August 17, 2009
August 14, 2009
August 10, 2009
...riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay... These are the words of James Joyce from his novel Ulysses. The book is considered the centrepiece of Anglo-Irish literature and a cornerstone of world culture. Joyce exiled himself from Ireland in order to see her clearer. He loved the city on the banks of the river Liffey so much that his book is a detailed description of Dublin - the more you walk the streets, read place name signs, pass old institutions and hear muttered conversations the more you begin to realise that you are not sure whether you are inside his book and will, happenstance, run into one of his characters. Or maybe that his characters are reading a book in which you may well be a minor, and lethargically written, figure.
One of the secrets to reading the book, and there may be many, is not to read it. Do what every other purchaser does and leave it, casually - ever so casually, on your shelf for passers by to read. Affect it in some literary position somewhere between Saints and Sinners and The Amen Corner.
Occasionally dip into it. Choose somewhere near the back, pick a sentence at random... God save Ireland from that bloody mouseabout. Up near the front yank this from the text Grossbooted draymen rolled barrels dullthudding out of Prince's stores and bumped them up on the brewery float. And from the middle Then he starts hauling and mauling and talking to him in Irish and the old towser growling, letting on to answer, like a duet in the opera. That's quite enough and now close the book.
Maybe start with Dubliners. Read a story or two. And then perhaps dip into Patrick Kavanagh's Collected Poems. You will find it in there, his poem, about the US grad students who killed Joyce. Then read one of the critical books. Maybe one about the language of Joyce. Choose one by a visiting professor from the University of West Somewhere. (They probably hold an archive of James' butcher's invoices and a reference collection of early Yeatsian boiled sweet wrappers). You will then engulf a couple of hundred closely argued pages on words that Joyce 'invented' and nod sagely feeling you are really getting into the writing. Unfortunately you then realise that half the words mentioned are current slang from Ballybough to Stoneybatter and even then the place names sound, well, Joycean anyway. And you realise it's happening again, is Joyce Dublin or is Dublin Joyce?
And the mystery of the thing leads you to believe you can plough into it and you get as far as the scene where Leopold Bloom savours the taste of some offal. Too much. Replace the book in position as sentinel of your Learning (note the capital L). Until one afternoon you begin again... This was it what all that company that sat there at commons in Manse of Mothers the most lusted after and if they met with this whore Bird-in-the-Hand (which was within all foul plagues, monsters and a wicked devil) they would strain the last but they would make at her and know her.
And if that is not a description of at least a dozen bank boards then what is? Again Dublin, then and now. Fresh image of a Hungarian below and below again:
I, Rudolph Virag, now resident at no 52 Clanbrassil street, Dublin, formerly of Szombathely in the kingdom of Hungary, hereby give notice that I have assumed and intend henceforth upon all occasions and at all times to be known by the name of Rudolph Bloom.
August 08, 2009
On one of my trip's to Warsaw during an extremely warm summer I asked a young chambermaid whether she could find me some bottles of water so that I could take them with me during the day. She smiled shyly and left - returning quickly with an armful. I thanked and tipped her. I thought no more about it and set off in a taxi to visit customers all day.
Later, worn out from the heat, I returned to my room and I found this gift of a Warsaw rose from her on my bedside table.
August 07, 2009
August 06, 2009
August 04, 2009
For Dubliner's the River is reminiscent of the Liffey in the way that it splits the capital in two - yet on a bigger scale. Nowadays the waterway is constantly busy with all manner of craft and activity. There are the large clippers that wend their way up and down stream, occasional sail boats lazily drifting along and motorboats that power noisly past the bridges. Occasionally you will see black clad soldiers in high speed inflatables in fast pursuit of unclear targets - the SAS practising. Further inland the grim head-quarters of MI5 oversees the river.
Another trip to London with my sister over a year ago introduced me to the Thames Clippers. It was a rainy day (in Old London Town) and we decided to sail down the River - passing Parliament, H.M.S Belfast, Tower Bridge, Greenwich and ending up at the Thames Barrier. From the River the views are impressive and at times the trip feels like the Disney guide to London. Here is a picture from that trip showing the 1932 Cruiser which saw service in the second world war and later in the Korean war. The ship was made in Ireland in the dockyards of Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, by Harland & Wolff and was launched on St. Patrick's Day by Mrs Neville Chamberlain. Given her husband's success with that 'piece of paper' it's just as well that Mrs Chamberlain launched the ship. Back then Belfast cost £2.1 million. She provided cover for the Arctic Convoys to Russia. The ship also figured in D-Day when the Allies landed on the beaches of France. She provided protection for the men who ran up those beaches into enemy fire.
I was once told by a 70 year old man how he had charged up the beaches of D-Day. He and his best friend were in the same boat that scrambled onto the beach. Once it berthed, they had orders to run like hell, not stop and to not look back. The boat hit the beach, the gate dropped and he and his mate ran. As he powered up the beach he could hear bullets whistling past him and all around - adrenalin took over. Even as he did he heard a smack and the sound of a dull thump. Later, when he reached shelter a little further inland, he realised that that was the sound of his friend's lifeless body hitting the sand. He told me that story as if it had happened earlier that morning - except that morning had been forty years before.