I am off to the West of Ireland on Thursday, to what used to be my parents’ house. It’s a thinly poulated area, very green and very beautiful. The land is no good for farming. Too much bog and heath, too many rocks, lying everywhere like the toy bricks of giant children. But that’s all right because I’m no farmer. I can spend hours just gazing at the view. And on a clear night the sky is pierced with a million stars.
There’s nothing glamorous about this part of Ireland, no jaunting cars for the tourists. But there’s a music festival once a year. People cram into tiny bars to hear local people play fiddles and bodhrans. Children get up on hastily erected wooden stages in the village street to show off their skills at Irish dancing. Old men with broken teeth sing rebel songs and are cheered on by their friends,
It’s a landscape that still carries the scars of famine and poverty despite the brand new Japanese cars that occasionally zip up the winding road from the village, heading towards the nearest town where commercial properties thrown up in the days of the Celtic Tiger now stand empty, waiting for the next boom.
And everyone is related to everyone else. The local cemetery is full of Keaneys going back centuries. Once a year, for the blessing of the graves, that cemetery is full. People stand beside their family plots and recite the rosary. Nine times out of ten, the rain slants down on them mercilessly, coming from the mountains, and the prayers have to be rushed through before everyone is soaked to their skins.
It’s a place where nothing is forgotten, a place that is so steeped in memory, you expect the stones to talk. It’s where I go to remember who I am and why I became a writer.