I am going home this weekend. In just a few hours in fact. I’ll be talking the train from Heuston Station in Dublin directly to Limerick. I won’t be taking the Cork train and then alighting in Limerick Junction – the armpit of Ireland – to swap over to the commuter train. I will be watching my bags like a hawk. The last time I took this train was several years ago – since I have returned, bussing it has been my mode of transport. On that particular occasion I was home for a Christmas visit. As I waited in Supermacs for my garlic chip and cheese, I realised that my wallet has been lifted from my pocket. Being a last minute present buyer, I had not yet purchased any gifts. But I had withdrawn a big wodge of cash money to buy them the following day.
Ah Dublin. It would warm the cockles of your heart.
The title of this blog post ideally should be pronounced with a Cork city accent (Cork sittay bwoy).Why is this? It’s because I decided that I wanted to name it, using a riff on the appallingly twee ode to the beauty of my home town. That song is called ‘Limerick, you’re a lady’. The closest version I could conjure up was ‘Limerick, you’re a langer.’ And langer as we all know is a beautiful word of Cork slang. It is called out to people who resemble a certain male appendage.
The song ‘Limerick you’re a lady’ was written in 1979 for the Limerck Lady Festival – a beauty pageant that sounds as appalling as the clips on YouTube in which it features. It was sung by Denis Allen, and was a massive hit in Ireland on its year of release. It’s a treacly ode to the city of his birth and the cailin he has left behind, as he makes his emigrant way, in a far off land. Never fear though – he’ll never stop loving either his home-town or this chick.
I used to loathe the song. To me, it represented everything twee and cloying and sentimental about official Ireland. Yes I was an emigrant, but I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Like hell did I miss Limerick. How could I be gay and happy in a place like that? Those two conditions – happiness and being a sodomite – were mutually exclusive in Limerick. And always would be. Forever and ever. Amen.
There may have been a few gentleman to whom I had given the glad-eye in my youth. But you weren’t going to find me mooning over them as I drank my Barry’s Tea in Amsterdam with tears falling down my face, staring out the rain-bedecked window, a wistful look in my eyes, as white satin sheets billowed in the background, and I raised a hand (in slow motion) to the windowpane.
As with all things tacky and saccharine I usually come round. Now that I am back in Ireland I have a more mature appreciation for the song. It’s still as tacky as all hell. But I find myself singing it unironically at the strangest times.
When I got back to Ireland last year, I spent three months at home. The longest time I had spent there in the twenty years since I had left. Half of my family still live in the city and its surroundings. It is to those folk I’ll be paying a visit. When I arrived back my intention was to avoid Dublin. Instead, I would attempt to start again in either Cork or Limerick.
That three months at home gave me a greater appreciation of the town. I quickly realised that aside from my family, the friends I had growing up had either all departed, or we’d drifted apart to such a degree that I wouldn’t have been able to get in touch with them even if I’d wanted to.
I was making efforts to re-integrate though – going to an acting class, an improv class, and slowly the tentacles of new friendships were beginning to form. There were even rumblings of me joining a basketball team.
Fate (or employment) intervened. I cut the cord again and found myself in Dublin.
I love Dublin. With hindsight it was the wisest location after the big move home – I had maintained some friendships here during my time away. And there’s a bigger theatre and music scene (as would befit a capital city). And in Dublin homosexuals are so bountiful that they are falling out of the trees..
This weekend I will take a walk around the city, and do the country ring walk near the Mammy’s house. I will meet La Famiglia. On Sunday we’ll have a birthday lunch for my sister. It will all be very pleasant.
I’ll come back to Dublin and put Limerick out of my head.
Even still. At the back of my mind a little voice will sometimes whisper ‘Go home, go home, if you don’t you’ll lose it.’
Then I’ll hum the words ‘Limerick, you’re my lady. The one true love that I have ever known.’
And I’ll snap out of it.