I spent last week in Ireland trotting about like a wild haired leprechaun amongst the flame haired dunes of Portstewart and the old walled city of Derry, witnessing the stark contrasts that make this place a puzzle for a while yet.
A few old friends of mine, Conor and Emma, live in a lovely house overlooking Portstewart harbour. I flew easy jet for the price of a sandwich, caught the charming little train up from Antrim to the coast and was warmly received. They have a broadband internet connection, so I could keep up with bits and pieces of work if I felt so inclined.
We had a gorgeous long weekend. Boozing on Thursday turned into an elegant recovery on Friday, eating lovely meals by a bay window overlooking the glorious bay with Donegal hazy in the distance. Conor, and I had some work to do, but quickly got that out of the way and went walking, with Emma, in the dunes of the local surfing beach. The grass topped dunes are lovely, and contrast nicely with the dunes of the Sahara, where I recently spent new year.
I took a trip into Derry on Monday. I had a toss up between the giants causeway and the city, I chose to take the train journey along the rocky coast to Derry. The train journey is amazing as it skirts the sea after Castle Rock and clings to the cliffs like a heroine shuffling across a ledge.
Derry is a city of incredible contrasts, but I’ll not dwell on the troubles because it’s about time people talked about something else. It is one of the oldest walled cities still intact in Europe, and the wall is in incredible condition. You can walk the entirety of it around the old city, with walls over The bogside, fountainside over to the rolling hills bordering the republic. It is so different for me to see a city where you can view rolling hills from almost anywhere within it, which melts the soul when it is hardened by concrete.
The last thing I did in the North was to track down some long lost relatives, who proceeded to try to kill me by getting me to ingest large amounts of potato derived products like the famed Ulster fry. I survived the test, and now have a lot more family than I had the week before. I managed to find them even though the only bit of info I had to go on was the fact that my great grandfather owned a pub, was an Oâ€™Hara and got an MBE cos obviously he was well cool. I got a tour of the town, even the cemetery and the dead relatives, who didnâ€™t offer any potato derived products at all, but will probably send signs pointing toward where potatoâ€™s hang out at some point.
It all went too quickly, so I’ll be going back soon to drink a Guinness with my new found family, and when it’s warmer surf in those Irish seas.