ANY MAN in his right senses, beginning a piece under this possessive title, might well be expected to fall to his knees and offer a fervent prayer of thanks that it is not, in fact, his Ireland.
Who needs more problems than he's got already? North and South, rich and poor, arc just four points in a compass of problems demanding the attention of anyone who would claim Dark Rosaleen, And, of course, I lay no such claim; my Ireland to day is of the heart and not the heartache; bolder and sharper pens can fashion words of more sombre intent than mine.
I wear neither blinkers nor rose-coloured glasses but summer 1983 beckons. 1 have a mind for the lilt of Irish laughter and the twinkle they talk and sing about in San Francisco and Liverpool and London and anywhere from Sydney to Melbourne where a firstgeneration exile meets a second.
My Ireland was Dublin and I don't remember ever having been taken by my parents to (London)derry, Cork or Kerry. Perhaps, if I hadn't gone into a roving business, I'd still never have seen further south than the manicured town of Bray or north than the fishing folk of Balbriggan — and both of these places represented outings and heady adventures.
I would not even try to tempt a visitor to the Dublin of my boyhood dreams. The long dusty walks from school through mysteries of streets off the sedate and unsurprising South Circular road to the long terrace of pebble-dashed houses that held home.
That and a backyard the size of a tablecloth are private but there are other things I remember that might catch even a stranger's mind.
I remember Sunday morning walks after Mass at Whitefriars Street or Clarendon Street when my father would take me past the most magical row of shops along the edge of the River Liffey.
On a good morning, I would persuade him to keep walking down river past O'Connell Bridge, the Dublin gulls wheeling all the time, and then,
leaving Butt Bridge and the lovely old Custom House on the left, suddenly there would be the real river, the part that touched the outside world — the Guinness boats, the coal boats, the gasometer, the derricks, the cobbles, the seamen, the world stretching on and on and on past the Pigeon House and the lighthouse.
Even today, it catches my breath and sometimes makes me think back to the opening of Stevenson's Treasure Island. I cannot imagine anyone brought up in a seaport not feeling that same romantic tingle if he stands there on the edge of Dublin's Fair City.
Up river, of course, for more sophisticated folk, the salmon leaping and begging to be caught, south the soft Dublin mountains and the Wicklow Sugar Loaf peeping over them. To the north, guarding Dublin Bay, covered in heather and folklore the brooding hill of Howth, making twentiethcentury concessions on the fishing village side to both the fishermen themselves and the squires who have yachts to sail.
All this and the crack and the song and the belief that tomorrow will be time enough, Pm sure you know all about. They all make little parts of my Ireland — but you go and make your own dreams. The great thing is they're there for the making.