Daniel Gray . . . on capturing the spirit of Dublin

Sat, May 18, 2013, 02:00

Some secrets are best shared. A forgotten first-edition bookshop, an all-night disco in a quay-side warehouse or a café where the paint is still wet on the walls. Come a little closer to this issue of The Irish Times Saturday Magazine , we’ve got something to whisper in your ear.

This is the Best of Dublin issue, an inky tribute to the people, shops and specialists keeping our capital in bright hue at a time when the city is changing costume as quickly as an Abba tribute band. Despite having way less pocket money than 10 years ago, more and more enterprising Dubliners are filling empty buildings with new ideas (and spring-cleaning those that are already occupied).

When did we get so discerning? Gourmet coffee has colonised the city. Bars that are cheeky enough to stock anything other than craft beers are being abandoned. Out-of-town avant-garde arts’ spaces have enough money to pay their rent. It’s all starting to look very European.
A recent trip to Copenhagen reiterated the effortlessness with which Scandos adopt and discard trends. The Dublin spin on cosmopolitanism is a Bambi-
footed canter, the lope of a teenager just starting to grow into its new body.

The old foundation, though, is rock solid. That polychromatic blur Dublin turns into as you cycle through it; the spirit that seeps out of its Georgian brickwork and those phantom smells that linger on certain streets are the imprints of the millions of people who have called it home.

It’s befuddling to think less about how we influence Dublin, and more about how Dublin influences us. How much different would our personalities be if we’d been born in Tel Aviv, Sao Paolo or . . . well, Cork? Would we be less sociable? Less inventive? Less cocky? Would our livers be in better condition?

We’d certainly be less competitive. For this issue we’re putting Dubliners in a death-match with each other to slug it out for the prize of deadliest in town.

It’s an honour to be the referee in this most bloodthirsty of bouts. I’ve been judging scraps just like these as editor of a monthly free magazine named Totally Dublin (which may have wound up as a placemat underneath your lunchtime soup and sandwich around town before) and I promise to watch out for any below-the-belt punches or other attempts at play-acting.

I’ve been alive for 24 years, and spent those years in more than half as many homes. If I were to draw a graph where (X) is the proximity of a house to Dublin city centre and (Y) is what a grumpy little malcontent I am living in it, the line (D) would curve very steeply upwards (that brief period I lived in Louth is just off the charts).

Since jettisoning my pesky mother to follow my own path of house-hopping, I’ve tried to find a home as close as possible to the epicentre of town. If you too have trouble sleeping soundly without the hum of the city as a lullaby, I think you, me and this special issue are going to get on just fine.

Daniel tweets at @totallydublin

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