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My Sabbatical Part 3: Enjoying precious quality time with long-lost family in Ireland

July 25, 2018, 11:44 a.m.

Our adventurer, Paul, takes a short but heartwarming trip to Ireland to catch up with family he hasn’t seen in many years. Along the way, he thinks about time, nostalgia, family ties and how he can prioritise his visits to the people that matter...

After a few days at home catching up (including a big BBQ at our house with local friends that reminds me how nice it is to drink on a Sunday with people who have to go to work on Monday!), I whizz off from Stansted for 5 days in Ireland. The main purpose of the trip is to catch up with uncles, aunts and cousins I haven’t seen for between 10-15 years...way too long!

My dad is from Ireland and I spent many teenage holidays with the Irish side of my family building the kind of bonds that last (well I guess I’m about to put that to the test!). It’s a bit scary to just turn up on someone’s doorstop on your own after a long time and stay with them so I’m a bit nervous (but I tell myself it will be fine).

First stop is Kerry, a very beautiful part of the world. My uncle meets me from the airport to make sure I’m OK with the hire car and guides me to his house where I’m staying, a gesture typical of the welcome I receive. The weather is gorgeous so I get a trip out on his boat the next day (a real treat) and I drive around the Dingle peninsula for a few hours. The scenery is truly stunning...so rugged and wild.

I get to catch up with pretty much all my family down in Kerry and take in the England game over a few Guinesses (me and my cousin’s English husband are the only people cheering the winning penalty 😬).

The next day I drive up to Dublin to stay with one my other cousins, catching up with everyone over some fine home cooked food and wine. Her youngest daughter takes a shine to me, drawing pictures and giving me hugs which helps me feel at home (if a little nostalgic from when my daughters were that age)!

The following morning I’m off to Howth which is where my dad is from and where his ashes are scattered, in the harbour, an area he so loved. I get to spend some time with his cousin / best friend and also another of his brothers whilst also getting some time to myself to reflect. It’s amazing how certain places maintain such a strong resonance after a long time. Howth has changed a bit and not necessarily for the better but it will always be very special for me.

So that’s pretty much it for this trip before I’m back on the plane to Southend with a huge amount to reflect on…

1. It has been so wonderful to catch up with people and places I haven’t seen in a long time and it has worked out as well as I could have hoped. It didn’t feel forced and it really didn’t feel like I hadn’t seen people for ages. This feels like something worth maintaining! I feel closer to my dad when I’m in Ireland and with his family and that makes me feel more ‘rooted’. I guess this is more important to me given that I lost him at a young age.

2. It was noticeable how my aunts and uncles are getting old. They are all in their 70s or 80s so it’s understandable and very much in line with my own mum. Time with them is important and it does make you think about your own place in time and what is important to you. Some opportunities are taken away from you through ill health before you are ready.

3. It was tremendous to see the next generation on the way up. My cousins now have kids and they’re growing up fast. Such enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and opportunity! And of course they all have their own problems trying to make their way. When did I suddenly get this old and wise (although they may not agree with the latter)?

4. Why did it take me so long to do this trip and how do I stop this kind of pause from happening again? Wouldn’t it be great if my kids had these family ties as well? I am fortunate to always have many holiday options as well as a place in Italy to escape to. Realistically this has meant that a trip to Ireland gets pushed down the priority list. I hope I can change this going forward and include my wife and daughters in the experience as it really is something to cherish.

Next stop Bali!

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