Wednesday, April 25, 2012
I am writing this post at the writing desk in my light, airy and spacious cabin on Irish Ferry’s ship, “Oscar Wilde”. Outside the windows a watery early morning sun is putting some minor highlights onto an otherwise grey-green sea.
I am on my way back to Ireland. So much did I enjoy my time there last autumn that I am now keen to see the country in the spring. For the past week I have been moving across Europe; from home to Patras, to Ancona, Italy, to Sarnico on lake d’Iseo, through the Iselle-Brig rail tunnel into Switzerland and on to Les Houches in the Frech Alps, to Portaubert, Burgundy, to Rosel near Caen, Normandy and, yesterday, from there to Cherbourg and this ferry to Rosslare.
I have the TV switched on. An Irish news/commentary programme is being broadcast. Much of its content is redolent of similar TV programmes currently be broadcast at home in Greece; the economy and how the hole in it might be filled.
I do not understand what attracts me to Ireland. Until last autumn I knew little of the country. Ireland was no more to me than, to borrow a phrase from Neville Chamberlain, ‘a small country a long way away’, but having experienced Ireland and the Irish for a month last year I want more of it and them.
Ireland, it seems to me, has much in common with Greece, my chosen country of residence.
Both Greece and Ireland are scenically beautiful countries. Both are small nations fairly recently freed from a long tyranny of foreign rule only to be plunged into bloody, internal sectarian power struggles. It also seems to me that the people of both nations have an attitude to life that owes more to satisfying the spiritual demands of the moment. An attitude that puts life, and it's living, above material gain which, in some quarters, gives both the Greeks and the Irish a misplaced reputation for slovenliness and idleness. Personally, being something of an anarchist myself, I enjoy being amongst these people; people to whom the 'craic' is more important than fixing the peeling wallpaper; honest, what-you-see-is what-you-get folk unafraid of being themselves. As in Greece, in Ireland there is a paucity of walls and fences. To me this says much about a country and it's people.
As for economics I do not understand them. In Greece life seems to be going on as usual. There are plenty of hard-up folk but there always were and, I suppose, there always will be. As ever, some folk will live in mansions and drive Porsches, some will live in hovels and ride busses, at the end of the day these things mean little, it is the ability to live for and enjoy the moment that is important. Northern Europeans, I believe, have largely sold themselves out to the security of being ordered cogs in the machine of the state. In countries such as Greece and Ireland individual freedom and the risks that come with it are, in my opinion, yet valued above such an exchange. Manners are innate rather than ordered by the politically correct dictates of a faceless state.