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Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Buoyed up by the mosque on Dublin's Talbot Street



Illustration by Ben Hickey

Illustration by Ben Hickey

Illustration by Ben Hickey

I'm walking past the mosque on Talbot Street.

That statement is worth repeating, I think. I'm walking past the mosque - I'm sauntering past the mosque on Talbot Street. This is the Talbot Street in Dublin, by the way, not Talbot Street in Tehran or Marrakech.

I'm strolling past the mosque and it's the most amazing thing.

It's like a line from a song, that, some old song by George Formby.

- She walks past the mosque on Talbot Street with an

independent air,

And then it's down be Summerhill and as the people stare,

She says it's nearly half-past one, it's time I had another

little one,

Oh, the heart of the rowl is Dicey Reilly.

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The Talbot Street Mosque needs to get into a song quickly. Because it's brilliant and kind of mad - and it's Irish and it's there.

I admit it, I'm feeling a bit giddy, a bit wild. I've just been listening to a report on the radio about an Indian family that was racially abused by some drunk creep on the train from Belfast - for an hour. And it made me feel ashamed. I'm normally a man who shouts at the radio but my voice, my noise - just then - would have been obscene.

An hour. Dundalk to Connolly. An eternity.

The mosque on Talbot Street is easily missed. It's just a door, up near the Marlborough Street end. I must have walked past it dozens of times.

The creep on the train shouted that the Indian family were in Ireland, so they'd have to obey the Irish rules. But what are the rules? Drink too much and throw abuse at other people? Is that one of the rules?

I spot the mosque this time because it's Friday. I realise I'm walking through a tight group of men and they're all speaking a language - I don't know what it is, exactly. Arabic, maybe. And something clicks, it's in my head: it's their sabbath and they've been praying in a mosque. And I look back down the street to see if Guiney's has been converted into a mosque, and I'd missed it. And as I'm turning I see the door. A narrow door, and I'm guessing there's a stairs. It's just around the corner from the Pro Cathedral, and around a different corner to Abbey Street and all the different Protestant churches there. I wonder what the bully on the train would be shouting at the Methodists and Presbyterians coming out of those churches.

- And she walks her wheelbarrow, through streets broad

and narrow,

Going Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, alive alive-o.

The urge is to go up to all the men and shake their hands but I know that would nearly be as bad as abusing them, kind of - Welcome to Ireland, how long are you staying? I'd like to say -Your Irish is great, lads - fair play to you. One or two of them might get the joke but I'd be afraid that more of them would look back to me and wonder if my smile hides malice, if I'm hurling insults at them. So I just stroll through the men and around them, and keep on going.

It's a bit daft, I know, but I'm elated. These men speak Arabic and their children have Dublin accents. If you live in a city you live all over the world. If you're not happy with that, f**k off to Rockall and have it out with the Scottish Navy.

- Dublin can be heaven

With coffee at eleven

And a stroll through Chinatown.

Up ahead of me, there's a gang of girls and they're chatting away the way girls do; you can nearly see the words flying around their heads. They speak a dialect that's close to English but can only be fully understood by other teenage girls. They could be talking about fellas, they could be talking about nuclear physics or climate change: we'll never know. But they're sparky and laughing and confident and they're white and they're black and they're European and Asian, and they're all Irish and they're absolutely brilliant. One of the girls in the middle says something in their secret code and the roof comes off Dublin as their laughs become one huge happy rebellious scream.

I'm on my way up to Capel Street. One of my sons is treating me to a pizza in an Italian restaurant that's run by Chinese people. Then we're going across the street to the Boar's Head for a pint of the black medicine from up the river. Capel Street is the same as it ever was, and completely different. That's Dublin. That's Ireland.

I've forgotten about the bully on the train.

But I haven't. He's still out there.

- And the oul' triangle

Goes jingle jangle

All along the banks for the Yangtse Kiang.

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