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

The Irish Times Magazine - - CONTENTS - Jen­nifer O’Con­nell re­turns next week NI­AMH TOWEY

Ire­cently 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.

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.

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. 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 re­gards 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?

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.

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.

sur“I’m not e 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?

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