WHO WAS BLOOM - AND WHY CELEBRATE HIS DAY?
WHO WAS BLOOM - AND WHY CELEBRATE HIS DAY?
James Joyce's Ulysses is the story of a day in the life - 16 June, 1904 - of one Leopold Bloom as he perambulates around Dublin. Joyce boasted that if the Irish capital were ever levelled it could be rebuilt just by using Ulysses. He would be a bit disturbed by a lot of what has happened to the city, but as Dublin, unlike many other European capitals, escaped 20th-century wartime destruction, much still remains of the city he knew. His path, albeit now concreted over, passed the same shops, churches and colleges. Bloom is a fictional character, but the date was the day that Joyce first stepped out with a Galway servant girl called Nora Barnacle, who was later to become his wife.
The idea of creating a Bloomsday event seems to have started with the 50th anniversary in 1954, when a clatter of writers and journalists got together to celebrate the still-frowned-upon book. The idea has taken root, and plenty of people dress up in Edwardian gear and eat Gorgonzola sandwiches as they follow the journey taken by Bloom a century ago.
WHERE WAS JOYCE BORN?
At 41 Brighton Square, which, like several of Dublin's squares, is not a square at all. Joyce was born on 2 February 1881 to John and Mary in this modest Victorian house, a fact marked by a plaque between the upstairs windows. It reads "Birthplace of James Joyce, poet and novelist 1881-1941. Presented by Montclair State College, New Jersey, Bloomsday 1964."
DID HE HAVE A HAPPY CHILDHOOD THERE?
Not that he ever recalled, because he left for the neighbouring suburb of Rathmines at the age of three. In fact, had Joyce arranged for Bloom to visit each of his various Dublin homes he would have had a ready-made sequel. Vivien Igoe, in the useful book James Joyce's Dublin Houses (Mandarin, 1990), traces around 15 places in the city that the author could call home: Castlewood Avenue, Rathmines; Martello Terrace, Bray; Clongowes Wood, Sallins; Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock; Hardwicke Street; Fitzgibbon Street; Millbourne Avenue, Drumcondra; North Richmond Street; Windsor Avenue, Convent Avenue, Richmond Avenue and Royal Terrace, all in Fairview; Glengarriff Parade; St Peter's Terrace, Phibsborough; and Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge.
Joyce left the country with Nora shortly after their marriage, returning briefly to Dublin in 1909 and 1912. The first of those trips saw him set up Ireland's first cinema, The Volta, at 45 Mary Street. But before he left Ireland he spent a few days at the house in Dromard Terrace, Sandymount and a week in the Martello Tower at Sandycove - where Ulysses begins.
WHY DO THEY CALL IT JOYCE'S TOWER?
Well, it's a bit prettier than most of his homes. Joyce stayed here at the invitation of his friend Oliver St John Gogarty, while another writer, Samuel Chenevix Trench, was also residing there. On his fifth night in the tower, Joyce was awakened by Trench screaming, the result of a nightmare involving a panther. Trench picked up a revolver and fired several shots into the fireplace, whereupon Gogarty grabbed a .22 rifle and fired at a collection of pans above Joyce's bed. Utterly freaked out, James fled into the rain.
The tower makes an appearance in the first chapter of Ulysses. This is where Stephen Dedalus and "stately plump Buck Mulligan" lived. It opened as a Joycean museum (00 353 1 280 9265; www.visitdublin.com) on Bloomsday 1962. It's open 10am-5pm from Monday to Saturday, 2-6pm on Sundays, closed between 1pm-2pm; admission €6.25 (£4.50). You can reach it on the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (Dart) train for €3.20 (£2.30) day return. While you are there, you could take the plunge at the nude Forty Foot bathing area, although the water is freezing. The beach at Sandycove is small but popular. Heading south you come to Dalkey, populated by the rich and famous and with several sandy beaches nearby.
The inner-south suburb of Sandymount (€2.25/£1.60 for a Dart day return from the city) has long capitalised on its Joyce links. He spent the night before Bloomsday in Dromard Terrace, near the main street, as guest of James and Gretta Cousins. They were an eccentric couple - vegetarian, mystical theosophists, they abstained from sex throughout their marriage and Gretta was jailed in London and Dublin for suffragette vandalism.
The Star of the Sea church, mentioned in Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, is the venue for an exhibition of photographs of Dublin in Bloom's time (more details from 00 353 1 668 3894), which will be on display for Bloomsday weekend only from 7.30am-5.30pm; entry is free. The part of Sandymount beach, where Stephen walked into eternity, is now a sports club, a colourful housing estate and a park where Joyce is commemorated with a series of meandering rock sculptures.
It's a good walk from Paddy Dignam's house in Newbridge Avenue (five minutes from the Star of the Sea) to Glasnevin Cemetery, so vehicular transport is required, preferably a coach and four with black plumes. The atmospheric cemetery is home to many who once walked around Dublin; the Faithful Departed. The phrase is the title of a great book of Lawrence Collection photographs by the late Kieran Hickey, film-maker and Joyce buff, which has just been reissued by Lilliput Press (€15/£11).
Bloom later stopped in Davy Byrne's "moral bar" at 21 Duke Street (00 353 1 677 5217; www.davybyrnespub.com) for a glass of burgundy and a gorgonzola sandwich with a dab of mustard (available this week for a little more than €10/£7). Take a quick step across the street to the Bailey pub, where the door of Bloom's home at number 7 Eccles Street adorns the wall (the house is no more; the Mater Private Hospital stands on the site). Cross over Dawson Street, helping any blind piano tuners you can find, and head for the National Library (00 353 1 603 0200; www.nli.ie) to check out the excellent exhibition, and try and picture Bloom encountering Buck and Stephen on the steps. It's open Monday-Wednesday, 10am-9pm; Thursday-Friday, 10am-5pm; and Saturday, 10am-1pm, but will be closed on Monday 14 June and open until 9pm on Thursday 17 June for the exhibition. The library is free to enter but a reader's ticket is required. Take any cross-city bus, such as the number 10 - the library is a short walk from St Stephen's Greenon Kildare Street.
The biggest event on Bloomsday itself will see O'Connell Street sealed off on the evening of 16 June for The Parable of The Plums, recreating the scene where two old ladies spat plumstones from the platform on Nelson's Pillar on the citizens below.
At nightfall, don't go wandering the streets of Monto as the working girls are long gone. An alternative ending would be on Eccles Street in the inner-north city where Leopold and Molly Bloom lived. Molly's passionate rounding-off of her day closes Ulysses. For serious Joycean perambulators, get a copy of Walking Dublin (New Holland 1998, £9.99) by Pat Liddy, which includes a good Ulysses Walk from Eccles Street to the Ormond Hotel.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT?
To sample a proper Bloom breakfast, sit by the windows that line the mezzanine level of Bewley's Oriental Café (00 353 1 677 6761; www.bewleys.ie) in Grafton Street. Here you will have a bird's-eye view of the throngs rushing along the busy street below.
The James Joyce Centre (41 North Great Georges Street; 00 353 1 878 8547; www.jamesjoyce.ie, open Monday-Saturday 9.30am-5pm and Sunday 12.30pm-5pm; admission €5/£3.60) also hosts a meal involving the inner organs of beast and fowl on the day itself. For some liquid refreshment, head for the west side of Dublin. The Mullingar House pub in Chapelizod (9 Mullingar Terrace; 00 353 1 620 8692) is the model for the pub where Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker slept in Finnegans Wake.
I'M READY FOR MORE JOYCE
Along the quays, the house at 15 Usher's Island (which isn't an island), where Joyce set his best-known short story "The Dead", was recently renovated and now has guided tours at 2pm each day included in the general admission price of €6/£4.30 (00 353 86 163 5285; www.jamesjoycehouse.com).
In town, the dilapidated Academy cinema in Pearse Street was once the Ancient Concert Rooms where Joyce won second prize in a singing contest that also featured Count John McCormack on the bill. Around the corner from there is Lincoln Place, where Bloom went for a Turkish bath. The last building on the right of Lincoln Place is a newsagent, once the site of Finn's hotel, where Nora Barnacle worked as a chambermaid. The hotel's name, painted on the side wall, was recently revealed when Trinity College chopped down some trees.
While in the vicinity, you should visit the Old Library of Trinity College to see the leading literary antecedent. The Book of Kells (00 353 1 677 2941; www.tcd.ie/Library) is one of the world's oldest and most beautiful illuminated manuscripts, dating from 800AD. The library also has a beautiful barrel-vaulted wood ceiling. It opens 9.30am-5pm daily (until 4.30pm on Sundays, admission €7/£4.30).
North of the Liffey there are many places with Joyce connections, notably Belvedere College where he went to school and was prefect of the school sodalit - equivalent to head boy. There are several memorials to the writer, most notably a jaunty statue frozen in the act of turning from Earl Street North into O'Connell Street. The author's statue stands just across the road from the heart of Irish nationalism, the General Post Office, where the 1916 Easter Rising was centred.
WHAT ABOUT THE NATION'S OTHER WRITERS?
Head a short way north to the Dublin Writers' Museum at 18 Parnell Square (00 353 1 872 2077), which celebrates the Irish love affair with the written word; open 10am-6pm Monday-Friday and until 5pm at weekends. Admission is €6.25/£4.50. Dublin is the only city that has produced three winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. George Bernard Shaw, WB Yeats and Samuel Beckett are the laureates, sharing the museum with some impressive also-rans: Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and James Joyce.
HOW SHOULD I GET TO IRELAND?
Six months before the original Bloomsday, the Wright Brothers achieved powered flight. A century on, a wide range of airlines fly from airports across the UK to Dublin. The main carriers are Aer Lingus (0845 084 4444; www.aerlingus.com) and Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com); BMI (0870 60 70 555; www.flybmi.com), British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) and FlyBE (0871 700 0123; w ww.flybe.com) also have frequent services.
Dublin airport is 13km north of the city. Taxis cost around €24 (£15) one way. There are also several bus links from the airport to the city centre; for further information visit www.dublinbus.ie. Alternatively, the speedier Aircoach ( www.aircoach.ie) departs from outside the terminal building every 15 minutes. Fares cost €6 (£3.75) one way. By sea, Stena Line (08705 70 70 70; www.stenaline.co.uk) and Norse Merchant Ferries (0870 600 4321; www.norsemerchant.com) sail to Dublin; Stena Line's fast ferry from Holyhead arrives close to the tower on the shore at Sandycove, where Ulysses begins.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
Dublin has insufficient accommodation for its weekend visitors, so for a decent room at a reasonable price, go during the week. The Shelbourne at 27 St Stephen's Green (00 353 1 663 4500; www.shelbourne.ie) has literary connections; George Moore, Oscar Wilde, WM Thackeray and Joyce all stayed, while Elizabeth Bowen based her novel The Shelbourne on the hotel. Doubles cost from €235 (£168). For a scholarly place to stay, consider the School House Hotel at 2 Northumberland Road (00 353 1 667 5014), an old school just a short stroll from the city centre. Doubles cost from €199 (£120), breakfast included. A low-budget alternative is Avalon House, 55 Aungier Street (00 353 1 475 0001, www.avalon-house.ie), a central hostel housed in an old medical school. A bed in a dorm starts from €15 (£9.30) per person per night. The Clarence Hotel (00 353 1 407 0800; www.theclarence.ie), 6-8 Wellington Quay, has had its Art Deco crispness restored by the band U2, cultural successors to Joyce. Double rooms start at €315 (£225) per night, room only.
PERHAPS I'LL JUST READ THE BOOK
Don't be ridiculous. Nobody reads the book. Get out there and do something Joycean - walk those streets, sup those pints, visit Bewley's, have a stroll along Sandymount Strand (but refrain from the solitary pleasuring that Bloom indulged in) and enjoy the world's greatest literary city.
ADDITIONAL RESEARCH BY SIMON CALDER AND SOPHIE LAM
In this centenary year, hundreds of events are taking place, with a Bloomsday Centenary Committee co-ordinating a full programme until the end of August ( www.rejoycedublin2004.com). The highlight of the ReJoyce festival - at least for scholars - is the 19th International James Joyce Symposium (00 353 1 269 6033; www.bloomsday100.org) at the National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, and the National College of Ireland, on the Custom House dock, from today until 19 June. It promises hundreds of lectures and discussions on all sorts of topics, from "Stepping out of the Page: Kate Bush's Joycean (Re)creations" by Patricia Smith of Hofstra University, to "Some Effects and Implications of Narrative Omniscience in Ulysses" by Weldon Thornton of the University of North Carolina.
The symposium finishes with Paddy Dignam's "Wake in The Vaults, at 7.30pm on 19 June, 7.30pm, tickets €20/£14 to €60/£42. But there are many other events to suit all brows - from a punk concert to the free breakfast for 10,000 people in O'Connell Street, due to take place this morning. The menu features rashers, sausages, pudding, and something called a hash brown. Mr Joyce might have recognised it as a potato cake. Understandably, places were snapped up.
After a few pints of Guinness, the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl (00 353 1 670 5602, www.dublinpubcrawl.com) may be more akin to a literary saunter than a walk. Nevertheless, the two-hour tour is hugely popular and takes visitors on a historic journey around the city's pubs, departing from the Duke Pub on Duke Street. The group visits pubs frequented by the likes of Joyce, Shaw and Beckett, whose work is brought to life with the help of actors, who guide the group to each watering hole and provide a spirited history en route.
The tour costs €10 (£7) and can be booked in advance at the Dublin Tourism Office (00 353 1 670 5602) on Suffolk Street, or at the Duke Pub (00 353 1 679 9553). Tours depart at 7.30pm Monday-Sunday, with an additional tour on Sundays at noon.
The Dublin Tourist Board (00 353 1 605 7700, www.visitdublin.com) is also able to advise on independent literary walking-tour guides. One such company is Dublin Footsteps Walking Tours (00 353 1 496 0641), which offers two-hour walks, including Joycean tours of the city for €9 (£6.40), including a cup of tea at Bewley's.