Custom House, Dublin. iPhone 4S
Ah, Dublin. I have a love/hate relationship with the city. It has everything, the good and the bad. While there’s always something to do, something going on, people to see, places to go, it has a dark side too; dirty, ugly and unrelenting. Dublin is a vast capitalist dream: everything is for sale, and nothing is cheap. Both extremes of poverty and wealth are rarely too far away.
While I’ve been going to Dublin for many years, formed many strong and life-changing relationships and friendships, I still get lost almost every time. But that’s just part of the charm. I want to get lost in a different part of town each time. To wander aimlessly, armed with my camera and some loose change. I wonder if my relationship with the city will change now that I live much closer? Cities are wonderful things, they fascinate me in their many intricate workings.
It isn’t my home, and it may never be. I may always have a somewhat estranged relationship with the city. I may never get to really know how it all works. But there’s plenty of time to try. I’d rather that than constantly relying on to someone else. I need to get to know the city on my own terms.
Street theatre is superb, and once again I found myself at the Street Performance World Championship on a sunny weekend in Merrion Square, Dublin on 13th & 14th July:
I attended my first Dublin Pride yesterday. Having arrived in the city after a great first night on the town in Carlow, I met with Stephen, Trevor and Marty. With no agenda or plan for the day, I was informed we would be on the Labour LGBT bus as it paraded through the city.
Sure, I wouldn’t get all the Pride pictures, but would have a unique point of view. But then, I couldn’t have predicted what was to come.
Before the parade some anti-austerity/bankers/government protesters had gathered outside the Post Office on O’Connell Street, one Anonymous mask, plenty of placards and chanting.
“They’ll be drowned out when the parade goes by,” said I, perhaps naïvely, as they clashed with the Labour LGBT bus a little later.
It’s difficult to compare Dublin Pride and Belfast Pride: Each year Belfast Pride clashes with protesters, both in the media pre and post Pride, and on the ground outside the City Hall or by St Anne’s Church. In Dublin, however, there are no religious protests, no aggressive, angry and discriminatory comments from politicians, however, the biggest difference I found was the lack of a community feel. In Belfast there are a number of marquees for supporting groups, political parties and organisations, however there I didn’t this (other than one or two lone-standing tables with a few leaflets. It can be argued that it isn’t something required as much as Northern Ireland, or isn’t what Pride is about — the joy, colour and pride should be emphasised. Each valid. Though there is more to Pride than loud noises, shouty MCs on a stage, some obscure bands/performers.
On the other hand: the support throughout the city was fantastic to see; rainbow flags, packed streets, colours, fancy dress, smiling faces, and a lot of noise!
Dublin City Centre was surprisingly busy on Christmas Day. The Chinese and Asian restaurants were open, the odd local shop was serving customers and lots of tourists and people who don’t celebrate the holiday were milling about the streets, perhaps to simply enjoy the city in day light mostly devoid of people. It was fascinating to see. Though I imagine as the years go on, more and more shops will be open on 25th December.
O’Connell Street Christmas Tree
Darren on Henry Street
After making our way through the parade, we made the most of the beautiful weather and walked along the Quay towards the Guinness Storehouse. This would be my second visit to the Storehouse, the first was in 2009 courtesy of a Pix.ie and a small group of photobloggers. Darren and I decided to take in the very-worthwhile tour; learning about some of the history of the drink, Arthur himself — he had 21 children with the one woman! — the Guinness factory, the brewing process as well as the branding and marketing over the years. Who really cares how a stout is brewed, but the way in which it is displayed is perfect. It is a great experience, and by the end of the tour that beautiful pint is well-earned.
In the large hall on the 2nd floor there was a band playing Irish music as well as line-dancing(?) with a stereotypical Irish entertainer, almost too stereotypical for me. However, it was here that we had our first pint of Guinness of the day and boy was it something to behold. Straight from the source it was ultimately refreshing and satisfied the craving I didn’t realise I had. During the course of the tour we had the absolutely greatest Beef & Guinness Stew in the ‘Brewers Dining Hall’. There was a vibrant atmosphere in the venue throughout the day, all levels filled with people milling about, enjoying the experience, the drinks and the view from the top, which is superb.
First pint of the day
In my own view, the Guinness Storehouse is a fun way to spend St Patrick’s Day, yeah it’s quite touristy, but much less so than the likes of wandering Temple Bar and running into drunken fools; an inevitability on this day. I did forgo my plans to continue not drinking on this day, as I had done for the 4 weeks prior, however, when my plans were civil and in the company of friends (and the drink was free) I couldn’t not.
Remember the lovely story of how St Patrick was captured in Britain by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland? As the priest said during his sermon that this was a good thing, of course. After all, if he wasn’t captured, he would not have brought Christianity to Ireland. He also wore blue, not green. Modern day versions of traditions are strange. Today we associate St Patrick’s Day with drinking Guinness and rioting in the streets: the students in Belfast did it in 2009, the Dubliners did it in Temple Bar in 2010 and the Canadians are at it this year.
As for me, I still don’t enjoy the idea of a national drinking day. I am partial to a pint of Guinness, however. My St Patrick’s Day was perfect. Darren and I started the day in the Pro Cathedral, for 11.30am mass. It was a nice service, sadly the sound wasn’t great, though with a little straining we did hear the priest talk of spreading the word of faith and how non-believers will not reach heaven. Never mind that, afterwards we explored the beautiful church, filled brilliant deep reds and great architecture.
On leaving the church I understood why people do it, particularly on days like this one; overrun by superficiality and drunken debauchery. Spending an hour in the solace of your own thoughts, the serenity of the building, the community affair, the reverent, spirituality which fills the mind as one enters and leaves such a place has a way of preparing one for such a day ahead, and to have a remain with different mindset. To ignore the superficiality.
I was in Dublin from Tuesday to Thursday. My intention was to see Sufjan Stevens — who was incredible, if a little stranger than I expected, though he did seem aware of his slight strangeness which made it a little better — though as it happened, the
Queen of England Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been in Dublin this week, disrupting traffic and walking routes, and generally making a lot of people unhappy. But many don’t see it as such a bad thing, in fact, there are those who see it as a good thing — ignoring the €30 million the Irish government found somewhere in order to accommodate her and her entourage. Though, as rightly pointed out, this is a small price to pay for the significance of this visit by the head of state to a country with such a troubled past with Ireland.
It was the the 8,000 police officers on the streets of Dublin which was the most obvious sign of the largest security operation in Irish history. Eerily empty streets, as pedestrians were barricaded to the footpaths, caused much disruption for all. They also weren’t very knowledgeable in what was going on. When asked when Queenie and her entourage were due, after the barricades were put in place one officer told me, “Some time in the next 30mins. We aren’t told exactly when, just to close the roads.
It was 10mins later that I managed to be in a good position across from Custom House as she drove by, waving to all those who turned to see her, shouting and applauding as she went.