One Day In Limerick

I jumped on the train to Limerick and just then realised I’d forgotten to charge my phone or bring my phone charger, and here’s what happened: I was bored out of my mind. (All photos from the day are on Facebook here).

After two hours of staring out the window about the only thing I registered throughout the whole 2 hour trip from Galway was a young woman getting on, pushing a buggy, in what appeared to be Mickey Mouse pyjamas.

I must have been looking at her funny because I felt like she was looking at me a bit strangely for the duration of the time she was on the train. I felt she thought I was odd. Every time I looked up we seemed to make a weirdly unnerving level of eye contact. As she was getting off the train, with a chap I assumed to be her partner, I was staring absentmindedly after the folks getting off. “That’s definitely pyjamas she’s wearing,” I think, and at that exact second she turns around again and looks me straight in the eyes in a manner I feel is somewhat accusing and I think of the law at Netflix where staff can’t make eye contact with colleagues for more than a few seconds at a time.

My plan, today, is to try and capture the essence of modern Limerick and to take meaningful photographs that represent the lives of people that currently live there.

Arriving in Limerick, I have a vague idea of taking photos down at the Milk Market so as to capture its essence.

I wander around a bit trying to get my bearings and look for someone to shoot and that is when I spot some folks staging something that looks a bit theatrical. “This is the kind of thing that is photographic gold,” I think.

I take my cameras out of my bag and attach them to a double attachment strap so that I have one camera on each hip like a gunslinger.

I approach the theatrical looking folks and query what they are doing and I learn they are staging a vegan protest. Masked Vegan Protester, Cruises Street, Limerick

Vegan Protesters, Limerick 2019

After talking to them for a bit and talking about my own past failures with being vegan, the longest attempt being six months, I hope that maybe I might learn something new that maybe I was missing in my own attempts at this diet.

One of the things mentioned is taking supplements and protein powders. As much as I appreciate the morality of being vegan, and abhor cruelty to animals, I’m not convinced that it’s healthy though I wouldn’t say I’d never give it another go.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that there is widespread Vegan propaganda these days. Leo Varadkar, Gordon Ramsey and even Arnold Schwarzenegger have said they will cut back on their meat. The latter’s environmental concerns seem particularly bizarre since he drives a 5ltr Hummer, flies in a private jet and most likely single-handedly devoured a cow a week in his day.

While my views on being vegan is that it’s potentially damaging to health if not carefully followed, I respect the kind, caring aura off the protesters and I come away a little changed in my perceptions. All interactions change us a little bit, I think.

In the next instant I make my way to the Milk Market but unfortunately it’s not as bustling as I had hoped it would be. Nonetheless, I take a couple of pictures of a Asian looking man and a nice young lady selling what look like some kind of Coconut balls.

A vendor at The Milk Market, Limerick
The Milk Market, Limerick

After this I take a wander up town and, spotting a cathedral, decide to go in and take a photo. I had planned on taking a bunch of pictures of the stained glass and such but a man I think was a caretaker asks if I had permission to take photos, I say no, but he acquiesces to my request to take just one or two pictures.

While not particularly religious, I always feel a sense of awe in churches. All over the world for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, people flocked to these places of worship.

In the smallest, poorest villages in Europe you can find architecturally magnificent buildings such as this, which were traditionally thriving centres of communities which provided hope, structure, a sense of morality, and a sense of meaning.

The stained glass, Christ on the cross, and Our Lady weeping and praying are typical representations in Church. Pain, suffering, beauty, and hope are thick upon the walls of all such buildings.

Jesus, whether you believe or not, was a man who did what he thought was right. Mary was his long suffering mother who had to watch her son tortured and killed for living a life he felt morally right. His father was an ideal of greatness, the Holy Spirit, greater than any earthly man could ever hope to aspire to.

I understand why people have turned their backs on the church, I understand that it had its flaws, but it also provided a structure and sense of community which I feel is sadly lacking in modern life.

I take my photo but before leaving I take a copy of the Catholic paper “Alive” so as I’ll have something to pass the time on the way back to Galway.

I head up towards the town of Limerick and decide I need to take a few portraits. Everybody I ask agrees, apart from one person. It’s funny, while we’ve lost our sense of community most people are only too delighted to be asked to have their photo taken and it turns out people aren’t quite as scary as we are sometimes inclined to think they are.

Social media is madness distilled. Click bait headlines with articles of little substance that scare us, anger us, make us think the world is a scary, unsafe place are the order of the day, and I’m often guilty of falling into time wasting rabbit holes which really have no direct impact on my day-to-day life even though they trigger emotions. But that’s the thing – headlines are meant to trigger emotions. When people are emotionally triggered they hammer out their boisterous opinions and argue with each other with lashings of vitriol and all it really does is leave the participants dissatisfied while garnering attention to newspapers that are struggling to hold on to their dwindling readership in a world that has an increasingly short attention span. Every time we share an article, debate with strangers, or share articles with little or no substance we are feeding the media monsters.

Real life, real people, is simply ordinary folks struggling to get by as best they can. Most people are decent. As one of the vegan protesters pointed out society is built on human harmony. Those weren’t his exact words but basically his point was that if irrational, violent people are among us then we lock them up.

Approaching people you don’t know and taking their photo is a joyous experience. For an fleeting instant you make a connection in a world that feels increasingly disconnected.

After a time a blanket of darkness starts to fall upon the city of Limerick and so I try and make use of the light to capture some light trails and such. The neon glow of a city at night always feels kind of romantic to me.

Light Trails Outside Jerry Flannery’s Bar, Limerick
Jerry Flannery’s Bar, Limerick

Heading to the train station I am happy I made the effort to come here today. Exhausted from talking to random people I’m also elated from the lengthy conversations I had with various people who were complete strangers on their own mysterious paths in life. I feel almost as if I have had a religious experience and am pondering going to church tomorrow, which is something I haven’t done in years.

I’ll be uploading all the photos later on the Facebook page. I hope you like them. Maybe you’ll see people just like you, I think you will, because at the end of the day we’re all suffering, snatching at joy where we find it, looking for meaning, just living, hoping for a better day, and breathing.

If you’d like to support my work then you can do so by purchasing prints of photos from the various towns I visit by clicking this link.

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