It’s a sad fact, I guess, that I’ve never really felt that Perth is “home” for me.  I get intense surges of that “I wanna go hooooome” feeling that one gets when one is far from one’s proper home, and does not feel comfortable in one’s own skin.  Reading Jessica’s recaps of her recent brief trip to Ireland has made feel me incredibly homesick.

From my very first visit to (the Republic of) Ireland I felt totally at home, happy in my skin for the very first time in my life; believe me, you notice when it happens at the age of 29. At that point I knew nobody in Eire; I was travelling on my own and absorbing it all through every pore.  I had gone on a Kontiki tour – a whistle stop tour of around eight days, after that I had another week on my own which I spent in Galway and some more time wandering around Dublin.

I loved the ROI, especially the West – Galway etc. And strolling around Dublin; Trinity College, Grafton Street, Dame Street with it’s fantastic pubs, Temple Bar, McConnell Street and Henry Street … Travelling around, and going into pubs on my own and feeling totally at ease – not something that I’d experienced as a single young woman in Perth where you have to be on guard and ready to repel unwelcome attention. Chatting to complete strangers was a new one too; first, I was and had always been horrifically shy and introverted, not one to ease into a conversation, yet here I was chatting animatedly to men (young attractive and old boozers), women, bar-staff with no hint of self-consciousness.  I can’t put it all down to holiday spirit either, people in Ireland are genuinely easier to talk to , friendlier, more relaxed, entertaining, quick to by-pass small-talk and get right into “real” conversation.

Also, to my very great surprise, the men in Ireland found me attractive and made this known. I wasn’t exactly in huge demand in Perth (to be totally objective; I’m not a troll but not beautiful; fairly cute is as far as I’d go) and I wasn’t most men’s type – being short and intense in nature; not tall, blonde, superficial, bubbly with guinea-pig IQ. I am not a belt-notcher but that first trip to Ireland, over two weeks in total, I hooked up with six, well seven, guys, for one-night to three-night stands.  Not bad going.  All really nice, attractive, fun guys who I’d probably have fallen for given more time.  The young ‘un with the 14 inch penis was very sweet but not the best of the lot – the fella from Galway took the honours there (I never saw any of these boys again, even on subsequent trips – ships that pass, etcetera).

My next trip was a year later – I couldn’t stay away.  This time around I knew a few people, mostly via chat-rooms on IRC admittedly but some of them became good friends. Some of them were total nut-jobs but we won’t go there … And of course I met Tuxedo, but at the time I had no inkling of how important he would become.  I was too busy falling totally head over heels with Ireland – I loved Dublin; the West and South coasts had me in thrall.

Moving over there in 2001 was very, very different. I moved to Northern Ireland, for a start – not the Republic.  Belfast deserves a post all it’s own – and will get one, someday – but basically it is one fucked up place.  It was something else – same island, maybe, but a totally different country from the Republic. The people are different, there is a totally different feel … I was your typical rabbit-in-headlights with culture shock. Only love kept me there so long.

I didn’t hate it totally and without exception.  I was enchanted by so much of the North; the breathtaking beauty of County Antrim and parts of Belfast, City Hall, the Crown Saloon and many other fabulous pubs, great shopping, the simple life-changing experience of living overseas and in Europe.  I had a lot of fun, I met some really wonderful people, not least my truly amazing, delightful, lovely in-laws – so accepting and so much fun.  And living together, sharing and building a life together with my fella was sheer heaven.

We came back to Australia for a variety of reasons, not just because I chucked a hissyfit; mainly to try to get my health back on track as well as finances and other boring shite.  It’s taken a while but we’re all good now, and as for the health thing, well it doesn’t matter where I live – although weather change does have an impact, different geographic location doesn’t equate to a miracle cure or even a major improvement (as we had hoped).  So basically I may as well be in Ireland as Australia.

But Perth isn’t home.  Sure, my family is here but that’s not really a bonus.  I know I sound horrible and harsh, but I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I’m better off having those 15,000 kms separating us, given the stress levels, lack of acceptance, even rejection, and massive judgemental attitudes all round.  There’s no easy solution, there’s too much baggage and history, but the heart of the matter is it’s not a healthy, supportive environment, after all.

I am sure now – in my heart and mind, at my most sentimental and most ruthlessly pragmatic – that Ireland, the Republic, is my home and where Tux and I belong.  We will move back in a couple of years; probably not Dublin although that is where it’s all happening, maybe Cork or Galway.  We’re not sure what/how we’ll do until then. Moving interstate is a definite option (Perth being a tiny one-horse town), but the kinds of things we should be thinking of – eg, buying a house – well, I shy away from putting down those kinds of roots in a place that isn’t home. But that is the sensible thing to do.

Or maybe I’ll never find a place that feels like home.  Maybe it is where the heart is, where I lay my hat, whatever, which means wherever Tuxedo is.  And that could mean taking Perth and forcing it to be home.  Or maybe it means returning to Ireland.  Just not Belfast.


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