Having laboriously dismantled my life in London, I returned to the Old Country, to enjoy a few weeks of rent-free existence with my closest relatives. I had not spent much time in Ireland in recent years, so cannot tell you more than what I’ve noticed on the surface of things during my stay, because I have become slightly distanced.
Urban, suburban and rural Ireland all look very well. During the 1990s economic boom there were cranes everywhere, and by now I think the country actually looks affluent. There’s regeneration now where even the worst social decay used to exist. Even the Fatima Mansions are to be torn down. The standard of living is high here. Out of all the other EU countries, only Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium fare better than Ireland in the UN’s Human Development Index (which takes into account life expectancy, adult literacy, enrolment in education and GDP). However, last night a friend pointed out to me that the quality of life has changed. Irish people now work very long hours to achieve material well-being, much like their British neighbours. But there are some marked differences to Britain, though.
Hitch-hiking still exists, for example! And in public places it is normal to leave mobile phones in view. This is not because Ireland is particularly crime free; I was simply told that “Nobody steals them any more,” which is something I found hard to fathom. Despite having been told this in Dublin, when I was in my sister’s sandwich shop in County Clare her boyfriend’s phone was sitting on the counter beside me, and when I got up to leave I instinctively handed it to him. I just couldn’t leave it lying there; force of habit.
In many respects the reasons I left Ireland to begin with are still here. Many of my friends have either settled down happily and have children, or have happily departed for lands exotic, and I do not get a sense of what I would actually do with myself if I was living here once more.
I leave for Oslo on the 24th of June. Probably the main joy of writing this blog will be describing the reality of Norway for you. Certainly, many of the people I’ve come across during my stay here don’t seem to know anything about that Northern land. On my trips over there over the past few years I have experienced clean air, a sense of spaciousness, a feeling that people have more personal time, good public services, jazz-influenced music, uncontaminated (although expensive) beer, cool ice maidens, the festivities of what I can only describe as wild viking hordes, and so on. Ultimately, I aim to find – somewhere – the time and space to live the life that suits me best, and it seems to me Norway could provide this. Only this blog will reveal whether the experiment works…