Surely there can’t be many people who can walk down Raglan Road or its neighbouring streets and not wonder to themselves what the world is like inside those grand homes. I’m guilty every single time. This morning was no exception, as I made my way through a frosty Dublin 4, eyes fixed on every beautiful doorway or window I passed, like some depraved property pervert. I can’t help it, they are otherworldly. Massive bulks of buildings born in the mid-1800’s that house those who curate what must be a world of history within the walls.
These salubrious statements of wealth are relics of an era when Anglo-Irish aristocracy was de rigeur in Dublin. The adjoining roads of Raglan, Elgin, Clyde and Pembroke are testament to this – all having being named after British Lords and Earls. However, it’s not the aspect of colonial gentry that gets me going when I pass these houses, I’m much more a contemporary cailín who prefers to imagine Mr or Mrs number 26 or number 32 or whichever, sitting in their high-ceilinged sitting room, or having coffee in their kitchen that overlooks their high-walled back garden. I imagine the layout of inside, think about their décor, but more times than not, I put myself in their shoes and wonder what it’s like for them to view the world from within. I wonder what it’s like to experience Raglan as as insider. They get the leafy carpets on their road in autumn, they throw soirées for visiting dignitaries and suchlike, they have a passing army of street visitors with every Six Nations and Autumn Series, they have celebrity neighbours. They occupy an enclosed community, open to only to those with the immense largesse it takes to buy their address.
I imagine they are no strangers to five digit energy bills nor to owning a staff of domestic aides. I doubt any residents tend to their own gardens, although they may, but I’ve never seen it. I lived on Elgin Road for a time – in a shoebox, I might add. It was a house set out in bedsits and mine was on the ground floor to the rear of the building. About as dark as a sealed coffin, it got no light, but on the upside, I had my own back door. It was known to let light in on occasion. Granted, the door led onto the most unkempt garden imaginable, with a thick weave of briars imprisoning what should have been a lawn, and its own species of weeds that showed signs of gigantism.
My bed was in a press that opened to let the wooden lat bearing a skinny (
cushion) mattress fall limply. It conveniently stopped short of reaching the full way to the oven door, though, sometimes at night my eyelashes touched off the cooker, which thankfully I rarely used, so singeing was never an issue. My family visited and thought it was hell. I didn’t. Even when the snow of 2010 fell and the ancient storage heater in the room was powerless to add a hint of warmth, the consequent loss of my goldfish, frozen along with the water in its bowl, didn’t change my mind on the place. I loved that just outside was a beautiful old church with wonderful trees in its grounds, their fat roots ripping up through the earth, making hollows here and there. I loved that I could walk over to Sandymount and up the coast within a few minutes. The City Centre and the Aviva were also very walkable. There were pubs, there was food, there was parking. But best of all, was that I was living in the wonderland.
A few seconds down the road was another house and yet another house that never failed to make me wonder, what it would be like? The the highs and lows and what have you, the love and lust and laughter, wealth and wine and walk-in wardrobes , the people, their stories. Every walk set my mind on fire with new narrative as I endlessly imagined what went on in ‘the big houses’.
And so a few years on, I am still perving on the demigods of Dublin 4 domiciles. It’s not that I want to own one, I don’t. A cottage in Achill is my dream abode. I can’t see myself living in a massive Taj Mahal of a house, but I can’t stop wondering about the lives of those who do live in them. They’ve more square footage than most of my family’s houses combined, they’ve more history attached to their properties than entire US cities, they have songs written about their streets and yet they are the same as you and me. It’s just that they occupy another world. A world that intrigues me.