I travelled to Sligo recently for a weekend, to stay in the holiday home of a Dublin 4-based family - a cliché if ever there was one.
It really brought home to me the undoubted allure of this way of life, and why so many people do it, either in having a holiday home, or actually living in the countryside full time. On the holiday side of things, it is but a 2 hour zip up the motorway from any major centre now to a rural location that’s a decent distance from home. The rest and relaxation it offers one over the course of a weekend is wonderful, especially if you lead a busy life in the city (who doesn't), or are otherwise tied up in your working week - the change of scenery is a delight, even if in the depths of the misty, drizzly midlands or west coast.
Or if you live full time in an urban-generated pile, again it's much the same. You have the advantages of privacy, space, land to do what you like with (even if it's inevitably nothing), and piece and quiet - all a short minute drive away from the local town/village. I can see how young couples jump at the opportunity. It’s lovely.
Well, not really. The pitfalls were only too evident also - though just to say, the house I was in was generally of the more sustainable variety, the owners coming from that area and taking an active interest in planting and developing the land – I wouldn't have gone otherwise of course
What hits you above all else though, and I'm sure everyone else sees this too, is that Irish people just seem to live in a happy happy world of 'interiorism', something that is manifestly evident in the countryside. It doesn't matter what your house looks like from the outside, it matters not in the slightest as to its impact on the environment, or on the landscape it’s sitting on. It's all
about the interior. The negatives of narrow windy roads, of slushy drives, of churned up gardens, of windswept exposed sites, of nobody living nearby that you can enjoy the outdoors with, are all made up by oil-fired central heating, chic expensive-but-cheap-looking pine doors, skirting, architraving, 'Canadian oak flooring', vulgar marble bathrooms, vacuous bespoke fitted kitchens with designer appliances 'that we could afford because we built the house ourselves' etc etc etc.
Of course it is smug to highlight these things - we all covet luxuries of one kind or another - but it is this plastering over the cracks of one-off living that becomes so very evident when you experience it first hand, and even then you don't have to be that close to see what's going on.
As long as the interiors of these places are warm and toasty, and pasted with luxurious materials, faux-Tudor styling and furnishings, and perceived ‘quality’ goods, then who gives a toss about the exterior – provided of course factory churned trophy granite is featured somewhere along the line.
I don't apply this model incidentally to where I was staying of course
, but it was interesting nonetheless to note that we ran out of milk one evening. There was nowhere to go for milk. So we had no tea that night.
Not that any shop may have been closed anyway, but even to go to a neighbour that lived a few minutes walk away (don’t think they knew them), or the inconvenience of having to drive to the shop in the morning - it was a few minutes drive on a dodgy rural road that you certainly couldn't walk, mainly in safety terms but also the inconvenience of it too, esp in such a poor climate. Indeed the car was even taken to the pub, again a few minutes that could easily be walked in a safer semi-urban area but no way on a dark dangerous winding road.
Also the sheer loneliness and isolation is quite depressing in the evenings. Suppose you’d get used to it, but being surrounded by black, without a sound, in the middle of nowhere is no pleasant experience. I can certainly see how elderly people find it problematic living in such a way - and with the added lack of mobility and dependence on other people coming to see you.
The amount of mansions counted along the way was quite extraordinary, some of a scale nothing short of breathtaking, not to mention in vulgarity – the majority on exposed, featureless sites. Living something of a sheltered life on the east coast, I really didn't think things would be as bad as is often made out, though I know only too well the farcial state of affairs in the North East running up to the border, and beyond where arguably it's even worse that within the state - but really it is so very depressing. The garish hard white and yellow of so many houses in the sultry grey surroundings of the west is all the more horrific.
It is just sad
above all else as J. Seerki says, not snobbish, to see the disintegration of our environment, our landscape, our architecture, our society, our future, under the current planning regime