A shortcut through gangland

The sound of the alarm in the morning is a noise that appals me. It is so piercing, so insistent, so relentless. So inhumane. A clock to the left of my bed, my telephone to the right, they are programmed to start ringing five minutes apart. Just in case I unconsciously smash one against the wall in my sleep. It is wise to have a backup.

Like I zombie I rouse myself at 7.45. I do a quick blood-test to check my sugars, followed by my morning ablutions. The final task before I leave the house is to drink a glass of cold water. It quenches the morning thirst, and a double purpose is, that it lessens the temptation to buy a coffee en route to the bus-stop. There is decent coffee at work, and I don’t like to be too alert at that hour. Drowsiness allows me to numb myself on the long journey to corporate desolation.

I have my routine timed to a millisecond. From the moment I lock my front door to the moment I am sitting at my desk, it will take between sixty-five and seventy minutes. I leave my house at 8.05 and I am logged on and pretending to be awake by 9.15.

Until this morning. The alarm went off. I silenced it. Five minutes later the back-up alarm started its aural assault. I pressed the snooze button.

Except I didn’t.

In my stupor I had turned it off. The 10 minutes snooze time is a time to try to throw off the shackles of sleep, and prepare for the day. I often jolt awake, thinking I have slept through, and that it is approaching midday. Today I did sleep through. Only until 8.05 mind, but that would mean arrival at work at 9.30. I didn’t fancy staying back late to make up the time.

However, a few days ago I discovered a means of walking home that doesn’t require going into the city centre. The walk is the same distance from my gaff, but it I get off the bus about four stops before the terminus.

With a sense of bovine cunning, a plan hatched in my sleep-addled brain. If I took this new route, I could catch my usual bus about 6 minutes later than normal. And arrive at work at my usual time.

Time was off the essence though. I would have to beat that street, pound the pavement, to make my destination.

My regular route takes me through Dublin’s grottier shopping district. But it’s a place of commerce – both legal (the shops and internet cafes, and burger joints, and fabric stores) and illegal (the addicts buying and selling their blueys and yellows). This new route was more residential. It is a shabby-chic neighbourhood. Although I am to be honest it lacks the chic element. It is just shabby.

I passed the bar, close to my house, where the addict had been shot dead in a case of mistaken identity during the drug wars, earlier in the year. At this early hour it looked similar to how it looks in the evening – boarded up. The only difference, is that in the morning, there are no gentleman congregating outside, shrieking abuse at passers-by.

I made my way under the railway bridge that connects to Connolly Station. It is a large, wide underpass. Daylight only penetrates a few metres, so it is dark. And dank. There is liquid leaking through the roof in certain areas, meaning you have to avoid the puddles, while taking care not to disturb the rats that are doubtlessly resting in the piled up rubbish bags. The stink of piss is pungent. The syringes sparkle like tinsel in the corner.

It is scary. But again, at that early hour, it is deserted, so it is peaceful. Rodent life notwithstanding.

I passed what used to be known as the Sunset Bar where dissident republican Michael Barr was shot dead in April. His death was part of the on-going gangland feud for drug turf, between the Kinahan and Hutch crime families, which has seen eight people murdered this year so far.

The bar has been re-opened under new management under the name ‘Brendan Behans’ and apparently the owner is keen to point out that there are no more connections to organised crime. It still looks a bit grotty, but as it now flies the rainbow flag – as well as a Dublin flag – I wish it well. Not sure I will be gracing the place with my presence. Not that I am scared of the bar – it’s that underpass that I’d need to pass through that gives me the willies.

My destination was visible on the horizon. Almost sprinting I reached my stop at 8.40. In plenty of time for my bus.

And so the day began.


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