Is it more likely that a retired person should spend time considering the question – is this where I belong? Look at the photo above and you might see some of the attraction. Belonging seems to have some extra significance when you’re retired. I wrote a blog quite a while ago now about losing my tribe, it’s a bit the same. Already Ireland is spinning a web and my language is becoming more convoluted or intricate, take your choice. That first sentence could have been much simpler – do we belong in Ireland? From the point of view that 75% (two fathers and one mother) of our (me and Mrs Summerhouse’s) ancestry was born in this country there may be a case to be made that we do. For me, this question of, is this where we should live, has followed me round the world. At its most ridiculous it’s another version of – if we lived here would it make me happy? At this stage in our lives we know well enough that you take yourself with you and hence the place itself has only limited effect. Limited but not non-existent, maybe 5 – 10% but maybe that’s enough, perhaps that’s all you get and, if you choose, this is what you work with. So here we are and I’m doing my usual – asking Mrs Summerhouse, should we move here? Can we buy a house here (or do we stick with the Colorado plan)?
It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of houses to buy. Spoilt for choice you might say. We drove back from Dingle on Tuesday night as it was getting dark, the first time we had been out after dark, so to speak (another bit of Irish there) and we were struck by the fact that 90% of the houses had no lights on. So, we reasoned, either they’re empty, they’re ghost houses or it is some form of energy saving campaign – don’t put your lights on when it’s dark. The next day I was working in my office, AKA the Blasket Museum, see above, and talking to my new office manager, Christy, and I asked him about the dark houses. Well, now, he said, it’s all to do with the Celtic Tiger – again. People could borrow money easily and so they did and built all these houses in this area and I suppose elsewhere. Because they could. But they don’t live in them. They stand empty most of the year. It would seem that the concept of planning permission hasn’t reached this far. As Christy put it, you look over at Ballyferriter in the winter and it’s almost totally dark, on a bank holiday it’s lit up like Las Vegas. So there are houses for sale although I haven’t checked out the prices. There are also a few that stand as breeze block shells (not as many as around Dublin, I think), like this one opposite us (right), probably the Celtic Tiger lay down for a nap before they could get the house finished. Whether that means that all these houses are for sale at knock down prices, I couldn’t say because, unusually for me, I haven’t found any estate agents yet. We have another day, so all is not lost.
So houses and living here, a predictable theme for this week. Less predictable is the music but then again maybe not. On Tuesday night, as I say, we were in Dingle town and happened upon a concert in the Dingle Music Shop (see photo). Four American musicians
as it turned out, so nothing Irish about them or the audience as they were all, it seemed from their hootin’ and a hollerin’, Americans too. Not a problem and the band – Foghorn – were excellent but the evening set my musical genes tapping and I decided what I needed in order to feel at home in the area was a guitar lesson from a local Irish musician, so enter Gerry O’Beirne. On Wednesday Gerry came round to the house and we had a grand hour and a half lesson / conversation. I thought Gerry was an interesting man and would have liked to find out more about him, his history to this point, but I was conscious that this would be at the expense – literally – of my lesson, a very reasonable 30 euros for an hour and a half. And as a bonus, I learned some things about Irish music. Not for the first time I wished I had brought my own guitar because, when Gerry left, not unreasonably taking his two guitars with him, I couldn’t practise what we had done in the lesson. My experience of lessons is that I need to practise what I learned straightaway or I forget. Hopefully I’ll bring some of it back to England with me.
Gerry recommended a couple of CDs of Irish music that I might enjoy and which would illustrate some of the techniques he had been showing me. So on Thursday we drove into Dingle to buy them, me being flushed with enthusiasm for music of the old country. To cut this bit of the story short, I bought three from two different shops. Well, that’s not strictly accurate, I bought 3 ‘boxes’ and two CDs. You’re ahead of me sure an all. The third CD was missing but we have the box and that’s a start. So we need to go back to Dingle and hope the lady in the second shop believes my story and doesn’t suggest the fairies have had away with the CD and hence it is not her problem. When she sold them to us she, unusually in my experience of English music shops (what few there are left of them), kissed and blessed the two CDs I bought from her shop. I didn’t realise that in doing so there was a risk of actually making them disappear. Still the Irish being a largely optimistic race would probably have taken the view – 2 out of 3, that’s not so bad.
While we were in Dingle we also had the bonus of seeing the stained glass windows in St
Marys convent (The Diseart Institute), of a man called Harry Clarke, a fascinating man but I haven’t the time to write about him here. The photos I took didn’t come out, which may have been divine interference, so I’ve taken a photo of the postcards we got, really doesn’t do him justice though – look him up on google. Mrs SH with her interest in stained glass loved them.
So I’m getting into the music, Mrs SH is finding the place inspirational in terms of her art (the two she’s working on aren’t finished yet so I can’t show you them, maybe in a later blog, they may even be framed by then using a piece of driftwood we found on the beach).
We walk on beautiful, deserted beaches twice a day. This is the view out of our kitchen window (left) and again, maybe in a later blog, I’ll show you some of my arty black and white photos that I took with my best camera, which I did bring with me, but not a guitar. So back to the original question – do we belong here in good old Ireland? Is this the place where we should be spending at least some of our retirement? As you will hopefully have gathered by now it’s a beautiful and interesting place, so maybe. As is usually the case when I ask myself these ‘what is my retirement about’ type questions, the real answer is – feck knows.