Wednesday 14 November 2018

A morning for the stout-hearted, by Jiminy

WHAT a perfect day for ice cream, and, in honour of Leopold Bloom, it had to be a Ninety-Nine.

There's no need to rush for the reference books to pinpoint the role of crumbly chocolate and the conical wafer in the works of James Joyce. Because this has nothing to do with letters and all to do with numbers.

Leopold Bloom set off on his fictional odyssey around Dublin 99 years ago yesterday, so what better way to celebrate the event than by indulging in some scholarly scoffing of the aforementioned ice-cream?

Beats having to dress up and wear a big hat.

Unfortunately, we had to settle for a rasher in the James Joyce Cultural Centre on North Great George's Street. On a plate, that is. Not sticking out of a Mr Whippy special. There's a thought.

It was too early for ice-cream at the Guinness Bloomsday Breakfast - held in association with Denny - but there was stout on tap for those Monday-morning mortals with stomachs of steel, not to mention a good fry-up for the 500 or so people who paid their admission fee.

The Joyceans got an enjoyable morning of entertainment, from street theatre to music, song and a rolling cast of notables doing readings from 'Ulysses'. They included Gay and Kathleen Byrne, TDs Tony Gregory and Liz McManus, local politician Mick Rafferty, actors Stephen Brennan, Maureen Toal and Risteard Cooper, businessman Harry Crosbie, artist Gerald Davis and writer Morgan Lleywelyn.

Actress Elizabeth P Moynihan's reading of Molly's soliloquy went down a storm, while Gavin Friday's Nighttown song, accompanied on the kazoo, was the highlight for many. "Beautiful, sinister, melodic, whispering," enthused Senator David Norris.

Oh yes. He was there, being very David Norris and wearing a very fetching hat. Fedora, David? "A genuine Imperial Stetson, dated Chicago 1930," he brayed.

Balloonatics Theatre Company kept the party going outside with some lively re-enactments from 'Ulysses'. They got lots of appreciative howls from a party of local schoolchildren, who sat on the sunny road outside the cultural centre and found the knockabout performances great gas.

But back to Bloomsday number 99. It's a wonder the people in the cultural centre didn't shoo yesterday's visitors out the doors in jig time, what with them being up to their eyes in preparations for the Joycean centenary. But they didn't. There was great craic and fun to be had in North Great George's Street yesterday morning.

In fact, planning for this hundred-year milestone occasion has been going on for years - Bloomsday 2004 is intended to be the biggest cultural event in Ireland next year. It should be enormous, with events already in the pipeline including an ambitious Bloomsday breakfast for 10,000 people on O'Connell Street and a Nighttown Ball.

However, perhaps we should strike a note of warning here. We hear the Government has set up a steering committee to co-ordinate the overall strategy. Which is unfortunate.

This has nothing to do with the highly-skilled and motivated people who have been appointed to do the steering. Rather, it is that unhappy combination of the words "government" and "committee".

Let us hope the Government lets its committee do its work. Otherwise, month-long waiting lists will develop for the Bloomsday breakfast, the roof will fall in on 'The Dead' house in Usher's Island, there'll be a stealth tax on straw boaters and Martello Towers, and Michael McDowell will take a hard line on draughts of foaming ale.

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