City #4, August 2013. A city much busier than I expected it to be, which of course says more about my expectations than about the city itself. I guess Ireland is calm and green, but its capital isn’t. Dublin is full of life, looking good and in great shape, partly thanks to the renovations funded by a great deal of EU money.

What type of Youropeans? Even though I only understand half of what they’re saying, the Irish are funny. Old geezers in pubs, the people I interviewed, random girls on a bus: they are all good at telling jokes.

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City Column

Trust comes on foot

I’m Dutch, therefore I bike. That makes me doubly alien in Dublin, and apparently sometimes an undesirable alien, judging from the gestures of the drivers and the honking of the cars and double-decker buses around Stephen’s Green and Pearse Street. The odd thing is that, like Berlin, Paris and Barcelona, Dublin has city bikes for hire: every now and then you see a cluster of rickety blue bicycles near a park or museum, but no one ever uses them. I’m certainly not foolish enough to get on one, so I look around for a decent bike rental place.

Neill’s Wheels is well hidden, down a dead-end alley behind a youth hostel. There are four bicycles parked in a decrepit rack in front of a grubby shed jampacked with tools and parts. I choose one that can change gears. Thirty euro plus a fifty Euros deposit. Neill gives me a high-visibility vest, an extra lock and a grimy copy of a map of Dublin. While he adjusts the seat, we chat a little about football, about his club, Arsenal, agreeing that they should never buy Suarez, because he’s crazy. We bond. Men are simple creatures.

Three days later, when I bring the bike back, Neill is not there, which is slightly inconvenient. His shop is open, and two men in overalls are lying on their stomachs on the floor next to the trapdoor leading to the cellar. They’re from the gas company. One of them offers to call him, but Neill is apparently too far away to get back to the shop. What a bother. Or not? ‘Just leave the bike and the lock, it’s okay.’ And the deposit? Neill is thinking. Oh yeah, the deposit. ‘Are you in the shop now? Can you see the tool kit? It’s closed right?’ It is. ‘Open the CD player. The key to the toolkit is in there. There are about 15 envelopes with deposits in the toolkit. Take the one with your name on it.’ He has 15 other clients? I follow his instructions, lock up afterwards, thank Neill and hang up. Later, strolling along under the watery Irish sun, I think about all the countries I’ve been to where there are no Neills.

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