A whistle-stop tour of Dublin
I’m not entirely convinced that writer’s block exist, or at least I’m yet to have the misfortunate of experience it.
Nevertheless, if it does exist, I may have found the cure: a certain city called Dublin on the emerald isle of obstinacy.
The capital of Ireland is a well of ideas. It brims with inspiration and overflows with an encouragement of expression. My brother, Nath, and I enjoyed a three-day whistle-stop tour sandwiched around a Noel Gallagher concert at Malahide Castle this past weekend. I came away with a notebook full of ideas and a rejuvenated determination to create.
Dublin is a city without inhibition. What you see is what you get. Nothing more, nothing less. Its people are staunchly unapologetic. They simply do not care what you think of them. They derive pride from within and find happiness in their surroundings. Dubliners do not rely on anybody but themselves, and they will fearlessly display that hard-nosed independence in any aspect of life you may care to mention.
We found it firstly in the music. Dublin has a lyrical heartbeat, an incessant drone of mawkish introspection. Nath spotted Tom Ogden, lead singer of Blossoms, in the famous Temple Bar, and he was happy to chat for a while like any ordinary person. Such is the expressionist vibe and thoughtful cajolement of Dublin.
Every street has a pub, and every pub has a live band. We heard some awful covers and some brilliant folk songs, but the content of such music is inferior to the feeling of unity, positivity and freedom it engenders in those present.
Standing in one dingy bar, partaking in a chaotic knees-up of shouting and stamping and singing, it struck me that Dublin is a city of grand insouciance. Live your life and let it all hang out. What’s the worst that can happen?
That stoic nonchalance can be seen as a manifestation of political, religious and historic upheaval, of course, but commenting on such a clashing confluence of ideals is beyond my kin. All I know is that, during our flying visit to Dublin, its inhabitants were welcoming if stern, accommodating if austere. They take no shit, and that can be a good thing.
Nath and I also encountered the staid equanimity of Dublin in its literature, so abundant and rewarding. The Sunday of our visit coincided with Bloomsday, the annual celebration of James Joyce’s life in general and his Ulysses in particular. Nath and I marked the occasion by visiting the Dublin Writers Museum, an inspiring trove of original manuscripts and thought-provoking trinkets.
It was an introvert’s paradise, full of prompts and encouragements to write, create, share and defend your values. I was struck by the brave iconoclasm of so many great writers, from Wilde and Yeats to Joyce, Swift, Beckett, Heaney and beyond. Their fearless toil jived with my individualist awakening, motivating me to write, write and write some more. To hell with popular opinion and whatever people think. Do your thing and do it well. The rest will fall into place.
After a quick jaunt around the Guinness Storehouse, we made our way to Malahide for the concert. We missed the DMA’s, but managed to catch Blossoms and Doves before Noel brought the curtain down. His performance was good, featuring a fine blend of solo stuff and Oasis numbers, but the whole act teeters on the brink of heritage status these days. It’s all a bit clinical, contrived and static. It’s all a bit U2.
Nevertheless, watching Noel Gallagher sing Don’t Look Back in Anger from the front row of a monumental crowd was a special moment. It’s one of those bucket list entries that just has to be completed.
Our final day in Dublin was consumed by further explorations of Irish writing, a reliable vehicle for individual conviction. Nath and I found an antiquated bookshop nestled in the city centre on our way to the airport. I bought a copy of Ulysses, my kind of souvenir, and became entwined in conversation with the shopkeeper.
“Where are you from, lads?” he asked.
“Wirral,” I replied, resigned to the impending delivery of another peninsula geography lesson.
“Oh, brilliant!” he barked excitedly. “I have family there, my sister lives in Moreton.”
After exchanging pleasantries about West Kirby and Bromborough, Leasowe and New Brighton, our thoughts turned to football, as they always seem to do.
“So, who are you supporting, lads? Liverpool or Everton?” asked the bookseller.
“Tranmere,” we replied in unison, a defensive reflex formed through years of football-based ridicule.
“Oh, fantastic!” came the reply. “My uncle supported Tranmere. He always said, ‘If you want to see a good team, follow the Rovers, not that overpaid shower across the water.’”
Pleasantly surprised, I unveiled my standard party trick of shoehorning Tranmere Rovers into any conversation at any point in any company. We talked about John Aldridge, Jason McAteer and other famous Irishmen to wear the Tranmere shirt. The bookseller told us more about his uncle, a shipwright working out of Cammell Laird during its zenith.
“So you’re going to Prenton Park, lads? I’m so pleased to meet you.” he declared.
“Tell me, did you get that promotion in the end? I was following but didn’t catch the result.”
Like Prentonian missionaries, we declared our famous victory over Newport, recreating in a forgotten bookshop far, far away the extraordinary sequence of events that led to Connor Jennings’ 119thminute winner.
“Oh, I am delighted!" our newest convert concluded. "That is fantastic.”
Merseyside and Dublin share very strong links. One study estimated that almost three quarters of Liverpool’s population has Irish genealogy. The region’s dockyard pomp and industrial growth had a distinctly Irish flavour as mass migration to Merseyside enriched our local culture. There was a shared kinship with that bookseller, and it warmed the heart.
“Come on the Rovers, go and get it!” he yelled as we left the shop with a handshake.
Such is the goodwill towards Tranmere Rovers around the world. Such is the refreshingly simplistic nature of Irish happiness.
Joy can be found in the most innocent detail, and Dublin masters the art.