It was great while it lasted, Ireland, but it’s time to say goodbye

I loved you from the start. You were so charming, so warm, I couldn’t help it. But then things started to change

“It seemed like the weather was always bad and taxes were always high. We lost the houses and the cars and the shiny suits one by one.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

“It seemed like the weather was always bad and taxes were always high. We lost the houses and the cars and the shiny suits one by one.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien


I don’t regret you. You were. . . well, so easy to get to know. So comfortable. So young. Happy-go-lucky. Charming. Friendly. Meeting you for the first time felt like going home.

I was never afraid. You never seemed big or bad. I never saw that ugly underbelly that people warned me to look out for in the big bad world. Oh, and you were ambitious. Full of spunk. Humble. At times a little countrified, but that just added to your charm.

It all got so comfortable so fast. Every now and then we’d have our space. You did your thing, I buried myself in books. We moved forward. I grew. We grew together, I thought. And then one day, after a gruelling year, I turned around and saw you were different.

Suddenly you were all about the flash suits and fancy cars. You needed everything bigger and better. You threw money around on expensive scents and showy offices. And houses. So many houses.

Even then, you didn’t lose your charisma. I was taken aback by the bubble around you, but I was still a part of it, drawn along by the momentum. And you were the best host. You threw the best parties, you danced the longest and chuckled the loudest at your success.

Wild times
You lived in the now and it was intoxicating. So much so that I started to as well. I was still young, and though my life lessons had taught me to work hard for things, they hadn’t taught me yet what to do when I got those things. And you acted with such abandon. Not quite reckless but in the same neck of the woods.

And then the bottom fell out of our world. I grew up overnight. Suddenly you looked weary. Things just stopped. We did so well. What happened? Where did our reality go? Could this be happening?

Slowly it sank in. It seemed like the weather was always bad and taxes were always high. We lost the houses and the cars and the shiny suits one by one.

At first you acted like it didn’t even bother you. You’d been through worse. You could turn it around. But as the global recession hit and it became apparent that actually, no, it could get worse again, something happened to you. I saw a side of you that I never knew existed.

It was mean. It was petty. It was selfish. It was so unlike the generosity I had known. Suddenly I couldn’t understand; I was an outsider. It was like I hadn’t grown with you, like I hadn’t spent my youth with you, like it didn’t hurt me too that this was happening.

You questioned my loyalty. Nothing I did was good enough. No more cheery hellos, only gloomy remarks laced with sarcasm. I knew it wouldn’t last forever. Every now and then the old you shone through. At the theatre. On a glorious, sunny day. With friends who visited. I knew you were there underneath it all. I still do. Even on a bad day you could still be kinder than those pompous, older cynical others. But all good things, as they say . . .

So I’m leaving. I’m leaving you but I don’t hate you. I don’t hold it against you. It has just come to its natural end. I had some wonderful years with you. Late nights spent talking. Surprisingly sun-kissed memories. Strolling through desolate streets at Christmas and loving the warmth and comradeship of your silence.

I don’t regret it. I think we both tried. And I know you’re coming around. I can see it in the corners of your eyes. They might be a little more wrinkled now, but the glimmer of hope is still there. You’ve got some fight left in you. And so do I. The only difference this time is that the fight isn’t ours together.

It’s time. We’ll part as friends. Go raibh míle maith agat! May you have a thousand good things.

Natasha Abdul Aziz trained in Ireland as a doctor. In all she spent 15 years in the country.

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