I SNUCK OFF a few months ago. Just after Christmas, after poor old Dublin had gotten herself all dolled up in the hope of keeping me interested, draping herself in fairy lights and smiling as brightly as she could. Sorry, I told her, you still look old. I’m going. And I pried her bony, tinselled fingers off my shoulders and I went. Not far, in the scheme of things, just to London. An hour away. That’s what everybody says when they move to London – it’s just an hour away. Of course, it’s more than an hour away – it’s a flight away, a sail across an entire sea away, a big old change.
I’m great at a lot of things (guessing ages, pronouncing words, sitting quietly) but I’m not great with change. It makes me anxious, although I know how to talk myself around. ‘Listen Higg-bomb, everything changes all the time anyway’ I say ‘and you’re an optimist.’ That’s a new tactic I have – telling myself I’m an optimist in the hope that I will become one, which is quite an optimistic act in itself.
London makes me feel like a busy, lost baby
I still worry though. I worry I’ll fall in front of the Tube, causing delays to other passengers and death to me. I worry I’ll get one of those neither-here-nor-there accents that annoy everyone. I worry that I’ll end up like the men featured in a documentary I saw once – Irish men who’d moved to London in the 1950s to work on building sites. They had never returned, sliding instead into sadness and alcoholism. That’ll be me, I fret, only brightening up when I pour a glass of wine and realise that, although things didn’t go their way – they still got their own TV show.
Moving to London a few months after the Olympics was like arriving at a party right after the cool people have left. Apart from that, I like it. It feels exciting. It’s not a scary city, but the other feeling that characterises London for me is definitely panic. Not a bad panic, not a ‘there’s an adult crow in the kitchen and it’s my job to get it out of there using only a tea towel’ panic. More like a low lying, consistent panic, a feeling of never knowing exactly where I’m going but always being in a rush to get there.
London makes me feel like a busy, lost baby. I point at pretty bridges, get distracted by noise, feel proud of myself when I can figure out a bus route and furious when I can’t. And, just like any dumbo baby, I have thrown my pound coins away on dungarees and sweets and I’m broke.
God damn it Dublin, I love you
That is not ideal because I live in a place called Dalston which has extremely high rents, especially considering it’s covered in chicken bones. Fried chicken is the only thing hipsters can eat – everything else is a coconut. Last week I paid £3.20 for a cup of coffee in a place where the furniture is made from old pallets.
Living in a big, interesting city can trick you into thinking you’re living a big, interesting life, but be wide – it just might be all hookah smoke and mirror balls. I email my family, telling them this week’s news. I ate goat curry and helped a guy carry his double bass up some steps and oh, still nothing big happening, but loads of meetings, so that’s good.
I was back in Dublin for a weekend in July. I thought I would get a kick out of being a tourist in what still feels like my own city. I did, but it turned out to be a kick in the nuts. I wandered around like a ghost haunting my old life, and saw people I hadn’t even realised I missed. Not just loved ones – strangers. A funny waitress, a blue eyed beggar, a snippy florist – all strangers, but familiar ones, their faces making up the well-worn fabric of my city. God damn it Dublin, I muttered, stubbing out my cigar on the Ha’Penny Bridge, gripping the railings and screaming now – you’re beautiful and I love you, now take me back!
Maeve Higgins stages her first ever play MOVING CITY at Smock Alley Theatre from Sep 17-21 as part of Dublin Fringe 2013 which runs city-wide from Sep 5 – 21 – Further info & bookings log onto www.fringefest.com