On Tuesday we found ourselves at Lissadell House, the ancestral home of the Gore-Booth family, six years after we first visited it and Co. Sligo. Back then we went to see and hear Leonard Cohen; this time the house itself – famous for its connection with Constance Markievicz (née Gore-Booth) and W.B. Yeats – was the attraction. We looked out at the rain through the windows of which Yeats wrote (and Cohen recited):
The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
(from ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz’)
There’s an extensive and excellent Easter 1916 exhibition in Lissadell at present, including a lot of Markievicz paraphernalia. There is also a wealth of material related to Yeats and his brother, the prolific painter Jack B. Yeats. Continue reading
One of the good things about Ireland, I have often thought, is the lack of emotional distance between people: the fact that we (generally speaking) tend to see everyone we encounter as a potential friend, and are prepared to help when we can, or at least to interact and be friendly. The lack of reserve, of formality, of self-importance. Of course there can be a downside to national qualities like these, but it certainly doesn’t outweigh the upside in this case.
I think this photo, from thejournal.ie, captures the lack of emotional distance well. It shows the rugby player Jamie Heaslip at Dublin Airport yesterday, as part of the homecoming of Ireland’s victorious Six Nations squad, and a young fan. Heaslip is clowning around and pretending to be trying to wrestle the trophy from the boy, who surely will always remember the moment. Heaslip is happily giving something that he doesn’t need to give.
This generosity of spirit – also shown by the other players, who mingled freely with fans and posed in numerous ‘selfies’ – is something we should be thankful for. In the words of an old beer commercial, ‘it’s part of what we are’. It connects us and makes us stronger: we may not have much, but we know what we have.
29 July 1991 – Sean aged less than 24 hours
My intention was to post diary entries from 2004 (when I stopped keeping a diary) back as far as the day Sean was born, to try to give an insight into his life as a baby and a boy, and into the lives of the rest of his family too. I have now reached the beginning.
28/7/91 – I have already described this day here
29/7/91 – I got up pretty early, not having slept well. I spent a good part of the morning with Pauline and the baby, having first phoned work (cheers in the background) [and others] … the baby was fine – sleeping a lot – and Pauline was fine too … I cycled to the Coombe and back. Peter and Nuala arrived around 1.30, and after a cup of tea we went to the Coombe … Sean (we still hadn’t finally decided on a name) was looking great, and of course P & N loved him … [later] Christine, Aileen, Dave and Dervla arrived … the five of us went to the hospital (Christine was driving), where Sean again made a big impression. Later, the uncle and aunts went with the father to Arbour House, where everyone had a few drinks.
30/7/91 – The others were visiting Pauline in the afternoon session. I cooked spaghetti bolognaise for dinner, and we had a bottle of red wine, then Christine drove us all to the hospital. Mary and Aisling arrived too, Sean was universally eulogized; the uncle and aunts and I went home and then to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We had all decided on ‘Seán Peter O’Brien’. [note: I always used the fada (accent) in Sean’s name in my diaries, and it appears on his birth certificate, but he didn’t bother with it himself, and I have followed his example on this blog.] Continue reading
1/9/91 – I got up at 7 and brought Sean downstairs so that Pauline could get some decent rest. Fortunately, the last day’s athletics from Japan was being shown – I also went out for the paper. Pauline was up around 10.30 – after breakfast the three of us got a bus to Westland Row and a DART to Blackrock. Went to the market, had something to eat, chatted to Yvonne, Nick, and Yvonne’s brother Ronan. Good crack. Bought a beanbag. Pauline fed Sean in the café – her first time in ‘public’. Again it was a beautiful day … Nick said there was loads of signwriting to do if we wanted to … we said no. All our signs in Blackrock have lasted very well. We got a 17 home, and arrived in time for the All-Ireland Hurling Final – Tipperary 1–16, Kilkenny 0–15. Not a great game, but I was glad that Tipp won. I made a fry for dinner and we stayed in for the evening.
2/9/91 – I was extremely tired, Sean having made a lot of noise again during the night. And tired all day at work … When I got home in the evening there was a paper and a letter from Joyce. I should be getting a book manuscript soon … I was too tired to start the freelance work. Very glad to be getting it though … Continue reading
2/12/91 – Sean was asleep at first in his cot, but has now awoken and I’ve brought him downstairs. His teeth have been bothering him lately, so there may be some squalls. Later: Sean was good.
5/12/91 – Went to supermarket and cooked pasta with veg sauce, some of which I succeeded in getting into Sean.
6/12/91 – I have a day’s leave, and am minding Sean. Pauline is at a training course in Harold’s Cross for the job. It’s 1 o’clock, and so far it hasn’t been too bad; just the odd bout of crying. He went to sleep at 12.30 but woke at 12.35. I’ve been giving him breast milk that Pauline left. Later: Sean and I went to Dundrum, him in the pram and me on foot. Borrowed Francis Stuart’s Pillar of Cloud and a book of Garrison Keillor stories in the library. He screamed a bit when we got home; I gave him half a rusk and some fennel drink. Pauline arrived and made a big fuss of him – she’d never been away from him for so long. Continue reading
1/3/92 – Sean woke at 7, unfortunately for Pauline, whose turn it was to get up with him.
2/3/92 – Sean was wide awake at 6. He’s got a room of his own now.
3/3/92 – Pauline and I (and Sean) went to Irish Life in the afternoon, and did quite well – it looks as though they’d be willing to lend us £45,000 … [later] Sean was troublesome (teething; one bottom tooth already through).
5/3/92 – Sean gave us a hard time during the night, so we were very tired in the morning. Continue reading
1/6/92 – Sean is now clapping his hands – he’s very cute and clever.
2/6/92 – We bought a ‘car’ cum baby walker for Sean.
4/6/92 – Sean slept right through till 9!
7/6/92 – Sean slept right through till 8.45. Bliss, especially as it was my turn to get up with him. It was a beautiful day … in due course we all went to the Marist Fathers’ and sat on [a mat on] the grass, then Pauline got a 7 to the market and Sean and I went home … [later] Pauline and I had good games with Sean, bouncing on the spare bed. He eventually went to sleep. Continue reading
3/9/92 – Sean slept till 6.30 or so, then went back to sleep in our bed. I got up at 8.10 and Sean danced to Davy Spillane, as I mistakenly thought the TV was still on the blink.
4/9/92 – Met my dad off his train, and we got a bus to town and then a 48A out … My dad was very taken with Sean of course.
5/9/92 – I got up with Sean. My dad and I took him to the shopping centre for the papers. My dad went to Sandycove for a swim.
6/9/92 – We decided that I should go full-time freelance in January. Continue reading
3/12/92 – Sean hadn’t slept during the day, and we hoped to keep him awake till 8.30, but he fell hopelessly asleep at 6.45, and to our chagrin awoke at 7.45. Then he was alternately cranky and lively till all hours.
5/12/92 – We went to Marley Park and had a nice time there.
6/12/92 – Got quite wet going to the shop for a paper. Sean made me play with him rather than read it.
7/12/92 – Met Pauline and Sean in Bewley’s – Sean had a new clear plastic ball with water and a [toy] fish in it. Continue reading
4/3/93 – Sean fell asleep for the night at 7.20, having had a very energetic day playing with various people, and no nap. We were apprehensive as to what time he’d wake up.
6/3/93 – We headed off down Wicklow way, and ended up in Glendalough. A beautiful, peaceful place. We had a couple of drinks in a pub, and wandered around by a lake and a graveyard. Sean had a good time, and chased some sheep – he amused many by eating sugar cubes in the pub.
8/3/93 – Sean idolizes Andrew next door.
11/3/93 – Pauline and Sean were at the playgroup in the morning. Sean had a great time … in the afternoon Pauline took him for his general check-up at the Health Centre … the nurses said that he’s doing all the things a two-year-old should be doing [Sean was around 19 months old]. He weighs 32 pounds and measures 85 cm. And he made a big impression on the nurses … Sean was also in Andrew’s house for a good while. Continue reading