Tag Archives: Trinity College

My Dublin is dozens of towns

Wooden Bridge at Bull Island

Wooden Bridge at Bull Island

Dublin made me.

There’s no doubt about it. It made wake up and grow up. It made me responsible, angry, happy, disillusioned, excited and proud – sometimes all at once.

I first came to the city at 17, as a student. My first night was spent (where else?) in a bar, Hartigan’s on Leeson Street, where I drank pints of Guinness with fellow first year students at Trinity College.

Back then, in an era before a proliferation of coffee shops, restaurants and gyms, the pub still reigned supreme as Dublin’s social hub. Over the years that would change, and so would I.

As I prepare to leave (not for the first time but likely for the longest) a spate of memories occur to me daily – of events, places and people.

I can’t pass Trinity College without thinking of the May evenings, which seemed endless then, spent outside the Ussher Library on breaks while studying for final exams.

James Street, Dublin

James Street, Dublin

Or the Phoenix Park without recalling the view over Kilmainham and along the Liffey, back to the city, that I’d encounter on mornings and afternoons when I’d jog around the Fifteen Acres and the Magazine Fort.

Or Talbot Street without remembering the 6am winter starts at the Evening Herald, where we worked furiously to get the first edition out by 9am.

Or, more recently, the long promenade running from The Sheds in Clontarf along the seafront to St Anne’s Park, as the sun shone over a high tide, across to Bull Island and the hill of Howth beyond.

More than 20 years after I first landed in Donagh MacDonagh’s “Dublin of old statutes, this arrogant city”, I’m departing. When I come back the city will have changed and I’ll be a stranger.

Or just more of a stranger, because the Dublin that I know is part 2016, part the emerging boomtown of 1995, part the battered crashtown of 2010 – and dozens of other towns in between.

I was never – and am still not –  quite sure which Dublin I lived in, which one lifted me and knocked me and lifted me again. The city has always been an amalgam, of the here-and now and the conversations I had over the years, the work I did, the people I met.

I don’t know Dublin and I don’t know anyone who can claim they do. But I know this town made me.
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‘I started to imagine another me somewhere’

Sky Mirror at Rockefeller Center, NYC Pic: Anish Kapoor

Sky Mirror at Rockefeller Center, NYC
Pic: Anish Kapoor

“Turning all this over in my mind, I started to imagine another me somewhere, sitting in a bar, nursing a whiskey, without a care in the world. The more I thought about it, the more that other me became the real me, making this me here not real at all.”

– Haruki Murakami, ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’

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So how are the other Cormac Looneys doing?

The one I left in my early 20s studying in the library at Trinity College? The one I last saw as he walked to La Taqueria in The Mission in 1998 to pick up dinner? The one who cursed the cold as he slipped half an hour behind while descending from the Zumsteinspitze in 2010?

They’re fixed in my memory, set in linear time.

But are they? Is each one where I left him, back there in my past? Did they move on too, just like this me did? How did their lives develop? Are they happy? Are they alive?

They exist – if you believe (or understand) the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. This concept suggests that multiple versions of me exist, living an infinite number of  lives, succeeding and failing, living and dying, in parallel with the Cormac Looney who is currently typing these words on a screen.

pic1Each version of me that I can recall (in fact, an infinite number – more than I can comprehend) lives on, as an alternative me. The me that walked to the taqueria is as real as the me who didn’t and who is typing these words.

This begs an unsettling question. As Murakami’s character asks, which one of these is the ‘real me’? Is the ‘real me’ somewhere else, and the me existing here in Dublin in 2015 just a quantum shadow? Does a ‘real me’ exist? Can a ‘real me’ exist?

Am I the total of an infinite number of Cormac Looneys, all bar one of which I will never be aware of? Am I universal? Am I immortal (given that at any given moment I can both die and not die)?

This is all possible, indeed it’s scientifically undeniable.

But one final piece of the jigsaw remains, without which the mind-bending wonder of many worlds remains just an almighty cosmic tease.

How can I be aware of these other me’s?

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My one-off culture diet? It was mainly Bacon

Stepping out. Art installation, O'Connell Street, Dublin. Pic: Lisa Jarvis

Stepping out. Art installation, O’Connell Street.
Pic: Lisa Jarvis

I WONDER what the Dublin I came to as a young student in the 1990s would have made of Culture Night.

The city of 1995 had a different attitude to public displays of culture than nowadays.

It was a town where you didn’t stroll around Smithfield at night; if you did you weren’t seeking out an exhibition space.

Culture may have been abundant but it certainly wasn’t public. Or at least I don’t remember it that way, unless you counted the raggle taggle leftovers busking their way to obscurity on Grafton Street.

The idea of 190 venues throwing open their doors to all and any comers for the night was unheard of. Maybe that happened in New York but not in pre-Celtic Tiger Dublin.

I mean, who’d go to the pubs then?

Maybe I did wander into a gallery from time to time back, if only to warm up my shivering student bones in winter.

When I hit the town in those days it was usually to the Mean Fiddler or the Buttery Bar in Trinity College with whatever student cash I could muster.

Times change, of course. The arrival of the Celtic Tiger meant some parts of the city were cleaned up, if not completely rebuilt.

Places like Smithfield were now, at the very least, lit up at night, meaning a trip to the The Cobblestone didn’t involve an encounter with wallet-grabbing youths.

I moved on likewise. One too many Mark E. Smith shows can have that effect.

So did Dublin.

Upwards of 160,000 people turned out on Culture Night last year, we’re told.

If you walk around the city centre next Friday night you’ll encounter many of these people again, outnumbering the usual nightly mix of tourists, pub-goers, shift workers and the homeless.

I joined the Culture Night hordes for the first – and only – time in 2010, when a date and I visited, among other venues, the Hugh Lane Gallery.

bacon

A taste of culture…and romance. Francis Bacon’s Three Studies.
Pic: Tate, London

I nervously tried to impress her as we chatted beneath the gut-wrenching violence of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies For Figures At The Base Of A Crucifixion.

There are more romantic places to hold such conversations I’m sure.

I haven’t stepped out on Culture Night since.

The event has obviously gone from strength to strength in my absence though. This year will see a concert orchestra perform in Meeting House Square, an event which risks being upstaged (in my mind at least) by a clown choir in Blanchardstown.

There’s food in The Church, or of tea at the house of The Dead, among dozens of other options.

Throw in standing in the rain for a Nightlink bus and you’ve covered about everything Friday night Dublin has to offer.

As for me I’d planned to hit the Culture Night trail again last year but it clashed with another major event – I was getting married that day.

And the girl who stood beneath the Bacon that night?

She was my bride.

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