I have rediscovered art galleries as a source of entertainment for Mary Kate and me. It would seem that she is at an age where she is discovering adult pastimes with little expense and cultural values. Her favourite is the Yeats exhibition at the National Gallery in Merrion Street. Some of the scenes she recognises as the Dublin near our home; family portraits please her greatly, and she asks me who they are and who painted them. She seems to favour the Irish impressionists. Who could not?
I confess I was ignorant of Jack B. Yeats until I moved to Dublin in the ’70s, when a friend introduced me to his work which hung in the winding stairwell at the National Gallery. Now those pictures receive their deserved environment in the Yeats Museum. For security reasons, they hang on thin wires connected to a sensitive alarm system near the ceiling. If any touch causes them to sway even slightly, it is relayed somehow to an overseer who informs the watchful, unobtrusive, non-uniformed employee who checks to see if all is well. On one of our visits last summer, I turned around to see a self-portrait of John Butler Yeats swaying, just slightly, and I realised Mary Kate must have brushed the frame with her shoulder. I thought I heard a voice say something about ‘area so-and-so’, and a security man slowly headed our way. We nonchalantly moved to another area, and I secretly reminded Mary Kate not to stand quite so close to the pictures! I couldn’t help but think that if the same situation had occurred at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, guns might have been drawn and we might have been escorted off for interrogation! I love Dublin!
During a stroll ’round an exhibition of impressionists recently at the Hugh Lane Gallery, we passed some nudes (paintings, that is). Mary Kate glanced at me for a reaction, with a little smile on her face. I told her the subjects had forgotten to put on their clothes—she smiled again and we both giggled. Sometimes the simplest explanation will suffice.
Candy, our ‘wobbly wabbit’, has grown considerably and learned to reach to scratch his cheek with the malformed hind leg. He is about nine months old now and appears to be going through a moody adolescence. He stays under a table during most of his free time, at his ablutions for hours. I am tempted to put in a mirror, just above the skirting board, and a PB Bunny poster so he can examine himself for ‘spots’. He is less playful, distant and moody. There is also a distinct possibility he is punishing me for bringing him to the vet recently for the ‘snip’. Although he will not keep company with any does, rabbits of both genders get cranky when they can’t do what rabbits are famous for doing, unless they are neutered. He had directed his romantic overtures at me—since I not only rejected his advances but ended any hope he may have had of fulfilling his desires, I suppose that’s enough provocation to sulk for a while! He senses my power over his fate and I have not eliminated the prospect of the ‘pot’. One Frontline board member of French origin has a wonderful rabbit recipe, and she’s a fabulous cook.
Candy has also taken up a little job for himself and can be hired out for fresh vegetables, celery, carrots, broccoli, etc. His chosen work is removing wallpaper from those back-breaking places near skirting board level. He can remove about five square inches with one deft movement of his powerful little jaws, and then he munches on the patch. Must be the old paste. He has his own smart hand-held two-tone travel cage, but will require collection and return by any interested DIY’ers. (Well, collection, anyway ….)
It is difficult not to notice foreign accents among service staff in Dublin, particularly in restaurants and pubs. With their accents has come a better standard of service and manners, which delight this Dubliner who is appalled at the changes in attitude over the past twenty-five years. When we moved here years ago, I was thoroughly impressed by Irish manners and service, which included eye contact and a string of ‘thank you’s’. The French, Spanish and Italians are a refreshing addition to those of their Irish peer group who don’t like or want to be doing the same work and haven’t the decency to pretend otherwise.
I’ve always loved New Year’s Day, because it symbolises a letting-go of the past and embracing the future. This year will be different by the excess of celebrations planned. Like many other people, I am delighted to know that the phallic symbol in O’Connell Street has been scuppered. Many suggestions were made to find an alternative purpose for the millions of pounds allocated to the ‘spire’. The government now has the financial means to eliminate all waiting lists for people with special needs, by allocating the required £30-40m. It would be a once-off capital expenditure which would improve the quality of lives of all concerned, including families who are providing full-time care at great cost to their own physical and emotional health.
Mary Freehill was a colleague of mine, years ago, when I worked with the National Rehabilitation Board. Associates like myself were impressed by her dogged commitment to people with disabilities. Mary began her career as a Labour Party councillor in the 1970s, and this year she presides as mayor of our capital city. To be in the Mansion House for the celebrations of the Millennium is a fitting reward for a politician who richly deserves the honour.
Isn’t it remarkable how many Irish politicians are named Mary—Banotti, Coughlan, Hanafin, Harney, Henry, Jackman, McAleese, O’Rourke, Robinson, Wallace… Sure, it is a grand old name!