For lovers of bird song this broadcast is outstanding. For those of you who don’t have six and half hours to listen to this sound fest, just go to 6 hours on the slider and listen to the spine tingling music of the ladies who sing with birds. It made us cry it was so unexpectedly, heart stoppingly beautiful.
To Grandmother Christine Fitzpatrick and Grandfather Joseph Manning and the lovely ladies of the Irish Embassy in Paris : go raibh maith agat, my first words of Irish.
I just got my full Irish passport and I can now sleep easily in my French home knowing I am still a European citizen and all the nationalistic nonsense of Brexit can’t make me homeless!
We don’t realise how noisy the world is until it stops.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve in my part of France everyone leaves work and heads for home to prepare dinner and to then to eat with their family. The cars are silent in the garages; the tractors are quiet in the barns; the chainsaws are stilled in the forest; the planes overhead are gone and even my crazy neighbour with the leaf blower is wonderfully, miraculously quiet.
And then the quiet flows back , like silk, like oxygen and all your senses are filled to the brim with it. Deep, ancient and profoundly satisfying the silence washes through you at last.
I realise how many owls there are calling from the forest on the hill. I had imagined there was only one and now I hear three distinct rich calls in the mild air. Stepping out to turn on the lights I hear sharp piercing barks of foxes very close.
On Christmas morning I open the bedroom window to a road utterly devoid of traffic and admire mist curling and dispersing on the forest as two ravens roll over the tree line conversing loudly in their own air.
The day is as quiet of human noise as the night and as I walked in the woods each bird call seemed perfectly delineated and clear. Field fare clucked in the apple orchards, mistle thrushes chattered, jays scolded, magpies gossiped, bull-finches peeped a single note, black wood peckers mewed like buzzards, song thrushes rolled out music and above it all the jubulient winter ravens shout.
My maternal grandparents were Irish. In Liverpool everybody seemed to have Irish grandparents and listening to my grandfather sing and play fiddle with his friends in the kitchen seemed what everybody did.
When my grandparents died and the family moved away, any links with Ireland seemed to losen and I eventually felt myself wholly English. However the idea that you can part of more than one country was there as bedrock and both my grandfathers travelled the world on the ocean going liners out of Liverpool and it seemed as natural as breathing to want to see the world.
I have lived now in nine different countries and on four different continents, having come to rest ( who knows for how long) in a beautiful corner of France on the edge of Switzerland and Germany . I like being foreign because I think anywhere can be my home and I can feel at home everywhere. My British nationality has been a great good fortune, giving me the language that has has made my living and a passport respecteacross the world. As a member of the EU my potential home and work place in any of the member countries offers me a huge range of climates, countries and cultures to choose from.
And then came Brexit.
I was prepared for the result. I had spent months researching my Irish roots and my eligibility for Irish citizenship as a foreign born national , but I hoped I would not have go through with it. This is not because I didn’t want to get dual Irish/British nationality, but because I hoped no one could be misguided enough to turn their backs on all the opportunities that Europe offers.
Unfortunately I was wrong, but unlike all the millions of my fellow Brits with no European ancestors, my Irish parents have stretched out a hand across the years and allowed me to continue being European, to continue living in France and to have the possibility to work or retire wherever the fancy takes me in the community.
I am very grateful to the Irish embassay in Paris for sorting it all out so quickly and to my Granparents for giving me the freedom to keep my options and my heart open in this amazing, interconnected world!