Dublin was frustrating. Because for the first time I’d found myself in a city in which I genuinely believed the entire rest of the country – its gently rolling hillsides and sun-frustrated emerald green grass – was more worth seeing than its capital. But I had no wheels, and was only staying three days before continuing on to Scotland. Memory of the time is patchy, at best, especially due to picking up this tale after letting it lie fallow for so many months. It’s sad, because I’m quite sure during my short stay in Ireland events occurred and feelings were stimulated that would do well committed to written words, but it seems likely they will never be. I should stress that I’m writing this from a journal I kept during the journey, but of course not every story worth telling managed to grace its pages. More’s the pity. I wandered Dublin’s drab streets that first night, and visited a couple of pubs, but nothing particularly special eventuated that I can recall. I decided that it was a more architecturally humble city, when compared with the unabashed, pretentious beauty and grand scale of London. It seemed as if there must have been a limit on building sizes, as no obvious central business district or downtown skyscrapers such as the like in New York, London or even Australia’s Brisbane could be seen. Then again, the city sprawl didn’t extend outward that far either, for a national capital, and it seemed quite a realistic proposal to be able to walk from one edge of the city to the other in an afternoon. A very walkable city, which was fortunate in the absence of a metropolitan under or even overground train system. And most of its main touristic attractions hugged or lingered close by the thin, murky yet tranquil River Liffey.
I ended up at Fitzsimons Bar. Or one of them. There appeared to be at least two, in close proximity. It was in the Temple Bar – which is not a bar; rather an area full of bars which are less authentically Irish than they are authentically what (young) tourists probably expect from inner-city Irish bars. It felt – and I’m imagining here because I’ve never been – like a cold, wet, Catholic and white-skinned native version of Bali. A lone acoustic guitarist was playing quality cover music within Fitzsimons, so I requested The Man Who Sold The World, by Nirvana. Told him I couldn’t remember who originally came up with the tune. He replied “David Bowie”, but qualified that he preferred the ill-fated grunge rockers’ version. Outside, during a cigarette, an older woman borrowed my lighter and told me I looked grumpy. This startled me, as I felt quite happy. I suppose my resting facial expression appears displeased. On top of her advanced age, I found her unattractive, so if her criticism was an attempt at flirtation it certainly fell flat. I thought I might have looked to her like the younger doppelganger of an old flame or even husband of hers who had ditched her for a younger model. Who knows. While open to companionship, I was quite enjoying my solitude so found instant solace in returning to the streets for the about 30 minute walk through banally beautiful yellow lamp lit streets back to the hostel, north across the Liffey. I realised that the absence of solo or small groups of men and women around my own age at that time, and at that hostel, was due to Christmas being less than a week away.
I’d later find out my father, particularly, was disappointed at my promised absence from Christmas with the family for the first time. Even if I can’t help somewhat regretting that, I don’t regret the choice I’d made. If I’d returned home at the time I originally planned before leaving my own shores, I would never have even seen Brighton and London, much less Dublin and Edinburgh – which would have been a shame I might never even have known, and indeed, gloriously, did not. So besides the very rare lonesome traveller, myself included, other people staying at the hostel tended to consist exclusively of large groups of French university students and fat, older, lone transient men of vague purpose. Many of the female French students were very cute, yet snobby. This was something I’d become used to. If you can’t speak French, or have not at least visited the country, it doesn’t matter where in the world you come across a French person: they are likely to be dismissive of you. It’s a backhanded compliment to them, really: if you haven’t bothered to learn their language, or at least visit their country, they assume you’re ignorant – until of course you manage to prove to them that you have consumed some forms of French culture. Which I deem fair enough. I wished one of the young women a safe trip home while outside smoking that evening. She didn’t return the sentiment. And, naturally, some fat old guy in my dorm room kept me up most of that night with his chainsaw-like snoring – while dear Dublin dreamt of smooth Guinness and fair-skinned Irish maidens, outside. Everything (except of course the weather) would be better in the morning.