Tuesday, January 16, 2007

dirty old town

I now have a bike. Frank, the kind, all seeing, all knowing mechanic up the street from where I'm staying has loaned me a 50 year old bike, which has been sitting in a shed unused for about 15 years. It is fairly similar to the Swiss Army bikes banging about Europe around World War II and weighs a tonne. Frank said he thought it wasn't as cool as most modern bikes (I hear functional breaks are in this season), but I said it was perfect. This means I get to see a whole lot more Dublin in a smaller time frame. Now, if i can avoid getting the tyres stuck in the wet tram tracks again (like I did today), which almost resulted in total sterility and loss of teeth.

A port city, Dublin's docklands remind me a bit of what Port Adelaide has so desperately wanted to be for the last 15 years, but never got around to being. There's a lot of gentrification going on, with new buildings engulfing the grotty dirty areas, replacing the boons with glass walled apartment buildings and deserted frappuccino cafes. There is a part that reminded me a bit of Helsinki, but other than the red bricks and a copper green roof, the building and surrounding area is completely different. Little pockets of filth, old brick warehouses and caravan toting warfies still loiter here and there to remind visitors that it probably wasn't a good place to walk around 5 years ago. It's as if a bunch of people decided to have a big money fight, throwing cash around rather than glassing one another, sprucing up the joint and takling Dublin's housing shortage in the process.

In a back area of the docks, I rode by a caravan to take this photo. As I passed it, a gust of wind flung its door open. I didn't think much of it, but when I pulled up about 5 metres from the van, its pikey inhabitant came out and started saying something, which I initially took as a serving about the door. However, after a series of hand gestures and a couple of discernible words, I worked out he was only giving me directions and not the serving I had assumed i was getting. It such a weird feeling to see the contradiction at play with this guy. Here he was, in a dirty old caravan with missing teeth and limited life prospects, parked next to U2's dockland development. All power to Bongo for poncing around the world getting honorary knighthoods and meeting Peter Costello, drawing attention to whatever worthy cause he's adopted this week. But fuck mate, try throwing some of those tax free Euros at the issues that are quite literally at your own doorstep for a change.

Apart from the Messiah status bestowed upon U2 ( I do like them, but sweet jezis they're a pop band), I'm really enjoying Dublin. I've had the umbilical of Australian familiarity found in London cut and I'm back to travelling. Sort of. I'm staying with Al and Clair, two Irish girls who work for a fancy media company here in Dublin. Their place is pretty much around the corner from the central bit of town and they have been cool people to hang out and stay with. Through them I've met a variety of great people, some of which have encouraged the more impulsive side of my character. I've also had the ability to mix it up with the locals a bit more. Speaking the language has certainly made this place, with the ability of striking up a conversation with anyone a big plus. A constant source of amusement has been the "so when did Shane MacGowan pass out at the gig you saw" conversation, with most people having a story. And if you were wondering, it was about 25 minutes from the end and the band kept playing as if nothing had happened.

I'm currently hunting for a book which I have bought twice, giving it to other people. Now that I stand on the edge of actually doing what the book talks about myself, it's out of print and I can't get it anywhere. Arse. Today, I walked into a bookshop and quickly drew a blank on the book search. However, through the magic of a common language, I talked books, travel and life in Ireland with the Oshima-esq Sydney-sider sales assistant, who, between smoking, serving customers and wearing black recommended a good pub (I was there with Gabriel Byrne the other night and they still don't serve Guinness) and an even better bookshop (And you thought this joint was the land ISBN forgot).

At the other bookshop (still no book), I chatted to the guy about bikes and travel for about 20 minutes. He told me about his Irish riding adventures during the 70s and about a mate of his who had been skittled by a semi-trailer in London recently. She had been messed up pretty badly and died at the scene, nasty stuff and he was still upset about it. When I asked him if she enjoyed riding her bike, he said she loved it and she had always riden a bike for as long as they knew each other. I reassured him that she died doing what she loved and thet he shouldn't feel too down about it. As I was saying this, I realised that if I was ever killed while riding a bike, I would want people to think of me in that way.

Listening to a lot of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. A band listed as "post-rock" on the genre chart, they feature epic 20 mintue long songs perfect for chilling out at home on a cold night. Tomorrow I head down to Kilkenny to meet Marie, a distant relative on my mum's side. I haven't quite worked out the link yet.. Maybe mum (or even Marie) can leave a comment spelling out the connection.

I forgot to mention in the last post about how the Polish midget I met on the airport bus mixed up her words a few times, saying how she enjoyed having an "Irish whiskey and cock" after dinner on a cold night. I tried to tell her that any stiff drink after a meal was good for digestion, but couldn't becasue I was too busy giggling like a school girl.


ElmoreGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kathyb said...

Hi Dan
As usual your photography is wonderful. Great composition, contrast and clarity.

You seem to be having a great time and always seem to be positive about your experiences.
Ed and I are off to Helsinki for a few days on Monday and I hope I too can adopt your enthusiastic passionate approach

All the best


ElmoreGirl said...

Hi Dan...
Marie is a distant cousin to you. One of her great grandparents and one of mine were from the same family. My ancestor Johanna migrated to Oz, and married and had several children, one of whom was my grandfather. Johanna's brother stayed in Ireland and had his own family, and Marie's father was his grandchild. I had an email from Marie on 16/1/07. She is looking forward to meeting you.

As to Shane McGowan's antics : Hector's daughter was at a Pogues gig at the Old Lion, when Shane threw up on stage, and some of it landed on her. An unforgettable experience. I think that it was in 1991, or 92.
Cheers for now,