Saturday, 23 July 2011


“Yes”, I said in Dublin Castle, feeling a little joke coming along. “This is   St Patrick's Hall and it’s magnificent, isn’t it?”
She nodded.
“And we’re very grateful to you English for leaving it behind.”
Boom Boom.
She nodded.
Yes indeed, this young woman from Cambridge University Press was pretty stiff going. And no doubt would have been the same coming too. But she was English, and I forgave her. It has to be accepted that a certain type of English do find us Irish incomprehensible and strange. Allowances must be made. It’s all about the rich uniqueness of the world’s peoples. And that.
I drifted away.
A very small and very voluble academic sort of bloke was making animated conversation to H’s cleavage. She introduced me. He made it clear that he was completely uninterested in meeting me or in anything I might have to say. Though he did mention that he had got his teeth redone in Hungary. Just don’t think about clamping them onto either of my wife’s breasts, I thought.
And drifted away.
And fell into conversation with Tony Farmar, one of the A’s in A & A Farmar. We go back a bit. I met him first as a floppy haired Oxford graduate (him, not me), and now he had matured into a floppy haired middleaged publisher from Ranelagh.
“Did you manage to place that book”, he inquired, referring to a proposal of mine that a publisher had recently rejected.
Neither of us mentioned that the publisher who had rejected the thing was A & A Farmar.
We  moved on to discuss a proposal of his that had come my way.
I’ll probably reject it, I thought. And I drifted away.
And talked for a moment to Michael Gill. But I didn’t mention that his erstwhile company Gill & Macmillan  had united with Farmar in the rejection of my great new book proposal. I had last seen little Michael in Drogheda at a performance by Arvo Part  So we talked about that. Strangely, at the Arvo Part event we had talked of our previous meeting. At a diner in New York. Maybe if I ever meet him again we will talk about the launch of the Dictionary of Irish Biography.
I drifted away. And chatted to Jeremy Williams, architect and architectural historian. We went to university together. I told him he should write more books. He agreed.
I moved on.
H had also moved on. And was now in deep discussion with ex-Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. Some blue shirt family connection there, methinks. She introduced me. He was quite frail and old now but obviously in possession of all his marbles. That rasping Minister of Hardship voice had not changed a whit in intervening years.
And then it was time.
Ex Taoiseach Cosgrave went to a reserved seat, and H and I joined the seatless mob awaiting. Awaiting for the arrival of current Taoiseach. He would launch my book. My nine volume Dictionary of Irish BiographyThe fact that I only wrote three pages of the nine volumes is neither here nor there. Everyone in the room only wrote three or so pages. Our ownership was both collective and individual. We are the scholars and historians of Ireland. Six hundred of Ireland’s finest scholars, in fact. Or so the Taoiseach said when he eventually arrived and launched himself into a speech.
I nudged H with my elbow. And muttered.
“See…see…six hundred of Ireland’s finest scholars. That includes me.”
She did not respond.
But we have been married a long time.
Not that it seemed quite as long as the Taoiseach’s speech. And beside him an ominous looking lineup of future speakers awaited their moment, clutching sheafs of notes.
I caught H’s eye, and she caught mine.
It was enough. We edged backwards through the mob and out of the hall and down the stairs and away across the cobbled yard. A solitary bloke with the word Constable across his back looked out at us from under the portico at the rain. I wondered what he was thinking. Of your one in her high heels and your man in his poncey hat.
It probably didn’t matter.
H and I moved through the rain up Castle Street and into the Lord Edward Pub 
We had met here for our first date.
Five children ago.
And we had not been back since.
“Do you remember that time?” I asked her.
“Yes”, she said, “I remember sitting here, watching you walk to the bar. From that direction…” She pointed. “To that.”
“And you said to yourself”, I suggested, “you said I will marry that man”.
“No”, she said.
“Oh. What did you think?”
She shrugged. “Fellow back from Africa.”
We drank our drinks and left. And into  Jury's Inn  where we would stay the night. Dead handy to the Castle, we had planned. Drank more drinks there and went up to our room. High up, I’d specifically asked for a top floor room. Less liklihood of colourful street folks (in which this area abounds) climbing through the window and cutting my throat. And a better view.
H got into the bed and played with the TV remote control.
I stood at the window and looked out at the city and the streets below. It was a very wet night. Umbrellas passed on the footpaths and the traffic lights reflected in puddles. What I really need…I thought…what I really need is a neon sign right here on the wall beside my window. A sign saying vacancies, and flashing on and off. And then I’d be a thoughtful private eye in a nineteen fifties movie.
But I’m not…a thoughtful private eye in a nineteen fifties movie. I’m a thoughtful writer in a twenty first century blog. A thoughtful writer remembering. My ancestors came from over there, Fishamble Street. I’d traced them back. And discovered that one of them is buried in the little unmarked graveyard of St Johns, between the cathedral and the City Hall.
A woman ancestor, I wondered what she was like.
Much like any woman, I supposed, glancing over at H in the bed.
But probably not so pretty.