The unexpected and EPIC trip to Dublin

Sometimes I sit down to write this blog and I find I’m struggling to find anything interesting to say. Not so this week – I think I’ve got too much to write. It was looking like a fairly normal week when my friend Jon Moore, a specialist make up expert in films, tv and theatre, contacted me to ask if I’d like to meet him in Dublin. He was working on the Brian Butterfield tour and offered to add me to the guest list. I’d never been to Dublin and Jacqui would have to stay behind to look after the dogs – holding the fort we call it. Worried I would bottle out if I hesitated I found trains, somewhere to stay that left a bit in my bank account and accepted. I was off to Dublin!

Our nearest station is Nenagh and they do run trains to Dublin but only one a day, at an ungodly hour, is direct. All the others go into Limerick, change for Limerick Junction then change again for Dublin. As Nenagh’s station is, to be frank, a total wasteland I had to scurry around Limerick Colbert Station to print off my ticket. Thanks to a very helpful conductor I managed it and got the connection to Limerick Junction. This is one of the coldest and bleakest stations I’ve ever experienced. There’s no shelter bar the roof and mean little squalls blow across the platforms as passengers huddle behind the pillars. Swifts were flying through it shouting loudly, presumably mocking our travel choices.

The Dublin train was a welcome sight. The last leg was much more comfortable with a reserved seat and – the height of luxury – a trolley service. Though this had 27 types of fizzy drink, many sorts of crisps and mountains of chocolate but no sandwiches to speak of. On Jacqui’s suggestion I’d made my own so I curled up in my corner and munched happily. There was even a trickle of heat from the vents at the side of the carriage.

After more than three years in the rural midlands, Dublin was a bit of a shock at first. One crucial difference to the UK is there is nothing resembling an A to Z of the city. It has many buses, a tram network and they are almost unusable for a stranger as all stops refer to unknown streets. I knew the address of my B&B so hailed one of the many, many taxis hovering around. The B&B was very nice – a bit old and worn, like me now, but welcoming and beautifully clean. David, at the desk, was typically welcoming and they had a tourist map available for all guests. I hoped this, combined with Google maps, would help me find my way around. How wrong I was.

RTE1 had just run three programmes on O’Connell Street, which was very close to my B&B, so I had a vague idea of where to go. In the centre of the street is the Spire – 120 metres high, shiny steel and visible from a long way away. It became my lifeline as I struggled to navigate the city. I made it to the Forbidden Planet bookshop fairly easily. I’d arranged to meet Jon there as Peter Serafinowicz, the star of the “Brian Butterfield” show, was signing books. Although it is 30 years since we last met we recognized one another at once and it was as if we’d never had such a gap. I got my book signed and the selfie taken. Peter Serafinowicz was lovely and I can heartily recommend the book, “There’s no business like…business”.

Cities – and especially Dublin – are for younger, fitter people than I am now. I went back to my B&B for a little rest, then wandered down the side streets to get some dinner. The side streets were a mistake, I was immediately horribly lost and I resorted to Google to guide me to the venue. This was an even bigger mistake as the stupid AI sent me to the wrong place – almost 3 km down the quayside and into another maze-like district that was not on my map. After a futile search I limped to a taxi stand where a driver took me along the quay to the area I needed – then wove through another maze and dropped me off back at the wrong theatre again.

I was almost in tears – I’d missed the start of the show, I was so stiff from the endless cobbles and hills I could hardly walk and I didn’t dare risk another taxi. Some lovely people outside a pub directed me to a bus that would take me back and after a short ride I finally arrived at the venue. Here the theatre staff were all kindness itself, taking me up to the bar, seating me on a sofa and getting me a drink. I chose a large orange squash with ice – I know how to party.

I caught the second half of the show, which was wonderful. Jon, despite being so busy, came out to see me again and we said our good-byes, promising to get together sooner next time. I am lucky to have had such clever, talented and thoughtful students over my years at the Art College. I hope some of them read this and know I think of them often, generally in a positive way.

The next day I was horribly stiff and sore but I had really wanted to go to EPIC, the Irish Emigration museum. Voted one of the top 5 museums in the world, it certainly lives up to its reputation. Despite struggling to walk without staggering I went in and – well, this has already been quite a long episode so I will save the EPIC for next time. Watch this space – it won’t disappoint.
Neither did Dublin.

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you back in two weeks.