Trouble in bubblin’ Dubbelin

The trouble with Dublin is the women scare me and the men drive me round the bend on a regular basis. It’s got fog that’s wetter than rain and the city reeks of burnt barley. The community is incestuous and has its own cultural maffia. It’s somehow both backward and too far ahead of itself. It accepts the filthy Corrs in its midst. When it stings, it stings you bad and when it asks for money, you end up broke.

But when it soothes, you don’t want it to end.

Perfect. That’s how I’d describe our little visit to Dublin last week. So perfect that coming home – normally a thing of beauty – pales in comparison and I’m having a hard time getting back into my groove.

Mr Hg and I flew in just before noon on Thursday. We checked into the Central Hotel on Exchequer Street. We grabbed excellent pub lunch (roast chicken & chips) at Davy Byrne’s and tried a new stout (Guinness Brew 39. Our verdict: watery, bland.). Got caffeined up at the Avoca cafĂ©. Then saw Hazel O’Connor belt out a few old ones and a few new ones at Tower Records, hooked up with a friend on the spot, chatted with Ms O’Connor about mutual acquaintances and then sauntered down to the O’Reilly Theatre for Consigliere Friday’s outing with the Crash Ensemble and Gavin Bryars. Which was very, very good. Except for Bryars’ Jesus Blood Never Failed Me, which I’ve always detested. Die, tramp, die.

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In Glencolmcille (III)

(part I) (part II)

Seamus is a big elderly American of Irish descent. He is in level 2. Of course he takes the car to drive around the corner to go shopping. On the third day he has a puncture. One of the locals helps him out. In the shop I hear him, his voice booming, ask the shopkeeper how to thank his benefactor. ‘So what would he like? Shall I buy him a bottle of whiskey?‘ The shopkeeper and his son don’t say much. ‘He doesn’t drink,’ their answer is barely audible. ‘Well how about a box of chocolates?‘ Shoulders are shrugged. ‘Well, should I give him money? How much would be appropriate?‘ Seamus is at a loss. He doesn’t understand that you don’t talk about such things. His best bet would have been to pay the man a visit, and quietly leave a small present on the table.

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Seamus takes Birgitta and myself for a drive around the area. We go up Bun Glas, a pass over the mountains. It is a scary drive, the fog is out and thick as peasoup. On the summit you’re supposed to have a beautiful view of the cliffs of Slieve League. But today we can hardly see the back of our hands. Seamus takes pictures of everything he sees. Even the fog doesn’t escape from his viewer. ‘I brought plenty of film, so I can show the folks at home.‘ His wife did not want to come along. Later in the Rusty Mackerel in Teelin – a famous pub the heart of the Gaeltacht – he starts telling us about how he used to beat his children. He didn’t know any better, he says, his father used to beat him too, and the nuns were no better. He confesses some more. Both Birgitta and I feel a little embarrassed. We feel we’ve just arrived in an Oprah Winfrey show. We’re not used to this American frankness. On the way back he asks us what language we speak in our countries. Dutch and Swedish, of course. ‘And do you speak it well, with your parents?’ He thinks the entire world speaks English. A few days later we take him along to see a formation of three pre-Celtic passage graves. When the sun sets, the light shines through the openings of the three graves. ‘Is that a fort?‘ he asks. ‘It’s a grave. Two thousand b.c., Seamus!‘ ‘Oh really?‘ he says and takes a picture. Then he’s off. Pre celtic times don’t mean much to someone whose own constitution’s just a quarter of a century old.

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