Category Archives: Dublin

Big City Girl

Well, I promised you this post in the end of my last post, and I am not one to go back on my promises. I know that many of you have been waiting for said post with baited breath, almost as excited as you were when you had pre-ordered your Harry Potters from Dymocks, and it was the night before you could go and pick it up (shhh… don’t ruin my fantasy about how important my blog is in your life).
This post is dedicated to big city living and all the wonderful things you can do when you live in a city with a population that goes into 7 figures. There is a song, that some of you may remember from your years of watching Playschool, in which the singers alternately list the good things about living in the city and the country.

Living in the country is nice and peaceful, 
Living in the country is fun… etc.

As far as I’m concerned at the moment, they could have saved themselves the time and effort in writing the country verses and just focused on all the wonderful things that the kiddies could look forward to once they had moved to a great big metropolis. I used to have this little dream, which was that if ‘life’ ever got too much for me, if I ever wanted to give up on the acting and the rat race and all the rest of it, I would buy myself a little cottage in the hills somewhere, buy a collection of floral moo-moos, and spend the rest of my days baking (and eating the proceeds of said cooking). If it all got too much, I would just give up on it all and head for the hills, because, I was certain, that would be much more enjoyable and stress-free. Looking back on it, to a certain extent, that is what I did for the past year. I tried to stay fit and eat healthily, but every time I did, there was voice in the back of my head going, ‘Well, what’s the point anyway? No-one’s going to see you.’ Turns out heading to the hills is just as hard, and, in some ways, harder, because it took me away from everything I really loved and cared about. Most things became much harder to achieve.
In the past two weeks I have started swimming again (joy of all joys!), gone to spinning classes (which I never knew I liked before!), started kettlebell classes (which I never knew I didn’t like before…), broken my violin, and had it fixed the very next day, walked absolutely EVERYWHERE I have needed to go, bought ‘ethnic’ food from an ‘ethnic’ supermarket and many other things. I think the most exciting feeling though is just looking at all the people and all the buildings and the hustle and bustle, and just hearing the possibilities everywhere! All these people who are living their lives, they may be future friends, future partners, future colleagues! Who knows what things might go on in all those buildings in the next day, the next week, the next month? Possibility, possibility, possibility! That’s what seems to be screaming out of a city. Its exciting, and, more than that, its comforting. If there’s something going on, chances are its going to be going on somewhere near you.
Some of the other things I have done in the last two weeks:
1) Attended a Performance Artists Network’s 4 hour showing of performance art. This is not something I would normally have attended, even back home in Australia. But, as I have very few friends here, so consequently few social engagements, I have been attending anything and everything that is at all relevant to my interests. Some of these performances were very interesting. I don’t feel I have the required performance language to understand what was going on. There was a man lying on the floor, picking up grains of brown rice one at a time and putting them into his ear. There was a woman wrapped in white gauzy stuff and walking around the room. There was a very tall man standing in a room with a black hood over his head, holding a microphone. There was a man talking about time, who also had a sock puppet friend that seemed to what to feel him up as they were performing. I only managed to stay for an hour. Not because I didn’t find it interesting, but because I had no one to discuss the things with. But, also because I didn’t feel like I could fully understand everything. Its like my brain can only handle so much metaphor and symbolism before it overloads and ceases to function. So, the metaphor and symbolism in a David Hare play is do-able, as is a Stoppard play or Beckett play. Something like a Sarah Kane is pushing my limit, but I can stand it, as long as the production is good and I have people to help me afterwards. But, once it gets out of even an attempt at a narrative I start feeling like I often do in my real life: ‘But what does it mean? Which things are significant? Should I look here or there? Is it good or not? Am I enjoying it or not?’ I get very confused. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I just left feeling like I possibly had missed out on many messages. I did see one thing I liked, and seemed to be able to interpret. It was a man, and he had a pile of papers which looked like blanked out government files, and he would burn then, whilst holding a picture of a victim from a foreign war, and then throw it on the floor. I felt like it meant that these people were nameless to us, covered up, destroyed, in their physical state by the war, and in memory or history by being censored. That was my reading anyway.
2) I went to an event in a beautiful bookstore called, ‘The Winding Stair’, that was in honour of al-Mutanabbi Street, which is/was a famous street in the book selling district of Baghdad, which was blown up by a suicide bomb 5 years ago. A movement was started in San Francisco by artists and writers to create 3 books each, to symbolically replace the books that were destroyed. I am uncertain of the philosophy behind this symbolic gesture, but, nevertheless, it was an interesting event to attend. There were many people there from the Iraqi community, though mostly men. A female Iraqi poet read a poem about her composer father, whilst they played some music of his underneath. It was intriguing. An Iraqi men did a short (15 minute) performance about his move to Ireland, which was absolutely beautiful. So simple, so short, but incredibly powerful. I was in tears, and went and thanked him afterwards.
3) I saw a performance of a play in Irish. Now, before you get too excited, I haven’t learnt Irish in my time here, nor have I miraculously soaked up the language from being around Irish people. In fact, I know a shockingly small amount of Irish. I know the word for good-bye, for prime minister, for parliament, and, that honestly is about it. I consistently mispronounce the simplest of words (to the delight of my Irish friends, I’ve found). But, this play had a simultaneous translation (via headphones) into English. I had hoped to hear more of the Irish, but it was difficult to concentrate on the story being told in English and listen to the sound of the Irish at the same time. I got better at it by the end, and it was certainly an interesting cultural experience.
4) I went back to Cork and saw a film at the French Film Festival and went to a stand-up comedy gig, just to prove that Dublin does not have the monopoly on cool big city things that you can do. The film was wonderfully fun and silly, the follow-up to the Lebanese director and actor, Nadine Labaki’s film ‘Caramel’ from 2008 (another fabulous film – go see it), and also had a very serious message, which no-one could argue with, even if it became a viral video on Facebook: be more tolerant of religious difference. 
5) This evening, I went to an event called ‘Milk & Cookies’, which is a storytelling night held in Dublin, where they actually give you milk and cookies as well as cupcakes and chocolate slice. Of course, me being me, I stood up and read a story, which, for the full Dublin experience, you can read here: http://iwrotesomestories.blogspot.com/2012/03/molly.html In a new town, meeting new people, some people go to the local pub, some go to community centres, some join sporting clubs. I, go to open-mic nights, and if they laugh at my stories, or compliment me afterwards, I somehow feel accepted and happy with myself. It was a very fun night with lots of weird and wonderful stories. I was, intriguingly, the only woman, out of a 2 hour night of stories to get up and read. This was not for want of women in the room (one girl did get up and read, but read a friend’s story, not her own, though she did a very good reading, I have to say). I don’t know if it was that night in particular, or if it is common theme, but I was intrigued. I wonder if it was because, like the girl sitting next to me, most of the women were too terrified by the thought of standing up in front of a group of people and telling a story. But, there are many more actresses out there than actors, so it can’t be performing per se that is the problem. I don’t know. Maybe I should go to a few more of the events before I start making judgements. It was a wonderful night full of crazy wonderful stories, many of them with strange connections to Sydney. One was about 3 Irish brothers who ended up in Newtown, another was about Gilgamesh (whose statue, confusingly, graced the grounds of the University of Sydney), one involved a description of a house that was ‘as big as the Sydney Opera House.’ A girl told me after my story that it was wonderful, but that because my accent was ‘class’, she could have listened to me talk for hours no matter what I was saying. That was quite amusing. Usually I’m the one telling others that.

Carrie Bradshaw. Not an accurate depiction of my life in Dublin. But, I do love that jacket.

Anyway, that’s a taste of my new life in the big smoke. I’m off to the bigger smoke (again) on Saturday, when I head off to London. One might ponder why I am heading to London on St. Patrick’s Day, but that is a story for another post, another time.

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Howth

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging recently. Not actually blogging, but just thinking about it. Abou what makes good blogging. You see, I was displeased with the quality of the last post, because I was rushing it, and writing in an internet cafe surrounded by yucky boys playing internet games, neither of which is productive to my abilities to write amusing blog posts, apparently. Yes, I get more displeased about the quality of my blog posts, which I don’t get paid for, and that only my friends and family read, than I do about… other things that I should potentially care about more.
Yes. Good. I’m not in an internet cafe, by the way, I just didn’t think that thought through before I wrote it down.
Anyway, after mulling for many hours over my less-than-impressive blog post, I came to a decision, which is that I must pick a topic and stick to it, instead of writing long rambling posts that sort of go, ‘And then I did this, and then I felt that, and then I saw this person, and none of it really makes any sense to me and… The End,’ because, apart from sounding like an 7 year old reporting back to her class about what she did on school holidays, I think I may be wearing out my welcome with the readers back home.
Yes, readers back home, I’m thinking of you. I’m always thinking of you. Promise.
And, after that incredibly long and NOT AT ALL RELEVANT introduction, I will tell you about Howth.
One of the lovely things about moving to Dublin (there are many, but I’m saving those thoughts for another post to be written later in the week about the joys of living in a big city… yes, stay on topic, Jenny), is that I have a brand new city to explore. Its like having the joy of traveling and yet staying in the comfort of your own place all wrapped into one. Its the best feeling, but only lasts for a few months, at the most, in a new place. So, whilst I knew where many of the important things were in Dublin (the Abbey Theatre, the Project Arts Centre, the Irish Film Institute, various music venues, the best place to buy cheesecake), I still had many things to explore. This is also good for my blogging, because, quite frankly, since I’ve stopped looking after the kiddies, the amount of things to write about each day seems to have dwindled. As frustrating and hard-work as they can be, at least children provide all sorts of possibilities for amusing self-reflection and nostalgia. Perhaps this is why there are so many TV shows based around them (‘Kids Say the Darndest Things,’ ‘Funniest Home Videos’, the feel-good section at the end of the local news). But, FOCUS, Jenny. Yes, a new city provides new places and things to write about. One of these places is Howth.
Here is Howth:

And here is also Howth:

     
Prettiness. Found at http://geodublin.com/day-trips/howth-village/

So, as I was saying in my last post, Dublin seems to be trying to make up for its bad impression on me back in 2011 by being ridiculously sunny and beautiful every single day forever and ever. It got to the point on Sunday that I was like, ‘Really? Another sunny day? But… but I’ve done all the sunny day activities I can possibly think of… what else could I possibly do? What did I used to do back home when it was sunny all the time?’ It was then that I remembered the advice of the kindly taxi driver who had gotten me to my British Visa appointment on time (not that it mattered in the end, but, oh, Jenny, just stop with the tangents and the parentheses!) He said that if it was a nice day, I should get a day ticket and go on the DART (the train) around the coast of Dublin Harbour, as it was very pretty. I decided that on Sunday I would follow this advice, as, everyone knows that, when traveling, you must always take the advice of local taxi drivers.
That’s a rule right? Yeah. Yeah, that’s a rule.
Because I couldn’t quite figure out how to get a day ticket right around Dublin Harbour, as my home is smack bang in the middle of the two ends of the harbour, I amended the taxi driver’s advice, and headed to one end, thinking that would give me something extra to explore another day. And, the end I settled on was Howth.
It was just delightful. Howth sticks out away from the mainland, in some sort of… thin peninsula, I guess its called? With, like, a knob on the end? I haven’t done geography since Year 8, don’t get all judge-y on me, just look at the map and you’ll see what I mean (yes, I could check Wikipedia, but I couldn’t be arsed, I have other things to do, like STAY ON TOPIC). There is also a hill behind Howth, which means, when you go up it, you get fantastic views all the way down the coast to the Wicklow Mountains in the south, and to… some other mountains in the North. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but you could see that just up the coast, and just inland, there was rain. Because I was so far away, the rain looked like smoky ribbons dangling from the clouds. It was beautiful, and rather dramatic.
I took the bus all the way up to the summit, and then walked down the hill towards Howth Village. I had seen a lovely market was going on down in the town centre, and we all know I can’t resist a good market. There’s something about buying things from stalls that makes me happy. Call me crazy. But a pile of carrots from a stall, regardless of taste or look or quality, always make me feel happier than a bag of carrots from the supermarket. Its my inner contrariness coming out.
Before getting to the markets, I walked along sea wall down in the harbour, which reminded me of the wall Louisa Musgrove jumps from in Persuasion, and Jane Austen connections are always good things for a place. I sat down to eat some scones I had brought from home, which the ridiculously oversized and menacing looking seagulls decided I was meant to share with them. I disagreed and stuffed them all in my mouth before they stole them right out of my fingers. Seriously, they looked like they were going to. I saw some poor 11 year old boy accidently walk into a swarm of gulls, and then proceed to act like Tippi Hedren in The Birds. They were scary, like.
The markets were wonderful, and I bought many things that I didn’t need, like sweet chilli chutney, olives stuffed with jalapenos and seeded bread. Mainly because I can’t resist things in stalls, or more accurately, men selling things at stalls, and even more specifically, men with Northern Irish accents selling things in stalls, but also because I feel bad for eating hundreds of free tasters and then not buying anything. I’ll have to go back though, as I am currently limiting my sweets intake (I know, how did that happen?) and there was a rather rotund fellow with an incredibly warm smile and overalls on (oh, how wholesome!) and he was selling the most adorable looking mini-cupcakes, with gigantic swirls of icing and whole cherries on top, and, because I had already had scones, I COULDN’T HAVE ANY MINI-CUPCAKES. Well, I could have, but, oh, you know. I’m trying to be healthy for at least a little while. And then I can go back to mini-cupcakes, which will obviously taste so much better for me having waited. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. 
Of course, this being Ireland, the glorious sunny day couldn’t have lasted without at least one sudden icy downpour of… something (Is it rain? Is it hail? Is it sleet? Oh, glorious adventure!), which lasted all of 10 minutes. Long enough for me to run to the bus shelter and resolve to get the next bus, but short enough that after it finished, I felt a right tool for continuing to huddle under the bus shelter for 20 minutes and insist on returning home, despite the-once-again-sunny sky. But, I was very happy with my day, and delighted to find such a beautiful place within such easy distance to my home, so that on future glorious sunny days (of which I am certain there will be many more, won’t there, Dublin?), I can escape the city and head for water, and hills and walking and vistas and markets and mini-cupcakes. Joy!

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One Last Post for January

Well, I’m back in good ol’ Dublin, which I have become quite fond of, really. I came back to get a tourist visa stamp, keeping me legal in Ireland for another 3 months. But, I’ve also taken the opportunity to do a complete theatre and tourist binge. Yesterday I visited the ‘Little Museum of Dublin,’ which is a two-room museum in one of the Georgian terrace houses on St. Stephen’s Green. It consists mainly of photos, posters and letters, with a few odds and ends thrown in, and concerns Dublin’s history in the 20th century. It was really interesting to go to, I heard lots of fabulous little stories about the place, and I’ve consequently grown more affectionate towards it, as I’ve learnt more about it. The tour guide was ridiculously enthusiastic, but I kept tripping her up with my questions that she didn’t know the answers to. I didn’t mean to do it, and I wasn’t meaning to make a point, as I actually thought she was very well-informed and a lovely guide, but it kept happening and became a bit awkward after a while. Anyway, there were some very interesting things on display. One was a letter Samuel Beckett had written to a young boy who was living in Beckett’s childhood home, and who had to do a school assignment on the history of his house. Beckett finished the letter with, ‘If you see my ghost around the house or grounds, please give him my regards,’ or something like that. It was very sweet. There was also a modern art piece, which was of a series of Monster Munch (a kind of crisp you can get in Ireland and the UK – see picture) dipped in gold and on display. It was to symbolise how bonkers everyone and everything got during the Celtic Tiger boom years. It was kind of amazingly awesome and horrendous. 

from http://www.virginmedia.com/homefamily/fooddrink/best-crisps.php?ssid=6

There was also the first (and only) issue of Nouveau, a magazine for the nouveau riche of Ireland, the title of which was not meant to be ironic. Again, a reminder of how crazy things got around here (and, just quietly, the magazine reminded me slightly of ‘the (sydney) magazine’ in style and smugness – but I’ve always hated that publication).
After seeing the museum, I went to see a show at the Peacock Theatre, which is kind of like Downstairs Belvoir in aims and programming. The production I saw was, ‘I ♥ Alice ♥ I’, which originally showed in the 2010 Dublin Fringe. It was absolutely brilliant. A beautiful and intimate piece of theatre, describing a long-term lesbian relationship, it was written and directed by one of the performers (which is something I’ve seen a lot of in Ireland – I haven’t seen nearly so much theatre created that way in Australia. I think a lot of people, in fact I KNOW a lot of Australians would consider it a dangerous hubris, but most of the stuff I’ve seen in Ireland has worked really well), a woman named Amy Conroy. I’ve been going to theatre for a good many years now, and this is the first show that has genuinely shocked and surprised me by its ending in a long time. I wouldn’t call myself a particularly naive or gullible audience member, but I was completely taken in by some aspects of the show, which later proved to be false, and I was completely flabbergasted. To be honest, my first feeling was of absolute disappointment and betrayal, and anger that I was so completely fooled (and some of that feeling still remains), but the rest of me is amazed that the show was so believable, so convincing, so well-crafted, that I wasn’t able to see through the false bits at all. So, yes, if you happen to be around Dublin anytime soon, you MUST see ‘I ♥ Alice ♥ I’. And, even if you’re not, I’m absolutely certain it will be touring to a theatre near you at some point soon. So, see it. SEE IT.
After the theatre, I finally headed to O’Donoghue’s, a very famous Dublin pub, that was the start of many a famous Irish folk band, such as ‘The Dubliners’, ‘Sweeney’s Men’, The Fureys, Christy Moore and others. I’d been putting off going here, mainly because it was out of the way from the places I normally stayed, and I didn’t want to walk around the back streets of Dublin late at night by myself. But, I decided it was time I visited the place. Of course, it was full of tourists. Very loud American tourists, to start off with. And, honestly, I’ve met a lot of lovely Americans, but, when you’re not talking to them, when they’re just getting very drunk and yelling and whooping at the musicians, they just seem like the arrogant stereotype. I mean, honestly. Their whoops were bursting my ear drums. And, whilst Irish men would give up their stools for me to sit down, turn around to check they weren’t blocking my view, make sure I was having fun, the American tourists would stand directly in front of me, not move and then sing, very loudly, out of tune, over the top of the musicians. They actually seem to now realise other people in the world exist apart from them. I know, I know. Australians, when drunk, can be just as horrible. But, I saw Americans last night, so I’m feeling a bit anti-American.
If anything, I should be feeling anti-European, as a large group of middle-aged men from Germany, Poland and France entered the pub later in the evening, and they were unbelievably sleazy. They clocked me and the American girl I had been talking to (see, I do like Americans, I promise!) the minute they walked in the bar, and then wouldn’t leave us alone. In the most ridiculously, sleazy, creepy way too. Anyone who read my facebook wall would know of the 65 year old man who told me he and his friends were from a parallel world who had come to earth because of all the beautiful women. His friend from Germany would lock eyes with us from across the room and start grinding his hips in our direction. When we attempted to get past to go to the bathroom, they felt the need to touch us all over, to help us along the way to the toilets. It was disgusting. The weird thing was that they didn’t seem particularly drunk, meaning that they genuinely thought this sort of behaviour was acceptable. It wasn’t exaggerated due to alcohol (not that excessive alcohol would make that behaviour any more acceptable, but it certainly would have made it more usual). I wasn’t sure if these men were all powerful or rich or influential or something, and that made them think they were able to attract women in such a way. I should check if there was some sort of important European conference on in Dublin yesterday.
Anyway, I’m off to the theatre again tonight, at the Project Arts Centre (which I learnt, through my visit to the Little Museum of Dublin, was a venue that U2 played at once upon a time. So, there you go). And, tomorrow, despite some initial problems with my booking, I’m off to Wicklow! Hooray!

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