Saturday 20 July 2019

Terry Prone: Window-shopping on Grafton Street? Forget it right now

Grafton Street's a wonderland - or rather it was, once upon a time, when the song The Dublin Stroller summed it up.

"Grafton Street's a wonderland. There's magic in the air. There are diamonds in the lady's eyes and stardust in her hair."

For some of us - third-generation Dubs in love with our capital city - that song defines part of our heritage, part of our expectations of our home town.

We expect it to be filled with music, laughter and the scent of coffee. We expect to window-shop at stores we figure are too expensive for real shopping.


We expect to slow our pace, toss coins into the hat of a busker, smile knowingly at a young fella clutching a huge bunch of flowers, clearly for the girlfriend.

Or we used to expect all that. These days, Grafton Street is for surviving, not strolling, because of the way the street is being improved.

No sniggering down the back, there. I'm serious. Last October, works were started as part of a programme to clean up the street. Put your hands together and applaud: of course we should cherish the best parts of our city, and Grafton Street is one of the very best of them.

So it's right and proper that we would seek to keep it up to scratch.

Plus, it couldn't take that long to doll up the street, could it?

Grafton Street might be our equivalent of Fifth Avenue, but it's less than a tenth as long.

Logically, therefore, you would assume that if work started in October, it would all be done and dusted by late Spring, so that our summer visitors from overseas would get the full blast of a shiny, clean, refreshed street.

If you feel the urge to applaud again, hold it. Because that's very definitely not what happened.

Right now, our premier shopping street is a building site where half of it is dug up, or in ruins waiting to be dug up.

Effective but horrible blue and white protection barriers cut it in half in places, forcing walkers to clump together in unwilling crowded processions.

The effect of this is the equivalent of putting a hoodie on a bloke already wearing an Armani suit; instant image destruction.

It stops you seeing the beauty, taking the look of the place just about as far down market as it's possible to go.

So instead of strolling on pretty paving stones, you get the thrill of walking through coarse sand flowing out from under the barriers.

Not exactly a sensual pleasure to get filthy sand between your toes if you happen to be wearing flip-flops or high-heeled sandals.

Nor can you stop, lean up against a lamp-post and shake the grit out of your sandals. You have to keep marching in lockstep with the crowd.

And window-shopping? Forget it.

The windows of many of the shops are half a street-width away. You'd need binoculars to see the prices on display.

What's easier to view are piles of new paving stones, shovels, cement mixers and other construction machinery.


Even where work has been completed, the area is filthy. Add to that the blank hoardings marking where a shop has closed down, the fast food outlets, including two McDonalds lest walking to one a little further up the street was too exhausting.

You get the picture, and it's a picture you don't want to share.

Every visitor to our capital city takes away memories that will inform their holiday choices for the future.

Grafton Street should be among the best of those memories. This year, it's competing to be the worst.


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