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June 16 is of course famous throughout the world as Bloomsday, the day on which James Joyce first walked out with his future wife Nora Barnacle, an event he marked by setting his novel Ulysses on that day.
This is a a family Bloomsday story which we’d like to share with the greater family and friends throughout the globe, but of course if you’re neither, you’re welcome to share our happy memories too. I should have published this several weeks ago, but maybe it’s appropriate that it appears on the day Dublin was designated a UNESCO City of Literature.
June 16 was also my aunt Kaa’s birthday. She died last November and is sorely missed. Her real name was Katherine Philomena, shortened to Kamena, and then to Kaa.
Some weeks before, my cousin Eamonn mentioned to me in an email that he and Kaa had always joked about going to Dublin for Bloomsday . I remembered that Kaa and I also always shared a joke about Bloomsday on her birthday. It was one of her many kindnesses that she was aware that I loved the work of James Joyce, and she was well and humorously aware that I remembered to ring her on her birthday only because of the Bloomsday celebration. Then Eamonn suggested that we celebrate Bloomsday in Dublin in memory of Kaa and her eldest son Michael thought it was a great idea and immediately said he would come.
We had all been frantically busy in the meantime, so the arrangements were very last minute, but the idea crystallised thus: Michael and Eamonn would come to my house at midday, with a photo of Kaa.
(Kaa’s daughter Alexis actually sent it by post and it arrived just in time) and we would have some lunch and then walk to several places in Dublin associated with Bloomsday, and read a few passages from Ulysses along the way.
Our first stop was The Church, a former Protestant church where Wesley preached, Arthur Guinness was married and Sean O’Casey was baptised. It’s been very tastefully restored with many plaques and religious signs, and the organ, still as remarkable features. Our anonymous benefactor stood us a round of drinks and went back to work.
Then Eamonn spotted this above where I was sitting.
“This do in Remembrance of Me”.
It was an obvious photo.
Then, in brief, we went to the Joyce statue in North Earl Street, the cricket grounds in Trinity College where we read appropriate passages from Ulysses (and were caught in the act by Brendan Kennelly)
and Sweny’s Pharmacy (where Michael did the honours and bought lemon soap), all mentioned in Ulysses.
Then Aisling joined us in Lincoln Place, outside what was once Finn’s Hotel where Nora Barnacle worked when Joyce met her, and we went for cool drinks in The National Library, also associated with Ulysses.
After which we went to Stephen’s Green for final photos at Joyce’s statue there, and retired for a much-needed drink in Neary’s pub.
We then came back to my place, uploaded the photos and sent them to as many family members as we had email addresses for.
It was quite a day.
By the way, we’ve renamed Bloomsday KaaBloomsday, at least as far as our family is concerned!