Yesterday was one of the most normal Saturdays I’ve had in a while. I was able to meet a friend in the city and have a nice meal with the boyfriend, just like everyone else. I know this makes me sound like a socially awkward person, but the difference between my life on the Night Shift and my life on the Day Shift is honestly striking. No more feelings of jet-lag, no apathy or fatigue at the mere thought of ‘effort’, just this fresh and lively willingness to interact with people and have a great time while the summer’s still here.
Actually, meeting up with my friend almost didn’t happen. We were supposed to meet at 12pm outside the General Post Office (see above), an iconic building in the middle of O’Connell Street, and she didn’t turn up. I sent her messages, tried to call, but there was no getting through to her. I’ll wait till 1pm, I said, and wandered in a sulk along Henry Street, where my meanderings took me down a short thoroughfare next to Clarks which I’ve always passed, though never took an interest in.
Surprisingly, it has some modest cafés and gift shops and a hidden Filipino supermarket called “Yes Kabalang” (sp). I went into a gift shop hawking incense sticks, tribal ornaments, dream-catchers, treasure chests, hand-made crafts, and other strange assortments in any shop selling incense sticks. It smelt so nostalgic, like the shops I used to browse back in my youth, when I was slouching around in flares and wide-leg jeans, immersed in the dark, angsty world of heavy metal and indie. It sure took my mind off my friend not turning up and also led to a clock I would love to buy someday:
On my way out was the Filipino supermarket I really wanted to enter. Looking in, the store was well-lit, well-organised, and completely deserted, with a lone check-out assistant cringing a little at her obvious solitude and trying not to gaze imploringly at the crowds that quietly passed her by. Next time I’ll enter this supermarket (I promise!), providing it hasn’t shut down by the time I get round to it. They should really put a sign directing customers to them, or hire one of those people to stand with a pointing billboard, if they want to stay in business. Deciding to call it a day (I really had nothing to do apart from meeting my friend), I headed for the bus stop that would take me home.
Lo and behold, I was stopped by a stranger brandishing a blue cassette and an openly pleasant smile. “Excuse me,'” she said, “but I’m looking to take pictures of people wearing tights for a college project on street fashion and would like to take a photo of you.” Points for assertive confidence: 10 out of 10. I grinned sheepishly as she held up her iPhone slash blue cassette while she assured me it was not for a magazine, just a street fashion college project. I continued on my way after that, with a frown of intrigue on my face, or rather, a smile-frown of “Did that just happen?” as I’ve never been asked to have my photo on the street before. Wasn’t there a release form involved? Should I even charge her for the privilege? I’m not a professional model by any means, but strangers coming up to you on the street, taking your photo with a blue cassette, isn’t something that happens on a regular basis! So I had to wonder.
As I joined the queue for the bus, still intrigued by that mystery photographer, my friend called about where I was and why I seemed upset that she hadn’t turned up. Unknown to myself, a lot has been going on in her life and she texted me thinking she had asked to meet up at 2pm, the original time I suggested, only to send a message stating 12pm, which was no different to the time we had already agreed. Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed at being stood up for an hour, even if the extent of my anger was merely to state “It’s a very hot day” (very British!), and confirm I’d still be here if she was definitely coming. Twenty minutes later, she arrived, reeling off a list of three places we could go, depending on my hunger and what I wanted to eat – the sort of things I’d been worried about before coming into the city.
Gradually, my irritation subsided and we went to a ground-floor bistro named Brambles in Jervis Shopping Centre. We talked about work to begin with, since we were both employed on the Night Shift and still in the throes of redundancy, and it was interesting to hear what she thought, as the two of us had argued on a professional basis some months ago and never had the chance to properly discuss things. Strangely, one thing she told me to do (and I get the impression she wanted to say this from the start) is to act as if succeeding is accidental and effortless. Achieving in my role has been going against me, it seems, and not because I’ve been shouting from the rooftops how awesome I am or kissing arse far harder than my colleagues (which I don’t, by the way); the mere appearance of working hard makes people jealous and/or resentful, and while it shouldn’t be like this, it simply just is, and that’s why my professional life on the Night Shift has been (oftentimes) a challenge.
Despite our initial misgivings, I am truly thankful for my friend’s honesty and the fact she had the integrity to say this in the first place, as people like her are tragically hard to come by in the city of Dublin. And I’m not just saying this out of sour grapes or some nonsense like that. It really seems hard to meet a decent person here. It’s like all the decent people have left the country, not only creating a brain-drain but also a character vortex for those who are left behind. I’ll be honest: I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I’ve known this since entering the world of full-time employment. Upon debut, my eccentricities and idiosyncrasies were embraced with fondness then abruptly rejected as a bitter reminder of what once was, and now sadly isn’t, in a select group of people. I accept this misfortune, I really do, even if it drives me insane from time to time, assuming everyone’s too busy to be resentful or jealous or some other emotion that has nothing to really do with me.
After meeting up with my friend and reaffirming our friendship (aww!), I went to meet my boyfriend for dinner. Due to good things I heard about Neon, and because I can be quite bossy when it comes to where we eat, we tried this restaurant on Camden Street which had wow-ed the Dublin locals. According to the trainer and a colleague who had gone there recently, we had to order our food then sit down and use the unexplained wafer cones for a free Mr Whippy.
“Too easy”, as the Australians say, so we chose the following to start our adventure:
- vegetable spring rolls with sweet chili dipping sauce;
- Jungle Thai Curry with chicken and rice;
- Mekong duck and rice;
- apple juice and Tiger.
Firstly, we were confused by the presentation. I know it’s in the name “Neon: Asian Street Food”, but it came so quickly in laminated cartons that we barely had time to register what the waiter was saying. Seems that giving your name when you order is the only way that staff can identify customers, so good job we recognised this system when the right waiter turned up, wondering if we were the ones. As for the cartons of food: clean and efficient way of packaging food, though slightly underwhelming when you’ve paid €34.00 for the pleasure.
Even before we had broken open the chopsticks, we were already doubtful of replicating the loyalty so evident in previous customers, and we carried on feeling this way as we finally tasted the food. The starter was bland, and without the sweet chili dipping sauce, would have been a disaster. Admittedly the spring rolls were hand-wrapped to perfection, and the filling was moist and appropriately bulging with glass noodles and veg, but no flavours set us alight when we nibbled them plain or made us feel they were worthy to be part of the banquet.
And the Jungle Thai Curry was exactly what it says on the menu: four chilies. Normally I’d be grateful for that extra kick since Thai dishes are watered down so much for Western clientele; however, the authenticity here was too careless. Way too many chilies in this version of the dish. Couldn’t taste the broth – or anything else, for that matter – once the insensitive lava struck your front teeth! Poor boyfriend had to take refuge by helping me finish the Mekong duck, the one saving factor in this over-confident meal. The duck was tender and tasty and worth every cent, and so was Mr Whippy straight after – fun to do and fun to watch!
Overall, I would class the food 8 out of 10, thanks to the Jungle Thai Curry, and probably return if they lowered the price by a Euro or two. Service is quick, the atmosphere is great, but the walls need a new skin of plaster (don’t let that photo deceive you!) and guidance when you come in should be given at the door or in the form of a visual poster as a lot of those who came in for the very first time were uncertain of what to do and lingered near the door for longer than necessary.
But still, a great weekend, methinks!