Saturday, November 28, 2009

Heaven and hell

Occasionally, as part of a sentence of community service for some heinous crime committed in a past life, the editor of this august newspaper asks me to go down to Grove Road in Blanchardstown and report on the latest Castleknock / Mulhuddart area committee meeting of the local Council.
Naturally I am always very wary of this assignment and have added the number of the local para-medics to my mobile phone, in case the excitement gets too much for me. Some people get their kicks bungee-jumping or white-water rafting – for me, seventeen motions asking for various trees to be trimmed around the Dublin 15 area is better than riding from Chicago to Santa Monica on a Harley any day of the week.
Thus it was I was in the Council chamber a few weeks ago, listening to a presentation on the Blanchardstown Village Urban Design Framework Plan by somebody whose name I didn’t quite catch.
As Framework Plans go, and, I must admit, they’re my favourite kind of plans, it was absolutely riveting stuff and I can only assume that I caught some particularly virulent strain of a sleeping bug as I had entered the County Offices for, despite my fascination for the subject, I found my head nodding and my eyes drooping and I was suddenly transported into the Main Street of Blanchardstown far into the future.
To be honest, I didn’t immediately recognise it as such. Gone were Ryan’s garage and the queues waiting for the Bank of Ireland to open and the architectural splendour of the Mace on the corner of Church Avenue. In their place was a long tree-lined road – re-named Joan Burton Boulevard - with opulent hotels and fountains and top-class restaurants. It was only when I saw the 39 zipping up the main thoroughfare heading towards the Snugborough Road that I recognised exactly where I was.
I think it must have been National Independence Day because there was a large crowd in the Forum outside City Hall and bunting hung all around. Across the street, I recognised my face on a large statue inscribed “Peter Goulding, Liberator of the Principality of Castlehuddart” and I was gratified to see the multitudes of people throwing themselves prostrate before it and kissing my bronze feet, (though I thought the sculptor could have been a bit kinder with my facial features.)
The crowd were singing the national anthem
“Arise, ye men of Castleknock, Blanch, Mulhuddart and Littlepace,
And throw off the yoke of ninety seven years”
while people hung out of every window of the thirty five floors of the Brian Lenihan Hotel to watch the proceedings. Over at the Joe Higgins Casino, groups of rich Americans with piles of chips in their hands stood in the foyer and marvelled at the quaint assembly.
A young man took the stage, introducing himself as Giuseppe Varadkar, and told the crowd how his great-great grandfather had stood side by side with Peter Goulding in the Greyhound bar as the shells rained down on them. This, he said, had perplexed the men inside as they had expected mortars and bullets, but for some reason – probably cutbacks - the Irish Army had chosen to use shells culled from Bettystown beach. The men in the bar had held out for six days, he said, and decision to surrender had only been taken when the Guinness ran out and they were obliged to use Smithwicks for sustenance instead.
Giuseppe then proceeded to give a graphic account of the aftermath of the Rising, in which the ringleaders were rounded up and forced to do community service holding back the crowds at a Lionel Ritchie concert in Lansdowne Road. It was this barbaric treatment of the rebels, he thundered to gasps of horror in the crowd, that swayed public sympathy and eventually forced the Irish Army to retreat back to the Halfway House.
In the air, cameramen for Community Voice News International leant out of helicopters to film the scene for prosperity, while breathless reporters from around the world clamoured for space along the railings outside the Forum to relate the joyous scenes to Castlehuddart émigrés around the world.
Further down Burton Boulevard, the magnificent dome of the Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh Stadium glistened in the autumnal sunlight as it prepared for that evening’s Champions League Final between Verona and AC Milan, whilst many of the latter’s supporters respectfully watched the proceedings from the roof-garden of the word-famous Le Terrazza Restaurant in George Redmond Grove. Above the skyline came the distinctive introduction to “I can’t believe I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” as U2 rehearsed in Draíocht for the first date of their worldwide comeback tour.
I ambled along the golden pavement in the dappled sunshine, watching the children excitedly queuing up to enter Clonsillaworld, an exhilarating new theme park where you try to find a parking space within walking distance of the train station or walk to the local school without being mown down by passing cars or simply sit admiring the view while waiting for the car ahead to turn right up the Shelerin Road.
I stopped at a local newsagent and glanced at the front page of a paper. “Minister for Finance to introduce income tax?” said the headline. “It’ll never happen,” said the kindly shopkeeper. “Sure with our full employment, the low cost of living and the voluntary contributions made by all the contented members of the country, there’s no need for income tax. Go on, take the paper – I have plenty more.”
I walked on, passing by the shrine of St. Dan of the Oratory, in front of which people were praying to a relic of his spectacles, and stopping in front of the Museum of Antiquities, where a schoolteacher was telling a bunch of incredulous children what a traffic jam was. Against the wall, a street entertainer was performing a brain teaser on a Nintendo DS as a large crowd looked on in wonder.
Across the street, the large milk shop stood next door to the equally large honey shop, whilst outside of each a large cup of plenty was overflowing. As I stood in the queue for some honey, I frowned, when I saw that my profile on the banknote had been taken from the right rather than the left. And they could have airbrushed out the wart on the end of my nose, I grumbled.
But the sun shone in all its majesty and cockatoos cawed merrily in the palm trees and the blue flag flew gaily over the artificial beach behind the Transport Hub.
“And we believe that the new upgrade works on the M50 which are due to be completed by the end of 2010 will have a significant impact on the number of vehicles passing through the village,” said a slightly familiar voice to my left. I stirred and looked up. It took me a good thirty seconds to realise that I was actually back in the Council Chamber in October 2009, listening to a presentation on the Blanchardstown Village Urban Design Framework Plan.
And here I must apologise to the Councillors. Doubtless, along with the sleeping bug I must have caught while entering the offices, there must have been a second screaming heebie-jeebie bug that hopped in as well. I hope my sudden and extremely noisy exit from the Chamber did not detract them too much from the job at hand.

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