   How lucky am I?

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