Stone Walls and Sheep Pastures

I bought a house in Ireland.

Three weeks is plenty of time. When I left for Galway on March 23, that’s what I thought, anyway. I was not, however, prepared for the crazy housing market.

My job, while my husband worked at the Galway branch of his company, was to find a place to live for when we return in June permanently. Initially, we intended to rent for a year or so, have a chance to adjust to our new country and then decide where to buy a house. It turns out that renting in Galway is very expensive. As a result, anything decent, that is also not outrageously priced, is snapped up quickly. So every time I called about a house or apartment to rent, it was already gone. Only places at the extremes –either very high end or absolutely wretched– were available. By the end of the first week of searching, I was beginning to get nervous.

Week two, with the advice of my husband’s coworkers, we warmed up to the idea of buying a house. We have, after all, been visiting the area for over 14 years and explored it thoroughly. Home buying does not work quite the same way as it does in the states, though. An estate agent (realtor) doesn’t take you around to see properties listed by other agents. Rather, you contact an agent who is listing a house you’re interested in and he or she will show you the place. I must have spoken to 10 or more agents while searching.

In the midst of all this, I visit our new bank in Ireland and speak to one of the customer service representatives. Of all the experiences I’ve had, the one with our bank is the best. Everyone was kind and super helpful. Unfortunately, they also informed me that without a record of Irish credit, we would not qualify for a mortgage. It would take 6 to 9 months of weekly salary deposits for us to even get a credit card. And it doesn’t matter at all how much money you have in the bank. This changes everything. Now I have to narrow my search to homes we can pay for with the proceeds of the sale of our Bucks County home. Stress level rising.

Finally, at the end of week two, we found a really great apartment for sale in a town about 15 minutes away. Orenmore is a coastal village, full of shops, pubs, restaurants, etc. and would have been walking distance to the beach. Perfect, right? Yeah, a lot of other people thought so too. We got into a bidding war over the place. Our final offer would have been accepted but the seller wanted to close sooner than our June date. Lost out again.

Now I’m really pushing the panic button. I am imagining us living in an Air BnB, bleeding money. I’m thinking how we might have to settle for a really crappy rental or a super long commute from an outlying town. I’m wondering if I’ll be able to walk places like I hoped to. We needed to expand our search.

We looked at a place in Tuam, a 40 minute drive from Galway. Priced right, the pictures online showed a modern, spacious, nicely fitted and well decorated town home. We visit it and discover it is in a ‘ghost estate’ –one of the developments the builders abandoned during the housing crash in 2008/2009. It backs up to a sports stadium. No joke, I could see the entire playing field from the upstairs windows. It faces half built homes surrounded by chain link fence. The neighborhood is grim. I need a drink.

We drive back to our hotel in worried silence. We spend the rest of the evening feverishly searching. And … we find it. The perfect place — only 20 minutes from Galway in a village called Headford. We call and it is still available. We go see it immediately and breath a sigh of relief. It’s also a townhome but in a quiet peaceful estate. It is an end unit in a row of three on a cul de sac. My front view is a sheep pasture surrounded by old stone walls. I can walk to the village, the supermarket and best of all, the pub! It feels like home.

We put down our deposit, hired a solicitor to handle the contracts, found an engineer to do our inspections. Just in the nick of time.

I bought a house in Ireland.

what’s goin’ on…

I’ve alluded to a big move in my future. It was the deciding factor in hanging up my chiropractic license earlier this year. I hesitated to let the news out until it was official but now it is, so…

I’m moving to Ireland in the spring!

My husband’s company has a facility in Galway and he goes over for work pretty regularly. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to tag along on most of those trips, for a total of 8 times over 10 years. Needless to say, I fell in love with the place, so when an opportunity arose for H to take a job in Galway, we began making plans.

I’m getting rid of everything except books, clothes and a few personal mementos. My house will go up for sale after the first of the year and I already sold my car. Today I leave for Galway with my mother to check out potential houses and apartments in areas outside the city. She is thinking about joining us, if she can find something suitable for seniors (she’s 86) and not far from where we plan to settle.

This will be only my second time driving on the left side of the road, since our car rentals thus far have been booked through the company so only H can drive. But I will have to get used to it eventually so might as well start right away. Am I nervous? Who me?

I’m not sure yet what kind of work I will do when we get here. I’ve got an odd situation: I’m not lacking education with a bachelor’s degree and my doctor’s degree, but I have such a limited set of skills (at least on paper) that I am concerned that I won’t qualify for anything more than an entry level position somewhere. Getting my chiropractic license and opening a practice over here is out of the question. I don’t have the zeal for starting from scratch at this stage of the game. On the other hand, chasing the brass ring of writing and maybe selling some of my art online or locally is a possibility. I keep (half) joking that I will paint and sketch scenes around Galway and sell them to the American tourists in the summer! I already get confused for a local till I open my mouth and between now and then I’ll be practicing my accent.

In the meantime, things are hectic and exciting (but stressful) so if I seen absent and don’t post or visit as regularly, you will know why!

End Of Summer, End Of An Era

In two days time, I will close the doors on my chiropractic practice for good. The week leading up to the finale has been busy. On Friday, one of my first patients will be my last and she and I are going for lunch to celebrate. On September first, when people ask me what I do for work, I will tell them I am a writer.

Being a chiropractor for 23 years has helped me become a good writer of fiction. How is that possible? There are several ways:

  • I hear about people’s lives, their jobs, their families and what they like to do for fun. This gives me a deep reservoir to draw from in creating characters’ basic details.
  • Truth is really stranger than fiction. My patients all have stories to tell. Some of them give me ideas!
  • As a doctor working with people who are in pain, you learn to develop empathy, to stand in their shoes. This also helps develop characters. Especially, the villain of the story who a writer may not fully explore. But I have found that even the scoundrels have a reason for why they do what they do.
  • I have had to learn to be a good communicator. People in pain are emotional, scared and sometimes even angry. Being able to explain, console and reassure is absolutely vital on the patient’s first visit. Good communication means being concise, not muddying the waters with overly complex and/or technical terminology. This is also the goal of the writer. Unless of course you are writing a technical manual!
  • Last but not least, I have had to actually do some writing. I’ve written countless reports for insurance companies, attorneys and claims adjusters. You learn a certain writing style in composing letters and compiling examination findings. While this doesn’t translate directly to fiction writing, it does give you practice in consistency and flow.

I cannot say whether or not I will miss being a chiropractor. I can say that I am excited to begin the next chapter of life. After a little vacation planned for next week, I will return to my war story with renewed dedication this September. And I will work at it as my full time job.

Happy writing and productive editing!