Comment & Analysis
May 5, 2020

In Lockdown, Place – and Space – Seem More Important Than Ever

Aoibh Ní Chroimín on the value of perusing the local in lockdown – and the prospect of a joyful reunion with Dublin when it ends.

Aoibh Ní ChroimínContributing Writer
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

The red carpet area of my music school on Westland Row is a special place for me. Countless hours have been spent doing homework, looking over pieces or music theory frantically in the last few minutes before an exam or a lesson, and talking to friends about everything from the virtues of Hawaiian pizza to our most sensitive feelings and hopes for our futures.

I do not remember the time before I knew that little haven and public forum that I came to treat as my town living room: a place to rest and use the WiFi on a day out, a familiar set of battered couches and heavy wooden tables to retreat to when Trinity becomes a little overwhelming. This area, along with the whole back part of the building, was due to be knocked down this year to make way for much-needed renovations.

Though my friends and I could all see it was probably about time and knew the Georgian front section would remain, we mourned the impending destruction of our childhood geography. It is one of the places, second nature to me for years, that I have not seen in over a month due to this crisis, though it is the only one that may well be gone by the time I am finally allowed back into town.


In the absence of my regular trips into and around Dublin, I have got to know my own 2km radius better. Whereas previous walks would have centred mostly around Dún Laoghaire main street, the East Pier and the coast road, a mixture of spare time, curiosity and wanting to avoid the busier areas before the 2km limit had been put in place led me to explore new ground.

Nooks and crannies of residential avenues have been wandered, private parks circled and paths by the railway run

Nooks and crannies of residential avenues have been wandered, private parks circled and paths by the railway run. Not only do they allow me to get my exercise, but these explorations have given me a new sense of wonder in places that seemed dull and which I never would have thought of looking at if I had places farther afield to travel to.

I have been made to really look at things that either seemed insignificant or that I had taken for granted: the dark fade of seaweed up the side of the pier, the new blossoms on the trees, the young families cycling in a row down streets that are now almost without cars.

Yet much as I am lucky enough to love my home, I yearn for farther afield, even slightly farther afield. Particularly slightly farther afield: though I would like a trip to Vienna or Glasgow, what I long for most is a trip into Dublin, to the places I know and miss, the places that are part of my idea of home but yet not home enough to be accessible now. When I see the Dart or near-empty 7 or 46A buses pass me by, the thought of these places just beyond reach washes over me again, and I think what a deliciously reckless adventure it would be to hop on one and go into town.

I don’t follow this impulse of course, but, though I’ve always liked looking around out the window while travelling, I never thought I’d think of the driveways of Donnybrook and the pavements of the Docklands as the being things of the excitement and of the beauty that I ascribe to them now.

Though I would like a trip to Vienna or Glasgow, what I long for most is a trip into Dublin, to the places I know and miss, the places part of my idea of home

More than that I miss the people of those places. I like describing the sights of my 2km radius to my friends, but I would rather they were with me to see them. I am not the only one dreaming of places and loved ones far and near-but-not-visitable. Just because we can love our own hometown, our place, doesn’t make the need for space and movement any less real. It’s natural to want to explore, to want the scenes of our life to change occasionally, and it’s certainly natural to miss one’s friends and to long to be hugged by someone not in your immediate family.

That is why, much as I love my 2km radius and its contents, I will not try to tell you to be grateful for this mess we’re all in as a rose-tinted way of trying to deny you your right to express a frustration, boredom and loneliness that it is completely understandable. To do so would be to ignore the fact that not everyone has the good fortune to feel happy, or even safe, at home, and at a more universal level, to ignore the fact that it is a central part of the human spirit, particularly at the age of most university students, to want to go out and experience the world with the variety and company it has to offer.

So while I will endeavour to keep exploring and being thankful for the beauty of my hometown, when I see the city centre again I could climb up and kiss the Edmund Burke statue on his forehead. I will dance through Stephen’s Green and Parnell Square and sing a love song to my music school. Of course I probably won’t actually do any of these things, as they wouldn’t be very me, but a girl can dream – there’s not much else to do at the moment.

I love my place, but we all need our space, and when this is all over, I suspect I’ll be more thankful for both.

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