Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hail Dublin, Full of Grace


When anyone is depressed i challenge them to go to Dublin and remain that way. I had to go to Dublin to get my passport done, fair deuce, i thought, be a day out.

It was not just a day out - it was a simply wonderful one. It was one of those days where everything, all bits of your life sort of come together, when everything is funnelled into a few moments, but over and over again. I thought of many strange things, like drinking from the water cooler in school. I thought of the Hail Mary prayer, Hail Mary Full of Grace...i thought about the nature of grace and what it was. I thought about suffering, and how it was related to grace. I thought about the children, my own life (for the first time in a looong time, i know people who read this blog can't quite believe that...), but for the first time in a long time it felt like i was back, once again, being 20, and it felt...amazing.

On a train, through countryside side, as snow fell, to Dublin, a city which i had always wanted to go to since i read Ulyssess, which i had been in many many times, but never on my own, what would i find there?

Well, first i found myself a hat. I had lost mine in Central Station in Belfast, and only discovered this after reaching Connolley station and going, OMG, i NEED a hat given the snow. So i walked to Grafton Street and got myself a hat from American Apparrel. I had never heard of this brand before, but it would appear it uses giant prepubescent girls wearing their outfits like backstreet soft porn shots to move their merchandise. The only reason i continued to get the hat was because it promised me it was sweat shop free and it looked good on my head. It was the perfect shade of purple.

After that i headed for St Stephen's Green - it was snowing properly at this stage and i just thought, this is crazy. Mid March and it is snowing. Well end March. There was a photoshoot involving what appeared to be a man dressed up as a chicken and a woman dressed as Wonder Woman by the gazebo. Cold, i thought. My goosebumps went out to them.

Then i got to Ely Place Upper. The Singaporean Consulate. It was fortuitously situated just opposite the Royal Hibernian Academy, which was having an exhibition called Skin. I went in and had a look around. It is interesting drawing again, how you look at other people's work. Some of it was good - ok, very little of it was good, some of it was very painful looking. There were photos of dead bodies in morgues, a video installation of a naked woman doing a hula hoop made from barbed wire. Diseases of the skin. Some pudenda on display. There were also two Mapplethorpes. Ah....after that there was only one thing left to do, go to the Museum's cafe, of course.

There i sat, the snow continued falling and i had some water and a cup of soup. The soup was strong and salty. The water fizzy and tickly. It seemed like my other life - the life which i had left behind in Belfast with all its attendent complications and sufferings was very far away indeed.

I got the passport done and then headed to...well, i wasn't sure where now. I had a choice. I COULD go back to Belfast at once, but the thought of the incipient ugliness of the place in the leafless coldness of the past few days made my heartsink. How could i return to Belfast when Dublin lay at my feet?

So i headed to the Irish Museum of Archeology. I thought i'd love to see a few objects that i could sketch. Then i got a bit lost and found myself back at Grafton Street. After some more carefully following of signs i was back on track and then, just before i got to the Museum, i saw this curious sign. A shop, appearing to sell glasses, but also Books and Invaculare...i think...and offering free cups of tea. The shop was supposed to be Edwardian inspired and it was filled with quirky paintings of men in dresses. Bearded men in dresses. The proprietor, Colm, offered me a free cuppa tea and a Breakaway and we sat a chatted as the snow fell outside. He talked about his grandmother's fur coat which he had appropriated and was now in Germany for the next six weeks getting serviced, he really missed it in this weather. He talked about his work as a Graphic Designer and optician. He talked about all sorts of things. I was completely fascinated. After about half and hour two men came in, media types, scruffy media types, and began to measure the room. They are shooting a music video there, he explained, apologetically. I said thanks for the chat and good luck, etc and then left quietly as they continued to take light and footage measurements.

I had missed the Archeology Museum, but found myself in front of the back entrance of the National Library. There was an exhibition of Yeats - it was the exhibition that got me in. When i entered, i was overwhelmed by the beauty of the inside. This was a thousand times better than sitting in front of a Mac or PC. It was like entering heaven. The mosiacs, the silence, the light...i headed for the exhibition. They had FREE lockers, like space age lockers. Beauty breeds beauty and everything was so beautiful.

The exibition began with Yeats' schoool reports. It was very funny. He was a completely mediocre student. He was smack in the middle of his class for English. He failed his Classics. His teacher wrote: "Studying French and German with Latin and Greek is ruinous for this boy." He got the first prize in Chemistry. It was a clear sign that i should not take things SOOOO seriously. Or rather the current obsession with education, the fetishisation, is ridiculous. I rediscovered so many lovely poems i had read all those years ago - too many to mention - and i payed very close attention to his interest in Theosophy and the Esoteric. I was fascinated with the reverance which Yeats had for the physical dimensions of printing. I was delighted with realising that the poem, Lapis Lazuli from Sailing to Byzantium, was inspired by a piece of real carved lapis and it was EXACTLY as i had imagined it to be. There it was, word made stone, glittering before me. My favourite stone too.

Then i went to the bathroom, and THEN...i ascended the steps to see the Main Reading Room. Oh my GOD!!! It was soooo beautiful. I thought i could hear music. The cupola lifted over the heads of the readers and researchers, the wonderful wooden shelves cascading along the curved walls, the plaster work, the green reading lamps, the smell of paper and people, of time itself. I sat in one of the carrals and gazed upwards, it felt as if i was falling up. I spent a long long time in there, thinking of what the place had seen, of the terrible times, of the good times. Of the thoughts which had been thought here. I walked about the shelves, to see what books there were. I spied on what people were writing. Some were putting together short stories, others looking at old newspapers. One young man writing to a woman in America about geneology. Another man was doing a research article on history. Somehow i felt restored you know. Somehow i felt as if i had returned to myself after a long long time. After all the bullshit and the journeys and all the nonsense along the way i have had to put up with. All the ridiculous compromises, all the bargins which were struck and never fulfilled. Some people need to go to a beach or climb a mountain. This was my beach, my mountain. This was where i was finally at home.

After that i sat in the cafe and had this wonderful smoked fish salad, from the Burren, followed by a glass of wine, the first in weeks and weeks. After that i read and wrote, and thought, and read The Study of Man, and wrote and thought some more again. Thus the afternoon passed and all too soon i had to head back to the station. I called into the Douglas Hyde Gallery on the way, just to see what the craic was, was not much the craic, i have to report. The snow never stopped falling.

I fell asleep on the train home. I could never resist the rocking motion and the drowsy bub-bub-bub of wheels on track. Carried back to Belfast. At the Central Station, i sighed. It was a bit sad, a bit strange, a bit amazing, a bit magic. I thought, i wonder if my hat was found. I went to the ticket collection point and began to ask them for the hat. Excuse you, and then in the corner of my eye i was i hat, upright, expectant, with its beanie on the top, like an inverted exclaimation mark.

My hat! i exclaimed myself. The station officers looked puzzled and then they were pleased. Is this your hat? Yep, i said. The lady gave it to me, she looked a bit disappointed.

Well, where next i thought. Hail Mary Full of Grace. Grace is really required to face Belfast on days like these. At least it is 2013 and not 1983. I headed to the gym, of course. Did a light workout and swam. Then at home, all was dark. Ghin only came back later. It was a bit strange that all that could be compressed in a day. Tomato soup, train journeys, invaculare, snow, Yeats, heavenly reading rooms, and for today, just for one day, perhaps everyday, to be so filled with grace.

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