By Ciara B
I was seven the day my life changed forever, not in a scary ominous way but there was no doubt about it, life was now very different. The long car journey, boot filled to capacity, the boat with its tired truckers and day tripping families.
As long as I could remember, I’d wanted to move to Ireland, the country of my Mother’s birth and place where my beloved Grandmother lived. Every March 17th, I was sent off to school with a sprig of shamrock wrapped in a piece of tinfoil. Something that confused a lot of the children in our rural Wiltshire village and a few of the teachers too.
My sister Fin and I viewed Ireland as a magical place, looking back it was probably because Ireland was our yearly holiday filled full of grandmother cuddles and Mr Whippy ice-cream.
The sea was rough and the horizon grey on the day we arrived, my parents struggling after a 12 hour car journey with two over excited children.
My Grandmother’s garden had a slope and a giant cherry tree at the bottom. That morning, crouched down on my Grandmother’s porch was a soldier complete with rifle and cap. I still don’t know what he was doing there, perhaps keeping watch but when he heard my English accent he smiled at me with kind eyes.
My sister and I were soon enrolled in a local primary school. School was a 1970s concrete affair with very little green space for the children to play. I found out to my chagrin that my beloved brownies did not exist and the others were suspicious of my ‘britishness’. In later years, I’d learn that people had wrongly assumed my father to be a British soldier, something that made me an object of scorn or derision.
It just seemed to me that this place was different and no matter how I tried I seemed to stick out like a proverbial sore thumb.
One day when I was around 7 or 8, the class teacher Mr O Hare shouted “why can’t you be more modest Ciara” to the amusement of my classmates. My crime was failing to wear a vest underneath my school shirt meaning my bare chest was visible when changing for PE.
I longed for the days when my mother would pick me up in her Ford Fiesta and we would go swimming and then greedily eat spinach lasagne. In this new reality my Mother was at work and I walked alone the quarter mile to my Grandparent’s house.
My Grandparent’s house was a cocoon of comfort, a hot bowl of Irish stew awaited me and my Aunty Maebh fed me Findus crispy pancakes and helped me with my homework.
There was a mobile shop and I used to go and buy cigarettes with a note from my Grandfather which seems unthinkable now.
I never did truly settle in Ireland and as soon as I was 18 moved back to England. Finally, in 2020 settling in Hertfordshire with my own little family.