Dublin, It’s a Jungle


Dublin is a jungle, or it is something akin in its animalism. A hive. No not a hive, that implies benevolence towards fellow citizenry, and cooperation, and selflessness, order, prosperity, among other things. No, I think I was right, this city is certainly some class of a food chain populated by a variety of wild, flesh devouring species. The only thing is if you put a deer or lion on College Green at about 8.25 on a Tuesday morning, a WTF face would be produced and the poor misfortunate beast would probably lie down and curl up in a fit of uncontrollable tears. But you’ll allow me in this instance to describe lovely Dublin’s streets as a jungle, despite the whole cliché thing.

Now the buildings are all lovely, and with the exception of the LUAS works decorating the odd street, the roads are quite civilised looking also. They have black shiny tar-macadam which remains in place after the rain, and lines to distinguish the limits of the side of the road one must be traveling on. There are fancy traffic lights too, which for the most part are in working order.

The whole food chain thing comes from the traffic. If you look at it we have the big herbivores which traipse around minding their own business doing their best to finish the day so that they can go home and have their tea. They don’t usually pick a fight or cause much bother except when someone decides to do so with them, and I suppose with their size they are always going to be an easy target, but they can hold their own. No one enjoys really being too close to them but much like any ecosystem if you didn’t have them we’d be plagued with hitch hikers. I mean other vermin.

Buses are what I’m talking about, of course, and they lie somewhere important in the food chain of the commute. Like elephants, but without the grace and wonder of the mighty tusked beasts native to Africa and India, buses lurch around corners and busy themselves through traffic without too many concerns in the world it would seem. They harbour parasites, namely pedestrians, a necessary evil but one we are familiar with. Begrudge the bus for such ignominy if you wish, but it’s not as if the pedestrians really want to be there. Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a happy face on a bus. Except for weirdos, and stoners – the UCD routes are a good spot for these.

Next you have cars. This can be divided into three types, the out of towner, the regularly in towner, and taxis. Taxi’s are the Allosaurus of the Dublin urban scene. A large and formidable predator capable of taking on most competitors as prey. It’s no T Rex but you’d think twice about messing with him.

The regular in towner type are in many respects a nicer version of the Allosaurus. Imagine an Allosaurus that doesn’t need to fend for itself in the wild, one who has a salary, supplies its sustenance from the local Tesco, takes the weekend off, and in the evening instead of hunting for weaklings to prey upon it sits in and watches detective drama reruns on Alibi. Well able to scrap if it wants to, but all in all a nice enough top-tier predator.

The out of towner is still an Allosaurus but this kind of Allosaurus is a bit like that deer or lion which we met on College Green earlier. A fearsome beast in its own environment of narrow Kilkenny by-roads, but betwixt the labyrinthine one way conundrum of Dublin’s south inner city this Allosaurus has had his private parts removed and a large memory reducing sedative placed in its morning cupán tae. As such, to everybody else in this little jungle of ours, there are few more annoying alpha predators.

There are probably other beasts which flurry about from time to time. There is the rare articulated lorry which is like a bus but more aggressive and stubborn but is chained by shackles of regulation and distaste and distrust by the constabulary. Or indeed the mighty serpentine LUAS, cut in half by some class of an urban planner much reduced in the gift or foresight. At allt times these beastly automobiles are restrained by the barriers and regulations of the tar-macadam and the watchful eye of the ever hovering birds of prey, the Garda Síochana.

What I want to talk about next is a unique case relevant to our days, and one which has seen a surge in recent years, be it because of nicer weather, or tax breaks, or because Irish people are just cheap and don’t want to pay for the bus or their car. This particular beast of the street is one which proudly rises above other patrons of the jungle’s streets. Not only is this particular species one which holds the esteem of a low-carbon footprint, it is also frustratingly one which allows its facilitator to boast that they are indeed exercising whilst in their commute. Regardless of the weather, this hi-vis attired biped will forever stand aloof of its fellow city bound workers as one which has not spent at least half of the journey time stopped in neutral, or worse so have had to sit (or stand) in the shared vitriolic breath of one hundred others whilst carefully massaging in mesmerism the homely glow of their smartphone’s screen. Such a species sees no rules such as those encumbered on those other registered wheels of the city, and no need for safety, as all will stop before them as they change lanes and whisp between gridlocked bumpers. Not only this, but all who do not share their unique outlook on commuting should kneel before such nimble gazelles of the city.

This brings me finally to the bottom feeders. The scrubbers. The forgotten. The grubs which populate the undergrowth and for which the remainder of the city is left for them to scurry through in the hope a more elite beast will not swallow them up. Yes, I’m talking about the noble pedestrian. He or she who is eternally caught in the rain. Yes, it’s true we have all done it, but let’s be honest; no pedestrian ever wished for this. Are we not all just walking because our employer will not pay for us to park, and are we not walking because there are already too many more fortunate than us who have decided to say ‘enough is enough, I can take no more of the shared breath of the bus, I shall sit in the warmth of my own car and listen to music I like out loud and fart as loud if not more in comforting privacy’. But the pedestrians are the rebels, as it is they who say no to the conformity of yellow lines and red lights, pay no heed to one way signs and raise two fingers to the frustrating grimace of an Allosaurus who they have walked out in front of in a panic to buy coffee and walk the remaining ten minutes to the office in an attempt to pretend to cyclists that they also choose to exercise, and that indeed footing it is a lifestyle choice.

Yes, this is the city we dwell within. We lunch on each others throats each morning and evening in a fury of competition. We nibble on the scraps of gaps in the traffic and hope that the light won’t change to quickly or that the person in the car will realise that you should have your car in gear when you see the lights change so that you are ready to move when the car in front has and you’re not delaying the person in a frenzied rush directly behind you, not the contrary as is the case more often than not. Yes, I’m talking about you.

This jungle will spit you out one of these days. It won’t even chew you, the taste will be so bad. But don’t worry the jungle won’t miss you, there’ll be another bottom feeder ready to jump in and take your place, salivating at the opportunity of a glorious October morning along the quays…

Letter to Korea, August 2014


Dublin, Ireland
August 2014

Dear Korea,

I may not make a habit of this, but I thought considering our long affair together the least you deserve is an update on life without you. You know, it has been almost two months since I arrived back ‘home’ in Ireland and you seem further away than ever before. This is not the first time we have been separated for a long period, but always I had that return flight date lingering in the back of my mind. Such a comfort does not exist now.

Perhaps it is significant that I write this today, me who has kind of gone off writing this kind of thing, because it is the day when I receive my last pay cheque from my old work in Korea. In some respects I can look at it as the ending of what was another era for me, although I would laud it with such praise very reluctantly. The period of time for such an era to exist has merely concluded but all who existed beforehand continue on living in Korea regardless of whether or not I am there. Ireland is equally unperturbed by my return.

I was expecting more culture shock but have been lucky so far. The benefits have balanced pleasantly against the expected problems. Having a garden and a job to arrive to have made things much easier on me and my family. Family are nearby, as are friends, and there is a seemingly never ending quantity of tasty cake supplying cafes in the city centre which I seem to find myself in frequently on the way home from work. We discover new things daily and look forward as optimistically as possible to each new challenge the rest of the week brings us.

It may well be the honeymoon period, as arguably I’m still on my summer holidays. Today it rained like December and there was a bus strike. We went to the supermarket and again scratched our heads as to why raw prawns were so hard to find. They aren’t really hard to find obviously, they’re just playing second fiddle to cooked ones. A bit like the sunshine does with the rain, and in terms of fiddling about with transport I can’t fail to mention how much I miss my kyotung card, or transfer card. The so-called leap card is more a stumble along moderately well provided you don’t ask too much of it card.

Today as I taught a class I asked the students to write ten things about themselves, be it physical or emotional, and from here they had to let fellow classmates guess what each thing meant and then they would explain. The idea was to enable them to become confident talking about themselves and their emotions, I think. I gave myself as an example, which is something I probably do too often.

One thing that I wrote I wrote on the board as is ‘old is new’. I had been pacing the classroom trying to come up with things to include as part of my list. I looked out onto South William Street and up Clarendon Street from my classroom and in the distance I could make out the heads bobbing back and forth. There was the great debris of Grafton Streets midday traffic. It was in this part of town where I had worked just before I left for Korea nine years previously, and it was around here that I had spent many days and indeed nights. I don’t think I had spent as much as others but I remembered the streets fondly, almost nostalgically.

It got me thinking about each morning when I walked to the school where I teach. As I walked from Ormond Quay up to South William Street I was having this new feeling of being  new to a city, of being here for the first time. I had that blinkered feeling that ignored the normality brought about by familiarity, the same kind of bland taste you get from the same journey to work every day for a year. I was making a subconscious effort not to recognise what essentially looked exactly the same as before I left the city when I was only 23.

It’s not that everything is new. Perhaps it is seeing everything renewed. The old familiarity I had with Dublin hasn’t gone. I walk around and drive around the city and find my way with relative ease. I know where places and, for the most part, the quickest way to get to them. I stare a little longer in wonder than I used to, and I still hope that sooner or later myself and Herself can finally get a chance to regular sample all the delights our new home has to offer.

But that can’t be everything about living. Those grey walls will lose their lustre soon. The chance to be human will be removed and we will feel like more numbers but on a different chart. Herself waits for me through the long mornings to come home from work. It can’t be easy. I worry that what work I have will not be enough to live on. So much has depended on generousity to date. Consider it a metaphor that the tomatoes planted in our greenhouse will soon be dead and we shall be left to find fresh fruit elsewhere.

We sit and we wait for the ruthless nature of what is clearly a beast that only welcomes those working. The safety net that my teaching job in Korea provided and which we ridiculed for its unrealistic nature has finally been removed at our request. Now as we tumble as gracefully as our naive frames will allow us to fold in positions for safety expecting the thump of landing, I wonder will this next year be as challenging as we are expecting? Or will it be something else?

 

 

 

 

Recognising Value in Korea


There’s a lot to be said for value. Much of what we value, or how we place value on something, depends on our recognition of the use and importance of the particular subject in question. Like a four day work week, which may have more value to a person who regularly works a five or six day week than to a person who only works three days a week. It’s all about how much worth we put in particular things.

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