At the heart of it

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I give a three hour lecture on a Thursday evening. It starts at six thirty so I’ve got to “grab a bite to eat” somewhere before. I used to do the same thing in Berlin and I’d sometimes just stand at a kiosk counter eating a currywurst and chips. It was near the Friedrichstrasse station. That station is one of the busiest in the city, and at that time of evening there’s a heavy flow of people. Some of them duck into a kiosk and order currywurst and chips and watch the flow for ten minutes while they eat. You duck in with them and for those ten minutes you’re at the heart of it.

There’s nowhere in Dublin where you feel at the heart of it and now wherever I go I sit down. The place I go to now – It wouldn’t be fair to real restaurants to call it an Italian restaurant. It’s a London chain. And I don’t even go because I like it, I go just because it’s near. When I order my dish the waiter asks me if I’d like bread with it, if I’d like sides, if I’d like sparkling water, if I’d like a glass of wine. A man in his fifties comes in with his wife and wonders where to put his hat because there’s no coat stand or hat rack. He makes like he’s going to balance it on his wine glass and then turns around and sees me and I tell him he can put it on the chair opposite me. I’m not with anyone. “You’re not going to steal it, are you?” I tell him I’m not going to steal it.

But he had placed it on top of my coat. When I fixed up the bill I had to pick the hat up to retrieve my coat so I put it on my head. For a joke really – you know, what people call a joke in those circumstances. His wife saw me, and she gave me a wink, like she was going to say nothing, so I put my coat on, facing the mirrored wall now, and seeing that the hat went quite well with my coat – and I’m not normally a hat wearer – I walked out of the restaurant and off to my lecture.

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