After making the decision at Christmas to move to Ireland, to live near my son Patrick with his wife Kate and family of four teenage children, I put my American house on the market a week later and sold it next day to the first people to view it. We complete in April.
I flew back to Ireland for a week in February to look at two houses newly available in the vicinity of my son’s house in the small market town of Nenagh, twenty miles from Limerick, in County Tipperary.
Bungalows in town don’t come up often and when they do, they’re snapped up. This choice was a classic case of the first rule of property: location, location. Urged to live within walking distance so my grandchildren can drop in, it would also help if I need assistance as I get older. I’m independent and handle all my own affairs, am fully engaged in an enjoyable life of writing, desk top publishing, cooking, entertaining, sewing and reading. But when it’s too icy to go out, it makes sense to be near family. This would be near enough for me to walk, or borrow a cup of sugar.
One house was smaller than I’m used to, dated 1980, in desperate need of a new kitchen and bathroom, and skimpy on insulation. The other was larger, in less need of renovation, with some elegant features, more my style, but it was on the main road which is noisy. The smaller one was in a quiet cul de sac overlooking a green. Of course I chose the one on the green. This one was reasonable in price to reflect its scruffy state, but houses are expensive in Europe. For the same price (including renovations) in America you can buy something highly desirable and just move in.
I’ve enjoyed playing houses all my life. As a child I built “houses” in the garden with a clothes horse, a sheet, an old blanket and a step ladder for shelves. My Mother would sit on the blanket and drink lemonade with me like a Sunday visitor. I did all the interior decorating in the many houses we lived in as the children grew up. One large Victorian pile with three floors in Wales took me ten months to redecorate. Buying houses with scope for improvement was how I built a nest egg. In retirement I renovated cottages with my husband in France for six years. Sooner than a pension, buy the shabbiest house in a smart area and get busy. Repeat.
We took a builder with us when we viewed the house, who’s going to do much of the work, lining the outer walls with new insulated dry wall, wiring ample electric sockets throughout, knocking down a wall to install double glass doors, revealing the new kitchen beyond the living room, giving that room a longer perspective, entirely remodeling the bathroom and so on. My bid on the Irish house was accepted. Patrick and I spent three happy hours at Ikea in Dublin, looking at beautiful kitchens. We complete on the purchase at the end of March and by the time my furniture is container-shipped (8 weeks via New York and Felixstowe in England to clear European customs, then by truck across the Irish sea by ferry) the house should be ready. My new study has a wood burning stove in addition to the central heating. I’ll have two guest bedrooms and I’ve lost count of the people in Virginia who want to visit Ireland; although when they realize how far it is to Tipperary, there will be intervals between visitors.
There’s much I will miss about America, principally my two grandsons Connor and Jake, and many friends. The boys are the reason I’ve stayed here 18 months after Patrick’s twin moved to Kansas for work. It’s a terrible wrench but the boys and I communicate on Facetime and I hope they’ll come to Ireland every summer to stay with me. Here I belong to several social groups: the Free Clinic where I’ve volunteered weekly for ten years as Spanish interpreter, the Unitarian Universalist church, a book group, a writer’s group, Lifelong Learning and friends made over the eleven years I’ve lived here. I’ll miss the comfort that is ubiquitous in America, the sense of space, the way everything is clean and works, and that America is dynamic and innovative.
I won’t miss the scaremongering media, plastic presenters, hundreds of awful TV stations, Duck Dynasty or Donald Trump. The too-long election campaign will continue to be of interest to me: I’m rooting for Bernie Sanders. Fortunately I’ll be able to keep abreast of these issues and my friends via Facebook and the internet in our global village. I can still read Like the Dew. I will miss Barack Obama; I’m grateful to him for the years he has held office but he deserves a rest. If Trump or Cruz becomes President I hope Ireland will take ten thousand of America’s refugees.
I’ll explore Ireland’s rich literature and history. This year they’re celebrating the 1916 Uprising with many planned events. I like their philosophical turn of mind, elections organized within weeks, no nuclear capability nor any desire for one. The Irish are friendly, loquacious and articulate, as well as musical. I’m already friends with Kate’s extended family after twenty years of visiting. The pace of life is ideal. I like the small shops and excellent local produce, as well as top rate imported goods like ripe French cheeses. The food is wonderful everywhere, the restaurants excellent. Ireland suffered more than most from the economic downturn, caught out by the huge housing boom and bust that left builders bankrupt, but they are getting back on their feet. The road system is excellent since European membership brought grants for infrastructure.
The south has less than five million inhabitants and no sense of crowding or pollution. The climate is cool and often rainy, but on a clement day it’s beautiful. Although I can walk on the flat into town, beyond the plain are verdant hills and mountains and the air is fresh, the sea never far away. I’ve spent two wonderful vacations on the Dingle Peninsula and never seen anywhere more beautiful than Galway in the west.
When I moved to America in 2005 to live near my son in Virginia an English friend quipped “This is your American period, Eileen.” Ireland will be the sixth country I’ve lived in and this, my fourteenth house. I don’t have roots. I think of myself as a pot in a plant which can be transported anywhere.
I’ll arrive on my 79th birthday. This will be my Irish period and I’m looking forward to it.