Once again we arrive at the stage of the year where we start to notice the days getting longer and brighter. It’s not a strange phenomenon by any means, we have witnessed this before but still it whips us into a positive frenzy and gives us something to look forward to after the darkness of winter. Everyone you talk to almost feels compelled to point out the “grand stretch” in the evenings. It is ingrained in our culture, we live for things like this perhaps to fill out idle chit chat and is,of course, it is always there as the ever-faithful conversation starter to fill awkward gaps. With this extra daylight we so lovingly relish comes a need to leave the house in the evenings: we have spent so long cooped up indoors during the winter we simply cannot wait to make it outdoors again. Akin to a sudden bout of claustrophobia we need to break free of the shackles of the house;but what do we do and where do we go?
At this time of the year the evening stroll becomes a national past time, everyone wants to be outdoors, making use of this extra daylight that has been magically bestowed upon us. The increased volume of people taking to the streets and walkways of the cityoutskirts is quite notable and should be admired. We are blessed with beautiful river walks in Limerick and we can’t argue that they are not utilised. Truth be told, it is probably one of our only free and easy options left to us in the evening time: we’ve spend the day cooped up in an office, we need to get out and about to dust the cobwebs off for a few hours.
Walking around Limerick on an evening during winter months, there is almost a feeling of emptiness about the place: the shops have closed, the offices have emptied, it’s dark, the streets have become quiet and more often than not it is raining in some way, shape or form! It is so welcoming at this time of year to know that this will begin to change. The extra daylight we have been granted almost awakens the City again from post New Year slumber.I, for one, am looking forward to leaving the house in an evening and going on a little exploring session, along the river, possibly to stop off in one of the parks, maybe even to just sit and watch the world go by. I suppose this is what they call the ‘joys of spring’.
Outside of the leisurely stroll, it’s a nice bright evening, you don’t feel like being stuck indoors, you feel like being social – what are your options? More often than not socialising in the evening is going to involve the pub. Have we become too dependent on pub culture or is it a case that it is our only option? Over the past year through various projects I found myself involved in I have been required to have my fair shareofevening meetings. These do tend to take on a more casual approach, as out-of-office meetings usually do, but it was whilst organising these that I often found myself at a loss at times as to where to have these meetings. As fantastic as the café culture in Limerick is, it appears to cease to exist after the hours of 6pm, along with most things in the city centre. The choice of meeting venues during out-of-office hours for me was one of two options: the hotel bar or the regular pub. We are left with very little choices when it comes to evening time socialising when we cut the pub out of the picture. Maybe we have become too dependent on the pub? I think we use it as an all too familiar crutch at times rather than familiariseourselves to what is available to us. I have found myself many a time organising a meeting and automatically thinking: which bar would be appropriate? – it is the easy option, after all. You know the bar is going to be open, you know you won’t have to rush through things at ten to six as the floors start getting their evening sweep and the empty chairs start getting stacked on tables. I found myself feeling that there were no options in Limerick in the evening time bar the good old faithful pub.It was only when I decided I would rant about this to a friend, that I was proven wrong and I was provided with some options that I could have chosen. The list, albeit sparse, did spring a bit of hope within me:indeed there were coffee houses catering to the evening market. Lost in a daydream, I wondered could we be heading down the roads of our continental counterparts where that thriving café culture goes on well into the evening and brings with it a whole new life to the city which so badly needs it. Wouldn’t it be great to see the streets busy in the evening time, no one rushing around and a certain casual air descends on those who have ventured out!
How do we go about achieving this, is the next question. The answer is quite simple, we need to educate ourselves to what is available to us in Limerick and we need to support those who dare to be different, those who dare to operate outside of the constrictive 9-5 regime. Those who break the mould need to be admired, if we do not support them, they cannot grow. I have been hugely guilty in the past of always choosing the easy option and not going in search of what was in front of my eyes, but it’s a trap we all fall into.Maybe this spring we should open our eyes and start bringing the City to life in the evening; after all –life does not finish at 5pm, for a lot of us it just begins.
Words – David Cuddihy