Seamus Heaney at Sandymount Strand
The middle of June and, thankfully for a change, the weather was bright and warm. It was Bloomsday and I decided to sample the atmosphere at the James Joyce Museum in Sandycove. Outside the famed Martello Tower, where Joyce stayed for a short time and which features in the opening pages of Ulysses, was a colourful scene. Many people were dressed in the Edwardian period style, and lively talk, laughter and compliments filled the air. I went inside, bought a few postcards, and asked the assistant if he would put the Museum’s stamp on them, and on my copy of Joyce’s book. He flicked open the cover and with a quick downward push pressed the unique stamp. I was delighted to have my book dated, but sadly not signed, of course, at the ‘the source’.
A little later I was walking home and went into the local shop and surprise, surprise who did I meet but Seamus Heaney who was folding a copy of the Irish Times under his arm. I stuck out my hand. ‘Happy Bloomsday,’ I said and we shook hands. He was on his way to a Bloomsday celebration and noticed my book. I told him about the stamp and when I asked him if he would sign it for me, he smiled and the cover was flicked open, again. He handed it back to me and headed for the door. ‘Happy Bloomsday,’ he said and it most certainly was. Thanks for the memory Seamus.
Ulysses – signed by Seamus Heaney
The weather obliged, thankfully, permitting many to dress in Edwardian-period clothes and brighten up events. From early on people gathered for a breakfast of mutton kidneys in various restaurants and pubs, before starting to make their way along the route set-out in James Joyce’s Ulysses. The celebration of one of the most famous days in literature has grown from a tiny beginning in 1954 to become a worldwide event. From Auckland to Arklow, Sydney to Skibbereen and New York to Nenagh groups arranged events to remember the great writer, something that is growing with each passing year.
Outside Sweny’s Pharmacy
Hats, hats, everywhere…
Around one o’clock I met a few friends and we made our way to Sweny’s Pharmacy on Lincoln Place. The place was packed with a babel of accents filling the tiny, time-warped pharmacy. The strong smell of lemon soap wafted onto the street where a large crowd gathered to hear Shane Egan reading The Bloomsday Boys. Having written the short story, I was delighted to see and hear it performed in Dublin on the big day, and Shane certainly did it justice. His strong, clear projection brought the story to life as he moved about the packed pavement. He was dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie and, of course, a black bowler hat – his image neat and convincing. The crowd listened in rapt attention as Shane began; then laughed at the antics of the characters in the story, before breaking into a rousing version of Cockles & Mussels at the end. I was absolutely thrilled with the performance, and I’d like to think that JJ himself would have approved, and tipped his hat in acknowledgement. It was, indeed, a great Blooming day!
Me & Shane
Well, after much effort my book is finally finished. Needless to say there were some issues that had to be addressed, and, thankfully, they are all now resolved. The finishing process just never seemed to end – it was quite an eye-opener. Click on the image below for a preview of the ebook.
Now it’s time for the next project.
Bloomsday: The city is gearing up for the annual celebration of all things Joycean. There are many events on around the place, and we’re all hoping for some good weather. The James Joyce Centre has plenty on offer, as does Sweny’s Pharmacy which is always lively and well worth a visit. And don’t forget to buy a bar of the famous lemon soap! But whatever you’re doing, have a great day and raise a glass to Jimmy.
Trinity College – front gate
Check out the video below for a quick look at some of the places and people featured in the ebook.
Of all the areas of Dublin mentioned by James Joyce in Ulysses, Sandymount
Paddy Dignam’s House
features prominently. He was familiar with the neighbourhood having lived there for a short time on Strand Road and nearby Shelbourne Road. At a recent lecture, that was part of National Heritage Week (sponsored by Sandymount Tidy Towns committee), Rodney Devitt, an erudite and entertaining host, put ‘flesh on the bones’ about the area’s appearance within the book with readings and appropriate photographs. His delivery was clear and his interest and passion for the topic made it all the more enjoyable. After the lecture we set off on a walk that took in the various places of interest. Firstly, we came to 9, Newbridge Avenue where Paddy Dignam lived. He has died due to alcoholic excess and Leopold Bloom and other mourners board a carriage and head for Glasnevin Cemetary (Episode 6, Hades). Further on we came to Sandymount Strand which features twice. In Episode 3, Proteus, Stephen Dedalus walks on the beach and ponders life and much more besides. When we pass many people are doing something similar on this pleasant evening, and out to sea the sun is a magnificent, giant orange ball slowly sinking into Dublin Bay. Later in the book (Episode 13, Nausicaa) Bloom finds himself sitting on rocks observing a young woman, Gertie McDowell, and fantasises about her. This scene caused great controversy, particularly in America, where the editors of The Little Review were convicted of obscenity. It was not until 1932, ten years after its release, that a US court delared Ulyssesnon-obscene. No such shenaniagns took place as we walked by, phew, but two boys did get quite excited when they got their colourful kite flying high. I wonder what Mr Bloom would have thought?
Sandymount Strand in the sunshine – beautiful!
What a fabulous sky – such blueness. This is a photo taken on Sandymount Strand a while ago, and most definitely, not inthe last week. The weather has been only so-so and sometimes downright abysmal that the thought of a such a blue sky is almost painful. It’s so long since we’ve had one that we in danger of having to refer to images and memories for a fix. But not so long ago I took some video (on my phone) and you can see what a nice place it is. It was along these sands that Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s book Ulysses (Episode 3, Proteus) walks early on Bloomsday and ponders life and the material world, just as strollers and joggers do each day.
I was in Sweny’s Chemist recently and the smell of lemon soap was strong and wonderful. In James Joyce’s most famous book, Ulysses, the main character, Leopold Bloom, enters the old shop and buys a bar of lemon soap and carries it in his pocket like a talisman throughout the day (now celebrated worldwide as Bloomsday, June 16). Although no longer a chemist shop, you can still buy a bar of lemon soap and sample the atmosphere that Joyce and his contemporaries were familiar with. The shop is unchanged and is a ‘must see’ for all Joycean fans. And for those not so literary specific it is a great chance to open the front door and step back in time. The fittings, glass jars and many uncollected prescriptions give the place an air of authenticity that is unique and memorable. Readings of Joyce’s books are held each week and are free and open to visitors – enjoy!