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                The colours of
        an Irish morning


It rains – but it only just started. As I walked the dogs on the beach this morning the sky was pink, three cormorants skimmed the waves and in the North the silhouette of the Mourne Mountains rose from the sea. Beyond is Northern Ireland that, for decades, gave the island a bad name. Nowadays, the differences between the commu- nities named after their religion for want of other criteria are fought over by ageing politicians at conference tables.

While the dogs were chasing sleepy seagulls I watched the belly of a small cloud starting to glow. Then, in undue haste, the sun emerged from the water. The South too, the Republic of Ireland, has changed over the last few years. Dublin is similar to any other European city now, shop windows offering the same brand names, streets blocked with the same cars. Only the number of luxury vehicles may surprise the visitor: Ireland has become wealthy. Investments by foreign compa- nies, a clever indu- strial policy, the high standard of education and also a pinch of luck have presented the Irish with an economic miracle unheard of and the cohorts of University graduates still emigrating in the Eighties have returned to raise their families here. House prices have increased ten-fold, lesser paid jobs are filled by foreign workers as in other Western countries and asylum seekers from all parts of the world are looking for residence. Ireland has become more colourful.

The beach is full of shells, the dogs are sniffing the rotting seaweed left by an unusually hot summer. Ireland has become faster too, less patient. People have no more time for the once inevitable little chat about the weather, politics, life´s wisdom. Instead they have jobs, take holidays abroad, know about Italian food and Californian wines. Some deplore the loss of calmness, curiosity and warmth greeting the stranger in earlier times. Poverty had its advantages, particularly for those who only came to visit staying a few days or weeks enjoying what they had lost themselves.

The first drops are falling from a blue sky. A golden glow lingers on the dunes, a few rabbits vanish in their holes. Maybe it is because Ireland is an island, embraced by the sea, or maybe it is the landscape itself: meadows, hills in a thousand shades of green. Gliding over them in the plane, the new arrival is already welcomed by the radiant fields between the hedges. There are whiter beaches, sunnier valleys, better foods and cleaner streets in other countries:

Ireland is not for everybody. But if you fall for its magic you are caught forever. And then there are all the small places: groves, bays, roads lined with rhododendrons und fuchsias, peaks allowing the eye to roam over networks of stone walls. They not only charm the visitors, they are also what makes the island home for its inhabitants. Each cross road, each cluster of trees has a name and in each name there is a story.

(…)

The few drops have turned to rain, the sky is grey, the seagulls gone. For more than twenty years I walk this beach every morning and it is different every time. Sky and sea change their colours, the tides bring what is new, take away the old, and what seems far away is sometimes very close. People are not only changing the land it also changes them and if you stay long enough in one place you become part of it. All the small stories form the story of our life. Once again I look back at the beach, the dunes in the rain, and there is a rainbow stretching over them.

Julianstown, August 2006