The wonderer returns: an Irishman returns home
By Barry Lord
I think we always come home, sooner or later.
Well, I have anyway. After 20 plus years living and working in the UK, I moved back to Dublin several months ago.
I’ve been revelling in my new role as the returning Irishman. It’s somewhat of a novelty.
I spent the first ten years of my life in Bray, Co Wicklow, so I’m more of a beach bum than a city slicker.
I may have lived across the water but I still strangely regard Dublin as exotic terrain.
The city holds a certain innocent delight for me still because I remember how it first felt when I came here as a kid.
It was a once-a-month treat to jump on the dart at Bray Seafront and make the short journey to our capital city.
Once alighted at Tara Street, I would quickly weave along the narrow pavements with all the freedom that my mother’s grip on my hand would allow and I wouldn’t relent until we’d reached our ultimate destination, which was usually McDonalds on Grafton Street.
It was a simple treat but I felt like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, having entered the Peruvian Temple and claimed the Golden Idol, or in my case, a cheeseburger.
So what has changed in the intervening years?
I’m often asked how I find the cost of living here again compared to the UK.
Having been a frequent visitor to the Republic for the last ten years, I no longer gasp when I’m asked for €9 for a coffee and Danish.
You accept this feature of life, rightly or wrongly, as being part of the European union currency.
That’s not to say that as an Irishman back home, I haven’t had moments when righteous indignation has almost got the better of me.
My blood boiled one day when I boarded a train at Gormanston, Co Meath, for one a one-stop jaunt to Balbriggan, Co Dublin, only to find myself €10 out of pocket.
When I explained this to a fellow commuter, the gentleman looked at me, completely unruffled, and said: “Well, you did cross the county line,” as if it were the most obvious thing in the world and what’s this alien getting so wound up about?
But, on a happier note, the fast flow of life in the city is as fun as I remember it.
Trinity College and the book of Kells is still the draw to tourists that it always was, and to navigate your way from O’Connell Bridge to Grafton Street, I’d say you still require a surfboard, or risk getting swept away by the oncoming number of bodies heading your way.
A variety of nationalities and cultural diversity has made its mark on the city since I lived in Ireland.
I don’t remember my nostrils being filled with the smell of Asian cuisine while strolling down Parnell Street, but I’m not complaining one bit.
Change is a good thing and certainly in the case of Dublin.
Temple Bar had only been established after I left the country, but I return to find it an ideal local spot for me to satisfy my two passions: live music – and by the way I didn’t know Darth Vader was an accomplished keyboardist until I took a walk down Fleet Street – and film, with the Dublin Film Institute on Eustace Street becoming a new favourite haunt.
It is also an exciting time on the political front for an almost alien.
This year we will be reminded of our past, with the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising on the horizon, and it’s also a time to look forward to our future, with the election round the corner.
The outcome of which could make significant changes to the landscape.
So, despite our national pass time for giving out, I’d say I picked the right time to come home.