Tim Bray was in Dublin for the weekend. He asked me for some non-touristy recommendations before he headed off, and putting together a short list was a mental pilgrimage to the city I loved in my college years. I’ve visited since then, of course, but always on a skinflint American vacation allowance that meant scuttling between friends’ houses before racing down to Limerick to see my parents. This December I’ll stroll around in the rain and get to know it again.
(On CBC radio this week, the two best talkers were Irish writers Nuala O’Faoileán and Dermot Healy. They reminded me I need a fix of good leg-pulling stories.)
Tim has a sharp eye, and there she is, unvarnished modern Dublin, in his account of abonfire confrontation at what I think must be the Kevin Street Flats. From there he walks to the hotel in chi-chi Ranelagh (where I once lived), where “the laundrette there has pale hardwood floors, red Eurostyled sofas, and a row of rent-the-net computers with, forsooth, big flat-panel screens.”
Like Canadians, we Irish are inordinately interested in what others think of our country. “Just a visitor’s impressions,” Tim says of his Dublin notes, but those are often the most truthful, the perceptions that are later dulled by familiarity.
Oh yes. Oh yes. Ireland has about three and a half million people; a third of them squeeze into Dublin like sardines. Half of us were born in the Seventies or later, and Dublin crawls with our sprogs. Inadequate, extortionate childcare is a huge worry for many of my friends; one is considering ditching her career in accountancy to set up decent childcare facilities for her poorly-served area.
Tim notes that Sinéad O’Connor should have credited Yeats for lines she stole from “No Second Troy” in her early song “Troy”. He is right, of course–but I picture 19-year-old Sinéad fresh from her Leaving Cert English exam, for which every student in the country was drilled with that poem. In Ireland you can count on certain experiences being shared. Maybe she never imagined the record reaching a world in which those lines were not as universally familiar as
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,.
I took the one less traveled by”