This one is almost 10 years old! It’s hard to believe really. It was written for a local newsletter and I was reminded of its existence having read Ode to My Town posts by Kate Takes Five and Where Wishes Come From. Here it is in all its unedited (un)glory. A kind of ode to my hometown – Athy, Co. Kildare.
Mine was the usual rite of passage spent in Dublin. It started later than most and I think, as a result, I was determined to get the most out of it. I was on a mission to make up for lost time.
Once I secured a job, I got on the train bound for Heuston and never looked back. I can still remember the train gathering speed as it left Athy, labouring past the old cinema, covered in graffiti, which has since been replaced with the German Supermarket, Lidl.
Ahead of me was a new life promising freedom, independence, and a great night life. I was the proud owner of a common mindset concerning my hometown. One of scorn, derision and slight contempt.
Goodbye Athy! See you whenever.
And so I took to life in Dublin like a duck to water. It was great! So great that often five or six weeks would pass before I went home again. This was the life. Every so often my housemates and I would have a night in with a take away from our local Chinese, Indian or Italian. And the obligatory bottle of plonk from the off licence. Sometimes, we’d even book a table at one of these restaurants and do it properly. The novelty was huge.
Every so often we would visit the swimming pool, splash around half heartedly at the bar for ten minutes before deciding to head to a proper bar for a drink. This only happened once, mind you. We never made the mistake of going to the pool again. Cutting out the middle man as it were.
There was never a Christmas, a wedding, a birth, a family event that didn’t see me with a detailed shopping list for an item or items that just could not be gotten for love nor money in Athy.
Fast forward a few years and my husband and I were the first of our gang to leave the Big City. Part of me was filled with a strong sense of nostalgia at leaving all of this variety behind.
What had we done? Athy hadn’t even heard of the cappuccino, never mind early Sunday morning fry-ups and lazy early bird evening meals when you just couldn’t be bothered cooking after a hard days toil. I won’t even mention the wonderfully indulgent beer gardens we used to frequent all too frequently. Would we ever enjoy a Tikka Misala or a Rogan Josh again? Were we destined for a life of spice burgers and kebabs after the pub? The same pub for the rest of our lives with just a juke box hammered to the wall for entertainment?
Fast forward yet another couple of years again. I’m not sure if it’s my age or state of mind but I’m suddenly noticing Athy in a different light. I’ve got kids now and all of them were enrolled in the Gaelscoil when they were just weeks old. I love my food and am delighted with the culinary, nay gourmet choices, that can be availed of in this town of many delights.
Another sign of my age maybe, or at least an interest in my longevity now that I have my family to think about, is my health. Athy always had beautiful canal walkways but now a brand new, state of the art leisure centre is enticing people through its doors.
We are environmentally conscious as a family and have never availed of a refuse collection. I for one am delighted that this money saving benefit can continue thanks to the excellent recycling facilities that are available in the town.
And here’s the recession bit. Very recently we enjoyed a wonderful Saturday at the Tri-Athy event. It was that very weekend when we were feeling the pinch, and I was amazed and delighted at the number of ways we were able to entertain our young brood in Athy without spending too much. The lads enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in Emily Square followed by a look at the new Art Gallery across the road. A few ice-creams were the order of the morning after that and imagine their delight when the swimming in the River Barrow started.
Another thing I’ve noticed of late is that I don’t appear to be the only prodigal daughter returning to my hometown. Up until a few years ago, I was always guaranteed a school reunion of sorts in my local on Christmas Eve. (Yeah, yeah, the one with the juke box hammered to the wall. RIP Brendan) There has been a bit of a drought in there lately as it seems my classmates have started families of their own and are bringing them back home.
Home to Athy.
You might have to look slightly harder to find what you’re looking for in Athy, but the beauty of that search is the surprising treasures you will find on the way.
Oh, and the others are all “home” from Dublin too!
Ten years will, naturally, see some changes. Since this piece was written, TriAthy celebrated their 10th year on 4th June this year. Lidl supermarket was razed to the ground two years ago and rebuilt as a pilot proto-type. The Art Gallery mentioned was a pop-up shop and that site is now Deelish cafe. The recession is over. Or so we are led to believe. There is a fabulous new hotel in the town, The Clanard Court. The pub with the jukebox nailed to the wall is, alas, no more. It still stands proud but empty with a FOR SALE SIGN outside. And I regularly have mini reunions at the school gate as now our kids are attending.