In November, Dau.I came back to Ireland after five years making her way in England. In contrast to her sister, she is determined to learn Irish and live in Baile Átha Cliath, as is the official Irish designation of the capital Dublin. It is a tourist-baffling mystery why An Fear didn’t call the city Dubh Linn, the black pool and provide some bilingual consistency with modern toponymy. Whatever, she’s landed a room in a house in the far Northside in Finglas = Fionnghlas, the clear stream. This is boomtown country which shows as white space on our year 2000 street atlas but is now a busy network of streets, avenues, gardens and closes. She was reflecting that she is returning “home” to Dublin almost exactly 20 years since we left the farmhouse in far outer distant Northside, where she was born, to come down the country and up the mountain where I am now writing.
Who’d chide her for being enthusiastic about her next set of adventures? She’s really looking forward to meeting Finglas library which, it transpires, is about 2km from her new gaff. I was wondering how long it might take to walk, but she said “Duh, I’ve got my bike, I can get there in no seconds flat.”
When I landed my first job after my PhD, our home was about 2km from my office in the University. I had my old black no-gears bike from Dublin college days and used to whizz across the intervening distance twice a day. Occasionally, in the Summer, even coming home for lunch. After a year and more of this, I decided that this whizz time was dead time and it wasn’t good for my sanity or equanimity; so I gave up the bike. I set off a little earlier and paid attention to the Edwardian and Victorian streetscape that I passed through. It’s what trendies of the present day would flag as being mindful. It’s a long way from Mindful I was reared! After a few weeks of this new, more relaxed regime, I realised that I kept checking my watch at the key intersections to see if my progress was on schedule. This will never do, I said, and gave up wearing the watch. That’s about 30 years ago, and I’ve never missed the wrist-watch.
I told this tale as a bit of paternal parable and Dau.I’s response was “Yes, that might work, if I walk to the library, I can start reading the books on the way back. Heck and jiminy, who’d be in the present moment, when you can be on a flying horse slaying goblins? The wonderful Caitlin Moran was in a similar case with libraries. "I’ve written about that library before. About how this place was the delight of my life – a thing I would have married in my pre-pubertal anthropomorphic phase. I would have been happy as a clam – and, if the gods had so blessed us, in later year, I would have got pregnant by that library, and would have raised a couple of little mobile libraries together".
Dau.I was a little intrigued that I had been obsessively checking my watch back in the day when we had one-function devices. She suggested that I/we should have stuck with watch-glancing because once done it's over . . . until the next OCD tic kicks in. People of her generation don't have watches either, they have smartphones - checking the time on one of them might well involved a jump down a rabbit-hole of social media which will spit you out in anther frame of mind an hour after you last checked the time. Go on, give up the old instachatter, it's just a tic and you'll never miss it.