I don’t want to come over all Seamus Heaney or anything but……..

i’m in Ireland, in a place called Omeath.  It’s a small seaside town on Carlingford loch with the Cooley mountains behind me.  The views are amazing but it’s a bit grey today.  Across the stretch of water is a small seaside town called Warren Point, a place known for an IRA ambush on British soldiers the day Earl Mountbatten of Burma was killed on a fishing trip in Sligo in 1979 but i try not to think about this because it darkens a place of beauty.

I’ve been coming here with my family since 1976.  My Auntie Maureen built a “wee bungalow” on the side of the mountain, by the chapel and it’s been a place we have always come to to retreat, relax and recuperate and that’s what i am doing – retreating, relaxing and recuperating after a busy month of touring with John Cooper Clarke.  i need to rest and there is no better place to rest than here.

All i can see when i look out the front window is a stretch of water with the occasional fishing boat slowly floating out to sea and all i can see when i look out the back window is fields and mountains and living in a city like manchester, I need this.

I remember being here and watching Jilted John on top of the pops (Cause she’s a slag and he’s a creep and she’s a tart, he’s very cheap she is a slut, he thinks he’s tough) I remember being here the day the first test tube baby was born.  I remember being here and being told by my dad, after he came in from the pub, that you can eat anything and to my amazement he proved it by catching a fat brown hairy moth in his massive labourers hand and putting it into his mouth, chewing it, then swallowing it.

In the field outside the house where the horses are currently grazing, me and me brothers used to play football.  As an adult i love to stand in that field and when i do, like i always do when i visit here, I feel so grounded and a real sense that this is a place i belong.  I can feel my histories flowing through the mud and through me.  I feel connected here.

There’s a pub in the village called Howes.  I used to sit in the pub with my dad and grandad sipping Cidona (a fizzy apple drink that i loved) and eating tayto crisps and listening to Irish men swear and curse and argue and debate in the strongest irish accents you can imagine.  It was warm and there was always a fire and the people in there were always kind and smiling.  As an adult i have had many nights in there, watching football, chatting to locals or even dancing on special nights where they’d have a band in the back room.  They call me the “Manc” in the same way as they called John Wayne the “Yank” in the film the quiet man – everyone knows me in there and if they don’t, they soon find out and come over for a chat usually saying things like “I knew your Grandfather, John Nash” then they grill me on the rest of my family tree.  It’s a village and everyone want to know everyone in the village.

The village of Carlingford, famed for King Johns Castle (King John being Richard the Lionhearts brother) is about three miles down the coast and the other side of the range of mountains that drop down to the sea.  It is also famed for its oysters that are served with a pint of the best guinness you’ve ever tasted in PJ’s bar that doubles up as a shop or an “Off or Out Door”.  PJ’s also has regular session nights where one guy will pull out a fiddle and start playing, then a guy with a penny whistle will join in then a guy with a Bodhran will start drumming away.  The Guinness, the fire, the warmth, the music, the fisherman’s faces worn by time and tide and wind is a heaven.

today, i miss my family.  My wife, my kids, my mam, my dad, my sisters, my brothers, my nephews, my nieces.  They seem a million miles away, so i’m off to stand in the field with the horses in the mud so that i can be reminded of my histories and feel grounded again……….And the sun has just come out.

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