The more time I’ve spent at home, the less at home I’ve been feeling. The last few years have been a scramble to try to make sure I can stay in Dublin forever – an aspiration I’ve had my whole life. One pandemic later, and I’m sure I want to leave.
‘ve managed to spend most of my twenties living in Dublin, including five beloved years on the chaotic Talbot Street. Walking to work on a crisp bright morning over O’Connell bridge, or home late at night down an oddly pristine Grafton Street, I would often feel a sudden swell of affection for the city. I loved Dublin so much, I was sentimental for it even while I was still here. But since March, I have been grasping for the things that made me so fond of the city and finding only vapour.
Dublin normally means a full social life that overflows at weekends and spills into weeknights. It’s a place where you can luxuriate in spontaneity: when everything is happening around you, all the time, there’s no need to plan. Now that those things are gone, I’m suddenly conscious that there’s not a huge amount left to love about Dublin. Particularly when living here comes at such a high price.
At the start of the lockdown, I moved house. The shift in the power dynamic was amazing. As people fled the city, landlords and agents who’d previously been spoiled for tenants were suddenly struggling to fill lettings. I went to viewings where I was met with almost alarming hospitality, something not normally found in the Dublin rental market.
Letting agents would gesture around cramped houses with plastic gloves. Wide eyes over masks would ask “can you take it?” “Do you like it?” “Do you want it?” This was unusual. Dublin only wants me when it’s desperate.
When we finally found a place, the furnishings made me nervous. On moving-in day, I gingerly put my bags down on a carpet that seemed too nice. I was convinced this was a former Airbnb only masquerading as our new home, and this very rug would be pulled from under me when the tourists returned. Dublin never feels homely, it’s always hostile.
The price of living in Dublin has always been high. But it’s only now that I’m questioning what exactly I’m paying for. I’ve been working remotely for seven months now, with almost no negative consequences. It turns out that jobs which we arrogantly thought would become impossible beyond the M50 can quite easily be done from anywhere.
The city’s swarming population is no good to me now, because the people I want to see the most are the furthest away. Anyone who has to move to Dublin has to move away from family. I get jealous watching the vignettes on social media from friends who had the sense to go back home. The anonymity of a city – something that used to be aspirational – feels colder and lonelier now.
I suddenly realise that I want the life I had planned to have for my sixties, in my thirties. I want to live somewhere slower, quieter and greener. Maybe it’s because of the existential threat of Covid-19. After being made so suddenly and uncomfortably conscious of my own morality, it seems careless to wait to have a joyful life.
I’ve even started clandestine trips to property websites. I look at houses in my hometown, whispering calculations of deposits and mortgage payments under my breath like incantations. The maths are never wrong, I can afford a much nicer life somewhere else. Yes, there’s a chance that after Covid-19 it might be a little more boring than what Dublin would have to offer. But can any of us come out of this year without appreciating the value of things being a little boring?
Sometimes, I cast a cautious eye at the Dublin property market to see what I would be leaving. Even in the midst of a pandemic, three-bed €1m homes with their own “concierge” spring up. I am aghast. Who are they building for? I think I would prefer to make a home that’s the centre of my universe, rather than stay here and orbit a city that’s not for me anyway. I’d rather go somewhere that feels more like home.
We need to talk about…
The city has slowed down and the streets are quieter in the mornings. I was surprised when I first noticed the increase in bodies on the ground. Alcoves and doorways of shut shops are filled with sleeping bags, sometimes three people deep. These people have always been here, but the pandemic has made them more visible.
“Dublin is on Level 3 but there are people who have bigger problems like being out on the street tonight, cold and hungry,” Muslim Sisters of Éire tweeted this week.
“We were thankfully able to give out 150 hot meals and goody bags plus sleeping bags and Covid PPE from our car.”
The charity has continued to provide hot meals and soup to rough sleepers in Dublin throughout the pandemic. In August, it saw its worst queues ever.
The group is still continuing its work throughout Covid-19, and still accepting donations through its Facebook page.