As my regular readers (that’s you – the select few) may be aware I live in a big, shiny, modern apartment block in city centre Dublin. Built about 15 years ago it lies on the edge of Dublin’s financial district, in the north inner city. It occupies a strange twilight zone – the front of my building overlooks sleek, modern, glass, financial institutions. The rear of my building overlooks a council estate – one of the most notorious in Ireland, where crime is allegedly the only way of life, and where five gangland murders have been committed within a half mile radius this year alone.
Two rival gangs have declared war on each other for control of the illegal substance trade, and have been murdering each other with gay abandon, all within spitting distance of my house. Two months ago I was watching a news report on TV in Limerick, with my mother, about an innocent victim who lost his life, in a tragic case of mistaken identity.
My mother said to me ‘Oh that’s near where you live isn’t it?’
My response: ‘You see that building behind the reporter – well that’s home sweet home.’
This council estate is a street steeped in the lore of old Dublin. It is the street where Luke Kelly of the Dubliners grew up. And it is the street from which Stephen Gately of Boyzone hailed, and where his funeral was held.
It is what you would call a working class street onto which the curse of gentrification is encroaching. But the street itself remains largely unchanged.
For the last number of weeks I have been hearing conversations when I turn the lights out, as I go to bed. I have huffed and puffed, to the front door of my flat to eye the other flats on my floor, with suspicion. Who is up at this hour, preventing my badly needed beauty sleep? However not a sound is coming from the other residents on my floor. I have looked out the windows to see if people are chatting on the street. But nothing. I have stared accusingly at the Street from my window, silently judging.
It was starting to trouble me? These voices I am hearing. Are they a figment of my imagination? Am I slowly going mad? What on earth is going on? These faint voices chatting late at night.
The voices are not very intrusive, fairly hushed, and certainly quieter than the traffic on the road outside my window. But I find it irritating. Voices engage my interest. And eavesdropping is both educational and entertaining. Cars not so much.
It was only yesterday as I arrived home from work from a new direction that the mystery was solved. Thinking it should be possible to get home walking along the Royal Canal, I left the bus at Dorset Street. The sun was shining, the weather was sweet. A summer evening stroll. Of course the walkway along the canal ended long before I reached my house, so I ended up scrabbling my way around the area, north of the river, my building visible but the route to get home completely unknown.
After wandering around for a while I figured out my location.
I live very close to the royal embassy of Saudi Arabia – it is less than a five minute walk from my house. I never knew. The penalty for homosexuality in Saudi Arabia is death. I gave the embassy the evil eye.
As I approached my building from the rear I gazed up at my window. Then I glanced down.
Between my building and the Street is a locked park . Railings surround it on all sides (a metal grate divides my building from the railing). Directly below my bedroom window, but within the railings of the park, and not visible when staring out was an encampment, comprising of two tents. Some homeless people have staked their spot outside my house.
I felt fairly wretched. There I was grumbling, and growing ever more paranoid about the voices in my head (or so I thought). While below me are a group of people with only a bit of canvas to separate them from the elements. At least it’s summer so it’s warm. But there, on the edge of the emblem of Ireland’s economic recovery (and the cause of the crash) – the banking industry – live some of its casualties.
I promise not to get upset at my 15 minute delay in getting to sleep any longer.