Monday, 22 June 2015
We settled into a routine: had our breakfast early, then went back to the room to finish reading the paper, check websites for opening times, and so on. This morning I read an article by a well-known Irish journalist/columnist who has moved out of the country—for a time, perhaps—that really touched me, on several levels. For example, even as my husband prepares to emigrate, I still try to get more and more at home in his country, to make parts of it “mine.” The last paragraph, oh—
It’s not really a break-up, Ireland, it’s more of a break. I’ll be home for a holiday soon. Clearly, I still call it “home”. In the meantime, I’ll be stalking Twitter, trying to figure out what the hashtags mean. But if I am to give myself fully to the present, to my new life, to my new job, I can’t do it with one eye constantly trained on a spot 5,078 miles away, on the small, damp, big-hearted, mixed-up, joyful, beloved country that keeps trying to pull me back. So bye now. Bye. Bye. Bye. See ya. All the best. I’ll let you go so. Grand. Bye now. I’ll talk to you soon.
I feel as if I know her, just from the last paragraph. That and the fact that she’s currently living in the state (and region of that state) where I grew up. Ah.
And then we cabbed up to the Garden of Remembrance, a place I’ve wanted to get to for years. Gerry said he hadn’t been there since he was a young man, so it was new or almost-new for both of is. Opened in 1966—on the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising—the Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom.” Which is to say, Irish independence.
The memorial is all that’s left of a much larger garden (opened in 1749) attached to the Rotunda Hospital located in Parnell Square. The hospital has since grown to occupy most of the square. There is a much more detailed history and review here at BuiltDublin; you should definitely read it.
Parnell Square is a very busy location, but when you step inside the garden, it’s very quiet, peaceful.
Once inside, you can view the reflecting pool from above, or step down and have a seat on one of the benches that line the cruciform walls.
Visiting it as a park or garden, it’s hard to get beyond how often it’s near-empty – perhaps it’s because of the huge number of benches, but it always feels very still relative to the busy streets outside. But it feels like a matter of design, too, with the pristine lawns held behind Marian blue fences (set with representations of artefacts from the National Museum), and the rigid formality of the park’s plan directing movement in sharp turns. Appropriately enough, it’s got a sombre military tone … At the same time, it’s a fascinating space. It’s a very specific representation of Ireland and its history, going heavy on Celtic mythology and religious symbolism, and using the rigidity of military plans. Inevitably, something so specific is going to have an immense power …
The mosaic interior of the pool is interesting, filled with images of shields, swords, spears, and knives. This reflects the Celtic custom, on concluding a battle, of breaking the weapons and throwing them in the river, to signify, if not peace, the end of hostilities at least.
In 1971, the statue at the end was added. Titled the Children of Lir, it represents an Irish legend: an evil and jealous stepmother turns the children of her predecessor into swans. We know part of the story: the swan-children are exiled to Irish lakes for 900 years until the spell is broken and they die as very old humans. The editor in me wants to know what Lir, their father, did. Did he try to capture the swans to keep them close, or go live among them, or …? Sadly, the wicked stepmother is a fairy tale trope that surely has its origins in the truth of the human condition. My mother was raised by an unloving stepmother; Gerry’s father had one too.
After the garden, we stepped across the street to the Dublin Writers Museum.
The Dublin Writers Museum was opened in November 1991 at No 18, Parnell Square, Dublin, Ireland. The museum occupies an original 18th-century house, which accommodates the museum rooms, library, gallery and administration area. The annexe behind it has a coffee shop and bookshop on the ground floor and exhibition and lecture rooms on the floors above. The Irish Writers’ Centre, next door in No 19, contains the meeting rooms and offices of the Irish Writers’ Union, the Society of Irish Playwrights, the Irish Children’s Book Trust and the Irish Translators’ & Interpreters’ Association. The basement beneath both houses is occupied by the Chapter One restaurant.
The Museum was established to promote interest, through its collection, displays and activities, in Irish literature as a whole and in the lives and works of individual Irish writers. Through its association with the Irish Writers’ Centre it provides a link with living writers and the international literary scene. On a national level it acts as a centre, simultaneously pulling together the strands of Irish literature and complementing the smaller, more detailed museums devoted to individuals like James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats and Patrick Pearse. It functions as a place where people can come from Dublin, Ireland, and abroad to experience the phenomenon of Irish writing both as history and as actuality.
It’s a lot like the Little Museum of Dublin. But the interior of the building is just gorgeous.
While we were in that yellow stairwell, we decided to take a selfie. So we did, and it gave us a laugh. “Good enough!” we thought.
When we were done, I ran across the street to take a photo. That’s the Abbey Presbyterian Church next to the museum.
On the other side of the DWM is the Hugh Lane Gallery of the Dublin City Gallery. It’s closed on Mondays so we weren’t able to go in, although the doors were wide open. They were having a photo shoot, apparently—the models (it was a fashion shoot, I think) spilled out onto the street so we got a good look. Stood there gawking for a while, and then we walked on. We were headed, ultimately, back to the hotel—we had planned to have lunch with Gerry’s colleagues later—but needed to stretch our legs a little.
We walked past the hospital (it’s huge) and took a slight detour to Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street. We browsed a little—I picked up some nonfiction, including A Year of Festivals in Ireland (Mark Graham), Staring at Lakes (Michael Harding), and Great Irish Reportage (edited by John Horan)—and then asked the clerk for a fiction recommendation. I’d already bought the new Anne Enright (The Green Road), I said. I wanted a new young Irish author that I would not have been exposed to in America, someone whose career I could, perhaps, “follow.” I told him I’d loved Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart and had bought his latest but not read it yet. He immediately recommended Tender, by Belinda McKeon, and I purchased it. Interestingly, this review of Tender in the Irish Times mentions both Donal Ryan and Anne Tyler, whose A Spool of Blue Thread was the last book I finished before I left for Ireland. Interesting coincidences, and I take that as a good sign.
From the bookshop we retraced our steps across Parnell Square to O’Connell Street. This is one of Dublin’s main retail thoroughfares. Wikipedia says:
O’Connell Street has often been centre-stage in Irish history, attracting the city’s most prominent monuments and public art through the centuries, and formed the backdrop to one of the 1913 Dublin Lockout gatherings, the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish Civil War of 1922, the destruction of the Nelson Pillar in 1966, and many public celebrations, protests, and demonstrations through the years—a role it continues to play to this day. State funeral corteges have often passed the GPO on their way to Glasnevin Cemetery, while today the street is used as the main route of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and as the setting for the 1916 Commemoration every Easter Sunday. It also serves as a major bus route artery through the city centre.
It seems … vast.
Along the way we saw two Italian gentlemen trying to take a photo with James Joyce. I offered to take one of them together with Joyce, so naturally they wanted to return the favor. 🙂
The other large monument (there are others, but I didn’t stop for every statue) on O’Connell Street, of course, is for Daniel O’Connell himself—the Liberator, they called him.
And then we crossed the river.
The dome is atop the Custom House; the building beyond it is the IFSC House. Read about it here in Wikipedia; it is controversial, to say the least. It also has a very interesting logo, almost Middle Eastern in flavor.
After we crossed the river we walked the short block to Trinity College and grabbed a cab back to the hotel, where we were meeting Gerry’s colleagues, Pat Yeates and Brendan Delany. We’ve had lunch—I call it Lunch with the Gentlemen—every time I’ve come to Ireland (here are two of them). It’s always a hoot. This time we talked a lot about work—Pat’s retired, Gerry’s about to retire, and Brendan’s close to it too—about museums—good ones, not-so-good ones—and about the book I’d brought for Pat (see photo). We also spoke about my friend Margaret; they’d met her in 2012.
This ended up being a very late lunch. We went for a walk later but my feet were hurting and we didn’t stay out long. I used the evening to work on the current manuscript, and to write up …
Today’s Geography Lesson
22 June 2015, Dublin, Ireland:
SUNRISE: 4:57am (in Nashville: 5:30am)
SUNSET: 9:57pm (in Nashville: 8:08pm)