“We have sold the myth of Dublin as a sexy place incredibly well; because it is a dreary little dump most of the time.” Well, this rather nasty quote from Irish author Roddy Doyle is NOT really one I would agree with. This was my second visit to Dublin, and thankfully this time I had a little more free time than on my last visit. I found Dublin to be a very attractive city, not a dreary little dump, and I can see why many Europeans flock here to learn English. It’s also a great place for literary tourism. Although James Joyce did a lot of his writing in Trieste you still can feel his presence here.
There were two main attractions I did not want to miss on this visit. The first was the Book of Kells, a thousand-year old illustrated manuscript held in the famous Trinity College of Dublin. Admission to see the book grants you access to a very elegant little museum explaining the history and background to early European manuscripts such as this one and a special visit to the Old Library, one of the greatest book rooms I think I have ever seen. The walls are lined with majestic wooden bookshelves that reach all the way to the domed ceilings, and are just packed with ancient leather-bound tomes. I emerged from this little tour with an intense book lust and appreciation of all things Irish – right into the waiting embrace of the gift shop where I spent a small fortune.
The second attraction was the site where I gave my talk: the Teacher’s Club of Dublin, the oldest teacher’s club in Ireland. Part of a row of terraced houses, the Teacher’s Club looks quite unpresuming from the outside. Once inside, there is a small carpeted entry hall with a noticeboard and a hall running down to the back of the house with offices on either side. But it is upstairs where I gave my talk that is really a bit more special. The building dates back to 1775 and many of the rooms still contain much of the restored original decoration and plasterwork . The teacher’s club has been a social and professional centre for teachers since 1923, also acting as an important political centre behind the teacher’s union and teachers’ strikes of the 1940s and 1980s . Some of Ireland’s most famous musicians and artists took or gave classes here, and the room where we were was in fact the very same room that James Joyce, a noted tenor as well as author, took singing lessons.
And then there was the living room just outside my talk. There are small tables and chairs dotted around, and a large screen television in the corner. Along one side of the room stands a full functioning bar. So when we all piled out of a workshop on use of authentic non-native accents in listening materials (a topic that would make anyone pretty thirsty) we were all able to grab a drink. The club, the teachers told me cheerfully, is absolutely the best place in Dublin to get a pint of Guinness. When in Rome do as the Romans I always say, especially in serious matters such as this.
I’ve included a video of one of the members of the club, Steven Morrissey, explaining a bit more about the building here. Unfortunately by the time I started filming this people were getting into the swing of things and so it’s a bit noisy. But it’s worth it just to see the place and of course hear Steven’s lovely (to my ears anyway) Irish accent.