Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dublin - Unesco City of Literature

Isn’t it brilliant! I always knew that as a nation we consistently punched way above our weight in the international field when it comes to the Arts, but this designation confirms Dublin’s status within the world of literature.

Many of our greats worked in and wrote of Dublin. Dublin is in itself a character in most of Joyce’s work, including his masterpiece ‘Ulysses’ - which I freely admit I have never managed to read in it’s entirety. It’s on the list of ‘to do’ but I may have to break a limb and be immobilized before I can summon enough concentration to absorb it. My own internal monologue is confusing enough without throwing Leopold Bloom’s fevered thoughts into the melting pot!

I am particularly delighted for Dublin City Council’s Library Service who were instrumental in putting forward the detailed application to Unesco. The various city and county library services throughout Ireland are the quiet backbone of our country’s great love of words. As a child I was not surrounded by books at homebut I was a member of the library. My maternal grandfather had been a ‘stoneman’ (a typesetter) and was interested in all matters literary. It was he who took me to the mobile library on Ballygall Road in Finglas to join the junior division of the Corpo’s libraries. The excitement!! There were three little enevelope type green cards which bore my name, address and library number and into these little packets were placed the details slips extracted from from a flap on the ‘date return’ page of my desired books. Then the page was stamped with the date it was due back! The joy! I so wanted that date stamp.

‘I want to do that when I grow up’ I gushed to Granda on the way home.

‘Well, keep reading and doing your lessons and I’m sure you can be a librarian when you’re bigger’ he laughed.

I would take the books to the bedroom I shared with my three sisters and devour them in one sitting. Then I would read the books again, slowly, making them last, for the mobile library would not be back for another week. Occasionally I would meet another child who loved to read and we would swap books. I often hid under the bed to read in peace, neither my mother nor my siblings could find me and so disturb the world into which I had disappeared.

I distinctly remember one good summer’s day Mam scolding me and telling me to go and get some fresh air – that I wouldn’t learn everything from books(!!). I climbed onto the garage roof with the book wrapped in a towel and read up there, perched precariously on the doubled-up towel trying to avoid a burning from the red-hot corrugated iron roof . I got so lost in the book that I didn’t realize my dangling legs were being slowly fried. It was a ‘Mallory Towers’ book by Enid Blyton. Everytime I hear of those books now I can remember the agony of those sun-burned legs.

I never did become a librarian but soon I will have a book in the library with words in it written by me. I wish Granda was around to see it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oz 3 - The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns was great. So great we paid for it twice. We got caught in the 1800 hotels debacle and on arrival at our supposedly booked and paid for hotel discovered that the hotel didn’t even have a contract with them. It was a poor start and I felt close to tears as I had been the one who booked it and paid IN FULL on Laser card. I know. I know. Fools and their money etc.

However, we were in the lucky position of having credit cards that weren’t fully maxed out and decided to put the whole incident behind us until we got home. The heat in Cairns was very welcome after the cold dampness of Sydney. One day one we rambled around and found our bearings. Or rather Jemser and son#2 found their bearings, myself and son #1 don’t have to bother with bearings when those two are about. We just follow them as they argue over which route is shortest.

Day two Jemser and son#1 went to a crocodile farm and arrived back with tall tales of ferocious beasts. Son #2 and I rambled down to the lagoon and I sat enjoying the sun as he swam in the water with people from all around the world. That is the one thing about Australia that I really noticed, it appears to be an even bigger melting pot than the States.

Day three was our Great Barrier Reef day. We were on the boat at 8am, the weather was great - the sea calm,the blueness of the sky dotted with white cumulus like tufts of cotton wool idling along and higher again were thin feathers of cirrus. We headed out to sea, standing on deck. The scene was set.

Oh lads! I am at a loss for words. I have never ever experienced anything like the coral reef. We went in snorkelling and I had to keep lifting my head to spit our sea water as everytime I put my head down I started to laugh with delight at this world that was new to me and of course filled the mouthpiece with water. Photographs and television programmes cannot do it justice. It felt like it was something from which we came, or perhaps are returning to. I don’t know, other-worldly I suppose is the best word.

The boys were totally wowed by it , son#1 said it had been worth the boredom of being stuck with us aged P.’s for over a fortnight. Son #2 came up with word after word after word to try to describe it. Jemser doesn’t swim and unfortunately despite lifejacket and strong swimmers about him he didn’t succeed in getting in. However he went out in a glass-bottomed boat and got a good ides of what the rest of us were experiencing.

We were all exhausted after it, I used muscles I never knew I had and after four hours at two different snorkelling sites was well ready for home. Those of you who have read Colm Toibin’s ‘Brooklyn’ will remember the visceral description of sea-sickness in it. I can now vouch for Mr Toibin’s description. I have never ever been as sick – and this bloody idiot of an entertainer on the return trip insisted on drawing the attention of everybody on the boat to my predicament by dedicating songs to me as my face was buried in a paper bag. I wanted to murder him and feed him to the sharks. Except I was far too ill to even move. But the Reef was worth it. Yes, definitely the Reef was worth

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oz, cuid a dho

So there we were. Finally. After months of preparation and excited chit chat we were in Sydney. A wet and dismal Sydney for the most part. E had warned us it would be cold and damp but we laughed –she had forgotten what the weather was like at home, sure weren’t the temperatures in Sydney mid-winter as high as the temperatures at home in late Spring?

The house we had rented was problematic, it was tiny and we were packed one on top of the other without any recourse to a suitable outdoor space to escape. What is it about holiday en famille that is enough to drive one insane? Particularly for that first week as each individual struggles to come to terms with the proximity of other individuals. And everybody straining against the leash to do their own thing. I am invariably cantankerous for the first week of holidays until I find a routine. The boys squabbled continuously like discontented starlings so that did not help.

We did all the touristy things. I admit to a thrill when I touched the cool tile of the Sydney Opera House. The magnificence of the harbour area and Sydney Bridge only being outdone by the sheer vastness and barreness of the plains of land we had seen as we flew into the city . Nature’s stoic greatness exceeds man’s attempts to dominate the landscape, it always will. We went to hear E. sing in a jazz session that first week. I had almost forgotten what a wonderful voice she has. We could see how fond of her all the other musicians were and it gladdened our hearts.

We found Sydney expensive. Books in particular are an insane price. I spotted a friend’s novel- ‘The Other Boy’ by Yvonne Cassidy - in one large bookstore, I was horrified to see it priced at over Aud$30, that’s almost €20!

We spent our first full weekend in a beautiful house in the Blue Mountains, about an hour’s drive from Sydney. I had heard of the place from a lovely young woman I met in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annamakerrig last year and it lived up to her descriptions. We had a delicious late lunch in a tiny restaurant called the ‘Blue Mist CafĂ©’. Best of all the place was full of second-hand books for sale. I could quite happily have browsed there all day long. The following day we ‘did’ the National Park in Katoomba, this is a magnificent place and very sensitively managed. Seeing the dense rain forests and the strangeness of the terrain I could not help but wonder what it must have been like for the first European settlers who made their way there. It can only have been a very harsh life.

On our last morning in the area we partook of the most expensive breakfast in Austrlalia! A restaurant preserved in the art deco style of the hotel it was when it was originally built. The memorabilia and nostalgia industry is alive and kicking ass in Katoomba.

My mood started to improve, as it invariably does on the second week of holidays. We had all found our stride and ways of accommodating each other. Jemser and I went to see ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ with William Hurt in the lead role, wonderful. Jemser, son#1 and E climbed Sydney Bridge in the pissin’ rain and came home elated. Later in the week E, son#2 and I went to see the musical ‘Wicked’ in a beautiful old theatre, great show – but I doubt the songs will live as long as those from ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

That week we also visited an old friend of Jemser’s who settled in Sydney over twenty yers ago and we sat on his deck admiring his pool and garden. The orange tree at the end of the garden had unfortunately been blasted by wind and frost and looked totally lopsided as only three branches remained clothed in leaves and budding fruit. I’m sure I’ll use the image as a symbol for something at some stage when I’m feeling profound and appearing pretentious!

Next up was our trip to the Great Barrier Reef…….worthy of a blog on it’s own. More anon.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Our Odyssey to Oz, Cuid a hAon

Yes, I know my Irish spelling is dodgy. Don't snitch on me to Jemser if it's wrong because he'll deck me!

Ok. I’m back! Did yiz not notice how quiet the country was for the past three weeks? That’s ‘cause I was away and wasn’t prepared to sell one of my kids in order to fund a long enough session in an Internet Cafe to blog. But I took notes and will be boring you all to death with ‘me holliers’ for the next few posts. Blogging and Facebook are the new way of showing your workmates your holiday snaps – the memory of your holiday being incredibly precious to you and mattering not a whit to anyone else.

The clan’s Odyssey to Oz began with a gloriously sunny Dublin morning, a 7.30 am taxi ride to the airport with a stereotypical taxi driver who slammed everything Irish, British, American and Australian. In ten minutes! Everything went smoothly at airport, much hilarity at the fact that two of son#1’s pals came to see him off! They mourned his leaving them for THREE WHOLE WEEKS over free coffee and paid-for egg mcmuffins in the airport’s Mc Donalds. Son #1 claimed he would be homesick for these gangly lads. I laughed. I shouldn’t have laughed-it became horribly obvious he was homesick later in the trip, more on which anon.

We flew with Ethiad airlines and it was an experience. Even in Economy it is the luxurious end of air travel. All male members of fambly thrilled with individual screens in seat backs showing a huge variety of movies, tv shows, music videos and computer games. Staff incredibly courteous and even though there were several tiny infants on board the flight was quiet and civilised. I finally got to see Neil Jordan’s ‘Ondine’ , what a magical film! The part of the fisherman Syracuse must have been written for Colin Farrell because he was superb in it. All performances were brilliant in fact and the scenery, sets etc were beautiful. Definitely a winner.

For the rest of the flight into Abu Dhabi I read, wrote, ate – relatively decent airline grub and studied the forward view on screen from a camera mounted somewhere on the plane. A joy of a journey and then a smooth trafer to a second flight. And none of our bags got lost, although I could have done with losing one or all of the male members by the time we arrived! And big step-kid #1 was waiting for us at the airport. Looking as beautiful as ever. Or maybe even beautifuller. It was so, so good to see her. I think I might have hugged her too hard and she me, because the two of us shed a few tears-much to the bemusement of the males in our lives. What is it about men and tears? They just don’t get them at all do they?
More later…