A driving tour of
England, must be fecking mad. Too many cars, too many people, too many roads,
the car's too small, the towns are shitty, and the momentary flashes of green
between the towns are not worth it, and the place is full of English people.
And we have eleven days to go of it. Hate this.
And, apparently, the deers in the park are 'dangerous'. What do they do? Bite?
Kick? Sit on your head? Carry switch blades?
The house is good
though, the kids are given puzzles to solve as a means of touring the house.
It's smart. Beginning with the statue of the reclining tart, and gets better
Chartwell. Home of that bastard Churchill.
First time I've ever seen a Nobel Prize for real, though.
Chiddingstone. A National Trust Town. And the pen I'm using is probably certified
by the National Trust too. And Liam's taking a National Trust Piss behind the
National Trust Church.
but the white garden is worth getting wet for.
Batemans, Kipling's House.
I'm glad Liam
did some secret, illegal, filming of Kipling's study. It's brilliant, but there's
something about Rudyard Kipling that just gets right up my nose. All the Akela's
and Kim's and Mowgli's and Kaa's and all that Cubbie and Scoutie stuff that
I have a totally unreasonable but passionate hatred for, and all his 'be a man,
son' exhortations. All that camping out in the wilds, all that Being Prepared,
and that tying knots, and only using one match. Wonder if he exhorted his son
to be a man and join up, and wonder if the ol' RK kept the tears back, like
a man, when the boy got killed, like a man.
And tea in a Starburger, as every pub in England seems to be closed on Sunday
nights, yeah, they're all off at Evening Mass or something.
The waitress who
has just brought over the £1.20 Starburger Cokes has the puckered look
of too many cigarettes, and a sad look of a few too many stories she could tell,
but, she recommends Heever Castle, "a feminine castle", where Henry
VIII courted Anne Boleyn.
on the train to London
Seems like I finally found Mecca, only to be disappointed. Bond Street. Number
50. A few things tempt. I thought they'd have everything. But they don't. The
Gow collection, a John Kirkpatrick collection, but no Michael Nyman, you have
to hire it. And the attitude of the Chappell's staff sucked. Seriously sucked.
The Nyman's are only hired by 'professionals', I'm told. How dare this little
prick assume that I'm not. Maybe I'm not as well dressed as Nigel Kennedy, but
if Nige walked in, this officious little bastard would be bum-kissing him 'til
his tongue hurt.
Yesterday, Starburger. Today, Burger Delight in Baker Street. Liam prefers the
blonde waitress, but the accent on the brunette was vaguely French.
The quickest way to get to The Tate from Tower Records (where the Soundtrack
section is probably the largest on the planet, but they don't have the soundtracks
for either 'Tank Girl' nor 'The Name of the Rose'), is on the Underground, Piccadilly.
One stop, then change, get off at Plimlico.
"Ophelia's death in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' is described
by Queen Gertrude in the following words 'There is a willow grows aslant a brook
... there with fantastic garlands she did come ... when down her weedy trophies
and herself fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide; and mermaid-like,
a-while they bore her up: which time she chanted snatches of old tunes'. "
Millais painted the background of his picture at Ewall in Surrey.
Okay, I admit it,
I love this painting. It's up there with the
great watery tarts of all time. Botticelli's Venus, Hylas
and the Nymphs, this one, and the one in the next room, Waterhouses' The Lady
of Shalott. And somewhere else are the Dali's and Magritte's and ten thousand
The last view of London was of Big Ben, disappearing as we left on the train
earlier. Probably be the last time ever, as I can't imagine ever wanting to
tour England again.
At some time today,
we would have come close to the Albert Bridge, or more specifically, close to
the hallowed ground where the cover of The Pogues Misty
Morning, Albert Bridge was photographed.
I think this place is called Petersfield, it's between Chichester and Winchester.
Up the street, looking for something like a boulangerie. No luck. Teddy Bear
hospitals, Woolworths, three supermarkets, including one where I could have
bought a magazine on do-it-yourself home porn complete with x-rated explanatory
video. But no bread shop.
Brighton is a hole.
Except for the Royal Pavilion, and The Lanes. Can't understand why anybody would
actually go there, or why people would spend an extraordinary amount of money
to stay at the 'Royal Thistle Hotel' on the foreshore, or why there's so much
garbage for sale in the tourist souvenir stalls. Who the hell would actually
want a souvenir of this place ?
The piers, the intriguing dead one, and the tacky new one.
Jane Austen's grave, set into the floor, doesn't mention that she wrote.
And after a pint at the 'Crown and Anchor', we do the 'riverwalk', the shallow
flowing stream, complete with ducks and reeds, along the flint wall, passing
the 'Saint Cross' alms houses, pass the Cathedral College, lines of schoolboys,
grey blazered and green tied, then the house Jane Austen died in, and through
an arch to Cathedral Close. This is truly impressive, about as English as you
can possibly get.
"No, we don't
turn anyone away," said some lady, who'd overheard me outside, balking
at the £2.50 admission, who then shunted us inside, and who explained
to the ticket-seller there that we were to be let through.
Whoever you are, lady, thank you.
Are we at the Tor?
Nope. The Isle of Avalon itself? Nope. The Abbey? Nope. We're at the true shrine,
the Glastonbury Safeway. Where, to get around, you need one of the maps from
near the front, and, if you want, you can buy a four-pack of Fosters, £4.19,
or, if you buy two, you get a third pack free. So, after sinking a dozen cans,
you're truly prepared for the mystic, spiritual journey that is the lesser lights
The Abbey. At the site of the ancient graveyard where, in 1191, monks dug to
find the tombs of Arthur and Guinevere. I'm not sure, but I have a feeling they
might have been vaguely disappointed.
Glastonbury Tor. Walked up, a crow watching from a gate. But
on the way up, there's this girl, all in black, with redbrown hair, pale
skin with freckles, who walked by, and smiled. Yes, it's Morgana herself,
obviously just changed from her crow form of just a few minutes ago.
When we reach the top, Morgana's already there, having a cigarette, as any
self-respecting Morgana would, although with the amount of dope that must
get smoked in this town, it's difficult to tell..
Strange bunch up
here; there's Morgana herself, but also the burping youths proud of their talent
of belching at will, and a French tour group, and people with walking sticks,
and another some chick wearing so much jewellery it must be difficult for her
to actually move, and her badly acned boyfriend, a drummer with half a bongo
set who has no sense of rhythm whatsoever, while others just bathe in the sun.
Back in Town. And the Parking
Ticket from Glastonbury's finest that I just found taped to the
windscreen is another one that won't get paid.
town is like the 'Fairy Shop' on steroids. 'The Gothic Image', hippy stuff,
and gothic, and new age, crystals, heal yourself books, King Arthur, grails,
rainbows, tinkling chimes, buttons, badges, it goes on, and on .. shop after
shop of the same hippy, tacky junk.
Back on the Tor again, with Liam. Yep, I'm cynical about all the hippy shit,
but there is something special about his place. Just watching the sun set. With
others, also just watching the sun set.
The view, in every direction, is magnificent.
Barrington Court. Gardens by by Gertrude Jekyll.
Stayed until we were asked to leave, as the place doesn't officially open 'til
11, and we're too early. Still, strolled out slowly. Don't think we missed anything.
Killerton House and Gardens.
Ashburton. Buying matches.
"5p or 9p ?"
I'm feeling reckless.
Totnes Market. And Liam's finally managed to get the green hippy tie-dye
shirt he's been craving for since Glastonbury. Must've been inspired by the
Axbridge. And King John's Hunting Lodge is part of the village square, and,
according to A.A. Milne, he was not a good man.
Bath. At the hostel.
And the 'Cosmic Sausages' are busking near the Bath Cathedral. Best buskers
I've heard in a long time.
Ghost Walk, apparently an 'invitation to fear'. It's fun, but not really scary.
The tour guide knows his stuff, I think, but for all I know, he could be making
it all up.
I can't believe this. We've just bumped into some rellos from Australia, Christ,
can't even beat them off with a stick, and we're having tea with them tomorrow
Bradford On Avon
Couldn't find Solsbury Hill, nor the Iron Age Fort that's meant to be on top
of it, guess I'll never get to see the city lights from up there then. I think
all the signs leading to it gave been pinched. According to a guy we asked directions
from, it was just "over there", wherever "over there" is.
There's a Saturday morning market here. Shirley somebody is entertaining all
with her piano accordion, but getting a little risqué with Norwegian
Wood. There's stalls of handicrafts made by the Church Wives group. But over
into the Bridge Tea Room. Watch your head, the door's rather small.
I've been here before, I don't remember it being so lifeless, as though something
has sucked the soul out of the town. It's a jaded tart. The Abbey was good though,
particularly the story of Olivia, leaping into the arms of her waiting lover
below, but knocking poor Richard unconscious in the process, and the violinist
who now owns the Abbey, or something like that.
back in Bath
The Royal Crescent. The Circus, saw where the Scarlet Pimpernel lived. Down
the street that was the height of fashion in Jane Austen's novels, down to the
Puteney bridge, the Grand Parade (of lifeless packaging, probably).
We find the rello's. Have tea at the Owlers Free House. Nice enough, monster
fish and chips, and wine. I've drunk so much I should be rolling, but I'm not.
Chats, about Dublin, Peter's days as an anarchist, living in India, archaeology,
and how exciting it was to have seen Princess Anne. Not bad for an ex-anarchist
and a current republican, I suppose. And while LaTrobe might be the sixth best
rated university to study archaeology, it's strength is in its teaching of theory,
how to look at the evidence and ask 'why', but not how to half-section a hole,
whatever that is.
Walking back to the hostel. Looking back, I guess the city lights are much the
same wether you're on Pulteney Hill or Solsbury Hill. The white abbey rises
dramatically above all in the night light.
Today I am going to remain calm, be unbelievably tolerant and cheerful, no matter
what. Pardon, dear, you want me to suddenly diverge into the path of the oncoming
traffic? Certainly, dear. It'll be my pleasure.
Chariot's Rest. Kind of a Greasy Joes All-Nite Truckers Cafe, just out of Bath.
Breakfast out of packets, and Rod Stewart on the jukebox. We are sailing ..
we are sailing ... Maybe someone should write a guide to greasy truck-stop cafes.
Just think of all that blueberry pie you could eat.
"Kindly refrain from sitting or standing on this memorial".
Okay then, I won't, I'll sit on this railing instead. I think this town is called
Minchinhampton, at least there's a Minchinhampton Church.
Drove through Box,
but couldn't find Peter Gabriel's house. I'm sure he would have invited me in
for a session if he knew I was passing through. Then Nailsworth, nearly 10/10
on the town score card.
For someone who's
read every Miss Read in existence, C is gaga with excitement at being in the
Cotswolds. It's as pretty as she imagined it would be. Thank God.
Theescombe. C's ecstasy level has just been raised a notch by the 'old school
house', and the 'teachers cottage'.
Chedworth Roman Villa. Interesting enough, in a "I'm supposed to be interested
in this because I'm a history teacher" kind of interesting way.
Right here, and right now, is probably as English as the England can possibly
get. Over there, cricketers play in their whites, with the occasional clap of
approval for a ball well hit, and the thunk of the willow. While in front of
us, the stream upon which punts are punted, although the last punter was hopeless
it was all jolly fun anyway, and the ducks paddle, and the gardens are botanic.
At the youth hostel, and good God, it's full of Australians, voices like toothpicks
shoved up their noses, embedded in the ethmoid bone. Maybe I sound
like that too, bloody hope not.
Still at the Youth Hostel, and obviously a lot of youth that pass through this
place don't know how to wash a dish, leaving the sink place stacked, maybe expecting
their mummies to suddenly appear and do it for them. Maybe they can't read the
"Please wash up and dry everything you use. Please do not leave it for
We're in Noke. In the grounds of St Giles Church, Noke. Unfortunately the Noke
pub is Closed Mondays, bloody typical. On Noke Hill there's a Celtic shrine,
apparently, near a Roman Villa. The name means 'by the oak trees', and the Dorrell
Family dominates the churchyard cemetery. Signed our names in the Church visitors
book, and left a note to the effect that as my surname bequeaths to me the entirety
of the lands surrounding this village, in my generosity I am letting the locals
continue to run the place in my absence. Took a photo of us next to the 'Noke
only' sign, next to the Noke Reservoir.
Having a pint in 'The Eagle and Child', where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to
drink, and discuss works in progress, and read aloud from what they've written.
Gave up trying to find Wolvercote, where JRR's buried, despite the notes:
the A34, then Babury Road, near the bypass road, left turn called Five Mile
into it, Wolvercote Cemetery on the right hand side. Grave on the Western
side, in RC area.
And in my
imaginary world, as yet untitled, but certainly better than 'Narnia', parking
spaces are for more than two hours, the pub in Noke is always open, maybe the
manor house would welcome anybody named Noke at dinner-times, driving is always
stress-free, people are always happy, videotapes of holidays are never boring,
and people who stay in youth hostels always clean up after themselves, and National
Museums offer hard-working volunteer staff fabulously well-paid jobs and a house
in Ranelagh, rent-free.
Nice enough pub though, but would have preferred one of the snugs near the front,
but the middle-section is certainly nicer than the back, which is more like
a bricked-in sunroom. A Guinness and the usual.
In the 'covered market'. God knows how long the pasties will take, but the chips
will be frigid by the time they arrive. And the boy has just finished plucking
the dead pigeons outside M.Feller & Sons Family Butchers. And the record
shop specialized in Classical and Jazz.
We made it back to the car just in time. A brown bomber's writing up an infringement
notice for the car parked in front of us. Ha! A narrow escape by the barest
A walk down Longwall Street, hoping to find the footpath through the deer park.
No luck, it's the exclusive property of Magdalene College, to which the public,
us, is not permitted. Walk back to the Botanic Gardens. Closed at Five.
There is something wrong with England, and something chronically wrong with
Monday Night at the Youth Hostel.
Should have known, should have been able to predict the school group. The running
up and down stairs, the make-upping tarts, the pool-playing boyos, the lounging
over everything in sight, the squealers, I wish they'd all just feck off.
Sitting in the grassy bit out the back, under the big tree. It'll rain tonight,
the weather will break with thunder and lightning.
Still, at the same
time tomorrow night we'll be pack in Dublin, if all the connections work.
Oxford Youth Hostel, fantasizing about doing Anna and Julia a serious damage.
The schoolies who talked all night, loudly, after running riot 'til midnight.
Dropped off the car. Despite missing the offramp and nearly ending up in Scotland
on the way. To
the flyover to wait for the bus to the 'Digbeth Coach Station", whatever
that is. The driver explains to Shannon how to guide her parents from the Bus
Terminal to the Coach Station.
Our bus number is 861, and we have 20 minutes to wait. Birmingham is grey.
On the bus, it's late, and we're on "a tight schedule". We're on the
M6, and the sleeping girl across the aisle has a home done crucifix tattoo on
Staffordshire. A 45 minute break.
The coach driver sucking on his pipe, beneath the 'No Smoking' sign. What a
We're in Wales. Heading for Holyhead. It's raining.
Bryugwran. Thinking that we should have toured Wales, not England. It looks
Ferry terminal. Waiting in the queue.
On the bus to the ferry.
On board, The Stena Cambria, no passport check. The backpacks are in the locker
room. Safety announcements, something about long and short blasts and life jackets
being issued at the muster stations.
Finally, we're moving.
Out there, it's grey, the sea merges with the sky, all grey, impossible to tell
where the horizon it, it's all blur.
And Ireland has appeared. Howth over there, we think, and Dun Laighoire ahead,
and what must be Dublin Bay in between. I feel like I'm coming home, to where
and watched the Irish flag being hoisted. Felt like saluting.
the bus, the 46A to Dublin's An Lar.
Eventually got to St Stephen's Green.
God, it's good to be back.
Yes, the brilliant coffee. First time we've had a Bewley's Breakfast. Heaped
Tower Records. South Great Georges Street.
And there's Björk, over there, behind a table, and signing things, and
there's plates of fresh fruit, and bottles of mineral water. She's more gorgeous
than I'd expected. She's unbelievably beautiful. Truly.
A perfect full moon tonight. People have moved into the building next door that
we've christened 'Swifts', as it has scenes from Gullivers Travels high on it's
outside walls, and their kids are playing in the courtyard area down below,
under the lamps that burn orange.
The Bailey has been utterly destroyed, gone, turned into a disaster area. And
at the Museum, something called Modes Plus has been installed.
Catalogued about 28 of Westropp's negatives of Stone Forts, in County Clare. Best bit was finding
what looks like some kind of Treasure Map wedged in between the negatives. Dunno
where the x is that's supposed to mark the spot, but if it is a map of Ireland,
then why don't the place names make sense ? Whatever, it's been written on the
back of a card addressed to:
Department of Agriculture and Technical Institution
School of Art, Dublin
The Department requests the pleasure of your Company at the
Distribution of Prizes to the Students
in the Gallery of the School
By his Excellency The Lord Lieutenant
Tuesday 12th February 1913 at 3.30
time and place to draw a treasure map. The
left half of it is missing. Probably had the 'x' on that half too.
Leeson Lane. Barra's not here, but the cremated remains from Ballingore are.
Spread out on tables in the lab upstairs.
Shannon's been making candles, after burning her school report. I'm shown the
cremations, and Liam got the sacrifice on video.
Altan are playing at the Olympia tomorrow night.
There's a girl out there, looking up a window in the Iveagh Buildings across
the road, dressed in a shift and boots calling out for "dro log", or
something like that, before giving up.
Modes Plus is firing up. Maybe there's something on that I don't know about,
but I'm the only one here. Maybe they've gone to kick the shite out of the farmer
who's claiming to have Ireland's "Crown Jewels" on display, as reported
om a clipping from some local newspaper sent to Ned yesterday.
While we've been away the footpath out the front has been repaved.
Temple Bar, looking into some art gallery. Paintings. Lists of 10 favourite
things. TV shows, Absolutely Fabulous, and of the 10 favourite records, three
were by Joy Division, while Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me came in at Number 6. Walked
up the other three flights of stairs, to a new exhibition of paintings. Criss-crossed
layers. Nothing startling, nothing that's not just another Art Con Job. The
best thing, though, was the balcony on the top floor. The Liffey, the bridges.
The other balcony looking over the rooves of Temple Bar, and of the construction
work happening behind the barricades. The other 10 favourite things included
drugs, with magic mushrooms at the top of the list; 10 favourite Matisse paintings;
and the favourite film is Apocalypse Now.
The Dublin Blues festival. Robert Cray's on later, just after a band called
'Out of the Blue'.
They're off, finally,
after their last tune, 'Repo Man', and now the roadies are setting up the stage
for Robert Cray. I'm handed a condom by some sweet young thang. "Condom?"
she asks, well, okay then, if you insist. They might be Catholic Irish ones,
designed to break.
Robert Cray's on,
it's a free gig so what the hell. The crowd goes ape over one Cray song, I guess
it must have been a hit somewhere at sometime, sounded more MOR'ish than the
other stuff getting played, but I don't recognize it at all anyway. And not
really likely to rush out tomorrow and buy an armful of Robert Cray records.
Then, I'm handed a second condom. So's Liam, he's thrilled. And probably desperate
to try them out.
"Altan are on
the way, so enjoy the gig !". Maybe Altan's lost, Spinal Tap like, in the
labyrinth behind the stage, maybe they're just being cool and fashionably late.
A good gig. The best part was the last medley, in the encore, when they were
joined by three dancers from Riverdance. Sheer joy.. then they repeated the
and back to the Olympia again.
"Yes, dear ?"
I ask for the Altan poster.
"Go ahead, dear."
I carefully unpeel it from the wall.
for the walls of my weeping room.
and my Australian Republican Movement t-shirt now has Gerry Adams signature.
Waited in the queue for a while. He appears, for a book signing at Waterstones.
Everybody else in the queue is clutching their copy of his book. Get to the
"I don't have your book, but I was hoping you'd sign this."
"This won't get me into trouble will it ?" he asks.
Some comment about how Australia will probably be a republic before Northern
We shake hands, "Thank you."
And almost sprint
from the shop, like I'm on springs.
GF Handels. Capel Street (which, in Irish, is Sráid Céipil).
Slattery's was full and noisy, "Everybody Hurts" playing loudly but
nobody crying into their Guinnesses. The Boars Head looked interesting, The
Pig and Wig okay, but this was the emptiest and the most interesting. Trad music
playing over the system, quietly, not interfering with the cricket on the TV.
Kent is playing Lancashire and need 177 runs from 30 overs.
16/7, St Swithin's Day
And Shannon's done something to her hand, slipped while playing chasey up on
the roof garden, bruising her fingers, and I've just finished picking tiny splinters
out of her wrist.
Eddie Rockets. Liam would love to win the huge coke can that folds out to become
a hi-fi system.
Back, from Penny and Evan's. The best bit was meeting somebody who is one of
the Leaving Cert English examiners, and she's describing the only Leaving Cert
English essay that received a perfect score, 100%. About a girl with enormous
thumbs, and who, hitched. Then, me, interrupting, asking if the name
of the character with the enormous thumbs was Sissy Hankshaw.
Yep,so whoever gained the only perfect score in English in the 1995 Leaving Cert
ripped off the idea, and the words, from Tom Robbins' 'Even Cowgirls Get The
Blues'. I think this examiner person had better get herself down to Waterstones
tomorrow and start reading.
Shannon is barely
able to move her fingers.
None of the vans
lined up along Merrion Square South have Liam Neeson's name on, so he's probably
moved on, and apparently Neil Jordan's gone walkies somewhere. Nothing is happening
here, the caterers are the only animated ones here. But some chick in a 'Subpob'
T-shirt tells Liam that the only thing he needs to get into the Irish film industry
is a Union Card, from the SIPTU building, then you just apply for whatever's
About Shannon's hand. We have to have it x-rayed at the Meath Hospital, 10 minutes
down Aungier Street.
And after asking at the Meath Hospital, we're redirected to the Harcourt Children's
Hospital. Reception down, right, two doors, getting lost, head to the x-ray
room. Wrong. Directed to the right place. Casualty. Name, address, and "been
here before ?" Whatever happens, I think violin practice might be out of
the question for some time.
Still waiting. C has arrived, with sandwiches, this is like a perverse holiday
She has a broken finger, 'a tiny fracture', and has her arm in a sling.
The SIPTU building. Liberty Hall, 12th floor. To get the Union Card. Liam is
told that he needs four signatures from people already in the film industry,
just to be a gopher on the set. So, it's left at a 'maybe'.
On the balcony. Outside, one of the girls from the Swifts building next door
is dancing up Bride Road, left arm arch then right, then a few skips, stopping
every so often for a slurp on whatever it was they bought down at the Londis.
Probably mineral water laced with vodka. And a man leans against the 'Baths'
entrance, eating his Burdocks in the rain, and now an old woman appears, with
crutches, heading towards the Napper Tandy.
By the way, a 500ml
can of Fosters costs £1.05.
Still just sitting on the balcony, having a cigarette, feeling a little vulnerable
and exposed to whatever; the people passing below, the wet weather - the fine
Irish misty. C's telling me that the difference between the Italians and the
French is how they arrange their furniture.
And C would like it mentioned that "mushrooms are God's personal gift to
spent hours on some place Westropp called Ardrilling, just to discover he actually
Coffee, with Nigel. Modes vs Modes Plus conversation, well, not really a conversation,
more like a Nigel monologue, fields and subfields, lost the thread after a short
time, hope I nodded at the right times.
The case I stood next to when I spoke to Sinead O'Connor has four gold bands
from Bellville Co Cavan 2200-1800 BC; and the broken gold band (the band óir)
from the same place; a gold earring from Deehommed Co Down; and a gold disc
and pin from Ballymooney, Co Cork, also c.2200-1800 BC.
Afternoon. And after leaving the Museum, walked down Wilton Terrace, and along
the canal. Kavanagh's canal. Later, along Lad Lane to Fitzwilliam Square and
down to Baggott Street.
Walked down Wilton Terrace, along the canal, trying to find Australia House.
The crowds are out, on their lunch breaks, enjoying the sunshine, on the seats,
sitting on the grass. Didn't find Australia House, which is supposed to be down
there somewhere. For some reason, I found myself desperately wanting to know
where Geelong was on the AFL ladder. A bit sad, I suppose, but I can't really
get into soccer at all, although if someone threw an XXL Man United Cantona 7
shirt my way I'd be pretty thrilled. Cantona, the Sartre of Soccer.
But I did pass 'Lad Lane', such a great name, to Fitzwilliam Square and down
to Baggott Street. Painters are busy. One guy was painting columns white, another
And C thinks that the young lovers in St Stephens Green are "unfortunate
victims of the biological imperative." But I discovered where Cuchullain's
stone is, at Knockbridge near Dundalk. Discovered this after I'd begun reading
an archaeological treatise on Cruachain. Should have realized that good archaeological
folk disregard legends, as of being of no account. In fact, apart from a tiny
bit of useful information, is majorly concerned with typology. Yes, we have
a ringbarrow type here, and mound types A, B and C, and ringforts type A and
B here and there. Making it all lifeless.
I think that if Cuchullain somehow managed to read how utterly boring the archaeologists
have rendered his life, he's whip out the dreaded gae bolga between his toes
and let fly, filling the crevices of whatever boring bastard wrote this stuff.
Maybe I should have gone to the session at the Auld Dub tonight, maybe I'll
go next week. Actually, I'd like to find another session, different people maybe.
Don't know why, really, they're nice enough. And, for some reason, the 'King
of Laois' on the Dan ar Braz 'heritage d'Celtes' CD nearly moves me to tears.
It's finally beginning to cool down, it's pleasant outside, still. The children
from Swifts next door are outside, as are people just walking the street, maybe
they're walking to somewhere, maybe just enjoying the coolness of the evening.
There's trouble in Bosnia, and the UN forces are being threatened, and the embargo
on the Muslims is about to end, but no specifics, Ireland beat Denmark in the
cricket, and I'm surprised that Ireland even has a cricket team, at the moment
it's 18 degrees, the issue for tonight's talkback is 'Are Boyzone becoming the
new religion for todays teenagers ?', and apparently Robbie leaving Take That
is 'the end of some people's' lives', and Sinead O'Connor has pulled out of
the Lollapalooza tour, something to do with the heat and being pregnant.
Another Westropp book done. Cork, this time. Only a few decent photographs,
not many. It must take a unique and singular talent to take places like Kinsale
and Youghal and everywhere inbetween, and make it all boring.
Waterstones Bookshop. There's a book signing in progress, someone named Paddy
Joe Hill. He's addressing the small crowd. Turns out he was one of the Birmingham
Six, and released after 16 years. I listen with renewed interest, he talks about
the appalling treatment of Irish prisoners in English jails, about how he feels
nothing for his children, but feels for those with whom he shared the 'Birmingham
Six' tag, and more for those currently involved in the 'dirty protest' at the
moment, about how he looks forward to each time he visits his family, but after
half an hour the 'little men' in his head are screaming 'leave !", he speaks
about readjustment, about controlling his anger, and about the other five.
a bit later
Take That fans are
in the streets, demanding Robbie's immediate return to the band, others declaring
that they still love him even though he's left the other wankers. Maybe he did
leave because of the official 'musical differences', but I doubt it. The Take
That protest goes by in about a minute. It's pathetic. Maybe they've gone to
fling themselves off the O'Connell Street bridge. Live in hope ...
On the bus, to the Botanic Gardens
The Hare Krishna centre in Dame Street is no more, and the building is for sale.
Pity, I quite liked the 'Ages Of Man' display they had in the window. And the
Anna Livia Fountain in O'Connell Street was full of wrappers and cans, and we
sat around the edges of it with all the orange and purple haired individuals,
who are all the same. Over the road is 'Ned Kelly's Amusement Arcade'. Must
be a different Ned Kelly.
The attempt to visit the Botanic Gardens was noble, but it was closed. According
to the Heritage Information it's open during daylight hours. Well, it's still
well and truly daylight, but it closed at 6:00 anyway. Walking back, Capel Street,
from the tattoo parlour that's never open, down to the bridge with the horse-fish
thingies, then up Fishamble Street, the Dublin Corporation building, and I'm
wondering about the damage an Oskar-type voice could do. Pass the Messiah plaque,
and the restaurant attached to McKinlay House is called The Refectory. Cross
Lord Edward. It's really close, this weather cannot be normal. Some nice soft
Irish rain would be nice, please Mr Rain God.
And Caroline is the
one who'll be attaching all the labels to the Westropp negatives. Ned comments
on the negative I'm doing at the moment, while he's giving Caroline the guided
tour. It's the tobar ghraine, or at least that's what Westropp calls it. And
repeating everything I'd just read in John O'Donovan's O.S. Letters Co Clare
practically verbatim, that there was no Irish Saint by the name of Ghraine,
so it's pagan Pre-Christian. Sometimes I'm so full of myself.
later that afternoon
heading out for the Wed Wose, on Exchequer Street.
a bit later
Inside, the Wed Wose is called the Red Rose. Been reading the property guide,
'The Red House' in Kilkenny is for sale, £190,000. This is an impressive
house, with a 170 degree river frontage. Who do I have to kill to get this,
I wonder, just bring me the vendor and I'll do him a serious damage.
A cigarette out on the balcony. Really enjoy sitting out here. Occasionally
being eye to eye with the top levels of the Dublin Buses. When the tourist one
goes by I have this strong urge to yell, in an Irish accent, "don' be believin'
what yer man is tellin' yer, they just be makin' it oop as they'd be goin' along."
But I haven't yet, and I do admire the people that smoke upstairs, despite the
'No Craic Tobac' signs forbid it.
Down there, some pedestrians, the women, young and old, with prams. The old
man staggering back to the Iveagh Hostel from the Napper Tandy. One of the Iveagh
men, a skinny wreck with a stringy beard and wearing a beanie holding out his
hand to each car as it squishes past on the wet road, as though expecting the
passengers to quickly dig into their pockets and fling him any loose change.
Live in hope, pal.
Moving. On the dot.
Wellington Monument,which Stephen Dedalus must have seen from
the train to Cork, with his father, on the journey to disillusionment.
Tea and coffee in plastic cups, £1.25. It's Kenco Coffee, whatever Kenco
A spire, in the distance. What town? What county? It has a castle, too.
Kent Station, Cork.
The tour began,
through Bishop Lucy's garden with the 'wild geese' fountain, the Christ
Church were somebody married somebody else and wrote. To the Triskel Arts
Centre nearby, ochre yellow walls, blue carpets, to art exhibition upstairs.
The painted over photographs were good, the 'thoughts in a train' particularly
so, but the painted over paintings were a tad wanky.
Up 'Keyser Hill', after crossing the bridge to 'the best view in Cork'.
Well, it was a good view of the Beamish factory with its gleaming tubes.
St Finnbarrs Cathedral. 20p for the guide, 30p donation.
The sculptured angels at the front of this place are just the best.
An Spailpin Fanac pub. Wellington and Marlborough drank here, too. Not much
of a recommendation, but it's a brilliant pub anyway. The river through this
city is almost neon snot green.
In the Cork art gallery. Harry Clarke's. Why isn't his name up there with the
greats ? The man was a genius.
Half Moon Alley. Who could resist a street with a name like that ?
Back on the train, the unbelievably crowded train. Don't really want to sit
opposite the fat kid with the REM 'Document' tape. Resentful of the fact that,
while in Cork, didn't meet the ghost of Stephen Dedalus' father. Looked in a
'Ceol Music', but just the same old tired Leapin' Leprechauns and Molly Malone's
and utter crap.
There's a radio competition on, and the contestant is given one minute to name
anything Australian. Couldn't think of anything important, not even a kangaroo.
A staggering number of people in Upper O'Connell and Westmoreland Streets. Tourists,
locals. Still, we're in Bewleys , and while the smoking areas are pretty well wall-to-wall
people, the non-smoking area - the favourite - is practically empty. Had our
choice of table. The one under the stained glass, naturally.
Damn, all the pubs
are shut. The Long Hall, the Stag's Head, Molly Malones, O'Neills, The International,
The Crane, The Oak, and Thomas Reads. They open as soon as the churches shut.
Nearly enough to make me go and buy a cheap cask of red from Dunne's.
Around St Stephens Green, there's art adorning the railing fences. It's all
crap. A kilometre of crap. No, not art, but picture making by picture makers.
They create the works with an eye to the tourist market. Their premise is based
on a compromise from the beginning. Why would anybody want a really bad drawing
of Bob Dylan? Why not just go down to HMV and buy Blonde On Blonde, it costs
And there's schoolkids, a flotilla of Spanish ones, flowing along the street,
all with their purple and yellow backpacks. One kid has a Hughes & Hughes
plastic bag on his head. His parents have probably scrimped together thousands
of pesos so he could do that.
Rasharkin. Somewhere near Rasharkin is Glen Bolcain, which is where the madmen
of Ireland spent their year in madness, and where Mad
Sweeney spent time.
On the balcony. There's a redhaired woman below me, in black, buzzing someone's
apartment, demanding to know "are you there?" of someone who obviously
was. She's let in. I reckon someone's been dialling the numbers from the last
few pages of In Dublin, and she's one of the tarts who always seem to be named
Sonja. Schoolgirl Sonja. Madame Sonja. Nurse Sonja. Mother Superior Sonja.
To the men on this bus, the
59 to Killiney, the driver is
Wally. To the women, he is Walter.
The one with the strange stepped pyramid. On a clear day, apparently,
Wales in visible from here. There's the Martello Tower, a small red and
white lighthouse, the Queen Victoria obelisk. And down there, the DART
train looks like some kids' electric toy. And
if you look really hard you might see Bono's house. It's on the Vico Road,
if you didn't already know.
somehow got the inspiration for Waiting for Godot up here.
Walking through a damp forested area, on the way down to the Vico Road, moss
hanging off trees, just like it should. Vico Road, and up to Bono's house. Security
cameras in place, one above the security door buzzer, another attached to a
tree. Climbing a stone fence to get a view of Bono's backyard. I don't think
he's home, otherwise he'd have undoubtedly invited us in.
Then down, passing 'Strawberry Hill', which I think maybe The Edges place. Smaller,
with a brilliant bay window, with stained glass. In another window, a wooden
music stand, where he probably sits and learns a few more chords from his Guitar
Further down, the block of flats where Neil Jordan lives, Liam thinks he saw
his daughter. Pity he didn't pop the question on the spot, you've got to get
into the business somehow.
Then into the town, The pub where U2 probably hang out with Neil, the pizza
place they probably order their Seafood Deluxe from, the video shop they probably
rented Reservoir Dogs from last night.
Reading more from 'The Road Wet, The Wind Close', still haven't managed to grasp
exactly why Niall of the Nine Hostages is so important, or who the hostages
where. Re-read the section on Patrick, and the fiction that is the Paschal Fire.
Not that it matters, if enough people believe it, then fact or fiction is not
a measuring stick of faith anyway.
Museum. Met Nessa on the way on. The weather's grand. Yes, it is.
And what the hell
is this ... pasted on my computer screen ...
"Read this carefully !!!!!!!
Put all new records into the new file AP950001 and check for errors
once there are 100 records typed in. Then pass the records to the master file.
For instructions contact Nigel Monaghan and consult the new manual.
Strike a key when ready"
what 'new manual'?
Haven't even seen an old one, let alone consulted it.
"That was just a test, Mark, in case you were worried," says Alan,
after the Fire Alarm sounds. Had my stuff packed up and movin' on out, leaving
the Westropp's to burn, contemplated shoving the Egyptian boat into my canvas
bag on the way through, then contemplate a quick sprint to The
Treasury, smash a little window
pane, and save the Tara Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice.
to Leeson Lane, take the tubs, and a 'Reach' toothbrush, begin cleaning an individual,
a 7 bagger, hands, ribs, skull, vertebrae, pelvis, clavicles, bits of arms and
legs. Took a few hours. Taking the plastic bags and unloading their entire contents
into the muddy water to save time, no longer really caring if a vertebrae gets
broken, nor even if a finger bone should happen to go down the sink, or if a
pelvis crumbles. It's all the same, boring and monotonous. Makes me think of
archaeology, and today I redefined what the discipline really is, other than
a total wank, archaeology is not the study of prehistoric man-made artefacts,
archaeology, damn, had the perfect phrase in my head but now it's gone, but
I just about had a perfectly logical and reasoned argument along the lines of
archaeology being for people who cannot handle mythology, who must debunk the
romantic. Did Christ walk on water ? ... as it says in "The Road Wet .."
Did St Patrick light the Paschal Fire ? .. If enough people believe it to be
true, then it is, it's an article of faith. When does faith cease to be true?
I've seen Merlin's grave, and King Arthur's Glastonbury, and they were far more
real than anything they didn't find in Martin's field down in Ballingore.
Museum, and yes,
the soap is safe. Westropp, book 21, scenes from Kerry, from Sybil Head to Derrynane.
At morning break, stories about sleepwalking, and Ned's father beating back
the leprechauns he believed he could see, the one's who'd come to take his ill
brother, Frank, away, and another story about the woman down the road who' put
salt in the baby's carriage so the fairies wouldn't replace the real baby with
a changeling. On the way back to the desk, decided to detour via The
Treasury for yet another look, but the throngs around the
Ardagh Chalice was offputting, I'd have had to have beaten them back with St
Pat's Crozier to get to it.
And as I'm leaving the museum, fluke upon the copies of Emania, and the volume
referred to in the bibliography of Pagan Celtic Ireland. Hope the articles on
Cruchain have more than the other two did. But it's written by archaeologist,
whose raison d'être seems to be to kill romance and imagination and mystery.
Managed to finish another 'individual'. This one amounts to a few long bones,
some broken smaller bones, and that's about it.
The article from Emania in not too bad, actually. Maybe those archaeologists
working on Cruchain have been a bit touched.
Waiting for Liam. Outside the Museum. Over there is the statue of the Archbishop.
William Conynham. Fourth Baron Plunket. Archbishop of Dublin. 1884-1997. He
stands, a hand against his chin. Thinking thoughts. Maybe about how the 'dear,
dirty Dublin' has lost a lot of its dearness through its dirtiness, about the
kinds of people who sit on the plinth of his statue and leave behind their Abrakebabra
wrappings and their Coke cans.
Wonder if I need the passport for tomorrow's journey to Belfast.
And, at the last moment, Liam's on the
bus to Belfast too. Two grey-haired old yobs grabbed the front seat.
It's not a Bus Eirann, it's an Ulsterbus. Managed to get a child ticket for
Liam, £4.75. I lied.
Moving. Liam's hoping we'll see something exciting and life-threatening. Suppose
it would be kind of cool,
but I'd like to survive to tell the story of our narrow escape.
Summerhill, North Circular Road. Cat and Cage. On some kind of 'dual carriageway'
that they're so proud
of. Not for long, though, kind of petered out.
This must be a Belfast bus as that's the second red light we've gone through.
Maybe it's the first rule of
Belfast driving, don't stop.
Dublin Airport, more passengers. 157kms to Belfast.
Balbriggan. Bridge Street. The Milestone. 14 to Dublin.
21 to Dundalk. Monasterboice Inn.
Ardee is signposted well enough. 100k's to Belfast, 66 to Dublin. Kilsaran.
Castlebellingham. Tom Heaney Bar.
Dundalk. Jimmy's Lounge, and P McIntyres has a 'large selection of all styles'
"Oh Christ," mutters the second last on at the Dundalk stop, seats
must be at a premium, who know, maybe he got lucky and had to sit next to the
gorgeous one in black.
Maybe I'm getting a different view from the driver, but I swear that's the fourth
red light that's been ignored.
On the left, the Mountains of Mourne.
The mountains are mist-covered this morning, or maybe they always look like
'Money Change'. Pounds to Sterling. And a 'Free All POW's' sign.
'Photographs must not be taken' at the old border crossing check.
Newry, and despite 'Goodfellas' everything I've read about Newry, bland and
boring and grey, is true.
Break in Newry. Five minutes. Graffiti, 'Get Well, Damien'.
A Union Jack, flapping from a roof. The guy behind us, explaining the different
accents "say if you went doon to Caulk, or t'Gorlway, different from Doublin'".
A town on the left, Banbridge?
Dromore's off somewhere to the right. And it's a light drizzle out there.
Strange tower, looks inverted, supported by wires.
First MacDonalds in Northern Ireland, and it reminds Liam of Australia. Pretty
10k's, or maybe it's miles, to Belfast.
The edges of Belfast.
First mural, a hand.
And within 10 minutes
of being in Belfast, I'd bought Liam the R-rated version of The Crow, from HMV.
I doubt I'd be able to get the smile off his face with a jackhammer. Walked
Donegall Place, and Royal Avenue, to the Crown Liquor Saloon, but every snug
was full, and outside, the security cars in the streets, grey, seemingly travelling
in pairs, their lights and exhausts wrapped in wire mesh. To High Street, the
clock tower leaning, to the Lagan River, the H & W David and Goliath cranes
in the distance, to St Annes Church, a bit ho-hummish, signs warning against
leaving cars unattended, to City Hall, waiting in the foyer until the tour began,
the dome 173 feet high, the marble angel, now up on the first level, looking
down on a couple with their green-dressed bridesmaids being photographed, then
at the Dome. Tours of the paintings, Lord Mayor after Lord
Mayor, then the red mayoral robe, which I try on, and at the end we're given
the free booklet which, we're told, will answer all those questions we've always
wanted to ask about Belfast City Hall.
Back on the bus. Our feet are tired. There's a gorgeous goth a few seats back,
skinny legs and all, who has Fields of the Nephilium' written on her canvas
bag, and black from her bra straps to her Doc Martens.
Back in the Republic.
66 k's to Dublin, and over there on the right, in the distance, smoke. Maybe
the Pagan Celts have returned. Maybe the descendants of Laoghoire have come
to put to rights the oversights of their ancestor. Maybe they've relit the Paschal
Fire, and are now toasting St Pat. Maybe the old gods live again. Probably not.
There's a German tourist on board, who has not shut up since we left Belfast.
Now he's talking about some atrocity he believes was committed by the English
on the German people during World War 2. What crap.
The busaras. Finally back.
Fianna Eireann : National Insurrectionary Scout Body.
Found that piece
of information in an Irish-English dictionary at The Dublin Bookshop on Grafton
Street. Saw the badge for them at Family Heritage, on Fleet Street, but didn't
want to buy it until I knew what it meant. The guy behind the desk was kind
of dismissive, telling me it meant 'Irish Republic'. No, it doesn't, you wanker.
I'm not a tourist, so don't tell me bullshit.
Down South Great Georges. Where the girl queue is forming outside Tower for
the appearance of Boyzone at about 5:00 this afternoon. And, if you're thinking
about nipping down there to get your Boyzone T-shirt, book, poster, or CD signed,
then forget it, as they'll only be signing the new CD single, whatever it's
called. So, you've got to pay your £4.99 first.
The Boyzone queue is lengthening, being kept orderly by rather large security
men in black. Any of these 12 year olds would be down on their knees in an instant
for any of Boyzone, braces, rubber bands, and all.
Liam and I creating scenarios. Heading down to Tower at about 5 to 5, and begin
rumors that Boyzone have cancelled, that they've decided to go to Cork instead,
or that their bus broke down in Drogheda. And naturally, they'd riot, and take
it out on the windows of Tower itself, the burly security guards overwhelmed
by the outrage of preteen anger, being no match for the preteen fury of gnarling
braced teeth. Just have to go to the Tower Security In-Store Video and pick
out the rampaging individuals. Yep, thousands of screaming harpies loading up
on Take That, East 17 and Boyzone singles in the smash-and-grab, a massive looting
effort. But, what's this then, who's the bald guy filling his pockets with Chieftains
CD's, and how's that kid in The Crow T-shirt putting 'The Name of the Rose'
in his pocket. And, hey, turn up the sound, catch what the old one's saying,
it's something like, "Da, we should get Michael Jackson's History for Shannon",
and the reply being "Yeah, where's the harm ?"
The Long Hall
At last, feel like we've finally 'come home' from the holiday.
And Boyzone are about to leave Tower. Outside, the die-hards are frantic. Weeping
into their Boyzone headbands. Liam looks through Tower's window, and catches
an glimpse of the one with the stupid eyebrow. The security guards look ragged,
one of them screaming at some boy that he'll kick his arse if he does something
They're leaving now,
and the high pitched scream goes on and on, their tour bus is surrounded, there's
police directing traffic, eventually signalling drivers to pull over and just
wait, the hordes are running after the bus, hopelessly. Eventually, it turns
up Stephen Street, and it's gone. There's one girl, in a red top and carrying
a black backpack, crying, being supported by two others. I wonder if she got
the autographs. I wonder if she'll look back on that moment, later, and remember
it as a zen moment, a highlight of her life, that she'll remember forever in
all it's emotional glory, or maybe with some kind of bemusement, appalled, maybe,
at how as a teenager she was so easily taken in by this plastic, commercially-hyped,
Mullingar House, and over the bridge to Chapelizod Hill. The house that's been
for sale, the one with blue trim on the windows is still unoccupied. Maybe they'll
sell it to me cheaply.
Over to Phoenix Park.
There's a herd of deer. Is 'herd' the right word for multiplicity of deer? A
pack? a horde? a mass? mess? Don't know.
'Pope John Paul II offered Mass at this place in the presence of more than one
million people on 29th September 1979. Be converted every day'.
But now, the 30th July 1995, the fields where more than one million people stood,
or knelt, is taken over with deer and few people flying kites. And, beneath
this massive cross, Anthony, Melinda, Alan, Smithy and Nirvana have left there
names in texta.
a bit later
Passing Mary's house, the light that's left on permanently. Thinking about dropping
in, saying "just passing, saw your light on, we don't eat much", but
the security would probably sort me out rather quickly, wouldn't even get the
smell of a cuppa, let alone a lamington.
a bit more later
Down around the zoo. Didn't get to see the legendary crocodile, but did see
a sealion and an elephant, and the noises of other critters. Best of all were
the stalls outside, selling an amazing array of plastic kiddie junk. So all
the single parents that have custody of their kiddies on the weekend can load
'em up with wallet-bought affection. There's plastic swords, sunnies, handcuffs,
weird tinselly things and more.
Talk back radio. Some woman talking about her 'blind date'. Middle aged giddiness
and "he had black hair", swoon swoon, but no, he didn't invite her
back for that cup of coffee, and she doesn't do that sort of thing anyway.
The tour, the wooden 'masterpiece' of the 17 instruments, the organ Handel may
have played. The other stuff, then the mummies in the basement, St Michan's
main attraction. Around the side, the guide opening the black trap door, then
we're ushered in. One vault with the stacked coffins, the next with four bodies,
the noon, the footless man, the other woman, and behind them, the tall Crusader.
Yes, you can see the fingernails and toenails of the nun. No, you can't shake
the Crusaders' hand anymore.
Something about all this got right up my nose, and it wasn't the dust. That
these people deserve a better fate than being a ghoulish tourist attraction
for some otherwise fairly nondescript little church. Why weren't these people
re-coffined after they 'accidentally' broke open. Why aren't these people in
a museum ?
St Stephens Green
Over there, by the lake, are two little girls in their prettiest party dresses
who's mother is uselessly telling them to come away from the edge or they'll
There's a single mother in one of the apartments below us. And she's visited
by an older man, who drives a Volvo and has a tattoo on his forearm. Tonight,
the old man had a younger girl with him. Maybe the mammy can't handle the disgrace
of an illegitimate grandchild, so, after she was forced to leave home, it's
only the Da and the younger sister who come to visit, to hold the grandchild
or nephew, to take it for walks in the pram, around the block. Maybe the Mammy
will relent and come to visit sometime, when all is forgiven, and she'll probably
go all weepy at the time she's lost with her daughter and grandchild, and make
noises about what a stupid old woman she's been. Both the Da and the daughter
will reassure her that it's all right now, but secretly thinking yes, you have
been bloody stupid, Meanwhile, it will all be incomprehensible to the younger
daughter, but, on the other hand, it may be a Zen moment for her.
Whelan's. A Kevin Burke gig. Inside, at the bar there's a statue, of a
man drinking, just staring into his Guinness. It's brilliant. I've seen
it before in a photograph, in Q Magazine, something to do with Roy Harper.
He's on, excuse me while I go into bliss-out mode, even if he's not wearing
the cap he wore on the cover of If The Cap Fits.
And that was a good gig. The Irish stuff was the best, naturally, and Sandy
Silva was great to watch, the flying silver shoes. The songs, the classical
Greeks, their brains were small and they died, monkey with a typewriter, Oedipus
Rex and John Wayne, Yiddish tunes, a Venezuelan waltz.
Jaysus, I've seen Kevin Burke, another legend.