So March 2020 and COVID had a lot to answer for (apart from the obvious!). Endless days trying to fill the hours in lockdown productively, but in reality hours disappearing down internet rabbit holes to fill the time. My personal rabbit hole of choice was properties for sale. Anywhere and obsessively. My hit rate on Rightmove.co.uk must have caused spikes on their website that must have sent them running to the IT Department for clarification. On the one hand it was pure escapism drooling over thatched cottages in the Cotswolds, Italian Farmhouses in Tuscany and sun drenched cliff top mansions overlooking California beaches. But on the other hand it did give me pause to contemplate our own life in Dubai of 25 years with our beautiful house in South of France. Home, but not home. Having spent so long as an expat its quite difficult to imagine reintegrating into your country of birth. If I'm honest, the ride has been so thrilling its not something we really expected to ever happen, or at least not until we were older. But lockdown had, as I said a lot to answer for. For us it tabled questions of distance from family. Questions of what our future looked like and rather scarily, the realisation that we were in fact already, Older.
Our Dubai journey started in 1996 with a goal. Go abroad for a year or so and earn enough money to build our own home. With Billy my husband being Irish from Donegal and my home being Wales location was always going to be a debate but fate took the decision out of our hands when In Lisfannon, a gift of a site transpired nestled in the hill above Billy's home place, and, with a little help and a very much saved for (and needed) retaining wall, we were on our way.
But fast forward a few years and the beguiling sunshine of the Middle East, the tax free status, the pools and palm trees didn't really encourage us to be in too much of a hurry to leave. The plot bought, we shifted focus back to every day life in Dubai. Children were born, with a little help from us, schools enrolled in, work and business got more involved. The Irish Dream withered on the vine.
Fast forward to that afternoon, two weeks into government imposed incarceration at home, and in between slavishly following news bulletins and checking our symptoms, something shifted back. Priorities changed. Chance comments turned into conversations which in turn formed ideas. The ideas became a plan to perhaps move closer to home?
The children had become young adults, those schools were now universities, and the businesses grown and sold. It's funny how that pandemic caused so much heartache and loss, but at the same time gave pause for reevaluation of what's important. It turns out that sunshine, palm trees and tax havens have their allure, but really its family that matter. Mums, dads, sisters, cousins. In a crisis the security of being closer to family is our first order of business.
How we could have ever forgotten how lucky we were with that siteI Ive no idea. How we could have not remembered the beauty of that incredible view. I can only assume the arrogance of youth that made us think that view was nice, but was now spectacular. And my, how absence made our hearts grow fonder. When restrictions were lifted, armed with original plans we headed to Donegal. To the Inishowen Peninsula. A bonus that it too was certainly closer to my own family and Celtic roots than Dubai would ever be.
This is the photograph we took at the top of the site the day we got back. The site had completely disappeared under 25 years of gorse bushes and undergrowth, we are looking down from the top of the plot here and the view beyond of Lough Swilly.
The adventure had begun