Out of Dublin

We spent - and needed - a long time in the National Museum. I tried taking a photograph of the imposing dome from the inside, and was instantly challenged. That meant I had to rely on making quick drawings whenever I wanted to record what I was seeing. As it happens, I felt that to be a much better way of engaging with the exhibits, and I probably covered as much ground as the the taking of photographs. It's something of which I've become increasingly aware. To use a camera - particularly video - distances the photographer from engagement.

I was pleased that I'd visited the Book of Kells exhibition on the previous day, since it placed a relationship between the spread of religion (Christianity in particular) and the cultural development of Ireland. To some extent, this relationship was embodied in the differing views of the life of Matt Talbot, a reformed alcoholic, whose corpse was found to be wrapped in chains and ropes beneath his clothing. At the time of his death in 1925, the established church and the middle classes regarded him an example of a working-class hero and named a bridge over the Liffy after him (seen here next to his sculpture with the Customs House in the background). The Americans list him as the patron saint of alcoholics. Brenden Behan, however, ( Talbot's near-contemporary) claimed he was a figure of ridicule amongst the struggling poor of Dublin for his piety .

We were selective about what to look at in the museum. We looked at cup, ring and chevron markings with their unknown origins, at the Norse and Viking legacy in particular, and how these were interwoven with Celtic culture. For example, the animal forms and runes of the Ringerike Style (Ringerike is a district in Oslo famous for its mid-ninth-century runestones) fused with other styles from mainland Europe, illustrated in this image of the Söderala weathervane.
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It was evidence that the Irish Sea was a main thoroughfare for trading and the exchange of ideas and cultural expression. Sun-discs became crosses. Martin got on the trail of the Green Man, which featured in the detail of the Victorian building. (Largely because of the era of the building, I wasn't convinced by the Green Man. I think many would have been bland versions of leprechauns and elves.)

To make this visit in the company of people from different backgrounds was particularly illuminating. Each of us brought our own perspective to bear on individual exhibits, teasing-out new stories and memories which led to a sharing of of an extended insight.

We disentangled ourselves from the tentacles of traffic and motorway slip roads and headed west out of Dublin, across the Irish Midlands. The patterns of fields have not changed as much as the English arable lands which have become prairies for the efficient deployment of vaste combine harvesters, so their history was clearer, with tree-covered knolls (where lived the faeries?) punctuating levels and low plateaux of pastureland and meadow, which in turn have been carved from the wild-wood that would have covered the land after the last ice-age.

The further west we travelled, the stronger the light became. We crossed the Shannon and headed across a less-domesticated landscape. It began to remind me of Brittany, Cornwall, the Llwyn Peninsula, the Furness Peninsular, Galloway or Argyll, and I found my state of mind beginning to change in response. I felt lighter. I was happy to sing. When we stopped on the outskirts of Galway I was invigorated by the scent of seaweed and peat on the air.

Whilst we were searching for our overnight accommodation, the Ross Lake Hotel, we chanced upon what we could describe as a archetypical cultural landscape. It was a peat-bog with fresh and drying peat drying in heaps.
We clambered in and around the stacks and cuttings. I think our approach could be best described as playful exploration, and it seemed to set the scene for each subsequent stop. It is a testament to Martin's facilitation skills (and his patience) that we were able to derive so much benefit and so much learning. We found sundew, mosses and lichens. Gille was excited and vocal about everything. I took photo's of overgrown discarded rusting machinery. Martin made a weaving.
 Once on our way again, we passed a thatched white-washed cottage, where a man with his dog was weeding the border. We stopped and spoke with him, about his garden and land, and how it had changed over the years. He seemed to enjoy talking to us and was very tolerant of our inquisitiveness.

We continued to our hotel, enjoyed its spacious and luxurious comforts, a good dinner and the company of the proprietors.