The International Writers Magazine:Travel Stories
AND YOU AND A DOG NAMED BOO'
DUBLIN, 29TH-31ST DECEMBER 2005
a.m. is an ungodly hour, but for a student like me, its
actually satanic. Its hell manifested as an alarm clock,
urging me to scrape myself off a warm bed, venture into an Arctic
- like bathroom and, oh God forbid, peek at a mirror.
However, being an
undergraduate, and not, say, a commuter to work, or a crazy old person,
this even-earlier-than-the-early-bird awakening was a one-off. The reason
for it exceeded catching a worm, or going to London armed with a briefcase,
or having medication to take. Yes, I was catching a train, and yes I
would be passing through London, but that was to get to Gatwick Airport,
and meet up with seven fellow students, to cross the Irish Sea and welcome
in 2006 within the unfamiliar borders of Europes most expensive
capital city. It was the student city break wed always said we'd
take, finally gone for, finally organised, finally here with the dawn
of December 29th 2005
And we were going to Dublin baby.
Now dont be filled with dismay at that phrase student city
break, read on, and youll discover much more than a relation
of drunken antics or fart jokes. We went to museums even. And an art
gallery. And we didnt just stroll down the street and come back
claiming of fatigue, we explored half the city... Ah, phooey. Who am
I trying to kid!? There were drunken antics a-plenty and possibly the
worst case of flatulence in a confined space in the history of social
But dont worry! You'll still be regaled with tales of Irish life;
Dublins picture shall be painted, its rug shall be weaved on a
loom of authenticity...Sweet Christ its useless! A bunch of us
went to Dublin okay, and heres what we did
"EARPLUGS, INSERT YOUR EARPLUGS NOW!"
Rarely does a journey begin with such a phrase, but Lord help us thats
how ours commenced, with myself and Kelly, the only females of the eight-strong
group, having to block up our lugholes and so stave off the painful
onslaught of that bane of a stewardesss life, pressure-change-ear-liquid-thing.
At least I think thats the technical name for it.
Kellys other half, Sir Weblington (ok so he's not really a knight.
Artistic freedom means I can fictionally elevate whoever I want for
amusement purposes, so there), shared my dislike of that point where
you feel the wheels of the plane lift off from the nice, safe concrete
runway. Being a lot more sensible than I, he kept this quiet, but I
stupidly informed the boys sitting behind me that I was more than just
a tad nervous about being in a large, metal, inconveniently-not-invincible
object for an hour.
And so I was subjected to much sarcasm, seat-shaking, and several loose
bolts gags for pretty much the entirety of the flight. What is
with that sadistic streak in men, which makes them find a slightly frightened
girls condition amusing? Luckily, Im a gal who can appreciate
humour surrounding illogical fears (I've been known to slaughter the
odd spider or two), and so neither Chris, Rich or Alex had to de-board
the plane maimed in any way. Which was a nice way to start, I reckon.
"EXCUSE ME, BUT WE WERE ALREADY SITTING THERE."
We found our pre-booked Litton Lane Hostel down a cobbled alleyway slap
bang in the city centre.
All we literally had was a room, with four bunk-beds and eight sets
of fairly shabby bed linen. Im ashamed to confess, my first reaction
was stupidly anal, my head making philosophical points such as, "Well
it would have been nice to have some hangers," and, "No drawers?
So where do I keep my drawers?"
The other creature comfort denied us by hostel living was the nicety
of a decent, fully functioning bathroom. Male and female showers were
separate, with mine and Kellys facilities conveniently located
next-door. Of the two toilets, one was broken for the duration of our
stay, someones towel remained unclaimed on the never-cleaned floor
and often we discovered dubious shaved hair in the sinks.
But you know what? There was one loo that did flush, both of us had
brought clean towels, and unless one of us had some hidden fetish, there
was no reason to touch the disregarded stubble. Dublin reminded me that
a person can, and in fact should, be perfectly capable of living without
the materialistic things they are used to. Suitcase-living really is
liberating, people. (Plus Kelly brought her hair-straighteners so we
The hostel's modest T.V. room was adorned with gig posters, U2 paintings
and sleepy foreigners, who varied in their response to us throughout
our few visits to the room. The larger kitchen was well-equipped for
if we'd wanted to cook our own meals, but we were frivolous tourists
so always dined out.
On our first evening we sat in there briefly and a foreign man was a
little unfriendly to us. This shattered my 'hostel-virgin' dreams about
engaging with well-travelled strangers, who would wow me with their
anecdotes. However, this simply served to remind me that I should let
go of any expectations, and just absorb each experience, hostel, city
"THE BARTENDER AND THE THIEF ARE LOVERS..."
dumped our luggage. We found Panama Bar, where we fed and watered,
with the boys enjoying their first pints of 'proper' Guinness- ("Oh
yes its much better than in England," "Oh rather!",
We crossed OConnell Bridge with its multitude of bridges and
found Temple Bar, Dublin's main stretch of bars, restaurants and
obligatory neon. We walked down Grafton Street, which housed familiar
high street stores and a few designer boutiques. Image: Temple
We had the guided
tour of Dublin Castle courtesy of the affable Thomas, who became an
instant favourite with the boys. The recently refurbished castle was
sweet if a little artificial.
Then it was time to find entertainment for our first night, and my God
we were daring in our selection of pub- the Arlington Hotel Bar next
door seduced us with its chalkboard promise of Irish music and
dancing. This was a gorgeous, cosy bar in which we could chat, sip our
eye-wateringly expensive drinks and relax.
Nick, our crew member with a glorious reputation for talking to whoever
whenever however, proved once again the usefulness of his talent by
quizzing a local for the locations of cheaper bars. And so our rabble
cheerfully descended upon The Abbey Hotel Bar, complete with its merry
locals, 3 Euro pints, and two of Dublin's funniest, warmest, most intoxicated
elderly gentlemen - Steve, the ladies' man, and his pal Dave, apparent
writer of a country and western ditty entitled 'Me and You and a
Dog Named Boo' (scandalously ignored by the Ivor Novello awards).
(Although it is actually written by someone called Kent LaVoie- Ed)
This fine duo welcomed us to their country and made our night. I don't
think it an insult to credit them with our subsequent move into karaoke...Nick
and myself got the ball rolling with a harmonious if somewhat unbalanced
'Baker Street', and soon the majority of us were belting out tracks
like 'Hey Jude', and culminating with a group effort on 'Don't Look
Back In Anger'. The undisputed Kings of Karaoke were, however, Rich
and Nick, with their delivery of a catchy little Stereophonics number,
throughout which one tried to find his rock alter-ego and the other
tried to find his sober alter-ego.
Next Lesson, the Philosophy Behind Karaoke: drunken public singing is
the best way to get a group of people to lose their inhibitions, and
remind them that the opinions of strangers are irrelevant.
"THIS PLACE IS JUST FOR REGULARS."
December 30th was Rob's 21st birthday. He wanted us up-and-at-'em first
thing that morning. I, however, was firstly up-and-at-the-paracetamol.
We headed off eventually in search of fried foods, and found Cafe Kylemore,
down O'Connell Street- hearty, self-service breakfast which included
food items that Sir Weblington could only describe as "discs of
meat." Kelly was not impressed with her first taste of Irish black
pudding, but she's never been the congealed hog fluids type.
The Irish rain then relented, spurring us to climb aboard a Dublin Tour
Bus. We hopped off at cathedrals, hopped back on, 'hopped off' again
to look round what the locals call 'The Dead Zoo' (The National Museum),
remained 'hopped off' to wander round The National Gallery, and then
we were stranded after our tour of the Guinness brewery because the
wonder-bus didn't run past four. Unbeatable view of Dublin from the
brewery bar, by the way.
Next came the birthday boy's selection of eatery - Eddie an American-Someone-Or-Other's
Fifties Diner, complete with plastic booths and jukeboxes (which didn't
work, thieving Irish beggars...I mean, haha, how quaint.) If you're
after simple, familiar grub, Eddie's isn't a half-bad selection.
Back at Litton Lane, things started to turn student-y. Yes, it was time
for 'dorm fun'- throwing a foam ball around, sex jokes, cheap bottles
of wine, slightly fraying tempers..! Thank Christ we got ourselves dolled
up a bit and went back to the Arlington Hotel bar, in hopes of seeing
the Irish dancing we'd missed the previous night. What we got was a
half empty dance floor, frequented by large ladies in sequins. And that
certainly ain't a specifically Irish tradition.
We then checked out Temple Bar, less busy than we'd imagined but sadly
just as pricey. The bouncers we encountered there were less than inviting
(eh Chris?), with Temple Bar becoming OBrians pub and then, as
recommended by three Irish sisters (cue a night of Corrs one-liners,
oh the sophistication fellas!), we hunted the chilly city streets for
After twisting my ankles out of recognition with my badly thought out
heels-and-cobbled-lanes combo, our gang finally fell upon said nightspot,
only to be abruptly turned away by the doormen- lets just say
it was something to do with our non-local accents.
A little deflated, and probably taking it too personally than we all
should have, the group divided, with some returning to the hostel, and
some settling back in Panama. At night, this bar wheels out a D.J. and
jazzes up its' dance floor, and so there we concluded our second night.
N.B. Dublin gets major points for having a place called 'Supermacs',
which stays open till 4 a.m. to satisfy the illogical cravings of merry
revellers. You wait till I tell you what time McDonalds shut on New
Year's Eve, you'll be booking your plane before I can say Chicken McNuggets.
No-one was up-and-at-anything on the morning of our final day, December
31st. It wasnt till after noon that we were back at cafe Kylemore
with its circular animal protein, and only after that did we take a
look around the impressive Trinity College.
The rain was back, and the temperature had dropped even lower, and so
unsurprisingly the groups willingness to basically trek about
all day had withered slightly. Even so, we visited Oscar Wildes
birthplace and found only a plaque, telling us access was only available
from a building not on our map. We warmed up with a drink at yet another
hotel bar full of ambience on our way back to the city centre, and then
decided the best way to take a look round the Smithfield part of the
city was by tram. These run regularly and service every part of Dublin
till quite late.
At Smithfield, we found fairly run-down buildings, a closed market,
and another large museum, which didn't contain the Viking and Egyptian
exhibitions we'd hoped for but other, interesting displays of Irish
silver and antique furniture. No, really, I was interested. Nick and
I particularly liked the layout of the building; I loved mazes as a
A tram ride home and it was time to start thinking about our New Year's
Eve shenanigans, i.e. FEEDING SOMEWHERE. Dublin city centre is odd;
unless you want just a drink, or someone asking if you'd like to go
larger for 30p extra, you are struggling for choice in terms of proper
restaurants. Eventually we found Flanagans, advertising itself
as both a pizzeria and purveyor of traditional Irish recipes. I highly
recommend this place - not too expensive, nicely set out, damn fine
Irish stew and Gaelic combos and very generous waitresses.
We decided to begin celebrating back at the Abbey Hotel bar, which had
opened up a back room with more seating and an elegant open fire. The
atmosphere in every single place of social activity in Dublin was superb;
maybe it was just because it was New Year's Eve, maybe it was just because
we all consumed copious amounts of alcohol, but the reasons were irrelevant,
because everyone, us and locals included, was chatty, boisterous and
fun, up to and beyond midnight. We danced, we laughed, we embraced,
we clapped, we were united in a way that honestly moved me, and we didn't
need to be sitting in each other's laps all night to feel it.
here's a question: have you ever eaten five McDonalds cheeseburgers
in one go? Ok, have you ever fallen asleep on a hostel room floor
whilst still eating the final one? Well Rich did, and proceeded
to engage Nick in much drunken frolicking back at Litton Lane. Trust
me, you don't want to know the details.
Image: Litton Hostel Dublin
'Dorm room fun'
has to consist of getting told off by the hostel receptionist, and so
we were, twice (I can't believe I'm twenty-two and having to use the
phrase 'told off'!!). After more laughter, shouting, snoring, a bit
of groping here and there, we were packed, and rested our weary, drink-heavy
bones till our pre-booked taxis arrived at 5 a.m. to take us to the
Whilst waiting for the check-in desk to open for our 8:15 flight, we
sat at yet another McDonalds. I was furious at the lack of McNuggets
in the vicinity. Our tiredness soon gave way to hysteria, with much
laughter, a few Mafia boss impersonations, descriptions of the Eve's
events to the more drunken individuals, a forgotten beanie-hat, and
even tears all occurring before we'd even set foot on the plane. Thank
God Rich was able to soothe us with his tin whistle-playing.
It was on my journey home alone after we'd said our airport goodbyes
(when I must have been desperately bored and knackered or something)
that I considered what the student city break had done for us.
Dublin had been a context of pure fun, pure freedom. In its' cobbled
streets, Georgian buildings, breweries and histories, amongst its' doors,
clocks, bridges and buses, we had rebuilt a few bridges of our own,
patched up the odd fraying spot, and most importantly, rediscovered
the good in each other instead of just the familiar.
I think that university life often mangles people, disassembling and
then reassembling a person, accompanied by this intense, necessary pressure
to come out the other side as something better than what you were to
begin with. I know that going abroad for a couple of days on a glorified
piss-up isn't going to guarantee my friends and I top degrees, or reformed
character defects, or eternal friendships. But I think it has helped,
certainly me, to review the past differently, regard the present more
positively, and have a hope for the future that wasn't quite there before.
Friends who live together can be damn hard on each other because they
know one other so well; sometimes, all they need is to put things into
perspective is a fresh start, beginning somewhere like Dublin.
© Lauren Almey Jan 10th 2006
Lauren in her final year at the University of Portsmouth
after a Rainfall
headed in her direction...
Lauren Almey at the empty fairground
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