Hope for a reunion with Emma was probably still draining from my heart, yet it was with an otherwise pure desire for enjoyment that I set off this final night in Dublin for the most convenient ice rink I could find – more than five kilometres away south-east of my hostel, at the Royal Dublin Society Grounds in Ballsbridge. It was a long walk, but an enjoyable one during which I stopped at a couple of pubs and picked up McDonald’s for dinner confident that I would walk and skate off the fat and salt. One pub in particular near the American Embassy was full of young, attractive and rich looking people. It looked as a little cottage with white picket-fenced front yard cum beer garden to be the most authentic Irish bar I’d come across my whole time there. But I didn’t feel at all at home among the spoiled but not unfriendly company, so left quickly. The RDS skating rink was quite a large square of ice, but was a pretty shit experience. Too many kids, which they seemed to just keep packing onto the ice in clumsy hordes, so I got over it and left before the session I’d paid for even finished. There was a captivating brunette with a blue snowflake painted on one cheek at the ticket office. When I complimented her on it, she replied that she’d lost a “diamond” from its centre. Wish I’d been able to find it for her. Then there was nothing for it but a long, cold lonely walk back through Dublin to bed – and presumably more nocturnal torture by another fat man of advanced age and snoring skill.
Checkout like at most hostels was 10am the next day. And with my flight for some reason not until 10pm that night, I wandered with full pack toward the coast – a natural instinct for me, or anyone I guess, as a surfer; though I wasn’t stupid enough to expect any swells to be breaking in Dublin’s bay courtesy of the Irish Sea. Even though it was one of only two daytime journeys I walked in that country, there really wasn’t a lot to see. There was the Liffey, its bridges, The Famines – who I’ll come to shortly – and one harp shaped bridge which made me thirst for Guinness even at that early hour. I enjoyed a sandwich and iced tea near a library from which I scammed WiFi, in a solidly middle-class suburban area across the estuary from the docks called Irishtown. The last – and first time while travelling – time I’d had a haircut was at a grungy Italian barbers on New York’s Upper West Side. So when I spotted Jennys (sic) Hair Salon near Ringsend Park, I figured: what the hell. It seemed as if my hair grew less fast while travelling through a Northern Hemispherical winter, on account of the shorter, overcast days. But I was still keen on keeping it short and easier to wash, if not flamboyantly styled. Jenny was 51 years old and reminded me of my mum. All blonde hairdressers are cut from similar moulds, I guess. We had a good old chat. She told me about a challenging business period a few years ago, in which it had snowed for several weeks or months straight. She said the problem was that all physical commerce basically shut down until the snow finally melted, because the city didn’t have any snow plows. Ah, the Irish.
Freshly shorn, I caught a cab back to the river then walked along it to O’Connell Street, from whose northern end I’d soon catch the airport bus. Taxis were weird in Dublin. They’re just normal cars, with cab lights fixed on top of them. So I guess you never know what or who you’re going to get. But my guy was good. He dropped me off at the north-east end of the Liffey, I tipped him a few euros and then walked back west past The Famines. I actually don’t have the heart right now to explain them, so here’s a link: www.ddda.ie/index.jsp?p=112&n=640. It was while on my way back to O’Connell, or perhaps earlier on my way to the beach, that I came across a dishevelled young man from out of town who said he’d become stuck penniless in Dublin after a big night out. He was clearly lying. I could see it in his eyes. But I needed to get rid of all my euro change anyway, due to the fact that I wouldn’t shortly be returning to a country that uses European Union currency, so I dumped all I had on him. He didn’t bother to point out that, at around four euros, it probably wasn’t enough to get him out of town, and instead turned and walked off. Good luck to him. I spent my last moments with Dublin by sitting below a statue at O’Connell’s feet, smoking and sipping a chocolate thickshake – while people-watching the city’s late-lunch masses flow back and forth across the Liffey. Then the bus dropped me at Dublin International Airport a full seven hours before my flight to Edinburgh.
Very unfortunately, the bar outside departures closed before I could get a drink. So I wiled away most of my purgatorial time reading, f’ing around on Facebook and catching up with you, dear journal and friend those fantastic few months. One odd occurrence worthy of note during my time wandering and wasting time in the airport was a holographic stewardess projected onto a free-standing, human-shaped piece of plastic. She wasn’t much for conversation, though. Finally, three hours before the flight, I was able to check my bag. Then I continued on through security to the from memory very cosy departure lounge where I managed to consume three gin and tonics. It had an outdoor – and naturally cold and wet – smoking area in which you could also drink. Best on-premises airport smoking area I had and have since come across. Then because it was raining a bus took us to the plane, where I realised Ryanair had screwed me because I’d paid an extra 10 pounds for a particular seat (I have no idea why) but it turned out when I found someone sitting in it that you’re really supposed to just sit anywhere. It was a very quick flight, during which I managed another gin and tonic. I may have mentioned this already, in which case forgive me, but gin and tonics had for some reason become almost exclusively my airport and I guess airplane drink. Possible federal crime marked my arrival in Scotland. When I departed the plane there were options to go through “Euro” or “non-Euro” arrivals. I wasn’t sure if they meant “you’re a Euro country citizen or not” or “you’ve flown from a Euro country or not (and could be from anywhere in the world)”, if you understand. So I walked through the Euro gate, at the end of which there was a notable absence of security. I can only still assume this meant I’d in fact dodged customs, which probably would have been waiting for me through the non-Euro gate. Pity I didn’t have any contraband on me. And I now realise I might have missed out on a Scottish stamp on my passport. Damn.