From the pale to the pastures
While choking in the fumes of rush hour traffic, I stop and imagine the tranquil surroundings of the open countryside. I start to ponder over all those people who have left behind this busy urban life to take residence outside of Dublin. But most folk when uprooting and moving to the commuter counties choose addresses in the many towns surrounding the pale. But how do we city dwellers cope when leaving the suburbs to set up home in the more remote rural areas. I caught up with Fiona Culleton, whose family left Palmerstown in Dublin, to set up their home in Collinstown, Co. Westmeath. Living here for over ten years now she’s obviously well settled in. I’m here to find out how the transition was when moving from the bustling city to the serenity of the countryside.
Pulling into the driveway, I gaze straight ahead. In front of me lay an idyllic new-age cottage with the sun imposing its rays across Lough Lene in the background, this picturesque scene was one of elation.
Waiting to greet me in front of the house, there stood Fiona with her faithful German shepherd lying obediently by her feet. Before I got the chance to acknowledge this warm welcome, I was ushered out the gate and down to the Maypole, the local pub.
So after the short stroll down a quiet country road and into the local watering hole, Mrs Culleton insisted on buying the round. Watching her while I sit back in the comfy couch, I find it hard to place her in any other setting. You really do get the feeling this is where she belongs.
While I sip on a creamy Guinness, she starts to tell me about her aspirations that prompted the move from city to country. Interestingly, there is more to this story than just a move from the suburbs to the sheebeeen. The Culleton family had lived in Albuquerque New Mexico, for two years before moving back to Dublin. They never felt quite at home in their Palmerstown pad, always trying to re-capture the mood of their joyous stay in the US. She tells me “After living in the states for two years, Dublin seemed pale in contrast, where I lived in America there was a great sense of community spirit that made it a fabulous place to live in”. She talks passionately about her American home but on mentioning Dublin her tone takes a dip. “When moving back to Dublin, the family felt they were just going through the motions and that we never really felt at home. We needed a change and the opportunity arose when I saw my current house being advertised in a local newspaper”.
She the proceeds to think back over those initial fears she had when she first sought the move. “I heard stories of how rural townspeople don’t care much for Dubliners settling in their area, but this could not be further from the truth, at least not in my experience”. She soon got to know people around the village and the kids took to country life with great ease. Fiona soon started to get into the swing of things. She tells me “shortly after settling in, I became a member of the local women’s society and took part in set-dancing sessions in the local hall. Also, I played the part of Saint Patrick in last years Paddy’s day parade so you could sat I’m definitely settled in here now”.
On asking her about life in Dublin and where there any elements of it that she missed, she replied to me positively that she now “gets to enjoy the city as a tourist would, spending weekends with her family in a nice hotel”. But she claims that “It’s great to be able to pack your bags and go back to the peaceful surroundings here in Westmeath”.
There is no denying that Fiona Culleton is at one with her current choice of abode. She doesn’t seem to have any regrets about leaving the city. Claiming she would “never move back to Dublin for she had found her ideal home on the shores of Lough Lene”? After leaving the Maypole, we saunter back towards her home. With the sun setting in the west in front of me, I start to think of the intoxicating Dublin traffic and turn to her and say “You’re really on to a winner with this life, don’t you think?”
Written by: Paul Cantwell
Edited by: Aodhan Gregory
Uploaded by: Paul Cantwell