Exactly 30 years ago in the month of February I packed my bags and the tools of my trade, gave notice to my partner in business who gave me a compass in return and left my country for an indefinite amount of time. I was searching for a new place where my bottled-up creativity could blossom once more. In my mind this new place needed to have the following qualities:
1) a low-level of bureaucracy;
2) be far enough so that my friends would not be tempted to come and take me back, but not too far in case I changed my mind;
3) it had to be an island.
The previous summer I had visited Ireland and had liked the look of her, got on well with the natives and the sun shone for three consecutive weeks. I could certainly live there. 30 years later I am still there and I think I could safely say that I am almost as Irish as the Irish themselves? Or am I?
Despite the length of my stay I feel more Italian than ever, it’s an awareness that surfaces at every available opportunity partly encouraged and enthusiastically supported by the people I live and work with. Yet after any length of time spent away from this island I get terribly homesick and have to rush back to make sure that, during my absence it has not drifted far away into the Atlantic ocean.
Ireland is under my skin and I love her to bits, warts and all, the way I love Italy, warts and all. She complements my personality and most of all, thanks to her people, she has enabled me to fully become who I am today.
MY SENSE OF PLACE
My experience of Ireland is of a multi-layered, constantly shifting region situated in both a physical and an imaginary map. A place forever in motion that plays tricks on the imagination many foreign visitors find unsettling or difficult to appreciate despite the creative freedom it offers. Here energies change, the way the weather and the light change, demanding that you move with them in an eternal dance that creates endless possibilities. I understand that for most artists this would be the ideal place to live, after all in 1929 the Surrealist Movement drew up a ‘Map of the World’ portraying nations according to their creative potential. In this map Ireland loomed very large indeed dwarfing most of the other European nations.
In this country I have found the qualities and the tensions, that my original home lacked. Ones that I needed for my own development as well as for the work I do with others. After many years of moving between the two countries I have finally found peace and feel whole. I know I can now travel no longer afraid that in my absence my island may disappear forever in the mist.
Many people have a ‘soul-country’ they yearn for and I am happy I found it.
To conclude please take this article as my declaration of love for Ireland. This month, thirty years on I will accord myself an honorary citizenship and wear green for one day (green is not my favourite colour).
And if the Romans never invaded Ireland it must have been because on the day they were standing on the British shores looking west, the mist must have been particularly thick and so never made the crossing. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, all I know is that the people of Ireland lost a golden opportunity to improve their cooking for many centuries to come!