I’m a coastal bigot. I believed that the Irish midlands were the boring bit that you find on the road between Galway and Dublin. There were a boundless interminable purgatory that ended at the Irish Sea. They are an Elf-land like Valinor: You travel the curved road to reach Dublin, and the starry curved roach to travel through Westmeath, Longford and Cavan.
If you travel long enough and search hard enough you might find fiery Vingilot with Eärendil and Elwing at the helm. The M4 to Dublin is literally Belegaer, the Sundering Sea.
Less poetically, I have had the habit of really dismissing the midlands as flat and boring. While I am honour-bound to respect Aafke’s wish for privacy in regards her home, I feel more free with what she showed me of the Midlands. It was eye-opening. There’s is more depth, beauty and sheer interestingness there than I had ever imagined.
Let me put it like this: The west of Ireland and the western states of America are similar in the sense of roads and landscape. There are only a few roads, and these connect the different towns. You’re bound a narrow experience unless you go off-road in the rugged terrain.
The Irish midlands are likewise closer to Missouri: There are roads of all sizes, from everywhere to everywhere because the landscape didn’t prevent it. The land doesn’t hold any of the spectacular rises and falls of the coast. Instead there is a gorgeous green wholesomeness.
It’s pastoral and rather serene. Fair’s fair, I saw it in brilliant sunny weather. Aafke warned me that the countryside is bleak in winter, and that the people are bleak year around. Everyone’s despondent. Money only flows into the area from a few points, and outside of those little oases of prosperity, the human landscape is stark. Regimented towns where the sole focus is a Tidy Towns plaque, because that’s all to strive for. Twitching curtains that enforce wholesome Catholic values. An ear pressed to every wall. Awful little towns like Ballynacarigy where all the lads were in wifebeaters and tats, and all the girls in bleached blonde hair and a babe on their hip. That makes it kinda like Missouri too, I guess.
There you have it. The land is beautiful and different, as are the people in their own strange way.