Doolin, September 2015
When the fiddle strings came alive the conversations and laughter of the busy pub lowered. Adar sits very still, the haunting sound transporting her to her childhood days in Aleppo, where the markets busted with colourful traders, the smell of spices and the sound of street buskers.
A fire is roaring in the back of the pub and the Cliff walkers, armed in all their gear, rub their hands together getting so close one might think they wanted to jump in to the roaring blaze. An ocean whiff makes noses twitch and turn to the kitchen door as Sheila comes out with a bowl of steaming mussels for a punter, zigzagging her way across the small tables, feet and legs, tourist and locals sitting very still, eyes peeled on the fiddle player while “Drowsy Maggie” surrounds the Pub.
- Throw me on another Guinnes Pat! - Sean chuckles to himself in the corner. He is had a pint too many about 3 hours ago but he is still going, stamina of an oak when it comes to the black juice, or so he likes to think. A few people turn and scold him with their eyes for disturbing the tune.
- Shhhhh - Adar whispers and quickly pinches Sean in the arm who turns back to the bar and continues smiling while lounging into his new pint.
Adar has a soft spot for Sean since her arrival to Doolin a year ago, he reminds her of her dad Femi in some ways, and when he is not warming a bar stool for hours he would speak to her about the Irish poets and musicians whom according to him had all visited Doolin for inspiration. They have spent many afternoons sitting at the Pier, watching the waves crash and the surfers barrel, immerse in deep conversation.
She tells him about her childhood days dancing ballet, her Sunday walks around the market with her father, who like Sean, was a lover of the arts. Her favourite pass time was to walk with him around the streets of Aleppo while he related historic facts of the beautiful buildings they were passing. All the way from Aljalaa Street, The Great Mosque, into the Old Quarter, Beit Ghazale where Femi would always take a few minutes to pray. Adar would run through the market, stopping to smell the delicious muhammara peppers, the market traders offering a taste of their kebab halabi and falafels. She can still feel the tingle at the back of her tongue from the cumin and coriander.
- Beautiful girl here, try this! - A market trader hands her a kafta skewer with the hope she would buy more. Tentatively she puts it in her mouth and breaks the top of it, it has the raspiness of a cat’s tongue and she struggles not to spit it out.
- Mmmm, its delicious! - Femi always told her to be polite, “Even to those who you do not know”. She runs back to her father’s protective shadow while he is selecting a ballet for them to watch later, “The Dying Swan starring Anna Pavlova”.
A couple of seconds of silence followed by a roaring clap and a cheer brings her back to reality, smiling faces all around, the enthusiasm in the pus is mighty and a rush of orders comes into Pat at the bar in between tunes.
- Oh shoot!! I am going to be late for class! I’ll see you later Sean, you better go home after that pint, Pat! - Adar calls out - Make sure he gets a taxi- she tosses Sean’s car keys over to him and steps out of O’Connors.
Jumping on her bike she cycles down Fisher Street, crossing the stone bridge and making her way to the Micho Russel Community Centre. ” Great warm up before my lesson” and a rare smile forms in her lips.
The wind is howling like banshee’s screaming, but then again this is quite normal in Doolin, she has grown to love the roughness of this Atlantic coastal village. From the Pier to the Church it extends in a long row of cottages, shops and pubs, different colour walls decorating the landscapes, purples, yellows, greens and cream against a backdrop of green fields, cattle and stone walls. On her first few weeks in Doolin Adar marvelled to find out most houses where used as B&B for tourist.
- So people open their own homes to visitors? Are they not afraid to get robbed? - She was sitting with Sean, only a couple of weeks after her arrival, in what would be their favourite rock at the pier watching the Cliffs of Moher been battered by the weight of the ocean.
- Not at all! Tis their business sure, they are only delighted to have someone to entertain and charge them a few Euros for it. What else would they be doing otherwise?
- Fishing? Farming?
- That was the case fifty years ago Cailin Deas (sweet girl), now days tourism is the main driver of the village’s wealth. Have you not heard of the Wild Atlantic Way?
Sean frowns, still unaware of Adar’s past and how she had ended in Doolin
- Did you not see the documentaries on teli?
- I have not seen a television in two years.
- You are better off without it anyway! A lot of bollix is all it is, you will learn more watching the sea, you want to go for a pint?
- I don’t drink.
- Oh boy! We really are like different species you and I. That’s ok we can just stay here then. Have you ever heard of Yeats?
Sean was conscious not to enquire too much about her life on those starting moments of their friendship, “she will tell me some day” he thought and recites a Yeats poem.
By the time she reaches the Micho Russell centre rain drops are coming down like knives falling from the sky.
The girls were waiting for her inside and they greet her with laughter and diarrhoea of local news and gossip. Adar takes a few minutes to listen and settles them before starting the class.
- One, two three, one, two three, Niamh keep your right arm straight, Chloe your toes need to me more pointed, start again.
Adar paused the music and the girls align again in a single file, she corrects them one by one until they are in the right pose to start their number. They have been rehearsing for a couple of weeks as the end of year dance was important to all of them and they are working hard to get it right.
She had been destined to be a prima ballerina, but three months after her arrival Margaret put together a group of local young girls and asked her to teach them ballet, it had felt like her destiny was taken a right turn again, she enjoyed passing on her knowledge and it gave her an opportunity to live doing what she loves.
While the group rehears the number one more time Adar thinks of her life in Ireland. Only a year ago she had been living in Softex, Greece, a refugee camp together with a large group of orphans and other families, alone in the world with no hope.
“The jungle kids” she heard one of the locals call them on the other side of the metal fence “They will chew you and spit you back out, terrorist in the making, mark my words”. The hairs on her arm lift at the memories, “Chicken skin” Femi used to call it.
Thankfully for her and thanks to Margaret, her social worker, she had arrived to Ireland after turning fifteen. The Ireland of the green fields and Guinness lovers, her father had sometimes mentioned an Irish poet but time had erased the memory of his name, she had been delighted when Sean mentioned him again the first time they sat at the Pier and she had allowed herself to trust this rugged Dooliner from that point on.