There is a road in Dublin 6. On either side of that road is Ranelagh. Ranelagh is…
…cafés, coffee shops, tea rooms, delis, restaurants, take-aways, bars, pubs, shops, markets, supermarkets, butcheries, off-licenses. It is one taxi rank, one luas stop, one park (slightly overgrown). It’s a Seventh Day Adventist church and the ghost of a Laser Disc store, sadly departed.
But, o so canny reader, I am in no doubt that you have already guessed the direction of this blog post, and I will indeed not disappoint your expectations by saying that these above-listed amenities do not give a true insight into the soul of Ranelagh, for it is the people who inject life into any given place.
Ranelagh truly is the perfect place to people-watch. I have the good fortune to be able sit down between one and three times a day with a freshly prepared meal of my own devising and watch as the faces go by. This activity quickly becomes engrossing, especially when most people do not even think to glance in my direction as I watch them from my kitchen window, fork in-hand performing its dutiful upwards-downwards movements.
After a while you start to notice familiar expressions. Young people carrying backpacks, dragging suitcases, red-faced and sweating, clearly exhausted. Haggard expressions that could be anything from love-sickness to a sore foot, but it’s always fun to try and interpret these transient expressions. Then there’s the less transient-looking expressions, those of the elderly, who don’t wear whatever thoughts happen to be passing through their brains on their faces, but seem to be expressing their entire lives.
A particular grey-haired gentleman I’ve noticed a few times walks by with a hunch, one that looks like a lifetime of keeping his head down and not drawing attention to himself. It certainly started in the classroom, where the other boys would make fun of his overly tidy hair or dangling awkward arms. It probably decided his career for him, hunching in front of a desk, keeping the head below the level of his fellow workers, the joy, or simply non-misery, of not being picked out and regarded. His cheeks sag and drag his mouth into a natural frown, so that you imagine what would make you smile would put his mouth back into the neutral position. He makes his return journey having acquired a tabloid newspaper.
What’s most shocking is the amount of people I know here. My first Monday as I walked into the city I passed by a guy I went to school with, crossing the road. When I returned several hours later he was crossing the road again in the exact same spot. Then a few days later I noticed a brother of a friend cycle by, and when I relayed this fact to another friend the following day another person I went to school with called out to me. And I went to school in Wexford.
Already there’s new familiar faces forming a position in my brain. For one there’s the young romani guy who sits on the ground against the post box and makes a gesture of acknowledgement every time I walk by, by pointing at the sky. I’ve been watching him and he doesn’t do this gesture to anybody else. It’s like our little game, he points, I ignore him and then I smile to myself after I’ve walked past him. It’s a perfect relationship we have.
I’ve really only skimmed the surface of this little suburban corner of Dublin having moved in a mere two and a half weeks ago. I’ve begun to expand my culinary range with help from the local Superquinn and I’ve tasted a rather good macchiato from Nick’s Coffee Company for €1.50 a pop. Also Redmond’s off-license has one of the best beer selections in the city including a whole range of Odell’s which I’ve been advised is “the best”.
So Ranelagh, not exactly a frontier waiting to be explored or a people waiting to be conquered, but an obvious sense of community hangs in the air, so the future here is promising and further exploration and insight is forthcoming.