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2017 Grateful 44

Dithering at a bus stop outside Dublin Airport recently, debating the merits of taking a 16 or 41, a bus driver hollered at us from inside his bus.

– Where are ye off to?
– Malahide Road
– That’s a long road, love
– Between Artane and Donnycarney
– Ah – you want that bus there (pointing to the one in front of him). Get off at Annesley motors on Cloghran and hop on the 27b and you’ll be sorted. How are ye paying?
– We have Leap cards [Irish equivalent of Oyster cards – prepaid travel cards]
– Ye know it’s two fares, right?
– Yep – cheers
– No bother

So we get on the No. 16 and ask the driver to let us out at Annesley Motors in Cloghran. Then we sit down and wait.

In comes our friendly guy. He has a chat with our driver and then shouts down the bus to us:

– Tommy’ll see ye right. He’ll let ye know when to get off. Are ye okay so?

It’s been a while since I’ve merited such attention.

We motor on and Tommy finally calls us out. As he pulls up to the stop, he asks us where we are going:

– Malahide Road. Between Donnycarney and Artane
– Ah sure, why don’t you come on down with me to Beaumont and pick up the 14 That’ll take you to Donnycarney
– But they’d we’d have to walk up the hill instead of down
– Fair point, fair point. I’ll take ye to the next stop – it has a shelter and a timetable so ye can see where ye’re at. No charge. Ye’ll have a wait though. Sure ye won’t come with me?
– Nah. Thanks though. We’re grand

At this stage, the rest of the passengers, all tourists, were trying to figure out who we were and why we were getting such attention.

It was bloody freezin’ as we stood and waited our 12 minutes for the 27B. It was on the screen, getting tantalizingly close only to drop back as it was overtaken by another bus. We watched the countdown. 5 min. 4 min. 2 min. Due. And then it disappeared off the screen and never appeared over the hill. And we were in Cloghran.

A couple of minutes later, a bus pulls up. It had its as seirbhís sign up (out of service). The driver opened the door and the story continued

– What number are ya?, I asked
– What number do you want me to be?
– I’d love you to be a 27B

– Grand so. Hop on.

Not quite believing the randomness of it all, on we got.

– What fare to you want?
– I’ve no clue. I want to go to the Malahide Road. The stop after the turn to Artane Castle
Yeah, but what fare do you want?
– The cheapest

Grand so. That’ll be €1.05

We were on that bus for at least half a hour if not 40 minutes; our €1.05 had run out in the first ten. We wandered in and out of estates, passing the same church at least twice. It was like a mystery tour.

I love Dublin. I love Dubliners. I love the irreverence and their ability to knock some craic out of just about anything. And for those who say that the ‘furriners’ or the ‘non-nationals’ moving into the country will ruin it, only one of those three bus men was Irish. It hadn’t taken the others long to catch on. And for this, I’m grateful.

 

Over before it began

Two memories collided last week to bring a slight halt to my gallop and give air to a peculiar vulnerability that I share with Stephen Fry.

Many, many years ago, when working with the Bank of Ireland in Dublin, one of the lads in the office made a throwaway comment to the effect that my death would make the headlines. It was simply not in my nature to ‘go gentle into that good night’. Every now and then something happens to remind me of this.

A few years ago, Dublin Bus found its sense of humour and introduced some signage onto night buses that gave tourists cause to think that pole dancing was the new  fetish among Irish women. That, too, stuck in my mind. I have a distinct memory of trying to convince the inimitable Mr Evans to have an ‘open pole’ night at his Club here in Budapest. I’d even gone so far as to suggest Tuesday nights at 10pm. I figured that there had to be some other women my age who harboured fantasies of performing on stage – just once. A bucket list thing.

Sadly, Mr Evans has moved back to the UK so that avenue has closed. However, the lovely MI, remembered hearing of this dream and signed me up for pole-dancing classes here in the city, in the shadow of the Synagogue. No special clothes needed. So, other than the initial cost of the classes, no further financial outlay was required. I was curious, and, dare I say, a little excited, about giving this a go. Apart from anything else, it’s supposed to be great exercise – a blessing in a somewhat unusal disguise. Apparently I would learn techniques that require muscle strength, balance, flexibility, and  strong body coordination. And half of Hollywood’s A list has had poles installed at home.

I turned up. On time. The first shock to my system was the bevvy of beauties waiting in the rather cosy reception dressed in briefer-than-briefs briefs and shorter-than-short shorts. And tanned. All of them. All over. No special clothes….mmmm…  my spaghetti-strapped top and my tracksuit bottoms would render me decidedly overdressed. But I had made it this far. I was attracting some curious side-long glances but put this down to the fact that I wasn’t a native, tanned, twentysomething…

We changed. And after a few self-conscious minutes where I failed miserably to fade into the background and was trying instead to adapt the nonchalance I’d recently come to associate with Stephen Fry [I’ve just finished his latest autobiog], the class began. The room was walled in mirrors. There was no escaping me. For the warm-up exercises, I focused directly on the instructor, watching her every move as my limited Hungarian wasn’t up to following her spoken instructions. So closely did I watch that I’m sure I could have been had for static stalking. But I did ok. Not the most graceful swan on the river by any means, but I held my own and did just fine.

Then came the poles. You could circle them easily with your thumb and index finger. About 4 metres high, each one was secured by four bolts into the floor and another four bolts into the ceiling. One was a little loose. The instructor, all 40kg of her showed us the first series of moves  – she reached up and caught hold of the pole, arm fully extended and then, feet off the floor, swung herself around and around until she landed. All her weight was suspended by her wrist as she floated through the air like a ribbon on a maypole. It was then that I started to flashback to those headlines. I had 25kg on the person closest to me in size and was overwhelmed with a vision of the roof falling in as my pole collapsed under my weight, killing all and sundry. When they cleared the rubble, they would find my hand still attached, and my father would know what I’d been up to.

Now, were I less self-confident, I’d have stayed in the class and tried to muddle through. Instead, I excused myself, and left. I’d lasted twenty minutes; long enough for me to draw a pencilled line through that particular bucket list entry.

In a fashion that is a little like cleaning the flat before the cleaner arrives, I figure I need to lose 20 kg before I next attempt to hang out of a pole – be it on the Night bus to Swords or wherever. So, I did what I’ve been threatening to do for years – I bought some gym shoes. One step at a time.