Monday, August 01, 2011

Happy Bloomsday!

(For various reasons this didn't get published on the actual day, so here it is two months later.)
Tain Mural, Dublin
 No, I haven't read Ulysses. But when I spent a semester studying in Dublin in the Fall of 1986, I lived with a lovely family a block from James Joyce's Tower, in Sandycove, County Dublin. So I figured today was as good an excuse as any for me to revisit my photos from last year's trip, specifically the Dublin portion.  That's as much of a connection I'll be making to Joyce, however.  So if you're here hoping for an illustrated tour of Bloomsday, my apologies, and good luck with your google search. 
Saint Stephen's Green

It probably won't surprise anyone that when you have a country as small and as saturated with writers as Ireland, you're going to come across literary landmarks quite often.  I was tickled a few years ago, when I was reading At Swim Two Boys, to discover that much of the action is set at the Gentlemen's Bathing Area, which is situated not far from Joyce's Tower.  I never went swimming there; as much as I love cold water, the Irish Sea in Autumn is too frigid even for me.  Word was the area was still 'men only, bathing suits optional' at certain hours of the day, though. 
Saint Stephen's Green
The country is small; I think the population is hovering around five million now, and in 1986 it was closer to four million.  I was to discover that this meant Dublin was both a cosmopolitan city (complete with international celebrities) and a small village (everyone knew each other, including the famous people).  The founder/registrar of the school I attended was an old chum of Paddy Maloney, the founder and leader of the Chieftains.  Because of their friendship, the group gave a concert in the lounge of our school, for about thirty of us.  This was something they did each year, apparently, and even relished, since it was one of the few opportunities they still had to play without amplification. 
Memorial to Constance, Countess Markevicz, Saint Stephen's Green
Seamus Heaney gave a reading for us in that same room.  David Norris, who I came to learn was credited with starting the LGBT movement in Ireland, was on the faculty (teaching Joyce, by the way, oh look there's another connection).  My host mother was an old school chum of U2's manager.  Had I been staying in town one day longer, I might have been able to see their hometown concert.  For FREE.  Sigh. 
Saint Stephen's Green
Given all this, it didn't surprise Mary and me to discover that we'd be spending the flight to Shannon sitting next to Malachi McCourt.  He was every bit as charming in person as he had always seemed on TV.  Like us, he was travelling in part to honor a brother who had died recently, in his case his brother Frank.  A school in Limerick was endowing a chair in Frank's honor the following day. 
Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin
Thanks to the volcano in Iceland, we were looping to the north, which added at least two hours to the flight, but with a gifted storyteller as company, the time flew by. 
River Liffey, Dublin
 He asked us what we planned on seeing, and we mentioned one of our first stops would be at Kenny's Bookshop, in Galway. 
"Oh, I'm afraid it's closed," he said.  We were crushed.  Kenny's has been around for decades, and has supported many great writers.  Dad came across it sometime in the sixties, I believe, and it's been a regular pilgrimage stop for all of us ever since. 

The Foggy Dew, Dublin
 Of course bookstores are dying out all over the world, thanks in large part to the internet, and with Ireland's economic troubles, it didn't surprise us at all that Kenny's might have succumbed.  Once we arrived in Galway though we were delighted to discover that shop hadn't closed, it had simply moved.  In fact the move had been due to a needed expansion of the bookstore, art framing department, and art gallery.  It was a bit of a walk to the new location (we had elected not to rent a car), but we found the shop spacious and well-stocked.  Browsing was still encouraged, even to the point of the store providing free tea and coffee and comfy couches.  Mary and I spent two happy hours there. 
Dublin near the Center of Town. 
When we went up to make our purchases, we told Rosemary, the lovely woman working the cash register, how glad we were to find the place, especially after we'd had our scare courtesy of Mr. McCourt. 

"Malachi said that?" she exclaimed.  She shook her head, tsked a bit.  "We have to call him!"  It was like she was talking about a rascally-yet-beloved uncle.  Off she went to inform the owner of the store of the situation.  I have no doubt that he immediately called Mr. McCourt, and teasingly scolded him for spreading false information. The Irish are big ones for teasing.  Sorry if we got you in trouble, Mr. McCourt!  I'm sure you're as delighted as we were to find the place thriving. 

Near the River

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