Journalist Liz Chandler’s journey from London to Kerry to Dublin to Manchester and to her native Norfolk has taken up most of the past quarter of a century.
She worked for The Kingdom Newspaper in Killarney where she made an impact as a conscientious and diligent reporter and later started her own local newsletter, The Maine Event from her adopted home in Firies.
A thirst for knowledge and further education called her away to Dublin almost a decade ago and she hasn’t stopped travelling and learning since.
Now Dr. Liz Chandler, in the course of a recent outbreak of emails between us I asked her if she’d update us on her progress through life after she left the county which made a great impression on her. She filed the following account:
My Journey To Fulfillment
It barely seems like yesterday that I was trekking around the idyllic Kerry countryside on the trail of stories for The Maine Event.
Yet unbelievably, it’s nine years since I left the county and eight since I left Ireland.
First stop was Dublin and the hallowed halls of Trinity College to pursue a Master’s degree in Classics.
Just five years earlier I had finally been convinced to do an Open University degree by fellow alumnus and Firies resident Tom Farrelly, a venture that not only reawakened my love of learning, but also ignited a new fascination for Roman history.
Daily Rail Journey
Unwilling to shelve my books quite so soon, I decided to spend just one more year surrounded by the words and wisdom of such ancient characters as Augustus, Ovid and Livy.
Not wishing to completely forsake the bucolic beauty and coastal landscape of Kerry for the bright lights of Dublin, the recommendation of my late friend Sue Mansfield to live in her home town of Skerries proved a wise one.
My daily rail journey to college provided the perfect pictorial representation of the gradual transition from countryside to city I was seeking and I never tired of watching the seasons change from the window as the train travelled over the picturesque Malahide estuary to Pearse Street station.
Pure White Majesty Of Adulthood
I revelled in witnessing a pair of swans turn into a family and their cygnets slowly transforming from their youthful grey fluffiness to the pure white majesty of adulthood. Thanks to the pre-recorded, dual-language station announcer, I also learned the Irish names of every stop along the way – if only my progress in Latin had been so easy!
Oscar Wilde’s famous adage regarding temptation certainly rang true for me when, on completing my MPhil, I was offered the chance to do a PhD with one of the leading academics in my field.
15 Years in Ireland
And so to Manchester and a further four-and-a-half glorious years in the company of my Roman friends. I loved every single minute of study, but I did not particularly like Manchester.
I thought that by going back to England I would in essence be going home, but I had failed to recognise the extent to which over the 15 years I had lived there, Ireland had seeped into my heart and soul.
The Mancunian Sky
The Mancunian sky felt too low and forever dingy, as if still polluted by the smog of its 19th century industrial past; a claustrophobic landscape of endless rows of red-bricked houses replaced the mountains and shorelines I was used to; the surround sound of my own accent was unsettling; the currency unfamiliar.
A sense of alienation was not uncommon in this multi-cultural city and I was humbled by my non-native neighbours who, despite their often terrifying reasons for being in Manchester, offered me such empathy in our shared longing for another land.
Kimberly Biscuits and Barry’s Tea
Perhaps it was due to some form of subconscious homing instinct that I ended up living in Levenshulme, often referred to as Co Levenshulme, due to its large Irish population.
My lonesomeness for Ireland was somewhat alleviated by the availability of good Guinness, red lemonade, Kimberly biscuits and Barry’s Tea.
With Paddy’s Whiskey only recently available in UK supermarkets, I was extremely thankful to my Irish PhD supervisor for keeping me supplied from his regular trips home.
Back to Norfolk
It was little more than my desire to get out of Manchester that has finally brought me back to Norfolk, the county of my birth. Although I think I will forever need to maintain some sort of Irish connection in order to feel at home.
Luckily the Temple Bar, run by Mayo man Adrian Joyce, is just a short walk from my home and allows me to keep up with Kerry’s progress in the All-Ireland.
And tuning in to watch Leixlip meteorologist Aisling Creevey deliver the weather forecast on the local news is a daily ritual.
Escape to the Music and The Mountains
I have even managed to hook up with a fellow Norwich-native and former Dublin journalist who not only understands why I still call the police An Garda and Boxing Day St Stephen’s Day, but also knows exactly who I am referring to when I talk of ‘yer man back the road’.
I’ve spent lockdown trying to make some proper progress on my book and looking forward to those post-pandemic days when I’ll be able to pay a visit back to my spiritual Irish home.
Until then, I’ll just keep reminiscing until I really can, in the evocative words of my singer/ /songwriter friend Lisa Redford, escape to the music and the mountains. Have a listen to Lisa’s work with a Click on the link here: https://lisaredford.bandcamp.com/track/music-and-the-mountains-2