So far, this morning has been one of squalid misery. Having tossed and turned for most of the night, I finally fell into a deep sleep at about 6am. Imagine my mood when ninety minutes later I heard the repugnant sound of my alarm clock.
It was dark outside. It was wet (this is not a conversation about the weather I hasten to add – merely background description). It was damp in that cloying, clammy way – a surly drizzle that would penetrate the most sturdy cagoule. No fecking way was I walking to the bus in those conditions.
I boarded the tram outside my house – this would take me most of the way to my bus-stop. I sat up front, in the seat facing the oncoming traffic. I don’t know what I’d done to enrage him, but the glares being thrown my way by the queen sitting in front of me could have curdled milk.
What a vision he was. Head shaved on one side; but the other side a windswept, styled bob. A delicate lace scarf wrapped tightly around his neck – this was not the type of scarf to keep you warm. It was a statement. What it was trying to say, I have no idea? I am sure it’s edgy and fashion forward though.
Clutched tightly between his black leather gloved hands was a deeply fashionable handbag. When I say handbag I am not referring to a stylish manbag like the one I possess. My bag is like a miniature school satchel. His was a proper ladies’ handbag. Of course both our bags serve the exact same purpose so I am not sure why I am mentioning his version.
He kept glancing over at me like I’d been caught pissing in his muesli that morning.
I didn’t care to find out what his issue was. Perhaps like me he was just in a bad mood, but unlike me, is incapable of hiding behind a bland facial expression.
I got off at O’Connell Street and dashed up towards Parnell Square – where my bus leaves. Passing the GPO(General Post Office) – launch site of the Irish independence campaign in the twentieth century was massively depressing.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses handing out the ‘Watchtower’ and ‘Awake!’ magazines underneath the post office awning were smiley and friendly, as is typical for them. Were I not such a committed atheist, and wildly sceptical of all religions, I think I’d choose to be a Witness. At least based on their smiley,. happy faces in the cold December rain in Dublin.
Less heart warming were the people in sleeping bags in the doorway of the post office. The GPO offers some shelter from the elements. Ireland has a homelessness emergency – which the government seems absolutely determined to ignore – you simply couldn’t be interfering with the market now could you? Aren’t we a great little country to do business in after all? Always a ready supply of brown envelopes with which to stuff used banknotes as bribes. And those people living in hotels and in doorways are just sponging layabouts who should get a job and look after themselves, right? Their addiction and mental illnesses are all their own fault as well. Why of course. It’s everyone for themselves, and screw the ones who fall through the cracks. They had it coming to them. Right?
The sight of rough sleepers is a daily occurrence. Of course they will lay down their cardboard mattress where there is some protection from the weather. There were three of them huddled in their sleeping bags by the entrance to the GPO this morning.
The irony wasn’t lost on me. The GPO is held up as an icon of Irish independence; and how we overthrew colonialism after hundreds of years of oppression. The manner in which it is used by desperate people in 2016 is emblematic of how the noble ideals of 1916 were only a dream.
I counted seven rough sleepers between the GPO and Parnell Square. This is a five minute walk. Another favoured resting spot on O’Connell Street is Dr Quirkey;s Goodtime Emporium – a games arcade – which like the GPO, is dry in the doorway, therefore attractive as a sleeping spot. I understand that my part of town has a higher level of homelessness and drug addiction than most of Ireland, so my perspective may be slightly skewed. It is horribly depressing and scary to see this every day – especially now that it is heading to the heart of winter.
Feeling almost tearful I boarded the bus. I sat in my usual spot.
I looked up. My heart started beating in terror. Please don’t sit next to me. Please have taken a shower. Please walk by me.
It was Sweaty Jim (who you can read about HERE).
He plonked down beside me.
His dirty protest continues. I held my breath for the duration of our mutual journey.