24 Hours in Temple Bar

It’s different things to different people: party zone, bohemian quarter, workplace and home to 2000 people. We spend a day and night in Dublin’s Temple Bar, to find out what really happens there over 24 hours. Quite a lot

Patrick Freyne spent 24 hours in Temple Bar, Dublin's cobblestoned quarter of 'culture, drunkenness, oddness'. We caught up with him for a few hours on a Friday afternoon to capture a few of his encounters. Video: Kathleen Harris

Sat, Aug 30, 2014, 01:00

Temple Bar  - Cultural quarter or tourist trap?

 
On the weekend of August 16th I spent 24 hours in Dublin’s Temple Bar district. Okay, it was actually 25 hours, and I did it in two shifts: 6am-6pm on the Friday and 5pm-6am on the Saturday. 
 
Temple Bar is, in theory, Dublin’s cultural quarter, but many locals see it as a bright, loud containment area for tourists and drunk people. It’s both. Among the superpubs and ersatz Irishness are theatres, galleries, the film-makers’ support organisation Filmbase, a cinema, a weekly food market, book stalls and a Focus Ireland coffee shop for homeless people. (“It’s a godsend,” says a sweet young man called Darren Fortune over a cup of tea.)
 
During the day tourists take photos of leprechauns and olde-worlde sweetshops and pubs that aren’t old at all. The more curious wander into gallery spaces like Culture Box and the Gallery of Photography. Tourists, despite what Dubliners believe, love Temple Bar, and I find only two who doubt its credentials as a bohemian quarter.
 
On the other hand people working in shops and cafes dislike the buskers and the loitering young people; the buskers are wary of, but nice to, the beggars and drug addicts; the beggars like the tourists and feel protected by the security guards (“They look after me,” says one man) and the residents – 2,000 of them – hate the stag and hen parties. The stag and hen parties, bless them, feel loved by everyone.
 
As the night progresses a young man celebrates the 30th birthday of a dead friend. A girl in a bridal veil sings with a busker. Gardaí move street drinkers. People dance, snog, drink and urinate.
 
Sometimes there are bursts of violence, but I only ever see the aftermath of this. (“There was a fight in here earlier,” a weary Centra employee tells me at around 4am.) 
 
All the while destitute people hang around the edge of partying groups. They try to join in. They tell strangers their stories. The boundaries between people break down with alcohol, and it’s strange being sober amid drunkenness. A restaurant employee tells me he has learned to “see the beauty in things”. I’m not quite there yet.
 

Daytime

6.10am A council worker is walking along, spraying the footpath. Juan Ortego del Rio, from Uruguay, is shivering in a T-shirt outside Hanleys Cornish Pasties in Merchant’s Arch, where he works and where he spent last night. No one else is around.

“I forgot my key to close up,” Juan says sheepishly. “I can’t go home until my boss comes.” He’s pretty good humoured about it and offers me a cup of mate, “which looks like marijuana but isn’t marijuana”.

6.30am Julius Jokela and Julia Kukkonen, just arrived from London, are Finnish, hippyish and confused. “Our guidebook says Temple Bar is the bohemian quarter,” Kukkonen says. “Bohemian my ass,” says Jokela, pointing at McDonald’s.

7.30am Dan comes up to me in Temple Bar Square. “Is this Thursday or Friday?” he asks with lightly accented English. He’s been out all night. We go for a coffee at McDonald’s. He orders a double espresso, and we watch office folk come and go. He tells me about issues he’s having with his landlord. “It’s good I’ve told a journalist in case I . . .”, he whispers, “disappear. If I go toe to toe with him I’ll lose my life and s**t, because you know how all these rich guys are connected.”

He knows about rich people, he says, because his grandfather was a billionaire from the colonies, “but the money’s gone now”. I must look sceptical, because he invites me back to his flat to prove it. I dither for a bit. 8am Dan takes me down a lane past a series of council-sponsored artworks (a project called Love the Lanes) and a couple of non-council-sponsored syringes.

He’s talking about psychedelics. “I ate some pig once,” he says. “There was some hair on it, and when it brushed my lips I swear to God, man, I was psychically connected to that pig. I could see that little pig rush around.”

He tells me that Timothy Leary evaporated into the ether and that he may be from the fourth dimension. “I believe I’m an untouchable human being,” he says.

We enter a cluttered flat with clothes on the floor and cracks in the ceiling. He shows me photographs and books of family history. He talks about the prestigious university to which his family have gone for generations. He’s the black sheep and can’t please them, he says.

When he told his father about his girlfriend’s silicon breasts his father acted unimpressed. Dan looks hurt when he tells me this. “If you’re a bad boy with the Wasps they cut you off like that,” he says, snapping his fingers. “For me it was always going to be president or the gutter.”

9.15am I sit at Cafe Vivaldi with a coffee, watching people walk to work and lorry drivers offloading supplies. It’s sunny but cold. People hurry by. I hear a busker start up in Merchant’s Arch. A man with a truck full of beer kegs has just broken his mirror. “Seven years’ bad luck, Stephen,” says another driver. “You’re all bastards,” says Stephen.

10am “They call me Tom Selleck,” says John Satell, a moustachioed street cleaner.

“Why do they call you Tom Selleck?”

“They think I look like him.”

Satell and Noel Young, a litter warden, take me on a tour of Temple Bar’s lanes. We go down the lane by Tesco. They point out needles, human excrement and fly-tipping. “There are people living here,” says Young.

We go along Essex Street and into the west end of Temple Bar, where Young starts poking through some illegally dumped bags for evidence.

“You have to be careful of sharps,” he says. Getting “sharped” is an occupational hazard. There are needles all over these alleys in the mornings.

They also bemoan urban foxes, inexperienced kitchen porters who don’t understand proper waste disposal, and the work-shy operatives of privatised bin companies who leave heavy bags behind.

Down Crampton Court we see the Love the Lanes artwork, although Young says there’ll be a different kind of loving going on later in the lanes. “There are some deviants in this city,” he says, looking at me with a raised eyebrow. “There’s a lot of . . . goings-on.”

As we stroll back along Essex Street, Young threatens a man with a €150 fine for throwing his cigarette away.

Satell says that if there are photographs for the article he wants to be in them.

“Don’t mind him,” says Young. “Just cut and paste in a picture of Tom Selleck.”

11.15am Two backpacking young Texans, Om Chitale and Jacob Paloone, ask me directions to the train station. “As you can tell from my name,” says Chitale, “I have an Irish heritage.”

11.45am “The ‘Master Baits’ T-shirt is popular,” says Mary Harkin, at Rory’s Fishing Tackle. “ ‘There’s nothing like holding one of our rods in your hands,’ ” she reads.

Rory’s is the oldest retailer in Temple Bar. Harkin, daughter of Rory, remembers when buses ran by their door. “People ask, what the feck is a fishing-rod shop doing in Temple Bar? They don’t realise we were here first.” They have a customer base all over the world. “People address postcards to ‘Rory’s, Dublin’ and they get to us.”

12.30pm “You look like a spy,” says Kayleigh’s Cousin. (That’s her name, apparently.)

“I’m a journalist,” I say.

“Yeah, a spy,” says Kayleigh’s Cousin. “Like 007.”

She starts singing the James Bond theme, but it morphs into a slowed-down version of cancan music. She doesn’t seem to notice. It’s the most sinister version of cancan I’ve ever heard. She points finger guns at me and whispers, “Double-oh seven”.

Kayleigh Grant is getting married, and I’ve temporarily joined her hen party, at Bad Bobs. She has a bridal veil, a sash and a wand. There are two types of penis-shaped straw, one more anatomically correct than the other. There’s a list of items she must get from boys – boxer shorts, a condom, a musical instrument – and stickers to give to “the geekiest guy” and the “nicest kisser”. (Kayleigh’s Cousin can’t find one for “spy”.)

“We’re not a rowdy hen party,” says Kayleigh demurely, spilling her drink across the table.

“Spy!” says Kayleigh’s Cousin and starts singing the Bond/cancan mash-up again as I wipe champagne from my dictaphone.

12.55pm “There are a lot of flaneurs in this city,” says Ángel Luis González Fernández, director of Photo Ireland’s Library Project, an excellent resource library and bookshop. “But I have heard Wonderwall far too many times,” he says.

Recently, he and some others helped detain a bag-snatcher. “We were holding him for 25 minutes before the police came. I started to get very nervous.”

1.30pm Temple Bar Square is beginning to fill with tourists of all ages, buggies and buskers. Alice Walsh, who has had a book stall there for 15 years, believes she’s getting too old for the place. “My son Harry is great at it,” she says. “Last week a woman picked up a book and said, ‘This any good?’ and Harry said, ‘Not only is it good; it changed my life.’ ” She laughs. “I tend to have a puss on me.”

2.35pm Outside Fitzsimons superpub – “five floors of fun” – a group of Englishmen are wearing black T-shirts that read “Find him a wife.” One of them, Shaun, has a white T-shirt that reads “Find me a wife.” It’s his 40th birthday.

They know each other from playing hockey, although currently they don’t seem particularly athletic. One of them stumbles out, looking white.

“He got sick,” Shaun explains.

“You’re delaying the drinking,” Shaun’s friend Mike complains.

A van tries to manoeuvre around the corner, and Mike slaps the bonnet. “You’re beautiful,” another man sings to the eye-rolling van driver.

A car tries to follow. Mike opens the door of the car.

“You’re beautiful,” his friend sings to the driver.

A haggard-looking man walks by. He stops and says, theatrically, “Find that man a wife.”

“Wahey!” says everyone. (“Wahey!” is said a lot in Temple Bar.)

“Come on,” Mike says, putting his arm around my shoulders. “Let’s go drinking.”

3pm “I had a Bible-basher giving out to me earlier about my T-shirt,” says Keith Byrne. His shirt features Jesus in sunglasses. “He said it was blasphemous.”

Keith is eating an ice cream with his 12-year-old daughter, Morgan. “When we were kids we’d come here, because we were metal heads and we could buy T-shirts and badges we couldn’t get on our side of town.”

Morgan’s not a metaller. “I’m more into One Direction.”

“Give her time,” says Keith.

3.15pm Outside the Temple Bar, an Englishman is pretending to hit a leprechaun with a shillelagh. It’s Mike, still trying to find Shaun a wife. “Wahey!” says Mike.

“Wahey!” say the rest of the gang.

The leprechaun’s real name is Phil Hogan – “not the Minister” – and he’s an underemployed actor.

“Twenty years ago you’d have been shot dead if you dressed like a leprechaun. But we’re accepted now. We’re back into the fold, like Sinn Féin.”

He refuses to take his big plastic leprechaun head off – “leprechaun code of ethics” – and I’m not sure where to make eye contact. “It’s injection moulding,” he says, “from the States.”

Mike comes out of the pub with pints of Guinness for me.

“Wahey!” says Mike warmly.

I give a pint to Hogan.

“Want to be inaugurated into the Leprechaun Society of Ireland?” he asks.

3.45pm Outside the Quays Bar a gang of men in sombreros, fake bandito moustaches and ponchos are gathered around a man wearing a rubber suit and a gimp mask who has dildos strapped to his hands.

“I’m getting married,” says the gimp, whose name is Paul.

“Nah, he always dresses like this,” says a bandito.

They’re from Derby – or, as they call it, Darbados. They’ve just had a drinking competition with another stag party, and the best man, Johnny, talks as if he’s reading PowerPoint slides. “Temple Bar is famous for food, drink and craic,” he says. “We’re here to have a good time.”

As Johnny talks, Paul repeatedly offers me his hand to shake. I absent-mindedly go for it each time, finding myself with a healthy grip on a large black dildo.

The banditos find this hilarious.

“Ah, stop that,” I say. “It’s not funny.”

“It is a bit funny,” says Paul.

“What do gimp costumes have to do with Mexican banditos?” I ask.

“There isn’t any synergy between the two, to be honest with you,” says Johnny.

“Is the costume comfortable?” I ask Paul.

“It’s warm. And it’s hard to move. And I can’t speak properly because of the zip. And it’s hard to hold my drink.”

“It’s a great costume, though,” says Johnny firmly. “An absolutely fantastic costume.”

“Yes,” says Paul.

I let him place the dildo in my hand again, because I feel sorry for him. “Wahey,” he says, gratefully.

4.20pm Connolly Books, run by the Communist Party of Ireland, has been on Essex Street since 1976. Anthony Fox established the New Theatre there in 1997, “to tell stories about social issues”.

He likes “fundamentalism in art”, he says. There are problems here, he says, and residents and businesses are struggling with them, but he loves “the vibe. It’s very alive, very energetic.”

4.45pm Tourists really like Temple Bar. There’s Milian Schenk, a Swiss honeymooner, who has brought his new wife here because he had such fun on a stag party; there’s Geoff Jarred, a retired Australian dairy farmer, who doesn’t care “if things are a bit more expensive”; and there’s Erik Peters, a German travel photographer, who compares it favourably to St Pauli, in Hamburg.

They like the music. They like the crowds. They don’t mind that it’s ersatz and expensive. They don’t notice that it’s edgy.

5.20pm Connected Ink, on Crown Alley, sometimes gets stag parties in, says its manager, Brendan Roche. “They think we’ve never heard of their funny tattoo ideas,” he says with a sigh. “ ‘100% English beef’ tattooed on the ass.”

He laughs. “If you want a shamrock on your ass, meaning we have to look at your ass after five pints, we’re going to charge €100. If you’re okay with that, we’ll do it.” We leave Temple Bar on Friday evening and return late on Saturday afternoon.

 

Night-time

 

5pm In the Icon Factory gallery, on Aston Place, Aga Szot, Julian Bocancea and Regine Shultz are glueing cards together. Last year Szot helped to create the Icon Walk, along Bedford Lane and Price’s Lane, celebrating Irish icons from Luke Kelly to Father Ted. She’s painfully aware of the drug use in the lanes. The Icon Walk is about “civilising the place with art”, she says.

5.50pm Temple Bar Square is busy. Buskers play. People push buggies. A skinny man in a bomber jacket is weaving about and appears to be selling drugs. Lonely dishevelled figures hang around the periphery of happy holidaymakers. A Beatle-haired member of the Legion of Mary distributes tracts.

Raul Bente from Romania, who works in the Quays Irish Restaurant, gives a homeless man a cigarette. What does he think of Temple Bar? He laughs. “I can see the beauty in things,” he says.

6.15pm “Beardie! Beardie! Beardie!” chants a very bald man at a bearded taxi driver outside the Auld Dubliner.

Then he spots me. “Beardie! Beardie!” he says, coming up to my face. He adds a tune. “He’s a beardie! He’s a beardie!” He adds a dance. His elbows are flapping like a chicken while his long legs squat up and down. “He’s a beardie! He’s a beardie!”

He jabs his fingers out and points for emphasis. “He’s a beardie! You’re a beardie! You’re a beardie.” It’s quite an involved performance, and it goes on for some time.

His name is Dee, and he’s part of Conor’s stag party. Conor is in full football gear.

Justin, another member of the group, asks me for Dublin bar advice. “What’s Coppers like?” he asks.

“Wanna be in my gang, my gang?” Dee sings in the background at a man he says looks like Gary Glitter.

“Between you and me, I’d like somewhere a bit quieter,” says Justin.

“Help! help!” Dee cries while dry-humping a passerby.

“Somewhere with some good music would be great,” says Justin.

“He’s a beardie! He’s a beardie!” says Dee, noticing me again.

“Where’s Dee from?” I ask Justin.

“Oh, I thought he was with you.”

7pm Gardaí are confiscating bottles from homeless people at Temple Bar Square. There are a lot of gardaí about all of a sudden.

I meet a confused Pole with a hurdy-gurdy (“this place is strange”), some coffee-drinking Swiss students covered in paint (“there’s so much life here,” says Felicia Von Allmen), snap-happy members of the Irish Street Photography Group, who are exhibiting at the nearby Culture Box, and a pair of middle-aged Utahans, Jolie and Brad Harty, on their fifth trip to Dublin. “You need the craic, Patrick,” Jolie says with concern in her voice.

7.40pm Outside Rory’s a shuffling man in a tracksuit makes a grab for Juan Manuel Paniagua and Melody Padula’s money box. Juan and Melody make and sell macrame. Juan pushes him back.

“Why’d you push me?” the man shouts.

“You were stealing from me,” says Juan, standing over him.

“I was not. I was fixing it,” he says, sounding hurt.

Bobby Coyne, a busker, comes over, puts an arm around the man and steers him away. “He’s calling me a thief,” says the failed thief. “I’ll f***ing kill you. I’ll come back when you’re not expecting it,” he shouts back to Juan.

He accidentally kicks over a tin belonging to an Argentinean leprechaun called Mario Andres Vigna, then makes a point of picking it up and handing it back politely.

Juan and Melody sit back down.

“We’re all friends down here,” says Bobby. “We watch out for each other.”

“Were you not frightened?” I ask Juan.

He laughs. “We see that guy every day. Anyway, we’re from Argentina. That’s a little more dangerous than here.”

8.20pm Outside Centra a large tourist in denim shorts is swaying. His female friend is carrying a blow-up doll.

Neil says he’s too shy to talk. This is hard to believe. Earlier he was bellowing a Snow Patrol song with a busker while Carol shouted “you’re shit” at him. Carol is not shy.

“We’ve come here to be f***ed by him,” she says, pointing to a bouncer. “Then we’re going to drink her coffee,” she says, pointing to a waitress on a break. “Then we’re going to eat his sandwich,” she says, pointing to a tourist on the step. “Then we’re going to take his doll,” she says, pointing to a baby in a buggy.

“It’s her bucket list,” says the deadpan waitress.

“Then she’s going to take the bucket and get sick in it,” says Neil.

“No I’m not,” says Carol, looking hurt. “I don’t waste alcohol.”

8.40pm Peter and his dog, Violet, are sitting with a cardboard sign that reads “Need money for food.”

A Northern Irish couple, Pamela and James, come up to pet Violet. They start talking about Jack Russells and their wayward ways. Peter’s face lights up.

“My son’s Jack Russell is always starting fights with Rottweilers,” says James.

“She’s the same,” says Peter, chuckling. “They’re little bastards.”

James says he likes Temple Bar because it doesn’t matter what you wear here. In Belfast “you can’t wear football shirts in pubs, because of the Celtic and Rangers thing”.

“Are you Rangers or Celtic?” asks Peter.

“Well, my friends are Rangers fans,” says James.

“I can’t understand any of it,” says Peter, shaking his head. “We’re all the bleeding same.”

“Is she a comfort to you?” asks James, giving Violet another rub.

“She’s my best friend in the world. She’s the only friend I have. She looks after me. If I’m asleep and someone comes up she gives a bit of a growl.”

James and Pamela shake his hand, give him some money and start to move on. “Leave the Rottweilers alone,” James says to Violet.

“Thank you, friend,” says Peter.

9pm The window is open in my colleague Frank McDonald’s lovely flat on Temple Lane. “That bloody bongo player is still playing,” he says. Over nearly 20 years he has seen the place morph from “a bustling area full of small businesses” into “Dublin’s designated party zone”.

Now he has his own decibel meter and heads a residents’ organisation – 2,000 people live in Temple Bar. “There are things we accept as normal in Ireland that just aren’t normal,” says McDonald.

9.45pm Outside the Temple Bar, Lee Llewellyn, a fireman who is getting married next month, is dressed as Catwoman. He is flanked by Batman, the Flash, Mr T and the Incredible Hulk. The street is full of people.

“Wearing costumes is a good way to meet people,” says Batman, aka James Atkinson, whose glasses are on the inside of his cowl – “it’s the best way”.

“Everyone is dead friendly,” says Atkinson.

“Going to the toilet is difficult, though,” says Llewellyn.

“Aye, I have to take my cape off and everything,” says Atkinson.

They’ve been drinking for two days.

“How come you seem so sober?”

“We’re from Newcastle,” says Atkinson.

“Have you any good stories?” I ask.

“Well, we were go-karting yesterday and our mate was sick in the helmet,” says the Hulk.

“He said a ‘good story’,” says Atkinson.

10.45pm People with yellow “John 3:7” signs have taken up positions in Temple Bar Square. Some are Irish, some Brazilian.

This is the biblical passage that reads: “Do not marvel that I say to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ”

“We come here every week,” says Robert Butler.

Why? “Because there are people here who have two or three weeks to live. We’re all sinners but saved by grace. It’s like in The Matrix where Neo is offered the choice – the red pill or the blue pill. It’s very similar to the choice in the gospel. It’s only when you take that choice for Jesus that you come out of the mist and see the matrix for what it is.”

11.25pm Rickshaws and horse-and-carts have appeared. Families and casual tourists have disappeared.

11.30pm “Someday you will find me, caught beneath the landslide,” sings Kayleigh. The bride-to-be is singing with a busker across from the Temple Bar Trading Company.

“The spy!” says Kayleigh’s cousin and starts singing the cancan music. She grabs my notebook and stares at it. “I can’t read other languages,” she says, handing it back to me.

Kayleigh’s stepmother, Fiona, is sober, and she lists the pubs they’ve visited. Suddenly she realises the others are gone. “Oh, Jesus, where are they?” she says. “I’m trying to keep an eye on them.”

Grant is by the Centra, asking a stranger to sing for her.

“Where are you off to now?” I ask.

“Hell,” says Fiona. She’s clearly taken the red pill.

After midnight

 

12.10am A nasty drunk accuses Andrew, the server in Leo Burdock, the fish-and-chip shop, of looking like Justin Bieber. Andrew doesn’t bat an eye. “I do look like Justin Bieber,” he says. 12.35am Six men in red jackets carry signs for Carlyle Gentlemen’s Club. They are supervised by a large man in black. At least one is Brazilian and banters in Portuguese with the John 3:7 people. “It’s a joke,” says one of the Brazilian evangelists, “but a serious joke.” Both groups are, in their way, promising punters a better place.

1.10am There’s a strange smell of vomit mixed with perfume and rain as a crowd gathers outside Sin Bar, on Sycamore Street. Down the street, in a vacant space used as a car park, a man is injecting himself. At the top of the street Gavin Dodd, an apprentice pipe fitter, is waking a homeless man to give him money and to tell him it’s raining.

“It gets me here” he says, punching his chest.

“Yeah, you can’t just leave a fella like that,” says his friend Emma Connolly. They’re both from Lucan. They’re going on to an after-party.

“That makes me feel old,” I say.

“What age are you?” asks Gavin.

“Thirty-nine.”

“Ah, you’re only as old as my mum,” says Emma.

1.30am A drunk man is muttering at a horse outside Fitzsimons.

1.45am A small figure with a beard, in dark glasses and with a hood over his head shuffles by in the rain, holding a bottle of wine.

“You,” says a garda. “I’ve told you before. Out!” She walks with him to Merchant’s Arch. I follow. As soon as she’s out of sight he turns and heads back towards the square.

His name is Mick, and he tells tales of criminality and violence. In his stories he characterises himself as “a sinner” and “a bit of a c**t”.

He’s estranged from his family. His flat has burned down. He’s lost his sleeping bag. He worries that the girl he loves might be “a pro”. He loves the city. He thinks the foreigners are taking over. He thinks he has a broken bone in his hand. He suffers from manic depression.

“But I’m not a bad lad.”

We stroll back around the corner where Bobby Coyne is sheltering from the rain. Mick heads straight for him. “Mick, I’ve no time for you when you’re drinking,” says Bobby. “I used to let him sing with me,” he tells me. “Until he f***ed a bottle over my head.”

2.15am “Can I hug you?” asks a man on Essex Street. “Would that be okay? Or would it be weird?” He gives me a hug. He refuses to believe I write for The Irish Times, because I’m “too handsome” (possibly true), and he won’t give me his name because he’s “too postmodern”.

2.20am Observation: drunk people like to wee on doors, on shutters and on bin bags, basically anything people are likely to be touching the next day. I see many men, and one woman, going to the toilet. Although one man I thought was going to the toilet – in Crampton Court – was actually just showing me his penis. I had misjudged him.

2.25am A guitarist is singing across from the Temple Bar Trading Company. A homeless woman called Dinah is dancing beside him, and two German tourists are jiving to Twist and Shout. He has no amplification, but he has a loud voice and knows lots of songs. A drunk Irishman in a leather jacket sways along. Some Brazilians join in. Anderson Ciceri dances in his socks. His female companion is wearing men’s shoes. “Her shoes broke,” Ciceri explains.

Soon about 50 people are singing along to Living on a Prayer. There’s a man in a fez. Another, in a tiny leprechaun hat, is doing fightin’-Irish poses. A rickshaw is cycling over and back repeatedly, its passengers singing along, creating a sort of stereo effect. A couple are kissing. Two people are hugging Dinah. Soon I’m bellowing away to the “na-na-na” outro of Hey Jude. Sorry, Frank.

“Temple Bar is the coolest place that I have ever been,” says Ezbela Michelette.

2.50am At Supermac’s ambulance men spend 10 minutes trying to convince a young man to go to hospital. His name is Dean. He’s from Belfast. He has a badly bruised face and has been crying. A man came into the takeaway, repeatedly punched him in the face, and then left. “I just want to go back to the hotel,” he says.

2.55am A middle-aged man is arguing with the bouncers at Fitzsimons. Occasionally he takes a swipe at them, but he prefers legalistic arguments.

He gets on his knees and draws an invisible line around the doorway. “That’s your property there,” he says, pointing at the bar.

“And this is my property here, and you can’t f***ing touch me on my property,” he says. His hand sways over the line, and the bouncer pushes him back.

“You touched me again!” says the man, outraged. A passing homeless man holds him back. “Come on, buddy, just leave it.” The people he’s with have given up. One jumps in a taxi. Another just watches it all wearily.

It takes ages for the final stragglers to leave the street in front of the superbars and clubs.

3.20am I show three Englishmen the way to Abrakebabra. “It’s just such a good name,” says Ed, who seems a bit emotional about it. “Such a good name,” he says, grabbing my shoulders and looking me in the eye.

3.30am A young woman is wandering around with a duvet coverlet wrapped around her. She looks tired and has a bad cold but seems to be the only other sober person on the street. Her name is Kathleen. Earlier, she says, a drunk man chased her around, saying he wanted to shoot her. If she had got into a fight, she says, “another homeless person would probably back me up.”

She’s been on the streets since her mother died. Her father drinks. She doesn’t really like town, “but beggars can’t be choosers”, she says. She has a child, but “someone else has her for now”. She’d like to work with animals someday, she says.

Where will she sleep tonight? “To be honest with you I usually walk around until it gets bright, and then I sleep in a doorway when I know it’s safe.”

3.50am “Do you remember Leah Betts?” says a man smoking a hookah pipe in Falafel & Kebab, on Essex Street.

“Leah Betts?” says his friend.

“She was the first person to die of E,” says the first man. “Well, they’d come to our primary school to tell us about Leah Betts to stop us doing E.”

“You were doing E in primary school?” says his friend, wide-eyed. “That’s really hard core.”

“No, it was to stop us trying E. We weren’t doing E in primary school.”

I’m at the next table, drinking instant coffee. Their names are Patrick and Aaron, and they were at a goodbye party for an emigrating friend. They’re on their way home.

I tell them about my article.

“Has it been very real?” asks Aaron with concern.

Patrick puffs on the hookah pipe and thinks. “Hey, if someone buys the film rights it could culminate with this conversation,” he says.

4.05am Bin trucks and seagulls are replacing people. Everything is shut. Outside the Hard Rock Cafe a bridal veil is soaking in a dirty puddle.

4.20am Garret Doherty, a kilted Donegal man, is running backwards. “One day I was running in Fairview Park,” he says. “My T-shirt was off. It was the first sunny day, and I came to a part where there was no more sun . . . So what did I do? I turned around to face the sun and started jogging backwards.”

Doherty has been at the club Mother with his friend Ashlynn. Ashlynn is touching my beard. “What a beard!” she says. Doherty is doing the Ali shuffle now. “You’re not a real Scotsman,” shouts a passing Englishwoman. “Where’s your sporran?”

Doherty continues. “I discovered it was called ‘retro running’, that the Chinese have been doing it for 10,000 years, that there’s a world championship.”

Doherty just won that world championship. He unzips his jacket and shows me the medal.

“You know why they didn’t want you writing with your left hand in the old days?” he says. “They didn’t want you thinking for yourself.” Retro-running “is about thinking for yourself. It makes you a better dancer, makes you type faster, makes you talk faster. I run forwards and I run backwards. I run barefoot and I run with shoes. I run nude and with clothes. I take hot shower and cold showers. It’s yin and yang.”

A man with a broken nose and a can of beer walks up.

“I want to take you down the fields,” he says to Ashlynn.

“Here’s the yin now,” says Ashlynn. She and Doherty leave.

“Show me respect,” the drunk man shouts after them.

I stay put, because I’m an idiot.

“Hi, I’m Patrick,” I say.

“I’m Darren,” he says. “You know what? I make people disappear.”

“Where do you live, Darren?”

“I don’t tell anyone that,” he says. “It’s a secret.”

There’s a long pause, punctuated by seagull cries. “Want to come back to my gaff?” says Darren.

4.40am Kathleen walks by with a well-dressed couple. The woman has her arm around her and is saying, “You tell them, ‘I might be here on the street, but I’m a good person, and I want my daughter back.’ You’re as good as anybody else.”

5.10am Nitin “Ricky” Singh rickshaws me through the cold air and emptying streets of Temple Bar. Singh is doing an MBA and is already a trained mechanical engineer. He hasn’t been home in two years. “An Indian working very hard to pay for college while living in Dublin?” he says and laughs. “It’s a bit typical, isn’t it?” He’s also writing a long nonfiction story about a melancholy man redeemed by love.

5.20am Outside the Oliver St John Gogarty two friends are arguing loudly. “You never f***ing listen to me, Paul,” one of them is saying.

5.35am Dinah is sitting outside Abrakebabra with a bottle in her hand. She’s muttering. I can’t understand anything she says except the words “You want to see the cruelty of this f***ing world?”

5.50am Temple Bar never quite empties. Stragglers keep coming, alone and in pairs, all operating at different volumes and different levels of drunkenness. There’s nothing more to be done. It’s time to go home.

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