Ireland – October 2014

These days I find myself with “virtual friends”, met online but never seen, and known only in a fragmentary fashion, often shorn of appearance or biography. Ah, the hell with that

This last weekend Her Indoors and I took ourselves to Kilkenny so that I might meet for the first time Mark and Adrienne Turner, founders of Marble City Publishing, who these days put up with the likes of me. We’d never been to Kilkenny but it’s a pretty city and the people are all strikingly friendly as seems to be common to the Irish, who, if they like your hat, will tell you so. They like my hat. I could warm to them.

A couple of years ago I’d lost heart with writing, having better things to do with my time (Having Fun being high among them), but Mark’s interest in and serious commitment of time and money to my work revived my enthusiasm. I’m grateful for that. I don’t resent being indebted to other people; indeed I rather like it because it reminds me of our connectedness and that I have good reason to be modest about anything I’ve achieved. However it’s a plus if one is grateful to people one actually likes. My wife and I took to Mark and Adrienne right away. So thanks.

After Kilkenny we went to Dublin, where we stayed at the City Hotel close to Parnell Square, a warren of dead ends and stray staircases but perfectly comfortable. Again we had a taste of the Irish way of things when a whimsical old fellow announced that he was the owner of the hotel and asked me very pleasantly how much it would cost to decorate a room.

That first night we wandered to the Temple Bar area where a Big Band was advertised at the Merchant House Hotel. It was a good gig.  The Hot House band had their act together and a bright powerful sound. The audience were very good natured and people spoke to us even though we were strangers. First however, we were wandering through Temple Bar, where a small group was busking rock ‘n roll to an enthusiastic crowd and a couple of young people danced a while and an old geezer gave a song. Things had quietened down when they struck up a Johnny Cash number, and so Her Indoors and I thought “sod it” and strutted our stuff for our own enjoyment and the entertainment of the multitude.

On the Tuesday we went to the Botanic Gardens to see a sculpture exhibition (excellent) and then took a bus into town. There, on Eden Quay, we went to the Theatre Upstairs, a small fringe venue above Lanigans’ Bar, where for ten Euros you get a bowl of soup and a short play in front of a student audience. Today we saw Mavericks, a funny and well-written piece that was put on by two charming and talented young people, Rebecca Grimes and David Fennelly, who deserve to succeed if anyone does, as does David Farrell who co-wrote the piece with Rebecca. If you enjoy the Edinburgh Fringe, you will love this experience – indeed it was altogether better than most small Fringe plays. Afterwards we pushed on to the National Gallery which is under repair. It has a small but very nice collection and is worth a visit.

On the subject of Irish manners, we were taking coffee in the National Gallery when a total stranger informed us that he and his missus had admired our dancing in the street the previous evening. He was Asian and his wife was Romanian, but I think this Irish thing may be catching. As we were leaving a young woman wondered if we would complete a questionnaire, and being of an amiable turn, we agreed. We gave the responses and at the end she asked for the age bracket in which we fell. “Over 65”, we said, truthfully enough, but to her apparent astonishment. “No!” quoth she. “But you look amazing!”  What is it with these people?

On our last day we went to the City Gallery, which we can also recommend for its excellent French and Irish paintings. From there we went to the airport.  In Terminal 1 we embarked on the usual Death March to find our gate, following repeated signs showing the way to Gates 101 to 121.

We found Gate 102.

Bugger! Where’s Gate 101?

We set about returning to locate the overlooked gate, a bleak prospect of long corridors and miles of travelators.  But I am puzzled. When I look out of the window I see no sign of a plane or a pier where Gate 101 should be. Finally Her Indoors collars a passing cleaner and asks for directions. “Ah sure,” says the cleaner. “The signs have got it wrong. There is no Gate 101. There’s no Gate 121 either.”

You heard it here first. Dublin Airport has two phantom gates and nobody has bothered to change the signs. In their defence I might note that this doesn’t cause a problem because, obviously, no one is directed to board at the non-existent gates. The only people who are aware of the anomaly are deaf idiots who mishear or forget the gate number. I am that deaf idiot.

And that was Ireland.

11-15 October 2014