“Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.” ― James Joyce, Ulysees
SO the delayed pandemic family weddings finally happened and all in the same week. I’m just back from the Dublin love fest and the beauty and joy around it was infectious. Cousins came from around the world, aunties gossiped relentlessly and a shining young couple lived their dream. It was Bloomsday and sure where would you be only in the middle of what we used to call Dirty Dublin.
Dublin was hot in more ways than one as temperatures soared and the inner city throbbed with tourists. There was an excitement to being right in the centre of the many Ulysses locations and this wedding took place in the historic City Hall.
Once the financial headquarters of the city, City Hall is a magnificent building. I remembered hearing that it was occupied by Irish forces, including the great Kathleen Lynn, during the finale of the War of Independence. It is a stunning example of a rotunda or domed building with huge columns holding up its glass roof. I always feel very proud of our young state whenever I visit it, and I recommend more people to experience the beauty of that building.
But while the city centre is full of tourists, the centre of Dublin is not all sweetness and light. The apartment/ hotel that the extended family was staying in was akin to Fort Knox. We soon realised that with 10,000 Irish people now homeless, the streets of Dublin are important sleeping spots for some of them. Is that why the hotel was so well guarded and impenetrable? Cards were required for every door, lift and corridor access. It certainly felt like we were amongst the privileged few being in Dublin for craic when we saw what was going on around us.
From our window onto the Liffey, we could see the boardwalk, a favourite spot for rough sleepers gathering in the evenings. Someone pointed out to me that there are rough sleepers everywhere now, “Just think of Barcelona, Paris, New York?”
Yes that’s true but I am still shocked that our country, our cities, our towns, have openly homeless people hunkering down for the night in doorways and on benches. The catastrophe of young people living with Mam and Dad is only the tip of the iceberg where housing need is concerned. There are others who live in the centre of Dublin night and day, month on month, year on year. It was heart-breaking to see.
We moved around quite a bit over a few days, experiencing for the first time in years the long slow commutes that Dubliners live with. The M50 was a huge car park of slow moving traffic, huge trucks and SUVs. Ireland is totally car centred and yet in Dublin, every time we arrived somewhere there was literally nowhere to park.
My family grew weary of my shock and horror of how long it takes to get anywhere, the constant driving, the fumes, the noise. I also got to wondering why there were so many bike lanes because I could count on my two hands the number of cyclists I ever saw using them. Out towards Sandycove and the “snot green sea” (Chapter 1, Ulysses) we got away from the inner city and enjoyed the Bloomsday vibe with the posh sea swimmers. Away from the horror of the traffic, leafy suburbs exist but even to visit folks in the suburbs, parking fees must be paid.
Then I got a major surprise when the young couple of the day, two highly qualified and fully employed people announced that they were looking at houses in Waterford! Over the years I always got the impression that Dubliners have no idea that Waterford even exists! I’ve yet to get to the bottom of what the attraction is for them but of course the freedom of working from home has changed everything.
I’m hopping online now and looking out for dream properties for the happy couple. They intend to make a trip soon to suss it out for themselves. Those of us who live here know that Waterford is all about the lifestyle and while I don’t want to talk it up too much, I think they will absolutely love living here.
It’s always good to come home to the Déise no matter where you have been. I especially love to turn into our rural lane, to see the green fields stretching towards the Comeraghs and the light glinting on the little lake; off the beaten track, peaceful and lush.
Looks like we won’t be able to keep our beautiful county to ourselves for much longer.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com