Each day of our lives, it is our duty to make deposits in the memory banks of those who come after us, to create signifiers of different times, some far away place we can then all go to when we need to let ourselves drift from the humdrum of the present, while contemplating the future.
In my childhood, I recall the excitement created by the sound of the circus Big Top on its annual visit to the Green, the park behind my house in Mayo. At dawn there would be the flash of unusual colour through the trees and the unmistakeable tap-tap-tap of the tent poles as the Big Top grew from the ground.
So too, the smell of fresh print. Each month, the local cinema would bring out a card with all its programmes for the following four weeks. Back then, a night at the cinema would consist of at least two movies, and this programme would change several times a week.
I still get a buzz from fresh ink — not so much from newspapers anymore as they are printed with digital efficiency so there isn’t a waste of blueness left on your hands after you read them. But the scent still does it for me.
No more so than at this time of the year when the Galway International Arts Festival prints their summer programme. The richness of the ink deep printed onto heavy duty paper/card plus what it means for the summer ahead is a feeling and sensation that has been denied me for several years now.
It just wasn’t the same having the Arts Festival spread out over the autumn/winter. It needs balmy summer nights; it needs the escape of music bouncing across the river and into the death scenes in a Druid play in the Town Hall; it needs the smell of fresh mobile food; the flash of exotically-dressed patrons.
As if to fully satisfy my childhood whim, it also needs that peak of blue and light from the Fisheries Field to show me that high summer has arrived.
High summer is different this year — normally our summer distraction on the Gaelic fields is dragged into September, but this year, the quest for Sam Maguire ends on the same day as the Arts Festival does — and right on the eve of the Galway Races.
Throw into that mix that there will be a hot World Cup coming in the depths of November, and it is no wonder that our minds are fried with the newness of this new normal.
For two years, we have been thrown hither and thither with regulation, restriction, fear and anxiety. This summer, we can throw away that cloak and enjoy the kind of summer that only Galway can give.
The GIAF programme was launched this week — back in its place in the heart of summer. Let us embrace all that this city and region has to offer and smother ourselves in the new realisation that for many years, normality was under-rated.