herald

Friday 19 October 2018

One note and I'm back on the Dun Laoghaire bus

I jumped on a bus to Dun Laoghaire, stopping off to pick up ... a guitar in Walton's music shop.

This was common practice in the early 80s.

Every Saturday, hordes of would-be Jimmy Pages descended on Walton's to try out guitars they could never afford to buy.

The endless repetition of Stairway To Heaven used to drive the staff insane.

"I'm interested in boying, loike, a Fender Stratocaster. Can I try one out?"

"You're 14, come back when you have the money."

"I have the money in the post office. It's, loike, from my Confirmation."

"Okay, join the queue. But no Stairway To effing Heaven, right? If I hear that one more time ... " I never saw a guitar being sold in Walton's.

And since those days I've never seen a conductor on that bus to Dun Laoghaire.

Maybe it's just me, but conductors always seemed to be in a bad mood.

Even when they were singing, they were cranky. "Maah, maah, maaaaaaaaaah -- DELILAH! Do-be-do-be-do-be-dooo... stop messing there you little b****x or I'll burst you."

The bad mood may have been caused by their uniform. Conductors all wore their navy trousers three sizes too small for them. The polyester crackled with static electricity. We heard that one conductor had electrocuted himself on the 7A by touching his metal ticket machine immediately after scratching his polyester pants. We actually believed this.

Electrocution aside, bus travel in 1980 was a lot more dangerous than it is now. For a start, the tan Leylands didn't have any doors. They had a rear step and a pole for you to grab on to as the bus whizzed past. You flung your schoolbag on, hurled yourself at the pole and hoped for the best.

There was also the secondary cigarette smoke to deal with. Smoking was not only allowed upstairs -- it was compulsory.

In 1980, passengers would think you were "wasting" a smoking seat if you did not have a Major hanging from your lip.

Attitudes to smoking aren't the only things that have changed.



LIEBFRAUMILCH

Most of 1980s landmarks have vanished. The Mirabeau, where Sean Kinsella fed you for the price of a small mortgage, has been replaced by apartments.

Peekers Nite Club is gone too. In 1980, Peekers was full of men in white trousers, drinking Liebfraumilch and hip-thrusting at girls from Glenageary. In the late 80s, my crowd had taken over. I spent my 20s there, poncing about and drinking Holsten. I met my wife in Peekers in 1991. The lucky thing.

Like Peekers, the cinema where we had our first date has closed. The Forum is now a Centra. Connolly's shoe shop is gone too. Generations of Dun Laoghaire children got their first pair of shoes in Connolly's. It closed last month after 60 years. It's one of the one-in-five retail premises that are now idle in Dun Laoghaire.

Premier Dairies, Dun Laoghaire Golf Club, The Top Hat are all concreted over. The Sea Baths are in ruins. St Michael's Private Hospital, where I was born, is gone.

My school, Presentation College, has shut. The memories of the wedgies still remain.

There are still links to Bagatelle's Dun Laoghaire. Rita Shannon still swirls cones in Teddy's. Vera Breslin sells fish on Convent Road. The pier is more beautiful than ever.

A lot has changed since 1980, but Summer In Dublin still evokes the capital's gritty spirit. It's the Rare Old Times of its generation. The city's buildings tower above it, but Dublin's soul is still low-rise. Just like in the song. Whenever I hear it, I see the 1980 view from the bus at Dun Laoghaire and think, 'What a kip.' It's MY kip, though. And it always will be.

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