Fáilte, and blessings from above!

January 12, 2012 — Leave a comment

Along with the New Year came not resolutions but rather thanks for a happy 2011. Resolutions were dropped many years ago after a recurrent history of breaking them. They have been replaced by hopes and goals.

We saw 2012 in with the help of both family and friends who made the trek to the wild-west coast of Ireland, all of whom understand the importance of staying connected when oceans separate us much of the time.

We stayed in a fabulous house perched on the brow of hill that allowed, when the mist lifted, a glimpse of Donegal Bay. Three-foot thick walls gave proof that the original house was built in the late seventeen hundreds, with a large modern extension added in about 1850. Hot and cold running water has fortunately been plumbed to all the bathrooms since then, and the interior is a wonderful example of how to make an old home warm and comfortable in a most inhospitable climate.

But that’s the thing with Ireland, not called the Emerald Isle for nothing. Outside might be frigid with horizontal rain, sleet or snow trying, and sometimes succeeding in gaining entry through the flashing, the eaves, the windows, but inside is cosy with an Irish fáilte, or welcome, as well as a roaring fire supplemented with peat from nearby bogs.

From our friends, who own the house, our fáilte is always warm wherever and whenever we descend on them whether in Thailand, Sweden, England or Ireland and in a way is expected; but from the butcher, the baker, the publican and random beach walkers it is not.

Recognised as foreigners by our shivering, head down stride, we were always greeted in a friendly manner whenever we ventured into the gale-ridden countryside. Every walk, buffeted along the wide expanses of beautiful white beaches, sometimes enveloped by sand dancers swirling shoulder height around us like crazed dervishes, of the Celtic variety rather than Islamic, was a lesson in understatement from the hardy, ruddy-faced dog walkers and joggers.

“It’s a wild day to be sure,” said one man striding the sands, seemingly immune to the wind that along with the spume and spray hurtled us as we clamped beanies and berets alike to tangled heads of hair. Further along a woman raised her eyes Heavenward and yelled through the tempest with a shrug, “Looks like more blessings from above are coming our way!”

The friendliness and ready smiles made a lie of the statement made one evening by our hosts, “Did you know this part of the Republic has one of the highest rates of suicide?”

I hadn’t known but a glance at the window panes being battered by a steady tattoo of pin-sharp rain and howling wind, guaranteed to raise not just the odd loose tile but the rafters as well, gave credence to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which in extreme cases can lead to suicide.

After a little digging I found that the first five years of this millennium saw more suicides in County Donegal than in the entire 1980s. And more recently numbers that had dropped in 2008, doubled the next year due in part to the dire economic situation. The Mayor of Letterkenny, a town to the north of Donegal, was so concerned at the prevalence of festive season induced suicides that he issued a statement on the 13th December last year encouraging his constituents to keep an eye on friends and family saying, “Suicide is a blight on our country and we need to continue to recognise that it is a major problem.” In the EU, Ireland is second only to Greece on the suicide charts.

I thought seven years on the har-ridden northeast of Scotland many years ago had inured me to all the North Atlantic and the North Sea could throw at me. It hadn’t.

I am deeply, dippily, affected by the weather. Hibernation becomes more and more the only avenue when I am put in the maelstrom of a constantly cycling washing machine that skips the spin dry option. I have no desire to experience nature at her wildest and wettest, particularly when accompanied by a bitter cold that seeps into my bones and pushes my ‘amiable’ button down.

So whilst the pub in Dunkineely on the Bay of Donegal was warm; the hospitality welcoming and the gathering of family and friends fun, I look forward to my return to Houston where I will not have to contend with constant “blessings from above.”

My hope for 2012 is that, along with health, happiness and world peace, the next attempt at maintaining connections across the miles is in Polynesia.

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