Posted by: brigid benson | June 12, 2011

Dublin Fair City

James Joyce, Leonard Cohen  &  some  photos

Dia dhuit!

That’s hello in Irish.  I’ve been working in and around Dublin and one of my favourite places is Skerries, a fishing and seaside community on the east coast, about 18 miles from the city centre. Off the craggy shore there are islands, inland there’s a distinctive dumpy grey granite martello tower, windmills and a watermill that ground wheat, corn and barley. The martello tower, one of a chain built as a defence against the threat of invasion by Napoleon’s fleet, has since become an iconic Irish image associated with writer James Joyce.

To the south east of Dublin the Joyce museum resides in  a tower in Sandycove, inspired by Ulysses, Joyce’s cult novel. Chapter One of Leopold Bloom’s extraordinary day of discovery in Dublin on June 16 1904 begins in a tower. The anniversary of his fictional odyssey is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Joyceans with throughout Dublin and the world.

Back in Skerries, a martello tower stands on Red Island, no longer strictly an island since it is joined to the mainland by a narrow neck of land. Beyond Red Island lies Colt island.  Shenick Island takes it’s name from ‘sionnach’ – the Irish word for fox. Now a nature reserve, Shenick can be reached on foot at low tide. St Patrick’s Island is where the Saint first landed following his expulsion from Wicklow by the local pagans. Seabirds thrive; Lambay, the largest of the Fingal Dublin coast islands, is a bird sanctuary – no martello tower but a castle. Rockabill lighthouse stands on the larger of two islets, the  Rock and the Bill, which are connected only at low spring tides,  this is where you’ll find the largest colony of rare Roseate terns in Europe.

Offshore currents are strong and warning signs abound. They didn’t prevent Java the hound, unable to read, from launching himself into the deep grey to swim through walls of water with a group of curious seals. Hearts were in mouths as the young seadog paddled further and further from the shore, blissfully unaware of danger. Soon he was just a faraway speck, barking faintly on the wind.  Watchers on the shore were horrified until at last he decided to turn tail.

After the near death drama of a bracing briny walk, nothing beats the calming seaside combo of an ice cream and steaming cup of tea.  Close to the pier, Storm in a Teacup is just pefect  you’ll get a friendly welcome from Graham in the tiny cafe with standing room only.  Graham is a Leonard Cohen fan; when he’s not serving customers he may well have his head in a book about the Canadian poet, novelist and singer-songwriter.

If you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner
Take my hand
Or if you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man

Leonard Cohen, from I’m Your Man

Remembering the day Java the dog swam with the seals

Delightful, Storm in a Tea Cup

Graham taking a break from ice cream & Leonard Cohen

Skerries: home of rare Roseate Terns

Skerries; seabird islands

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