Monday, September 19, 2005

My trip to Dublin, from a work stand-point, was a success. I arrived Tuesday morning and took the bus from the airport. There was a bit of confusion because they changed the system from last year. When we got to the city center, tourists (like myself) had asked the poor bus driver where O'Connell street was so many times that he was curled up next to the microphone for the bus, moaning that yes, indeed, this was O'Connell street. I do not think he is long for that job.

We (my roommate came along for the ride) went directly from the bus stop to Trinity College Dublin. I had to get a manuscript readers card from the Berkeley Library. The Berkeley Library is probably one of the worst looking buildings in the Isles. It is a concrete monstrosity which is completely at odds with the beautiful buildings surrounding it. The reception person was very nice and the procedure to get my reader's card was so much simpler than Oxford's procedure.

After I received my card, I found out that the manuscript room was in the same building as the Book of Kells. I had to go the wrong way up the exit stairs, with the stares of the tourists as I did so, then, in the Long Room, present my reader's card to the guard who, then, pulled up the velvet rope and let me behind, to more stares and now pointing of the tourists, then showed me to the manuscript room. This was a scene repeated throughout my visit in the Long Room. When I finally arrived in the manuscripts room, they told me that I could not order the manuscript right away but I could order the microfiche. I told them that I really needed to see the manuscript but they were not swayed. I told them that I will look at the microfiche but I am probably going to ask for the manuscript anyway. They said that was fine.

After getting that arranged, we walked down to our hotel, which was on Harcourt street just south of St. Stephan's Green. We were directly across from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. After getting settled into our room, we went to eat in the Grafton Street area. Now, on the way back to the hotel room, there was a stark reminder of the problems in any state. There were far more beggars on the street in Dublin than I would have expected. On the news that night, it said that 4 out of 5 Irish believe that people who are homeless choose to be homeless. That is a rather scary number when one remembers that their own parents were often homeless in the early twentieth century.

The next day I spend most of the morning and some of the afternoon in the manuscript room looking at the microfiche. I became aware while looking at the microfiche that I was dealing with a scribe who was, one, a git, and two, a horrible speller. In the poem that I am doing, there is a word spelled sloinfetsa. In the manuscript, he spelled it sloīF7sa. Two thing stand out here: first, the capitol letter in the middle of a word; second, using the ocus symbol ⁊ which is also known as the Tironian Sign et (hopefully your browser has a font to display it but I very much doubt that it does. You will probably see a ? sign. If you cannot see it, go here to see an image of it). This was one of those things my Old Irish teacher said that I would never see but she was going to show me anyway.

After I was done looking at the manuscript, I was a bit early so I went over to a book store across the street. While I was there, I noticed the stock girl singing Opera (and she was quite good at it). This led me to the conclusion after seeing more people just walking around singing that in Dublin people sing all the time. Everything from Opera (like the girl in the shop) to folk songs from the West of Ireland. I saw people just walking down the street singing away with no one ever looking askenance at them. In Scotland, you do not usually have people singing while walking down the street. At least, it is not something that I have encountered in my time in Edinburgh.

Anyway, my roommate and I wandered around for a while before going back to our room to prepare for my friend to take us out to dinner. I had an Irish friend from Dublin who was in Edinburgh for classes in my department. So before I left, I contacted him since he had to move back to Ireland after his course. We washed up and he was around on time. Unfortunately, my roommate and I did not know that the junior certification test results that day. There were hundreds of 15 and 16 year olds out on the street looking for a good time. The girls were especially decked out in skirts that were really too short and these silver flashing shawls, which seem to be extremely popular with young ladies in Dublin these days. The Garda were out in force to make sure that the young ones did not have alcohol, which they did anyway. So after wading through the throng of people, we ate at a place in the Grafton Street area. Then we went to a place called Kehoe's, which is a pub not frequented by tourists and your typical Dubliner pub. One of the nicest things about the pub and all pubs in Ireland now are non-smoking. This is going to be done in Scotland as well and it is causing quite a stir. However, as I pointed out to a friend in a pub yesterday, historically pubs never had smoking. Smoking only became popular after the sixteenth century so I think that the historical position of the pub is fine. Anyway, we whiled away the hours (as you do in a pub) there until he had to go back home.

The next day, I was able to see the manuscript itself, which was helpful in some ways but not in others. When I was finished taking all the physical measurements of the manuscript for my description in my PhD, I asked for a photocopy of the manuscript. They told me that it was going to cost €15, which is about $18USD just for one page! I can do that myself for a dime (.10USD) with microfiche in an US university. Well, there was nothing that I could do about it so I paid up and then they told me that it could take up to five WEEKS. There are some things about Universities here that I just do not understand.

After getting that done, I met my roommate and we decided to go to the Guinness Brewery. After getting lost and over-shooting the brewery once, we arrived at the Guinness Storehouse, which is where they put all the visitor facilities because they do not let you inside the brewery itself (I guess not to disturb the leprechauns while they make the best beer on God's Green Earth). They had a great exhibit of the history of the brewery and how they make beer and the cooper's trade (they make barrels from Oak trees). They then had a bar with a free pint of Guinness at the top of the old storehouse, which was all bent glass so you could see out nearly 360 degrees around Dublin. It would have been great on a sunny day. After that, we went down an bought presents for different people at home and abroad.

The last day was spent walking around Christ Church Cathedral and going to O'Donoghue's pub to see some traditional Irish music. O'Donoghue's is much like Sandy Bells in that musicians filter in all night to play. I could not stay over long because I had a 7 am flight, which meant that I had to get up at 5 am to get out to the airport.

Honestly, I am not warming up to Dublin very much. I started to near the end of my time there but I do not know exactly what it is about Dublin that I do not like. It has all the modern conveniences of a city but it seems to lack the character of Edinburgh. My friend from Northern Ireland said that I probably would not like Dublin and he was right but the question remains, will I like the West of Ireland? Otherwise, my trip was great. I really did enjoy the Guinness Storehouse. I would definitely recommend it, especially if you do not know much about beer making.

posted by Chris  #9:25 AM | 0 comments |