Last night was Taekwon-Do night in Gort for my youngest. I usually spend the evening in a combination of aimless driving and aimless wandering the aisles in Lidl or Aldi. This time my aimless driving was to find a nice place for Reuben the terrier to have a run off the lead. That done, there was just time for a bit of aimless wandering in Aldi and a quick sketch. In the car park of the Lady Gregory Hotel, I sketched what I could see through my windscreen. This included Reuben in my rear-view mirror, who likes to sit on the back “shelf” behind the seats.
Then I picked up Liv and went to get some petrol. As I filled the tank, I noticed a well-behaved husky sitting outside waiting for his master, his lead looped over a post. I knocked on the car window to point him out to Liv, whose ambition is to own a husky of her own. She looked up and eventually saw him, whereupon she began to mime all kinds of lovestruck emotions through the closed window (including eating the husky, which may have been a bit strong). I went to pay and saw the dog’s owner come to retrieve him: the dog was ecstatic to be reunited with him, smiling broadly. I recognised the man. It was the old lad who had patted me on the head (really!) and implored me to come for a drink whom I’d drawn in a Gort pub a couple of months earlier, the one who said he was harmless, because he was “just an old bog farmer.” I told Liv who he was.
“Mum,” said Liv, “whatever about being a gold-digger, what about being a husky-digger? Could you not just go for a drink with him?”
My girl. She’d sell me for a bundle of loving, cute, smiling, loyal fur.
It doesn’t sound so bad when I write it down.
The village of Ballinderreen, a couple of miles from my house, has a community centre. You’re driving along a very ordinary country road and you come to this very unprepossessing little hall. Go inside, though, and you will find sheer magic. You may encounter the best musicians in their field – and they could be anyone, from totally famous to kids starting out; you might find a cooking day offering food from anywhere in the world; you might find a yoga instructor from sunny California; a gold medal winner in the martial arts teaching little people; set dancing or a fabulous musical…the list goes on and on.
Or you might find me. Yesterday afternoon I taught art to kids in Ballinderreen Community Centre. They made Easter cards: here they are, as good as gold. They were getting on great with their work. I try to strike a balance between directing them and leaving them on their own if they’re on a roll, so I took a few minutes to draw them.
I love the kids I teach and I am always very proud of the beautiful work they do. The youngest is just 7 and the oldest is 13 (the older ones in my later class). Their faces lit up when they saw themselves in my sketch: I believe that inspiration is half of my job as a teacher (at least!) and so I always try to show them something I’ve done that makes them smile. All the better that it’s often places they recognise. When I was a little girl around their age, everything I read – comics, books, cereal boxes – was full of references to the UK: the special offers, the free gifts, the celebrities, the retailers, everything. It made me feel like Ireland didn’t matter, in fact barely existed. I know how it must feel for black boys and girls (and redheads like me) never to see themselves reflected back in the media. That’s why I take every opportunity to make the children I teach understand that the culture and landscape we have here is something to be very proud of, and that there are people in their own village who take their place on the world stage in their field.
Whilst all this wonderful art was going on, there was a knock on the door of the hall. A father of one of the little girls told me that one of my tyres was flat.
Luckily there’s an actual tyre garage in Ballinderreen, and off I popped with my newly-pumped up car (also luckily I’m married to a knight in shining armour). The lad in the garage told me he’d be about ten minutes, so out came the sketching stuff. The subject was easy – I like yellow. The lad on the bottom left is a cardboard cut-out.
The guy in the tyre garage, Daniel, turned out to be something of a find. His curiosity was piqued by the uneven wear between the two front tyres, and he probed further, despite the fact that there would be nothing in it for him, as he can’t fix it. He discovered a problem that neither my mechanic, the branded dealer nor the NCT had spotted, all of whom had been paid (excessively, in the case of the branded dealer), and called me over to show me the issue. It fitted with a sound I’d been hearing.
Ballinderreen! An oasis of skill and talent right in the heart of Galway…but then, to be honest, there are oases like ours all over Ireland.