‘Troubles’ was the after-dark topic. John Coffey’s troubles were ones of the soul: he’d thrown out all his copies of Thrasher with his scrap- books, binned them in disillusionment at passed dreams. Davie spouted he was going to take up golf “It’s the nearest thing to skateboarding, and don’t let them tell you otherwise!” was his cry. Steve spewed poetry from beneath a Kylie shirt and Glen entered into one matey on The, (yer actual) Troubles,.
The words flowed through a non-sectarian crowd (for skating and friendships here are not tinged by forefather’s religious squabbles). And the verdict? Carrying a gun should be compulsory and everyone might as well shoot who the hell they like.
They say that humour is a defence mechanism. If this is true, none of the bombs or bullets the bigots fire at each other will ever hit this lot. The sad truth is there is no solution to the Northern Ireland problem, however green or however clued-in you are. Simple solutions reek of sick insults. Yet if you’re looking for answers, the seeds have to be found in people like the Ulster skaters, who rage, laugh and ignore — despite and because of the shit the history has landed them in.
Don’t get me wrong: Northern Ireland is a rad place. It’s far less intimidating than London to the outsider: it just takes a lot of getting used to, like all places. It’s also embarrassingly friendly to a Camden cynic, and when the rain stops you’re on to a winner.
On the train down to Dublin we all vowed to return, so I’ll leave you with what I started with — a bit of naivity. Burn all your flags, grind the paint off your kerbs: you guys deserve better.
Dublin is Ireland’s crazy mixed up capital, a stew of European, British and Celtic culture with some firing banks to boot. The catalyst in the fair city’s skating scene is ‘Clives Skate Shop’ — the only genuine article in the Isle, I’m informed. Clive himself owns one of the few mini-ramps in the area. Yet unlike most back garden ramps this construction somehow adds to the landscaping and even doubles up as a Wendy house for Clive’s young daughter, Kelly.
Clive also has a number of fly-off malarky type things which are regularly sessioned in the road outside his shop, to the amusement of onlookers and the annoyance of motorists.
With the lack of vert in the area, Dublin skaters have upped the anti in street skating and accepted greater challenges than most. Balz-out is not an adjective you’d usually trot out in sentences about street, but is the best way to describe the street style in these parts. Here spectacle is all: enormous Acid Drops off precarious ledges, big ‘gorblimey I fawt I wez sick of em’ Ollies down flights of stairs that would make Daley Thompson short of breath, and hand rails with enough steel in them to provide cutlery for the whole of China. And why not? yes, Dublin skaters take on challenges which others would dismiss as blarney or another Irish joke.
There are actually a lot of good street spots in Dublin, but the problem by and large is avoiding hassle. We spent a day of hit and run escapades, driving by van from spot to spot until moved on by local big knobs. One of the best areas is just outside the city in University College Dublin, where banks literally upon banks surround and shape up the main building’s unique structure. Elsewhere on the concourse there are some man’s hand-rails which Jono went at with true Dublin spirit — and success on several occasions. There’s also a flight of stairs on which many bold skaters disproved the ‘he who dares wins’ theorem.
Education is a wonderful thing, so follow up your visit to the University with a trip to Trinity College. This is in the centre of town and home to the famous ‘Book of Kells’. Follow the signs to this most ancient of books, arrive, ignore it, and set about the modern banks which surround its home.
If this leaves you a bit peckish, the cheapest food and drink to be had around town is in the college’s refectory where passing as a student is pretty easy and you’ll save yourself a couple of punts on a round of Guinness.
While you’re in town everything’s pretty walkable, touristy wise. For something off the usual track, try St Michael’s church in Church Street. Slide the guy inside a quid and he’ll take you down inside the ancient crypt where you can browse among the 900 year old mummified corpses and victims of battles gone by. Museum kitch this ain’t: no pretty labelling here, just wall to wall skulls and stomachs filled with condemned mens’ last suppers.
Caption: The discrete charm of the back-yard ramp.
(Yes: yet another film reference.)