Friday 12th October
My employer has a sports and social club that occasionally gets heavy discounts on events. Being somewhat ant-social when it comes to my colleagues I rarely participate in these. This evening was an exception. For five euros we received a ticket for the ‘All Star Comedy Jam’ at the Laughter Lounge on Eden Quay. This was a new venue for me. That evening’s line up was headlined by the Limerick comedian Karl Spain. He is phenomenally quick witted and hilariously funny. The less said about his support acts the better.
Saturday 13th October
This weekend was Open House weekend – a collaboration between the Bank of Ireland and The Irish Architecture Foundation, where architecturally important buildings were open to the public. For free. I was rather excited.
I left my house early on Saturday morning and bounded to the Customs House close to my flat. This is a beautiful building which I have never visited. It’s a working, government building and not a museum so access is difficult. It was fully locked up. There I stood outside, forlornly in the lashing rain, shaking the gate, screaming ‘Let me in’. I check my phone and saw that the tour of the building was cancelled. I guess the department of housing was afraid that the Take Back the City direct action group would stage a sit-in to protest the government’s refusal to address Ireland’s housing catastrophe. That was a miscalculation as it was the AirBNB head offices that were occupied that day.
I took a walk down the river to the Four Courts, where I joined a guided tour of this beautiful court house. I yawned as the guide explained the court process. I knew all this from my fortnight as a jury foreman in the Central Criminal Court for a serial rape trial, earlier in the year.
After the Four Courts I took a walk over to the National Library on Kildare Street. This building is open all year round, but as I had never visited it I thought I’d rectify that. There was an interesting exhibition about one of my teenage tormentors – the poet WB Yeats, whose work was mandatory in English class. Hearing the poems being read on speakers and reading about him offered a much different perspective. Afterwards I visited the library itself and picked up a form to become a member of the library which will give me access to any book ever published in Ireland.
I strolled over to the Department of the Taoiseach (prime minister) on Merrion Square. I was denied access as this was a ticket only event, and I hadn’t bothered applying. My nightmare of having a shame-filled, torrid affair with Ireland’s right wing, gay Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar thus thwarted, I made my way to Dawson Street where I joined a tour of the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s residence – the Mansion House. A former mayor of Dublin Dermot Lacey was our tour guide. A very beautiful building.
It was now 5pm so it was time to go home to get ready for my evening as an audience member of the Ray D’Arcy Show – a prime-time chat show. I won’t describe this as I think it merits a blog post of its own, which I will write in due course.
Sunday 14th October
Open House continued on Sunday. The sun was shining today which lead to a far more pleasant atmosphere in which to explore the city. My first stop was Aras McDiarmada – the McDermott Building. This is better known for housing BusAras (the central bus station on the ground floor). I was curious to see the Eblana Theatre in the basement – a former cinema / theatre. Unfortunately as this is part of the bus station it was not open to the public. While the building is best known for the bus station, it also houses the department of Social Protection on the other six floor. Built after World War 2, it is an ugly, concrete edifice that hides a very beautiful secret. On the top floor there is a balcony which offers stunning views of Dublin City. The top floor is now a staff canteen. Originally it was meant to be a dance-hall for the public. It is a spectacularly beautiful long room. I never knew that such an ugly building housed such loveliness.
I jumped on the tram and made my way to Smithfield where I arrived at King’s Hospital Blackhall Place, just in time for a guided tour of the headquarters of the Law Society of Ireland. Built in the late 1600s it was originally a school for impoverished Protestant children (it was illegal for Catholics to bed educated at the time). The Law Society bought it in 1970 and it is now restored to its previous loveliness. The gardens out back are vast, and border the National Museum at Collin’s Barrack. I never knew these gardens existed. Sadly they are not open to the public.
On completion I walked back into town. I hopped on a bus out to the Casino at Marino – a neo-classical folly built in the 1750s. I went to visit it some months ago, but it was not open at the time due to maintenance works. It was re-opened just for this weekend for the Open House. It is deceptively large containing sixteen rooms across three floors. Very impressive.
It was now 4pm and I was no longer in the city centre. Looking at the map I noticed that the closest location that was also part of the Open House was ‘Conservatory’ at 22, St. Brigid’s Road, Killester. A grand old house I thought to myself. As I approached the address I felt a bit confused. I was clearly in the wrong place. This was a 1950s housing estate of terraced houses. This couldn’t be right. Could it? The queue outside number 22 confirmed I was in the right location. An architect had created an original looking conservatory as an extension to an ordinary suburban house, which had featured in some architectural magazines. The family who lived there had opened their home for the public to see. Very brave people.
At 5pm I made my way home, culturally refreshed after my sophisticated weekend.