Beads, Bums and Beckett

Dot writes: it’s been a busy week. In the unaccustomed (and welcome) hot weather, festivals and sprees have been bursting out in Dublin like [insert simile].* Of course most of them were scheduled ages before, but they still seemed to be jumping on a sunshine bandwagon. Last weekend there was the Street Performance World Championships, which was reportedly marvellous and which we entirely missed, but fortunately it happens every year; the Dalkey Book festival, which is a recent innovation designed to bring the money of the well-heeled literati flooding into Dalkey, as though half of them didn’t already live here; a Family Fun Day at the Cuala GAA club which Hugh, Frank and I went to with my friend Aura and her toddler and baby; and also an At Home at my colleague Helen’s home for her daughter Alice’s jewellery business, Snapdragon Beads. The last possibly didn’t get as many visitors as the street performance shindig, but it did involve small children scampering around excitedly, and I even managed to get away from them for long enough to buy a rather gorgeous necklace and earring set.

I also escaped on my own to attend one of the events in the book festival, a fifty-minute one-man play called Allergic to Beckett, written and performed by Gary Jermyn. It was rather odd being there alone – little to do but stare at people in the period before the play started, and they were a rather coiffed and wealthy crowd talking (I imagine) about the problem with the public sector and their apartments in Majorca – but that didn’t stop me laughing at the play. It was a very clever exercise, I thought, in exploiting the cultural competence of the audience. There were lots of allusions to Beckett that we could feel pleased about recognising, and also lots of local colour; I wonder how well it would play outside Dublin, or indeed outside Dun Laoghaire and Rathdown. For example, at one point he described how he had gone to sit in Fitzgerald’s Pub in Sandycove (i.e. about ten minutes’ walk from our house) and read the small ads; it passed the time – it would have passed anyway.** One echo that also worked as a handy device throughout the play was the use of a portable CD and tape player standing on a table, which he solemnly and sadly sat down behind at the start of the play. The reference to Krapp’s Last Tape helped establish atmosphere, but also it enabled Jermyn to break up the monologue, bringing in different voices and discourses. There was a good section in which the voice on the tape read out the stage directions for the start of Endgame and Jermyn, as an audience member watching the play, simply followed the invisible action with his eyes. He didn’t look like he was enjoying himself.

In other news: on Tuesday night I stayed in until 9pm and finished, at last, the vast and labyrinthine index that has been my personal purgatory for the last month and more. Hooray. On Wednesday Alice and her husband came over with their daughter while Hugh was at the childminder’s (and Ken at a reading group), and I got a little taste of what it might be like to have a child who doesn’t feel compelled to shout, growl or make gunfire noises all the time (disturbingly quiet. I’m not used to hearing my own thoughts). And today, though I wasn’t there to enjoy it, Hugh voluntarily and on his own initiative used his potty. For we are potty-training in earnest. And it is a messy business, as, though Hugh has quite good bladder control when he can be persuaded to sit, he has not been exactly enthusiastic about doing so. To be fair to him, it must be a pretty daunting change – a whole area of life that has previously hardly troubled him becoming a constant concern. He is really doing very well.

* I’m tired, right? I came up with the following: “like umbrellas in rain”; “like tundra flowers”; “like spots on a teenager who’s just had lots of chips”. Somehow none of them were quite right.
** Waiting for Godot, of course


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