Chapter 36: Travels from Lyon — Two intermezzos

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Among all our travels from Lyon it is difficult to pick the ones that really stand out. I have to leave  most of those travels aside, and I have here picked out two outstanding trips.

First Intermezzo — Dublin

However, the really high point in Ireland was Dublin — for at least two major reasons. One was the Abbey Theatre and Patrick Kavanaugh’s play, Tarry Flynn. We went to an agency to find out what was on in Dublin and we hit on this great play — funny and fascinating. It is about a young man who revolts against the life of his ancestors.

The lady at the agency taught us how to pronounce the name Kavanaugh, which was not at all obvious to us. The final ‘gh’ is not pronounced, which I guess we more or less knew from other Irish names. But I liked to hear the Irish woman pronounce it.

The play was wonderfully directed, and it was funny and fascinating. Tarry Flynn, a young man who grew up on a farm, now wants to leave the life of his childhood and early youth and make a new living for himself.

The play was later going to open on the Haymarket in London, and it became a great success. We really lucked out with, that play and we had a wonderful evening at Dublin’s famous theater 1

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Statue of James Joyce in Dublin

On our first day in Dublin a most unexpected thing happened. As we were getting on the metro in the northern outskirts of Dublin where our hotel was, the man who sold us our tickets told us that it was Bloomsday and that we should definitely go straight to the Martello Tower south of Dublin and enjoy the Bloomsday festivities.

We still didn’t have a notion of what it was going to be like at all. We did know about Bloomsday though, even though we didn’t know it was on June 16.

After landing at Shannon airport, we had driven across Ireland, spending a night in Cashel on the way,  What a wonderful coincidence it was getting to spend our first day in Dublin just on Bloomsday.

We got off the metro as close as we could get to the Martello Tower and right away we saw people dressed in outfits that were clearly illustrating the beginning of the twentieth century. This was 1997, and the novel Ulysses takes place in the very early 19-hundreds. In fact, the original Bloomsday was June 16, 1904. Not everybody was dressed up though and we didn’t stick out at the top of the tower where the introductory scene in Ulysses takes place. At first anybody who felt like it got up and read an excerpt from the book. Then an actor arrived who had been booked for the day to read an excerpt or two from the book with gestures and all. It was spellbinding.

After that, during our few days in Dublin we in a way followed Bloom’s wanderings through Dublin, Grafton Street, Eccles Street, and even Sandyhurst Strand, We passed in front of the house where Leopold Bloom and Molly lived in a row house at 7 Eccles Street, and we walked from there to the James Joyce Centre. A man was sitting in the library who most

The front door of 7 Eccles Street which was moved and installed at the Joyce Centre.

certainly have been a descendant of Joyce. The front door from 7 Eccles Street has been installed inside the ‘Centre’. There were lots of translations of Ulysses into various other languages, and I got out the translation in Swedish to compare the feeling that came across. I had not read all of the book yet, but I had read the beginning, and it was clear to me that a book like Joyce’s masterpiece can not really stand being translated.

We went to Sandyhurst Strand where Episode 13 takes place. I remembered this piece of coast well when, later on, John and I were to read our two copies of the book in parallel.

We bought an updated version of Ulysses in Dublin, which I read, and John read the book we already had. And, of course, I started all over again from the opening chapter where Buck Mulligan and Stephen Dedalus are at the top of the Martello tower, Mulligan carrying a bowl of soapy water, shaving gear and a mirror and wearing a saffron colored old robe. Stephen is the major character in the first three chapters and in the final chapters there is interaction between Stephen, Molly and Leopold Bloom.

The actor reading an episode from Ulysses at the top of the Martello Tower.

Along with the novel itself I read Blamires’ guide to Ulysses 1, which I found well worth reading in itself. The book came alive to me this time, which had not at all been the case on my first attempt at reading it. I wandered through Dublin with Leopold Bloom and Steven. And I was so very pleased that we had been at Sandyhurst Strand, so I could picture Bloom in this sad-funny episode. While I was reading the book, I was actually living in it, and it was a wonderful experience. It was work, reading the guide and then the chapter by Joyce, but it was all worth it. What a wonderful life I had lived when I finished the book. The last page about Molly saying Yes is of course a masterpiece in itself. But I am afraid I had somehow identified so much with Leopold (Poldy for Molly), feeling his humiliation more than he felt it himself each time he was put down in the book. In this final scene, Molly is reliving an extraordinarily sensuous scene with a lover in Gibraltar. Naively I am afraid that my deep sympathy for Bloom kept me from fully appreciating that glorious finishing scene. Molly is the epitome of sensuality., and I found myself to be very naive in not being able to fully appreciate this glorious ending.

Second Intermezzo — Lapland Revisited

Revisiting Lapland (for me)  in 2002 and 2003 was fabulous, but the hikes in Scotland were better suited to us elderly people. Still, I rediscovered quite a few places that I had the most wonderful memories from (Chapter 3 – Part 1). But how, in 2002, northern Lapland and the huts had changed! Food is now available in many of the huts, and also, in Staloluokta, there was now a house. In 2002 the only water was at the pump. There was  a shower room though, but, since there was no water at all in the house, we took a dip in the ‘jokk’, Viejejokk, that flows just 50 meters or so from the hut.The jokk (small river, Sami language) then runs into lake Viriihaure, widely considered, with its continuation north, Vastenjaure,, to be the two most beautiful lakes in Sweden. This is indeed a dreamland.

In 1950, as I have mentioned in a  previous chapter (“Chapter 3 (Part 5) – Lapland, three years later)”), there was only a Sami hut, built by Sami people since no one else knows how to build those. There were reindeer hides on the ground spread over supple birch branches, and that is what we slept on. there were sufficient reindeer hides to put over you as blankets too. Running water came in a pipe of sorts that brought water from the melting snow higher up, and it the ‘pipe’ was stuck in between two rocks just outside the hut. As we arrived we saw that we were not alone — one man already being there. He was totally love-stricken by the beauty and peace of this magic piece in the world, and he said he had to come to Staloluokta every year to recharge his batteries and go on living another year in the “Sound and Fury” of the clanking and rushing modern world. This was in 1950! What would that man have had to say about the world of today?

In those days there was no helicopter and the next to last trek from Stalo to Kvikkjokk was 35 km. One more hut has now been added on that piece of the trail around Sarek. The very last trek was short, from Nunjestugan to Kvikkjokk fjällstation. This part of what is called Padjelantaleden took you through the almost unbelievable Tarradalen, where a micro climate made for plants that were higher than we were even though in other parts of Sweden they would reach us to our waste. We felt a bit as if we were in Alice in Wonderland, and we had drunk from the bottle that said “Drink me”.

A different view of linnea in the forest next to Saltoluokta tourist station

We, Mother, sister Gun and I, were pretty tired when we got back to the tourist hotel in Kvikkjokk and the first thing we could think of was a bath. Then a good meal, since we had not had anything really to eat that last two days except cloud-berries and some bread we cooked over an open fire. In Swedish  it is called pinnbröd.  We had run out of food (vacuum-packed food in those days), but amazingly enough Mother had some flour and some salt in reserve. The third ingredient is water, and you put the dough on a stick, so pinnbröd (pinne – stick).

Back to 2002. Since there was no caretaker we had to make sure everything was neat and clean before we left the house (be it by helicopter or on foot) and that there was water in the kitchen. I know I swept the floor quite carefully before we left, and John went to the pump to fill the bucket of water. If you saw someone else sweeping the floor you could wipe off all the tables, for instance. Communism prevailed.