Monthly Archives: October 2012

Golf – now and Zen!

Part 3

 Set of golf clubs

Over the next few days I became aware that I was paying attention to things when I picked them up; my briefcase, a bag of groceries or a bottle of wine. It wasn’t just about their weight anymore as I began to ‘feel’ their existence in my fingertips. It felt as though I was developing another sense, and in a sense I suppose I was. If this was what Zen was talking about then I couldn’t wait to meet him again.

‘And how are you?’ he asked.

I wrung my fingers like a pianist about to play. ‘Good, thanks.’

He grinned. ‘I see you’ve been working – feel different.’

I nodded. ‘Sure does. I feel…better. I’m more aware now about what I have in my hand.’

‘That’s exactly what we’re trying to get, because when we do it will make swinging a club so much better.’ He sounded pleased. ‘Take a club out and let me see your grip.’

I did as he said and carefully wrapped my fingers around the grip of my eight iron. I undid my grip a few times until I was finally comfortable and swung the club easily back and forth a few times.

Zen looked at my hands. ‘Now roll your wrists – left, now right.’

Again I did what he said.

‘Well I don’t see any sign of white knuckles now….that’s an improvement.’ He quickly snatched the club out of my hands. ‘That’s better, much better.’

I was stunned and my face showed it.

‘It’s alright, don’t worry. It just proves the point that I made the last time about holding the club too firmly. If your grip is too strong you cannot really appreciate the nuances of the swing. You might as well be swinging an axe, and we both know that swinging a golf club needs more subtlety than that. Agreed?’

‘Agreed.’

We went to the driving range and with my club Zen made another beautifully, balanced swing. Could I, would I, ever be able to swing that club the way he was doing, was a thought that kept running through my mind as ball after ball fizzed into the blue and straight down the fairway. It was a dream, I knew, but one that was maybe a little closer to achieving with Zen’s guidance. He handed the club back. ‘Ok, it’s your turn.’

I was nervous, but excited.

‘Relax, breathe easily….it’s about control.’

I took a few deep breaths and slowly exhaled. I could feel my pulse slow down and gripped the club the way I had been practising for the last few days. Don’t rush it, I told myself, and looked down the fairway.

Zen smiled encouragement.

I took a last look down the fairway, exhaled and swung.

I don’t really remember what happened next but I felt the club make contact with ball which zoomed off the tee, straight down the fairway before making a big, ugly turn to the left.

‘A bit of a hook that, but otherwise pretty good,’ Zen said when he turned.

‘Thanks,’ I said, my throat suddenly as dry as a bone.

‘Yeah, that was pretty good. And how did it feel…different?’

‘Better…it felt much better.’

‘Excellent, I think I might make a golfer out of you yet.’

It was my turn to smile.

‘What many people do not realise is that in order to play this game properly they have to unlearn certain things.’

Unlearn, what do mean?’

‘Well, just like you have learnt to grip the club lightly in order to improve and increase your feel, that meant unlearning your old grip.’

I nodded, not certain where this was going.

‘It’s all about change and most people do not like change. They fear it and are comfortable with what they know. Others, like you, however, embrace it and grow.’ He checked his watch. ‘I’ve got to go now, but keep that idea in mind until next week.

I practised for almost an hour after Zen had left and wondered, not for the first time, was I getting instruction in golf or philosophy. I wasn’t sure, but Zen was one interesting character and I was determined to learn as much I could from him, and maybe how he got his nickname. Now that was something to think about, I said to myself, as I finally hit a ball that flew straight down the fairway. I was pleased and already looking forward to my next lesson/lecture or whatever with Zen.

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Open House Weekend

Mansion House

Mansion House

In a few short years the Open House Weekend has become something of a favourite with Dubliners and tourists alike. The fact that we can gain access to buildings, houses and offices that are normally off-limits to the general public, is a great reason to get out and about and enjoy the ‘search.’ Everywhere I went people studied maps, pointed this way and that and happily queued, cameras at the ready to snap a piece of history. There was, inevitably, lots of talk and much advice on offer as to which places to visit.

I began my walkabout with a visit to the Mansion House. The guide, a councillor and former Lord Mayor, really knew the history of the building and made the whole experience memorable. It was built by Joshua Dawson (who built many of the buildings on Dawson Street) in 1705 as his city residence, but sold it to Dublin Corporation in 1715 for £3,500! The Oak Room is lined with the crests of all the previous Lord Mayors with Daniel O’Connell’s (1841) being the first. There are many beautiful paintings in the Drawing Room where Eamonn DeValera, Michael Collins and others sat at the long table and discussed, no doubt heatedly, the division of Ireland.

A brisk walk took me to Dublin Castle where the queue for the State Rooms stretched almost around the Upper Castle Yard, and I decided it was a good idea to use my time and go elsewhere. I had not planned to visit Dublin City Hall but I’m happy that I did. Having, like many others, passed by the old place countless times, I had never given it much thought and walked on. But not today, thankfully. Formerly the Royal Exchange, built between 1769 and 1779, it has been the centre of municipal government since 1852. The building has recently been renovated to its former glory and it was well worth the visit. The rotunda was wonderful, especially when the sun shone down onto the colourfully tiled floors. And the ‘Story of the Capital’ exhibition in the basement is informative and well presented.

City Hall

City Hall

After that I walked the few yards across the cobblestones to the Rates Office. It was designed by Thomas Ivory in 1781 for the Newcommen Bank. Built of Portland Stone, in the style of John Adams, it was altered in the 19th century due to the demands for local road improvement. The renovated stairs was impressive as were the two oval offices that look down on the entrance to Dublin Castle. Eamonn Ceannt, a signatory the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a leader in the Easter Rising of 1916, worked in the City Treasurer’s Department from 1900 to 1916.

Afterwards I made my way along Dame Street, past Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, and squeezed into the lift that took me and my fellow passengers to the top of Liberty Hall. This is the tallest viewing area in the city and has been off limits for years. Built in 1965, the view from the roof terrace of what was Ireland’s first skyscraper was a real thrill, and I took the rare opportunity to click away at the panorama on offer. The Liffey sparkled as it snaked its way eastwards to the sea under the new bridges that have added hugely to the architectural landscape. To the west, the city spread out towards the Dublin Mountains, and the backdrop of a blue sky and puffy, white clouds was something special. Open House Weekends are fun and, hopefully, here to stay.

Atop Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall – what a view!

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