Not such a straightforward start to the day. Descended from the bus into a gritty industrial wasteland without really knowing where we were. We asked a woman I could barely understand for directions, who then called over a man, who pointed the way towards Parnell Square.
The scene is none less bleak as we continue on, past a man in a grey tracksuit that can’t walk properly, as though he’s taken a dump in his pants. Past a Russian talking on a cell phone with a clear Perspex patch covering an angrily swollen black eye.
Down in the Temple Bar district, a couple of women so hard that I definitely wouldn’t mess with them (despite being a foot taller and 20 kilos heavier) smash bottles on the pavement, whining and protesting as they are moved on by the police, ‘but this is my spot! Can’t go anywhere else!’
Hard to tell how old things are here either: they are really run down or really old. History and neglect, a history of neglect perhaps. English rule and the recent economic downturn.
I speak to a South American who came here before the financial crisis to work and save money, only to find himself stuck here when everything went pear-shaped. I feel for him. There are worse places to be stuck, but it’s not nice to feel stuck anywhere.
It is fair to say that Dublin is going through a drug epidemic. The addicts and the homeless are everywhere. We visit the grounds of St. Kevin’s, a ruinous 8th century church. Families sit with children running circles around them in the sunshine, and then, round a corner, two junkies smoking what looks to be ice from a piece of tinfoil. One of them looks up brightly with a smile missing teeth and says, ‘God bless you!’
Walking past the old city wall, a can of beer flies over it in a spray of amber. Curious, we mount the battlement to find some policemen interrogating two men sitting on the rampart: ‘been on a bit of the ole heroin there lads?’ – like a scene from a police drama set in some quaint village.
Today we visited St. Patrick’s cathedral, a glorious structure with stained-glass windows of incredible intricacy, floors of beautiful mosaic tiles and impressively high gothic arches.
We spent the night in the Temple Bar listening to some traditional Irish music played with a banjo, guitar and ‘bodhran’, a traditional Irish drum that looks like a tambourine but played with a double-ended drumstick.
The atmosphere is like nowhere else in the world. The songs are standards and everybody knows the words and sings along. The bar is soon heaving with energy, with the sound of voices in unison and the constant patter of laughter.
Before getting to the bar, we saw two guys that looked straight out of the 70’s playing rock music on the street, one playing electric guitar and the other on drums. They are so good that they manage to create a spontaneous street party. A very drunk 50-something man jumps around bumping into terrified passing tourists. A wonderful ruckus. Dublin may have seen better days, but the locals still throw a party better than anyone.