Sunday 23 March 2008

Some images of Ireland from this past week

I know of some Irish painters who have devoted most of their productive lives to painting Irish cloud formations. I don't expect you can see why, by this primitive photograph, but I've always found clouds in Ireland to exert tremendous influence on the mood of the people. I've heard my dad describe a sombre mood a number of times, by saying, the clouds are low in the sky today. It's something you'll recognise, if you live here, and are sensitive to these things.

A detail from the entry port of Glenstal Abbey, in county Limerick, where I went to witness the sung passion play the monks perform there every good friday. This is the first year for a while that I went there, with Dad, and probably the first time I've really paid attention to the text. The Abbey is a beautiful place, on many acres of lush, rich land, and as a child, I used to love the solitude and the freedom of running about and playing in the grounds, while all the adults were locked in the chapel, being very serious. This time I was one of the adults. The Jesus story at this easter week stage of the telling, is a devastating one. It's a terrible story, really, of injustice and fear and constricted hearts and treachery. The monks sing it so tenderly, in madrigals, with latin hymns sung at the end. The crescendo of the event itself happens after the story is sung, and left hanging, at the point where the man's body is taken down from the cross, and wrapped carefully in delicately scented cloths, and laid to rest in an unused tomb. The congregation files up to the simple wooden hand made cross that the monks have made, and wait in line, kissing the cross, each in turn, some symbolic gesture that struck me as deeply human, deeply animal. Profoundly moving.

A very modern bridge, in the University of Limerick campus. This is a somewhat winding, curved, foot and cycle bridge, with seated areas built into it, which I have seen used by students every time I've cycled over it. Under the bridge is a beautiful river, with trees growing in it, and small waterfalls, it's quite a gorgeous contrast, especially at night. Beyond the bridge on one side is one of the most dynamic, largely technological, campuses in Ireland, and on the other, tiny little country lanes with a pub nearby that has on most days got a big fire blazing in the hearth, and little formica tables and chairs, and you can get a large pot of tea there for two euro (about ten thousand dollars, granted) which will yield at least four and a dribble cups of decent and strongly brewed tea, and they'll put a fox's creme biscuit bar on the side of your cup too.

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