Dissonances or Hang the DJ

For the first time in about a week, I’m sitting in my sitting room, dressed in jeans and a cozy jumper, instead of my pjs, almost like a real person. I’m still a bit of a snot-monster but definitely on the mend now. I even went for a little walk, because I’ve been getting cabin fever.

It’s a Dublin kind of a day (I have to stop saying that, I used to say that in Canada when the weather reminded me of Ireland, but now I’m back in Dublin every day is a Dublin kind of a day really) – fierce mild and drizzling. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or maybe it’s the remnants of sickness but the world feels a couple of degrees removed from reality and shimmering on the edges. It’s not unpleasant, just a touch trippy.

On Grafton Street Christmas decorations and lights, in Stephen’s Green some trees are losing the last of the colourful leaves, while others, a few confused cherry blossoms, are blooming like they’ve decided December is not really a thing they could be bothered with. Half-walking, half-swimming through the misty, muted universe in which the seasons and moods change on a whim, without discernible rules.

My music selection only intensified the sense of the surreal. I made this massive eclectic list and put it on shuffle. For a while, as I was walking, my phone decided to play solely Polish songs for some reason. They sounded so out of place, a soundtrack of a bygone era, of another life, not well suited to Edwardian redbricks, uncomfortable strangers unaccustomed to the rhythm of Dublin streets, and all of a sudden, I found myself looking at familiar places like I never saw them before, missing a heartbeat of the town, and a step or two in the process. Shortly after that “How to Disappear Completely” came up, so painfully perfect, so at home in this city, in this day and this dreamlike state that I could feel every last note, every scrap of lyric pouring out of the headphones, straight into me, coursing through my veins, liquefying into perfect rain(or possibly tear)drops at my fingertips and falling onto the expectant ground, spreading in the mist, flowing down the Liffey, the canals, the sea, and for a couple of minutes the whole world vibrated enthralled, the impeccable reflection of the song as I stood rooted to the spot, letting it carry me, letting myself dissolve and disappear.

I feel such love for this city sometimes it’s bruising my heart, it makes it hard to breathe…

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A Short Field Guide to Dublin’s Precipitation.

I’ve been busy. Seeing people, doing official stuff, going for walks, reading Chinese sci-fi, babysitting, curing a hangover (NOT from babysitting), feeling under the weather – something had to give, and that something was writing. I scribbled a few notes in my poem journal but that’s about it. Still, no harm done, new week, once more unto the breach, keep calm and carry on etc.

We went for a long walk yesterday again. I love walking in Dublin, it’s a great city for strolling about. If you don’t mind the rain. Which I don’t, even though I complain about it as much as the next person.

Dublin rain is complex, it comes in so many distinct forms. The one we encountered yesterday was a mix between a mist and a drizzle. Mostly it just hangs in the air, excess moisture that doesn’t really make you wet, as much as it travels on you, suspended on your hair or on your coat. But occasionally it starts falling, tiny little droplets, barely noticeable, after a while you start feeling it, seeping its way, bit by little bit, into your clothes, into your skin, eventually into the very bones. You’d never use an umbrella in this rain, it would seem excessive, you might put up your hood if you’ve got one though. You never really get properly wet, just damp through and through. When there are many days like that in a row, gray, cloudy, melancholy, the dampness might start seeping into your mind as well. It’s nothing major, you just don’t feel quite comfortable in your own head. There’s an easy solution though, pop into a pub, or a cafe, or a restaurant – nice hot whiskey, or a mug of tea, or a bowl of hot soup – something to warm you to the core, and you can brave the mrizzle (that’s my name for that particular form of rain) again.

Mist on its own, I find rather pleasant, refreshing even. You feel healthy and moist. Moist is a very different feeling from damp, by the way, damp is slightly depressing, moist is just rosy-cheeked and glistening, I can do moist. And that’s enough of saying the word “moist” in my mind, it’s getting weird in there.

There is of course another variety of Irish rain, the one popularly described as “pissing”. It’s not bucketing, it’s not pouring, but you would avoid going out in it if at all possible. You’d definitely open an umbrella once outside. This one (and its heavier brethren) comes in sub-categories of “horizontal rain” and “upside-down rain”, as Dublin is not only rainy but also windy. You can try using an umbrella with these, but in my experience, it’s useless and leads only to many damaged umbrellas in trash bins. Horizontal rain does what it says on the tin, it rains directly in your face. You can delude yourself thinking that you might be walking with the wind, and only get it on your back, but I’d lived in Dublin for many years, and I’d never experienced that. It’s always in your face. The upside-down rain is mysterious. I still don’t really know how it happens, but I swear it sometimes seems to be falling upwards (how can something be falling upwards? it’s rising, not falling). Nothing can protect you from the upside-down rain. Just accept that it clearly must be your time for getting soaked through by gravity-defying water.

There’s also lashing rain. Avoid the Outside at all costs. Bring a change of clothes to the office if you have to walk to work, and maybe a hair dryer…

There are at least 10 different categories and if you live here you will soon know them all. And don’t let Ireland fool you, it tries to do that. Before I moved here, very many years ago, I had visited a good few times, and every time I had nice weather. I kept thinking that my Irish friends were just whinging about the rain, for the sake of it. Sure, it would maybe rain one or two times during my stay, and maybe the summers weren’t all that hot, but mostly it was all clear blue skies and sunshine. Well, I moved in summer 2007, the day I arrived was nice, and then it started raining and didn’t stop for 49 days…

But Dublin’s precipitation doesn’t end at rain, oh no. There’s also sleet, and hail, and very occasionally snow. In my Facebook memories, I’ve recently came across this little nugget of wonder: “Back in Dublin. I’m trying to make up my mind as to what exactly is the thing falling from the sky. It’s not really rain, snow or hail but a sort of mixture of all three… Sleet I guess, but a weird one. Oh Ireland, thou shall never cease to amaze me with the new, wondrous forms of precipitation!”. My partner’s (who is Irish) reaction to this statement was “Oh, you mean rain-snow-hail? Yeah, that happens.”.

You also need to be prepared for every weather all the time. Which, in practice, means that nobody is ever prepared for any weather because who could be bothered with that? You can always safely assume it’ll probably rain at some point, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess. Weather forecast apps are useless in Ireland. I remember going for a walk in Donegal one time, it was in February, and during the few hours we were out, we had: beautiful and unseasonable sunshine and warmth, rain of several varieties, hail, snow, and then sunshine again.

It doesn’t really snow in Dublin. Each winter you may get a couple of days when it pretends to, but as it’s rarely cold enough for it to stick, you just get fat wet snow petals turning into disgusting sludge immediately upon arrival to the ground. When, very, very rarely, it does get cold enough for the snow to hang around, the whole country becomes paralyzed. Nobody is equipped to dealing with the snow. No winter tiers on the cars, nobody has salt or grit to put on the pavements, there’s an inch of snow on the ground and the schools are closing, nobody can get to the office on time and general apocalypse ensues. It’s kind of cute, if you’ve ever lived somewhere with proper winters.

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But if it wasn’t for the constant rain, how else could the place stay so stunningly green?

Itinerant post.

Another great day. I’m having some of them again and it still surprises me. Taking advantage of an unusually warm and sunny day (in Ireland, in November! That just doesn’t happen…) we (as in my partner and I, I haven’t started referring to myself in royal “we”) went to Howth, which is a little village by the seaside at the outer suburbs of Dublin. We had chowder, excitedly popped into a few fishmongers (so nice to be able to get affordable fresh fish and seafood again) and then went on a cliff walk.

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These guys posed for me very patiently.

Man, I’m out of shape, embarrassingly so. The walk itself is not very tiring, maybe an hour and a half all told, little dips and raises but nothing too demanding. Perhaps if we did just that I wouldn’t be so knackered now, but towards the end we decided to climb down to a little, kind of hidden, pebbly beach. The way down (and then inevitably up) is not long at all, but it is pretty steep and narrow. And man did my legs feel that. Several hours later, I’m moving quite gingerly, very aware of every muscle I’ve got. I really need to start doing something about that.

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That’s the little beach seen from uphill. Photo taken some other time, as for some reason I didn’t take one today.

We’ve been talking about this quite a bit today. The subject has been on my mind for some time anyway. I’m a walker, I love walking, hiking, climbing. Stressed out? Go for a walk to relax. In a bad mood, or angry? Walk it off. Heavy stuff on my mind? Mull it over while walking. That’s me. There  seems to be a very strong connection between my legs and my mind. I think clearer when I’m moving my feet. I don’t drive. As in I neither want to, nor can. I don’t have a driver’s license, I don’t own a car and neither does my partner. I either take public transport (I’m unutterably delighted to be somewhere where this is a thing again, after 4 years in car-obsessed Northern America) or I walk. At all times, in all weather. Whenever I go to a new city, I walk it, as much of it as my stamina will allow. Touristy spots, and quiet residential areas, main streets and little hidden alleyways, the beautiful, the normal, the ugly parts. I walked all over Paris, Toronto in -20 winter, Tokyo in humid stifling heat, Lima, Buenos Aires and anywhere else I’ve been. These are not small towns, these are huge sprawling cities and unless you walked them, how do you even know you’ve been there? You miss so much if you just skip from one sightseeing spot to another in your car. Public transport is allowed sometimes, when distances get ridiculous, because you’re still in the city when you take a bus, a train, a tram. In among the people of that place. You’re not locked in a glass bubble of your little machine. Yes, I know, I know, some people just like to drive. It beats me why, but fine. I still maintain that you miss half the fun that way.

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A view towards the end of the walk.

I’m a walker is what I’m saying. And I want to be able to traverse the places I live in or visit in this manner for many years to come. But here’s the snag. When I was a young whippersnapper, none of this was difficult. Tiring sometimes, yes, of course, you’ll get tired walking for miles whatever condition you’re in. But not difficult. These days… it is getting tough. Oh, a few hour walk on an even ground I can do without too much trouble. But put some incline here and there and things get a bit more dicey. Like today, I’m deeply embarrassed of how much that little climb took out of me. Sure, there will come a time when I will have to accept that certain physical activities are beyond me. But my mid-thirties is very definitely not that time yet. I just have to get my arse in gear and start exercising regularly. I have to stop spending so much time sitting around. I need to start running again, do some strength and flexibility routine. I made a good start on it some months ago. I got through that horrible first period, when it’s all nightmarish, and got to the point where I was seeing results and feeling better in my own skin, and actually enjoying the exercise. Then I hurt my ankles. Not badly, just overextended myself. Well, that happens, I needed to stop for a while to let them recover and then I was meant to get back to it. Only I didn’t. I took the excuse and just stopped completely again. But enough of that! I need to be able to do the things I love. It’s one thing if  external circumstances beyond your control are preventing you from doing them. But if it’s your own laziness? No, no, no! That’s just dumb.

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There are few better sounds in this world than water lapping against the rocks.

 

I want many more days like today. I want to walk for miles, and miles, in the city, on the hills outside, by the sea. I want to take my camera for lengthy excursions, to hunt down all the beautiful, interesting,  delightfully ugly things around. I want days filled with the sharp salty breeze, and smell of burning gorse, and sound of waves, I want to claim places for my own with my feet, I want to walk for hours with people I love, the conversation just flows so naturally when you walk, I want midnight strolls along deserted streets, I want to lie in bed pleasantly tired, and fine, maybe a little sore, but not utterly exhausted. I want to know that I am doing everything I can to ensure that I stay fit enough to do it all.

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The little pebbly beach close up.