It’s a couple of years since I was last in Ireland, and that a fleeting visit for the Scope wrap party, driving down from the North where I’d been giving SciCast workshops. This weekend, I flew into Dublin, was whisked to Waterford in the South-East, gave a couple of talks/workshops for the Institute of Physics, and was returned to Dublin.

Odd, the things one notices.

  • I’ve completely lost my muscle memory for Euro coins and notes. I have to peer at the loose change, reading each coin to decipher its value. Ridiculous.
  • Dublin Airport’s new terminal is impressive, though the walk from it to arrivals seems to be deliberately three times as long as necessary. I’ve never understood how it came to be that when one flies, one spends more time walking than flying.
  • On the drive back from Waterford, we passed two beautifully-preserved ruined abbeys, and a traction engine rally. The latter all steam and smoke and clanking metal, about to head off up the main road. I’d have liked to see them move, but getting stuck behind them as traffic would have delighted me less at the time.
  • Tourist offices should provide a service thus: you pay a modest fee to be followed by one of their staff, who poses as a more amateur tourist than you are. At some juncture they contrive to approach you and ask for directions to somewhere they’re absolutely certain you’ve been. Being able to give directions in a foreign city is a real buzz. Perhaps that’s just me?
  • Gruel on Dame street is still fabulous. Not as good value as it was, thanks to the now-crippling exchange rate (£:€ is basically parity, ±10%). I had a salad of feta, fine beans and roasted squash that was outrageously good, followed by terrific grilled mackerel with a new potato and broad bean salad. Simple, perfectly prepared, jaunty service – superb.
  • Lisbon vote, round two: from every lamp-post has sprouted an inelegant spray of billboards. ‘NO to European militarisation’ / ‘ YES to jobs’ / ‘Irish Democracy, 1945-2009? Vote NO’ / ‘I’ve decided: We belong: vote YES’. The impression I get is that (a.) it’s been a nasty, nasty campaign, but (b.) it’ll go through comfortably. We’ll see.
  • Ireland is still deliriously, happily, indulgently shabby chic. Nobody shows up on time, nothing quite works correctly, hotels are a little flabby around the edges, and nobody would have it any other way. Me included.

I love this place. To me, it’s like somebody made an independent state out of Yorkshire. In an odd way, I feel at home here.