‘My mother thinks I am crazy, but since I’ve relocated from Dublin to Skibbereen, I’m loving living here.’
Twenty-six year old, Toni Ward is eye-catching in her own particular way: she has a good physical presence, a great way with people, and fairly commands the daytime side of the bar business at the West Cork Hotel.
It’s too early for the ‘silly season’ and it’s certainly not ‘news’ but curiosity about other peoples’ lifestyles is a universal thing – so why exactly does a young Dub move to Skibbereen?
When asked what exactly she likes about the place, Toni says: ‘The environment – it’s so laid back. It’s the people too, and the atmosphere.
‘I like the fact that when I go into Field’s to do my weekly shopping it takes me about two hours to get it all done because I spend so much time stopping to chat to the people that I meet.
‘Here, people have time. I also enjoy working at the West Cork Hotel because it is essentially a meeting place – it’s at the heart of the community.
‘When you work at the West Cork Hotel everyone knows you and – it has to be said – all of the staff knows the customers as well. Everyone from the reception desk to the dining room and bar know people by their first names and have a genuine interest in them.
‘You don’t get that in Dublin anymore. People either don’t have the time, or they don’t want to know. Here, I find that I am able to make the connections. Over time, you learn who’s related to who, and you get a much bigger picture of what a real community is like.
‘I like the fact that if I get into the car and drive from Skibbereen in any direction – let’s say Union Hall – I end up in the kind of place that most people would love to visit on their holidays.
‘What’s more, I will probably end up meeting people that either work in the hotel, or people who have eaten or stayed there.’
In her previous life, Toni used to work with ‘Falcon Travel’. In fact, some of her regular customers are from Skibbereen and they can’t get over the fact that she has relocated here.
She said it was a demanding job, working as a ‘holiday rep’ in airports and hotels. Mainly, she was based in Majorca for five years and then Lanzarote for two.
In between times she travelled a lot. She has, literally, travelled the world including a six-month sojourn at Hurghada in Egypt, as well as time spent in Thailand and Australia.
So when someone like Toni does the big world trip and ends up choosing to live in a place like Skibbereen, it could be taken as an endorsement of the West Cork way of life.
It’s a bit like what Alain De Botton’s has to say in his latest book, “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”. He says: ‘There is a romantic charge clinging to names like Yokohama, Alexandria and Tunis – places which in reality cannot be exempt from tedium and compromise, but which are distant enough to support for a time certain confused daydreams of happiness.’
His lyrical writing style does not limit the reader to clichés like ‘far away hills are green’ because the assertion is that ‘the’ lifestyle is out there if people just focus on what makes them happy.
Freud said work and love is what we all need to make us happy. For Toni, it is a beautiful place to live and work; a good connection with the community; and enough freedom in terms of time and space to really appreciate the important things in life… the everyday, the habitual, the banal.
Kindly republished & written by Jackie Keogh, Southern Star