WE CARRIED the coffin through the uneven path and in the graveyard overlooking the sea the accordionist played the beautiful, haunting tones of Inisheer. Standing by the graveside I could hear the ocean just above the tune. The tip of the small offshore island where he’d been born was just visible. When I’d phoned to tell his sister in London of his passing she’d gone silent, cried a little, and then recalled their long lost childhood on their little island. I’m on my own now she said and I’m too old.
Now he’s gone I’ll probably never come home again.
They lowered him down and we lingered awhile, faces I hadn’t seen in a long time saying hello, ye were great friends, someone says, and I look out again at the sea.
I was walking in to the Centra when, from a gaggle of schoolchildren, she says hello and something else deliberately cheeky. She is showing off to her friends in that innocent way of kids. She is my goddaughter and we have a little chat and she skips off again.
She was born on a different continent and came through the asylum process. She’s a different skin colour and a different name than most of her friends but this is her town now. Those laughing, messing, innocent kids, they are the future of a small place like this. They are the future of it all. The GAA, the pubs, the shops, the houses, the streets, and they make me think it might be a hopeful one.
Others parade outside and inside a local library accusing both librarians and library users of pushing sexuality upon children. They film themselves on social media harassing and arguing with people. They simmer with violence and hate. They destroy and deface some of the library books. Their Irishness is an aggressive, ugly one. They want an Ireland of repression and hostility. They want an Ireland that never was, to replace the one that is. They drape themselves in tricolours.
They seem to brag that their biggest achievement was being born here. I’m not sure what they’ve done since. For themselves, for their community, for the country they profess to love so much. They wouldn’t like someone like me, someone with my accent, and I sure as hell don’t like them.
But I have my Ireland and I have no idea what they have. Apart from hate.
I’m at the petrol pump just outside the town and the petrol cap is stuck again. It’s raining and I need to fill up and get home. I can’t open it and I’m flummoxed. He smiles as he approaches and starts trying to jam it open. He tries the mechanism in the boot. The rain is coming down. The minutes pass and suddenly it opens and he laughs. Now. Get home, he smiles. I can’t place his accent. By the sound of it he’s definitely lived here a while but I’d say Polish. I drive off into the night.
The easy kindness of strangers.
I meet the farmer on the lane and we stop. I’ve never known rain like it, he says, but then the rain has changed these last few years. Where are our fine soft days gone? Now it rains like we are in the tropics.
All fierce and sudden.
And, Jesus, the state of the world. We stand under a tree and let the rain stop. There is news of local funerals and a big GAA match and the son in New York and leaving the cows out just a little longer and someone’s cousin and the rain again and the problem with an old farmhouse is that it’s an old farmhouse and how’s your mother keeping and the new people down the road and the speed the young fellas drive at and here comes the rain again.
And I’ve news when I get back home of a funeral over in England and how this story of Ireland and England runs through my family. Someone from here dying over there. Someone who was going to come home. One day, for sure. Born here and buried there. There’s a storm on the way. One with a friendly name. They reckon it will just clip us but the roads are already flooded. It’s the wind that does the damage. Light the fire, I reckon. Sit and look out the window. That’ll do.
Joe Horgan posts on X at @JoeHorganwriter