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At the end of Dun Laoghaire west pier. Early Monday evening. Surf rolling in gently, like ink on a blank sheet of paper.


The day of reckoning is finally upon us. The Tribe of the Irish will battle it out with the Soldiers of Destiny. Swords have been drawn. Minions roam the streets of Dublin. Oh, and Labour is expecting a share of the vote as well.

Political parties in Ireland have funny names.

Irish elections are interesting for a couple of reasons. For starters, the voting system is incredibly complicated using single transferable votes in multi-seat constituencies. Whatever that means…

More importantly there seem to be no laws regulating the amount of posters each party can put up. As a result the city is plastered with unisex election posters: Medium close-ups of sincere looking candidates with non-descript slogans and all carrying the word ‘Vote‘; in case you get confused.

There are so many of these, no one notices if a few get messy or disappear along the way. Here is another tribute to Ireland’s neglected objects:

Today’s post is a sad one. It is sad because a dear friend, an old eye-sore, passed away: the Grand Canal Dock Ruin. Once belonging to Iarnrod Eireann (Irish Rail), it stood proudly and dilapidated between the gleaming new offices of the south docklands: A child of unscrupulous property developers who let it decay waiting for prices to go up.

I passed by its empty shell every day, and in the evenings, homeward bound, I could often see teenagers climbing across the fence to use the building as a meeting place, the orange tips of cigarette buds flickering in the night, whispered chatter making its way to the platform where I awaited my train. One day, shortly after the burning out of the structure, the teenagers disappeared.

For a while it was quiet, but then, a few months ago, I noticed a big piece of blue plastic covering a small shed, which suddenly jutted out from the back of the building. I heard some voices that evening and could make out the silhouettes of three or four people huddling around a makeshift campfire, trying to stave off the wintry cold. They must have been refugees, working the streets during the day and seeking shelter here at night.

Over the next few weeks, small improvements were made to the shed. The plastic was fastened, sealing the roof; a door was put in place and a chimney installed, smoke rising into the February air. It seemed they had officially moved in, but in spite of my daily passing-by, I never saw any movement outside, though one of my colleagues noticed half a dozen or so people leaving one morning.

Spot the SimpsonsUnfortunately, she wasn’t the only one to notice, because a week later the shed had been smashed to bits. Maybe it was the authorities, police had been around lately. The inhabitants were nowhere to be seen and never returned. In the debris you could make out two double beds, mattresses and duvets still in place, and a pink up-turned stroller. A tiny family home.

And that was the end of it. A few weeks ago a demolition team moved in and in a matter of hours the ruin was knocked down. The remains, including beds and stroller, were unceremoniously dumped in a container and driven off the lot. Soon, a new office/hotel/apartment development will stand here and another bit of modern Irish history will be lost. I’m glad I took some pictures.

Performing artists with stage fright: A contradiction in terms? That’s what you’d think, but as Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) shows not necessarily true. Imagine an artist so nervous that she cuts short songs to launch into a self-critique, who will apologize for vocal imperfections, who has even been known to walk off-stage or cancel a concert altogether in frustration.

Last Thursday Marshall played the Tripod in Dublin and her act was one of the more surreal I’ve ever seen. It was performed in almost complete darkness. The obscurity enveloped her haunting, soulful voice, as she walked across stage. The soft dark blue and purple light occasionally caught her lanky frame as she danced self-consciously, passionately, an awkward teenager’s dance.

An hour and a half she played, sometimes searching out a spot-light, but mostly hiding in the shadows. The video is of her opening song.

“For over 200 years, we’ve watched our proud city evolve the wrong way. But the bell has chimed! The time has come for New York to be returned to its righteous owner: The Netherlands!” (

I was in Paris yesterday evening, having to catch the plane to Dublin early this morning, and I decided to go for a stroll before turning in. After grabbing dinner, a crêpe oeuf-fromage at a stand in the Rue St Denis, I headed down to Place de la Concorde to watch Sarkozy‘s victory party. He had edged out his opponent, the fashionable socialist Ségolène Royal, to become France’s sixth President.

RoyalA stage had been erected on the Tuileries-side of the square flanked by two giant video-screens. The band was playing Superstition by Stevie Wonder – interesting choice of music – and the crowd, some 20.000 at the time were standing around, some dancing, some singing and a lot of them cheering. Girls wearing ‘I Love Sarko’-t-shirts walked through the crowd handing out leaflets, as people waving the French flag climbed fountains and statues.

SarkozyThe great man himself was nowhere to be seen, but dozens of camera crews milled about trying to get a few quotes from the masses. Some went for shots of manic supporters jumping up and down in the limelight, others prefered to get short interviews with the quieter people hanging back from the crowd.

After watching for a while I crossed the river, passing through squads of riot police, who were ready to jump in at the least sign of trouble. I was planning to walk by St Germain de Prés, where a jazz festival was supposed to take place. Instead I ran into Ségolène Royal’s motorcade, well 3 cars to be honest. Chased by supporters and even more cameramen, she had just gotten back into her car after mingling with the people. They ran after her, shouting her name, camera’s on shoulder, soundmen not far behind.

As I got back to my hotel on Rue des Mauvais Garcons – Street of the Bad Boys, interesting name that – the receptionist asked if I had been in any trouble. Apparently a few hundred youths were throwing rocks at the police on nearby Bastille. I hadn’t seen a thing and went to bed. The next day I arrived in Dublin, another city plastered in election posters, but I doubt the decision here will cause as much of a frenzy.

My brief and somewhat obscure encounter with history. Royal is in the second car in case you’re wondering.

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