Returning to Ireland has been a whirlwind of emotion
After three Ikea trips and a multitude of forms, I’m settling back into life in Dublin
Ceire Sadlier: ‘For a place where departing and returning emigrants flux daily in their thousands, Ireland makes it surprisingly difficult to slot out of the bureaucracy of life.’
Today was the first time I was tempted to re-emigrate when I realised I had my dress tucked into my knickers for about two hours at work.
I have been back from Africa for two months now, and I am getting into the swing of things. The first few weeks were a whirlwind of phone calls and viewings and letters and signatures, interspersed with visits to Ikea.
I’ve been through the emotional stages of Ikea three times in two months. First, pseudo-preparedness. Then screaming panic on the motorway, swinging wildly into the right lane when I spot the giant yellow and blue shed. Followed by the wonder of seemingly affordable convenience, mindlessly grabbing items under the impression they are virtually free.
Energy levels fall midway through, in the market hall. People are getting annoying and I am losing interest. Then the warehouse - I forgot I had to pick everything up myself. When I realise one of my items is not on the shelf, I really have to talk myself out of abandoning the whole process.
At the till, I’ve reached crankiness - I have had to heft these massive boxes around myself, I’m going to have to put it together myself, and suddenly it doesn’t seem worth it.
After zig-zagging all over the car-park I fire the stuff into the boot, not caring if it smashes into bits. At home, I open the instructions to see the angry/confused comic-man crossed out and beside him a happy Ikea figure, hammer in hand. Up yours Ikea man.
But actually, when it is all put together, it does look good, and it really is great value.
My Ikea experience is very much a microcosm of my return to Ireland. Excitement, wonder, confusion, exhaustion, apathy, anger and then proud satisfaction.
For a place where departing and returning emigrants flux daily in their thousands, Ireland makes it surprisingly difficult to slot out of the bureaucracy of life. Car insurance, home insurance, car tax, income tax, the electricity, the bins, the oil, the telly, the internet, the water and all the other things I handed bank details over for, that I signed, that I clicked. I could have done with an expert hand on it all.
Maybe it is because they have come all at once, and because of the freshness of my signature on all those documents, but somehow I feel like a spider living in a web that doesn’t belong to me, like it could all be snatched from under me if I make a mistake.
Two great western authors in Zambia have written about their awkward feelings when returning to the Northern Hemisphere after years on end in Zambia. Vic Guhrs and Alexandra Fuller describe the tedium of Western convenience, and the rigid culture of regulation in Europe. I thought they were mad, but now I think I get it. Even though there were no fewer bills in Africa, perhaps it was a difference in approach that made it feel less circumscribed.
Despite all that, I am happy about the Truman Show routine every morning when I walk to the Dart. I’ll probably see the man with the slicked back hair with his clicky shoes at the corner. My feet have two stomps for each of his clicks and I envy his long strides and wish I did not scuttle like I do.
I am never on slick-back-hair-man’s carriage, but seem to be surrounded by happy students with engorged salivary glands, or people with revolting colds who cannot hear their dog-like breathing over their blasting earphones. I almost don’t mind being near the phone conversationalists, loudly discussing their chiropodist appointments.
It is all a bit infirmary-like until the Dart bursts past the Merrion gates, and the concrete cracks open to the wide black sea and matching sky with just the Poolbeg towers to keep the world tied to the city.
It is especially soothing when the tide is in and full, and it looks like the train is gliding through water.
The most poignant part of the day is when I get off the Dart in the evening, just before six, the time when I most feel I am home. I join the parade of people drudging up the hill, impatiently waiting on the pedestrian bridge while some wally struggles to close their umbrella.
We spill out from the station and I join my brethren turning left. We march like a line of ants, pouring into the veins of Killester, splitting at every corner until I turn into my street, silently saluting slick-back, silently wishing a good night to my neighbour who I worry will think I am a weirdo if I actually wish her a good night.
We all creep into our brick boxes and I am one of them and they are one of me. And it’s great to be home. Oh it’s great to be home.