There's nothing worse than the end of a party. Especially as the morning light stretches across the empty cans, abandoned coats and over-flowing ash trays of the night before. Coupled with a hangover, an empty wallet and memories of excess is the sense that the good times are over.
That's the vibe that hangs over the City of Dublin, the Province of Leinster and the Island of Ireland. For the best (and worst) part of two decades the country partied like there was no tomorrow. Money was thrown into the ether, burnt in piles and generally wasted. The hangover has settled deep and dark over the populace and the pain is just beginning. And people ask, what have we got to show for it? Apart from negative equity, increasing unemployment and rising taxes what have we got left?
I was wondering that as I sauntered along the boardwalk of the Liffey and considered the Irish experience. How at the height of the Boom the country worshipped money for it's own sake and what was left?
And it dawned on me, there are a few things and the Boardwalk was one of them. It's the best place to view the city and the bridges that join those age old enemies - the Northside and the Southside. The bridges are monument to a small germ of beauty that bloomed.
Furthest West is the James Joyce Bridge (2003) that joins the city to the House which is the setting to Joyce's melancholy story of place, The Dead. It forms two beautiful arcs of white steel forming semi-haloes over the riverflow. A blessing on the city by Santiago Calatrava.
Downriver is the Millennium Bridge (1999) which forms a graceful curve over the water, connecting the Henry Street district with Temple Bar. One pleasure is to jump up and down in the centre of the bridge and watch the startled faces of pedestrians negotiating the rippling deck.
Connecting to the sparkling offices of the IFSC is the Sean O'Casey Bridge (2005). This low bridge forms an ungainly sprawl across the water like a relaxed spider. It's beauty is in contrast to the older bridges that frame it.
The final structure in the set is the newest - the Samuel Beckett Bridge (2009). It joined it's fellows at the apogee of the Boom as the financial world collapsed. Another work by Calatrava it's a final benediction on the river. The bridge (pictured) is a post modern vision of an Irish harp and perhaps the finest of the paths across Anna Livia.
The good times are over but we still have connections and on a sunny morning in January the view still reflects the better days.