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With A Fada

We were sitting on Drury Street one afternoon, after visiting a few bookshops in our nearby proximity. By ‘a few’ I mean at least thirty. I never really understood the fear that bookshops are dying. Maybe I’m the generation after that mindset, too young to have seen that deterioration. Up in the city there’s no less than fifty bookshops within a mile radius of us, and that’s only the ones we have visited.

I seem to spend an awful lot of time in bookshops. Although come to think of it, when I compile the hours I spend scanning shelves or flipping through pages I wonder if it accumulates to near the amount of time I’ve spent working or scrolling on my phone. The answer is most likely no, which - to me - is a sign that I should spend more time in bookshops. Regardless of how long these hours feel.

I have a cappuccino sitting in front of me, and he has a mocha. ‘He’ is one of my closest friends from college, a Castlebar man with an unaffected love for Irish and an open mind. Real humble, in the kind of way few people are. I’ve never been to Castlebar, and he’s never been to Wexford. I find it incredible that we are able to imagine each place judging by the way we describe them. I look up photos of Castlebar sometimes and it’s exactly how I envisioned it. I’m kind of terrified of Castlebar, and he often tells me he feels the same about Wexford.

Drury Street is a metropolis of outdoor dining. I don’t know if this is a new occurrence with the gained popularity of sitting outdoors while eating, or if the street was always this way. Regardless, it is one of my favourite places in the city. Part of that is because the street links to George’s Street Arcade. I’m not sure why I’m so madly in love with George’s Street Arcade. The first time I went there the whole experience was overwhelming. There’s a bookshop in the arcade too. There’s also a record shop, a café with posters of concerts covering every crevice, a piercing shop, along with several other stands that change from time to time. I’ve always liked the kind of places with a whole load of creativity squashed together. I don’t think this is a good sign. Maybe it’s the practicality, rather than the lack of exposure.

One of the other reasons I love Drury Street so much is because it has some of the best coffee in Dublin. Most of the food is great too, despite the tiny portion sizes and massive prices.

The seating is interconnected. The one signifier of any contrast between each table is their colour. Our seats were grey; the same shade as the café which we had gotten our coffees. While the seats next to us were white, belonging to the vegan restaurant on the opposite side of the street.

There’s always a lot happening on this street. The people tend to blend in to the atmospheric background. It goes without saying that they are unique or interesting, as this is the place they choose to spend their time. Having said that, the man sitting next to us pricked our ears when we heard him speak to a waitress.

“Aon seans go bhfuil an t-am agat chun comhrá liom a dhéanamh?” He asked the girl passing by, wondering if she had time for cúpla focal.

“Ehm… is everything okay?” She responded, in a blatant Dublin accent. More than likely born and raised in the country.

“Ní feidir,” he presumed, judging by her response she didn’t have the time to partake in such a conversation.

“Is the food not up to scratch?” She tried again. Her strong brogue scraping off of my eardrums. How could someone so blatantly Irish not embrace the mother tongue.

The man shook his hand in the air, implying that what he was seeking simply did not matter anymore. He had heard enough from hearing nothing. Immediately, I grasped the disappointment in his face. I saw his expression; feeling misunderstood and misunderstanding why he was. I struck up conversation, telling him that the two of us were Irish students and that we have plenty of time to have a conversation with him before our tutorial at four o’clock. We asked him his name which unmistakably was Irish and obscure. We introduced ourselves through Irish; Aidan as Aodhán, and myself as Álanna - with a fada - pronounced in the style that few people know how.

We talked bookshops. He had just visited one around the corner that we had never been to, and proceeded to show us the books he had bought there. The man in this bookshop refused to speak English, putting our friend in a certain mindset afterwards. I understand that feeling; going from English to Irish is almost second nature, but making my way back again always feels impossible. I often wonder if this is because my mind knows it is wrong, feeling forced to reverse into a language of oppression and corruption.

This man had been to both Castlebar and Wexford, unlike the two of us. He had vital memories in both places; reminiscing on walking through each Main Street, admiring each commodity.

We said our goodbyes before the two of us headed back for our contemporary literature tutorial. On the way, we visited the sole Irish language bookshop in Dublin. Both of us picked up a novel, and with it a fáinne óir each; the symbol of Irish language fluency. That way, any more Irish speakers such as our new acquaintance would be able to identify us instantly, without any effort.

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