Later this afternoon I will travel to the homeland. To Limerick. Home place to Terry Wogan; Richard Harris; The Cranberries; Ruth Negga and Donkey Ford’s fish and chip shop. Incomprehensibly I have never partook of the deep fried goodness on offer in the latter location. Donkey Ford’s is a Limerick legend. A fast food emporium that has won national awards for its greasy goodness.
I intend to rectify this oversight at the weekend. Since my return to Ireland I have started exploring my home town in more detail.
I don’t understand why I missed out on so much of the local sights and sounds of Limerick during my youth. It’s only since I left Amsterdam in late 2015 that I have been to the People’s Park – a beautiful city park near the train station; done the canal walk from the city to the University; visited the renovated King John’s Castle; visited St. Mary’s Cathedral; been to the Lime Tree Theatre or to Dolans’ music venue. True I have been to the Limerick Gallery of Art on numerous occasions over the years – well they change their exhibition every few months, and I am a person with notions about myself and my artistic capabilities.
Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that growing up we didn’t live in town. In the childhood home our neighbours were a herd of cows in the field next door. We lived only a ten minute walk from the city bus service but that ten minutes out towards the Clare border isolated us from the pulse of the city. As school was located very close by, venturing into town became an event rather than a recurrence.
Perhaps it was to do with the fact that despite being born in the Regional Maternity Hospital on the Ennis Road, and living my entire youth there, my parents were blow-ins from the more exotic climes of County Cork. They had no family connection with the city so home to them was our house, but not our town (which was convenient when it came to hurling as Cork was an infinitely more accomplished team than Limerick, so our allegiance to this outside Cork team as children yielded positive results for us).
Perhaps it’s to do with the location of the university – about five kilometres outside of town. It is a beautiful and spacious campus but being physically separated from the city makes it isolated. During my college years my social life revolved around the university and not around the town.
Most realistically I suspect was my desperation to get out of Dodge as soon as my stubby little legs could carry me, as soon as I reached adulthood. I was not staying in Limerick. I had things to see, people to do. I wasn’t going to be stifled by the parochialism of Stab City (an undeserved nickname Limerick earned some time ago when there was a few incidents of knife crime in the city – all the while Dublin was even then, a far more dangerous, criminally minded place). I was A GAY. How could I ever be expected to live in a place like Limerick, stifling with those nosey neighbours behind their twitching curtains.
Off I went. First to Dublin for a few years. Then to Amsterdam.
While I was in Amsterdam, Limerick became home – not in the sense of where I had friends or hobbies, but rather where I’d go spend some time with the family over Christmas. As I was living my internationally fabulous, glamourous, global (and herbal) life my visits tended to be fleeting.
I moved back to Ireland. Initially I was back home in Limerick. Back in my childhood bedroom while I waited for life to begin again. During that waiting period I started checking out the town more. It was appealing.
Being a forty year old, single, homosexual, unemployed man who lived with his mother was not a sustainable look for me. I needed to work. Dublin called. I relocated. But I still have my eye on Limerick. I don’t know when it will happen – certainly not today or tomorrow – but I have a feeling in my waters that I will be moving back at some point.
In the meantime I will have a battered sausage and chips in Donkey Ford’s this weekend. Just to see what I have been missing.