Felice anno nuovo…

…might well have been the greeting to you all at this time of the year, but that would have been from the time when retirement plans were angled very much towards La bella Italia. Having bought a des res on about 0.6 of an Irish acre (about a quarter bigger than one of our English ones!) – complete with a barn and the solitude of the most beautiful Tipperary countryside (even in lousy weather) – the greeting should now be bliain nua sásta. Anyway, in Italian or Irish, I hope 2018 is a good one for us all.

Our Tipperary view from the front of the des res. The River Shannon is only some 3km away.

The thing that attracts us most to Ireland is the simple fact that people seem to move a lot slower that the frantic “rat-race” our modern British society has become. Who in modern, angst-ridden Britain has the time to give you the time of day or – and this is the scary one – even just to smile at you or even acknowledge that you exist? Who amongst you has not held a door open or – following the Road Code – pull in to allow another vehicle to pass and been “thanked” with nothing – not even the slightest nod of the often over-imperious head. The three-point turn has been dropped from the driving licence requirement; given the generally inconsiderate use of our badly-pitted and potholed roads, perhaps they have scrapped the Road Code, too. We would probably be the last to know…

The Irish do not seem to be scared of being involved in a conversation – none of that “I’m sorry, we haven’t been formally introduced” sort of attitude. On a recent trip and in a well-known supermarket, a tramp was buying his nightly bottle of the hard stuff and the people in the checkout queue were actually talking to him, not trying to shy away. Going into the local store, petrol station, post office or even hardware store – where you can still buy just about anything from just 3 screws or a single light bulb (EU approved, of course) to a complete bathroom suite – often provokes a lengthy discussion into the relevant parties’ health, the weather or the state of the flocks or crops (it’s a very rural locality). The latter could possibly prove a little daunting, given that the veterinary knowledge possessed between the two new ones from England extends to knowing that one end can have horns and the other doesn’t! Still, my point is that they – the Irish – still maintain a sense of the value of the individual within time, which makes for a refreshing return to a less frantic way of co-existing. We were also encouraged by the revelation made by our sole immediate neighbour, Michael by name, that we “weren’t to be having anything to do with the worry” while we wait to move to Tipperary permanently. Apparently our neighbour on the other side of the valleyette – “sure, ‘tis a true gentleman he is,” – has been known to accost unexpected strangers with a rifle sticking out of his driver’s door. By now, we are certain the Michael has spread the news of the new residents-to-be throughout the far-flung homesteads, so security, as graphically outlined to us, shouldn’t be an issue!

No, not the lake on the top quarter acre! These are the gardens at Johnstown Castle, near Wexford. There is an agricultural museum there, together with an excellent Famine Museum. Fingers of blame are not suggested or pointed in any way, but the exhibit does make you feel very uncomfortable, because of the then government’s lack of concern over what was a national (and, for that matter, Europe-wide) catastrophy!

Then there is the small matter of national pride, something once tangible on this Fair Isle, but now mocked as being non-PC or – even more hysterically – as political extremism. The Irish seem to know exactly where they have come from (including what is turning out to be a spectacular recovery from economic disaster just a few years ago) and, more importantly, where they would like to go. Putting “Proudly Made in Ireland” and the tricolour on local produce seems to be the done thing. Something similar in feeling to what Prince Philip did decades ago, when he promoted the “Buy British” campaign. How unfortunate (or perhaps significant?) it is, then, that nowadays in “directionless” Britain, it seems that the retail outlets with the highest “British is Best” type profiles are both German!

The first concert of our German tour in the fabulous concert hall in Bad Ems. The Kaiser and Wagner, among others, were frequent visitors.

In addition to now being a house owner again after a great many years, the other significant milestone for me in 2017 was to “retire” as music director of the East Grinstead Concert Band. After 8 years at the helm, during which time the Band’s playing developed to often equal that of a service band and the membership list from which we could draw our players soared to the high forties, I felt it was the right time to hand over the baton, particularly with retirement to Ireland on the agenda. We had completed an extremely successful tour of Germany in October, so, after the November Poppy Appeal concert, it seemed a good point at which to bow out on a high. I plan to return to the Band and try and get my clarinet playing up to strength again, which is something I have really missed. You can’t wave the stick out front and play the clarinet at the same time – not enough hands!

My final appearance as MD of the East Grinstead Concert Band during our Poppy Appeal Concert in November.

Writing continues apace, with the fourth “An Eccentric In Lucca” well on the way, the third “Rupert Winfield” nearing completion of the proofreading process and a new children’s book, “Daydreaming Dillon” almost half way through. It’s all go at the keyboard!

 

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