‘Every six months, I decide I am going home to Ireland’
‘Ireland and Me’: Amy Martin, London
Amy Martin: ‘The longer you stay, the more you feel like you are always slightly on the margins, like an outsider looking in at yourself as you begin to naturally observe a different society’s tendencies and abide by their rules.’
Last November, The Irish Times invited Irish readers living abroad to submit their reflections on their relationship with the land they left in the ‘Ireland and Me’ competition. The story below is one of the entries we received, which is collected in a new 'Ireland and Me' eBook.
Every six months, I decide I am going home. I think about it in detail for a week or two and tell the girls about it over cups of tea in our various flats in London. They nod in understanding and some agree that maybe they will too, maybe next year.
We talk hypothetically about where at home we will go - “Back to Cork?” “No, Dublin - more options there.” “Yes, yes….” But I don’t tell my parents, because I know it’s not going to happen any time soon.
I haven’t been gone that long. I left in early 2012 and still remember that first flight over to the UK and the painful goodbyes that preceded it. As the months of my new life passed by, I missed Ireland more and more. Certain daily scenes triggered memories I didn’t know my mind had retained, and sometimes in the evenings, when sirens screamed by me as I walked home and people I passed looked agitated and rushing, rushing, rushing, I longed for clearer, cleaner air and the lilt of familiar, softer tones. A slower pace.
We are lucky over here because we have each other; our accents won’t change and there is always someone flying back who can pick up any home comforts needed. Yet still, when I hear an Irish voice on the tube I look up eagerly and when someone asks me about where I am from, I sound like a Fáilte Ireland advert.
There aren’t many glaringly obvious cultural differences between here and home, but the longer you stay, the more you feel like you are always slightly on the margins, like an outsider looking in at yourself as you begin to naturally observe a different society’s tendencies and abide by their rules. There is a certain hesitation when you feel like you don’t quite belong, you will take that extra second to observe and adjust. I am not sure that will ever go away.
I miss walking down Patrick’s Street at dusk when shops are closing up and the night ahead spreads before you, lights twinkling in pub and restaurant windows. I miss the English Market buzzing on a Saturday afternoon and Fitzgerald’s Park on a sunny day. I miss the people - the casual greetings, the relaxed tones, the camaraderie that we all feel because we come from the same place.
I really don’t know when I will be able to move back. I know where I belong but am faced with the difficulty of getting back there, and while I am happy here in London with my friends, old and new, and the endless possibilities that this city holds, I sometimes ache for the ease of familiarity and that smell I get when I walk through my front door at home.