Out and Proud in Dublin Town

Back in June all the Amazon employees and their friends and families were invited to walk in the annual Dublin Pride parade.  Free food, drinks, t-shirts and sunglasses were offered along with face-painting and an after-party at a pub called Howl At The Moon.

Okay, we said.  Why not.

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The pre-match function was held in the atrium of one of the Amazon buildings and believe me, it’s not easy to get into these places.  Amazon are big on confidentiality and there is security.  They have buildings in Dublin so secret that even the employees aren’t allowed to know where they are.  Well, I suppose the ones who work in those specific offices are, but if they told you they’d have to kill you.

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The pink elephant table centrepiece. All good parties have them.

When we told the children that we were going to be in the parade there was a mixed response.  Daniel wanted to know if it would be hours of standing around like the St Patrick’s Day one was.  No, we said, it would be hours of walking slowly instead.  With free stuff.  Suck it up.  Noah was amenable as always.  Cassia was thrilled because she’d loved the St Patrick’s Day parade and since then had harboured a secret dream of being able to participate one day.  Amy, to our surprise, was relieved.  She had wished to join the march – I have no idea how she knew about it – but didn’t think she’d be allowed.

‘What?’ we said. ‘There’s no allowed about it.  Daddy gets a free drinks voucher for Howl At The Moon for every person who participates.  It’s compulsory‘.

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The Amazon atrium. The curved roofs are these weird sort of covered-wagon shaped booths for sitting in. There are also pool, foosball and table tennis tables. Our theory is that they monitor them by CCTV to find out which employees aren’t working hard enough.

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You’ve met the eye-candy in the white shorts before. That’s Isaac from the Intercontinental.  You probably want a better look so click away.

Amy, feeling the full weight of the responsibility of being a teenager and needing causes to be strident about – even when nobody’s disagreeing anyway – swung into action at breakfast that morning when Daniel was moaning about having to do all that walking.  I came in in time to hear her saying ‘…and they’ve been beaten…and mutilated…’

I don’t know what the heck she’s been reading but Daniel seemed unimpressed.

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On her other cheek, remembering St Patrick’s Day, her single previous parade experience, she requested an Irish flag. ‘Good woman’, the face painter told her. ‘Fair play to you!’  Irish Pride indeed.

So we put on the shirts, lined up for the most talented face paint artists I’ve ever seen, played with the lip-shaped party blowers, and ate a lot.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that child has never been photographed with a normal expression.

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On the party bus. Noah had to wait until his eighth birthday to lose his first tooth; he’s kindly giving you a great view of the gap here.  Noah doesn’t do face paint, in case you were wondering.

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A rare and elusive sight in photographs: me.

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You can see how excited he is.

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And we’re off.

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Noah, Josh, me, Daniel and Cassia’s balloons are visible in this one.

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Any of these photos that are well-focused, well-lit or trendily tilted are courtesy of the professional photographer, not me.

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Amy, Josh, Noah, Cassia and a thousand new friends.

 

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Cassia didn’t start out with any balloons; people just donated them along the way. It made her much easier to keep track of.  Every few metres (at least for the first half hour or so) she’d skip with excitement and say to herself ‘I’m in a parade!  I can’t believe I’m in a parade!

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Yes, Amazon owns a frog-coloured Kombi.  It says ‘Packages come in all shapes and sizes’. Ironic really because although they have a ridiculous number of enormous buildings in Dublin none of them are warehouses so nobody much ever orders anything of any shape or size because of the hefty delivery fee payable in pounds sterling.

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Cassia, Daniel and the O’Connell Monument.

Amy and Daniel understood what we were marching for.  We explained to Noah and Cassia that when you stand with people who are less powerful and get bullied it makes them stronger and more powerful, and that it’s always our duty to do this.  They didn’t care, frankly; they would have marched for anything involving face paint and balloons.

They may care later on though.  I’ve known four-year-olds who are clearly somewhere along the LGBTQ spectrum but you can’t always tell and who knows which children will reach adolescence and realise that they are, or may be, out of the heterosexual box in some way?  Young people in this situation are at higher risk than average of suffering from depression and of eventually taking their own lives.  It’s worth the sore feet once a year to make sure that if any of these children are mine they’ll at least grow up sure of the fact that whichever way they’re wired they’ll still be perfect in our eyes.

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Rainbow flags under one of the Easter Rising commemorative murals. Independence comes in many forms. The Pride Parade theme was ‘Rebel Rebel’ in honour of the 1916 Centenary.

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The iconic GPO, centre of the 1916 Rising.

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The beautiful Harp Bridge (officially the Samuel Beckett Bridge) over the Liffey. It’s a real working instrument; for special occasions they unhook something and it’s calibrated to play music as the wind passes through. Is that awesome or what?

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Supporting the Gay Pride Parade in Dublin City Centre. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th June 2016.

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LGBTQ refugees. Some people really have the odds stacked against them, don’t they?

Dolores Quinlan and Valerie O'Dwyer both from Cellbridge supporting the Gay Pride Parade in Dublin City Centre. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th June 2016.

I mostly just went along for fun, because Dublin is relatively progressive and Ireland has marriage equality – it was the first country in the world to achieve this by popular vote and is seen as one of the most liberal countries in the world in terms of attitude –  so it’s not like they really needed me.  I didn’t expect to be as touched as I was by the feeling of celebration, by the feeling of gratitude.  It hadn’t occurred to me that we would be the show and that everybody else was our audience.  In fact there were so many people parading that I’m surprised there was anyone left in County Dublin to be the audience.  There were, though, tens of thousands of them and they were all cheering for us.

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And it was profound.  We would walk past groups of people and they’d start waving and cheering.  Many were families and children but there were plenty of gay couples and I’d be thinking, what are you cheering for me for?  I should be applauding you.  I’m just walking down O’Connell Street in my Amazon t-shirt; you’ve probably spent a lifetime facing prejudice and bigotry for being who you were born to be.

The ones that actually brought a tear to my eye were the older couples.  We passed several pairs of men of, let’s say, relatively advanced age who were not dressed flamboyantly or wearing Carmen Miranda fruit-baskets on their heads but who were standing together watching the parade with dignity.  Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993 so they would have spent many years presumably hiding their true selves, having to love in secret, unable to live life in all its fullness.

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No wonder the Pride movement is drenched in colour.  The atmosphere of the day from start to finish was exuberant; it was bright and rainbow as far as you could see in every direction.  It was singing, cheering, music, dancing, flags and banners and balloons all celebrating life in glorious colour.  It’s a great metaphor for the new freedoms that so many people can now enjoy.

It’s still not perfect, of course.  But it’s better here than in many countries.  Irish citizens are free to self-declare their gender on passports, driving licences, updated birth certificates and marriage licences.  Same-sex couples can legally jointly adopt children and step-children.  It’s surprising to me because one of the basic tenets of orthodox Catholicism is that the only chaste sex is that which is open to the transmission of life (hence the belief that contraception is wrong as it causes sex to become ‘a grave sin’ even within marriage) which clearly disqualifies same-sex couples.  Given the hard line they have taken on so many other things  – you couldn’t get a divorce in Ireland until 1996, and you couldn’t buy condoms without a prescription until 1992 –  I wouldn’t have expected Ireland to be one of the most progressive countries in the world regarding LBGTQ issues. I have no idea how it’s happened but it’s a great thing.  It’s something to be proud of.

I felt humbled to be walking past people who have only recently become entitled to basic rights that I’ve taken for granted my whole life and to hear them cheering for us.  It wasn’t just about the free t-shirt in the end.  It was about saying, I am so happy for you all.  I am glad that there are tens of thousands of people here who think that you are worth dressing up and marching for.  I am proud to be part of such a huge demonstration of solidarity and love.  I am proud to be bringing up children here.  Well done Ireland.

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In the Neighbourhood

Once we’d moved into our house and done a bit of unpacking and recovered from all the above the next item on the agenda was to explore our new surroundings.  My agenda, anyway, and that’s the one that counts.  The kids would have been happy to stay home and watch t.v. but this is not a democracy, people.  I kept making them put their woollies on and get out into the world and live.

We live in the suburb of Killiney (Kil-LINE-ee) near the port of Dun Laoghaire (Dun Leary) on the south side of Dublin.  Like this:

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You can see how much sea we can see, so to speak, from just about anywhere around here.  It’s nice having so much water around.  You don’t feel as though you’re in the middle of a big soulless city.  And people really use all this water.  People go boating and scuba diving and fishing and swimming and all sorts.  There’s a scuba school and a sailing school in the local town, Dun Laoghaire, so whenever I’m waiting for the bus I have fun watching all the wet people traipsing past in their life jackets carrying paddles on their way from the harbour to wherever it is that they go to dry off and defrost.  This happens year round.  I don’t feel the need to participate, although Daniel did some kayaking and wharf-jumping last term with his class.

The first place we explored was Killiney Hill.  From our house it’s a walk of 10 or 15 minutes to the start of the park, marked by a statue of Daedalus of not-listening-to-his-father fame.  A great teaching moment every single time we pass it.

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You walk up a gentle slope and come upon some not-too-shabby views of Killiney Beach and Bray Head to the south:

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Bray Head (on a nicer day than most of the other photos)

 

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Killiney Beach, with Enya’s castle in the foreground.

Oh, did you think I was joking about Enya’s castle?  No.  She lives in a legit castle and we walk past it when we’re going to the beach.  We pass under this arch and there it is:

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I really, really love that I have to walk under a castle archway to get to the beach. I have a medieval moment.

Bono lives next door (to Enya, not to us.  I like to think of him popping over the fence every now and then for a cuppa and a bit of a jam session) and apparently is seen occasionally in our local pub, The Druid’s Chair.  I haven’t bumped into him yet but I’ll keep you posted.

Anyhoo.  Back to Killiney Hill.  The first time we went there the view of the Wicklow hills to the south looked like this:

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which had Noah and Cassia clamouring to go skiing.  Another time, maybe.

So you tear yourself away from the views, which are said to include Wales on a clear day (I couldn’t understand why Cassia was so disappointed about not seeing it the first couple of times until she said ‘Well what about dolphins then?  Can we see dolphins instead?’) and come across some rocks – there’s a path, but why would you? – which take you to the obelisk.

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It was built in 1742 as a relief project to help people suffering from the 1741-42 famine, caused by weather so severe that small boats on the River Liffey were crushed by ice.  The land was owned at the time by a wealthy guy called John Mapas who commissioned the obelisk and walking paths to provide employment.  The park as a whole was made public and dedicated to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert to commemorate her 50th jubilee in 1887 and was re-named Victoria Hill.

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From the summit you can see all over Dublin and the bay, and can climb on a variety of follies and monuments.  Here is Dalkey Island, which has quite a lot of history for such a small place.

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Wales is there somewhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next you clamber over more stones because following the path is too easy

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Until you come to the quarry.  Killiney Hill used to be bigger but they used some of it to make Dun Laoghaire harbour.

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If you look very carefully you can see people rock climbing.  Daniel’s class came here and did this last term.  How cool is it that we can live in this big city and he can still do authentic outdoors rock climbing within walking distance of school?

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You go down through the quarry and some forest and come out at this lovely wooden playground:
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Once you’ve exhausted yourself watching the kids zoom around you wander along a path through more trees and past another castle

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The tea shop has a dog park

Once more past Daedalus (‘Don’t you think he wished he’d listened to his parents? I bet he really really wished he had’)

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And then you go home and think how great it is that you live right next to a place with all these running-around and climbing opportunities.

The next outing was to the local town of Dun Laoghaire.  We’d had to give the rental car back by then so we took the bus from outside our house.  It hadn’t occurred to me until we got on that none of the kids had been on a double-decker bus before and I tell you, the excitement was extreme.

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Even our bus route has a sea view.

Luckily it’s a fairly sparsely used route, especially on a weekday during term time, because they all went up the front on the top deck and quickly discovered that if you jump at the right moment as the bus goes over a speed bump you can defy gravity.  There are many speed bumps on our bus route.

There was only one other passenger on the top deck, an elderly lady sitting a few rows behind us, and eventually I felt the need to apologise to her for the noise.  It wasn’t a problem, she assured me; she’d recently been on a double-decker train for the first time and had the same reaction.  Not quite the same, I’d be willing to bet – I didn’t peg her as the jumping up and down screeching with excitement type –  but she was very kind about it anyway.  Cheap thrills, I thought, mentally bookmarking bus-riding as a handy wet-weekend activity.

Dun Laoghaire is a town of two parts, I’ve decided.  The main street and shopping area are old and tired with quite a few empty shops and things falling apart.  The sea front, though, is beautiful.  That’s where the council’s been investing their development money I’d say.

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The enormous Royal Marine Hotel, overlooking the harbour since 1863.

There’s the harbour with two piers you can walk along – one even has an ice cream kiosk at the sea end – and all the little sailing boats and big ships to watch.  There are plenty of walkways and cycleways along the waterfront that connect the harbour with the local beaches, and plenty of green areas around them.  There are cafés and restaurants and the lovely new library complex with its glass sea-frontage.  There’s a theatre, sculptures, several huge old churches,  the Maritime Museum and lots of benches and tables with umbrellas and places to sit and enjoy the view.  There are flowers all over the place and two playgrounds, one on the waterfront:

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and one in the People’s Park:

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Seeing it was such a nice day the kids explored along the water’s edge

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while I amused myself by saying ‘Be careful!  Don’t fall in!’ over and over, which is what we mothers like to do on these occasions.

Our next stop was Bray Beach.  Killiney Beach is closer, just a short walk past Enya’s and Bono’s places and down Vico Road, but it was winter when we arrived and Killiney Beach only has the beach whereas Bray has the aquarium and playground and various other things to do in the cold and places to warm up afterwards.

We liked the aquarium.  It wasn’t new or flash or full of interactive technology but it had lots of sea creatures looked after by people with an obvious passion for conservation.  We watched the octopus being fed and the kids loved the stories the keeper told of the mischief of various types that these incredibly intelligent creatures have been known to get up to.  They are sneaky.

We liked the beach too.  Like most around here it’s long and wide and very beachy.

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As always, we had to carry fifteen tonnes of interesting stones and shells home.  I was as fascinated as anyone by the fact that Irish stones are completely different colours than New Zealand ones but that didn’t extend to feeling the need to transfer half the beach to our back garden.  Somehow it always happens, though, doesn’t it?

Then we were cold so we headed for the nearest eating establishment which turned out to be an Italian café/restaurant/pub thing with vintage posters on the walls, vintage wine on little shelves and just the right amount of cosy gloominess.  We had very good pizza and calzone and finished it off with these gorgeous little biscuits in all different shapes which were so cheap that I found myself saying ‘Have another one!  Pick three or four, we can take them home for later!’ which are words hitherto completely foreign to my lips, at least in the context of paying for four children in a café.  Needless to say, we have fond memories of the day we visited Bray and ate all the biscuits.

By the time Josh finished his two weeks’ work in Seattle and arrived at his new home the rest of us were like fourth-generation locals except probably with way more photos.  We knew the bus routes, the train stations, and the playgrounds.  We knew where to go for views, paddling, rock- and tree-climbing, and restorative hot soup.  We had officially moved in.

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