Here’s the surest sign yet that I’ve settled down in Ireland: I dreamt that I was in Ireland.
You know that you’ve become fluent in French when you start dreaming in French. Well, my dreams this morning were based on more or less the same principle. In one dream I was wandering around the centre of Belfast, down Donegall Street, near the Belfast Telegraph offices, to be precise.
In the other, I was on a bus, a Bristol RE, the kind that were seen on Belfast’s streets from about 1977 to the early 2000s. I was directing the driver up Church Street in Downpatrick, up past the church, past the telephone exchange, to where we were to pick up a crowd of friends.
So, they’re not really remarkable dreams. In fact they’re quite boring, but it shows that not only is my body in Ireland but my soul is too.
That reminds me, I haven’t been on www.belfastforum.co.uk for a while. Must check up and see how they’re doing.
Holy Trinity Downpatrick
It’s been a whole month since I came back to Ireland and I’ve managed to settle down quite well…
And the weather we’ve had here has been glorious. Things seem to be saying to me, “Welcome back”.
Belfast City Hall
I arrived in Belfast on the morning of March 13th. Dad’s partner Maire O’Hare kept herself busy making all the arrangements for Dad’s funeral, informing all his friends and relatives, dealing with the undertakers, finding the family grave and getting it opened and innumerable other matters. All that remained for me was to come to the wake on March 15th and then the funeral the next day.
I was staying at my Aunt Maura’s house in Carrickfergus. (Mum would have accommodated me at her place in Downpatrick but she had only just moved in about a week before and the place was still a shambles.) And I got to see all of my surviving relatives, mostly on my father’s side, and nearly all of his friends, some of whom had known him since he was a child.
It was this pleasant atmosphere that I left behind on March 21st to come back to the life I’d been leading in Walthamstow, in a bedsit on a main road. To make matters worse, the guy who occupied the room immediately below mine had become mixed up with drug gangs. the upshot of this was there were drug dealers, junkies and other sub-humans in and out of the house in the small hours.
And then, if you please, word circulated that my neighbour and I were police informers and they demanded money from us or, to quote them, they would “f*** us up”. I worte a note to them saying, “We’re not informers. We’re nothing to do with the police. Please leave us alone.” Did that work? Did it heck!
And then, don’t you know, my idiot neighbour had his front door keys stolen by one of the gangsters. Now they could come and go with impunity. And that was the last straw. I vanished.
The place I’ve come back to is vastly different to the place I left in 1991 and this is where I want to live while I still have family around me.
St Nicholas Carrickfergus
The events in my personal life in the past six weeks have been truly bizarre, and they all happened during the season of Lent.
It was about 3:15pm on March 7th. I’d been out on one of my regular pleasure trips on my bike, up the River Lea to Dobbs Weir, thence to Broxbourne and Hoddesdon… and I was just approaching Waltham Cross when I got a call from Maire O’Hare telling me my father had been hospitalized. I phoned the Mater Hospital for more details and passed them on to my mother. Yes, my father was in poor health, he had had a blackout and was in a state of confusion, but his condition was stable.
On March 9th I phoned for more news. My father’s condition had improved a little, but the hospital staff couldn’t say if or when he would fully recover.
The next update I got was on the morning of Friday, March 11th. My father was on dialysis but he had had his breathing tube taken out and he was still taking food. There was more grounds for optimism at 5:45 that evening when I got a text message from Dad. He said he was slowly getting better.
That period of hope didn’t last, however. At about midday on Saturday the hospital staff called me to tell me that Dad had taken a turn for the worse. They discovered an aggressive cancer, blood had seeped into his lungs and he probably wouldn’t get any better.
I was undecided as to whether I should go to Belfast to see him. I was told that he was in a confused state and I was afraid he wouldn’t recognise me if I came to see him. I also had the memory of my grandmother in the hospital a day or two before she died. I didn’t want to see my father in the same way.
But with a little coaxing from my relatives in Ireland I made up my mind. At 6:00pm I booked a place on the earliest flight from London to Belfast the following morning and I expected to arrive in the City Centre by 11:30am.
But tomorrow was too late. My father passed away at 9:00pm.
I spent the past two weeks in Ireland living the life of Riley. I got to visit most of my relatives. Also I bought a weekly travel pass for £55 and took full adventage of it, visiting Belfast, Carrickfergus, Bangor, Derry, Dundalk, Letterkenny, Newry and Omeath. Also scaled Cave Hill and McArt’s Fort… darn! Out of space.