Tag Archives: flann o’brien

Flann’s Your Only Man!

The craic house

The craic house

Well, it’s that time again, thankfully, and fans of the great wordsmith will be gathering once more to celebrate his wit and wisdom in The Palace Bar. It’s the perfect place for such an occasion and this year the day has pushed back to Easter Monday – April 2nd – but that will not in any way dampen the fun. It’s a great day where fans read, recite and sing from his extensive canon of words and a lively time is had by all. I have been to a few such days and I can only say that it’s one of the best and most friendly ways to spend an afternoon, or later as I vaguely remember. You know what I mean. So, if you are in town, why not drop in and enjoy the craic – see you there. Slainte.

I think The Third Policeman should see this....

I think The Third Policeman should see this….

 

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Bloomsday – Where It All Begins

June 16th is unique in literature in that it actually has a day named after it. Now known the world over as Bloomsday, it  is named after the main character Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s most famous work Ulysses. And the date was deliberately chosen by the author as it was on this day in 1904 that he and Nora Barnacle, his future lover and wife, went on their first date. By the following October she would leave Dublin and accompany him to France, where they struggled for many years until his eventual breakthrough and international recognition.

Martello Tower, Sandycove - where it all began

Martello Tower, Sandycove – where it all begins

Joyce had stayed in the Martello Tower, in Sandycove, with his friend Oliver St Gogarty (who had rented the building) for a short time before leaving hurriedly after a gun was fired late one night. However, he chose to set the opening scene of his book in the building and Gogarty (as Buck Mulligan) is immortalised in the first line:

Stately, plumb Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

A view north from the roof

A view north, to Dublin city, from the roof

The tower was one of many erected along the coast in preparation for an invasion by Napoleon’s forces. However, after Admiral Horatio Nelson (he of Nelson’s Pillar fame) defeated the French navy at the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st October 1805, the threat was extinguished. Many of the towers were subsequently sold off while others were left unattended and remain derelict to this day. The tower at Sandycove was maintained in good condition when Gogarty rented it in the early summer of 1904. Today, it houses the James Joyce Tower & Museum which is a ‘must-see’ for all Joycean fans and those interested in literary history. There is a fabulous collection of items, including; an original copy of Ulysses, many of Joyce’s notebooks and a vinyl recording of his voice! Up the narrow stairs the space has been remodelled with table, chairs and various contemporaneous items showing the living space as Gogarty and Joyce would have known it. Outside, there is Joyce’s death mask  and a guitar that he was fond of playing. Up the last flight of steps to the roof (from the stairhead..) you have the wonderful panorama of Dublin Bay, the coast northwards to Dublin City, leading you around to the mountains to the south-west. On a clear day it is spectacular and, not surprisingly, very popular with photographers.

Main Room - 1904 style

Main Room – 1904 style

Celebrating Bloomsday has become big business and events are now held in many cities around the world that have Joyce’s works to an ever increasing audience. However, the first Bloomsday celebrations on it’s 50th anniversary in 1954 (see short silent clip below) were rather prosaic by today’s standards, and involved a number of Dublin’s literati and two horse-drawn carriages.

The group: John Ryan (owner of The Bailey pub and founder of Envoy art magazine), Flann O’Brien, Anthony Cronin, Patrick Kavanagh, Tom Joyce (a cousin) and AJ Leventhal (Registrar of Trinity College) had planned a ‘pilgrimage’ along the circuitous route set out in the book. However, after a number of stops for ‘refreshments’ the adventure was abandoned due to ‘inebriation and rancour’ and they retired wistfully to The Bailey (on Duke Street).

Bloomsday's first Pilgrims: JR, AC, FO'B, PK, TJ

Bloomsday’s first Pilgrims: JR, AC, FO’B, PK, TJ

You may very well see some horse-drawn carriages on the big day but as to whether they will be ferrying such an illustrious group, well, I guess that you will just have to wait and see – and then you may have an interesting story to tell.  Happy Bloomsday!

 

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Guinness – A Dublin legend

What a deal!

What a deal!

Synonymous is defined as ‘having or expressing the same idea’ and Guinness has most certainly been that with Dublin for over 250 years.
On the 31st December 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease, at   £45 per year, for the 4-acre Rainsford brewery at St James’s Gate that had been on the market for almost ten years. The brewery now covers an area in excess of 60 acres, and having bought the original property the long-term lease is now redundant. A copy of the lease can be seen under glass on the floor of the atrium of the Guinness Storehouse.
Guinness is one of the most successful brands in the world, and is brewed in 60 countries and available in more than 120. Recent figures show annual sales of 850 million litres (1.5 billion pints!) and that is a long way from 1769 when Arthur first export of six-and-a-half barrels to Britain. Soon afterwards, in 1778, he started selling his dark beer. The most famous, porter or single stout (sometimes called ‘plain’), is remembered in Flann O’Brien’s The Workman’s Friend as ‘A pint of plain is your only man.’

That says it all!

That says it all!

Famous for its advertising campaigns that gave us ‘My Goodness, My Guinness’, and ‘Guinness is Good For You’ the opening of the Guinness Storehouse in December 2000 offers a unique experience that has made it Ireland’s top visitor attraction. Housed in the former fermentation plant the seven-storey building was the first multi-storey steel-framed construction in Ireland when it was completed in 1902. It surrounds a glass atrium that is shaped like a giant pint of Guinness. And on each floor visitors can learn about the history of Guinness; details of Arthur’s life; brewing; transport and, of course, advertising. There are numerous interactive exhibitions that really bring the ‘story of Guinness’ to life. You can even learn how to ‘pull the perfect pint’.
On the top floor, or ‘Seventh Heaven,’ is the famous Gravity Bar with its 360 degrees view over Dublin. It’s a wonderful way to end a visit, and by the noise and chatter I heard while sipping a pint it was easy to understand its popularity. Same again!

Ah, the Black Stuff - magic!

Ah, the Black Stuff – magic!

 

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The Bloomsday Boys

Writing short stories is fun, but deciding which ones to included in my collection was very difficult. They are all important, each having been created at different times and for different reasons. Some of them I wrote quickly, while others took much longer. This was not necessarily to do with the length of the story, but just how it came into being. There is no hard and fast rule as to how you force the issue and get a story completed, because if you do so, I find, that it’s like dragging a horse to water rather than gently leading him. The phrase ‘less is more’ seems to suggest a good way to do your work.

So, after much toing and froing, I made my selection and they take their place in The Bloomsday Boys, which is now available as an ebook on Kindle. Click the image below for preview.

The Bloomsday Boys

The Bloomsday Boys

As good luck and timing would have it, I finished the book just before Bloomsday and the title story was read outside Sweny’s Pharmacy on the ‘big day’ by Shane Egan – and he did a mighty fine job.  The video below shows him in full flow, and some interesting pictures inside Sweny’s and of Bloomsday revellers dressed in appropriate, Joycean attire!

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MylesDay – it’s your only man!

Hello there,

It’s an odd thing but Myles na gCopaleen (Flann O’Brien) the great comic genius passed away on April 1st, 1966. I’m sure that if he had a choice as to which day of the year to ‘leave the stage’ then April’s Fool Day would be just about perfect.  Ah, what timing!

The Palace Bar

The Palace Bar

This year was the third annual celebration of his passing, and appropriately enough for such literary royalty, it was  held in The Palace Bar, Fleet Street, Dublin. The place was packed long before proceedings were due to begin, and the buzz of excitement was palpable. Many pints (‘A pint of plain is your only man!’) were drunk in a pub that the great man was familiar with, and much laughter and lively repartee filled the air. It was a great success with over twenty acts partaking in reading and performing works by Myles, some of which were truly hilarious. For those familiar with the works it was great fun, and for Myles’s virgins food for thought and ‘someone to find out about’.

Flann the Man & Joycer

Flann the Man & Joycer

I had the pleasure of meeting and taking a photograph of Myles and James Joyce, honestly, and they are both looking well – must have something to do with the consumption of Guinness and all the little molecules in it! Check out more about the event at the official website: MylesDay

Slainte – ’til next year!

 

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Dublin – Walking With Words 1

What is the world’s tallest sculpture?

Well you might be surprised to know that it is The Monument of Light (better known as The Spire) on O’Connell Street, Dublin. It’s just one little gem of information that I found when I was researching my e-book ‘Dublin – Walking With Words’ which will be available in May/June!

Walking With Words - front cover

Trinity College – front entrance

The guide covers Dublin, and in it you meet many of its most famous sons and daughters and hear what the city meant to them – in their own Words. It takes you on a stroll through its history where you meet James Joyce, WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Elizabeth Bowen, Phil Lynott, Molly Malone and many others. You will find out where they lived and worked, and how the city influenced them in their artistic endeavors. Whether it was in the Georgian heartland of Merrion Square, along the Grand Canal, Trinity College or some favourite watering-hole, all these places have a story to tell, and with photographs and maps they are brought to life.

The guide is divided into five sections, each one taking about fifty minutes to complete – depending, of course, on how long you may decide to linger in some friendly pub or restaurant and enjoy the atmosphere!

So, if you have a little time in Dublin and wish to ‘get to know the place’ better than some of the locals, then put on your comfortable shoes and ‘Walk the Walk’.  (Check out the video below for a preview of your ‘Walk‘. I am very thankful to Derek Gleeson for his kind permission to use his composition as a soundtrack.)

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Flann – Yer Only Man!

Anne & ‘Flann’

It’s not often that you can get a chance to meet one of your heroes, but Val O’Donnell’s one-man show about the life and times of Flann O’Brien was pretty close.  His performance in the United Arts Club was informative, lively and throughly entertaining. The setting, in a large upstairs room, had the feeling of an evening in a friendly parlour, would definitely have met with the great man’s approval. And as it happened, his sister-in-law Anne O’Nuallain was in attendance, lending an air of authenticity and continuation to proceedings. After his introduction ‘Flann’ entered the room with a bicycle pump (think The Third Policeman!), a few books under his arm…and, of course, a pint of Guinness. As theatrical props go it has to be the best ever – slainte. Dressed in a black, three-piece suit and the obligatory black hat, ‘Flann’ looked the part and gave a wonderful performance that had the audience grinning and laughing out loud at some of the stories. We heard about O’Brien’s early life, college days and work in the Department of Local Government from where he was forced to leave in 1953.

‘Flann’ & Bicycle Pump!

This was due to his barely veiled observation of his boss who demanded his early dismissal. He had published his first book, At Swim-Two-Birds,  in 1939 to great critical acclaim. It was praised by the great British writer, Graham Greene,  who recommended it to hs publishers, Longmans. James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Dylan Thomas, among others, thought highly of it, but sadly, it never made the mainstream breakthrough that his writing has since done. ‘Flann’ recited pieces from various books, The Dalkey Archive, The Hard Life,  his Irish Times column An Cruiskeen Lawnand other satirical work. They were challenging at the time of their writing (part of the reason why they never received the acclaim they deserved) and still have a resonance today. Altogether it was a tour-de-force and left me (and others, no doubt) wondering where my Flann O’Brien books were and that I should really dip into them again. Just before he finished ‘Flann’ recited with perfect rhythm and feeling what is probably O’Brien’s most famous piece The Workman’s Friend, otherwise known as A Pint Of Plain Is Yer Only Man, and if you closed your eyes for a moment you could almost feel that the great man was in the room.  A special night – I’ll drink to that.

‘Flann’ & Don

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