The Gnome

Green Plane

I arrived to Dublin early in the morning.

I remember seeing the earth getting closer and closer to me as we drew near landing. It looked like a million puzzle pieces of green from afar. As we got closer, the pieces turned into designated farmlands.

I was really here.

As we waited for the plane to park I noticed all the Ireland airline planes had big clovers on the wings.

 It made me smile. I instantly felt good being here.

I had no idea how to get to the inner city. I found a taxi directly outside of the airport and simply asked the cabbie if I could get a ride into inner city Dublin.  

It was easier than I expected.

The day was overcast. Dreary. We hopped on the freeway going on the opposite side of the road as we would in the states. It was a little crazy at first as it felt like the cars coming towards us were going to hit us head on.

Now, I wouldn’t say I expected horse drawn carriages and dirt roads or anything, but I never expected Ireland to be so modern. Growing up in the States, I think people sometimes fantasize Europe as being a completely different world than it really is – still living in the 1700’s or something, even though you know that probably couldn’t be right.

He dropped me off in front of what he called the Temple Bar area. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I thanked him and he was on his way. I think at that point I got a bit panicked. For the first time, standing there on that sidewalk, I wondered what I had really gotten myself into and really what the hell I was going to do from here. It was all exciting until now.

A rush, pure emotion. Adrenalin.

 I thought about my family. I was worried that they were worried about me. Should I contact them at least to say I was ok and where I was?

A part of me wanted to, but I wasn’t ready for that. If I told them where I was, I felt like it would almost make my journey tainted in some way. It is hard to explain.

I was so embedded in my fascination of being in Ireland I suddenly realized I was starved so I started walking.

The area the taxi driver had left me in was completely dead. It looked to have many bars and what looked to be more active at night.  

Nothing was open. It was 7:00 a.m.

I kept walking and finally found what looked to be a very tiny breakfast café in the bottom of an old building. The café was connected to all the lined up pubs. The place was called “Oliver’s Lodge.”

It was a quaint little place. It seemed out of place in the middle of such a lively area in the city. It was quite small with very high ceilings. There were about 5 little tables set about with 2 chairs to each.  This place DID looked like it was straight out of the 17th century- The old wallpaper, the creaky wooden floor, the elaborate gold frames on the wall and candlestick holders on the tables.

 There were two curio cabinets in the corner full of trinkets. The place reminded me of an antique shop.  There was an old thin man sitting behind a small, wooden counter. He had gray hair and a gray beard. Reading glasses on the tip of his nose as he read the paper ever so casually. He slightly leaned on his chair. He had an unlit pipe in his mouth and a cup of tea sitting next to him that looked like it had come straight from a little girl’s tea set. He reminded me of a garden gnome. I smiled at the thought of him sitting in a pretty little Irish garden, less than a quarter of his current size.

There was a little buffet bar with meats, cheeses, croissants and other little pastries sitting out.  I thought it was interesting they would be serving meats and cheeses for breakfast. That was not common in the United States. 

It was all very simple. It felt nice. Pleasant. Calm. Slow paces. Quiet.

I liked it.

 It was just the old man and I. I picked the seat by the window. I arranged my bags on the floor next to me and took off my jacket. After staring out the window for a few minutes I wondered if I was to help myself.  The man hadn’t looked up from his paper.  I wasn’t sure what the restaurant protocol was in Ireland. I didn’t want to be offensive. I stood up and went over to him and asked if I was to help myself.

“Yes mam”. He didn’t look up from his paper. After I ate I sat staring out the window. There was still no life of anyone on the streets.

I was startled when the gnome pulled up the chair across from mine and took a seat.

“So, young lady, what is a pretty, young American girl like you doing in Temple Bar all by herself and sober this early in the mornin’?

I was taken a back.

It took me a second to respond.

“I’m touring.” I blurted out.  He looked at me skeptically. Touring? It’s not wise for a young lady like you to be touring all by herself with that American accent of yours. You best be keepin’ your head on straight.   

I first felt defensive but I also felt comforted, like I was speaking with my grandfather. There was a certain warmth in him, in his eyes. I loved his accent. It was a strong old Irish accent.

“I will be.”

He looked out the window. “Temple Bar is a gritty area of the city. Full of nightlife. People are up all night around these parts.”

I hesitated for a minute, not sure what to say next. I figured I’d ask him if he knew of a cheap hostel nearby.

He just looked at me.

For a minute, I’d wondered if he heard me. He looked around the room. “This place used to be a brothel, then nothing, then a boarding house. There are 4 rooms upstairs. My wife and I came to own it after this and turned it into a bed and breakfast. It only lasted a few years before we realized a bed and breakfast isn’t very prosperous in the Temple Bar, so we turned it into a restaurant. We have done well ever since. We are open early and close late. Drunks love coming in after a late night.” We use the rooms upstairs for storage.

I’d wondered why he was telling me this so randomly.

I’d let you stay for fifty euro a week if you don’t mind being in a noisy part of the city. It’s not fancy up there, but there is a small bed and running water in the bathroom.

I instantly felt a wide range of emotions.

Relief. Skepticism. Curiosity. Anxiety. Fear. Comfort.

A moment went by and I finally asked him why he would you let me do that.

He told me that I reminded him of his daughter. I looked a lot like her too. She passed away 3 years ago. I was overwhelmed. I really couldn’t believe my luck.

Everything on this unplanned adventure had ran so smoothly up to this point. Even when my car broke down, it seemed that it was all timed so perfectly. Just the way it was meant to me. How it was supposed to happen. I had no trouble at all withdrawing my money from the bank. No questions asked. My journey could have started and ended right there.

Even when my car broke down. I was supposed to meet Bran and learn from him. I wondered if everything had gone wrong up to this point, perhaps I would have gone back by now. Perhaps, I would have felt like I was wrong in leaving and that life really wasn’t better outside of my bubble.


But no, everything had gone well, as it should have and that led me to believe I was meant to be here for a reason.

The gnome led me up to the rooms through a very narrow, old and creaky wooden staircase. It led up to a hallway made of the same creaky floors as the stairs. Dark brown wood, scuffed and scratched from years of use. The same floors, I was sure that were walked on when it was a brothel.

There were 2 doors on one side of the narrow hall and 3 doors on the other. The sun was starting to come in through a big window at the end of the hallway. Three rooms had storage but my room had a small twin bed, a nightstand, desk and some filling cabinets in the corner. I walked over to the window and looked out to the street. “Those open,” he said. He walked over and started tugging at the hinge. “They just haven’t been in awhile.”  They were casement windows that opened like French doors.  There was no screen like there would be in the U. S.  It had a little ledge in front of it that you could sit on. The room was dusty and old, but it was cozy. I think I instantly fell in love with it. “The bathroom is across the hall, you have to pull the string above you to flush” he said with his back towards me.

 “I usually use this room for my paperwork, but I can move that into the other rooms while you are here” he started shuffling up piles of unorganized paperwork lying about the desk.

I heard a bell ring downstairs. Customers were starting to come in. “Morning rush. I better get ..  his back was still to me – his arms filled with paperwork. He gave me an extra key and explained the hours of operation. “Just remember to lock up when you leave. “

“Of course, thank you so much.” He just nodded and headed out the door. “Wait, how long can I stay?

He looked back and said, “As long as you need me lady.”




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