25-31 August, Ireland: Living in Dublin
Summary: the miracle of finding free accommodation in Ireland, characters and friends met along the way and goodwill, begging, clowning on the streets and in the children’s hospital. Living on purpose.
Finding Free Accommodation
After Newgrange I headed back to Dublin on the bus. I had contacted the Rotary clubs in Dublin hoping to be able to find a place to stay. I overspent my budget in Britain with the trip around Scotland and had no budget for Ireland. I didn’t realise I had much less than I thought. So I needed to find ways to live cheaply. The couch surfing network didn’t work for me, so many didn’t respond or couldn’t host me. I ended up going to a Rotary meeting and told them about my life and work. Apparently my email requesting accommodation had gone to the whole group, but no-one had offered a bed or couch. As I walked into the meeting I instantly connected with a lady, an American and she said was open to have people stay. I asked if I could stay with her as I felt we had much to exchange. She agreed for me to come for the weekend back to Drogheda.
After the meeting I was still unsure where I would stay for the next couple of nights. I ended up having coffee with a lovely lady called Patricia, another Rotarian and his friend. We drank coffee, it was 9pm and my friend Jo rang with a potential place to stay. I asked Patricia and the President (of Rotary club as she walked in) if they could advise me on how to contact this place. I didn’t know what their directories number was. Patricia was helpful and said she was in the tourist area and would assist. She amazed me by finding a bed and breakfast and to my utter surprise she paid for two night’s accommodation. She also organized two tickets for a dinner and a show to see Celtic Rising at the Burlington Hotel, an exclusive place in Dublin. She tried to find me other free tickets. I was taken aback by her kindness.
She told me her story of her son with a brain tumour. He was handsome, normal boy, then one day woke up with a brain tumour. This was when her turmoil as a mother started. They had to give him treatment and he went into hospital. The son experienced changes in his personality and had depression. He had to leave school and it was like his world was turned upside down. Patricia as a mum was so focused on him and her life also was turned up side down. She is a wonderful woman and has a presence when she speaks, highly intelligent and I could see her giving public talks. She told me she was going to start up a support group for other parents with children with brain tumours. So out of this tragedy she would facilitate more help for others. It seems that her son still has a sense of humour and he is able to talk with her but I guess for a mother it is never over until they are cured. She suggested to me that I should clown at the Crumlin Children’s Hospital. She rang them and then organized for them to call me back. So I knew to wait.
The next day I met with John who I had met at Covent garden in London, when dressed as a clown. I said I would contact him when in Ireland. He met me out the front of Trinity College and did a quick tour of Dublin. We went through Trinity, we went to the library and I had a go at finding some family, turns out most are in Tipperary. I didn’t have time to follow up but my interest was peaked and the feeling of connection to the Irish. We looked at the Parliament House, walked to Temple Bar, saw the Wall of Fame with U2, Bob Geldolf and other famous Irish musicians. I was quick to see their love of literature and poetry, perhaps I do have Irish blood. We walked onto the museum and I found myself interested in the stones and history of the Celts. I did buy a book from Newgrange as I wish to see if there any links to the pyramids. We had a quick look at Dublin Castle and where the British used to occupy and some sand sculptures. It was very quick as I had to get back to see Patricia for a cup of tea. I felt to spend time with her and if I am able to offer anything from my own life experience, I was willing to give what I can. I also am mindful I am to learn from her to, but my intention is to be of service. John and I hugged and he indicated I should come to speakers corner on Sunday in my clown suit and speak, I considered it, was still unsure if staying with Cecilia. So told him would ring Saturday night.
I had been feeling unwell as I had a cold, so the two nights at the B&B helped me sleep and get better. I left the B&B and went to Patricia’s work (as she was working from home) and asked to leave my bags as I figured out the next few nights and also whether the American lady was still allowing me to stay. I left messages on her phone and changed to Irish sim cards. Her mobile was on the other sim so I ended up ringing her office. I think somehow she misunderstood me. I did send a few emails, but she sounded busy on the phone with me. I didn’t mind if she changed her mind but just needed her to make it clear to me. She chose to say nothing so I found myself stuck on a Friday night at Patricia’s office. I had a feeling earlier that day that the receptionist there (Monica) would offer me a place. It flashed into my mind. So when I went there I wasn’t surprised when she offered her place. She is a Spanish/Irish lady. We really hit it off when we met and I found her interesting. She was intrigued by my interest in peace, clowning and joy. So she grabbed her bike and walked me to the bus. As we walked it started raining, I pulled out my rain coat and we were soaked as we walked up steep hills in Dublin with me dragging my big bag and supporting the back pack (heavy). I found myself being challenged physically by this walk but took it on as a challenge and smiled as the rain poured down. Monica says it never rains like this, but I just laughed. She told me to catch the 128 to her place, last stop, she would ride home and wait at the bus stop.
So I got on the bus, wet, tired and sick but still my humour was there. I was grateful to have a place to stay for a few days. Monica’s place was modest and she had me sleep on the couch. I had a shower and we both walked to the shops bought a pizza base and returned home. We had pizza and wine, it was lovely. I was exhausted, the fire was crackling away and I marveled as I slipped off to sleep, how I seem to find my way. The money saved was very helpful.
I reflected over the days how the Irish and to some degree the English don’t really open their homes. In Australia we do find people more open, but here there is more suspicion. I think about the links of friendship around the world that couch surfing creates. You stay with strangers for free and they show you their city as it is from their perspective. I thought of the value of taking the risk of letting someone stay with you and the trust required. It is worth it I feel if they are a good person.
Opening your home is opening to new friends and experiences
Monica invited me to meet her friends the following night. We went to a flat on the north side of Dublin, we walked around 6 km to get there. She is a fit girl. I kept up and welcomed the exercise as I want to keep my weight stable. We had a great walk went to the shop bought nibblies and I met her friends. It was a multi-cultural group from Poland, US, Australia, Spain and English. Her friend Fran was the only Irish and she had the best sense of humour. They brought out the drinks and laughed a lot. We all exchanged stories. I talked about the magic of my own life allowing them to see how I live and how amazing it has been. I told them of the story where I was really broke in Melbourne, I had very little in my bank account, had left a part time job and was living off noodles. I remember walking down this street to the shops and was thinking I needed new shoes, to my amazement there was a clothing bin and a pair of shoes sitting in front of it. I literally stepped out of my shoes and stepped into them, they fit perfectly. Then as I walked I thought about a loaf of bread I needed to buy. I had $5 on me and had to be thoughtful of what I bought. I laughed when I saw a loaf of bread on a wall outside someone’s house. How could this be I thought. I asked the owners of the house, they said take it. I saw it as a miracle, I can’t explain it but it felt like somehow I was helped. Fran looked at me with furrowed brow, she said ‘I like you susan, but I can’t believe it’. I said that is fine you don’t have to, I am just sharing what happened. My friend Monica wanted to add something more but left it. The party was great, I saw I could have some great friends. The American guy had been to Vietnam and was now a producer and director helping artists to do theatre by organizing a 5 week production at a local Dublin Theatre. He seemed to me a talented man, apparently he wrote a book. He had a strong personality but I could see his kindness inside. He offered us to come to one of the nights for 2 free drinks or a free lunch. Unfortunately I ran out of time, but appreciated the offer.
Monica and I got back and I was exhausted again and went to sleep. I organized to stay with a Quaker the following two nights. These are my other peace contacts as I don’t want to impose on anyone on this journey. Monica kindly walked me to the bus stop, but to her surprise there was no bus stop, she walked on and found 50 euro. We walked a bit further and she found another 50 euro, she gave it to me. We walked more and I found another 50 euro. Monica couldn’t believe it and recounted my story with her friends, it was like a gift from god she felt, out of the blue. She was astounded. She decided to retrace her steps and found another 50 euro. We had 200 euro between us just because the bus stop was gone. She was reassessing her views about life and fate. I organized for Monica to meet me later and come out for the free dinner and show as a thank you.
Meeting the Irish Quakers
I caught the bus and walked to Temple Bar and found the Quaker meeting. It was a Sunday and dragged my large case and back pack up the stairs. I planned to clown in Dublin, I was still unwell but felt it was important. I understood from Siohorn (Irish Quaker) that Robert was the best person to stay with as he had an interest in clowning. He also had worked many years in the Alternative to Violence Project and worked in jails. I came in and as is typically the case with Quaker meetings they sit in silence until they feel the spirit move them to speak. They are Christians but typically in the peace area and they are often intellectuals with a keen interest in politics and social justice. So it is always interesting being with them.
I was sat next to Robert and everyone sat there quietly. One man stood and read something. I found myself feeling moved to get up but my heart was thumping. I used that as a practice in peace. I asked for peace in my heart as I too have an awareness of this higher power, but I am not associated with any religion. I asked and waited for calm. Then I felt strongly to stand up and talk about my meeting of Bill (not his real name) on the streets.
Meeting a Beggar in Dublin
I was walking along the streets in Dublin and I noticed so many people begging. I found it quite disturbing as you are in a space of looking around and feeling happy then you see a person on the ground with a cup. I’ve seen much begging over the years and never been comfortable with it. I wondered who they are and noticed many appeared from other countries, I questioned if they were from Bosnia (Eastern Europe), couldn’t quite place their ethnicity. On this trip I am choosing not to give money unless moved as I do need the money to keep going. Anyway this man emerged out of the shadows and asked for change. He looked tired and old yet he was probably my age (around 45). I asked him innocently what had happened to him and if he would mind if I asked as I would like to know. He said he had been on the streets for 4 years. He was a successful business man and his business collapsed. He was in the trades area. He became sick and he ended up on the street. I asked why he didn’t get welfare? He said he owed the government. He said he gets some money but it is not enough. I asked about his family, he told me that his children had left him and don’t see him on the street. I asked him what it was like to beg he said ‘horrible’. He said he used to be a happy person and gave to others, he felt somehow that he had been abandoned that the good he had given was somehow forgotten. I felt so deeply for him. I grabbed his arm and I told him ‘you are a great man Bill, anyone that can survive on the streets for 4 years is great’. I could see the tears in his eyes and he couldn’t speak anymore, he seemed to me heartbroken. Somehow through our conversation he felt touched, or I touched his wound by caring. I said to him ‘you should write your story’, I really felt it. So people have more understanding of the reality of begging and perhaps something can be done for all the people on the street. I gave him my business card and said ‘Write to me, I won’t forget you Bill’. He said he would but I haven’t heard from him. I gave him 20 euro, his eyes lit up, this seemed a lot to him, yet it was in truth only money. The real gift was the love that was exchanged and the true value I saw in him. I saw him as an equal and respected his courage. I shared this story with the Quakers and then sat down.
Clowning with Robert in Dublin
The meeting ended. I went and had a coffee with Robert. I convinced him to clown with me. I was still unwell but pushed forward as I wanted him to have the experience. I have taken a few people onto the streets for the first time, as it is an experience I highly recommend. I dressed Robert up in my orange clown suit that I bought in India. I put on make up and tried to find his clown. He said he believes life is about choices, so his clown is about choosing in between this and that ie. happy or sad, go this way or that way, that people are ultimately responsible for their choices. I felt much truth in that. He looked great. I finished my make up and the two of us hit the streets. I showed him some techniques and told him what I tell everyone ‘we are not here to entertain, the world entertains us’, there is no pressure to be good at it just send goodwill and find your humour. That is how I clown. It is interesting to see the people around Temple Bar, some are tourists, some are locals. Some walk past and don’t interact, this is not so different from Australia as some don’t want the attention drawn to themselves. Robert said some may think we want money. Ireland is in recession and people feel insecure and unhappy because of it. There are more people begging, busking and trying to get more money. One person offered me money but I said give it to someone begging, that would make me happy. We met lots of children and I did some juggling with the clubs and my new addition the rings. I danced in front of crowds where fiddlers and guitarists were playing and tried to get them to do strip the willow. So I just go into the crowd and spin around. It makes them laugh and it gives a bit of energy. We went for a coffee break as my throat is sore and really I am not having much energy for it, but doing my best. I feel myself unable to rest as a couple are with us. Robert is a good chatter so that helps me rest as my friend Monica turns up. She watches us clown on the street and takes photo’s. she told me later it was only through watching me clown that show realized what I do, she said she got it. Robert observed it is hard work as we constantly give attention to people and we are working from the tops of our heads to bring joy and happiness. Continuously responding to the people and playing with kids. It is great fun but very tiring.
We finished our day, got changed and then I invited Robert to join us for the Celtic Rising show. I had the extra 100 euro and offered to pay for Robert. It was 50 euro for a dinner and a show. He tried to pay himself but I told him to accept it as a thank you. That was also for giving me a place to stay. The dinner and show was fantastic and I saw some wonderful Celtic dancing and signing. They had footage of all the places around Ireland which I knew I wouldn’t get to see, as my trip was so short. Such a rich culture of green rolling hills, traditional dances and a sense of shared history. The Celts also have a love of poetry and there were pieces of poetry from Yeats who you see on some of the buildings around Dublin. I sat their sipping on Irish Coffee and sneaking a few films of the event thinking of my mother and father, who would love this performance. I sat with my new two friends, both of whom opened their hearts and home and I saw the beauty that came back to them. This is what life is about when you learn to trust and extend goodwill.
Robert raised his own children and lived an independent life
We dropped off Monica and I went back to Roberts place. He had a nice bed waiting for me. I was exhausted again, and still not well and just waiting to crawl back into bed. He was a wonderful host. We talked the next day about his two daughters. He told me he raised them himself. He walked them to school every day until they were 18. He started up the lone fathers association and counseled other fathers raising children or having problems with ex-wives. He was a very emotionally intelligent man and very independent. He had high principles and had a calling to offer service to the community. His work in jails was truly remarkable and he would take some of the most brutal prisoners out. He allowed them to go for walks and experience some normality for a little while. He was deeply humanitarian and a wise person. I thought how challenging it must have been raising girls in his day. He was in his 50’s and when he was young, men just didn’t do it. Even today it is mostly women and certainly they are favoured by the courts. I was very impressed. His daughters were both capable and together, married and he had some grandchildren. His desire was to work with children. After my experience with him clowning I saw his gentleness and loving nature, he would be perfect with kids.
Later that night I wanted to work on my computer. I rang Monica looking for a way to get my plug (it gave me an electric shock at her place and we tossed it). Robert kindly drove me over there to pick it up. Jut a small kindness, but really appreciated. It is definitely the smaller things in life that make a difference.
Clowning at the Crumlin Children’s Hospital
The next morning I was greeted and a wonderful porridge was waiting for me with fruit and nuts. It was delicious. I had a bit of a sleep in and felt a bit better. I had organized to clown at the children’s hospital thanks to Patricia. I had a meeting with Connell, Head of Nursing and Brid, she is the clown doctor. Robert was with us as an observer. We went back to her room and put on the white jackets with some colour and light make-up. We went to oncology and pulled out the big glasses, juggling balls and puppets. She was a lovely clown doctor and in one of the rooms she made out she was in love with this teenager (brother of patient). We created a mock wedding and married them, the parents came into the room delighted with their new daughter in law, a clown no less. The patient was laughing and I did some juggling with him and had him throw the ball back to me and then to Brid and back again. It was fun to see how the props work. I had a puppet with one child and was able to play with that a bit more. I watched Brid dance and sing and be silly. This is part of a strategy to bring laughter into hospitals for healing. We believe as clowns it is a significant healing modality but as always, we find it hard to be taken seriously hahaha I call that an oxymoron.
After clowning I was pretty tired. Brid and I went into town to help me get a multi-adaptor plug. We went for dinner as well and had a great chat about our lives. I encouraged her to get in contact with Patch and go to Russia on a Healing Tour, it profoundly changed my life, it would hers as well.
I caught a tram from Brid and went to Golden Bridge. Robert organized to meet at a pub near the train. I went in and was talking with a grandmother, only 4 years older than me. Mmmm showing my age. She and I talked about life and she said she wanted to travel. I told her about couch surfing and how great (or grand as the Irish say) it has been. I said live life to the fullest. It looks like she is going to plan a trip, as she said, she is free now, no-one needs her. That is a good space to be in. It has been the most wonderful freedom of my life to simply live it in accordance with my feeling and with open goodwill.
Bridges of friendship is world peace in action at the local level
I found all these contacts and friendships I made so quickly are drops in the ocean of peace making from the central point of one’s own life. I don’t see any difference between spreading love and joy with a new friend, on the street or peace making in a war zone. For me, peace is love and wherever this is present you are creating the change you wish to see in the world. You are creating trust, friendship and belonging. Accordingly to Celtic spirituality this is very important. I believe inclusivity regardless of difference builds unity.
The founder of Rotary Paul Harris traveled the world and he made bridges of friendship, this was the first step to building a peace network. In truth the Rotary network was indeed a peace network. The challenge these days is to expand that notion of friendship and relationships as fundamental to building world peace.
Robert took me to the bus to go to the airport. We talked of his dream to work with children. He was a good friend.
It was lovely to leave knowing ‘Irish eyes were smiling’. One person can indeed make an impact.
Now I am off to Chicago …. Looking forward to see what happens….