Passing Pennys

Pennys, like most other shops in Dublin, is shuttered. There is a plaque on the wall marking the spot as the site of James Joyce’s Volta Cinema. It hangs next to a printed store closure notice. Pennys (aka Primark) has been in business on this site in Mary Street since 1969. The Volta only lasted from December 1909 until April 1910. It was the first cinema to open in Dublin , a city that would later become addicted to picture houses. It might have been a bit before its time or it may have programmed too many Italian and European movies. The name lives on today as a Dublin based movie streaming service. Shortly after passing Pennys, I see an old man wearing an ill-fitting facemask. The bottom half of the mask appears to be rolled up. I grow old … I grow old …I shall wear the bottoms of my facemask rolled.

The Geographer

A few years ago I placed this print on a wall close to my desk. Vermeer’s The Geographer. Taking a break from mapping the world to look out at it. He is looking at the world through a window in the Netherlands in 1669. My window next to his looks out on Smithfield in 2020. Though I’ve never had a good sense of direction, I have always loved maps. The reality and the idea of them. On Globes, on paper , on screen.

In the Park

I went for a walk in Croppies Acre memorial park. A beautiful Sunday with the promise of fine Spring weather. Daffodils and Cherry Blossoms in bloom. Not many people about. I usually wear my airpods and listen to a podcast. For some reason I didn’t today. Instead, I shared the look of guilt on some people’s faces for being out at all. We kept at arm’s length. Two arm’s length, 2 meters. I kept thinking about an account I read somewhere about the fine Summer of 1939 in the weeks before war began. I imagined that people might have looked like this at each other then? in late August 1939. In parks, in London and Berlin. Hoping that talk of war is overplayed. The warm sunshine a harbinger of normality remaining. As I walked out the gate I remembered some lines from Auden.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
– W.H. Auden, Septemper 1 1939.

If I go out tomorrow, I will wear my airpods