…especially conversation. While Dublin has many fine sights it’s the conversation that attracts me, the storytelling in word and music. When I saw the sign on the barbershop (above) I almost went in for a haircut even though I didn’t need one. I can always use a good conversation.
Ireland is a great place for storytelling. Bewley’s Café is set up in the European tradition of the grand cafe, although along with continental pastries and strong coffee you can also get Irish blend fair trade tea and scones with clotted cream and jam. Upstairs there is a café theatre. We were sitting at a table having our tea and scone waiting for the theater to open when Brendan, at the table next to us, asked us where we were from. Brendan said he wanted to tell us an Irish joke. It was, of course, more than a joke, it was a story with twists, turns and seemingly dead ends that went on long enough that we feared that we would have to leave for the theatre upstairs before he got to the punchline. But being a master, Brendan brought it in just on time for us to share a laugh, and exchange farewells before the play. It was a joke that I’ve heard many times before, I knew the punchline, but it wasn’t the punchline but the journey to the punchline that was the point. I’ve never heard it told in such a convoluted but charming way. That’s Ireland, it reminds me of family and I feel at home.
The play was very good and Brendan left us with the wry comment “for 800 years we tried to get rid of the English and now, with Brexit, the English are trying to get rid of us.” Good riddance was only implied.
We didn’t go on tours or set out to visit any one place, except for one that I will get to later, but we wandered. When we heard music coming out of a door we went in, when we saw something that interested us, we went in, like to an art gallery for photographers or an exhibit on the Irish Famine.
The famine exhibit had a different spin, it was inside an upscale, downtown, belly of the beast, capitalist shopping mall. Usually Irish exhibits like this pin blame for the famine squarely on the English. This one blamed it on capitalism and the free market, laisse faire, philosophy of the British Liberal (Whig) government. It made the Tories look good by comparison. This stinging indictment of capitalism resonated with many of the election posters just outside saying things like “People before profits” and “Share the wealth.” (See earlier post.)
The one sight we wanted to see was the old St. Mary’s church north of the Liffey. The church was started in 1697 and completed in 1702. It was the first galleried church in Ireland and of a very protestant design. It was the parish church of the Guinness family. Two Arthur Guinnesses were married there and many Guinness kids were baptized there, as was Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Irish revolutionary and Sean O’Casey, the playwright. George Fredrich Handel lived nearby and practiced on the church organ, which can be seen but, sadly, not heard, although the current owners of the church want to restore it if they can find €100,000. And who are the current owners if not the church? Whe church closed its doors to worshipers in 1986. It became John Keating’s Pub until 2007 when it changed hands and became “The Church” café and bar. The bar runs the length of the nave down what used to be the center isle but otherwise much of the church is nicely restored. We enjoyed lunch.
We visited other pubs to listen to music, traditional and otherwise. I never used to like pubs but since smoking was banned inside I find them pleasant and welcoming. I wonder if there has been a smoking ban when I was younger if I would have become a frequent bar habitué and possible alcoholic?
In the first photo below you can see a bridge across the Liffey that is designed to look like an Irish Harp. To dock the ship sailed, practically up to the bridge, and then had to make a very tight 180 with the help of two tugs (one named “Shackleton”) and head into the dock. The turn was very tight, made more so by a two much larger cruise ships in port. The Captain said, in his talk today, that this is one of the most difficult landings he has to make.
What you see above are some pictures from Dublin. There is Oscar Wilde reclining on a rock in Merrion Square, the statue of Sweet Molly Malone (locally known as “the tart with the cart.”), a busker who dragged a piano onto Grafton Street, a street artist making a sand pig on Grafton Street, a tour group riding on an amphibious landing craft with Viking helmets, a giant spike “The monument of light” sitting on O’Connell Street where Lord Nelson’s column used to stand before it got blown up, and the organ where G.F. Handel practiced at “The Church”).