Crossing street was a crowning achievement
Published 18/05/2011 | 05:00
IT may be that trying to cross the Liffey bridges at the same time as Queen Elizabeth wasn't one of my brighter ideas, but naively I thought that even such a momentous event as the arrival of the British monarch would not impede people going about their daily business on foot. Silly, silly me.
I was due in work on Talbot Street at 2.50pm and left my own little corner of Dublin 8 on foot with loads of time to spare. Traffic was quiet, the streets were calm, and there was a strangely subdued air along James's Street and further into the city centre.
Down on Grafton Street, Neil Horan danced a jig as bemused tourists took photos, wondering if this was all part of the royal entertainment. I walked back across an empty Dame Street and down through Temple Bar before arriving at the river. And that was where everything started to go wrong.
The Ha'penny Bridge was closed and barricades stretched east along the Liffey as far as the eye could see. How far ought I walk in order to cross over? The guards couldn't tell me, and instead directed me back to the Millennium Bridge. A crowd of disgruntled pedestrians crossed slowly as harried guards checked everyone's handbags, glancing into women's purses and flipping through men's rucksacks.
I made it as far as O'Connell Street where, at 2.45pm, I came to a total halt outside Easons. There was simply no way across. Rows of stony faced guards lined barricades on either side of the street, awaiting the queen's imminent arrival.
I couldn't walk south because O'Connell Bridge was closed. I couldn't go north because Parnell Square was closed. So I stood there, alongside the smattering of people lined up and down the barriers, waiting.
Garda walkie-talkies crackled with the news that "the principal" was on her way. The Australian couple beside me were tracking her progress via a phone call to a friend -- she's on her way, they assured me. Not long now.
The garda outriders arrived first, then the Army, and then, finally, the sleek black Range Rover, its bonnet decorated with the royal flag. At its window, an arm appeared, encased in a delicate silk sleeve, while at its tip an upright hand flickered in that familiar royal wave. People cheered, and then as if remembering themselves, started to boo softly. The sour-faced Dub behind me uttered something unrepeatable.
And then she was gone, up O'Connell Street, past the crowds of unruly protesters near Parnell Street and into the Garden of Remembrance.
Aha, surely now we'd be on our way in no time at all. I popped into Penneys to have a quick scout around while waiting for the barriers to open and emerged 10 minutes later to find the same row of inscrutable guards staring into the middle distance. The barricades were going nowhere. It was now quarter to four and no one was any the wiser about what might happen next.
Finally a garda directed me to a nearby sergeant, and therein lay my salvation. I explained that I was incredibly late for work and probably about to get the sack, and he personally ushered me and a travel agent who was in a similar predicament across the road. We jokingly promised him good publicity and free flights and then we were on our way.
I arrived into work at 4.15pm. It's amazing, said my boss drily, what some people will do to skive off work for an hour.
It's amazing, I thought, how a whole capital can grind to a halt for one 85-year-old pensioner. If this is what a royal visit can do to a city, let's hope it's another century before the next one.