In his younger years, before he became lecturer in Biochemistry at Trinity, Mike participated in motorbike trial riding. Trials is a sport where riders steer motorbikes through bogs, across streams, over boulders and up rocky hills. It’s not a race, but a game of skill – the goal is to stay on your motorbike and not put your feet down once. It was the thrill of riding his Bultaco 250cc through Wicklow’s countryside, which eventually got Mike cycling.
Mike discovered cycling shows him the world around him. And Mike, who is also a mountaineer and ocean sailor, likes to feel the elements. As a mountaineer, he heads to the Alps every summer, for a 12-day camping trip. Last summer, he camped near Grenoble, at the base of Mont Pelvoux. Each morning, he would get out of his tent to be greeted by a different setting – be it butterflies hovering over rusty-leaved Alpenroses or snow blowing in from the glacier. Mike feels at home in changing weather conditions. And the best place to appreciate the changing Irish weather, he feels, is on his bike. Also, it awakes him almost enough to confront the day ahead.
And so it is with anticipation Mike sets out to Trinity each morning – no matter if his breath clouds accompany him in the crispy cold, or if he can take off his jacket to let his arms be warmed by the sun. Mike starts his journey on Seaview Terrace and then shoots onto Angelsea Road, heading towards the traffic lights at Donnybrook Bridge. If the light is red, Mike watches the river Dodder from that bridge. It’s a spate river; he can tell by the height of the water level whether the Dublin Mountains to the south have been getting rain. Mostly, the grey heron is there as well; standing like a statue, looking for fish, oblivious to traffic above him.
Continuing his journey, Mike passes the American Embassy on Elgin Road. Its modern architecture commands his respect, but also instils a sense of loss for the Georgian house the building replaced. Further on, near the D4 Hotel, Mike waits for another traffic light. On the adjacent triangular traffic island – more a stopover for crossing two streets, really – sits an O’ Brien’s coffee kiosk. The smell of coffee makes Mike eager to press on to his first coffee of the day, awaiting him in Trinity’s canteen.
After crossing the Grand Canal and cycling through Lower Mount Street – a uniform modern streetscape similar to those seen in old socialist cities – Mike arrives at Trinity College. His office is his city centre oasis; where intellectual renewal and challenging students confront him every day.
But first, it’s time for coffee.