A Portrait of a Kerryman as a Young UCD Student

APOR“I wanted real adventures to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.” 
James JoyceDubliners

I’m often asked the vexing question “how in all places did a Tralee man such as yourself manage to end up in UCD?” The answer is at times quite difficult to conjure. Ostensibly most of my friends seem to have a lot more common sense than me. They took the wise option by deciding to remain in Munster. This is a smart decision on many counts. First and foremost of which, you’re always within sniffing distance of your mother’s cooking. If you’re studying in UL or UCC all you have to do is hop on a shuttle bus say “Bon Appetit” and in the flash of an eye you suddenly have a nice Sunday roast in front of you. Better still if you’re studying from home all you have to do is clap your feet together and you can have a roast any day of the week! I can’t say I wasn’t warned. My mother, a proud former UCC alumna, warned me of the perils of life in a big bad city such as Dublin. But she needn’t have bothered. The wafting aromas and scents from the stove that filled my nostrils throughout childhood were the most compelling advocate!

So, as you begin to salivate at the mouth, the question you must be burning to ask is why exactly did I decide to leave the Kingdom and move to UCD? The answer can be found in Joyce’s above quote; I wanted a real adventure. I wasn’t to be swayed. Gandalf had spoken. Like Bilbo Baggins, I knew destiny had come calling. It was time to leave the Shire!

My adventure began on an unseemly note as I woke up for the first time in my apartment in UCD, to find my new laptop was malfunctioning after the Windows 10 update. Like any other doe eyed fresher student in my situation, I was absolutely petrified at the thought of not having my laptop in tip top shape for the upcoming lectures. Eternally the optimist, I hopped on my bike and made for PC world at Jervis shopping centre, thinking it would be a great opportunity to explore the city. I was happy out, enjoying my newfound freedom, as I weaved between the buses and the taxis on my way in. One of the things that mystified me were the evanescent cycle lanes which appeared and disappeared, seemingly at will, and left a few buses far too close for comfort. It didn’t faze me however, as I gazed in awe at my new surroundings. All was going well until I crossed the Liffey and arrived at Jervis. There I met two Gardaí to whom I enquired to about the safety of locking my bike to a pole in the vicinity. “Don’t you worry young man, Dublin has a bad rep but that’s completely over exaggerated! Your bike will be as safe as houses here!” Satisfied with this, I proceeded to lock one lock around the frame and another lock around the wheel. I’m sure you know where this is going.

Needless to say when I came out of Jervis twenty minutes later the bike had vanished-locks and all. Not only that, but there was no sign of the Gardaí either. My first reaction was to run manically around for a few minutes, double checking I didn’t leave it at some other pole and once I was sure I didn’t, I was utterly disconsolate as the rain began to pour down on my shoulders. I didn’t know how to get back to UCD because I didn’t know any of the bus routes. Thoroughly humbled, I eventually decided to make the dreaded walk of shame to the Discover Ireland office like some defeated tourist. Of all the staff there, I was directed home by an Eastern European man (you know that country, Eastern Europe, the big one) who had recently moved to Ireland and thankfully knew Dublin better than I did.

At this point some of my friends in Munster will be shaking their heads, saying that my adventure is no different from their sojourns to UCC and UL. The bike theft epidemic has spread to those parts too, they hasten to tell me. Besides, I’ve failed Joyce’s main criteria about adventures – “they must be sought abroad” and convention dictates that Dublin in relation to Kerry is not abroad. I fundamentally disagree with that assertion on two counts. My Corkonian cousins may dispute this point, but I’m all out of luck.

The first of which is that the might of the Kingdom far transcends that of Dublin. The Dubs will argue that the gap has been bridged due to their recent All-Ireland win. That belies the fact however, that Kerry still have won twelve more All-Irelands than Dublin. Whilst Kerry people generally maintain our county is on a different level to Dublin, other folk such as Hollywood directors are gradually beginning to cop on. The fact that Kerry is lightyears away from Dublin is attested to by the jaw dropping depiction of our very own Sceilig Michíll in the record breaking film Star Wars the Force Awakens.

The second count I have against my friends is that you can’t seriously say you have embarked on an adventure, if you’re able to bring your laundry home every weekend to be done. I’d wager most college students do this! The truth is the epic of college life in UCD never truly begins until you have to make the hazardous journey to the laundrette on Saturday mornings. “Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge”. I’m not sure if it’s what Wilfred Owen had in mind when he wrote his famous poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” but it certainly resonates with me whenever I have to make the gruelling walk from the “Forgotten Square” of Merville Residences to the laundrette situated in Glenomena on UCD campus. This is conducted with two bin bags draped over my shoulders, overflowing with dirty laundry Again the line “Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling” is almost prophetic as I’m hit with fumes on entering the laundrette and as I fumble in my attempts to get the right proportion of fabric softener and washing powder into the drawer of the washing machine. College life is not only an adventure, it’s outright war!


  • Sean Hurley, Satirist

Be first to comment