Following on from the unalloyed success of the 2006 convention, the member of the Dublin Psychogeographical Society unanimously agreed that no further meetings should take place until all temptation to build on that success had been extinguished in full. The call to hubris thus went unheeded for two entire years, even though demand was such that the member had to go into hiding rather than yield to the urge to compromise. Purity is all.
Thus it is only now that a second derive could have been considered and carried off with the requisite panache and respect for anonymity that the true psychogeopomp holds most dear. This year’s action took place, suitably enough, in the heart, or more aptly the belly, of the Beast, Paris, the home of flans, flâneurs, gourmets, gourmands, gourds, sourds-muets, Moëts, Flos, fleuves, Fauves, and flans again. I assembled this time in the Marais, with a stout pair of walking boots, a monocle, a cape, a Thermos of mulligatawny soup, a two-thousand-Franc note for bribing snipers who don’t know the war’s over, and Nora, my faithful native guide, wily, courageous and bereft of both malice and morals but with the eyesight of a hawk with an infrared telescopic array. In the absence of a common language between us, I resorted to my handy Ordnance Survey Map of Dublin, which I showed to Nora while making pointing gestures and whining noises to indicate the sights I wished most to avoid.
Connolly Station: Emblematic of the engine that drove a once-mighty empire, bringing coffee from Portadown, spices from Balbriggan, rickets from Longford, and the ideologies and hegemonies of oppression from Maynooth, Connolly Station remains an exciting and demanding mistress, albeit bed-ridden, her gaping maw always open, insisting that it be fed with Arrows, Darts, and the occasional Belfast Enterprise, some of them even on time. From her other end she shits forth commuters, lost Sligovians, winos, lost winos from Sligo, tracksuit-and-runner-bedecked gurriers, U2 fans, one-legged pigeons, and tea. Eight hours later, the process is reversed, and in an obscene and diabolical ritual that encapsulates the unnatural deformities that late capitalism twists life into, she takes all that shit back up inside her cloaca and spews it all out through her mouth, spraying the country with her human-laced vomit.
I was surprised to see Frank Sidebottom hanging around by the glass-fronted entry. He too comes here for the anonymity, although when I expressed surprise that he would need to come this far, he told me to fuck off.
O’Connell Street: Even upgraded and updated, this thoroughfare’s pretensions to grandeur are transparent. Once the widest road in the world, it now can never be wide enough to separate shopper from Euro. The items on display are frankly trite and evoke only a simulacrum of a simulacrum of desire, a degree of cynicism several strata below even the naivest of natives. Who buys such showiness today? There may be queues outside the cinema and Clery’s department store, but they come to gawp not in awe or wonder but in disbelief that this system still manages to churn out so much dross on its deathbed. Nevertheless, I curtailed my bemusement long enough to purchase some postcards and used them to send death threats to James Joyce. It was both a profoundly cathartic and depressing experience.
The General Post Office: When the GPO was redesigned after independence, there was a great deal of concern that it would not adequately reflect the glorious blood sacrifice made by the nation’s warrior heroes and instead hold the country up to ridicule or draw attention to James Connolly’s Scottish nationality or, worse, his anarchist beliefs and membership of the Wobblies. Fortunately, those concerns were unfounded, and the GPO possesses the bland, statement-free decor that enables visitors to forget the uncomfortable aspects of the struggle for independence while at the same time paying their TV licence in the knowledge that RTE belongs to them and their descendants thanks to what took place on that very spot.
The only brave thing about this building today is this fabulous sculpture of Cú Chulainn. Sadly, Setanta is now in administration.
Jervis Street Shopping Centre: If I was a Dub I’d be insulted by the cheap imitation for a leisure complex that this place represents. It’s as though they just threw a load of concrete and mud into a mixer, dumped a few chairs around the place for the sake of appearance, even though the last thing they want you to do is sit down, and then forgot about any other amenities until the unemployment register started to shoot through the roof and the government decided to recognise “masseuse” as a job description and not a euphemism for the commodification of sexual relations. The air is always fetid here, the toilets foul, and one’s fellow shoppers tense to the point of suicidal. A treasure palace only in the Freudian sense, i.e. a shithouse. Who in their right mind would pause here to take in the scene? You can see how many strollers are eager to get through the place and out the other side with as little inhalation as possible. They’re all most likely heading for Saint Mary’s Church, which is now a pub. At least one building in Dublin has been put to good use.
Part Two to Follow.