I was invited out to read in Belmullet by their librarian Kate Healy.
They have a fabulous arts centre, Áras Inis Gluaire, which I have long wanted to get into and have a good root around – so I was thrilled.
Also, I love Belmullet. For most of my life driving into Ballina, my mother’s hometown, always felt like I was on holiday. Now that I live here and drive into Ballina every day – that holiday feeling is gone. However, if I turn right instead of left out of Killala and start driving down the Ballycastle road towards Belmullet I get that same feeling of ‘wild otherness’ that I used to get coming to Mayo from London. It’s beautiful out here – but remote and even though I know it’s a straight road at some point I start to worry - is Belmullet this far away? Maybe I’ve missed it – and then there it is. A busy oasis in the middle of a bog desert and part of me just goes ‘Phew’ and ‘Yay - I’m on holiday!’
The reading went brilliantly. I was astonished, flattered and delighted at the crowd that turned out to hear me read. The audience ran to double figures and none of them were blood relations which was tantamount to Carnegie Hall for me. The library had laid on canapés and wine and there was even a podium. I had worn my slightly-uncomfortable medium-heel shoes so I was able to give them a good hour without incurring a varicose vein or, gratifyingly, anyone falling asleep. The evening was late with food and chat and honestly – it was the most hospitable place I have ever read in. The Belmullet people are something else: there is a loyalty and sense of place in them that is stronger that anywhere I have come across. Despite the remote location, it is filled with returned emigrants and their children – everyone I met of my generation had an English accent. I agreed to stay until lunchtime the next day to do a radio interview with Erris FM which is run by another second generation ‘mullet man – Tony and newbie Brendan who travels up from Galway each week to run the centre.After a fascinating one-hour chat – I hit the road again asking myself, as I drove back through the wild countryside of Bangor Erris – when will I be back. Soon – I suspect as I had an idea that one of the characters from my new novel might be from there….any excuse.
Here's a lovely photgraph I took at Céide, on the road to Belmullet.
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