Category Archives: trinity college

The Write Men

Behind the curtain, he moves like a swan

The crowd is silent, all chitchat gone

Everything is ready

Sam’s rock steady

Lights, camera, action ‘Right, I’ll go on’

In memory of Samuel Beckett, born 13 April 1906

Samuel Beckett

*

Closer now, to that further shore

The wind is up, blowing hard once more

Sea spray does caress

A magical largesse

Feeding mind and body, deep to the core

In memory of Seamus Heaney, born 13 April 1939

Seamus Heaney

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Filed under Art, Dublin, History, Ireland, poetry, Sandymount Strand, trinity college

Jonathan Swift – A Wordy Man

A writer of letters, was St Patrick’s famed Dean

And of poetry, pamphlets, you know what I mean

His Letter from a Drapier

Like the blade of a rapier

Cut to the bone, as he vented his spleen

Gulliver's chillin'

Lemuel Gulliver – float on!

His most famous work was Gulliver’s Travels

To Lilliput, Laputa and many, crazy hassles

The Yahoos were crude

Oh how he was screwed

Gotta go now, can’t be somebody’s vassal

Jonathan Swift - wit, poet and Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral

Jonathan Swift – wit, poet and Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral

Late in his life, Frideric Handel came to find

Musicians and singers, of a very special kind

His Messiah was a treat

Swift tapping his feet

At the feast of music, for body and mind

Messiah – 13 April 2007

Writing clever satire, now there’s the rub

None better however, than A Tale of a Tub

Stylistically inventive

Now, please be attentive

For after all is considered, he’s a real Dub!

***********************************************************

Dedicated to Jonathan Swift who was born on 30th November 1667

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Filed under Art, classical music, Dublin, History, Ireland, trinity college

Oscar Wilde – A Man of Importance

He was the Happy Prince, from Westland Row

A writer of words, that continue to glow

From Earnest to Gray

To another great play

No better person, to put on a fine show

A man of Importance, and wonderful wit

The Ideal partner, with whom to sit

Of art a Fan

What a clever man

His piece on the Husband, a joyous skit

From the peak of success, to a soulless Gaol

His spirits burned bright, they did not fail

With absinthe of hate

He beat the dire fate

In De Profundis he penned, a heartfelt tale

After years in Reading, to beaux France exiled

Where on his last work, he painfully toiled

Dying beyond my means’

One clearly gleans

A star to the end, the one-and-only Oscar Wilde

This is my poetic, birthday tribute to Oscar Wilde who was born at 21 Westland Row, Dublin on 16th October 1854.

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Filed under Art, Dublin, History, Humour, Ireland, London, trinity college

One Good Turn

Parliament Square was bright and lively, with tourists queuing for a guided tour of the college, as I passed by and made my way to the Examination Hall. It was a wonderful spring day and I was looking forward to the annual Trinity College book sale that always had a place in my diary. The three-day event had been held for more than thirty years and most bookworms considered it the best in town, an observation that I wholeheartedly agreed with.

Jonathan Swift - wordsmith

Jonathan Swift – wordsmith

The old building, dating from 1785, is normally a place of quiet endeavour but not when the book sale is in progress. The black and white tiled floor gives it the appearance of a giant chessboard upon which hunters moved forwards, backwards, sideways before stopping and browsing. Looking down on the proceedings were the paintings of famous alumni, including the philosopher Bishop Berkeley and Jonathan Swift, men who knew a thing or two about writing.

And listening to the hub-bub of activity as I stepped into the big room I suspected that those former students would have liked to have a ‘look around’ and see if they spotted a bargain. That was why I was here, and with books set out on tables stretching the length of the room, there was something for everyone. I took out the small, cloth bag that I had in my pocket and gently eased past some book hunters. I was ready to rummage.

There was an air of intense activity in the room and the sound of cardboard boxes stuffed with books being pushed along the floor by hunters was something unique to this book sale. The muted tones of friends discussing ‘finds’ added to the excitement that was a feature of the event. By the time I left the Biography table I had my first book, The Life of Jonathan Swift, and I wondered what he thought of it as I glanced up at his painting.

Moments after I began searching on the next table I felt a hand on my shoulder. ‘Hi, is that the first on many?’ Ed said looking into my bag.

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘and I’m glad that you made it.’

‘I wouldn’t miss it for world.’

‘And there’s so much on offer this year…it’s crazy.’

‘Sure is, and I’m going to check out the Engineering and Architecture tables first. I got a couple of gems here last year, so let’s see if my luck continues.’

‘Right, you do what you have to do and I’ll see you outside afterwards, ok? Otherwise I’d be cramping your style, and you don’t want that.’

Ed frowned. ‘Never. I mean this is important, sacred work, and best done on one’s own.’

‘Spoken like a true believer,’ I said and Ed winked before turning and getting lost among the hunters.

It was ok, and with Ed gone momentarily from sight I moved, salmon-like in the growing crowd, across the room where I spent a few minutes browsing through books on the History table.

I was bent down, running my finger along the spines of books when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, someone on the other side of the table pick up a book that I had wanted to get for years. I knew from the cover that it was an early edition of Frederick Forsyth’s classic novel The Day of the Jackal, and I didn’t take my eyes from it. The guy flicked through it and I was hoping against hope that he would not take it. After about thirty seconds, a lifetime as far as I was concerned, he weighed up his options and finally put it down and moved away. I immediately leaned over and picked it up, my inner magpie at work. It was the ‘find of the day’ and I happily dropped it into my bag.

After about fifty minutes, and having browsed my way around all the tables, I joined the queue where hunters were paying for their finds. The guy in front of me nudged a cardboard box full of books toward the cashier’s table, and I reckoned that after he had worked his way through them he would be one of the best read people in Dublin.

He spotted me looking at his trove, and grinned. ‘It’s great. I’ve enough to last me for a year.’

‘I can see that, and I hope that you’re a fast reader,’ I replied, and we both laughed.

When it was my turn to pay I put my books on the cashier’s table and she calculated what I owed. ‘That’s six euro,’ she said.

I paid and put the books back into my bag. ‘It looks and sounds like you’re busy,’ I said.

The cashier nodded her head. ‘We are, and it’s as busy as I’ve ever seen it. The good weather certainly helps…and there’s still another day to go.’

‘And do you have enough books?’

That got a raised eyebrow. ‘You have no idea how many books there are in the adjoining rooms.’ She looked across the moving crowd. ‘There are boxes in there stacked six feet high…it’s amazing.’

‘That’s good to know, and thank you for these.’

‘You’re welcome.’

I was about to move away when a hand, holding a book, came from behind me and a voice said to the cashier. ‘How much is this, please? I’ve left my spectacles at work and I can’t read the price.’

The cashier opened the cover. ‘It’s one euro.’

‘And can I pay with a credit card?’ said the woman who I had turned to look at.

‘No, it’s cash only, I’m afraid.’

The woman beside me paused for a long moment. ‘Ah, I was looking forward to reading this…’

‘I’m sorry,’ said the cashier.

The woman was disappointed and she couldn’t hide the look. Having come to find a particular book and not be able to buy it, I understood what she was feeling. I took a euro from my pocket and handed it to the cashier. ‘Here, I’ll buy it.’

The cashier tilted her head, smiled and gave me the book.

Then I handed it to the woman, and the look of disappointment was now one of total surprise. ‘A present, and I hope that you enjoy it.’

‘Thank you,’ she said and held my gaze for a few seconds.

‘You’re welcome. I’m Joseph.’

The woman looked at the book that she was holding firmly. ‘I don’t know what…I’m Mary,’ she said and we shook hands momentarily before she turned around and left.

I was looking at the door when Ed asked ‘So, what was that all about?’

‘I’ll tell you over coffee. Fancy going over to the restaurant?’

The Campanile

The Campanile

That was a no-brainer and we stepped into the sunshine and walked past the Campanile and the Old Library where visitors queued to see the Book of Kells, and into the restaurant where the aroma of coffee filled the air.

We got a seat, and after tucking into Danish pastries and coffee Ed asked. ‘And who was that woman at the cashier’s desk? Is there something I should know?’

I smiled. ‘No, there’s nothing you should know. Ok?’

Ed sipped his coffee.

‘But if you must know,’ I said, and told him about my brief encounter.

‘That was very good of you, well done that man. And did you get her name?’

‘Mary, and then she just…flew off.’

‘Like Mary Poppins, eh.’

I grinned, and said ‘I think she was so surprised that..’

‘She didn’t know what to say. Is that it?’

‘I guess so.’

Ed let that sink in for a moment. ‘You did Euro Lady a good turn, and there’s everything right with that.’

I liked the name he had just given the mysterious woman. ‘Whatever, and I hope that she enjoys her book, that’s all.’

‘Oh, I’m sure she will, and you never know what might happen.’

‘What are you talking about? It was just a euro.’

‘I know, but that book meant a lot to her. So, maybe you’ll get some good luck. Karma, remember?’

‘I remember,’ I replied with little conviction, and shortly afterwards we left, heading home with our finds as the sun beamed from a cloudless sky.

*

A few years later I submitted a short story to a few magazines but none of them published it. It was disappointing, so I sent it to one that I had not tried before. I hit the Send button, waved it off, and wondered if this time someone might like it.

A month later I got an email from the company saying that it was going to run my story in its next issue. I was delighted, and especially so when the sender, Kate, asked if I had any other stories that had not been published. I replied, indicating that I had two and, as I was planning to be in town later in the week, I would be happy to drop them into the office.

That would be fine, and the editor wished to speak with me when I called in. That all sounded really good and I printed off the stories and put them into a big envelope and tapped it for luck. Then I checked the company’s website and saw that the editor’s name was MK Conroy but there was no photograph or other information available. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, whoever you are,’ I said and put the kettle on.

The weather on that Friday morning in early May was bright with the first hint of summer in the air. It was clear and fresh and I held the envelope close as the bus made its way into town.

The office I was looking for was on the top floor of a building on Bachelors Walk that offered a great view onto the Liffey.

‘Kate is expecting you,’ the receptionist said before knocking on a door opposite her desk. Moments later I was led into the editor’s office, a place stuffed with magazines and books.

‘Hello, Joseph,’ said a voice to my left.

I turned to see a woman, in profile, taking a book down from a shelf. When she turned and faced me time seemed to stand still, as I recognised Euro Lady.

‘Well, it’s nice to see you again,’ she added, casually waving a book. ‘Remember this?’

‘How could I forget…it cost me a small fortune.’

She chuckled, and we sat down.

‘Hold on a moment. You told me at the book sale that your name was Mary, but the receptionist called you Kate. Do you have a twin?’

She raised a hand. ‘No, no. I’m Mary-Kate and, as there is another Mary working here, I’m called..’

‘I understand, and hence the MK on the website,’ I said and gave her the envelope.

She slid the stories out. ‘Thanks, and if these are as good as your other stories then we’ll both be happy.’

I frowned. ‘Other stories…you’ve read some of my previous ones?’

‘Of course I have. Keeping an eye on what the opposition is doing is part of being a good editor, and that’s how I found you. But you never submitted anything to us until now, so…’

I was impressed.

‘And publishing your story, which deserves to be published by the way, was my way of properly saying Thank You for what you did,’ she said glancing at the book on the desk.

Well, Mary-Kate did like my other stories, and many more since.

The way things turned out, Ed’s comment that ‘one good turn deserves another’ now seems so true. Karma, or whatever it’s called, certainly gets my vote, and I can never forget my brief encounter with the Euro Lady at the Trinity College book sale on a bright spring day that promised so much.

Book lovers - seek and you will find!

Booklovers – seek and you will find!

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Filed under Art, Dublin, History, Ireland, trinity college

Belle of the Ball

The Campanile

The Campanile

It was a photograph that triggered the memory like they so often do. As I turned the page of my newspaper I noticed the group of happy revellers as they celebrated and danced the night away at the Trinity Ball. I smiled and cast my mind back to the first time that I had been there on a warm, May night many years before.

The Ball, as everyone called it, was the best night out in Dublin, and that time Peter and I were determined to make it a night to remember. And with that in mind we invited girls that we knew only slightly – but fancied a lot. When they accepted our invitations we were walking on cloud nine, and suddenly in a desperate search for dress suits. We spent the next few days running from one dress hire shop to another but without any success. It was all getting a little nervy and panic wasn’t far away. The high demand for suits was making it impossible to get anything suitable and our big night was beginning to look in doubt. However, after many, anxious phone calls and much scratching of heads Peter’s uncle saved the day. He was part-owner of a theatre costume company and when we dropped in to see him, he put us right.

‘I still think that you boys would look better as a pair of pirates – I’ve plenty of eye-catching stuff upstairs. Want to check them out?’ he said before laughing out loud.

He’s mad, I thought, and stared at him.

‘I wouldn’t worry about him’, Peter said when we left the shop ‘he’s always like that. He loves playing games on people. He’s a real messer.’

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting and planning, the big night finally arrived. My mother said that I ‘looked the part’ while my young brother said I looked like Fred Astaire or maybe a gangster. With those thoughts in mind Peter and I went to collect the girls, with two bunches of flowers on the back seat of his dad’s car.

Bouquet for a belle

Bouquet for a belle

Jenny looked great in her long white dress and Peter was delighted when she kissed him on the cheek. A few minutes later we pulled up at Shelly’s house and I felt my heat beat a little quicker. My throat dried up as I rang the bell, and when her mother opened the front door I barely managed ‘Hello’. Her friendly smile eased my nerves, but the sight of Shelly coming down the stairs made my heart jump. She looked wonderful in a long, black dress and her blonde hair fell to her shoulders. She was fabulous, a picture that burned itself into my excited brain. I awkwardly handed her the bunch of flowers and she smiled her thanks. After a quick sniff she took one out, broke the stem off and stuck the red bloom in her hair. Suddenly she was like an exotic Spanish dancer and I beamed my approval.

Our excited chatter lasted all the way into the city where we had booked a table at Nico’s Restaurant on Dame Street. This was really pushing the financial boat out but it didn’t matter one little bit. The place was buzzing and we had a great time and lots of laughs. The night had started well, and many of the diners wished us well as we left the restaurant and walked to Trinity College where a long, noisy queue was moving slowly.

Music from the festivities reached over the old building and people were dancing and singing as the queue made its way to the gate. There was magic in the air and I felt it when Shelly put her hand in mine and we moved with the music. We swayed our way through the gate and entered a wonderland of bright lights, colourful tents, fun and music.

‘Let’s dance,’ Shelly said and we skipped off to the old Exam Hall where a band was whipping up a storm. The place was manic and I had never seen such a frenzy of excitement as the band upped the pace. It was brilliant and Shelly loved to dance – and boy could she dance! She didn’t mind my clumsy efforts and laughed when I almost fell over trying to do some fancy turn. She doubled up and a stream of happy tears shone on her face. She said it didn’t matter and that I was actually better that most of the other guys anyway.

When the band finished we left and walked about for a while taking in the sights and sounds. Across the cobble-stoned yard a disco blasted out the latest hits while inside a pink-coloured tent unsteady groups were barn dancing. Or at least that’s what it was supposed to be! Looking down on it all was the bell tower – the campanile – from where someone had tied a bicycle with its light flashing. ‘How did they do that?’ asked Shelly as we gazed up wide-eyed.

Let's swing again

Let’s swing again

‘I’ve no idea’, I replied ‘but…I’d hate to be looking for a lift home later!’

The night passed as we danced, swung and screamed on a brilliantly lit chair-o-plane, chatted to friends and watched a very adult Punch and Judy show. And before we knew it the sun was rising and the bright, colourful lights began to lose their sparkle as all around us revellers began to drift away. The music had dropped off as, arm-in-arm, Shelly and I walked across the yard and again looked up at the flashing, bicycle light. ‘Hey, it’s still winking at us.’ I said.

Shelly stopped and looked at me. ‘Yes, and thanks for a wonderful night. It’s been really great fun!’ Then she leaned close and we kissed.

‘Memories,’ I thought now, remembering Shelly, the belle of the ball, on that warm, wonderful night.

Here comes the sun...

Here comes the sun…

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Filed under Dublin, Ireland, short stories, trinity college