The Burren, a unique and captivating landscape, that's now always home for me.
When I was six years old, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night, and told me to be very very quiet. I followed her downstairs, out the front door and into the car, still in my Batman pyjamas. There was a blanket and pillows in the back seat, and I lay down. Only half-awake, I thought we were heading to the dentist. But we drove out of London, across the country, and onto a ferry. We were moving to Ireland in secret, to escape my violent, semi-psychotic step-father.
I’d had no idea we would leave. Mum had watched me become silent and invisible, as she tried to be, to escape his abuse. It hadn’t worked. So we escaped to another land. But he followed us to Ireland, and with mighty threats of drowning himself and abandoning his own child, he seized hold of our family again.
My real father had fled Ireland for London in the early eighties, imagining the Gardai were pursuing him for some misdemeanour. His own father had been a prisoner of war in the Congo, and brought a heavy silence home with him. If my father hadn’t fled Galway, he would never have met my mother in the squats. I wouldn’t exist. Nor my three half brothers and my half sister, who have different mothers, all of whom were living in the same squats.
Galway City, also always home, windy and rainy as fuck, and the weather has very bad boundaries, but so safe, so friendly, and so clearing somehow.
My mother’s grandfather fled Lithuania around 1905 because Cossacks were killing Jews. He moved to London, shortened Rockiah to Rock, and got stuck right in to weird occult shenanigans with WB Yeats, Aleister Crowley and all the other fancy lunatics.
Who knows where his Jewish ancestors had fled from before that? Who knows through what acts of war or forced migration my father’s ancestors came to Connemara? Who knows what abuse my step-father suffered, to make him so terrified he felt the need to paralyse us with fear too, in order to try to hold on to us? No beginning to any of this. Endless generations of handed-down suffering.
By the time the Gardai broke down the doors and rescued me from my step-father, pulling me down the road to where my mother waited in the back of a police car, Ireland was home, our final escape. Buying land, staying in one place, was one of the bravest things my mother ever did. I grew up roaming western Ireland’s woods and hills. I am always grateful for the life it has given us, despite what brought us there. Slowly, amongst its trees, waters and people, I have been learning to not stay silent and not stay invisible. To not stay escaping imaginary threats in my nervous system. Ireland has given me gifts I would not trade for anything. Including the chance to not pass on shadows.
What about you? What complicated thanks would you like to give?
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Dave Rock is a prize-winning spoken word artist and storyteller, and a conscious writing, speaking and performing arts teacher. He's worked with thousands of people, including award-winning comedians, actors and inspirational figures.