Tag Archives: hometowns

Notes on leaving home

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I didn’t really think I had much of an accent before I left Dublin.

Of course, when you grow up in the Dublin bubble, of course it wouldn’t be noted much.  In fact usually it’s my lack of a distinctive accent that is remarked upon back home as it is now.  I have a voice that seems to shift depending on the direction of the wind and the regional accent featured on whatever TV show I last watched.  But suddenly when asked where I’m from, I reply ‘Ireland’ and people go ‘oh of course, yeah!’  Three drunk guys hardly able to stand who wandered onto my corridor picked it up from my irate yelling at 3AM and started doing mangled impressions of Dara O’Briain.

Leaving home is really weird.

My final week in Dublin was strange.  Packing up things for the first time was strange.  Sifting through clothes and finding I could actually fit all my outfits into one case was quite satisfying.  After a summer spent mostly alone whilst my friends got stuck into intern ships and J1s,  my final week was a flurry of fond meetings and cheery goodbyes.  I think it’s because it’s nice to say goodbye to someone who actually wants to go and have an adventure for a bit, unlike the goodbyes we’re all getting used to.  Plus, I am very lucky that I’m only going away for a little while.  Just to test the waters.  Other people aren’t so lucky and have to leap blindly into new lives without any set date to return and pick up all the threads they left loose in Dublin.  I was really lucky.  I could leave all my threads uncaught and they’ll still be waiting when I get back.

So far (A week in) assimilation has been swift and painless, probably because lectures have STILL yet to start so I’m been officially mucking around doing nothing for six months.  I sank instantly into my new bed and slept like a baby in a huge room meant for two people that I inhabit on my own.  It even has a sweet view of the town and the sea.  I don’t think anyone has ever landed smoother in a place than I have here.

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Laundry, far from being a chore was an opportunity to finally learn how to play poker.  The only moment of tearfulness was the very last moments I had before my parents got in the car and drove off last Saturday morning (and we all had the good sense to cut it off before we all blubbed in the Car park of Lidl.  It was more dignified that way)  On the first night I became paranoid and convinced one of my corridor-mates had stolen my freshly bought milk.  A day of crazed labelling and criminal profiling eventually led to the discovery that the entire fridge had been replaced in the night, with my milk becoming one of the old fridge’s casualties. I’m not 100% convinced that it’s not all just a very elaborate plot to steal my milk. Either way, this university owes me 45p.

The new town is very friendly, busy and exactly the sort of place I’d like to get lost in.  Students here don’t go home religiously every weekend and there’s things to do on Fridays.   I can walk from the top of the town to my room in 15 minutes flat. There is an incredibly satisfying to climb hill to my building.  It goes vertical at some portions.  I’m beginning to form the calf muscles of a mountain goat.  Seeing Freshers lose their minds and get absolutely shitfaced on freedom is funny until I remember I’m just like them on my own in a strange town for the first time.  The only difference is I’m 21 and really can’t drink more than half a glass of wine without keeling over.

My first pang of homesickness came when I skyped home, and saw my family all wandering around behind my mother on the camera. Making dinner, asking for things to be washed, arguing over the Playstation.  I ached for home for a second, until my brother came into the room, pulled down his pants and mooned me.  I quickly remembered why I left in the first place and reaffirmed my determination to not waste any time feeling angst for home.  It’s still there waiting for me to get back to, so for now I need to enjoy my sea view and eating bagels for every single meal.

I’m living in a Welsh speaking hall which is a baffling experience to tell the truth.  Most spectacular was the mix up yesterday when I sauntered into my safety induction talk 10 minutes late to find I was sitting in the Welsh language session.  Welsh speakers don’t fuck around, man- Irish speakers will alternate between Irish and English every few sentences, but here it’s about ten minutes of welsh with a quick sentence or two summation at the end for the non-speakers.  There’s a sign in the bathroom that I’m pretty sure tells you how to work the shower head, but which is solely in Welsh.  Everyone who I say ‘I live in Pantycelyn’ to chuckles and wonders why they stuck all the Erasmus people in there.  I shrug and just remain thankful that I wake up every day halfway up the hill and don’t have to climb the whole bloody thing.

I discovered that our generation on the whole loves getting postcards.  They’re a lot of fun to write, and after the format was rammed into me during leaving cert Irish and French I’m rather good at them.  Stamps are 88p to post to Ireland, so anyone who gets one ought to appreciate TEH FUCK out of it.  They might as well have been written in my own blood.  So far so smooth for my Welsh adventure.  We’ll see how it goes when the work actually kicks in.

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Niamh ‘Don’t you dare quote Mock the week at me, I’m cross with you’ Keoghan

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London was the first place that ever made me feel small

When I was 12, I’d never been outside of Ireland.  Okay, I’d gone to Holyhead on the Ferry but Wales is hardly that far away, and I was seven.  So for all intents and purposes I had never been outside of the republic where I was born and raised.  All my childhood holidays were to the Aran Islands, or Cork- and endless cycle of annual holidays to East Cork has left me with a starry eyed joy of the place.  Cork was also the only other ‘city’ I’d ever been to outside of Dublin.  Dublin is the biggest city in Ireland- there is nowhere else like it.  with due respect and affection to Cork, Galway, Waterford and the rest, the other handful of cities in Ireland still have that large town vibe around them.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it did skew my world view somewhat when I was little.  there was Dublin and it was the centre of the universe.  I grew up in boom time when Dublin was growing and sparkling and bustling.  I had never seen a bigger place and so assumed Dublin was the equal of London and Paris and New York.

So when I was 12 and went on a school trip to London, it fucked my head up rather badly.

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[Soundtrack explanation- Whenever I hear ‘Going underground’ it brings me back to being 12. The nervous, jangling chords, the energy of being young and frightened and excited. I only heard it when I was about 16, but for some reason it always bring me back to 2004/2005.]

Firstly there was actually getting to London.  My first ever time on an airplane was wedged between my history teacher and my business teacher (Who happened to be married to one another) on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Heathrow.  I’d never been inside a plane before.  It was smaller than the picture in my head- having only seen films with massive three aisle jumbo jets, the little 737 we flew in was… quaint.  This was my first hint that I was coming from a small place.  We flew out at about 8 in the morning- I still dream about the force of the acceleration pushing me back into my seat and seeing the grass and landmarks whip past as we took off.  I was thrilled and frightened- Goodbye home, goodbye for three whole days!  I’d never been anywhere without my family before.  ‘So what do you think?’ My teacher asked when we’d taken off.

‘Can we do that again?!’ I said gleefully.

I passed through London in a sugar buzzed, blissed out dream state for three days, getting ferried around with 30 other First years.  The thing that struck me then was the sheer size of the place.  Dublin has a greater population- taking in suburbs and the rapidly decreasing rural north county- of about 1.5 million.  Greater london has 14 million.  The conveyor belts that whizz you through Heathrow and the tube stations fascinated me.  I never realised that cities have their own personality.  Galway is beautiful and kind of sexy, Waterford is playful and artsy, Cork is rustic and warm, and Dublin is made of a million contradictions- it’s Irish but has the strongest colonial heritage in it’s architecture.  What made London so dream like to me was that it felt as if I’d been here before. Not only in watching it on the telly, but also in the streets of Dublin.  My home city was a miniature of London, the second city of an empire that I was only just now visiting.  Everything felt familiar, but scaled up.  Instead of green post boxes and buses there was bright, pillar box red.  The tube was a winding labyrinth that led everywhere- I still have my map somewhere, a snapshot of the network in 2005 before the extension to Heathrow terminal 5 was finished.

Everywhere was covered in ‘back the bid’ posters- This was March 2005, when the push was on to promote London as the host of the 2012 games.  I remember thinking then how far away 2012 was.  ‘I’ll be twenty then.’ I explained in a low voice to my History teacher (A woman of unending understanding who taught me many useful lessons in being a badass). ‘Like… I’ll be in college. I’ll be ANCIENT.’ I loved the whoosh sound the underground trains made when they came into the stations, I loved the curving tunnels.  I loved the thrill of wires running along the tunnels and the grimy air.  It was a world I’d never seen before. This was a huge, sprawling, breathing city.  It wasn’t as self consciously booming as Dublin was at that time.  London simply stood there, staring me down and went ‘Well?’ It was my first tentative step into a larger world.  It made my own dear little Dublin so much smaller and well loved.  London was a good place to go- at 12 when you’re growing and changing and discovering parts of your personality the way you used to discover imaginary lands.  I was exploding and expanding the way Dublin was- and here was London not giving an absolute shit about it.  It was humbling.

A few months later, I’d come down the stairs in my grandmothers while staying with her for my Easter holidays and see Sky News reporting the 7/7 bombings.  It hit me so much harder and more immediately than 9/11 had- I was older, and had been on those trains even for only a few days.  It brought the real, big world smashing back into my sitting room.  I’d left London after three days and slid back into the routine of double Irish, PE, being morose and wishing I could be older, taller, cooler and all around better.  I wanted to be as self assured and cool as London was, but I was still grubby and self consciously growing.  Watching London 2012 arrive and depart brought me right back to that seat in Notting Hill tube station with my innocent smile and my nervous voice, waiting for the train to come in.

I haven’t been back to London in 7 years, but it looms very large in my mind.

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Niamh ‘London Calling’ Keoghan