Tag Archives: Dublin landmarks

It Does Your Heart Good

Over the weekend, I had cause to be out in the world, among people, in an actual city. I even took several forms of public transport, alone and unchaperoned, and I managed to survive the ordeal intact.

In fact, it was rather fun.

Photo Credit: Chris_O'Donoghue via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Chris_O’Donoghue via Compfight cc

Getting out like this is a big deal for me. When one is, as I am, living away from a major urban centre, and stymied not only by an inability to learn how to drive (all right, all right, so more like an unwillingness than an actual inability, but this will be the year, my friends. This will be the year I finally bite that particular bullet!) and also slightly financially embarrassed, getting around can be hard. But I had a friend who was home on a flying visit from a foreign clime (well, the UK. Not exactly Svalbard, but still. I don’t see him very often) and so efforts were made and trains were taken and streets were navigated, and everything worked out perfectly.

On the way home, I took a tram for part of my journey (I did this mainly because I think Dublin’s tram system is extremely cool, and I just wanted to take a short trip for fun. If you’re ever visiting that fair city, do try it). In my carriage was a lady travelling with her father and several of her children, and they were a thoroughly charming bunch.

Yes. All right. So I eavesdropped. It was hard not to. Don’t judge me.

Anyway. During the course of their conversation the lady and her son had a brief exchange, a version of which I have thoughtfully recreated for you below. I do not jest when I tell you that hearing it made my book-lovin’ heart swell, just a little.

Mum: ‘So, we went to the library last Saturday, didn’t we?’

Son: ‘Hmmf.’

Mum: ‘And how many books did we get out?’

Son: ‘Five.’

Mum: ‘Five! And how many had you read by Sunday afternoon?’

Son: ‘Four. And a bit.’

Grandfather: *chuckles*

Mum: ‘Four and a bit. And so then, what did we do?’

Son: ‘Dunno.’

Mum: ‘We went back to the library on Wednesday, didn’t we?’

Son: ‘Yeah.’

Mum: ‘And how many books did we get out that time?’

Son: ‘Five.’

Mum: ‘And when had you read all of those?’

Son: ‘Friday.’

Grandfather: ‘Good lad. Good lad, yourself.’

I felt like cheering (even though it would have been inexcusably rude) or maybe just turning around and giving the kid a high-five. His mum was extremely proud of him, of course – my recreation of their dialogue doesn’t really get that across, maybe – and she wasn’t in any way complaining about all these library treks. She was prompting him to tell his granddad how good he was at reading, and it was brilliant to hear a whole family, over several generations, being so reading-positive and library-positive and praising a young person for being such a great reader. Particularly, of course, when that young person is a boy. Reading has a reputation as being something which appeals more to girls than to boys, which I think is a shame; any child who wants to read, regardless of gender, should be encouraged to do so. Of course. Also, libraries are underfunded and overstretched, and I was so pleased to hear about one family’s enjoyment of their local branch – though it did make me woefully guilty that I haven’t visited the one library I’m a member of in over three years.

Three years. There’s no excuse.

Anyway. Today’s mini-post is just to say ‘well done’ to that young man on the tram, and to every child who loves to read and who – like I used to – enjoys nothing more than taking five books out of the library and having them all read by the end of the following day, despite the fact that it leaves them bookless until the next trip (it’s strange how I never really learned the lesson to take books slowly and make them last – I do something similar with chocolate, funnily enough). It’s to say ‘well done’ to every parent and grandparent and guardian and aunt and uncle and older sibling and family friend who praises a child for reading and who encourages them to read. It’s to say ‘well done’ to the fantastic librarians (and, indeed, booksellers and teachers) who help children to find their next great read and who form the reading tastes and, as a result in some ways, the entire lives of the small people they come in contact with. It’s to say ‘well done’ to all the writers and illustrators out there who make books children love and which they want to experience, not just with their eyes but with their mind and their whole being. The books we read and love as children have such an impact on our adulthood, I firmly believe, and when we read as children it’s more immersive and complete than at any other time in our lives.

Sometimes, it can feel like reading is falling out of fashion. Games and apps and TV and YouTube and what have you seem to be replacing books in the lives of many young people, but I learned a lesson this past weekend. No matter how bad things seem, there will always be readers, and they are as committed and passionate now as they’ve ever been. Is it any wonder I skipped off that tram with a spring in my step?

 

 

Wednesday Write-In #51

This week’s words were:

elastic  ::   rule of thumb  ::  spire  ::  conference  ::  wheel

The Commute

The bus conked out with a shuddering cough as it passed the Gresham Hotel, and there was just no time to wait for the next one. It’d be a long walk from here, but judging by the traffic oozing its way down from Parnell Square like thick dark blood through a clogged artery, getting a taxi would be no quicker. Not that she had the money handy to pay for one, anyway.

‘Damn it,’ she muttered. ‘The one morning I can’t be late…’

She passed the Spire in a click-clacking hurry, trying not to feel her knicker elastic as it dug into the soft flesh of her hip. The warm morning was making her sweat through her light blouse, and her skirt was starting to ride up at the back, a teasing breeze trickling over her newly exposed skin. She tucked her paperwork into the crook of her elbow as she yanked her clothing straight, hoping nobody was watching, and then on she strode, through the blue and hazy morning, her mind full of photocopying and ringing telephones. As she walked, she adjusted her bundle of documents again, getting a grip on the handle of her satchel, full to bursting with conference handouts and copies of last month’s minutes.

She was crossing O’Connell Bridge when she noticed someone on the central median, all alone. No more than six or seven, and skinny with it, he looked small enough for a seagull to carry him away. Sitting on the edge of one of the large planters, nestled amid the scraggy, dying flowers, he was staring fixedly at something in midair, his small hands resting on his knees and his face completely at peace. She almost tripped over her own feet as she came to a halt, her eyes filling up with the sight of him. The crowd bumped and jolted around her, muttering as it went, but the boy was perfectly still. Only his hair, light and golden, stirred in the breeze.

He was a star in empty darkness, or a distant beacon. He was a lighthouse in a roaring storm.

‘Hey!’ she called, not knowing why. Rule of thumb, she told herself. You see a kid alone, you don’t just ignore it. ‘Son! Are you all right?’

Traffic roared all around him. Three lanes separated them, but she knew he’d heard.

‘Here! You! Where’s your mammy?’

The child made no response. She took a step, and then another, toward the pavement edge. A bus screamed past, blocking her view of the boy and making her close her eyes against the gust of foul, hot air it threw up in its wake. When she looked toward the child again, he’d moved from his perch on the planter, and for a few, panicked seconds she searched for him. Her gaze swung back and forth until it eventually came to rest once again. His hair gleamed in the dusty air as he stood, uncertain, on the pavement edge, gazing wide-eyed at the roaring traffic all around.

‘Don’t!’ She shouted, heaving her papers around to free one arm. She waved at him, desperate to attract his attention. ‘Little boy! Don’t cross there! It’s not safe!’

He didn’t hear. His eyes full of fear, he stepped out, and disappeared.

**

The documents spiralled around the bridge like a white, flickering wheel of fortune, some landing in the waters of the Liffey far below, and some coming to rest under the wheels of passing traffic, and some smacking into the legs and faces and bodies of other people, struggling and hurrying and running past, unseeing. They pulled the sheets of paper free and threw them into the wind, irritated at the interruption, closing their ears against the shriek of the ambulance and shuttering their eyes against the sight of a satchel, battered and scuffed, lying by the railings of a city bridge.