The farther I get from Ireland the more I want to return
We have a privileged life in Singapore, but I long for packing the car at home on a Friday evening and heading to the country for the weekend
Jessica Duff: I want my children to have the same connection to a place that I have, to be permanent grandchildren and cousins, not just summer blow-ins
I left Dublin in 1995, following the crowds of college graduates to London. I didn’t give it an enormous amount of thought, and I certainly didn’t think of myself as an emigrant: London was just down the road, and with dozens of my friends around me, as well as an aunt and cousins living there, it felt little more than an extension of Ireland – an Ireland with jobs and opportunities and the promise of adventure.
So I headed off with no plan in mind other than to qualify as a solicitor and work for a bit and then . . . well, who has a plan when they’re 23?
About 10 years later I started to miss Ireland. The five-hour door-to-door journey to my family home, in Blackrock, every few weeks just wasn’t cutting it.
Over the next couple of years my gentle pining became more forceful – and now, more than 20 years after I left (how did that happen?), it is a deep yearning.
Which doesn’t quite explain my move, with husband and children, from London to Singapore two years ago. And as the distance has magnified so has the yearning. I long for fresh, cold air; spontaneous mountain walks; Friday evenings packing the car and heading to the country for the weekend; bumping into people on the street and having a chat.
I miss my family and friends desperately – the people who have known me my entire life, conversations that can be picked up where they were left off last August.
My idea of supreme happiness is being back home and starting the day with a pot of tea, a copy of The Irish Times and Morning Ireland on the radio.
And yet my mother thinks I’ll be bored living in Ireland. My (non-Irish) husband points out my deep dislike of (a) the cold, (b) the wet and (c) any sort of domestic work. My friends remind me of the traffic and the house prices and the waiting lists for local schools.
Because the truth is that we have a lovely – indeed, a privileged – life here in Singapore. The sun shines almost all the time, any rain is warm and brief, and the heat envelopes you in a warm embrace every day.
Our children learn Mandarin as well as doing Irish dancing (“whether you like it or not,” I announced, echoing my own mother 35 years ago), we usually spend our afternoons in the pool, and we pack our weekends with fun outdoor activities, going to the beach or a water park, or cycling through empty jungle islands. Taxes are low, traffic jams are rare, crime doesn’t exist. We holiday on Bounty-ad tropical islands. We have a maid, for goodness’ sake.
How could I possibly consider giving all of that up?
Because home will always be home. Because family, as you get older, becomes the most important thing. Because I want my children to have the same connection to a place that I have, to be permanent grandchildren and cousins, not just summer blow-ins.
Because who is ever bored with three children? Because you can dress for the weather, and ignore the filthy house and mounds of laundry, and cycle or take the bus instead of drive, and live a bit farther out, and you’ll always find a school for your children.
And mainly, I suppose, because you can take the girl out of Ireland, but Ireland will never leave the girl.