‘Is there any greater romantic gesture than buying your girlfriend scratchcards?’

I am closing the Kilmainham chapter of my life and opening up a new, exciting one

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens: “I felt a greater sense of purpose there; it gave me perspective and headspace and, like an old friend, it comforted me in hard times.” Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens: “I felt a greater sense of purpose there; it gave me perspective and headspace and, like an old friend, it comforted me in hard times.” Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

I recently found myself sitting in the car outside the apartment I had just agreed to move into – a happy moment, surely – in floods of unexpected tears.

I was blubbering and spluttering like a wet old Massey Ferguson trying to start after being left in the rushes for the last decade.

The apartment was perfect; reasonably priced, nicely decorated and close to everything we needed.

It didn’t matter to me that there was an influx of locally sourced organic coffee shops

But what if I needed to be back in Kilmainham?

When I first came to Dublin three years ago, I adopted this Dublin 8 village with fervour and I settled in better than I could ever have hoped. This had nothing to do with all the cool creative-types who were reported to be hanging out in the area with their circley sunglasses and denim jackets with sheepskin on the collars, and clutching copies of Orwell’s 1984. It didn’t matter to me that there was an influx of locally sourced organic coffee shops or hot yoga sanctuaries or collective creative spaces. All that washed over me just like most of the pop-culture du jour does.

I liked that my neighbours had been there for years, tending to their summer gardens outside the terraced houses that lined our road. They looked after each other, stopping to ask Mary down the road how her husband was after the ingrown toenail operation he had last week. (“Much better Dolores, has the toes cut off the slippers. He’s like a new man.”)

One offered to walk me home once when she saw I was visibly uncomfortable with an unwanted male follower; another helped us fix those fiddly bathroom lights that hang awkwardly in glass cases.

Sense of peace

I had moved in with a stranger who became one of my best friends. When my oldest friend from home moved in nearby my sense of place was complete.

Most of all, I loved the War Memorial Gardens. It is a little slice of Dublin nestled in along the Liffey that seems so quiet and respected and full of joy. Walking in past the gates gave me a sense of peace, an escape from the rat race of city life, from shift work, from the pressures of social media and my own high standards.

Life was simple in the War Memorial Gardens. For those blissful 45 minutes every other day I watched the rowers glide down the water, smelled the rose gardens and was calmed by the symmetry of the architecturally designed sunken flower beds. I felt close to my own genesis in Co Roscommon, to those rambling roads with trickling tributaries of the River Lung and the low glow of the setting sun.

Sitting in the car with my new roomie, I realised I was grieving for Kilmainham

I felt a greater sense of purpose there; it gave me perspective and headspace and, like an old friend, it comforted me in hard times.

Sitting in the car with my new roomie, I realised I was grieving for Kilmainham. I was emotionally attached to a village which wasn’t even my home – as if I hadn’t enough to be dealing with with my love affair for Roscommon.

I’m not sure I have ever found any life decision as hard as this one. I was plagued by inner questioning – why leave a place that makes you happy? Why not just leave everything the way it was?

Sleepless nights

It took a week of sleepless nights, tears and rational discussion for me to realise that all change in life – even the positive kind – must come at a cost. You cannot move upward in this world without leaving a little something behind.

I am closing the Kilmainham chapter of my life (for now) and opening up a new, exciting one. I dried my tears on my lovely new scarf and smudged wet, runny mascara all over the back of my hand.

The Massey was back up and running, and she’ll be motoring nicely in a few months’ time.

They’ll be dead and gone when that sweet €25 you won is still in the back pocket

My housemate-to-be landed back with two scratchcards, the ultimate romantic gesture. This has always been his way. Dog died? Scratchcards. Mean comments on your article? Scratchcards. Valentine’s Day? Scratchcards.

“Flowers are nice, but they’ll be dead and gone when that sweet €25 you won is still in the back pocket.”

We laughed.

Then we googled how far of a drive it was to the War Memorial Gardens.

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