Frazzled from not sleeping and bursting for a leak, I arrive at my city centre B+B to a pleasant woman who greets me in a lyrical accent such that makes me think the city could have no better name.
I’m here to capture the city on camera by photographing the marathons, the Riverfest, and the night life. As it stands I’ve missed the start of the marathon and the start of the half-marathon. I hastily organise my camera and bag, punch O’Connell Street into Google maps, and look in horror at the estimation of it being 37 minutes walk to get there. It’s currently 1.50 so I estimate that I have about 15 minutes to get to the finish line to capture the half-marathon winners.
Sweating profusely, I look up when Google maps tells me, “You have arrived at your destination” only to realise that I’m at a roundabout at the outskirts of the city and nowhere near O’Connell Street. Google maps has really screwed me this time!
Dejected, I make my way back into town and manage to crack off about 500 snaps of the tail end of the 6 mile race. Not used to pointing my lens at people I don’t know, my spirits are instantly lifted by the amount of smiles and thumbs up in my direction. The cider drinking boys in my previous post served to lift my spirits further, in spite of the fact that their description was a little negative. Having someone cheer you on, even if half-smashed in the middle of the day, clearly has a positive impact on the runners and I think it adds to the character of the race.
Post race, I head down by the river and am dazzled by a wonderful display of water
acrobatics. I’ve never seen such a thing before so I am totally immersed in the show for about an hour. I spot an elderly man with a big lens, so I say, “Wow, you’ve got a big lens.” He is visibly pleased by this compliment and we instantly spark up a conversation about photography and I learn that he is a member of the Limerick Camera Club and is trying to get a “winning shot” for a club competition by photographing the show.
Later in the evening, I decide to have a swift pint in the Quays and strike up an instant friendship with a man called Mick. I say “instant” because it feels like I’ve known him all my life. We talk about mountains, photography, and the fireworks display that’s about to start. The conversation flows as easy as water.
The fireworks display is across the river in King John’s Castle and I take a few snaps of it. Afterwards, I head to McGettigans, which is where the post-race party is on for the marathons. I’ve decided I’ll make up for my failures photographing the race by getting a few interesting pictures here. The trouble is, I’m terrified of going up to people I don’t know and offering to take their photo. The fear in me is akin to the fear of death. Like a hedgehog that curls up in the middle of a road, I can’t bring myself to go back to the B+B but I can’t bring myself to do what I came here to do. So, I do the only other thing that one can do in a pub – I have a pint!
Before long, people come up asking me to take their photos and ask me if I’m working for the Limerick Leader. I tell them I’m freelance and will certainly send the pictures to them but I can’t guarantee they’ll be printed.
One thing leads to another and before I know it it’s several hours later and I’ve taken quite a few photos, had some wonderful conversations with truly beautiful and friendly people and am heading back to my B+B.
Deciding to have one more pint on the way home, I again meet my new friend Mick of earlier in the night. We talk a bit about the brevity of life and the importance of not taking anything too seriously and making the most possible effort to “Grab it by the balls, boy!”- I say this in my best Limerick accent. With a firm handshake, I again head towards base upon taking what I think is an artistic photo of a traffic light (strange notion, I know). En route I encounter a man who gets a bit threatening in his manner of speech, as mentioned here. I don’t take it all that seriously though, as I’ve often had a few “Do you know who I am?” moments after a few pints. The truth is that I’m nobody, same as anybody, but sometimes it’s nice to think one is important. At this point I decide to take no more photos and retire to bed, though I can’t sleep. The energy of the night’s experience is pulsing through my veins and I have to upload the photos on to my computer so as to view them and hold on to this good feeling that this city has given me for just a little while longer.
Waiting at the bus stop the following morning I encounter a German man who had been running the race the day before. He, too, is heading back to Galway and says he doesn’t run many marathons anymore but he likes to do this one, stating that it is his favourite and he always gets a very nice feeling from the city that he can’t explain. He says he lived here for several years and he says while he knows the city can sometimes be portrayed badly in the media, he has always felt a welcome and friendliness here which is second-to-none. I agree with him whole-heartedly.
As we’re talking a bedraggled looking man approaches us and I instantly know he’s going to lie that he needs money for a sandwich. He says, “I’m not going to lie to you, I’m an alcoholic and need a euro to get a can.” Appreciating his honesty and friendly nature, my defences are melted and I give him a euro. My new German friend does likewise. Our nice little chat concludes as we climb aboard the bus.
As I slump into my seat, exhausted, I am brimming with positive emotions from my visit and I vow to return again soon. There are many things in life I’m not sure about but there is one thing I am very sure about right now:
Limerick is a wonderful city.