You’re so far away from me
So far I just can’t see
You’re so far away from me
You’re so far away from me, all right
— So Far Away Dire Straits
Only the other day my oldest niece, A, was grabbing on to my elbows and shrieking with delight and mischief, her tiny slippered feet balanced on my lumbering insteps as I walked her across the kitchen floor of my old family home. I must have looked like the Yeti. A laughing Yeti.
Or Boo Radley freed from his domestic prison and goofing around now in his bumbling way with the irrepressible Scout.
Actually A is 30 now and that little vignette happened more years ago than I care to count. She is living and working thousands of miles away, more than half a world away, teaching English in Taiwan. Loves teaching, her students, is running in endurance events and just having a ball, it seems.
Such understated courage to do what she has done: up sticks from the city she had lived and worked in for years, loads of friends, a nice job in a busy bookshop. Pushing 30, but undeterred. She obviously wanted more.
I don’t even know the name of the actual place she is in now, just the fact it is in Taiwan is enough for me to know.
I was thinking of her, and of my brother, G, her Dad, the other day when I saw the video he had recorded and posted for her, to her. So far away.
Titled simply “Sneachta” (the Irish Gaelic for snow), he had walked around filming the snow falling hard and freely around that same old family home last week.
Home is a beautiful old stone gate lodge, one of two built for the 60-room mansion, known as the Priory, built for the English landlord Sir John Carden in the 1860s, and burned down in the 1920s during the Irish War of Independence.
The other gate lodge is gone too, replaced by a modern bungalow, but our fortress is rooted in far too many memories and stories to go down that easily. Plenty of room for bungalows on the few acres that accompanied the house when my paternal grandfather bought it in the 1940s.
My granddad was a kind, straight, but formidable old geezer and died only six months short of his 100th birthday. He was actually retired and living frugally in the gate lodge and smallholding for far longer than his actual working career in the police force.
I love G’s video, all windswept and bleak, the wind rattling the phone camera as he tries to call Ellie, their snow-white Samoyed, and a star of the little movie, to heel. No chance, there is far to much to explore in this unfamiliarly familiar fleecy, frosty wonderland.
And A will look on this video and I am wondering what will she see. She will take in the landscape of her youth, no doubt, the home she grew up in, and the familiar trees and fields and hedgerows, goofy, gorgeous Ellie, and she will hear her Dad. So far away.
Perhaps she will shiver involuntarily as she takes in this barren snowscape her roving director Dad has summoned up for her, or it may fill her with misty home thoughts from abroad, or make her appreciate the sunshine and the distance even more.
Who knows what ghostly footsteps are pattering across this snowy linen land for her now. And for her Dad and Mom and family. So far away.
Who knows indeed?
It won’t be long till my own children will be heading off from home on their life’s adventures. Near or so far away.
As Sandy Denny sang all those years ago, Who Knows Where The Time Goes?