Things we have done in the holidays thus far:
St. Michan’s Church on Church Street
I had to practically beat the children to get out of the house to come here. The rain was coming down in sheets and even the short walk from the car to the church had us sodden. But it was so worth it. We have been here before. There are Mummys in the crypt [very dry apparently, unlike outside] and there is a great guide who makes the whole think immensely entertaining for children. They shook hands with the crusader [800 years old still quite a lot of face left – they know he was a crusader because his legs are crossed] and heard the gruesome story of the hanging, drawing and quartering of the Sheares brothers [involved in the 1798 rebellion – ended badly for them]. This was described in loving detail to the intense delight of all the children on the tour. There is also the family crypt of the Earls of Leitrim which has lain unused since the third earl (a bad lot) was buried there. The church boasts the font where Edmund Burke was baptised and the organ on which Handel practised the Messiah before the first performance in Fishamble Street. We ran into the vicar [I think, the titles of Protestant clergymen are always a mystery to me] who asked the children where they went to school and then surprised them by saying he was a neighbour of one of their classmates and horrified them by speaking to them in Irish. After this alarming encounter, they decided that it was best to leave again but not before writing in the visitors’ book. A number of American visitors had described their visits as “awesome” and “amazing”. Michael having laboriously written his name and address went for a more restrained “good”.
The Princess and I walked up and down Henrietta Street and admired the buildings. Number 14 was home to C.S Lewis’s great, great grandmother. I thought you would like to know. We went to the Uilleann Pipers house and had a look around. The boys sat in the car and refused to move.
Subsequently I went on my own to no.14 to see the Dublin Tenement Experience. This is a performance set in the 1913 Dublin lockout and using no.14 Henrietta Street which is largely unchanged since it was used as a tenement. The performance is done by the same people who did “The Boys of Foley Street” so I was prepared to be alarmed and to have plenty of audience participation. Maybe my previous knowledge of the company ruined it for me but it’s just not so real when you are accompanied by a bus load of elderly tourists from Northern Ireland. I thought it was mildly interesting and reasonably well done but I certainly wouldn’t have been gushing that it was the best thing I had ever seen as I heard one of my fellow participants say in awed tones to the woman on reception. Still and all, well worth a look.
Unrelated but as I was there they were filming an ad for C&A. The security man told me that they had been filming for 5 days for a 30 second slot. 5 days! So, if you see a nice old Georgian street in a C&A ad, you’ll know where it was shot.
The Princess and I had previously tried to visit this restored Georgian house but it was closed for renovations. This time we got in and I think she found it mildly entertaining but really more fun for me than for her. Sometimes she is a saintly child. Ironically, the ESB which funded the restoration of this house, knocked down all the rest of the terrace. There is some bitterness about this. It’s interesting though that Irish attitudes at the time were very ambivalent towards Georgian architecture and what it represented. I think now there has been a complete turn around and no one would argue for the wanton destruction of Georgian houses but certainly there’s still plenty of neglect in the centre of Dublin.
I forced the children to go to this world famous monastic site. They haven’t been for a couple of years. The traffic was dreadful. It took us an hour and a half to get there. The information that the American first children had recently been forced to go there left them unmoved other than leading to a slight fellow feeling. When we arrived I made them go on a mild walk.
It went pretty well for the first half but by the second part of the circuit they were getting tired, hungry and fractious. Michael fell down a hill and was picked up by a kindly German tourist. Daniel got stung by nettles. We saw deer but even that was insufficient to rouse them to any great enthusiasm. The Phoenix Park has made them all a bit blasÃ© about deer.
I got to use my picnic basket again. As I was unpacking it, two very small girls stood and watched me enviously. See below, Michael enjoying the picnic which, in his case, consisted of 5 cream crackers.
After the picnic, I played hurling with Dan. Very poorly. A number of Americans stopped and took pictures of this native sport; unfortunately the quality of the play gave very little idea of what hurling is actually like.
After this I tried and utterly failed to get them to the monastic site. This is as close as we got to Glendalough this year.
For the best part of a year, I have been threatening to take my family to this city centre church. Mr. Waffle kindly minded the children one morning and I set off on my own. It is a lovely, lovely church managed by the Office of Public Works in co-operation with the local parish. It’s less showy than St. Patrick’s or Christ Church both of which are nearby but really peaceful and very appealing.
The OPW has done a great job with the exhibition in the oldest part of the original church. There is still an unroofed part – the Portlester chapel – which is somehow particularly attractive in the centre of the city surrounded by very busy roads. It feels like it belongs somewhere else altogether. Petrie has a drawing of it from the 1800s and it is still very recognisable; although no one was hanging out washing while I was there.
I will now force the children to come with me and see it because they have not suffered enough.