I came across a piece of music recently which just astonished me. Beck had taken one of my favourite songs, David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” and, with a broad cast of characters, dismantled the familiar and recast it into something very new and very strange.
For me, the joy of this is in seeing something suddenly alien, something with so many moving parts and so many different voices, slowly focus itself, like a clockwork of lenses, into something familiar and still very weird and then, just as you think you understand, it drifts away again.
One of my favourite people, my friend Amelia Conophy, asked me if I’d like to write something for her #MyFavouriteMeetingPlace campaign. I thought of a night lately when I met my friend Síle in Dublin.
I love Dublin. I don’t get there as often as I’d like but it never lets me down when I do visit. I like that Dublin is, in essence, a collection of villages which back onto each other and – just like everywhere in Ireland – you’ll almost always meet someone you know or someone who knows someone you know.
A sunny six o’clock outside Trinity, with hundreds of people milling about and the city feels warm and alive. It’s not long since we passed the Marriage Equality referendum so decisively and I’m almost certain I’m not imagining that everyone seems just a little bit happier, just a little bit friendlier. So many different people, so many different voices, all moving in and out of focus, all moving parts that make the life of the city.
I hug Síle – we haven’t seen each other in a year and she’s one of those friends where the conversation always picks up as though you had last spoken an hour ago – and she spots that I have in my hand Liz Nugent‘s “Unravelling Oliver”. As we walk through the crowds on Dame Street, Síle says “Isn’t Barney just the nicest person you ever met?” I instantly reply “I know! But Eugene just broke my heart. The poor man.” And then we laugh, because we’re not actually completely without self-awareness. But it’s that good a book, by the way. Liz’s characters are utterly real and they stay with you long after you manage the difficult task of putting the book down.
The pavement is busier than the road as we cross by the Thomas Davis statue and head for the forecourt of the Central Bank. People sit around the street furniture as office workers hurry past in the sunshine. A few bored skateboarders slap their boards off the ground and outside the Foggy Dew there’s the obligatory pair of teenage Goth girls pretending they don’t care that nobody is paying them a blind bit of notice.
Dame Street is now roaring with traffic as we turn down to the relative quiet and cobblestones of Crow Street and stop at number five, Il Vicoletto. We’re made to feel like celebrities by the staff and we enjoy a delicious and very special three-course early bird which sets us back €25 a head and leaves us stuffed. There may also be wine involved.
An hour or more later, we leave Il Vicoletto. From there, maybe we’ll head for a show or a drink. That’s the thing about Dublin. There’s always something to do of an evening in a city of so many moving parts, so many different voices. It’s a clockwork of people, all moving in and out of focus. I can’t wait till the next time I get back there and catch up with friends old and new.
A friend of mine recently complained about all the outdoor seating and various furniture clogging up the footpaths in Cork, exclaiming “Would they stop pretending we’re France!”. I love sitting outside, that’s for sure, but my favourite meeting place in Ireland is the Mutton Lane Inn in the middle of the day.
I recently spent a lovely afternoon chatting with my great friend Anne-Marie in the Mutton. What a fantastic pub that is.