A trip to the Anglo capital of Ireland, Dublin, where people make a place, and I get to talk about all three of my favourite things – cats, coats and kiwis
Dublin, Eire. It’s one of those things. You never visit what is near to you as it’s always there. Ireland for me is the closest country that’s a sovereign state in its own right (thank you, Pointless, for that definition of a country) but it’s number 6 in the 200 club.
For those wondering about the list, it’s Maldives, New Zealand, Iceland, Sweden, Hungary and now Ireland. Incidentally, I’ve done Cardiff and Edinburgh of the domestic capitals, but not Belfast. I was in London on Saturday night photographing my fabulous senior citizen mother holding the Black County flag next to a storm trooper outside the Royal Albert Hall in London. One night back in my house under my cat. The next day on a plane to Dublin airport from Birmingham. There is something to be said for going to a local airport. I know how to get to Birmingham International from my home, and the special assistance desk is in an obvious place, in a corridor dividing the space between the eateries and the departure area, conveniently located by the shuttle pod sky link from the train station. It makes sense to me, and probably seemed very smooth flowing (even with the Birmingham New Street refurbishment) than London.
It’s no secret that I don’t like London/Westminster. Though I recently discovered that the entry points to the London bits are marked by silver dragon statues and one of them is outside a place called Temple. Why they didn’t make London streets a nice grid when it burned down in the seventeenth century confuses me. But I digress. This is about Dublin.
I picked these dates for this holiday for the simple reason the flights with Ryanair were £10. The fellow special assistance passengers I chatted to were an Irish lady who had lots of children living abroad, a lady who wouldn’t go on holiday with her Mum, so went with lady who had lived in Ireland and the lady left behind as there were only three wheelchairs spare.
Miguel, who staffed the Budapest flight, served my section of the plane. The flight was much quicker than the scheduled hour, and the pockets of air turbulence made for an abrupt landing but no applause for being in one piece. The Emerald Isle welcomed me and my fellow special assistance posse with a minibus with legroom. We had a discussion about whether we had to pay or tip the staff like in other countries for whom it is their only income. That seems a bit unfortunate as disabled people tend to have less income.
I was wheeled to the Airport bus that connects with central Dublin. Sadly, they did not sell the 5 day rambler bus pass that I wanted, so I paid the 10Euro return so I knew I could get back to the airport if nowhere else. The green clad staff outside the green bus said the bus station office would be closed when I got there (5pm) so I’d have to get the rambler from a Spar or other convenience store.
Dublin centre is undergoing some major renovations extending the Luas tram line. This means that there are diversions, and having a double decker bus with no suspension going over a cobbled back street is not pleasant. Passing a bridge that looked like a harp was very cultural, and I guess the young white men in wetsuits jumping into the river was one of those things. Unlike Budapest, the airport bus doesn’t stop at every stop, and it didn’t tell you what stop was coming next. I was lucky that other people got off at my stop – number 7 – that put me by the main street and the adjoining Parnell where my hotel was. Most of the road signs and bus signs are in dual language of English and Irish.
There’s a joke by Dudley comedian Lenny Henry – “What do you call a black man in Ireland? Dave.” This is reference to there being only one black person in Ireland in the 1980s. In 2015, the 747 airport bus had a black driver. Would it be the only black skin I would see on this trip?
Of course, it was Monday rush hour and road, bike and foot traffic was overlapping in their frustration. Horns honked, and people shouted, “What do you think you’re playing at?” Parnell Street is also very long, and finding the Gate Hotel took a while. Eventually a local store owner pointed out the Gate Theatre on Parnell Square by a monument of a flame. It was then I spotted the wide front of a black pub. By this point, an elderly lady with friends in Birmingham had befriended me in my quest to find the roof over my head. While we were looking, she gave me the advice to never leave my stuff on a chair in a restaurant as it might get taken, which while sensible, was not the first thing I wanted to hear upon entering another country. This elderly lady also dismissed the help of someone on the grounds they looked foreign so what would they know. It’s nice to know that my Celtic heritage and English accent is welcome.
I had a bit of forewarning about my hotel being rough, as the hotel itself on booking.com says if you’re on the second floor you will hear the late night bar. Parnell Street is the back entrance to Murrays pub (owned by the hotel) which has its public entrance on O’Connell Upper Street (a street so long it’s named in sections). After my Budapest experience of no kettle, I made sure this one had one, and it came with Barry’s tea and Scottish biscuits. The staff didn’t speak English as a first language (and probably no Irish), I had to pay up front, and they gave me the TV remote with my room key to flip through five random English language channels. I’m pleased to say the ensuite looked recently refurbished with the swanky bevel edged tiles, but the sink taps are push activated like in public toilets, as if they don’t trust you to turn off the tap when you leave. The bed was a small double, and I sincerely hope it is only ever let as a single, but judging by the two mugs by the large kettle. That is probably not the case.
The hotel did advertise a bus stop right outside, which I could see from my window, but my pre-holiday research about getting on buses told me that I’d never need the services that went from it! Thankfully, most of the buses required me to walk 200m to O’Connell Upper Street, so I landed lucky with the hotel in that regard. The mission continued to find a place that would sell me a rambler bus pass. The Spar shops said they only did Leap cards (like the Oyster for London) and no other ticket. The green PaddyWagon tourist shops gave me maps so I felt less lost, but could only offer me tourist tour bus tickets rather than feel-like-a-local tickets. Eventually, I crossed over the river into Super Valu to find what I needed. A 5 Euro Leap starter card with a 5 day rambler add on. Success. I could get as lost as I liked and know I could just get on another bus. Works wonders to manage the anxiety over a tight budget. Bizarrely, they have pedestrian crossings here that look and sound like the ones in New Zealand, so that helped with the anxiety.
Crossing over the river, a photographer was making the most of the sun angle to capture canoeists under other bridges. “Where are you from?” “England” “And you?” “Guess” I guessed America, as lots of Irish people went to America. He said, “Awesome. But guess again.” I guessed Israel, just to see if he could do an Israeli accent, at which point he revealed Poland, and apparently he lived here now. So I effectively bagged this artistic shot of the river off his hard work of studying the sun patterns and when to photograph things. First rule of photography – if there is someone with a big camera in an unusual position, it’s probably good to get in the same position.
Unsure as to whether I could use the metro with my rambler Leap pass, I hopped on a 123 for a half hour tour of back streets south of the river on my way to St Jame’s Bosco Youth Centre, where a judo class had finished and was making way for an event as part of Pride week. Very last minute, I typed into Google “Dublin June 22nd” and it took me to dublinpride.ie, and I ended up in a suburban hall hosting a socialist party meeting! This had made the Gay AgendaTM because it was discussing the equality momentum following equal marriage rights.
I like Ireland for the fact you can say your bit without interruption – what you say is of equal importance to everyone else, even if you don’t agree with what is said. It’s ensured that everyone has a say before people get to have a second say. This comes off the backs of primary schools, where teachers would be answering children’s curiosity, such as, “Why do we call some women prostitutes?” and a male priest would come in and just start talking, giving the impression that whatever was going on and wasn’t him had no importance.
The meeting was about separating the church from the state, and inevitably abortion rights were a passionate discussion. We had a history lesson about the Act of Union being a protestant protection bid against Catholic France takeover, and the oppressive rule of English aristocracy being removed with home rule, only for the power vacuum being filled by the Catholic regime. I got to say what my experience of a Roman Catholic secondary school was like, in the hypocrisy of the commandment “treat others as you wish to be treated” and the selective reading of a massive text in order to oppress people. Laws can be rewritten.
I got to add the belief that men were deemed incapable of expressing emotions beyond aggression and mechanical sex, so couldn’t be left at home to raise children as they lacked the mental willpower not to abuse (effectively all men have a mental health condition which means they can’t take responsibility for their actions, and they get paid more because of the higher costs of having a mental disability). I got to say my corpse has more legal rights than if pregnant, as people need permission to use my organs after death, and trust me, in life people need consent to interact with my body, even if they have not been born). It was very civil, and it turned out the lady running that meeting was from Sweden and had lived here for 10 years (she said she couldn’t understand what anyone said, as only the English aristocrats sound like the stereotype). She, like me, would rather remove marriage altogether and empower the individual, so it was weird to her to be campaigning for equal marriage. We finished the meeting wondering what slogan to have at pride, and I suddenly realised I was leaving the day before the march. To say I was gutted was an understatement. I offered “Equality in diversity” because in a rainbow, no-one thinks just to isolate and focus on one colour. We see the beauty in the coming together of the full spectrum.
I hadn’t realised I’d sat next to a party member / MP, and she had a fabulously strong handshake. Every Irish sounding person I’d been introduced to had a strong handshake (the socialist party logo is a fist), and was really tall and thin. Was this the land of giants, with the slenderness of faeries? What was definitely reality was a warning against complacency. Marriage for all adult humans being granted at this time on a global scale is a distraction from TTIP, where corporations can sue the legal person called a country (its birth certificate is its charter) for made up projected loss of profits. Yes, your taxes can go straight to private shareholders if TTIP goes through.
After the meeting, I made an ignorant gaff explaining the crappy majority government political system back home (it is proportional here), saying once upon a time there were only two parties. An English ex-pat corrected me, saying there have always been more parties than just Labour and Conservatives. This was a reminder to check what the BBC news says rather than repeating it blindly. They did try to recruit me to their party, but I said I represent myself. Technology exists in my home called the Internet, where everyone in the world can instantly see what I say. I don’t need a political party, I need data clerics.
I was regaled with the story of the day marriage equality went through, where an impromptu picket lined the road outside the castle parliament. People honked their support, and the crowd really enjoyed it when the fire engine crew went past! But my highlight of this meeting was a young woman at University. Her tale had been one of pregnancy from rape at 14, and her having an abortion in England, and facing community shunning upon returning home. She shook hands with everyone else, and hugged me. I think my TARDIS blue “Trust me I’m the Doctor” shirt helped.
I hopped onto the tram still not knowing if I could use it with my rambler pass. There were officers of some description (not Garda) but they didn’t say anything. On the walk back up O’Connell Street Upper, a lot of people were sleeping rough, or had disposable cups begging for money for a cup of tea (tea solves everything). In some ways, it was like being in London with the concentration of extreme poverty. Full plastic bin bags of different colours lined the streets, and massive sheets of cardboard were held together by brown tape. Animal poo was scattered around them.
I was buzzed back into my hotel, to the sight of woodchip on sloping walls, and the delightful sounds of River dance (has it really been 20 years like the bus adverts said?) permeating through the floorboards, and a male and two female dancers giving a live performance which I could see on the CCTV monitor at reception. This migrated to the ladies football world cup where England were playing, and then onto Word Up from the 1980s. The Murrays pub beneath me was in good voice when I passed out at midnight.
Tuesday June 23rd 2015
Breakfast started at 8am and finished at 11am. It was served in the Murrays pub, and you had to navigate a public access open courtyard to find the relevant door that would feed you. I went into the nearest open door which belonged to a different bar, the aptly named Desperadoes. The peroxide blonde Russian cleaner seemed to point the lost Gate Hotel patrons in the right direction a lot. I opted for the stomach bulging full Irish, complete with white pudding. The food quality wasn’t great, as it consisted of slimy mushrooms from a tin and shrivelled sausages where the water had left, leaving only the breadcrumbs. The bar itself looked very Irish, with bottles and flagons of old whiskeys, Celtic weave embossed metal bar covers, and stained glass in the ceiling with more Celtic motif. The tables had images of what the street has looked like since it was first photographed.
I don’t usually have sugar in my drinks, but I do read the sachets. This little bit of Irish Gem sugar had Irish sayings on them. First one: The only cure for love is marriage, which seemed very apt! Others included: Time is a great storyteller, There is no fireside like your own fireside, There is no strength without unity, There is no need like the lack of a friend, Beauty does not boil the pot, and Praise the young and they will blossom
As an indicator of how late the Irish start, when I left my room at 9.30am, none of the shops in Parnell Street were open. A good proportion of the side streets to O’Connell also had their shutters down. I had just missed a bus to Howth peninsula, so went in the very green tourist shop (sell your country as a colour) called Carrolls. These shops are ubiquitous in Dublin, full of Guinness items, Shamrock motifs, Celtic knots, Claddagh rings, funny sheep, rugby balls, leprechauns and other mythical creatures, Christmas decorations (two days after the summer solstice), and gay pride items for the upcoming march. None of the staff had an Irish accent. It seems only foreigners support tourism. I was struck by how many staff there are waiting to talk to you about anything, and how pale their skin was. It was an adjustment to see Chinese, Arabic, Egyptian features with such a white complexion. I assume that’s the lack of Irish sunshine.
The bus ride to Howth started with the bus driver shooing a Guinness delivery van out of the bus lane so a wheelchair user could get on. After that, it was a pretty straight road of houses that I’m used to seeing in the UK. People that paid on the bus were confused as to why they wouldn’t accept notes as payment. It seems when the bus asks for exact change, it really means change as in coins, even if a note would cover all the people getting on. As a circular route on the 31A, I jumped off when I’d gone past the boats in the harbour. It was a gloriously sunny day, with blue skies, white wispy clouds and still waters. My fair complexion and I arrived at 11am, and if I was a tomato they would call me sun kissed. The salty air breeze masked how much I was being singed by the sun as I walked along the harbour wall and coastal path. Cue photos of the lighthouses and the island Ireland’s Eye (try saying that five times fast) from every possible angle, involving planes, seagulls, sailboats, speedboats, canoes and trawlers… The names Midnight and Moonpath sounded like Harry Potter nicknaming series.
It was so nice to think I was still in the capital, but away from the cramped rush of the city centre. As the day went on, more people filtered in to lie on the grass or wall and eat an ice cream. I opted to sit on one of the white struts they wrap yellow chains around to moor boats, and watched the Christmas Eve ferry people to the island. The island that seemed to be smoking and had black patches. I assumed they did controlled burning of the scrub to manage it for the bird and seal population and for the 15Euro human tours. My vantage also offered a pied wagtail at my feet, wondering if I was going to drop some food for it to eat.
I was side tracked looking for a toilet by a man holding a map of Howth. He thought I had Scottish heritage with my red (not ginger, apparently there’s a difference) hair. It started an hour conversation of our life histories, tears from both of us about recent losses, and included him leaving his wife because she didn’t want to go to New Zealand with him. He didn’t regret not going (despite me being a NZ walking advert) as it meant the woman he spend the next 20 years with entered his life. Sometimes not getting what you want gets you something even better. For him, it was a new life in Scotland with a live-in travel partner, rather than a new location with people he had outgrown. While that lady died a few years ago, he still travels and shares his thoughts on what he’s experiencing with strangers he meets on the way. Like me. Bonus content of this encounter is that he had been to my hometown of Dudley during his engineering career. This would have been the perfect moment to whip out my TTT, but I was too preoccupied with the baby seagull in front of us trying to fathom how to get food from us the way the adult seagulls did. I was then distracted by the bronzed guy behind us getting tanned on his surfboard. There is plenty to see in Howth…
… including views along the four walking trails off varying difficulty. I started on the easiest, which was a road that offered a view of a Martello tower that was now a radio museum. Then, as I was photographing Yeats’ home with a fantastic view of Dublin, I was enveloped in a smoke plume. This was from the unusually sunny and windy conditions starting a fire on the Summit in the bush and sweeping it in my direction. Three fire engines went by to stop the fire from spreading. I wasn’t the only intrepid explorer to continue despite the smoke. I didn’t manage the whole thing as my legs ached, but I did get onto a tarmacked footpath surrounded by unburned foliage full of bees and butterflies. The view was first of the harbour, then of birds nesting in the cliffs, and then of nothing but the vastness of the Irish Sea. When I visit Blackpool, I can usually see Ireland, but the reverse isn’t true. I was grateful the wind was blowing me inland, as the drop from the natural green stone path was sheer.
An American couple had caught up with me and were thoroughly lost. They had encountered a local man who said he was used to giving people directions as the map guides dotted around were rubbish. I guess there’s a reason an Irish blessing is “May the road always come up to meet you.” I was pleasantly surprised on walking back that there was a lady police officer (Garda) telling people coming off the trail that they couldn’t move their cars as the fire engines were blocking the single track road while dealing with the blaze. There were also women amongst the fire brigade. Upon seeing about fifty people were ascending the coastal path from a tour bus, their stares were greeted by a firefighter joking, “There’s nothing to see here.”
There was something to see in the water. Some young men in swimming shorts were diving off a rock pile into the clear blue water. I had brought my towel and costume, but being a harbour I didn’t fancy the steep steps down to the water and the pile of rocks that passed as a beach. People sunbathed on boat launching ramps as the best comfortable surface. Naturally, when the young men realised they had an audience, they asked for a good countdown for them to jump from the highest part.
By now, several tour buses had brought people to Howth, and it wasn’t the peaceful haven of book readers and sea watchers it had been. The restaurants at the front now heaved with rude white children spitting and complaining about the price of takeaway fish and chips. I figured if I went up the hill a bit, it would be quieter. I stumbled in to the Abbey Tavern, an old building with massive rough brick walls. It offered locally sourced everything and massive portions presented in a fancy way. I find fish and chips to taste best when the salty sea air is in your nostrils. It was so posh that the vinegar was white and came on its own plate rather than being left on the table. Crisp battter. Flaking cod. Chips with a hint of skin, green mushy peas, creamy tartar sauce. Heaven. Immediately followed by bread and butter pudding, freshly made with maple syrup, custard (well, white cream) and vanilla ice cream. It was golden and delicious, and I couldn’t finish it. With a pot of tea, it totalled 21.50Euro. I imagine it’s a great place to be when the old fireplace is roaring away, rather than its summer of glass tea light holders in the wood grate. At first I thought the logs to the side were moulded peat, but the only Irish speaking staff member (I actually found one!) said it was animal poo and waste fibres. How environmentally friendly, in a country which forests forgot.
With an overfull stomach, red skin, clothes that were now too thin to cope with the wind with the warm sun hiding behind the hills, I got the 31 bus back to Talbot Street, easily identified by the massive silver spike sculpture on O’Connell Street Upper and next to a stone statue of a man with epic coat action that I associate with Lovable Irish Rogue.
Beneath it, an art seller had taped giant copies of Monet’s work to the floor as advertising for his work. I couldn’t be bothered to walk around to Parnell Street to get buzzed in to the hotel, so I came in through the pub entrance and over the open courtyard, both of which were already full of people drinking alcohol at 5pm. It was nostalgic in a way, as growing up people used to go straight to the pubs after work to be sociable whereas now people freshen up for a night out or buy alcohol cheaply to drink alone at home. I had intended to go out again to another Pride event, but having taken a month to recover from Budapest with the epic amount of walking, I thought I’d try and be selective about how long I was upright for.
Wednesday June 24th 2015
A sluggish start to the morning, as the people were lively in the bar until 2am, and the people above me decided to shower at 6am. I retreated back to my room after breakfast to try and fortify myself with tea and energy tablets. First on the itinerary was Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, a medieval manuscript that is highly detailed. A student is paid to sit at a wooden desk that says Tourist Information at the College’s entry points, to tell you how to get to places. For me, it was entering the college grounds to the central building. A 10Euro (no disabled discount) led to a dark room with larger than life depictions of various folios/pages from the book, along with other contemporary medieval texts important to Christianity in Ireland, and to written language here. It also offered the first language found in Ireland – the Ogham stones.
Even at billboard poster size, the iconic animal weave lettering is highly intricate. It’s a marvel that it was done smaller and so accurately. This was before backspace had been invented. The introduction area offered Christian reasoning for the various animals alongside saints and gospel book writers, such as peacocks symbolising eternal life as the bodies (like the feathers, used as quills to write down the immortal words) don’t decay, and eagles being a direct connection to the heavens. Videos played showing the preparation of vellum (calfskin) as the sheets, and the binding of oak and a leather cover. Historical accounts say the book was stolen by heathens, and when it was found three months later, it was under a sod and missing its gold leaf embellishment.
Still, the yellow pigment they used is vibrant and metallic in appearance. A glass case offered petri dishes of pigments that either had been identified in the book or were used in other texts at the time, such as lapis lazuli and woad for blue. It was all stuck down with acacia resin. No fancy character is ever the same, and sentences ended on the line above with another animal. The rest of the text is made in lines by folding the vellum in half, needle punching down the edge, then unfolding and drawing a line between the points. “He said” had special emphasis, such as a lion holding its paw to its mouth. All the animals look like drunk yoga experts. The book has had a rough history, with its place being repeatedly being burned down until its safe keeping in Dublin and the offering to Trinity College. The scribes often signed their work, and added extra bits to give us insight about their lives, the pocket gospels still seen in Ethiopia. The poem about “darkness into light” is about a cat. Cats and books go together, as writers have static laps for cats to lounge on.
The book itself is in a separate, even darker cool room. When you enter the rectangle of slowly spiralling
people in silent contemplation, the book seems small. It’s here the sheer intricacy of the small scale, how shiny the yellow embellishment is, and how skilled and fabulously sighted the artists were. The lions appear more like Chinese dragons opposite a page of calligraphy text. The margins around the pictures and text are very large, so nothing has been rubbed off and you can see the vellum texture. In some ways, it looks like an ordinary book. And then it dawns on you that it’s over a thousand years old, and you can still read it and see the detailed images. It hasn’t just survived, it has thrived. I imagine for the illiterate in a church, you could see the large pictures depicting various scenes while the priest read the adjacent text. This was medieval TV.I confess, I got a bit tearful about seeing how the book was presented. It’s the same set up as the book of remembrance where my ancestors are remembered, as recent as my Dad. It is a book of the dead.
The bonus content for this tour is the long room. While Ireland is separate to the UK, it is still honoured that a copy of every book published is sent here. It’s a lot of books, protected from the light with tissue paper in the large windows. They aren’t ordered alphabetically. The gold letters and numbers simply show the place of a book. They are kept by size for the weight load – big and heavy at the bottom, small and light at the top. Two floors are visible from a central corridor under an Irish oak barrel ceiling. I sat down to appreciate the dark wood carving and the marble busts of various people. It’s easy to see why Dublin is the UNESCO city of literature.
A surviving copy of the A2 sized bill of independence almost gets overlooked as you first enter the room. Amongst the light wood curved seating with inbuilt dehumidifiers, are exhibitions of posters and glass cases. At the moment, it’s about myths and children’s literature. Whoever compiled is very anti-oppression about the Bible and quite accepting about myths from other cultures, such as Greek, Norse, Arthuriam and Irish. I think that’s the current climate in Ireland, about questioning the influence Catholism has on the Irish state, especially with the momentum of the equal marriage campaign.
Of particular interest was The Hobbit basing dwarf names on Norse characters, Harry Potter being Arthurian, with Dumbledore as Merlin leaving Harry to be raised by another family. But the visual highlights were the juxtaposed posters of images from books – a very conservative Adam and Eve Bible image sandwiched between a full colour dragon slaying, and an almost full frontal Jupiter wrestling with merman Neptune from Greek myth. I know which pantheon appeals to me!
In the middle of the room is the oldest surviving Irish harp, made of brass strings in an oak and willow frame. The quality suggests it was used as a travelling harp for Irish nobility. I happened to overhear a tour group about the importance of harps in Irish identity (harp images are everywhere like the silver fern is in New Zealand), that which way the harp is facing in images shows if it is of the state, and that the coins have always had a harp to the point when you flip a coin you ask “Heads or harps?”
Naturally, you exit downstairs through a gift shop. A very nice gift shop with Trinity College Dublin apparel, silk scarves with Celtic animal weave, including a coaster/mug/tea towel offering of a cat caught up in a ball of wool… It’s nice to think a college celebrating its tercentenary is keeping up with the times.
Outside, there is always a coffee shop and a book shop by a University. Thankfully the book shop is the local Easons, but the coffee shop is multinational, and they always manage to bag the corner property. A direct road led to St Stephen’s Green, lined with tuk tuks and horse drawn carriages. I think it’s trying to be a secluded area to get away from the hub of buildings outside, but the traffic noise permeates through the trees, as did the reggae buskers over the road. I went at lunch time, where the benches and grass were occupied by students eating takeaway lunch and coffee. The concrete pool with cascading rock waterfall was empty, with the ducks, pigeons and seagulls sitting on people for food.
I spotted a tram, only to discover it only went south. I popped into an Oxfam charity shop, to see what people here gave away (hats, CDs and black dresses) and to ask for help getting public transport over the river. Unfortunately for me, I was standing in a pedestrianised block. Walking was my only option, to either return to the chaotic roadworks or to try a new street and hope. I closed my eyes and walked, into a Butler’s chocolate shop. The only time I’ve ever seen one of these shops is New Zealand, so to see it in its native country brought back fond memories. I picked the most Irish things in there – Irish coffee truffle and Irish cream truffle bars. Pleasantly, it had a manufacture date as well as an expiry. More walking, past children popping bubbles made by street artists (there are a few street artists but they get lost in the noise of crowds and traffic, or are avoided because their speakers are too loud to try and be heard), until ending up by a church and more importantly, a working bus stop. I’d seen the bus number that stopped by the Gate Hotel.
While I was waiting, the Archbishop came out of St Ann’s church, having marked the Charleston shooting (according to the ladies I was chatting with, who also said we could do with some rain, rain being essential to Irish wellbeing). I have a knack of attracting heads of state, though thankfully my replica Webley was safely in another country rather than making me a target for snipers. This bus stop encounter also yielded my first ginger haired more-freckles-than-white-skin person. I wonder if, like the UK, finding someone whose grandparents were Irish/British is getting harder to fit the national stereotype. I also wonder if the capital impoverishes the rest of the country like home, meaning people born outside of it couldn’t afford to live in it.
My bus journey on the 38A did a joy ride of the various bridges over the river, to the point I wondered if it was roadwork induced, part of the route, or if the driver had lost the plot. I totally bailed at the first stop he stopped at, which was south of the river, and I flew into the familiarity of the Carrolls gift shop. Sometimes not getting what you want gets you something better. This was the biggest of the shops, and it had more stuff in it, including Guinness bird Christmas ornaments (which is going on my tree as an annual nostalgia of my travels), and Irish marble silver jewellery. I love rocks. I feel connected to the earth when I buy local rocks from local places. The piece chooses the wearer, and the piece for me was a silver tear drop filled with two marble clovers with heart leaves. It was also the most expensive thing in the cabinet, but surprisingly much cheaper than the independent jewellers. It reminds me of the New Zealand pounamu. This shop also had postcards and playing cards of doors from the Georgian era, so I didn’t have to go to the doors to photograph them. I could buy a set of postcards with the coloured wood with white circular surround. The lady that served me said, after asking where I was from, “You’ll be grand getting a tax refund!” with a big smile. I temporarily held up the queue in my delight at hearing such an iconic Anglo-Irish word in an Irish accent, and the joy she had in getting money back from the tax man.
Having calmed down a bit, I decided to photograph the bridges along the river, starting with the modern harp Samuel Beckett bridge to the East (where people had stopped free diving into the Liffey). I had the bonus content of the famine ship, and a Viking tour where a bright yellow “sitting duck” war boat drove people in plastic Viking hats along and in the river.
As it was lunchtime, business people in the glass buildings were coming out to get lunch, and I’m pleasantly surprised at the majority of them being women with their single lunch portion (rather than a secretary doing a lunch run for all). I stopped at the Ha’penny wrought iron bridge by Temple Bar. The whole river was lined with either rainbow flags or diversity ones, (people carried rainbow roses in their hands or pushchairs), but the bridges lined with homeless people looking for money for a night in a hostel.
It was a sharp contrast from sleeping rough on asphalt to the gold and black opulent entrance to the Merchant Arch to Temple Bar. The cobbled tunnel led to a crooked myriad of flagged buildings. Mostly boasting traditional Irish buildings, with live music drifting out of open doors. A surprising amount of barbers, offering a hot wet towel shave. International cuisine. A cultural hub. A pricey area. A temporary market selling handmade wares, including ink art, photos of Ireland, honey soap, alcoholic jam. The mud between the cobbles had bottle tops embedded at various depths and stages of wear.
In a place where everything is called Temple (couldn’t find a dragon), I found the source – the Temple Bar pub founded by William Temple. This may be the origin for the black and red fronted pubs dotted everywhere, and my travelling tea towel blended it nicely. The place has its own whiskey at 39.99Euro a bottle or a measure from the bar, along with the largest collection of whiskeys. You couldn’t see the mirror behind the bar for how many bottles were in front of it, and the backlighting made it seem like Christmas. Guinness is also available with freshly caught Oysters, and a hundred sandwiches. With a rendition of REM’s Losing My Religion on guitar with an Irish accent floating to my ears, I was going to pay the premium prices for this slice of culture, even though I don’t like the taste of alcohol (though the Temple Bar one being described as my favourite things of honey, vanilla, coffee and oak does tempt) and I’m allergic to shellfish above a mouthful, something else wafted in my direction – nicotine from cigarettes, electric or otherwise. It was coming from the outdoor garden, which is a central courtyard openly connected to the surrounding roofed part. I’m sure it’s lovely to stand there among the Guinness barrels serving as tables under the moonlight and the toucan, but nicotine is a no go for me, cascading flower baskets or not.
It threatened to rain, and it was 5pm. I found Vat House Traditional Irish Pub (which they all say, even in Budapest), a place that served Irish stew – local lamb, local vegetables, pearl barley and brown bread. The stew was soft and creamy, and big, with big chunks of everything that melted in the mouth. The bread was a highlight, a sweet malt dark brown that crumbled into the soup as you held it, and was slightly moist to need licking off your fingers. The pot of tea was single serve, so I emptied my water bottle into it to use the heat from the metal for a second cup. Thankfully, Barry’s tea was strong enough to take that, rather than the one cup catering tea bags of home.
As I was sitting in silence like everyone else, as the CD music was too loud to have conversation and the lure of the advertised live music (not traditional songs or instruments) hadn’t started yet, I watched Sky Sports. It’s a channel that in 40 minutes only showed images of men in sport. The ticker tape at the bottom mentioned one female sporting thing – Wimbledon tennis qualifiers. The bar itself proved more interesting, with local brews, wooden dispensers for pale ale with ships burned into them, tasting platters of Irish whiskeys showcasing the four types (malted, unmalted, blended, soft hops). Wooden panels but no Celtic weave. But lots of Guinness motifs and harps.
I wondered what Irish identity was, as it’s only been independent since 1916. It’s the centenary next year. A lot of what I see in the “traditional” pubs is very similar to the pubs I find at home. By WWI, every part of the world had been discovered, and trade meant we influenced each other in our tastes and styles. I wonder if the takeover by Catholism was a rebellion against the CoE, and other UK things only for Ireland to now realise why the UK separated from Catholism in the first place (home rule, for one). Back home, the “luck of the Irish” is seen as a positive thing, but given their oppression by rich English bloodlines in Union, to the oppression by the rich Vatican as a republic, and now the oppression by the Eurozone. Ironically, all these things have foreign control at heart, and cause poverty and inequality. I’m intrigued that the tourist map shows a lot of buildings in the 1700s as Irish (Union in 1801), when I imagine they were built by the rich English bloodlines from CoE / Protestant stock.
I embarked on another mystery walk to find a bus stop, taking me past the juxtaposition of the Bank of Ireland next to the wax works. On the advert, the Joker looked more realistic than Jedward. Having spent three days looking at bus stops, I figured out that the symbol is a rook castle flanked by a d and b for Dublin Bus. (Bear with me, I’m sunburned.) Optimistically, back in rush hour O’Connell Street Upper, I found a Lush and asked if they did any Aloe Vera products. I pulled my shirt down to illustrate the red line that rivalled their Luas tram and she very kindly gave me a sample pot of Dream Wash, a shower cream with aloe vera, chamomile, lavender and tea tree to soothe burns.
Usually, I don’t listen to my ipod when I’m on holiday, but given my hotel room could hear buses engines parked on stand outside the window and the songs from the bar, I’d rather drown out both with Crowded House. I got to contemplate the influence of Neil Finn’s Irish mammie on his work, and his ability to adlib flamboyant prose and enjoy an organic live performance, while my legs throbbed. There’s a distinct lack of seating in the streets, including for buses. The five random English language TV channels (remember when we didn’t even have five channels?) couldn’t be heard over the surrounding sounds of the bar music, the neon sign by my window humming like a fridge, and the buses with their engines running whilst on stand in the street below. The tea was good, though, as tea solves everything.
Thursday June 25th 2015
My earphones are really good at blocking out external sound. They are also good at wrapping themselves around my neck with how restlessly I sleep. Nothing woke me until my 8am alarm, so I bounced over to breakfast to be greeted by the tired but happy staff. Today’s crew all had Irish accents, and they hid the butter under the toast as it had come straight from the freezer and needed heating up. In sad news, Patrick “John Steed” Macnee died, continuing the tradition of people I like dying when I leave the country.
The original plan was to go see Dublin Castle, built in 1204. I totally missed the stop, having been distracted by the Georgian stone architecture of the buildings on the road front. Instead, the afternoon plan of the Guinness Storehouse got bumped up. In hindsight, this was a blessing for my legs, with the cobbled street entrance and seven floors of exhibition. The cobbled streets had horse drawn carriages and the air was sweet with brewing. This step into the 18th century was punctuated by tour buses dropping people off. Thankfully, they went in a different queue to me. I was in the expensive pay on the door queue (18Euro). A free map for the self-guided tour said there were prizes for the best photograph taken every month. With my rainbow pin in hand during pride week, I kept my eye out.
The first experience was standing in a central pint glass structure that runs to the top of the building, with enough volume for every Irish person to have three pints. The base of this houses the original 9000 year lease by Arthur Guinness. The ample staff members greet you in Irish-Irish, “Céad míle fáilte.” It means not just welcome, but “One hundred thousand welcomes.”
Obligatory tourist shot by the replica gates, in case you missed them coming in. The next is the Irish barley, the Wicklow Mountain water (where you can wish at the waterfall) and the Irish hops, and yeast that is the same strain since the 19th century. The barley is malted at 232C for the perfect roast, and it smells like coffee. The water is pure and mostly free of minerals, unlike the Liffey. The hops only grow in a narrow part of the world, and they are hand checked for the sweetness of the oil. All the old machinery is on show on this original brewing site as a testament to the artistry of crafting. The blue metal struts are exposed, and old massive windows let the light in. Everything was an art form once, a show of skill and honed senses, be it machinery or brewing. It’s interlaced with modern moving picture frames – video recordings in picture frames telling you the story, from the working of the machine to the social impact of Guinness for Dublin – building St Stephen’s Green, having ten surviving children, and being single minded to sign a 9000 year lease and reduce brewing to one thing. They had Irish names of Patrick, Kathleen and Cody Duffy.
A side section about coopering, using white oak American wood. A 1950s video of a barrel being made. Boards of information about the humour of the coopers, and after seven years of apprenticing, your initiation involved being put in a barrel with a host of other things and rolled around. As names were common, nicknames developed – some understandable, some best left to the imagination! Barrels could be reused for ten years, the longevity attributed to the singeing to stop the tree tannin from contaminating the porter/stout. Bad smelling barrels were sent to be re-cleaned in the massive pyramid stack of 250,000. The invention of the steel barrel put this art form out of commercial use, which is why the barrel tables in pubs are something of a legacy.
I jumped in on a free taste testing experience (no queueing, hooray) and entered a neon tunnel that led to the first room in futuristic white, full of white steam originating from four futuristic white columns. Each steam is an aroma, of malted barley (coffee), hops (sweet oil), fermenting yeast and pure water. Through the steam, a white bar with three black Guinness pumps, and a tray of miniature Guinness glasses await. As I had been reading all the information, I easily answered the question, “What colour is Guinness?” Red. Ruby red, according to them, but garnet is a better descriptor. It’s not as black and white as you think. For this, I got an extra mini glass. Yes, the person that doesn’t drink alcohol.
We then stepped into a black room, complete with gold framed paintings and chandeliers. Here, the guide taught us how to best drink Guinness. Served cold, 2-5C. Take a mouthful, hold your breath, swallow, and breathe out. I got to do this twice. The guide rang a bell that belonged to the SS Miranda Guinness (isn’t it great being a woman?), a commissioned ship that holds liquid rather than barrels. Guinness seemed to commission a lot of ships to transport Guinness around the world, and there was a collection of horse brasses for the domestic delivery of its day.
A massive sculpture representing the history and future of Guinness had a video showing the crafters constructing it. From the barley carved into oak at the bottom, the workers, the harp logo, to the bronze horse figures, the Wicklow Mountains, to the white foam at the top comprising of a billowing white lace and silk pouch housing glass chandelier drops. It’s worth sitting down to admire it, and get a blend of the punchy music of heavy crafting (think the award winning tick follows tock surfing advert) mixed with the Titanic soundtrack from the adjacent transport section.
A whole floor dedicated to advertising, including a stage with a whistling oyster. I still don’t know why zoo animals and the toucan in particular are used. The exhibition tried to be interactive with a digital insert your face here to share with the world, but the Facebook link wasn’t working. The interaction also had a laser harp that you could play with your fingers intercepting the beams. To show the global reach, a map let you upload text saying where you were from and why you liked the black stuff. Only I didn’t. My two mouthfuls didn’t make me afraid of the dark. I was indifferent to the cold wateriness. I was impressed with the old adverts that appealed to women. I doubt it was about equality, but doubling the amount of potential customers. My favourite women’s advert talked about how once women couldn’t wear trousers, but now all appreciate a well-tailored trouser suit. And wasn’t it time you had a Guinness?
Next up you had a choice for your free pint. Pull your own and get a certificate. Have one with a meal. Or go up to the top floor Gravity Bar for panoramic views. Option C was my choice, and my advice to you is start your tour from midday onwards, otherwise the bar will be packed with lunchtime crowds, leaving you standing and unable to see much of the view. I didn’t get ID’ed for my pint, and the Irish server put the initial pour in front of me. It took a while (wait for it, the guy said with a cheeky smile) for the orange storm to rise up to the frothy head, before he took it away for the no-spill top up, where he used to nozzle to draw a shamrock in the foam. I was too short to take a photograph of it (land of the giants…) so he said to stand on the metal barrier! The glass was presented logo side forward, the name and gold harp. This meant your fingers played the tactile harp shape at the back, sliding over it with the cold condensation pooling in the harp strings. I still didn’t care much for the taste, and as I don’t drink, I needed to sit down quite quickly as the alcohol content went straight to my head. For the next hour, the inside of my body struggled to keep up with the outside. Everything was dulled from the outside, and disjointed. I was pretty sure I was shouting as everything seemed distant. And to think, some people enjoy this.
When I felt able to lift my head off the panoramic glass, I zig zagged down the stairs to the toilet and drank three pints of tap water. I explained to everyone that came in and stared that I didn’t drink and they all laughed and went about their business. I walked around the gift shop very slowly in case I fell over, being amazed at the sheer volume of things that have the logo (from a beach towel to a cup holder to a golf tee), the 2015 collector’s edition of everything, and things that can be shaped like a pint such as salt and pepper shakers. I was impressed with the precious jewellery; some hop shaped in rose gold plate, and others 3D fine Christmas ornaments in silver plate. Apart from a shirt that had the ogham text, nothing appealed. In my transition to being sober, I dreamed about Trinity College gift shop, with the cat tied in wool coasters and the perfect Doctor Who shade of blue and brown silk scarf. Just to make sure this wasn’t a drunken impulse, I went back to the hotel to hydrate and caffeinate. My reflection now showed sunburn and vasodilation.
I did buy the stuff, and the paper bag (you pay for plastic) is a work of art, depicting the long room and the college grounds, and reminding you it’s 300 years old. On the base, a red circle declares “Real Ireland”. I had a lovely chat with various women at bus stops about the Luas construction disruption. “It will be worth it,” was a common reply, a belief in a better future. In the meantime, the hunt for the bus stop took me to dinner at the Banker’s. It was red and black like Temple Bar, and a French waitress served me Irish ham with county vegetables, colcannon potato and parsley sauce. This was followed by a home-made Bailey’s cheesecake with ice cream. As with the other times I’ve eaten, they seemed surprised that I offered a tip. I had that moment of over-contemplation that they aren’t used to British people being generous, or they don’t like charity handouts from the British like at Eurovision. But these people weren’t born Irish, so what would they know of this? Maybe poverty is so bad that they think people can’t afford to tip any more. In any case, I enjoyed having the spare money to give to others for their kindness. A TV of adverts showed this bar had been deemed most gay friendly in the Dame District. I was amused by an app for finding a pint in Dublin called Publin. I was also impressed with all the Irish craft beers and whiskeys being advertised. Back home, we get craft beers from other countries.
Opposite the pub was a Jack and Jones shop that displayed a shirt with a circle with a hexagon in it, which satisfied my Doctor Who urges. The people inside had American accents, and it was suddenly easy to see how the American accent had evolved from the Irish one.
Friday June 26th 2015
It had been a rough night. The magical noise reducing properties failed to keep out the live base and drum from the bar below. To say my 8am alarm was unwelcome was an understatement, as I was faced with functioning on 6 hours sleep at the end of my holiday. Breakfast was quick enough, and having discovered checkout was 12noon, I totally went back to bed for a nap with the worst of the morning commuter traffic gone.
When I surfaced, I didn’t want to go far with my suitcase in tow, so I went to the National Writer’s Museum. Having done the visual, tactile, sensory spectacular of the Guinness storehouse, it was a bit of a comedown to be in a Georgian restored house. Plain walls, fancy plaster ceilings. Books out of reach in glass cabinets that people in wheelchairs wouldn’t be able to see. Information plaques only written in English. Audio guides that only read out a snippet of the information, so if you struggled to read, you would be isolated from this experience. A Japanese tour bus entered while I was there, and their tour guide translated everything for them. The UNESCO city of literature, felt like an outdated and forgotten relic. The writer’s union next door may be more inspired and present, and the security guard outside said, “You don’t want to be in there [a famous writer], as they’re old”. I also mention that this is Anglo-Irish, not Irish-Irish. The only Irish-Irish was on the bottom of the receipt: “Go raibh mile mhaith agat.” It translates not simply as Thank you, but “May you have a thousand good things.”
Thankfully, I can read English, and the information panels took me through the pre-writing era of storytellers (think Bards) and a great entertainment and oral tradition. I guess this is now expressed with the live music in pubs, even if the singers aren’t presenting their own work or particularly Irish songs (The Corrs’ Runaway might get a bit tedious after a while…). Then a copy of the Book of Kells which brought English to Ireland. The control by Britain and money being overcome through writing by changing the press from a foolish Irishman to the lovable rogue fighting for independence like their descendants had in America. Commentary about the poverty and famine by Jonathan Swift, which has been dumbed down and presented as a children’s story rather than satirical commentary about how bad life was, to the point he put forward the right age to eat a baby to survive the famine. Put it this way: most of the writer’s here had voluntary exile to other countries to express their views in books and on stage, and have a chance at life.
This was followed by the romantic rural view of Ireland, but even in the waffly prose describing how green it all is, there’s a sadness that it’s all being taken away. Then, a woman introduced realistic writings of the Irish condition. Actually, there are just as many women Irish writers as there are men in this museum, which I’m chuffed about, even if in Britain I have never heard of their works.
A competition section, where much like being a sprinter when Usain Bolt is well, it was a struggle to get recognition while Yeats was alive. Writers and playwrights inspiring home rule, and when the Catholic Church took over the oppressing and brought in censorship, it became a sign that you’d made it as a writer if your work got a censorship ban. Modern ASBOs have the same appeal. I like this tradition about saying things how they are, and questioning how things are done, and the passion that goes with it. How wonderful to have a collective of people that can captivate your attention for hours by lyrically describing the mundane. Also, that it wasn’t just people educated at Trinity College that became famous – poorer, rural folk were equal in their talents.
The writers were characters themselves, with Wilde claiming he had to stupefy himself in order for the English to keep up with his genius. Shaw. Wilde. Stoker. Joyce. The latter is such an icon that June 16th is Bloomsday, where Ulysses is acted out in its entirety throughout the city. I seem to have come in the lull between events, between an epic saga and an equality march. The second room is dedicated to the 20th century, where more artefacts survive. Any book geeks would delight at the original folios, handwritten letters and signed copies of these literary greats. Upstairs, a gallery of the writers and a little about the house itself, even if there are too many layers of paint obscuring the plaster detail. My personal highlight was a portrait by the ladies toilet of a writer with a very smug cat on his legs. In the bookshop, I’d like to say women were equally represented, but souvenir images of famous Irish writers were kept to white men.
There was a garden of remembrance outside the writer’s museum, and a statue at the end of a shallow pool that had people turning into wild geese. Given Ireland’s long struggle to independence and anti-goodness-knows-what laws by Catholism, I’m not exactly sure what the remembrance was for. I was grateful for benches, as the lack of public seating was a problem.
Back in O’Connell Street, I parked my bum on the steps of Easons independent bookstore, with a lot of other people, to get out of the heat. It’s a thing with my holidays – ending the rain in New Zealand, holding the weather sunny that usually changes every five minutes in Iceland, 20oC warmer in Swedish Lapland, 30oC mini heatwave in Budapest, and now perhaps the only person in history to get sunburned in Ireland and not see any rain.
While sitting there, I noticed a lot of money on the floor, as I had done all over the place. I understand copper coins being left, as that happens at home for their lack of worth. But I made a Euro in 10 cent pieces just by looking at the floor to 1) avoid the dog poo, which had plenty of signs saying “bin the poo” but weirdly I never actually saw a dog in the city centre, and 2) there are well worn metal plates in the pavement telling you about famous incidents that occurred there, sometimes fictional as with Ulysses. There were certain hot spots for coins, like the edge of pavements for people getting on the bus, and by shop tills. Apparently, people are too busy devouring their new book to see if their money has been safely stowed away. I pointed this out to the people sitting next to me, and they said there were talks about removing coins from circulation that were less than 10c, but cost would always be rounded up rather than 50/50 like in New Zealand. I had a moment to study which Euros had harps on the back, and which ones had come from other parts of Europe.
Then a 2016 calendar caught my eye. In June. It’s a very nice calendar, made in Ireland by an Irish artist of Celtic mythology, and another item with the “Real Ireland” red sticker. The front cover, and what I get to enjoy next June and beyond, is Beneath the Sky of Stars: The Kiss, depicting a muscular warrior being embraced by a shape shifter, because – and this is what it says – we all have our weaknesses… It seemed fitting after the museum to be in a living bookstore with books you could touch, even if they were all in English (including the newspapers), and I was lead to the humour section containing Irish Mammies: things older Irish women say. The quick flip I had through was bloody hilarious, and I now follow their humorous insight on Twitter where it started. In the Beginning was the word, comprising 140 characters. The satirical love of life and song is embracing new technology; the digital world, where things on social media can be as transitory as a song in a pub.
I had totally run out of energy to pull my suitcase around, so I bypassed the Leprechaun Museum (12Euro) and National Museum (free) to simply be on the tram to see where it took me. In some ways, nowhere that I hadn’t seen before. With such a shared history, and the homogenisation of global living, it was everything I had seen in London. The spaces around the massive Georgian buildings were filled in by eighteenth century pubs, and then small fronted modern shops and glass fronted cafes. This gave way to 19th century terraced housing, to interwar suburbia, to metal corrugated warehouses and car parks. Finally, beyond the metal fence of the Luas tram, I could see the Emerald Isle. A slightly yellow shade of green with the lack of rainfall, but it was nice to see what I’d think of as the ‘real’ Ireland, rather than the mock London I’d been staying in. That was certainly more apparent as I’d just come from London, and the imposition of the rich English bloodlines on landscape and culture. There’s even the regeneration of the dockland with the glass and steel business complexes, and the bridges over the dirty river. Everyone speaks English with an international accent rather than the local language.
On my journey to the airport, I sat next to an “Irish Mammie.” All the people I’d ended up speaking to properly were older Irish women, and they were all helpful, and could keep a conversation going indefinitely. I asked if anyone spoke Irish as a first language, and she instantly said “Yes, in the West.” I asked if there was anywhere that could teach me Irish, as like Welsh I hadn’t found anywhere online. I thought of all the places I’d past that said “learn English here” when perhaps learn Irish would be more respectful alongside the International language. She was visiting friends in Spain, and happily accepted my unused return bus ticket for her friends who were coming back. I handed my Leap card to someone else and walked the very short distance from the door to special assistance.
A glitch in Ryanair’s website meant I couldn’t book special assistance before I left, but they took me in with a genuine smile and desire to help. A pale skinned young man with dark hair and an Irish accent quickly wheeled me one-handed to pick up my I-need-assistance slip for Birmingham and through the chaos of security (I may have finally removed the curse of the glow in the dark keyring finder) on a Friday night (essentially a commuter run). I liked this guy, for his devil-may-care conversation topics, to being genuinely interested in what I said, and preparing him in our brief interlude to the conversations he can expect with his girlfriend if she chooses and environmental science degree. In a relay, I was picked up by a buggy with others and driven down the very long corridor to gate 104 for flight 666, the devil’s flight. The taxi to the runway seemed to take as long as the flight, as did waiting for special assistance the other end. Ryanair said they always called through and blamed OSC for not coming quickly – for them delayed flights are uncompensated (they work for free). OSC blamed Ryanair for not entering the data correctly into the system. It was the devil’s flight in that regard. As it was, they had brought two wheelchairs instead of one just in case.
Getting back to decent Internet meant I was bombarded by rainbows. Ireland followed America for home rule, and now America followed Ireland for marriage equality.
Despite how disjointed and distant public transport was from where I wanted to go, I am glad I didn’t go on the tourist bus. The Irish spirit is present in the Anglo capital, but the devil is in the detail. It’s the subtle harp and shamrock motifs in old buildings, showing its independent spirit carved into the grey face of foreign imposition. But most importantly, Ireland is about people. People who can start and organically perpetuate lyrical conversations about everything, because there is joy in two way sharing which weaves a rich tapestry of experience, leaving both people richer for the encounter. People who love standing around at work just waiting to strike up a conversation with strangers for conversations sake, not to push buying things onto you. People who can talk, sing and dance long into the night. I’m looking forward to getting out to the West coast, to see the whole of real Ireland in future.