My work week was short – only two days. And thus began the bank holiday weekend.
Friday was busy. My Dutch visitor was returning from her week long trip around the rural parts of this here island. Meanwhile my brother was flying in from the big smoke of London. Both were guests at my humble abode – or flophouse as I called it last night. Coordinating meeting times for guests who don’t know each other is a touch stressful. But like a finely tuned stradivarius I played my A game and succeeded in meeting both without either them (or me) getting lost.
We repaired to the Hare Krishna restaurant for supper. I can recommend the lentil shepherd’s pie. Then onto a hostelry named TP Smiths for banter and booze. Smiths used to be called Keatings last century, and in fact it was in this place I revealed over pints, decades ago, to a crowded table that I was an invert (I love these old fashioned words for gay – words like sodomite and bugger while negative and cruel are strangely evocative).
This morning we rose early and went for a full Irish breakfast (which differs from a full English breakfast through the inclusion of black and white pudding – don’t ask what these are if you are of a sensitive nature. Just believe me when I tell you they are tasty).
I bid farewell to my brother at the stop where the Big Green Bus departs for Limerick. Home to the West he went.
With my remaining visitor, I walked through the building site that is city centre Dublin to the National Museum of Archeology. The sooner those tram lines are finished, the better.
At the museum we encountered the bog bodies.
About two thousand years ago the nobility of the time (in Ireland, as well as Britain, the Netherlands and Scandinavia) had an unfortunate habit of punishing their enemies through brutally murderous means and disposing of the bodies in the peat bogs and the wetlands of the middle of the country.
Peat bogs are marshy areas made up of partially decomposed plant life collected over thousands of years. A there is very little oxygen in the boglands the corpses did not decompose and were fully preserved when discovered by farmers digging the peat for fuel (peat is highly flammable and is therefore used as a replacement for coal to burn during the winter months). The bodies were fascinating subjects for historians and archeologists, giving a glimpse into the lives of people pre-Christianity. They were given a bit of spit and polish, and put on display.
As a mark of respect the bodies are not on public view but rather surrounded by opaque barriers which you have to pass through to get a glimpse. There were four on display. It’s sort of bizarre to think that these murder victims did not know, as they suffered their fate thousands of years ago, that millennia into the future, their remains would be on glass pedestals, for thousands of people to visit and pay their respects. It’s sort of poetic justice – their murderers are forgotten, but their human remains live on.
The museum building (another which I had hitherto avoided all my life) is a beautifully grand and vast place. The treasure section showed various religious artifacts rescued from the bogs, and included the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch, stunningly intricate pieces that I was taught about at schools. It may be decades later, but I’m glad I’ve finally seen them.
We had an appointment on O’Connell Street in front of the GPO (General Post Office) – the scene of the 1916 Rising – the failed uprising to end British rule, that ultimately led to partition of the island and independence for the South. Into the post office we went to be greeted by the magical Lego recreation of the 1916 Rising. Paul Derrick spent two years, using 50,000 Lego pieces to recreate the scene.
I loved it.
And look at that double decker electric tram. If those wise urban planners had not foolishly decided to rip up the city’s extensive tram tracks, in the 1950s, the city would not be the building site it currently is. Although at least it is being rebuilt I suppose.
After a cup of cha in town, we made our way home, collected the bags, and I bid farewell to my visitor.
It is now time to lie in my darkened living room for a few hours, with a damp cloth on my forehead.