With teenagers who are too old for summer camps (mostly targeting primary school children) but too young to work in a minimum-wage (lower for under-18s than adults) service job (roll on next year!) the boredom factor sets in fairly quickly. And that's just the parents who have the unenviable task of monitoring their movements without being seen to be too much of a "helicopter" parent.
So a weekend in Dublin seemed like a nice diversion and was greeted with typical teen ennui - OK, we can go shopping, see a movie, and stay in a nice hotel. Museum visits or any cultural improvements weren't even up for discussion, so I didn't go there. Booked a couple of rooms in the Skylon Hotel in Drumcondra (wrong side of the river, one of the teens informed me, with genuine Ross O'Carroll-Kelly horror - she's city-wise having "grown up" in Dublin - on the right side of the river!) - and figured out the sleeping order would be 4:1 (they were happy to share a triple room) and we were sorted. I was pragmatic about the potential hazards of taking four young teens to a city three of them were unfamiliar with, as I felt they wouldn't leave the confines of whatever shopping centre they were deposited in, and I reminded them of the moral of "Taken", the chilling action movie about white slavery and wayward teens who didn't listen to their parents. They were pretty underwhelmed by my concerns, as they dismissed them as the usual parental fussing.
But what of culture, I hear you ask, as alluded to in the title? This turned out to be a spur of the moment thing that was a real delight as so many spontaneous decisions are, when the girls went to town Sunday afternoon after checking out of the hotel, and middle son and me went to town for some supplies for his thesis in Easons.
We drove around Parnell Square to find a parking space and there was one just by the Garden of Remembrance - around the corner from the Hugh Lane Gallery, with its Lavery "Passion and Politics" Exhibition, which was serendipitous as I had seen the famous Lady Lavery portrait in Lismore Castle at the Sotheby's Irish Sale Preview in April. That one sold for over €250,000 and we went to have a look at the current exhibition. The Hugh Lane is a fabulous facility for the city, as it is free, like so many of the National Museums and Galleries, and has a wonderful permanent collection as well as the special exhibitions like this. I really enjoyed it and took a few flash-free photos before realising that I wasn't supposed to - but I didn't feel too guilty as I don't see what harm it does when the flash isn't used.
The Politics and Passion refer to the new Irish Free State Government asking Laver y to paint a symbol of the new country (Éire, depicted by a beautiful woman) for the new Irish Currency, and then he used his high society American wife Hazel as the model. Given that she never set foot in Ireland (they lived in London) it must have been a controversial issue at the time, as her lifestyle would be pretty far removed from DeValera's Madonna and Motherhood vision of Irish womanhood! There were a lot of documents on display; correspondence between the Departments and Lavery and some from WB Yeats and other famous contemporaries of Lavery. I've come to the conclusion that Lavery was pretty full of himself - there are self-portraits of him receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Belfast and being conferred a Freeman of Dublin. They were probably the Posh and Becks of the Twenties, albeit with a lot more talent! And the irony of Lady Lavery adorning the currency for almost 50 years can't be missed, as they both represented the wealthy ascendancy that the new State was so keen to expunge from its history. But that's a whole other story and not one for this post; I might return to it one day.
My son had seen the Francis Bacon Collection a few times as he is a great fan of the notoriously untidy late artist. He certainly could identify with him on that score, with his vaguely similar artistic penchant for creative chaos in living spaces. Out of sheer curiosity I had to see the Francis Bacon Studio which was brought from London and lovingly recreated in a special viewing room in the Gallery, with every messy rag and paint tin (great ad for Dulux) and stacks of dusty books replaced forensically as they were in his London house. His Irish connections were as
It was a very pleasant interlude and I came away with my cultural antennae recharged, and determined to soak up some more free stuff on future Dublin visits - there's the Dead Zoo, the National Gallery, the National Library, and the National Museum at different locations around the city. Cork has the lovely Crawford Gallery and I visited there a few years ago. It would be nice to entice the teenagers to visit something like a museum but sadly they passed that stage after our last visit to the Dali Museum in Figueras in 2006! It'll be another decade or two before they'll rediscover culture and hopefully decide that it's not so bad after all.
Photos - from the top:
- Blanchardstown Shopping Centre
- The tent in the garden
- Hugh Lane Gallery
- Passion and Politics Exhibition detail
- The Lavery Legacy and currency notes
- Painting of picnic scene by Sir John Lavery
- Fireplace in the Hugh Lane Gallery
- Lady Lavery Painting by Sir John Lavery
- The Francis Bacon Studio
- An aptly titled bus - for teen daughter