My beloved and I have just returned from a long weekend in one of our favourite cities, Dublin. We have been sloping off there for a weekend, mostly sans enfants, for the last fifteen years or thereabouts - and we love it.
I know some people don't 'get' our love for Ireland, and Dublin in particular, but to us, it's not just another city. There is something magical about Dublin and although I love the architecture, the great shops, the green space of St Stephen's Green, the rough and tumble of Temple Bar, what I love the most is the people. Everywhere you go, whether they are propped up next to you at the bar in McDaid's, driving the taxi, sitting next to you in a restaurant or squashed up next to you at a concert, the people are so friendly. However much I try, I simply can't imagine that tourists in London get the same warm glow of hospitality that we get every time we go to Dublin.
One of our favourite things to do is to catch a concert - indeed, that is generally our excuse for a trip to Dublin these days. This year's offering was Take That, supported most ably by the Pet Shop Boys. We 'darted' across town from our hotel to a station about 10 minutes' walk from Croke Park and, armed with some top info from friends who'd seen Take That in Manchester, we headed across the hallowed pitch to the centre stage rather than the stage at the front. Standing three rows from the stage in an arena where the women outnumber the men by ten to one requires strong elbows and a sense of humour. By the time Take That came on, we had formed a close band of six - the two of us, two girls who had driven down from Belfast and a couple from Bournemouth and we repelled all boarders who wanted to edge their way to the front! It was a great craic!
We've also seen Phil Collins, Robbie Williams, George Michael and latterly Eric Clapton in Dublin. The Eric Clapton concert at Malahide Castle was in torrential rain and our friendly hotel gave us bin liners to wear - not just bin liners, but wheelie bin liners which not only covered us, but were large enough to have a party in! When we got to Malahide, number 1 daughter and the Barnsley lodger went off exploring and my beloved went for beer (well, it has to be Guinness) leaving me standing in a seething mass of humanity somewhere close to the stage. By the time they all re-appeared, I had made friends with a delightful couple with dreadlocks and an interesting whiff about them. They had kindly offered to share the source of their interesting whiff - I refused, of course, but the rest of the team were vastly amused at my bonding with the local drug culture. Harmless perhaps, but catch one of mine doing a little experimenting and I'll be going through the roof!
On this trip, we also met two sets of brothers who were sitting next to us in one of our favourite restaurants. They were in their fifties and had not played golf together for twenty years but had had a day's golf and a great day and were happy to share their celebratory mood with us. They carted us off to the bar at the Shelbourne for more celebration and we really felt a part of it all.
So now all we need is another concert and we'll be off again - and I shall be more than happy to spend the money we would have spent on Olympics tickets - if only we'd got any - on the craic in Dublin.