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In Bono's Hotel - Ireland Now

Joe Ambrose gets back to Ireland...

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by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: June, 2006
As I make to leave the country I read in the paper that Charlie Haughey has been sent home from hospital because there is nothing more they can do for him. I hope it's not true
by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: June, 2006
As I make to leave the country I read in the paper that Charlie Haughey has been sent home from hospital because there is nothing more they can do for him. I hope it's not true

The plane comes down over Dublin Bay and crosses the small stretch of land which brings us to the airport. I can clearly see Charlie Haughey's old mansion. I know he sold it but I'm not sure whether or not he still lives there. Every four or five months one of my Dublin pals contacts me and tells me that Charlie is going to die, that they've just read it in the papers. I always hope it's not true and he's not dead yet.

The airport is a mess, about fifty extensions connected to one another, every low budget architectural style imaginable. Oddly enough it's still easy enough to use the baggage reclaim.

I take the ordinary city bus into town. They usually go faster than the more expensive direct airport/city centre services. After Drumcondra we're in inner city North Dublin which is still a profound shithole. The part of the bus I'm on - the upstairs - is full of dweeby continental student types - trainee dentists or social workers by the look of them - all knapsacked out and gauche and boring. Doomed to spend three rainy days in Dublin hanging out in internet cafes when not vainly searching for a cheap sandwich or buying U2 bootlegs. They've come to the wrong city. I know this, though I know nothing about them, because Dublin is - universally and inevitably - the wrong place.

I check into my hotel and head straight for the National Archive where I spend two days working on my next book. I meet a young student who is going through the same papers I'm going through and who comes from my hometown.

So it's, "Pleased to meet ya. Pleased to meet ya. " Though what's troubling me is the nature of his game.

Then down the country to see family. Weather better down south and the people better too. My brother fills me in on this pay-as-you-go Visa card system which is being test run in Ireland, presumably because the place has such a vigorous and varied economy. You can just buy a temporary Visa number with credit on it in newsagents or late night shops.

Tuesday back to Dublin for more research and for a few meetings with people. I see Shane O'Reilly - outsideleft's Dublin correspondent - at lunchtime in the Octagon Bar of the Clarence Hotel, owned by Bono and some others. The Hotel was always classy - I used to hang out there a bit when it was an art school and band hangout before U2 got involved. We used it as the main hotel for our guests when we did a major William Burroughs/Brion Gysin show - The Here To Go Show - right across the road. My parents stayed there that time.

Now - all polished up and given a makeover - it's just about the classiest aspect of the entire U2 operation. You can see Bono waddling around there paranoically when the band are off the road. I tell Shane that Lamont and Lake from outsideleft think that he is one of my nom de plumes. He is beleaguered with exams and having to work a bit to make money. He seems real enough to me.

Later the same evening - in the Octagon Bar again - I liaise with composer Daniel Figgis and artist Shane Cullen. We talk about schemes and it goes well. "Where has Connolly Books gone?" I ask Shane as we leave the Clarence, staring at the ruins of the old Communist Party bookshop and meeting place. He helpfully walks me across the Liffey - where I have to go anyway - and shows me the new Connolly Books, all shiny and modern and located in a sort of culture mall.

On the way out of town on a bus - heading south again - I note that Alex Chilton played in Dublin the previous night. Shit, I could have done with seeing him again.

The next day my sister drives me into Clonmel, my hometown, and I meet up with Brendan Maher at the South Tipperary Arts Centre to talk about a planned celebration of Laurence Sterne and his novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

On the Late Late Show there is an interview with Sean Scully who has just contributed one of his works to the newly reopened Hugh Lane Gallery.

As I make to leave the country I read in the paper that Charlie Haughey has been sent home from hospital because there is nothing more they can do for him. I hope it's not true. I used to meet Charlie when I lived in Ireland when I was on the scene and when he was running the country.

I get an email in the airport telling me that a track by my band, Islamic Diggers, has just been used (without permission) on a beer ad getting late night rotation on VH1.

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Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor

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.

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