We’ve left Ireland twice now. The first time was in 2003 after 15 years at the College of Surgeons in Dublin, when I came to help set up the new medical school in Derby. Then again last year after three years in Portlaoise.
Both times it has taken me a long time to disconnect and for the emotions to begin to settle. Both times things were complicated by our leaving behind a daughter and a son, and in 2014 a son-in-law. When we came to England in 2003 another son was here, but now he’s in Texas with a family, so that enriches the bubbling brew.
In 2003 it took me several months to give up a daily fix of the College of Surgeons website hoping for news of friends, and (I confess) a bit of schadenfreude. Now its the Facebook pages of Irish ex-colleagues.
“Why am I doing this?” Part grief, part anger, part separation anxiety, part questioning of motives, for there was no compulsion to leave. And part dependency.
My heart is somewhere between Dublin and Holyhead: there is something about Ireland that I dearly love; bits of my DNA are in Dublin, and bits of Dublin are in my DNA. I’m managing now to look at the Irish Times only once a week (Saturday, for Ross O’Carroll Kelly) and catch up on the news. And of course there’s the Euro pensions (not good at the moment).
It brings it home to me in a tiny way the plight of those who at great risk flee their homeland, who cross the sea in leaky barrels, who trudge miles and miles overland. People whose relatives at home may be punished as a result. Those who, like the man I saw this morning, was lured here and abused by criminals and now can’t go home, and can’t find work or accommodation.
Spare a thought for people away from home. You never know what battles they have faced, or what grief they suffer.