07 Dec

flamenco

IMG_1516

And they danced flamenco, whilst underneath, in the crypt of this ancient church, mummified bodies looked on. A nun was buried here four hundred years ago, and a crusader, whose body had to be sawn in half to fit into the coffin. Oh, there are lots of coffins under the burial vault, lying in a random fashion, bursting at the seams with an arm or leg sticking up.

IMG_1518

Up on an improvised stage, the guitar player would close his eyes, completely immersed in the perfect acoustics of the place. Nothing else mattered beyond the guitar strings, dancer’s heels that tapped across the floor, faster and faster, the fingers that clicked, the clapping.
Forming a circle, celebrating life with all its joys and sorrows, bodies becoming one with the rhythm, with the community. Life defying death.

Share Button
22 Nov

my burgundy boots

image

My burgundy boots know this street well. Its curves, bumps, potholes, shops and pubs. All the red brick houses under the patchy grey-blue sky, now perfectly reflected in the numerous puddles left behind by yesterday’s rain. 

image

We might need canoes over the weekend, my boss said as I was finishing work for the week. As I come down to the Liffey, the ground is soft indeed, grass and leaves wet and slippery. A misty veil of dense, quiet rain, brought by the passing clouds, is barely visible. It’s not like yesterday’s rain, whose big, loud, heavy drops made me feel wet to my bones. This morning’s rain is ever so gentle; if its tiny, cold drops weren’t touching my face, I’d hardly know it’s there. None of the people jogging, or walking their dogs, seem to mind it. The rowers keep on training. 

image

I wonder what would Mr Bolger do? He used to sell second hand furniture and appliances. It was an old, unkempt shop extending to the footpath of the street well trodden by my burgundy boots. “I’ve been here forty years,” old Mr Bolger told me, “I sold the first washing machines to this neighborhood! Different times.”

He lowered his voice then and quietly added: “There was no single person of color around here back then!” At first I wasn’t sure how I should take this remark. Of all the stories and trivia from decades of shopkeeping in the same street this was the first thing Mr Bolger wanted to share? The way he said it though, wasn’t tainted by hatred. In fact he had an Indian man working for him. Someone to help him move sofas, tables and washing machines off the footpath, back into the shop when the rain got too heavy. Everything would be out again as soon as it stopped raining.

image

Passing by the shop, back on the street, I see a locked door. A ‘for sale’ sign is up. Yes, I recall, Mr Bolger retired. So too will eighty-two year old Mr Boles, who took over a pharmacy fifty years ago, just across the road from Mr Bolger. The place is very old Dublin, a bit scruffy, with dark wooden cabinets, no fancy cosmetics, lotions or potions but a history lesson on the street and surrounding area comes free with whatever you came in for. 

Will my favorite burgundy boots get to meet any other part of Dublin so well? Am I in transition, the same as the street I live on?

The old ways are vanishing slowly, with new ways slow to replace them. 

   

Share Button
15 Nov

turning up the volume

10422061_10152556941958823_2988481919087177582_n

We giggled, talked about what’s been happening lately, about writing, men, her time in Thailand, and the upcoming volunteering stint in Cambodia. Had a whole pint of beer, which is a lot for me , felt warm, dizzy and fuzzy, and words were flowing. Not only flowing, no, we had to shout at times, as the restaurant was busy, and music was rather loud. “Don’t know why, it’s so loud, but it just works!”, she said, and I had to nod in agreement as I was cutting a part of the delicious, long rib rack, the tastiest I had in my life. Shall I mention the tacos, and corn-on-the-cob we ummmmmed and aaaaahed over repeatedly, whilst washing it all down with Margarita?

A postcard was handed to us with our bill. A bit of unexpected fun was had as we deliberated what we should do with it. Didn’t take us too long to agree: she wrote her address on the postcard, and I promised I’d write a few words and post it. It will greet her when she comes back to her town.

The following morning it was business as usual – up just before seven to get ready for work, for overheated, a bit overcrowded open plan office. Ready for tuning out other people’s conversations as I try to focus. The lipstick in my makeup bag will have melted a bit by the time I finish for the day. Just like me.
Ever since we moved to another part of the building, I feel I’ve no space. No way of escaping people as they are seated so close to me now, and we have lunch together in the canteen. Lunch break used to be the time to take a deep breath and unplug from the constant flow of e-mails and instant messages. Now, it’s a small talk time. Bonding with your colleagues time.

Kicking and screaming, the introvert in me was pulled out of the bubble, and the office became much noisier place. I’ve no time out, no time to look inwards. This change is probably a good thing, but I grieve for my quiet lunches. Though it never brings me any earth shuttering ideas or plans for my life, I find comfort in should’ve, could’ve, if only kind of thoughts. Silence is like a best friend. But aloofness is not something people look kindly upon, though. Time to let more voices in, turn up the volume.

Share Button
12 Nov

raindrops in my coffee

10329026_10152551564788823_9073202423688366390_n

This morning, coffee is being mixed with raindrops. A warm scone and Lemsip in my bag.

Share Button
09 Nov

dublin, sunday edition

10704_10152545640588823_8581848366121765183_n

Dublin is still asleep. Shop shutters closed, its streets eerily quiet and deserted. Ghost signs, and features of different buildings, become more visible. Fast food litter and an occasional pool of vomit tell stories of the night before.

It’s not my habit either to venture into the city centre this early on a Sunday, but on the occasion when I do, it feels like Dublin is nursing a massive hangover. Only a handful of places serve coffee at this hour. Nothing is supposed to move, or give any signs of life, before noon on a Sunday.

Beautiful olive tree greeted me as I climbed down the stairs into the small yard of Olive Tree Studio Dublin . I was way too early for yoga class, so I sat on the cold, concrete bench in front of the tree, soaking in the peace and quiet. “A better life starts here”, said the writing on the wall behind me. We all want that, don’t we? A promise of what could happen, only if we gave it a shot, tried harder. Only if we weren’t that lazy. Or afraid.

I’ve never done yoga before. I didn’t take the class this morning either. Only dipped my toe in, by speaking with a wonderful instructor Kim who told me how it all works. I pay only when I attend. There is a yoga intro class every Wednesday evening. Yes, yoga is as good for toning up the body and losing weight as anything you’d do in the gym. So, what am I waiting for :-)

Share Button
03 Nov

monday morning in sister sadie

10500538_10152534602888823_1859747183122705353_n

Winter is coming, and it is going to be a very harsh one, the papers say. There will be snow, and sub zero temperatures. But this morning I am only wearing cardigan over my dress and it feels fresh, pleasant. Not bone chilling. The scent of warm scones, coffee, the sun against the red brick of Harrington St… Let’s get this week started.

Share Button
01 Nov

one million dubliners

15785_10152531685063823_2446552650734580293_n

On the way to the Lighthouse cinema earlier on, I took a picture of Goldenbridge cemetery, the first Catholic cemetery built in Dublin after the Catholic Emancipation in 1829. I was off to the screening of the ‘One Million Dubliners’ documentary. It’s the story of Ireland’s biggest cemetery, Glasnevin, where one and a half million Dubliners are buried.

The documentary starts with a funeral scene. Next minute, Shane Mac Thomais, Glasnevin historian and tour guide, talks about the early history of the cemetery. At that moment I knew I’d shed a tear before the closing credits started to roll. Shane is a radiant presence throughout the documentary, as he tells a ghost story to a group of visiting school children and explains to them, in very simple terms, why Michael Collins died. He spoke of his own father, who was also a historian and Galasnevin guide, and is buried in the cemetery.

“My father taught me one thing about a good tour: tell people a bit of what they know, add something that they don’t know, make them laugh at least once, and make them cry.”

Maybe there will be a tribute at the end of the movie, I thought. I was not prepared for the turn the movie was going to take. Because, the funeral scene from the beginning of the movie, was Shane’s funeral. I knew he died, at a fairly young age, earlier this year. His death ocurred so close to the end of shooting the documentary that the film-makers were able to use the material as a wonderful tribute to the man whose premature death saddened so many.

“Million Dubliners, one Shane Mac Thomais” was written beneath his photo at the end of the film. “I don’t imagine there is heaven,” Shane said, but if there is anything… I’d like to think it feels the way I felt four or five times in my life. Connected to everything, and everybody.”

I hope it is like that for him, on the other side.

Share Button
25 Oct

marsh’s library

10660325_10152518092343823_2444100859786907727_n

I was told off twice for taking photos, but Marsh’s Library is too photogenic and tempting. This is probably the most disobedient I’d ever be anyway.

I rang the bell and the massive wooden door in front of me opened, slowly, and seemingly on its own. Two young girls, probably Bram Stoker Festival volunteers, their faces painted white and in their Haloween costumes, smiled at me as they were letting me in.

Give me a bed, kitchen and a wifi, and I’d never ever want to leave this place. Centuries old dark wooden bookcases, laden with leather bound ancient prints, soft light in the reading room, and the air that smells of times long past, and of stories. The only sound I’ve heard was ticking of the old clock.
I put my headphones on. As a contribution to Bram Stoker’s Festival, the Library recorded a special audio guide, where the history and the contents of the place intertwined with the reading of Bram Stoker’s story, The Judge’s House.
“It is the rope which the hangman used for the victims of the Judge’s judicial rancour,” and he went over to the corner of the fireplace and took it in his hand to look at it. There seemed a sort of deadly interest in it…”
I listened as I stood by one of the windows. White linen blinds were pulled down. I was mesmerized by the play of shadows the tree outside made as the wind swayed its branches. Just few steps away there was a cast of Stella’s skull. Stella, Jonathan Swift’s friend, muse, perhaps a lover, a wife… his sister, maybe? Theories mushroomed over the centuries. There is a ghost, the recorded voice stated confidently, that of Archbishop Marsh himself. Still looking for a letter his niece left for him in one of the books, apologizing, and explaining why she eloped with a man, without saying a word, without asking permission.

On the way out I looked at the old visitors books, displayed on pages where Bram Stoker and James Joyce signed in. Date, address, the book they requested. Time seems to stand still in this place. The massive wooden door opened again, and I was back, in the midst of the noise of traffic, church bells, fragments of people’s conversations. Next stop: Oak Room in the Mansion House, to listen to the discussion about Stoker’s health, sexuality, writing and psychological profile…

Share Button
10 Oct

my teeneage diary

brave-blog-dear-diary

My teenage diary, which I re- read recently, has a lock of my hair sellotaped to the page one. My hair before I started colouring it. Way before the first grays started emerging. I scribbled the date on the same page, next to the lock. 6th October 1985.

Pages of the small, unremarkable notebook are oozing with insecurities and teenage angst, which I could not articulate that well back then. But at the sound of any well-known tune from the eighties I am there, in my room… “I hear Dad’s car,” I’d note.”Must hide the diary!’

Reading through the dated entries felt like meeting someone after a long, long time. In many respects, that girl is not me any more, not at all. Realising what hasn’t changed, though, what I carried as a constant through the years that followed, was even more striking.

“I am having trouble reading Pearl Buck’s The Three Daughters of Madame Liang.” I wrote. “I am inspired by each description, each sentence, so much so that I must put the book down and start writing something of my own. Then I say to myself it’s all pointless and stupid, and I stop.”

Wish I still had some of my scribblings, wish I kept at it!
As yet another autumn day is drawing to a close, leaving you with my thirteen year old self describing, a tad bit morbidly, the season we’re in…

“Clad in crimson and yellow robe, a woman smiles triumphantly as she kills the summer and watches the blood pour down the vineyards into the cellars.”

Share Button
07 Oct

departures

10353167_10152477892068823_3582874824594611337_n

Young girl sitting beside me in the waiting area at Zadar Airport starts a conversation. She never flew before, she tells me, and she doesn’t know what she is supposed to do. So I explain to her about the check in and security.
It is 4 am, it would be another hour or so before the queues form, so we remain seated and chat for another while.
She is leaving Croatia. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do in Dublin yet, but she’ll stay with some friends for a little while and figure out the rest from there. A big day for you today, I say. She smiles back nervously.
Excitement, fear and hope, I could see it all. Twelve years ago, I was her, leaving home and everything I knew. Hope she will have someone to tell her that Eimear is in fact a female name, to point where The Stiletto in the Ghetto is, explain what “culchie” means and what the rules of hurling are.
She went out for a cigarette, and I thought, looking out, in the ungodly hour of 4.30 am, wow, a new life, new dawn. Hope she does well.

Share Button