Tag: Dublin

Joyce: the words, so beautiful and sad, like music

Tuesday, 17 March, 2015 1 Comment

Our reading for St Patrick’s Day is taken from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. The book explores the meaning of identity, authority, belief, autonomy, the Catholic Church and language. It was published in 1916, a seminal year in Irish history and mythology, and the fact that all the issues Joyce explored are still unsettled in the Irish psyche and in Irish society, shows his true genius. In this key scene, Stephen Dedalus has a confrontation with the Dean of Studies, an English Jesuit. Neither has any idea that the act of defining the innocent word “tundish” will have far-reaching consequences. Let us turn now to page 144:

To return to the lamp, he said, the feeding of it is also a nice problem. You must choose the pure oil and you must be careful when you pour it in not to overflow it, not to pour in more than the funnel can hold.
What funnel? asked Stephen.
The funnel through which you pour the oil into your lamp.
That? said Stephen. Is that called a funnel? Is it not a tundish?
What is a tundish?
That. The funnel.
Is that called a tundish in Ireland? asked the dean. I never heard the word in my life.
It is called a tundish in Lower Drumcondra, said Stephen, laughing, where they speak the best English.

A tundish, said the dean reflectively. That is a most interesting word. I must look that word up. Upon my word I must.

His courtesy of manner rang a little false and Stephen looked at the English convert with the same eyes as the elder brother in the parable may have turned on the prodigal. A humble follower in the wake of clamorous conversions, a poor Englishman in Ireland, he seemed to have entered on the stage of Jesuit history when that strange play of intrigue and suffering and envy and struggle and indignity had been all but given through — a late-comer, a tardy spirit. From what had he set out? Perhaps he had been born and bred among serious dissenters, seeing salvation in Jesus only and abhorring the vain pomps of the establishment. Had he felt the need of an implicit faith amid the welter of sectarianism and the jargon of its turbulent schisms, six principle men, peculiar people, seed and snake baptists, supralapsarian dogmatists? Had he found the true church all of a sudden in winding up to the end like a reel of cotton some fine-spun line of reasoning upon insufflation on the imposition of hands or the procession of the Holy Ghost? Or had Lord Christ touched him and bidden him follow, like that disciple who had sat at the receipt of custom, as he sat by the door of some zinc-roofed chapel, yawning and telling over his church pence?

The dean repeated the word yet again.
Tundish! Well now, that is interesting!

The little word seemed to have turned a rapier point of his sensitiveness against this courteous and vigilant foe. He felt with a smart of dejection that the man to whom he was speaking was a countryman of Ben Jonson. He thought:
The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words home, Christ, ale, master, on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit. His language, so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech. I have not made or accepted its words. My voice holds them at bay. My soul frets in the shadow of his language.

Leaning against the fireplace Stephen heard him greet briskly and impartially every student of the class and could almost see the frank smiles of the coarser students. A desolating pity began to fall like dew upon his easily embittered heart for this faithful serving-man of the knightly Loyola, for this half-brother of the clergy, more venal than they in speech, more steadfast of soul than they, one whom he would never call his ghostly father; and he thought how this man and his companions had earned the name of worldlings at the hands not of the unworldly only but of the worldly also for having pleaded, during all their history, at the bar of God’s justice for the souls of the lax and the lukewarm and the prudent.

Rainy Day wishes all its readers, the lax and the lukewarm and the prudent, a very happy St Patrick’s Day.

Keep Your Head Up

Saturday, 19 July, 2014 0 Comments

That’s what Ben Howard advises. Last night, he opened the Longitude Festival in Dublin and a good time was had by all, according to reports.

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”

The war horse

Sunday, 26 January, 2014 0 Comments

Some one million horses, mules and donkeys were sent to the Western Front to assist the British Army in World War I and served in squadrons such as the Northumberland Hussars and the Warwickshire Horse Artillery, where they pulled heavy guns, transported supplies, carried the wounded and dying to hospital and took part in cavalry […]

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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

Shaw’s last words

Thursday, 7 November, 2013 0 Comments

Maurice Collis was born in Dublin in 1889 and went to Rugby School and then to the University of Oxford, where he studied history. He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1911 and was posted to Burma, rising to the position of district magistrate in Rangoon in 1929. He returned to England in 1934 and wrote more than 20 books, including volumes of autobiography, travel writing, novels, histories, three plays and a diary. He died in 1973. This is a classic dinner party recollection:

7 November 1953: [dining with Lord and Lady Astor] She [Lady Astor] told of her famous visit to Moscow with Bernard Shaw during the war. The things she said straight out to Stalin were staggering.
‘Your regime is no different from the Czars’.
‘Because you dispose of your opposition without trial.’
Stalin laughed. ‘Of course.’

Shaw She also spoke of Bernard Shaw’s last illness. ‘I went to see him the day before he died. I sat by him stroking his head. He was quite clear. Suddenly he said. “That reminds me,” and told me this story. “Lord X gave a great party to all the local gentry. As they were about to eat, the butler came in and said to him, ‘Excuse me, your lordship, but Mr So & So is in bed with your wife.’ At this, Lord X, rising in his place, said to the company: ‘Go home, go home. There is a man in bed with my wife. The party is cancelled. Off you go.’ The guests, much disappointed, for there were quantities of drink, began to disperse. The butler came in again, and spoke to his lordship. He got up. ‘Don’t go, don’t go. The man has apologised.'” Those were G.B.S.’s last words.’

The story was well received. If it was not Shaw’s last words, it might well have been.” Maurice Collis

November 2013 marks the centennial of the birth of Albert Camus, who once said, “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.” Tomorrow, here, the diarist and philosopher Camus ponders the social networking aspect of lozenges.

City life and letters

Wednesday, 9 October, 2013 0 Comments

When it came to the future of his native city, James Joyce claimed that if Dublin was destroyed you could rebuild it from the detail in Ulysses. The New York author Paul Auster makes no such lofty claims regarding his hometown, but many of his books are maps of the Big Apple, particularly his adopted Brooklyn. Auster is more than urban fiction, though. His books also contain humanity in all its fragility. Oracle Nights Anyone who has fought back from major illness will feel at home in the introduction to Oracle Night:

“I had been sick for a long time. When the day came for me to leave the hospital, I barely knew how to walk anymore, could barely remember who I was supposed to be. Make an effort, the doctor said, and in three for four months you’ll be back in the swing of things. I didn’t believe him, but I followed his advice anyway. They had given me up for dead, and now that I had confounded their predictions and mysteriously failed to die, what choice did I have but l live as though a future life were waiting for me?

I began with small outings, no more than a block or two from my apartment and then home again. I was only thirty-four but for all intents and purposes, the illness had turned me into an old man — one of those palsied, shuffling geezers who can’t put one foot in front of the other without first looking down to see which foot is which.”

As our narrator gets stronger, his wanderings take him as far as a stationary shop in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn and he buys a blue notebook, which then puts him under its spell. The rest is a story about haunted lives.

Those who do get a second bite of the cherry of life and survive serious sickness will relate to this passage towards the close of Auster’s novel: “I had my face in my hands and was sobbing my guts out. I don’t know how long I carried on like that, but even as the tears poured out of me, I was happy, happier to be alive than I had ever been before. It was a happiness beyond consolation, beyond misery, beyond all the ugliness and beauty of the world.”

The ugliness and beauty of the world as captured by writers will feature in two cities this week: Frankfurt, where the annual Book Fair begins today, and Stockholm, where tomorrow the Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced. Prior to that, in our continuing urban week, we’ll look at the city as the battleground for future conflicts.

The original Lisa O’Neill

Saturday, 5 October, 2013 1 Comment

To celebrate the release of her new album, Same Cloth or Not, Lisa O’Neill will play a headline show at Whelan’s in Dublin on Saturday, 19 October. O’Neill started writing songs and music in her native Ballyhaise, County Cavan, and then moved to Dublin for a full-time career in music. She’s on the way.

Don’t go!

Saturday, 15 June, 2013 0 Comments

Tomorrow is Bloomsday and we’re getting into the mood with this classic track from Hothouse Flowers, a band that evolved in the mid-1980s when Liam Ó Maonlaí and Fiachna Ó Braonáin started busking on the streets of Dublin, the city where Leopold Bloom endured so many trials and tribulations on 16 June 1904, all of which James Joyce chronicled in Ulysses using very long sentences.

“There’s a blue sirocco blowing warm into my face
The sun is shining on the other side of the bridges
The cars going by with smiles in the windows
There’s a black cat lying in the shadow of the gate-post
And the black cat keeps telling me that love is on it’s way

Don’t go
Don’t leave me now
Stick around and laugh a while.”

Liam Ó Maonlaí: “The song could be for anyone. Parents, exiles, sons and daughters. For me, it’s a very personal thing, the death of my friend, Eamon. The day he died. A beautiful spring day, otherwise. A slow death. One year long. So much pain for the people around him. It’s not a difficult song for me to sing though. It’s a rejoicing song, in spite of everything. ‘Don’t Go’ is here and now.” (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).