living in dublin

Bluntly, Dublin is far too British for me; I won’t be staying.

There are differences to the UK. An obvious one is political; the main Irish parties openly don’t stand for anything in particular, whereas the main British parties still like to pretend they have some principles left on a shelf somewhere.

Culturally, Ireland is different to the UK, but only in that it’s rather like, but not the same as, Scotland; it’s rather like, but not the same as, Wales. It’s even like the British in that it has its own home grown sports rather than reusing someone else’s.

A real difference is that the UK is an amalgam of different peoples sharing the same state, so there’s a much greater awareness of, and sensitivity to, the difference between peoples. In this respect, Ireland is like the US; a nation of one people, not many. Many Americans don’t appear to understand that a difference between locality habits is not the same as a difference between peoples.

I can’t comment on the scars of the north, the battles and deaths over which end to open the egg, I’ve not lived there. However, if some of the proudly displayed brass plates of revolution speeches are anything to go by, though, the Irish republic Irish presume the Ulster Protestants belong to their culture, which is rather like presuming the Irish are really English, and certainly suggests why the north ended up at war for so long.

Dublin itself may be a capital city, a newly rich one, full of other Europeans, but it’s still only a city of a million or so. It’s bigger than Luxembourg City, but it feels more parochial than Luxembourg City. This must partially be a consequence of geography, of course. I miss the TGV; to get anywhere long distance from Dublin you must use noisy and unpleasant aircraft, or slow and weather-prone ferries.

The city feels small and local. The pubs are good, although many are blighted by the lack of choice of beer; good beer is very difficult to find and I’ve been forced to return to those few places that sell the Belgian stuff. You can’t get good English beer. Some pubs have character, and many have crack; if you’re willing to put up with the Guinness and the accompanying hangover, you can easily have a good night.

The people are very friendly, which is great, although my standard English accent has had the expected piss-taking reaction from drunks, many of whom appear to think Mrs. Thatcher still runs the UK. Ireland has a higher than average amount drunk per head of population, yet fully one quarter of the population are teetotal, so there are a lot of drunks about.

The food is very British; the local population seem to think that if the packaging has more colours, the content must be good quality. This is another reason I’m not staying; I’m hacked off with being forced to pay heavy prices for crap food in fancy packaging. That’s just like the UK, and one of the main reasons I left the place.

The banking system in Ireland is similar to the UK, so, for example, many corporates are annoyed with you if you refuse to give them the right to empty your Irish bank account whenever they feel like it. I’m not surprised the ramshackle British banking system suffered the only run on a bank seen in the Western world for 50 years, I am surprised the Irish have the same system. There are some much more advanced banking systems in the rest of Europe they could have put in place, say, from similar-sized countries that have systems so good the system itself as made the country rich. For these financial security reasons I’ve kept my Belgian bank account active; the Euro makes that easy.

And the Euro illustrates a major difference between Ireland and the UK, but it’s not as big a difference as you might think. The UK doesn’t use the Euro mainly for English nationalistic reasons. Ireland uses the Euro, but Ireland is very nationalistic; it so happens the EU pulled Ireland out of the economic consequences of its nationalism. But that’s an old battle, long gone. Anyway, the point is the two countries are taking different currency decisions for similar reasons; the nationalism is simply more mature in Ireland than England. It feels odd that Ireland and England have the same nationalism, yet they do.

Ireland is not as artificially paranoid as the UK. The press don’t seem to spend half their time trying to keep the population frightened. There aren’t a gadzillion cameras watching your every move. If you scratch your bottom in public here, you don’t risk starring on u-tube. But there is still a tension about, something leaving you feeling a little unable to relax. It’s not the tension of an active city; I didn’t feel this in Brussels, for example.

The arts scene is strange. I’ve been told the poetry events are formal, mainstream and stuffy, or survivalist; I’ve not got there, mainly by accident. There is a very alive visual arts scene, if the number of studios is any indication. Unfortunately, I’m very ignorant of the visual arts, and can’t judge the content.

The music scene is utterly parochial; Dublin would never support the kind of music shops you find in Brussels or Paris; nowhere specialising in second-hand modernist CDs. It needs an opera house and specific support for disrespectful rebellion against it. The musical talent seems to be wasted mass-rehashing the simplistic stuff.

Ultimately, the country’s addicted to tinned Liebfraumilch. It needs a Bordeaux.

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