In defence of the Donut District
My block’s been taking a beating. For the past six years, I have lived on George’s Street in Dublin city centre — four floors above the All American Laundrette, opposite The Long Hall pub, and pushed up against an abandoned outlet store that doubles up as a bus shelter.
Before you ask — yes, it is small. I don’t have a kitchen, I have a kitchenette, I don’t have a balcony, I have a balconette (aka a large windowsill).
My wardrobe is in the living room, and there’s no room for a table. Eating is done either standing up, or balancing on the sofa.
It’s also expensive, and the lack of storage means there are piles of folded clothes stacked everywhere like terrycloth towers.
Then, there’s the noise. All-Ireland finals and Patrick’s Day are the loudest. Even when it’s quiet, it’s roaring.
Ambulance sirens, bin trucks bleeping, and belligerent drunks shouting at each other have become my whale music.
But I love it. It’s a neat little bolthole overlooking chimney tops. Plus there’s some great people watching — offering vignettes into other’s lives. It’s a bit like Rear Window, only without the murders.
My appreciation of my apartment is heightened at the moment because I am due to move out at the end of this month. As well as the flat, I’ll be leaving six years of memories behind.
This may also explain why I’ve become hyper-defensive of my turf. When I moved in, this area was being marketed as Dublin’s Creative Quarter. Now, it’s better known as the capital’s designated Donut District.
I don’t mind that — I love passing food fads. But strangely it seems to bother people who don’t live in this part of town.
In recent weeks, I have read worthy newspaper articles, as well as haughty blog posts and unoriginal tweets giving out about the lack of originality on George’s Street and in other inner-city quarters.
“It’s not what it used to be, Guv!” is the usual refrain. For many, the most resounding cultural death knell for George’s Street came with the opening of all-Americana fast-food chain Five Guys. View from the balconette: Kirsty has become hyper-defensive of her turf as she prepares to leave George’s Street in Dublin after six years.
“It’s so tacky now,” one of my colleagues told me.
Why? Because a burger joint had replaced that bastion of high culture and artistic wizardry: a Dunnes homeware store?
Whenever I hear people giving out about my block, I’m reminded of that bit in Mean Girls when a young woman gives a heartfelt speech about the school returning to happier times. “I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, and we’d all eat it and be happy again,” she wails.
She’s interrupted when someone shouts from the back of the hall, “she doesn’t even go here”. Complaining about the lack of decent pubs, and how my block is not what it used to be in the “rare auld times”? You don’t even go here, pal.
When you live in the city centre, the side streets filtering off your building become an
extension of your living room. Listening to passers-by complain feels akin to guests coming over to your house for dinner, and remarking on the blandness of your Ikea sofa.
Cities and times change, moods shifts, donuts come in and out of fashion. You spend six years living in an apartment and then — poof! — life takes an unforeseen turn and you’ve gotta go.
I’m only there for a few more weeks, and don’t want anyone else hating on my block.
So here’s a reminder of all the good things about it: the noise, the small dogs, the steps of Powerscourt townhouse wet with rain and covered in flowers, the weddings and proposals, the pregnant women in Five Guys, a man in a deerstalker hat, tea, those pesky seagulls, uneven flag stones, red brick turrets, and abandoned pint glasses perched on window ledges.