After spending the past few days wandering around Ramsey with a dopey grin on my face, I am finally on my way to Australia. The cause of my glee rests in the fact that, after 7 years, I will be seeing my very dear friend, Lauren. Lauren and I met in Sydney 14 years ago, when we were both working in a café in the heart of the city. I was a struggling artist – aspiring more than actual – and Lauren, a would-be yoga teacher; at least, that is what she told me on first meeting. When she said yoga teacher, I heard puritan and assumed we’d have nothing in common. However, on next meeting, she announced that the previous week she had gone to the pub with her wages in hand (we were paid in cash in little brown packets – like that was legit); then, on the way home, in a less than abstemious state, she lost her little brown packet, leaving her penniless for the rest of the week. Such disheveledness warmed my heart and we have been firm friends ever since.
The why of the trip is Lauren is coming of age; that’s right, she is turning 40. It’s a massive todo in anyone’s life and I will be there to help her through it. Only, I wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her incredibly kind partner, Kris, who bought me the ticket. It’s a beautiful thing he has done for Lauren and I, and I am eternally grateful. I adore Kris, he is sweet and funny and, if his sprawling, backyard cactus farm is anything to go by, he is getting delightfully eccentric with age. We get on like a house on fire, both for our penchant for the why of things and our mutual love for Lauren.
Since I last saw Lauren and Kris, they have had two children. Mostly, small children bewilder me; as such, I told Lauren I wouldn’t be visiting until they were both over 5 – an age after which I find children agreeable. Her youngest is not quite 5, but he likes jigsaws and is so freaking cute, that for him I will make an exception. To err on the side of caution, however, Lauren promised not to talk me up to them, lest they be disappointed with my non-Marypoppian persona. Secretly, though, I am sure we’ll all have a blast.
Now, what trip to Australia would be complete without a visit to Dublin? My flight left out of the emerald city, which meant a 24hr stop over, which meant a visit with my cousin Christy, a Dubliner and all round lovely man (technically, he is my mother’s cousin, or, maybe his father is my mother’s cousin…hmm, I’m not sure…either way, we are related). Having worked at Dublin airport for almost 40 years, he is also a very handy man. After meeting me off the plane, he took me for a cuppa with his sister, Kate, divested me of my bag and then dispatched me to the city center for the afternoon.
I had thought of going to the Guinness Brewery, as suggested by my workmate and dear friend, Daisy. But, I decided a rebellion was more up my alley, so I visited the General Post Office, site of the 1916 Irish uprising against their British overlords. With last year being the centenary of the seismic event, a state-of-the-art museum has been built in the post office, detailing the ins and outs of what took place. I am ashamed to say that, prior stepping into the museum, I knew nothing about the Rising; but, for a mere 10euro, that is no longer the case. Holy moly…it was epic!
In short, Ireland had long been asking the British to bugger off, and were on the cusp of signing the 3rd Home Rule Bill, which, essentially, would’ve given Ireland self-governance, while remaining part of the British Empire. This didn’t fly with the more ardent Irish nationals, who advocated for complete separation from the British, and the establishment of a Republic. As with any major event involving humans and violence, The Easter Rising as it is now known (which began on Easter Monday and lasted for 6 days), came about due to the convergence of several factors.
The timing was precipitated by the outbreak of the First World War, which, effectively, put the Home Rule avenue on hold; thereby leaving a vacuum for the Irish Republicans (not to be confused with the American political party) to gain support and stir-up descent. This coincided with the rise of socialist and women’s suffragette movements, both of which, gauging that their respective agendas might be met, joined with the Republicans in the fight for a free Ireland.
Added to this, Nationalisms were on the rise all over Europe; a key component of which was the construction and nurturing of a cultural identity, independent of others. Such cultural identities were made up of factors pertaining to land, religion, the arts, shared history and, in some cases, genetics. The epicentre for the melding of Irish Cultural Identity, was Dublin; which was ironic, for it was the most anglicized and culturally diverse place in Ireland. Still, Irish artists, poets, playwrights and activists expressed the ‘Irish Spirit’, amid the wider nationalist zeitgeist, thus providing a verdant seedbed for a more militant form nationalism to take hold.
“Idea is an introduction to creativity
that gives birth to reality.”
– Stephen Magnus
It all came to ahead in the spring of 1916, and a deliberate, armed rebellion was set for Easter Sunday, later being moved to the Monday. HQ for the rebels was the General Post office, a strategic location – since all communication with the outside world was trafficked through there. On the eve of the Rising, a Proclamation of the Irish Republic was drawn up and signed by 7 key members of the rebellion. Hung on lampposts the next day, the ink still wet, the Proclamation is considered the most influential document in Irish History – you can even get it printed on teatowels! As to what occurred during the Rising? Unfortunately, one afternoon at a museum was not enough to figure out exactly what happened. Basically, it was bloody (lit.) chaos. I can, however, give you statistics:
485 people were killed:
26% British Armed Forces
16% Rebel Forces
The Rebels experienced some important victories; but, to obtain their objective of a free Ireland, through violence, it would’ve been necessary to bring the entire British Army to its knees, and that was never going to happen – as the British response to their heroic attempt attests:
Only one key rebel died in the fighting and eventual obliteration, the rest were captured and executed piecemeal, along with others, to ensure the Irish knew exactly who was boss. The British overkill and the subsequent psychic wounding of the executions, turned the tide of public opinion against the British – despite initially seeing the rebels as troublemakers and a disgrace to Ireland. The British made martyrs of them, thus ensuring their status’ as national heroes and setting the foundations for the Republic of Ireland as it stands today; except, of course, for that little piece in the North…but I’m not touching that with a bargepole.
“It is useless to send armies against ideas.”
– Georg Brandes
Later when I asked my cousin if any of our relations had been involved, he replied, “Oh sure, all of Ireland had a relative in the Rising.” Then he laughed and said, “If that was case, it would never have been put down.”
After the museum – which, by the way, had a component that blew my mind; indeed, it was so intense, I nearly burst into tears (certainly a must see museum in Dublin) – I took a stroll along the river Liffey:
Wandered through the Temple Bar area:
Then stopped at a public house for refreshment:
If my perfect Dublin afternoon, in all its dreary glory, wasn’t enough, I then had the good fortune to spend time with my cousin’s wife, Ciara. Ciara and I had never met before: not that you would’ve noticed; we hit it off immediately and she is now on my list of favourite people I have ever met. Key to my affection was the History of Dublin tour she took me on. Really, we were just driving home from her job in the city center. However, she was kind enough to tell me about all the points of interest along the way, regaling me with stories of the Guinness Family, the merits of British infrastructure and, my best all, Ireland’s Jewish History.
The evening, which was spent at the most visually dazzling pub I have ever been to, and then an Italian restaurant, was equally fascinating in terms of conversation. Subjects included: Ireland, the Catholic Church, Ireland’s monumental decision to vote in Gay marriage (the first country in the world to do so – a fact Ireland has every right to be proud of), Ciara’s charity work and various travels in Africa (if you heard the things she has witnessed, your eyes would pop out your head, but they are her stories to tell, not mine), and Christy’s travels in Eastern Europe.
They were, by far, the most interesting conversations I have had in a long time; true, I live by myself, so the bar is not set very high; still, it was nice to hear new stories from two erudite, open-minded and well-travelled people. If it weren’t for the fact that I had been up since 4am, so I could fit in one last painting session before my wanderings, I would’ve stayed up all night talking to them. But, as It was, I was bone-tired; so, after dinner, I went straight to bed – not there in the restaurant, when we returned to their house. It was a good thing I did, as my flight was at the crack of dawn. It was great going to the airport with Christy – interesting conversations included – as he knows everybody there; indeed, he appears to be related to half of them, which means, by convoluted extension, so am I.
Dublin, I will return.