Well, I have to say I found Ireland a lot more positive, economically speaking, than I did last time I was back in 2011.
The people we spoke with were cautiously optimistic. Yes, things were on an uptick, compared to a few years ago.
There seemed to be fewer “ghost estates” – abandoned construction sites – than we saw in 2011. Maybe because some of them have been torn down.
Yes, there are still plenty of projects that seemed to have been stopped in mid hammer blow, in mid concrete pour, wheelbarrows tipped up on rubble heaps, making the housing estates look for all the world like a latter day Pompeii.
But there don’t seem to be as many obvious signs of construction devastation and ruin.
Certainly, the streets of Galway and Dublin, where we spent our time, were teeming with both locals and tourists. The restaurants and pubs were full.
In Galway, I went into the Penney’s to buy some wash cloths, and the store was full of Irish housewives, shopping away. So it wasn’t just the stores catering to tourists where there was buying.
I asked all of our cab drivers – Pat, Mike, Michael, Martin – how business was, and they all said that it was picking up.
We were in Dublin on Friday, the Friday before the Monday on which Bloomsday is celebrated.
This is the date – June 16, 19004 – on which James Joyce had his first time out with his eventual wife, Nora Barnacle. A first date that is famously commemorated in the novel Ulysses.
The celebration was already underway on Friday the 13th.
We saw a long-ish bicycle parade up Grafton Street, the riders all decked out in 1904-ish garb.
In the outside patio of Davey Byrnes pub, Bloomsday celebrants were sitting sipping red wine and, presumably, eating gorgonzola sandwiches – homage to James Joyce/Leopold Bloom, who stops there on his pilgrimage through Dublin.
Years ago, I was food-poisoned after eating bad oysters at Davey Byrnes.
Should have stuck with a gorgonzola sandwich, like the revelers who were sitting out there last Friday in their fake straw boaters.
Anyway, I’m just as happy we won’t be here for Bloomsday.
Hard to believe that most of those observing this literary high holiday will actually have read this near-impenetrable novel.
I did get through it, but it wasn’t the pleasure that Portrait of the Artist and Dubliners were.
But, literary-wise, I’m a traditionalist.
Ulysses was at least coherent and readable, unlike Finnegan’s Wake which, IMHO, is neither.
I’ve managed to machete my way through about 1/4 of Finnegan’s, and I scratch my head in wonder that anyone not familiar with Ireland and Catholicism can hack their way in. And how does this get translated into other languages?
I do understand the pleasure of just reading Finnegan’s out loud. And as I do have the familiarity with Ireland and Catholicism, I will get through it in its entirety. Eventually.
It’s on my bucket list, right up there with Venice.
What, I wonder, would James Joyce make of all the hoo-hah over Bloomsday?
Joyce, who famously said that "Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow."
Most say that he would despise it, but I think he was enough of an egoist that he’d get off on it.
(His only living heir, grandson Stephen Joyce, is best known for suing the pants off/complaining about anything that gets done in his grandfather’s name. I’m pretty sure he’d be appalled by the guys with the fake boaters sitting out in front of Davey Byrne’s.)
Meanwhile, the other James was much on my mind throughout this trip, my first trip to Ireland without my husband Jim since 1985, when we made our first trip there together.
This is a place that Jim very much loved, and where we very much enjoyed traveling.
We did some “memory lane” on this trip. Meeting up with friends at MacSwiggan’s in Galway. Having a wonderful dinner at the Malt House, also in Galway. A day trip to the Aran Islands.
Some of Jim’s ashes were interred, at his request, in Galway Bay.
Dublin was less “our town” than Galway, but my nieces and I walked by many places where Jim and I have been.
Bittersweet, for sure.
But Jim would have been delighted that our nieces, Molly and Caroline, so very much enjoyed their introduction to Ireland.
And that Ireland does seem to be on at least a bit of an economic rebound.
I couldn’t have Diggy forever, so Ireland Abú.