When I was a kid I often used to cycle into Dublin.

Sometimes I would leave the bike at the top of Grafton Street [with a compulsory visit to Geary's to see if I could afford an Airfix kit] and then wander around the city, maybe dropping into the Natural History Museum or a visit to the Grafton News and Cartoon Cinema.

Most times I would end up wandering along the quays.

I loved the quays.  I would spend hours watching them load gigantic canisters of Guinness onto the ships, or further down, I'd watch the cranes drop their enormous grabs into the holds of the coal boats, and then drop the load onto a waiting lorry which would then trundle across to the other side of the road and tip the coal into the Gasworks hoppers.  Everything was covered in coal dust so everything [including myself] would end up pitch black.  There was always a strong smell, either of roasting hops from the brewery up-river or of tar, coal smoke and gas.  Beautiful.  It was a place that was alive, like the beating heart of the city pumping exports out to exotic foreign lands while sucking in fresh imports from God knows where.

It's all dead now.

 haven't been into the city in donkey's years and have no desire to ever visit again.  It has changed beyond all recognition and streets that looked like they had been laid by the original Vikings have disappeared altogether under great glass monuments to commercialism.  The old cobbled streets have given way to cycle lanes and pedestrianised plazas.  I just did a quick virtual trip, courtesy of Google Earth and the quays are unrecognisable.  It is a completely foreign place and not one I would ever like to visit.  It could be any city on Earth.

I see they are naming my old stomping ground.  It used to be just known as "The Quays", but now apparently it's Sobo!  Who the fuck came up with that name?  Are they trying to imitate Soho?  It just sounds like it's named after a sober hobo, which surely is an oxymoron?

I had a look at their site.  It's full of glossy images of dead office blocks and deader apartment blocks.  According to their images it is to be filled with people lounging around looking lost, cycling bikes or drinking coffee out of cardboard cups.  Apparently it's a place with "a history of connecting people and inspiring creativity".  Bollox.  It has a history of hard work and good honest to God industry with not an office in sight.  They give passing mention to the ironworks, the gasworks and the distillery but then go on to include U2 as part of its noble past.  U2?  What did they ever produce except crap music?

The future is bright, apparently.  It's going to be filled with a day long buzz [presumably from the mobile phones as people lounge around outside the coffee palaces?].  People are going to be impressed by its "contemporary edge" whatever the fuck that is.  It's going to be inspirational and chic!  If its brochure is anything to go by it's going to be full of ad-speak bullshit.

I know things have to move on, but it's sad to see yet another chunk of history vanishing under a mass of glass and chrome.  Where once people built up an honest sweat earning an honest wage there will just be people just pushing numbers around their laptops or their huge computer flatscreens.

They only time they'll work up a sweat is in the gymnasium.

Doubtless there will be a few of them too, in between all the coffee places.

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Sobo my arse — 9 Comments

  1. I can see where you're coming from. These large developments always end up as soulless places.


    Nostalgia for cobblestones is mental though. They may look nice and olde worlde but they are a terrible paving solution. They are expensive to put in, expensive to maintain (read: are not maintained properly, resulting in gaping holes in the road), are uneven under foot at the best of times and slippery when it rains. Not to mention that riding a bike on cobblestones is a nightmare.


    Oh and you don't roast hops, what you smelled was either roasting barley (unlikely as I think Guinness stopped malting their own grain even before your time) or the wonderful malty, roasty smell of a massive batch of stout in the offing.

    • My memory of cobbled streets was mainly of the back streets in the old part of the city.  Of course they replaced them all with glass like surfaces and then had to put speed restrictions in place because people drove faster.  If you want to know what was far more irritating than cobbles, it was the tram-lines.  I was forever falling off my bike while crossing those.  The Luas lines are probably as bad but I haven't tried cycling on them!

      Whatever the smell was, you couldn't miss it.  Depending on the breeze you could smell it from many miles away.  It was an integral part of the city, and usually managed to smother the smell from the Liffey!

  2. Yea, I too did one of those google nostalgia visits to my home turf, and like you,was met with a sterilized parks and garden area, full of signs saying "you will NOT do anything here except walk". Gone are all the back streets I grew up in, apparently bulldozed and the people moved out to new builds dotted around the town,it seems the best way to rid an area of a bad reputation,is to knock it down,plant grass,rename it, and spread the folks around the town. The only place left now is "memory lane". Very sad.

    • Welcome, Elwyn.  Indeed, they call it progress but there are times when I wonder.  And as you say, everywhere you look there are signs screaming "must do" or "must not" everywhere.  No parking, no drinking, no smoking [naturally], turn left, turn right, no entry – the list is endless, and very confusing.  The one thing all these refurbishments lack is character.

  3. While you are on this topic, look at pedestrianization. Firstly, business owners hate it but have you ever noticed that all the tiles are the same? I wonder who won the tender to provide all the tiles for the pedestrianized walk ways in the country? I was actually in Ennis last week and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they still had the bricks down. 

    • I don't know what it is about them but those pedestrianised areas aren't to my taste.  I suppose it's just a belief that a street should be a street and not acres of paving. 

      They have a great system in France where they pave the lot but put a smoother strip down the middle.  Cars can drive through [on the smooth bit] and pedestrians have right of way.  It works very well, as cars [and buses] travel through at a snails-pace.  Because the road and pavement are all one, there is less of a feeling of "them" and "us", and an air of mutual respect.

  4. I took a look at the SOBO site you mentioned and caught sight of what looked like the leaning tower of Dublin. "The Convention Centre Dublin" they call it. I searched out and found the site for then place and good god! Talk about skewing one's perspective.

    It's probably a good thing that I'm rather far away from my old stomping grounds as I'd hate to see the changes since I'd been there last. Google Earth show me enough. It's also good that my stomping grounds cover more than one single place, much of which took place under the ocean.


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