Hello from freedom

St Pauls College, Raheny

A Letter Home: Hello from freedom. By Liam Kirwan

292 Woodpark Avenue,

Bronte, Sydney,


  April 2nd 2019

Dear Dad,

By God, is it hot over here! If you ever again complain that twenty degrees is ‘stifling’ at home, I think you’d die under the Australian sun; it bores into the place like a Cyclops Superman.

Since arriving here last week, after the calming flight to Sydney, it’s been magic. Finding the apartment was a challenge, as you said, but the Australians actually know where everywhere is. Honestly, there is nothing more beautiful than the evenings here. That first night, I spent my time on the porch, watching the world turn a baby-blue tinge above the shimmering golden sea. That sun simply sank like a blazing CD into a crack in the horizon, just out of reach, and the birds sang, wheeling above the thousands of couples and kids coming home from the sand. This is just one of those rare places still untouched too deeply by the pollution of people.   However, what they exclude from the catalogues and countless Google images are the bits that can ward off the flood of tourists, as I found out. The next morning I met a monster. It was in my shoe by the door and thank God for National Geographic because I shook the pair first. The dark writhing mass landed upright on the floor, tense as an atomic bomb. It was hairier than a brush and carried those knives under its chin the way a spring holds a door, eyes pulsing. Now, I know we say that we have house spiders the ‘size of footballs’ but the Sydney Funnel Web is in a league of its own. I promise you won’t find a Dolmio jar large enough for this guy; I had to coax it onto a newspaper and drop a box on top. It even jumped at me; slashing with those two arms it calls teeth. I will never take an empty shoe for granted again. Anyway, once I had familiarised myself with the host of creepy crawlies and the idea that taking a swim in any river is death by a lethal dose of crocodile, I couldn’t keep away from the coast. The ocean just sits there, the whole country only a barnacle on the back of a great blue whale with shoals of swimming fish tattooed over its skin. You would love it here. Coats barely exist and runners are rare. Australia made me realise how confined we can be in Ireland. We have towns strewn all over the place. Here, they only live on the outskirts and leave the rest, wide-open spaces and deep echoing jungles. It’s a community. It’s as if this is the land of the wanderers, standing stark against the Irish home-clingers.   I have never realised how warm the ocean could be. Frostbite is a common occurrence in the numbing Irish Sea with waves so chilly you’re half-frozen when they batter you against the rocks. The water here is rich and foamy, like clear hot chocolate. It may be infested with box jellyfish, bull sharks and crocodiles year round but you just have to skim over that bit and pray. My first surfing lesson was a marvel. I fell the first million times under the tiniest of ocean pulses. When you get it right, you feel your stress go; you aren’t really in control of anything except for balance. It’s just riding a bike. For the brief moment, I hung on that wave’s frothing lip, those massive worries that depress my every move vanished, meteors flying in the opposite direction. It was freedom. I fell. I can’t wait to teach you. Honestly, it has already been the most wondrous experience of my whole life. It has touched my soul and added something to me that I cannot name.

I really wish you were here; it isn’t the same without you.

I hope you come over sometime soon.