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Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

Gardening.

The eternal struggle.

Human versus nature.

Me against an established network of tubers and runners, weeds, thorns and nettles. I have a shovel, so I think we know who is going to emerge victorious here.

Nonetheless, it’s slow going. I’ve done perhaps eight or so hours of work, and I’ve barely made a dent in the vegetation. Weeds have been growing unchecked, so that I had to hack through stems nearly the size of my wrist. It’s mostly nettles and some large weed that I can’t identify. They were just about to come into flower before I annihilated them, a tiny Godzilla with a pair of hedge clippers. There’s something satisfying about taking a wasted piece of land and doing something constructive with it. I’d be happier if I could just do that, but circumstances (like the weather) make that difficult.

It doesn’t help that there’s building waste and just general rubbish dumped on the site, either. I’m always appalled by how many people treat their surroundings like a landfill. Never mind environmental laws or groundwater contamination or just how ugly it looks, just toss it over a fence or around the corner. It’s disgraceful. Thousands of years of evolution and cultural progress, and this is what we do with our surroundings.

Anyway. I find myself getting grumpy a lot. Perhaps no more than usual, but I think the consistent backdrop of the island highlights it. I know exactly how much human interaction I can take before I have to flee to my room. It’s tough being on an island with people you don’t know very well, especially with a constantly changing flow of newcomers.

I assumed I knew what sort of people came to the Arans before I got here, and apart from the nasty group that was here the first weekend, I’ve been pretty much correct. Gore-Tex clad people carrying huge backpacks, ruddy-faced from sun and wind. Most of them are pretty nice, although I do find myself wanting to distribute tubes of sunblock. All the fresh air in the world doesn’t prevent skin cancer, people.

Speaking of fresh air, I haven’t been getting out as much as I should. I went for a nice long walk the first weekend I was here and a shorter one the other day, but apart from that I’ve spent a lot of time indoors on my computer. I spent hours every day when I first got here responding to emails and messages. Those have tapered off though (ahem), which has given me more time to write. I think it’s a good sign that I’ve been neglecting my diary in favour of my work– particularly since my diary started to consist mostly of comments about the weather and the latest group of tourists.

“Rainy. Now sunny. Rainy again. Windy. I dislike Americans. I’m worried about my visa application.”

Et cetera. For all my grumpiness, I don’t find myself stressing out about things here, partly because of the quiet environment and partly because I can’t do anything about those big life issues anyway. So I garden and I change beds and I write, and I try not to subject myself to too much awful television. Or too many awful people, heh.

There’s also the selection of food and drink. You can drink anything you like in the pubs here– as long as it’s Guinness or Bulmers. (In all fairness, that’s not true: you can also drink Carlsberg and other things that come in a can or bottle.) The Spar (the only shop on the island) stocks gluten-free biscuits (at €4 a package) but nothing else that’s gluten free. I can’t be arsed with the hassle and expense of going to Galway on the ferry, so I’ve been eating a lot of gluten lately. Oops?

One thing that’s nice is being close to the sea. Living in Brighton has ensured that I can never be very far from the ocean again. There’s just no substitute for walking down to the water and listening to the waves.

The island is rocky. There are beaches of grey sand with worn and crevassed flats of limestone. Clumps of little pink flowers grow on the rocks. From the hostel, I can see the pier and the little bay. On windy days (which is to say, most days), in the distance, I can see huge waves breaking on the shores of Galway Bay. It’s breathtaking. Today the water is cerulean and fairly calm, glittering in the sun.

I wish my friends could be here to see this. I’ve taken some photos on my phone, which don’t begin to do the place justice. I’m planning to send some postcards once I find some good ones. I wish I had my camera. Well– I wish it worked. Although I don’t really think a picture can really express everything about this place anyway; the windswept rockiness of it, the colour of the water on a clear day, the way the sun warms everything when it’s out and makes it feel like summer. The glowering greyness when the clouds come in off the Atlantic and the bleak colouring it gives the scenery.

I want to write something set here. The isolation and the weather lend themselves well to something hair-raising, but someone’s already written The Shining, so I’d like to do something different. We’ll see what happens.

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The Aran Islands are the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I can’t think of a way to describe them that isn’t a little clichéd, but I think the closest you can come is ‘Celtic.’ They’re stony and rocky and rolling and hilly. They’re old. I can imagine that very little on the islands has changed in the last hundred years or so, maybe even two or three hundred. They’re a step back from the cities in a lot of ways: geographically, psychologically, atmospherically. It’s the sort of isolation that could be amazing if you enjoyed it and hellish if you didn’t.

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What struck me about Dublin as I first walked around is how open it is. There aren’t any tall buildings in the city centre. I’m not sure there are any really tall buildings in Dublin at all, at least not to London standards. It’s refreshing. There’s air and sunlight in the streets and none of the borderline claustrophobia you get in London. There are lots of tourists, but it doesn’t feel as crammed as Brighton does on a summer afternoon. I find myself comparing it favourably with my adopted hometown and wondering if I could live there. (more…)

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