Obama’s Oratory

Devouring the Financial Times over a good espresso has become something of a fixture of my weekends. One particularly interesting article from this weekend’s edition concerned Obama’s oratory; political junkies, English students and Toby-Ziegler-from-the-West Wing fans alike should savour this introduction to the tricolon, anaphora and the molossus and their use from Greek times through to the present day.

Perhaps less entertainingly, but it’s also worth noting that the current interest in rhetoric and oratory has spawned another high-brow reality show on BBC, namely The Speaker.

Moon Rise Over Dún Laoghaire

Uncommonly good weather this afternoon for an Irish wedding and a brief but welcome reunion with old friends and colleagues. The afters were also a welcome departure from tradition with the usual late-night drunken “revelry” nowhere in sight and everything, instead, wrapped up nicely by 6pm.

It looked like hours of sunshine ahead, so I hopped on a south-bound DART and ambled around Seapoint, Monkstown and Dún Laoghaire as the moon rose over the sea. The sea is absolutely my favourite thing about Dublin – something I’ll write about some other time – and although I still harbour plans to move away, just occasionally you get an evening here as spectacular in its own little way as anything you’ll ever see anywhere in the world.

The route began at Seapoint DART station, where several divers and other water-dwellers were enjoying the Irish Sea. It’s a straight walk up to the east Dún Laoghaire pier, where a steady but manageable stream of walkers and roller skaters mingled under the clear sky. I bought a hot dog and ice cream and made my way out to the end of the pier: a small crowd sat here admiring the setting sun over Poolbeg Station while a lonely few ventured behind the pier wall to savour the far rarer vista of a perfect moon rise.

Here, at the end of the world, a lone banjo player strummed Irish airs for both camps as the light slowly faded.

Custom House Plaza

Just lovely for a Saturday evening stroll up towards the cinema.

The excellent Irish Town Planner’s Blog reports that plans to create a pedestrian-only area in front of the Custom House are underway; the area would be connected to the Liffey boardwalk and finally open up the interior courtyard of the complex.

A Walk to Dún Laoghaire

A good stretch of the legs from Grand Canal Dock out to the western pier of Dún Laoghaire, taking in Sandymount Strand, Booterstown and Blackrock Village enroute. Fine Irish weather – considering our chequered summer thus far – and a mercifully free weekend made this a very fine way to spend an otherwise bone idle Sunday afternoon.

I’ve been meaning to walk this route for some time, with vague notions of following the original Westland Row – Kingstown train line in my head. Ian Marchant’s book, “Parallel Lines”, (extract here) has a full chapter memorably outlining how this line was built as part of an effort to provide a fast link between the first two cities of the British Empire, London and Dublin. More significantly, by providing multiple stops along the journey into the city centre, it was also the world’s first commuter line when it opened in 1834.

Fergus Mulligan’s “One Hundred and Fifty Years of Irish Railways” contains a very detailed account of the line’s construction and first years of operation; one part that particularly struck me describes the “night patrole”, introduced in 1837 to counteract acts of vandalism. On duty from 8pm to 7am, “two hardy men walked the entire line from Westland Row to Kingstown and back” with a weapon, “dark lanthorn” and whistle. Mulligan notes that this must been quite a prospect in the months of January with the “east wind howling across Dublin Bay”.

Whatever became of those men, the new train allowed for the possibility of living in the countryside whilst working in the city and, so, it played no small part in the development of the pleasant suburbs in the south of the city, the results of which can still be enjoyed on a pleasant summer afternoon.

Today, the sight of Poolbeg Station looms large on the horizon, omnipresent wherever you are on Dublin Bay. The tide at Sandymount Strand was out even further than usual, allowing for a direct walk to the footbridge over the tracks at Booterstown Station. From here, a brief rest in Elm Park before a stroll through Blackrock Village before reaching Seapoint and, soon after, the pier of Dún Laoghaire where the Stena Sealink negotiates the harbour opening. A meal in Real Gourmet Burger repairs the damage before a chance encounter with an old music friend and, of course, the DART home.

Docklands by Dusk

Pink glowed the yellow plastered walls of the courtyard as I settled down for soup; looking out revealed the sky throbbing a perfect pink against a dark blue of the approaching night. Tea was glossed over before rushing camera up towards the sparkling water of the Grand Canal. Though the best light had shone away, docklands rarely looked better: mottled water, pink sky and bright colours of bold newcomers to the landscape combining to make summer in Dublin a very particular and occasional delight.

Afterwards, only in Dublin could investigation of the year’s finest sunset end with a solid drenching under a heavy shower of rain.

Dublin Film Festival

The Dublin Film Festival opened this weekend. Highlight of the opening night was surely a gala presentation in the Savoy of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood”; a better name for this film might be “There Will Be A Release” since, despite rave reviews in the UK and Irish press over the past couple of weeks, it actually is not screening anywhere in Ireland until the 29th February. Having the foresight to book tickets early for this special screening would have been much appreciated.

Undaunted, today I checked out some of the less razzle-dazzly films and chose two back-to-back afternoon screenings in Cineworld:

  • Margot at the Wedding
    The latest film from Noah Baumbach, director of “The Squid and the Whale”, my favourite film of 2006. Nicole Kidman portrays judgmental Margot, attending the wedding of estranged sister Jennifer Jason Leigh to unknown but instantly disappointing Jack Black. Returned to their childhood New England home for the occasion, Margot brings out the worst in everybody around her in a wonderful passive-aggressive performance from Kidman while Jack Black provides welcome comic relief in this complex, rewarding film. I liked it but, unlike his debut, I won’t be rushing out to buy the DVD.
  • Late Bloomers (Der Herbstzeitlosen)
    Apparently a huge hit in its native Switzerland, “Late Bloomers” tells the tale of an elderly lady searching for a new reason to live; she rediscovers her love of sewing and – after a little persuasion – converts her late husband’s grocery shop into a lingerie boutigue, “Petit Paris”. Essentially “Brassed Off” and/or “The Full Monty” transferred to a small village in the Swiss mountains, “Late Bloomers” employs the same formula: in doing so, she forces her friends and family to re-examine their values and own reasons for living…well, you could guess that without seeing the film. However, it’s funny and never quite predictable; even the standard ending for these movies is just a little bit different here. Well worth a watch.