Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#187: Dublin Historic Stone Paving Disbelief

Pearse Street, Dublin

Can a number make you homesick? And if it can, does it matter that the place you're homesick for isn't really your home? I've posted this 187 before, but this image -- the regal, faintly decaying number on Pearse Street -- is fixed with some crazy mnemonic epoxy to my brain. It makes me nostalgic. Nostalgic for Dublin, nostalgic for my just-finished novel, nostalgic for the hours I used to eagerly waste online on Irish architecture websites trawling for up-to-the-minute updates on planning permission quibbles, ignorant fenestration, and, perhaps my favorite: "Dublin historic stone paving disbelief."

Yes, not only did I read about such things in my "research" days, I was an active irritant in these contentious discussions, commenting from my balcony like some Statler-less Waldorf on the warp and weft of a city's urban fabric -- a city, by the way, that was not even my own. I fancied myself some sort of stone paving paparazzo, snapping up pix of Chinese granite on Henrietta Street on my research trips to Dublin, then dashing back to the nearest computer to upload the pictures before anyone else could. All of this stuff felt so important to me.

And still does. But my research is done. Pearse Street is an ocean away. It's funny to look at the finished product, this coming-of-age novel about a teenage girl in Dublin in the mid-nineties, and wonder how leafing through complicated An Taisce conservation documents and poring over meticulous descriptions of external weathering made my book any better or worse. The hamfisted masonry work on Dublin's pavements did not make it into my final manuscript. Cracked syringes did.

In any case, I'm still interested in the life of this #187. Despite all the changes going on in the area -- Trinity College has designs on it -- this building on Pearse Street is a protected structure, which means that despite its weathered appearance, it will be around for at least a little longer. The nostalgic side of me is happy to hear it, though I'm reminded of what my friend Stephen used to say to conservationist building-huggers such as myself: "That's a protected structure! Don't knock it down, just let it turn to shit."

He should've added: "And then write a blog post about it." Nostalgia this bad dies a slow death.


Conan Drumm said...

How right you are. The Westland Row of my youth was still pretty much as remembered by Joyce. And the Queens Theatre was still standing (just about) around on Pearse Street. TCD bought the lot for lebensraum and both streets were largely turned into facades with back entrances.
Well done on the novel!

ps - the Lunenburg numbers add to the Lunenburg stock of knowledge on the Drumm shelves - a few books on the 'Dutch' cuisine, folk tales, and picture books - all sent by NS relations in a different generation.

Therese Cox said...

Conan - I always chuckle at Joyce's famous boast that if Dublin were destroyed, it could be rebuilt based on the pages of Ulysses. Frank McDonald wrote a piece many years ago in the Irish Times that was a sort of "Well, no..." that still admitted the huge impact Joyce has had on the psychogeography of the city. But you're right, Pearse Street just keeps getting more and more alienating the more it's built up. I could walk the length of it without finding one place I felt welcomed to walk in and have a cup of coffee.

P.S. You are invited to share a bit of Drumm/Lunenberg trivia anytime. There should be more of them from NS in the next few weeks...