Monday, 14 November 2011

Welcome in the Maumturks

Whenever I’m back in Ireland, my body feels lighter, my step is springier.  I’m energised. My life seems easier, more balanced.  I feel at home.
Last week I was in Galway for a research meeting, with friends and colleagues from all over Europe. We worked hard - and we had a grand time. Our conversations ranged far and wide, from whether Greece would have to leave the eurozone, to how to make room in your bed so that your guardian angel can look after you while you sleep. We had music, dancing and plenty of fine food. We even had a breakfast rainbow (thanks Evelyn, for the picture).
Within this cornucopia of good things, two particularly improved my well-being. 
The first was the welcome we received from Mary and Tomas, who were introducing us to participatory research. Céad míle fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes – says the Irish Tourist Board.  With Mary and Tomas, it was closer to céad milliún fáilte.
I pride myself on being pretty good at welcoming people, especially in my surgery where I offer a smile and a handshake as people come in to see me, and another handshake as they leave.  But it turns out I’m just a novice, and there is so much more to making people feel fully welcome: lots and lots of friendly visual contact, hugs (sometimes) as well as handshakes, sharing (and remembering) names, physical comfort and refreshment - and the huge importance of chatting. 
I’ve just worked out that welcoming is 75% of wellbecoming! 

The second big thing that improved my well-being was climbing Lackavrea, the easternmost peak of the Maumturk range (it’s on the right in this photo). As you’ll have noticed from my earlier blogs, climbing mountains is one of the ingredients in my own wellbeing recipe.
It was just great to find a new one to add to my list – thanks to Joss Lynam’s walking guide to the mountains of Connemara, and to Tim Robinson’s wonderful Folding Landscapes map. 
Lackavrea only just qualifies as a mountain – it’s a tad over 1000 feet - and you can easily get up and down again in a couple of hours.  But I still had a real sense of achievement, not least at avoiding slipping too many times in the boggy turf on the way down.  There are sensational views from the top, so I’m told, though was covered in cloud when we got there.
So, while we munched our Danish pastries, we imagined the light reflecting off the waters of Loch Corrib to the east, and the sun setting behind the full extent of the Maumturk range, as it rolled away westwards in front of us.