Tag Archives: the gathering

Open House – ‘Come in, come in, come in..’

First Day

Saturday started warm and sunny and, thankfully, stayed that way. It was a perfect day for Open House events and I decided to ‘stay local’ and visit two buildings in  Rathfarnham. Both of these were on the interesting and informative double-sided poster, which has already turned into a ‘collector’s item’. Well done to its designers, as I am sure that it played its part in attracting many visitors who were willing to ‘check things out’ and, as a result, enjoy spaces not usually open to them.

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Ballyroan Library 2013

Having decided to avoid the inevitable crowds in town, I went, firstly, to see the recently opened Ballyroan Library. As a card-carrying member I was delighted to  see the  ‘new’  library, and it does not disappoint. The old building which I remembered fondly was long gone, and there now stood a modern, clear-lined building that was officially opened in April this year. A tall atrium is the centre of the building with study rooms, offices, bookshelves, gallery and other community spaces leading from it. It is very popular with users and it was recognised in the Irish Architecture Awards when it won Best Public Building 2013. (Architects/Designers: Box Architecture.)

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Padraig Pearse & Tricolour

Next on my list was St Enda’s. This is the old building where Padraig Pearse opened his school in 1910, determined to give pupils a broader and more balanced education. He had spent time in  Belgium, liked the way pupils were taught bilingually and decided to adopt this teaching method in Ireland. It was popular and the school attracted many students. However, with Pearse’s growing involvement in republican matters, the school inevitably suffered. After he and his brother Willie, along with Thomas McDonagh (a teacher and signatory of the Proclamation of Independence) were executed for the part in the Easter Rising the school went into decline. It was run, for a time by their mother who with the influx of funds after the executions was able to buy the property.  However, due to the falling numbers of pupils the school closed its doors for the last time in 1935. After Pearse’s sister (Margaret Mary Pearse) died in 1968 ownership of the property was transferred to the State. Recently, the building has been extensively renovated with many of the rooms now on show as they were in Pearse’s time, namely; his study, the sitting-room, art gallery (with a number of sculptures by Willie Pearse) and a pupils’ dormitory. A large timber block upon which Robert Emmet was decapitated is an interesting, if little publicised, item of historical interest. Outside, the gardens, paths and bubbling fountain are a perfect place for a walk and quiet reflection. It’s a hidden gem!

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St Enda’s & gardens

Second Day

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Buoy, oh buoy, oh buoy….

The sun was not as obliging today, but it was still very mild and just right for trip to the sea. I headed to Dun Laoghaire and to a building that I have passed by on countless  occasions, but never entered. The Headquarters of the Commissioners of Irish Lights building is a real eye catcher and was well worth the visit. Designed by the Dublin architects Scott Tallon Walker the building resembles a lighthouse, showing the essence of the organisation. Inside, the large amount of glass gives  a sense of lightness and it feels as if the place is floating on the sea. The almost 360-degree views are spectacular, none more so than those from the Board Room. The uninterrupted view across Dublin Bay was memorable! The central staircase twists like a double-helix DNA molecule, and everywhere gives the feeling of being at the cutting edge. The fifty minute tour with our guide  Rory (yes, he works there!) was very informative, and it was an Open House event I am glad to have attended. Put it in your diary for next year!

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Building or spaceship: a must-see!

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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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Let’s Get Together!

Hi there,

And I hope that you had a Merry Christmas and that the new year will be good for you. After all that doom and gloom with the ‘expected’ end of the world  on Dec 21st, it’s time we had a good year and shake off all those ‘negative vibes’ that have been dominating us for too long. As someone said to me the other day in Dublin – ‘Make it be, in One-3’ and I could only smile a response at its simple, poetic rhythm. So that’s my mantra for the next twelve months – it’s certainly better many others out there!

PS – On Christmas Morning I had a brisk walk in Sanycove (Co. Dublin) and it blew away, out into the Irish Sea at least,  any cobwebs that had been hanging on. In the photo (below) is the circular James Joyce Museum where his most famous book Ulysses begins, and is a ‘must see’ for all Joyceans visiting Ireland. The museum was one of many so-called Martello Towers, built in the early 1800s to guard against a possible invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte’s navy which, thankfully, never came. Phew!

Christmas morining - and it's bright & brisk!

Christmas morining – and it’s bright & brisk!

This year is the year of The Gathering, when Irish people from far and wide, are welcomed ‘home’ and there are many, many events planned. It should be a brilliant time and no doubt  ‘it’ll be great craic’. A year is a long time to party, talk and get to know people, and if anyone can do then the Irish can – see you there!

So, you know what to do – ‘Make it be, in One-3’,

Slan

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Dublin Book Festival

Hi there,

I attended a couple of events at the recent Dublin Book Festival in the Smock Alley Theatre and both were well attended and very interesting. The festival, which ran for six days, has been a great success (according to busy staff! ) with writers from home and abroad involved in readings and interviews. The friendly, casual atmosphere was also a great opportunity to speak with authors and get books signed. I managed to speak with John Givens (one of the authors reading his work in ‘A Medley of Stories’) about his story set in Japan and he was very approachable and happy to talk.

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Bookshelf

The reading was held in the Banquet Hall which is a beautiful space that has been renovated to its former glory. The old building is celebrating its 350th anniversary and the bright, winter sun really brought the tall, stained-glass windows to life. If you are in town then a visit to see Ireland’s first great theatre is a rewarding experience. Put it on your list of ‘things to do’ in Dublin.

For a short story writer like myself, the interview conducted by Eithne Shortall (Chief Arts Writer for the Sunday Times Ireland) with three of its leading exponents was very informative and entertaining. This was held in the main theatre, which with its bench seating (and soft cushions, thankfully!) and fine acoustics, was how I hoped it might be – and it didn’t disappoint. It was a lively discussion with plenty of light moments and I came away with some interesting ideas – food for thought.

The Festival is a great part of the cultural life of the city, and as book festivals go they definitely ‘got it right’ and long may it grow and prosper.

Smock Alley

Definitely in Smock Alley Theatre!

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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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Golf – now and Zen! (part 2)

Continuing my golfing journey under the guidance of my teacher, Zen Hogan, I have been practising hard and looking forward to my next lesson.

Wilson Golf Clubs

My Wilson Golf Clubs

Zen Hogan & the Arc of a Drive r – Part 2

 

After my first meeting with Zen Hogan I was keen to learn and Dad was happy to give me his old clubs. They were Wilson ProStaff and he had used them for years, and kept them in really good condition. ‘Treat them well and they will treat you well,’ he often said as I watched him cleaning and adding a little oil to prevent corrosion. It was a useful lesson and one I appreciated when I took a club into the back garden and practised with it. It looked great; the grip firm and holding and the blade and grooves clean and ready for action. The steel shaft glinted in the sunlight, and I knew when I swung it easily back and forth that I had to do justice to this beautiful club. I wasn’t so sure about feeling some kind of ‘oneness’ as Zen had talked about, but there was definitely something that intrigued me. And I wanted to know more.

I watched some videos that Dad had bought and stood in front of the television and copied the stance and movement of the instructors. The low ceiling prevented any swinging of clubs and I had to go into the garden to practise what I had just seen. I swung back and then forward and tried to feel what was happening. It was interesting but I knew I had a long way to go and looked forward to my next lesson and maybe hitting some balls.

‘That’s looking pretty good,’ said Dad who had come home and was watching me from the kitchen.

‘Thanks,’ I replied.

‘Looks like the beginnings of a swing,’ he added.

‘A thing of beauty,’ I said grinning.

‘I’m not sure about that just yet…but definitely a thing,’ he said and left it at that. He wasn’t one for false praise and I knew that he was happy seeing me practise. ‘Keep at it, son, you’re doing fine.’

I nodded and went back to work wondering all the while what Zen was going to say.

 Zen and I walked to the practise range which, thankfully for me, was empty. ‘I hear that you’ve been practising,’ he said ‘let me see what you’ve got.’

I’m not one to get nervous, usually, but as I reached for my eight-iron I could feel my heart speed up and my breath got tighter. He never said a word but stepped back, and waited.

All the confidence that I had brought with me from the practise in the garden seemed to disappear and I made an ugly, rushed swing. I lost my balance and finished by almost falling forward like some unsteady drunk. It was embarrassing and my only saving grace was that there was no ball involved. It probably wouldn’t have mattered as far as the ball was concerned, as I no doubt would have missed by a country mile. It was horrible and I wondered why fate had conspired to play such a trick on me, and especially in front of Zen.

‘Try again,’ he said calmly ‘and relax. It’s the most important thing to do. Swinging the club and hitting the ball are indeed vital, but if you are not relaxed then nothing can be achieved. Absolutely nothing,’ he added and those words were meant to stick.

I nodded and deep down felt as though I had been let in on some secret. My swing, if that’s what you call it, had been so bad that I expected Zen to turn around and leave me to it. But no, he took out my driver and after a few gentle practise swings swung effortlessly and finished perfectly poised like a ballerina. I marvelled yet again at his easy grace and wondered if I could ever get close to being like that. It was a pipe dream, of course, but something that looked so good I was willing to put in some work to see how far I could go.

‘Let me see your grip,’ Zen said and reached down to see my hands.

My hands moved back and forth as he moved the club. ‘You grip the club too hard,’ said ‘it’s much too strong. When you do that you cannot feel the club as anything other than a weapon in your hands and not an extension.’ He pulled the club but I did not it go.

‘Extension, what do you mean?’

He grinned and shook his head. ‘Last time I said that the swing is about a ‘oneness’ – do you remember?’

‘Yes,’ I replied, the word thick in my dry throat.

‘Well, it seems that you have not appreciated what I meant. And what I mean is this’ he added ‘is that you and the club need to work together otherwise you have no chance.’

What was he talking about? ‘I was working with the club,’ I said but not sure it that was the answer.

‘Of course you were, but not the way you should. You need to hold it, of course, but not strangle it like you did. Doing that means that your focus is on holding the club tightly and not on swinging it correctly. You cannot do both things.’

I was flummoxed. ‘Can you show me, please?’

Zen stepped closer and rested the club in his palms and then wrapped his fingers carefully around the grip. ‘Now pull it away from me,’ he said.  

I grabbed the club and pulled it free.

‘You see, now. I was not able to do that when you held the club. It was too strong and most importantly lacked feel.’

‘Feel?’

‘Yes, feel. Just like the feeling in your fingertips you should be able to feel the club at all times. Then it’s an extension of your hand and this, believe me, is what you need to get. Ok?’

I could feel my grip loosen and how much better it felt. Yes, I did believe and watched as Zen took a few more swings, each one a copy of the one before and each one a thing of beauty.

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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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