Just a few hours after having the best French toast in the world at Queen of Tarts, I walked down the block to the Oak and ordered a ham and cheese toastie and Bailey’s on the rocks. (And yes, I know that’s a lot of bread for one girl.) I asked the barman if I could have the toastie on brown bread, and he said, “Oh sorry, no, it’s just white bread at the moment, but I can toast it until it’s brown.” He has a little grin on his face, but he’s sincere at the same time.
I take a seat on the velvet couch and look out the front window to Dame Street. When he sets everything down at my small, round table, he says, “Now,” the Irish way of saying,”Here you are.” And in a nutshell, that’s what it’s really like here.
I’ve mentioned my Aidan Gillen story to a few Irish people I know. One woman said, “Oh Aidan! My sister is married to his brother.” (Of course she is.) Another woman told me, “Oh, I was in the Dublin Youth Theatre with Aidan when we were teenagers.” Everyone seems to be connected which makes Dublin feel like a large village rather than a city.
I see Manchan Magan, my writing teacher from the Irish Writers’ Centre, on the Six O’Clock Show, talking about his most recent adventures in travel and writing. I write to him to say hello and he responds the next day, “Ah, Kathy, how lovely to hear from you.” Everyone I’ve met has been gracious and kind. Manchan was raised speaking Irish, but only a small percentage of the population speaks Irish today. Ireland has one television station, channel four, where all of the programs are presented in Irish. It’s an amazing language that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
There are no skyscrapers. The streets are crowded with adorable children, tourists, and bicycles. Women wear double wrapped scarves, olive green puffer coats, and knit hats with pompoms. Yesterday I admired a woman’s puffer coat with a deep pink fur trim on the hood and she told me, “I sold it to myself.” She’s the owner of Costume, one of the nicest shops in Dublin just down the block from Grogan’s. There are so many fantastic shops in Dublin, but Om Diva continues to be my favorite. Freud supposedly said that the Irish were one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but as an Irish American I’ll just say, who needs Freud when there’s retail therapy. And so on a cold, rainy day in the last throes of winter, nothing can boost a girl’s mood more than buying a gorgeous spring dress in the window of the coolest shop in town. The shop girls don’t stop talking for a minute as they fill in my tax free paperwork. They want to know if I’m homesick. I tell them, yes, sometimes, and then they reckon that when I’m home I’m missing Dublin! (How did they know that I’m conflicted?) We all agree that pretty dresses are better than Zoloft.
There are four seasons in one day here. The dark, damp days bring people into the pubs for glasses of chat. Pints of Guinness – the plain stuff, the good stuff – are ordered by regulars by simply holding a forefinger in the air. But a lot of the young girls that I’ve met don’t like Guinness and prefer cocktails. Nicole tells me that her favorite drink is vodka with blackcurrant, or on special occasions, Prosecco with blackcurrant. (I’ll get on that this weekend and report back to you.)
Dublin’s architecture is beautiful, especially its churches. Christ’s Church Cathedral is just next door to me, but I’ve never been inside. Because today is Ash Wednesday I decide to go over for a special service. As part of the mass, the parishioners are asked to write messages to God on little pieces of paper. The parishioners then walk up to a large urn where they drop their prayers. The deacon takes a candle to light them on fire, and the choir sang as the smoke rose from the flames.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention any bad aspects of Dublin. That’s because I am writing to you with my rose-colored glasses on. Which reminds me of the Oscar Wilde quote on the Gutter Bookshop window on Cow’s Lane that I see everyday. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”