Wilde Easter

Monday, 22 April, 2019

As Oscar Wilde lay dying in Paris in November 1900, the priest who received him into the Catholic Church was Father Cuthbert Dunne. When the Dublin cleric ended his days in Mount Argus Monastery, the young Brendan Behan was living nearby in Kildare Road. Like Wilde, he also became a professional wit and, referring to that last-minute conversion, Behan commended Wilde for shedding his sins as life ebbed away. He also reminded the world slyly that the two of them had enjoyed their bisexuality:

“Sweet is the way of the sinner
Sad, death without God’s praise
My life on you, Oscar boy,
Yourself had it both ways.”

Oscar Wilde’s Easter Day was published in 1894, six years before that famous deathbed conversion in Paris. It’s a bitter-sweet poem.

Easter Day

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
“Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.”

Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)


Wednesday, 29 March, 2017 0 Comments

Dollymount, known as “Dollyer” to Dubliners, is an area on the north coast of Dublin Bay. A wooden bridge from Clontarf links to Bull Island and the adjoining 5-kilometres long stretch of sandy beach and dunes is called Dollymount Strand.


Note: “Dollymount House” was listed in the Dublin Directory up to 1836, and in 1838 Dollymount appeared for the first time as that of a district, under the heading of “Green Lanes, Dollymount.” It is said locally that the name was used by a member of the Vernon family as a compliment to his wife, Dorothy, or Dolly Vernon.

Bloomsday 16.6.16

Thursday, 16 June, 2016 0 Comments

On 16 June 1904, James Joyce and Nora Barnacle walked out together through Dublin’s Ringsend district. The writer went on to immortalize the day in Ulysses and in Dublin today wandering Joyceans will roam the city, visiting many of the places where the book is set in an attempt to reconstruct the events of the novel through readings, performances, food, drink, costumes and general celebrations of the genius that is Joyce. Apart from a fistful of euros, nothing else is needed for Bloomsday.

With the Euro 2016 tournament taking place in France, the country where Joyce eventually settled, it’s worth having a peek at the role football played in Ulysses. The best place to start for this kind of research is Finnegans Web, which offers an HTML version of Ulysses. There’s a link to Concordance Text Search (Omnicordia V-1.5), which will look up words in Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Stephen Hero. And football? The word occurs three times in Ulysses:

“Cissy Caffrey whistled, imitating the boys in the football field to show”
“If you bungle, Handy Andy, I’ll kick your football for you.”
“(Halcyon Days, High School boys in blue and white football”

Joyce had what kid’s would call an awesome vocabulary. A cursory glance at Ulysses reveals: abscission, boustrophedon, comestible, excrescence, frangible, gavelkind, messuage, ormolu, pruritic, thaumaturgic, unguiculate and football. Happy Bloomsday!


Did James Joyce imagine Snapchat?

Tuesday, 16 June, 2015 0 Comments

Happy Bloomsday! The name is derived from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses by James Joyce. The novel’s characters wander around Dublin on 16 June 1904 and as one of them, Stephen Dedalus, remarks: “Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.”

Ulysses is said to be the most written about book ever after the Bible and, like the Good Book, it contains truth and prophecy. In this exchange from Episode 1, Telemachus, Joyce imagines the invention of a mobile messaging app that allows users to capture images that self destruct after a few seconds.

“— Is the brother with you, Malachi?
— Down in Westmeath. With the Bannons.
— Still there? I got a card from Bannon. Says he found a sweet young thing down there. Photo girl he calls her.
— Snapshot, eh? Brief exposure.”

Snapshot, eh? Brief exposure, eh? Isn’t that Snapchat?

Acclimatizing to Dublin Bus

Sunday, 30 November, 2014 0 Comments

The function of Dublin Bus is to provide public transport in Ireland’s capital city. According to its website, the service carries 118 million customers a year, employing a fleet of 900 buses and 3,238 full-time staff. Interestingly, for a capital city’s main transit network, no complete system-wide street map is available online. What is online, though, is a reddit thread where people say things like, “I’m swearing a fuck load because it’s the only language appropriate to describe Dublin Bus and their shit-awful service, the fucks.”

It’s easy to spot the overseas visitors to Dublin on the city’s buses in winter. Unlike the locals, who are used to the vagaries of Dublin Bus vehicular heating standards, many visitors find their all-weather gear is essential for both inside and outside wear.

Dublin Bus

Seen in Dublin

Sunday, 27 July, 2014 0 Comments


Bloomsday water

Monday, 16 June, 2014 0 Comments

It’s 16 June, which makes it Bloomsday, and in Ulysses James Joyce asks: “What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?” The answer:

“Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator’s projection: its unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: its preponderance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe: its indisputable hegemony extending in square leagues over all the region below the subequatorial tropic of Capricorn: the multisecular stability of its primeval basin: its luteofulvous bed: its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including millions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and islands, its persistent formation of homothetic islands, peninsulas and downwardtending promontories: its alluvial deposits: its weight and volume and density: its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradation of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones: its vehicular ramifications in continental lakecontained streams and confluent oceanflowing rivers with their tributaries and transoceanic currents, gulfstream, north and south equatorial courses: its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, Artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts: its vast circumterrestrial ahorizontal curve: its secrecy in springs and latent humidity, revealed by rhabdomantic or hygrometric instruments and exemplified by the well by the hole in the wall at Ashtown gate, saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe), numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90 percent of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.”

That’s what the amazing Joyce saw in water.

Elbow abroad

Saturday, 14 June, 2014 0 Comments

Tonight, Elbow are in Brussels. On the 25th of June, they’re in Dublin, in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, located at the old Royal Hospital. Those Manchester lads do get about.

“Every bone of rivet steel, each corner stone and angle
Jenga jut and rusted water, tower, pillar, post and sign
Every painted line and battered, laddered building in this town
Sings a life of proud endeavour and the best that man can be”

Pans of rashers at the Abbey Theatre

Tuesday, 21 January, 2014 0 Comments

It was Brendan Behan who famously said that Dublin’s Abbey Theatre was the best-fed theatre company in the world because, every time there was a crisis in the kind of plays it staged, someone put on a pan of rashers.

Behan’s jab, which was delivered in the 1950s, was directed at the provincial, smug and flabby nature of the company, but it has lost none of its sting over the subsequent decades. According to a recent report by a group of assessors, some Abbey productions do reach “an acceptable standard for professional theatre presentation.” The assessors gave just four of 12 recent Abbey productions ratings that were “very good” or “excellent,” or very close to it. Four were ranked as “good” and four were judged to be somewhere between “acceptable’ and “good.” For the Arts Council of Ireland, the report is troubling as it gave the Abbey Theatre grants of €7.1 million last year. One could buy an awful lot of rashers with that kind of dosh.

This just in: The Director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach Mac Conghail, has accused The Irish Times of “cruelty” in publishing independent reports critical of his theatre’s productions.


Rainey Heaney

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014 2 Comments

The Christmas reading included Stepping Stones, a big book of interviews with the late Seamus Heaney by fellow poet, Dennis O’Driscoll. It’s an inside job for readers of Heaney’s oeuvre, “on whose behalf I hope to have asked the kinds of questions which they themselves might have wished to pose.” Heaney’s worldview was formed in places named Anahorish, Mossbawn, Lough Beg and Toome and these, to quote him about one of his formative influences, Patrick Kavanagh, are used “as posts to fence out a personal landscape.”

“When did you meet Kavanagh himself?” asks O’Driscoll in the section titled “On the Books.” It was not until the summer of 1967, says Heaney and the place was the Baily pub on Dublin’s Duke Street. Richard Ryan made the introduction.

“At first I avoided the contact as unobtrusively as possible,” says Heaney, “kept my face to the counter when he stopped to speak to Richard, and waited for him to move on — he was coming back past our part of the counter on his way from the Gents. But the pause continued and what had begun as a reticence started to look like an ignorance; so I turned round and said, ‘Mr Kavanagh, can I buy you a drink?’

‘No’, he replies, with the ‘o’ in the ‘No’ well lengthened out. So then Richard says something like, ‘Paddy, this man’s come down here from Belfast, and he’s just published a book of poems. His name’s Seamus Heaney.’ And Kavanagh says to me, ‘Are you Heaney?’ rhyming me with Rainey, as people did in the country at home. ‘Well, I’ll have a Scotch.’ So I took that as a pass.”

Patrick Kavanagh

The Queen of Hearts still making tarts

Sunday, 17 November, 2013 0 Comments

“On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge, The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay — O I loved too much and by such by such is happiness thrown away.” The song version of […]

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