Thursday, 24 October 2013

Dublin Part Two - More Theatre and My Offical Birthday

October 8th

Had a much needed lie-in after our lazy (boozy) day. But when I got up I felt surprisingly ok, still got some stamina it seems lol! We stayed in as my friend Marian  from the UK was joining us for a couple of days and was arriving around 2pm.  It was good to see her again, we have known each other since we became friends at school when we were 12, and though we live at opposite ends of the country now always have stayed in touch.

At 4pm we headed to the nearby Third Space cafe for our tea. I had quiche lorraine and salad and soda bread which was lovely. We then got the Luas to Abbey Street and went into The Peacock Theatre where we were going to see Maeve's House. It was a 75 minute long one-man play both written and performed by Eamon Morrissey based on the life and writings of the Irish writer based in New York, Maeve Brennan. Apparently Morrisey's family lived in the the same house in Cherryfield Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin as Brennan's had 20 years earlier before that family moved to New York.

I must admit that I had never heard of Maeve Brennan before, but that was not so surprising as she was a staff writer under the pseudonym of The Long Winded Lady  for The New Yorker magazine for much of her life and two anthologies of some of her work were not published either in the UK or Ireland.

The play revolves around the house which coincidentally was home to both of them and the setting for many of Brennan's stories. This play features extracts from Maeve Brennan’s writing and presents a moving portrait of two people in conversation across generations. Morrissey talks of some of the common links the house has, such as the creaking banister, and it must have been strange for Morrissey to read of such a familiar place in Brennan's writing. But what struck me most was Brennan's stories of the dark side of the human condition, loneliness within a marriage where love had long disappeared, people trapped, lives wasted, dreams long evaporated. Though Brennan was thousands of miles from Dublin it seems her past still had a strong hold on her, it is hard to escape one's early influences. And some of her writings seemed to echo her own tragic life story.

The set was simple, there was a background of a skyscraper skyline that seems to have been made up of golden words that glinted in the lights, sound effects were subtle but effective, contrasting the bustle of Manhattan with the secretive quietness of suburban Dublin..

There was an intimacy about the play that drew me in, and I was full of admiration for Eamon Morrissey who performed for a full 75 minutes, no mean feat for a 70 year old!

After the play there was a discussion about Maeve and the play with Eamon and Amanda Bourke (who wrote a biography called Maeve Brennan: Homesick at The New Yorker) which was very interesting and enlightening. There were a couple of people in the audience who also lived in Cherryfield Avenue, Dublin is such a small town city! And it seems that Eamon's mother was called Maeve and the present owner of the house is also a Maeve, seems the name is synonymous with that house.

Us Girls in the Cobblestone!
Afterwards we caught the Luas back to Smithfield and went to the Cobblestone Pub at the north end of the square, in a terrace of old buildings still standing, such is the mix of architecture at Smithfield, old and new side by side.

This was a real Dublin pub. Basic, friendly and with good Guinness! It reminded me of good old Dockers, the pub we visited regularly years ago in the Docklands where we had such wonderful times.  It was a mixture of tourists and locals but not pretending to be anything more than what it was, in other words it wasn't at all toursity.  Some guys were playing traditional music at the front of the bar but there were no seats there so we went to the back and found somewhere to sit. We spent about an hour there enjoying the drink and chat and atmosphere before taking the two minute walk back to our apartment.

October 9th
Afternoon Tea at the Clarence Hotel

The Big Day, my Official 60th Birthday! We got a taxi to The Clarence Hotel at midday and met up with our friends Ken and Elizabeth from Dun Laoghaire in The Study.  We were going to have afternoon tea there. It struck me as rather strange that such an English institution is alive and well in Ireland! But then it is a wonderful thing that I am not really surprised the Irish enjoy it too!

Ken and Elizabeth had brought me a present, a gorgeous Kilkenny marble clock, and also something for everyone else, they are such kind people! We had a delicious tea of sandwiches, cream scones, cake and tea, all very scrumptious!

At 2pm we were able to go up to the penthouse suite and though Ken and Elizabeth and Marian were not actually staying there they were keen to see it! It was much as it had been last time we stayed there in 2008, except for a new suite in the sitting room and some new carpeting. There were two bottles of Prosecco and some chocolates waiting for me there which was a lovely surprise!  For some reason there was also two small bottles of milk beside the Prosecco, why, we never figured out.

The Gallery
We showed our guests around and they marvelled at the two levels of the suite and the fantastic view over the city and Liffey from the balcony. After a while Ken and Elizabeth left, but we'll see them again soon when we return to Dublin at New Year. Marian also left at this time, it was her first visit to the city and she wanted to do some exploring before coming back later for our meal at Cleaver East.

Debbi, Dianne, Dan and I settled down in the upstairs gallery and drank the Prosecco which was a very good vintage indeed.  We relaxed and chatted, played music and chilled. We'd waited a long time for this and were going to enjoy every minute!

The View From the Balcony
At 7pm we started getting ready for our evening meal, Marian had returned and we all went down to the new restaurant in the hotel called Cleaver East, which had now replaced our much loved Tea Room. I must admit I was a bit dubious about this restaurant as it served "tasting plates" and I wasn't sure whether it would be for me. I needn't have worried, the food was wonderful. The restaurant had rows of cleavers hanging at the windows, distressed wood on some of the walls and equally distressed mirrors on the ceiling. The servers were friendly and helpful, food portions generous and delicious and the price reasonable. My friends gave me their birthday presents which were all wonderful, I am blessed to have such fab friends!

As we were finishing the meal our friend Declan texted, he was arriving at the hotel. Debbi and I went outside to meet him. It was good to see him again. After finishing up the meal we all went back up to the penthouse, Declan was well impressed with it lol!  We had a good chat, there was lots to catch up on, including the latest U2 gossip.  At one point I was fascinated to hear Declan (an Irishman) explain what cricket is all about to Dan (an American), most English people have no idea what it is about but here's an Irishman well up on it! Apparently that's because Declan's son is an avid cricket player :)

Declan left at 1am and gave Marian a lift back to the apartment at Smithfield. The rest of us chilled in the penthouse enjoying every minute of it. I stayed up until 4am when tiredness caught up with me. I hate to miss any time when I am there but I had to give in and get some sleep.

All in all it was an amazing 60th birthday, great company, good food and drink in luxury in my favourite city, I couldn't have asked for a better day!

All of us in Cleaver East

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