Go gawking in Dalkey, and pining in Killiney
Brendan O'Connor explores a phenomenon previously the preserve of foreigners: gawping at the lifestyles of our rich and famous residents.
I HAVE an excuse for being there. We'd been at the garden centre in Glasthule you see (but that I have no excuse for). And suddenly the sun came out and, figuring that this could be our only blast of sun for the year, we decided to go for a spin and take in a bit of sea air. Driving, in case you don't know, is the new walking. It's like taking a stroll without moving your legs too much, while simultaneously sitting on your bum.
So we drove out along the coast into Dalkey and Killiney the pop-broker belt, as it's known. And then we came to an abrupt halt. For the next hour we drove around the area at five miles an hour and, so it seems, did everyone else in Dublin.
The speed was nothing to do with traffic, or the windy roads that characterise the area. It was due to the domino effect: whoever was in front was driving at five miles an hour, gawking his head off at the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Whoever was behind him was doing the same and thus putting no pressure on him to move on. And so on, back to the back where we happily cruised along, swivelling our pointy little noses at 360 angles.
Gawking in Dalkey, pining at Killiney, it is evidently the new Sunday driving. All that was missing was some kid selling maps of the stars' homes. Not that you need one. Half the fun is the speculation.
Is that Enya's castle? Judging by the sound of whale mating calls coming from the studio in the basement, it must be.
Figure out how long Bono's garden is by taking a line from the house to the gazebo (answer: very long). Follow the trail of blonde Eurotrash to find Eddie Irvine's place.
It is sick, pathetic and envious and everyone is doing it.
As the summer continues, expect to see hot dog vendors, people selling hats, flags and scarves, and gardaí on overtime stewarding the proceedings.
It used to be that only the most pathetic Spanish tourists would make the trek out to the altar that is the anonymous front gate of Bono's house. Foreigners are funny like that. I remember Bishopstown in Cork once becoming a stop-off point for young Japanese girls at the height of the Frank & Walters fame.
For those of you who don't remember, the Frank & Walters are a quirky Cork threesome who enjoyed a burst of international success some years back. The Japanese visitors would arrive at the Lenihans' house smiling. The bemused parents of the young rock stars would give them a cup of tea, try and fail to communicate beyond smiling and saying, "Yes, Flank and Warters," and send them over to drummer Ashley Keating's house around the corner.
This new move by Irish people to star spot and house spot on their own front doorsteps perhaps comes down to the greening of the Celtic Tiger. It is the politics of envy that drove all those otherwise happy people out to look at how the other half lives. This is what it must be like in India, where all those rich people and shanty towns occur side by side.
My own first sortie to Killiney was in the company of an acquaintance who was trying to get me to accept a very lucrative job. After a meeting during which I had assured him I was happy being poor (I was a bit of an eejit back then), he casually suggested we go for a walk as it was a lovely afternoon. We gawked in Dalkey for an hour or two as he slowly reeled me in, convincing me not only that I could have all this but that I deserved it much more than the bastards who were there already. The way he put it to me, it was practically a crime for me not to do anything I possibly could to wrestle one of those properties away from the old guard.
Luckily I wiped the drool from my mouth, slept on it and calmed down. Laziness eventually won the day but as incentives go, he had picked the right one.
For casual gawking, or gawking without intent, you have to admit too that the stars-per-car ratio in Killiney is damn good. Trust me, I've taken the Beverly Hills 'homes of the stars' tour and Killiney beats the hell out of it.
ON that occasion we were crammed into a minibus with a family of grim-faced fatties from Ohio and saw a home formerly owned by "Gorgio Armanti" and some guy out of I Love Lucy. The highlight was a 10-minute stop at Rodeo Drive, the glamour shopping capital of the world. The Ohios came back all wearing fat Hard Rock Café sweatshirts. At that point I tried to jump out the window but I was strapped down to go and look at the house of the brother of the agent of the guy out of Leave it to Beaver.
So don't ignore a fantastic amenity that is just a half hour away if you live in the capital. People come from half-way across the world to see this kind of thing. Marvel at the stately piles of Bono and Eddie Irvine. Gasp at Hugh Leonard's collection of cats. Wonder at how well the drummer from Def Leopard has done for himself, all things considered. Be envious at how Neil Jordan can afford such a generously big house, despite his general lack of hit films. Check out Lisa Stansfield looking for her baby (apparently she's been all around the world).
If the sun is out today, make a few sandwiches, pack up the kids and go gawking in Dalkey. If you really want to have a good time, you might consider sitting outside Bono's house singing U2 songs. Apparently he loves that.
By the way, only joking, don't do that last bit.