Saturday, 2 July 2011

A Tale of two cities.

Dublin has a new swagger; an arrogance in the face of problems that might crush a lesser place. It is an old town full of young bravado – an energy that carried me along as I met with old friends who are wise enough now to sit back and see things for what they are. Diminished now is the folly of mythological affluence and in its place a determination to get through whatever life puts in the way – an ancient and cherished legacy of the city.

All that was important to me, that which I thought was gone and lost forever, is stepping out from the shadows and hidden nooks and crannies to reclaim the hearts and souls of the people. The striped shirted Seamuses, those bastard children of the Tiger, will take their places on the rogue’s gallery along with Gratton’s parliamentarians, absentee landlords and scabs and striker-breakers, to be remembered with the derision they deserve.

There were casualties too, dreams broken and lives contorted, but there is hope among the scurrying grey clouds that drop the rain stores even as the sun shines. Dublin has confidence again and the young, fresh from going to and fro to the furthest corners of the globe, will demand nothing less than a fair chance. They have shed all that bound their parents; the nagging inferiority and subservient obedience to the rags and lies of a church-bound state.

Dublin is rising again, like the Phoenix in the park, and the world will be better for that.

Lisbon is in a lugubrious mood, full of sad faces of a confused people who were caught in transition from decades of isolation to the illusion of a new Europe. Some are resigned to the endless sufferings of life but others, like Teresa Milheiro, burned with a fiery passion against the great injustice of Socialising the cost of Capital greed. Her workshop, Galeria ARTICULA, on Rua dos Remedios, hidden in the hills of Alfama, is a must-see for all who seek proof that creative life still flourishes in the darkest days.

Lisbon too, has overcome all that history has thrown at it so far. Phoenician, Roman, Moorish and Gothic, once devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami, it rose again in absurd splendour. The present too, will pass – just another period that will leave its mark.

One of the things that gave me great hope as I wandered the broiling streets was the cool shady sanctity of its gracious bookstores – places of reverence and reflection. I will go back and wander more through the jigsaw streets, the hilly warrens, the wide boulevards and the improbability of it all scented in the cooler evenings by the aroma of sardines on the open grill and the bitter-sweet strains of Mariza’s Fado – the music of Lisboa.