Harry, an old mariner from Estonia, glances repeatedly at “Concentrate! Anticipate!” taped onto the driver window. Gosh, don’t glasses on a rope make people look old? He picks a little wax from his ears.
‘Over the Liffey in a jiffy,’ croons Colin as we pass the oldest pub in Ireland – built in 1198. ‘Now, we’ve been waiting and waiting, and finally Ikea is opening its doors to the public.’ He’s working himself into something of a frenzy here, the microphone resting in the dimple of his chin. ‘Ha ha, another Viking invasion,’ he grins. ‘Anyone from Norway? Ah, we’ve forgiven you, sir.’
Apparently, Ikea has warranted a special meeting of Parliament because the company has breached building-size laws. ‘We’re expecting close to a riot when it opens,’ he adds. ‘Shopping is like a second religion here.’
As we edge out of Dublin, every remnant of building has a story, it seems, and I wonder whether we might return a little bit late for the U2 concert later. ‘No, we have to be back by 5,’ clarifies Colin. ‘Harry has to have his tea.’
Bono: The Best Singer?
The countryside rolls past the coach window, and we’re told that the recession has been particularly acute in Ireland. ‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel. But that could just be a truck coming the other way,’ he says plaintively, unexpectedly launching into rather a splendid lullaby. When we clap, he explains: ‘I don’t want Bono getting all the credit.’ Interestingly, Colin and Bono went to the same Dublin comprehensive, though a few years apart.
Anyway, today’s trip, accompanied by Dutch Petra – I could introduce a U2 driver once a week for a year and still not include them all – is to Newgrange. This burial mound near the River Boyne is the most famous passage tomb in Ireland.
Built 500 years before The Pyramids, and 1000 years before Stonehenge, this is one of the oldest freestanding sites in the world. We’re in the “Cradle of Ireland” here, a land that was once totally forested.
Just imagine how difficult it would have been to construct such a tomb back then, let alone drag the materials here. It would have been far too labour-intensive just to bury plebs, obviously; this site housed only important members of the Neolithic community. And each of the three megalithic tombs, aligning precisely to the angle of the sun, took up to fifteen years to build.
So, let’s say you need to move 2,000 large stones over lumpy ground. And all you have is a crew of short chaps – dropping dead, on average, at 25 years old – who clean their teeth with soot and chewing sticks.
And then consider that it took eighty men four days to drag one four-ton stone from three kilometres away. Yes, I think you’ll agree that trucks were a good invention..