Trudging to the bus stop after work one evening, a colourful poster jumped out the window of Hodges Figgis at me, bearing the vivid red and white chimneys of Poolbeg Station in Dublin. It was for a book titled HIDDEN CITY – ADVENTURES AND EXPLORATIONS IN DUBLIN. “HELLO”, I said to meself, “now THAT looks interesting!”
A few days later I bought the book in Eason’s on me loyalty card (soz Hodges Figgis, but yis were closed). I initially thought it was a book of walking tours of Dublin; however it soon became apparent it was so much more than that. You jump up and get a backer off the author on his bike as he cycles near the Dublin Mountains, walk for hours on a Joycean tour of the city centre; and get on the bus around town with him: not commuting… just bussing around for the craic.
This book is actually a lot more sober than its quirky cover suggests, with some examples of things that went wrong for Dublin with regards to poorly planned social housing (West Dublin suburbs) and the ghostly aftermath of the recession and cowboy builders (Clongriffin).
The first two chapters, Broken City and On the Edge of the Edge, which describe suburban sprawls as “windswept housing estates” felt oddly familiar to me as I grew up and live in the suburbs of West Dublin. White’s chapter on the death of Tyrellstown teenager Toyosi Shitta-Bey, Ghosts of the New Wild West was literally very close to home as I live only ten minutes away from where this needless tragedy took place.
I hoovered this short read (two hundred and sixty three pages) up in two days, but I learned a lot. In fact, so much so that I can’t stop churning out little facts and nuggets to anyone who will listen. Like, what happens when ya flush a number two in Dublin? WHERE DOES IT GO?! Even one of Bono’s…? All is revealed in this book in great detail, Karl Whitney takes researching down to previously hidden levels to show us the bowels of the metropolis.
After living in Spain for the last three years, I felt this book was a good exercise in reconnecting with Dublin, and seeing it from a different perspective. I enjoyed how it was a story of Dublin, but also the story of a citizen from Dublin.