In this week’s Across the Water, Martin Grant talks to Helen O’Dowda, originally from Ravensdale, now living in Manchester, UK.
Ravensdale, Dundalk, Co.Louth
Parents names and names of family?
Carmel O’Dowda (Mother), Lisa Murphy (sister), David O’Dowda (brother)
When did you leave and why?
I left in the summer of 2007 when I was 18. My brothers girlfriend (now wife) at the time ran a bar in Chorlton, Manchester and my brother was in a band. My brother and herself invited me to stay for a few months and work in the bar for the summer and join his band. There was no turning back then, I jumped at the opportunity.
What is your occupation?
Director/owner of HoneyCane Marketing
What’s the biggest difference in settling into your new home?
The council tax over here is an expensive add-on.
Although the transport system is great.
Is the social life much different from home?
For me it is, definitely. But it depends what kind of nightlife you like.
There are lots of nightclubs over here, similar to Ridleys etc but I prefer nice rustic bars and restaurants with nice drinks that stay open late and play good music.
I find back home, if I walk into a bar or a nightclub it’s almost like being at a wedding – a lot of familiar faces. But you don’t get that here. Unless it’s to your local.
How do you like to relax?
I still play music, I have a nice piano here I play every day.
Walks/adventures, after 7 years of living here there’s still so much of Manchester I’m still discovering!
I love new restaurants and I love to bake.
Have you been home since leaving and what changes have you noticed?
Yes, a lot. In the beginning I was home at least 3 times a year, and always at Christmas but I think this year may be a busy one so I might be home a bit less.
Changes? It’s strange coming back sometimes, I
’m reminded so much of how time is precious and passes by.
Sometimes I come home thinking that it will all have stayed the same but I then realise that all old friends have moved on with their lives, like myself, and things are nothing like they were when I was 18.
On another level then, I’ve noticed that the Irish people have become increasingly proud of their heritage, local produce and keeping things Irish.
I’ve seen some great campaigns, which is great for the economy.
What’s the best and worst things about being away from home?
In the very beginning it was at times heart-breaking.
I had to leave behind some very important friends, it was difficult to keep up regular contact, phone calls were expensive and emails weren’t the same as meeting in person.
From spending all your time with family and friends to the odd phone call and email - That was the most difficult.
On the flip side then, the life skills I now own, I would never have gained them if I had never left. T
he challenges, the struggles, the experiences, the mistakes and the lessons I’ve learned have made me the person I am today and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Have you plans in the future to return home to Ireland for good?
Well, my boyfriend over here is from Dundalk also (Darver) so never say never!
Name one thing from home that you wish you could buy in your local shops?
This list could be endless - crisps, iceburgers, curry sauce, curry chip butties and all other ice cream.
Have you a message for your friends and family?
Hello to all my family and friends. I hope to get home soon for another visit.