Tuesday, 24 January 2017

23 Things I Did in Dublin.

23 Things I Did in Dublin.
20th to 23rd January 2017

(In no particular order.....)

1. Cloudgazed from the plane window.

I love flying.

2. Found that two white peace butterflies still cling to the battered, bullet-chipped columns of the GPO.

3. Rediscovered surprising blazes of colour and creativity in street art and graffiti hidden away on steps, corners, alleys.....

...and on city-wide electrical boxes.

4. Received my very first Blazing Salads loyalty card. 
(This is very exciting. )

5. Sat quietly in the early winter-morning hush of the Garden of Remembrance... 

....beneath the outstretched arms of the Children of Lir.


A little boy in a bright orange anorak bounded down the steps, laughing aloud and breaking the silence with his unselfconscious joy. 

In the garden's pool, a single flower head flowed in languid circles over the water, barely causing a ripple, blown by the soft cold breeze. 

Such startling colour and flashes of life and light amidst the solemn watchful ghosts.

6. Rediscovered the W.B. Yeats exhibition hidden deep in the silent basement of the National Library. And the beautiful surprise of being able to examine case upon case of WBY's handwritten notebooks and poems - spidery ink faded to browns, the marks of an individual forever imprinted on the page. 
The humbling honesty of a hand-written piece, somehow small and hopefully hesitant. In some cases still the unpolished seed of an idea, and the first trickle of ink that lays bare the soul. 

It brought snatches of Neil Gaiman to mind ~ 

Let us call now for the makers of strong images,
Let them come to us now carrying their quills and sharp razors.
Let them gash their arms for ink and let them limn.
… Look at their ink clotting brown and black on the parchment skin.

And here it is, preserved – but the ink-blood captured at that moment of inspiration, still warm.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

7. Greeted Mr Wilde at sunset, and watched elegant tightrope walkers rehearsing between the trees in Merrion Square Park.

8. Explored the many curious treasures of the National Museum's Archaeology building...
Including delicately inscribed golden sun-necklaces crafted by early goldsmiths.... anthropomorphic carved boundary markers..... a cauldron..... the wizened and preserved half-bodies of Clonycaven Man and Gallagh Man .....

... a bejewelled 8th century mass-book.....

... a replica of shrine intended to hold the bones of St Manchan...
...a bronze reliquary for a mummified gecko..... a stone bee hieroglyph... and a 'hoard of nine gold balls' from 700BC.

9. Discovered that if you sit quietly in a sheltered alcove in St Stephens Green Park eating tofu, small things come up very very close and watch you. 

They also share your tofu. But they refused rice cakes.

10. Discovered poignant 1916 tributes scattered throughout the city.....

11. Counted the plug sockets in my hotel room.
There were eleven. 
That's (a big Twinkie) a lot of sockets.

12. Wandered in the intriguing-yet-rather-melancholy 'Dead Zoo' - the Museum of Natural History - in its slightly dusty, slowly decaying-grandeur. 
Walking up creaking winding narrow staircases to a vast long hall crammed with its silent stuffed menagerie.

(Photo from Wikipedia: By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19387483) 

On the plus side, though, they did have an Arctic Tern. 
Which put me in mind of Mr Mochrie and Mr Stiles.

And a series of glass replicas of sea slugs. 
Which I think would have interested Team Zissou.

13. Watched a tiny child with a cloud of blonde hair feeding swans in St Stephens Green Park. 

The sun was setting behind her and turned her hair into a glowing firey cumulus.

14. Received my very own personal readings from Joyce's Ulysses, from a kind volunteer in the gorgeously ramshackle Aladdin's Cave that is Swenys Pharmacy.... 

I also learned of their famous lemon soap and weekly Joyce readings, bought a bar of the aforementioned soap (which comes wrapped in brown paper and stamped with the official Sweny's stamp.... 

....and delved around their collection of multi-lingual copies of the novel (their copy in Farsi was the most-treasured, and is said to be a banned volume in Iran), and the dusty jars and bottles, faded photos and attic-like gems. 

A most extraordinary and charming place.

15. Resisted nobly, but eventually gave into the temptation to buy a Little Prince tee

In my defence, it was purchased from one of my joint favourite independent Dublin bookshops*. 
And.....well.... Antoine de Saint-Exupery would approve, I hope.
*(This is the other favourite.) 

16. Was introduced to the beauty of Carmen McRae... and treated to playings of Bowie, Dylan, Sgt Pepper and the glorious Miles Davis, Ali Farka Toure and The Gloaming.... discussed the challenges of creativity, Neil Jordan films, the merits of Wes Anderson soundtracks, the oddity of CGI-d Peter Cushing, and the surprise of meeting Michael Gambon..... and Irish politics, Trump, hope and optimism in dark times - and generally set the world to rights - over late lunch with a lovely friend and his elusive cat.

17. Marveled at the intricate beauties of Harry Clarke's Eve of St Agnes stained glass windows at the Hugh Lane Gallery.

18. Gazed at a Monet, a Van Gogh and countless stunning Turners in the National Gallery - including the latter's Reichenbach Falls.... with perhaps a miniature Sherlock and Moriarty caught forever mid-struggle in the sweeping strokes of that eternally charging and thundering stream.

19. And found Mr Shaw.

20. Observed the silent statues that stand sentinel, keeping watch over the city. 

21. Followed the elusive splashes of colour across the city roads..... 

....till I could properly admire the gloriously decorated outer walls of the Blooms Hotel.....

22. Walked by the riverside at dusk, watching ripples of light play across the water.

23. And finally, said goodbye to the city from beneath the columns of the GPO.

This is the place that drew me to Dublin in the first place, due to a longtime fascination with the Easter Rising. It's the spot from which I've begun each exploration of the city, and where I arranged to meet a Dublin friend for the very first time. 

It's become my compass-reference - whenever I lose my bearings, I return to the GPO, and can find my way straight again.

And so it seemed very apt to finish my wanderings there too, before heading home.

goodbye, ever-restless Liffey....
goodbye 1916 memorials.....
goodbye, original handwritten Yeats poems.... 
goodbye, enchanting indie bookshops...... 
goodbye, Brian the pigeon.....
goodbye, Children of Lir...... 
goodbye, butterflies of peace on the battered, bullet-ridden columns of the GPO...
goodbye, my friend Billy and your amazing Kimmage Den of Jazz.... 
goodbye, elusive Mr Monk....
goodbye, ramshackle, dusty beautiful treasure-trove that is Swenys....
goodbye sunset-soaked Merrion Park.....
goodbye, serene swans.... 
goodbye, Wilde, Joyce and Larkin.

Take care, Dublin. My love and thanks to you. 
I will return and see you again in the Spring.