Local history

Paula and I were out walking yesterday evening; around Harold’s Cross and the canal and Portobello, a nice area of Dublin that we’re maybe going to start apartment hunting in soon. I stopped to examine one of those blue cultural plaques on one of the old Georgian houses on Clanbrassil Street which claimed that Leopold Bloom was born there, and we got talking to a fellow loiterer.

Apparently, he told us, the plaque was wrong. The old lady in the shop down the road had claimed that it was on the wrong street completely, and there was a plaque on the correct street that should have been here. The three of us ended up chatting for half an hour or so.

We heard about how the area had once been a melting pot of cultures: a stronghold of the Jewish community in Ireland (the man, who had grown up in the area, used to earn money every Saturday evening for turning on the lights in their houses because they refused to work), the working class (at least until 1969, when they moved out to the newly-built suburbs and a Northside/Southside socioeconomic divide was created), settled British army officers and their families (who used to display a picture of a horse in their window to indicate their loyalty), and local tradesmen and shopkeepers (like the butcher who refused to remove the swastika, an ancient and beautiful symbol, from his van just because it had been hijacked by Adolf). We chatted about famous people in history and local literature, listened to some anecdotes, and heard about the architectural and cultural changes of the last fifty years. All of it about the road we were standing on, every story (to get a bit floaty about it all), invisibly woven into the fabric of the street.

We walked back into the city centre as it got dark, enthused and fresh with one of those completely obvious but exciting realisations; there’s history everywhere.

Note to self: talk to strangers more often.

— 10 Sep 2006