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Climbed a mountain today – or at least Killiney Hill; Saw a new play at the Abbey by Ann Treacy
August 21, 2019, 8:43 am
Filed under: Dublin

Today we headed to the Northside – me the girls and a friend from Lily’s college who is here at the same time. We took the DART (great for views) to Killiney to check out the beach and then climb Killiney Hill. It’s another activity that was pretty popular with us when we lived here. It turns out the girls are not in the same good condition they were back in the day. There was a lot of huffing, puffing and pausing on the way to the top but one we made it the views were worth it. Even after it started to rain.

After the big climb, we headed to lunch in Dalkey. There is nothing better than seafood chowder after a big walk. The we walked around Dalkey, especially it see Dalkey Island. We were horrified to see people jumping from from a high wall into the sea. First, the wall was too high. Second, the sea is too cold. But I had to share some pictures of strangers jumping.

Also went to dinner and the Abbey with Tony Roche and Katy Hayes. They were very, very good to us when we lived here before so it was nice to catch up. It’s fun to hear how families change and flourish; they all seem to be doing well. And we went to opening night of The Hunger at the Abbey. (Katy writes reviews for the Irish Independent. I can’t want to see her review.)

It is an opera, here’s a brief description from the website

Asenath Nicholson travelled in Ireland and provided relief to starving people during the Great Famine. Her harrowing first-person account Annals of the Famine in Ireland forms the basis of this extraordinary opera by Donnacha Dennehy, composer of the award-winning The Last Hotel and The Second Violinist. Director Tom Creed makes his debut on the Abbey stage with the European premiere of a moving and thrilling new work.

It as if someone put the exact words of her account to music; she is reporting and commenting on the state, especially of a father who has brought a dying child to town, looking for relief/support. The father sings his reaction to his story. And occasionally experts from the field appear on multimedia screens to offer social and academic commentary.

The music isn’t drone – I almost wish it had been because that would be interesting to me but it is repetitive, sometimes cacophonous sometimes dramatic. More palatable for a wider audience but like drone, it’s not as easy to listen to, it requires more work from the audience. That mixed with the operatic singing is an interesting juxtaposition. As one of my friends said, dying isn’t very dramatic on stage. And while the show is barely over an hour, it seems long. But I assume that’s by design. It puts the audience in the middle of the famine. It’s bleak, it’s seemingly never-ending. (Or in the case of the dying daughter, she dies right before the father gets money.)  The themes are compelling.

The commentary highlights the economics and morality of famine versus free market economy. Some opinions: If the British had invested in jobs and job training versus workhouses, the outcome may have been different. Giving to grand scope tragedies like this is futile, because there isn’t enough money to make a difference. And of course giving money to the poor, means the rich get less. Some of the rich feel that it’s a meritocracy – that the poor are someone deserving of their plight or are at least not deserving of something better.

It makes me think of my time spent helping Monica advocate for the homeless in the Twin Cities. Is it futile to give? Will the rich be unwilling to give up renting luxury apartments in lieu of affordable housing? I also couldn’t help but think of the families and the children on the US-Mexican border. How can we continue to watch people die before we decide to make a difference?

The play brings up George Thompson, a British abolitionist who toured the US to lecture about the role American played in the perpetuation of slavery. Such an interesting choice. Tied to the video commentary in the play. A lot so questions arise, observations are made – now it is up to the audience to be inspired to action.

The audience didn’t riot as they did for the opening of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World in 1907 when they saw the show as a offense to public morality – maybe we’re thicker skinned now. Maybe right people aren’t in the theater. Maybe we need this to open in El Paso, Texas.

Also – I’ll be certainly using some of the ideals of investing in people rather than letting them flounder in my day job, writing about how investment in rural broadband has a certain and palpable return on investment and without it communities will die.



Street art in Dublin and meeting an old friend by Ann Treacy
August 20, 2019, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Dublin

We’ve reached the point of the vacation where everyone needs a little alone time. Except, of course, if you want your mom to come with you to Penney’s to buy you cheap and cheerful clothes. (That’s how I got the picture of the girls near the Spire.) So I spent the morning walking around parks and the afternoon chasing down street art.

I also met a long time friend, Karina, at the IFI (Irish Film Institute). Karina and I worked at Mother Redcaps market together at a cafe called Bread and Roses. It was great to see Karina looking and doing so well. And every time I see Karina, she gives me an Irish book. She is one of the best promoters of Irish authors that I know! Also at the IFI I got to see an Oscar that the girls and I got to hold 9 years ago!

I won’t say much about the art. I have added some notes, like locations – but it didn’t last long as that seems like a lot of computer time on vacation. Many of the pictures I got in Camden and the Liberties. Some I have walked by in the last few days. And a lot of it comes from Templebar. The scale of the art is not always evident much much fills the wall. You can see that people get creative in where the post things – second floor is fair game.



Sunday in Dun Laoghaire and dinner with the Fitzgerald’s – like old home week by Ann Treacy
August 19, 2019, 8:48 am
Filed under: Dublin, Dun Laoghaire

It really feels like we’re in Dublin now that we’ve done two of our favorite and most regular things. We walked down Dun Laoghaire pier and gone to visit with the Fitzgerald’s.

We took the DART out to Dun Laoghaire and walked down the pier as we have done about a hundred times before. Although Aine was the only one who wanted a 99 (ice cream cone) so I knew something was different. We didn’t see any seals, which was a great disappointment to me but Lily and I did see a porpoise (or dolphin – hard to tell when all we really saw was the dorsal fin). The pier was busy. It was super sunny for part of the walk, then a big rain and wind storm blew through, then sunny. So pretty much the same as usual.

And that we popped into the People’s Park where they were having a Ukulele Hooley, which was fun. People playing music and lots of market-type stuff going on. Every third person was carrying a ukulele so it must have been a big deal.

Then Barney picked us up and we headed to the Fitzgerald’s. They had kindly invited us with almost no advance warning but Ailbhe is heading out of town today so it was a now or never sort of deal. Barney drove the girls to see their old school, Cabinteely village and their Irish grandma’s house. Although the house has been completely redone – in fact it looks like it may have been entirely rebuilt.

It was great to catch up. I haven’t seen the girls laugh that much in a while. We ended the night with s’mores. It was a super fun day but also I imagine a little hard for the girls.



Day Six: Titanic in Belfast underground music in Dublin by Ann Treacy
August 18, 2019, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Belfast, Dublin

Day Six was a travel day but we made the most of it! Aine and I got up early and went to the Titanic Museum. Aine is an expert in the Titanic. She has loved it for years and I had to laugh at how much I knew because Aine likes to share what she knows. For example – the old lookout guy was moved to another ship right before the maiden launch. He took the binoculars (or maybe the key to the binoculars) with him, which of course hindered the spotting of the iceberg. We have been to several Titanic exhibits over the years. It is always chilling to think of how scary it must have been and the impact surviving such a tragedy would have on the rest of your life. Watching so much life and death and the best and the worst of people. From Margaret (Molly) Brown, the woman who helped others onto the lifeboats to J, Bruce Ismay, he worked for the shipping company but somehow found his way onto a lifeboat – perhaps taking the last seat available.

After that Aine and I walked around town until the girls and Sean met us at the bus station. We did get to St George’s Market, a fun food market where they have tons of spices and fish and plenty of food to eat on site. And we stopped in the Belfast City Hall.

Then the bus to Dublin. Unremarkable – until we saw the place we will be placing in for the next week. It is gorgeous! There are three bedrooms, two living rooms, a patio and a fully stocked kitchen. The woman who owns it had filled the fridge with “everything Irish” from smoked salmon to brown bread and digestives. Aine and Kate especially were so happy. It wasn’t the food their Irish grandma would have had waiting but I think the fact that there was food waiting reminded them of when we used to come stay with Irish grandma. It was a very thoughtful gesture, more meaningful than the host even intended I suspect.

We are staying behind Trinity a few blocks from Merrion Park – home to my favorite Oscar Wilde statue. It’s not as central as the last place – but it’s even better. It’s not as loud with partying tourists and the place is so nice. We hung out and eventually Lily and I went to dinner. I finally got a bowl of seafood chowder!! It was worth the wait. And the it turns out everyone met us at the pub, including a cousin of Sean who then took most of us to an surprise gig by The Murder Capital. So much fun! Probably will not be repeated again while we’re here but totally worth it.



Day Two in Belfast: Black taxi tour and dinner with friends by Ann Treacy
August 17, 2019, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Belfast

I was reminded that teenagers like to sleep way more than visit anything. So I walked around Mary’s place in Belfast in the morning. It was great. As fast and as far as I wanted. And no one asked me for anything. I walked through some parks. Saw lovely vistas and pretty good street art.

Then by 2pm I made everyone get up for the Black Taxi tour of political murals. We did it when the girls were very young and it’s so good we did it again. Joe was our driver and gave us the quickest history of the Northern Ireland ever – starting with 1690 and the Battle of the Boyne. The battle was really about who was the rightful king of England (King James or King William). The fight wasn’t really about Ireland or religion; in fact it wasn’t about religion at all but it was the first step in a long step that led to the troubles.

I won’t recount everything – you can find a podcast on it I’m sure but only highlight two things that struck me. (I’ve heard the story many, many times. And for folks who don’t know, I have a MA in Irish Lit. But it seems like everything I hear the story something new bubbles up.)

The start of modern troubles begins in 1912, when the 32 counties of Ireland were divided into 26 (Republic of Ireland) and 6 (Northern Ireland). It was a compromise of sorts but a compromise that favors the Loyalists (folks who liked England and were generally Protestant) over the Nationalists (mostly Catholic) – despite the Nationalists being a strong majority nationwide. In fact, North Ireland was gerrymandered to create a Loyalist majority for the area. Joe pointed out that this is where things should have gone differently. A peaceful protest or other movement should have pushed for the will of the people in 1912. (Inspires me for more Women’s March work!)

From 1912-1916 there were uprising but few and far between – until Easter Rising 1916 when Nationalist volunteers took over the GPO (General Post Office) to defend Ireland. It lasted for 6 days, which is pretty impressive, then the rebels were captured and many sentenced to death. While public interest in the movement had been middling until that point, the executed rebels (the idea, the image, the romance) turned the public. And that spurred a renewed interest in a free and united Ireland.

The troubles continued with lesser and greater fervor until last 1960s, early 1970s. Uprisings happened. Rebels were arrested and treated as political prisons. It wasn’t always front page stuff until Margaret Thatcher decided to not call IRA volunteers political prisoners but treat them as criminals – starting with wearing a regular uniform instead of criminal uniform in prison. But the rebels weren’t having it. Instead of a criminal clothes, the prisoners went naked with blanket protest. (Only had blankets.) That stirred troubles that eventually lead to the Hunger Strikers and that (like the executed rebels) struck a chord. People paid attention again. Bobby Sands (most famous Hunger Striker) was voted into political office (MP) while in prison.

Fast forward to today. A ceasefire was signed with the IRA with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

As Joe pointed out, the crease fire has brought much greater investment and return than the troubles ever did. We did speculate about what will happen in the wake of Brexit. Most people in Northern Ireland would prefer to stay with the EU than the UK. Brings us back to 1912 – will the will  of the people be heeded and what romantic image might it take to spur interest.

SO there’s a long winded recap of our time on the tour. It was interesting to see what the girls remembered. Lily remembered the memorial to a Catholic community that had been burned out of their homes while police stood by (or worse). They all remembered the Peace Wall that separated Catholic from Protestant parts of town. The murals tell the story. And the murals continue to be painted. Our friend Mary had just helped with one and I loved the recent-ish mural on Resiliency. One strange push we saw near Sandy Row (and really in the UK Flag demonstration we saw the next day) was the push by some people to celebrate and remember the oppressors. It very much reminded me of the discussion back home of changing the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.

In short – the back taxi tour gave us so much to think about!

Then we enjoyed a really nice dinner with our hosts Mary and Ricky. Mary generously invited us to stay in her place, drove us around, gave us great ideas for activities. And it was a delight to catch up with Mary again – we worked together 30 years ago at the Half Time Rec!



Day One in Belfast: Street art and everyone is together by Ann Treacy
August 16, 2019, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Belfast

Thursday was a travel day. Aine, Kate and I took the bus to Belfast. It’s a trip we’ve done many times. We met up with Lily and Sean here. I have to give a special shout out to Mary, a long time friend who has given us her whole flat for a couple days. And so much great advice on where to go and what to see. And it’s just great to see her. (Mary and I worked together at the Half Time Rec many years ago.)

When we got here we walked around. We ate at Pizza Express, which is something Aine has been looking forward to for a long time. She just remembers going there as a kid. SO we went there and then got the bird’s eye view of the city in the big elevator in Victoria Shopping Center. It was sunny and we could see for miles. And on our walk we saw the giant Belfast fish, a favorite of mine and lots of street art.

At night Lily, Sean and I went out to the Duke of York and a couple places around there for a pint and to see some live bands.



Day 3 in Dublin: Deer, modern art and Guinness by Ann Treacy
August 14, 2019, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Dublin

Today the girls were a little under the weather. Or maybe they were sick of me – but aside from lunch and dinner I had the day to myself. I walked up to Phoenix Park. On the way, I visited Collins Barracks where they have a few airplanes hanging from the ceiling. Actually it’s now the National Museum of Decorative Arts & History.

From there I hiked up to Phoenix Park. My plan was to find the deer from my friend Monica. I forgot that they could be anywhere. SO I got to do some hiking. But then I was rewarded. I forgot how tame these deer are. I think I could have taken one home if I had a leash.

Then I hiked up to Kilmainham Hospital to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. I love that place. I love how it feels like a sanitarium. It’s creepy but cool and so clean and white now. And I always like their exhibits. Today one was about dead machines and anxiety.

On the way back, I walked by the Guinness factory, which is fun since many years ago I used to live just around the corner. I didn’t stop because I’m not actually that into drinking Guinness.




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