Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Capital Culture Shock - Art, Shopping and a Summer of Discount Tents

Last weekend I went to Dublin for a break with teen daughter and three of her friends - foolhardy you might say but they have been hanging out for the duration of the Irish summer hols, which must be the longest in the planet. At least that's what it feels like when it's late July and you realise you've only passed the mid-point of the three-month-long break.

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.

The boredom threshold is quickly reached, and the refrain "there's nothing to do - I'm bored" ring out across the nation. As we are not going abroad on holidays this year this adds to the sense of deprivation, and lectures ensue (= poorly disguised nagging) telling them how lucky they are. When I hear myself echoing my mother - "It's far from sun holidays I was reared" - then I have to call a halt.

Hubby bought a tent in Argos a couple of weeks ago - sale offer, 4-person with a sitting room you could stand in and a nice separate bedroom, and an awning - and that has gone down a treat for sleepovers, especially given the nice warm summer we're having. The n
ights have been very mild, and there is nothing nicer than staying awake in the tent in comfort - eating all night and staying awake till the dawn chorus kicks in - and having a good girly giggle with a bunch of pals. The first night the tent was used it lashed rain, and that
added to the sense of adventure. Of course there are mega-extension leads that bring light from the house to the tent, so it can be far enough from the house to feel like proper camping - and the garden chairs fit nicely in the sitting room part, with an old kiddie's table to sit around.

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.

The trip to Dublin was a joy - the new tolled Abbeyleix Bypass reduced the 140 miles to just about 2hrs 40mins., motorway all the way from Cahir, and they slept all the way, after being awake all night in the tent. They decided to go to Blanchardstown shopping centre, which I thought would be a nice place for them - it was, but I didn't bargain for the nightmare on the M50 - SatNav was useless as the roadworks in what is known as Dublin's biggest car park (the M50 ring road) are unending and finding exits and ramps was a disaster.

I managed to drop them off, had a coffee and wandered around for an hour, then went back to the hotel and arranged to visit a friend later that evening. We spent some time with middle son who's finishing his MA in DIT, and I had plenty of time with him as well, while the girls hung out at the hotel with their shopping after I managed to collect them - a groundhog day experience as I overshot the exit ramp and got caught by the barrier-free toll cameras as I had to drive about 10 miles around the M50 and get back on track to re-enter the loop. Of course I missed the deadline of 8pm the following evening to pay the €3 and it doubled before I remembered it. No wonder it's such a controversial toll, and it's much dearer than the others on the motorway bypasses.

We had something to eat in the hotel, and then went to the cinema in the Omni centre in Santry - the girls to see the latest Twilight film "Eclipse" about sparkly vegetarian vampires, and my friend and me went to see the delightful "His & Hers" - sort of a documentary or narrative by women from young toddlers to elderly widows talking about the men in their lives - a real heartwarming feelgood film that had no commentary other than the women from the Midlands of Ireland talking to camera about fathers, husbands, boyfriends a nd brothers. It has got rave reviews, not surprisingly, given the dross that's in the cinema this summer it wouldn't be hard.

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
tenuous as many of the great artists and writers we claim - he spent some years of his childhood in Dublin and then went off to school and fame in England. Some of his works were also in Lismore Castle at the Sotheby's preview.

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


Peggy said...

Hi Catherine, you certainly packed a lot into your weekend!All of our culture seems to be packed into Dublin, I think a lot of the items packed away out of sight in the national Museum/gallery should go on loan around the country to provincial museums to be seen by people who may not have the chance to visit Dublin. You are enjoying the summer, it has not turmed out too bad weatherwise.

FoodFunFarmLife said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time ... I enjoyed reading about everything you did, sitting here in 3rd world Africa *sigh* We have 6 weeks of school holiday left and possibly only a short trip away for a few days during this time ... I am also getting tired of the cries of 'I'm bored !'

menopausalmusing said...

A lovely "newsy" post. Teenagers can be hard to entertain, can't they? Loved the play on words on your title re the tent! :O)))))

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Catherine said...

Thanks for the feedback folks!
PEGGY - that'd be a great idea to share the largesse of the National Museum with the rest of the country - we are so lucky that the Sotheby's Irish Sale preview comes to Lismore annually but that's just 'cos of the Castle and their gallery with their links to the art world. I would indeed love to see the other galleries and museums - might do in future visits!

LYNDA - glad you enjoyed the post - it went on a bit too long but I decided to leave it one post instead of dividing it. Don't be envious of Dublin - I would dearly love to swap it for a stint in 3rd world Africa again!!! How's your bungalow going? Have you many guests? Must drop by your blog again soon. Summer hols can be a bit trying at times. I don't mind kids being bored, they get good at self-reliance then.

CATHY -Glad you liked the pun - I didn't actually intend it but it fitted fine in the headline and then I remembered there was an ad years ago in the papers that actually said "Now is the winter of our Discount Tents"! It must have stuck in my subconscious. Yes, teens can be hard work at times, they try so hard to appear utterly bored with life in general - or those around me do at any rate! Yet the kid in them breaks out regularly.

RAUL - welcome to my blog - hope you sign up as a follower. I had a glance at your sites, but they seem to be all in Spanish which I don't understand too well!

All the best, Catherine.