Ger Leddin, who has been away from Limerick for six years, writes about his first day back and his impression of the city.
After spending six years in Spain, Ger Leddin writes about his return to Limerick and his impression of the Treaty City in 2022
My name is Ger Leddin, and I haven’t been in Limerick City in six years. Well, five years, six months and twenty-six days, but who’s counting?
It’s great to be back. I lived in Spain for those years, and while Spain is a fascinating and beautiful country and is home to millions, it never truly became home to me. More my fault than that of the Spanish – I tried and they tried, but my home lay 2,500 kilometres away by the banks of the Shannon, and I missed it.
I landed in Shannon at exactly midnight after a very stressful day. I’m not the calmest of travellers. Covid vaccination certs, locator forms, and Ryanair’s online this and online that freaks me out.
Being so glad to be back on ‘Paddy’s green shamrock shore’, I was tempted to do the Papal trick of kneeling and kissing the ground, but my dodgy knees got the better of me.
Talking about kissing, I was also tempted to kiss the lovely immigration officer who examined my paperwork. We both recognised each other’s faces from drinking in South’s Pub back in the day. Her twinkling eyes and smile said, “Ah, ‘tis yourself! Now chillax, Ger, you’re home”.
That’s the thing about growing up in Limerick. It’s a smallish city, so you sort of know each other’s faces. You’d recognise a fellow Limerick person anywhere. It happened to me countless times in Spain. Just sitting on the terrace of my local and someone would walk in — a look of recognition and a “how-ya” would be exchanged, and before you knew it you’d be having a beer and a chat. They would tell me the news from Limerick and if they were on holidays, I’d give them local tips and advice. I used to welcome those encounters.
Much has changed in Limerick over the six years — particularly in the city centre, but I’ll get to that in a minute. What hasn’t changed is the inherent friendliness of Limerick people. To illustrate, on my first morning back I woke at 5 am, starving and seriously in need of an Irish breakfast. The Spanish just can’t get their heads around rashers and sausages. Honestly, they’ll serve you up a frankfurter and a sliver of bacon roughly the same thickness as a sheet of paper and call it a Full Irish.
Anyway, after walking around Malaga for the previous two days, my sixty-two-year-old legs were wrecked — I couldn’t have walked if you paid me. I called a taxi to get me out to the service station on the Dock Road, where I remembered they did a decent breakfast even at that ungodly hour.
The taxi driver, like most Limerick taxi drivers, was a conversationalist. He filled me in on as much Limerick news as the short journey would allow. As I got out of the cab, he handed me his copy of the Limerick Leader saying “Here, you might as well have this, I’m nearly finished”. Limerick, where taxi-drivers tip their customers!
Later, I took a slow stroll around the city centre. Okay, O’Connell Street is a mess, but looking at the artist’s impressions and the work done to date, it should be worth it in the end. The old saying ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs’ springs to mind.
The addition of seating on Thomas Street is fantastic. I took a short rest there and I honestly think it was the first time in all my years in the city centre that I just paused and watched the world go by.
The City seems to have a new vibrancy about it. The pedestrianisation of Bedford Row and Thomas Street has given people room to move around, and the outdoor seating at bars, restaurants and coffee shops has attracted more people into the heart of the city – something that was badly needed. I just hope the plans for O’Connell Street include some soft planting.
Taking a stroll around Limerick on a Saturday now is a great experience. The Old Quarter and the Milk Market haven’t changed that much since I’ve been away, but they do seem busier and livelier. It’s all good and positive news, and it’s great to be back home.
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