I go visit my home town of Clonmel and the so-called cities of Kilkenny and Waterford.
The Office of Public Works has done a good job in developing Clonmel's Main Guard (above), a historic structure defining the east end of the town's O'Connell St. I like the sparse unadorned style although, in its habitual deserted state, it represents something of an elitist statement or wasted opportunity. I inspected the space a while back in connection with an art project I'm working on and I couldn't help but that notice that the Main Guard's windows look out onto a run down, disappointing, O'Connell Street. The juxtaposition of the sharp architectural statement with the drained-of-life main street couldn't be more poignant. When I was a kid O'Connell Street throbbed with provincial life, playing host to a variety of locally-owned businesses which fanned the flames of social life and commerce.
Waterford has changed little since I spent four years at boarding school there. It still has that murky port-of-entry feel about it. Like Limerick, it boasts more than its fair share of shut down old businesses. Street corners are still playing host to corner boys, provincial yokels who'd be happy watching paint dry. The same hopeless live music venues put on shows by the exact same sort of ugly looking heavy metal types as formed such bands when I lived there. The city fathers have invested in improving the look of the place and the bus depot on the quays is a rare example of a new Irish building which is both aesthetically pleasing and utterly functional.
I head for the Book Centre, a monumentally ugly place but a very decent bookshop, much better than anything to be found in Limerick. There I manage to buy both Books Ireland and The Irish Book Review, two hard-to-find publications. I go looking for that old second hand record shop which, it turns out, has closed down since the last time I was in town.
Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.