Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Origins of Dracula in Dublin

St. Michan's Church, Dublin.

Bram Stoker and his book Dracula (1897) may not freely associate in your mind with Dublin. But the author was born in Dublin, attended Trinity College, and began his career as a free-lance theater critic in the city.

In Ireland, there is speculation that what he saw in a tiny north side church, may have played a part in the vampire story that made him famous.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ringing the Changes at Christ Church

On the walkway near the roof of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on my way to the bell tower. I seem to be holding onto that book bag for dear life. (It was windy.)

One of my favorite mysteries--in fact, one of my favorite books of all time--is The Nine Tailors, by the late Dorothy L. Sayers. Written in 1934, it takes place in and around a medieval church and uses the obscure art of English change ringing (of church bells) as one of the important elements of the story. 

It is a wonderful book: and if you haven't read any Sayers, this is a lovely introduction to her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, the shell-shocked veteran of the Great War and second son of the Duke of Denver. 

This is all leading up to the fact that today, on a tour of the bell tower of Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral, I actually met my first expert in change ringing, who, at least, attempted to explain this unique feature peculiar to English churches.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Let Slip the Dogs of War: But Not Right Here!

Government Buildings, Dublin, early in the morning.

It took me several days of getting my bearings to figure out that my little Georgian hotel sits just a few steps  from the Dáil Éireann, the home of the Taoiseach--the Irish Prime Minister--as well as their lower house of Parliament. It is a bit like being in a hotel across the street from the White House and the Capitol.

This formidable set of structures sits between the National Library and the National Museum of Archeology, so when I went to see these museums I noticed, through the iron fence, lots of men and women in the nearby courtyard with cell phones stuck to their ears--called mo-biles here in the Euro Zone--rushing about between meetings.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Walking Through the Heart of Dublin

Dublin statue of James Joyce.

"There are two important books in every Irish home," said my young guide, a student of history at Trinity College, Dublin.

"The Bible and James Joyce's Ulysses." He paused an Irish pause.

 "Alas. Both unread." 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Visiting the Book of Kells

Am I in focus yet?

I've been lucky enough to have seen the Book of Kells once before on a trip to Ireland in the 1980s. It seems to me we walked into the Long Room of the Trinity College Library and looked at it in a glass case, open to one page. The story they told us then about the one thousand year old manuscript was that a page of it was turned each day, so that visitors could come and see something new and beautiful in it each time they were there.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Its a Long Long Way to Tipperary

Merry Christ's Mass to you--in Celtic

I'm just getting oriented--a good word since I traveled a long way to the East from California--and after a day on the road and a longish nap today, I left the hotel for a stroll on Dublin's famous Grafton Street.

Ah, there's that famous Celtic restaurant now!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visions of Celtic Lands

On my first trip to Ireland.

I've been planning a trip to Ireland--a country I haven't seen now for more than two decades. I do have Celtic in my background--McHutchison was my paternal grandmother's family name--but it is, I believe, of the lowland Scot variety.

I like to pretend I'm related to T.E. Lawrence, whose father was the Anglo-Irish baronet Sir Thomas Chapman. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blame It On Catherine Oxenberg

Robin interviewing Catherine Oxenberg in Los Angeles, on the set of ABC's "Dynasty."

For some reason I decided to look up the actress Catherine Oxenberg on the 'net, and not just her bio: I looked up some recent photos of her as well. That was my mistake. The worst viruses I've ever been spammed by, have all come from celebrity photo sites. Something I, for the moment, forgot.

I had interviewed the blonde beauty early in her career, when she had a part during the last couple of seasons of the ABC series "Dynasty."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Irving Bacheller Pops Up Again

Irving Bacheller on the grounds of his estate in Winter Park, Florida, circa 1930s.

I was awarded a grant several years ago to research the life of writer Irving Bacheller, a best-selling novelist in the first half of the 20th century.

He's not well-known today. But, when I was writing a small book about Winter Park, Florida, I kept stumbling across his name. He had a winter home in Winter Park, and I discovered that in his day, he was a big literary light to shine in such a small town.

Now, I've stumbled upon the old fellow again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Gunking" and "De-Gunking" on Ascension

I've just received a booklet of my father's tales and reports about Ascension Island, from Shari Parkhill of the Ascension Island Heritage Society

They are a treat for me and, I hope, will help researchers of the future get a glimpse into the daily lives of the young men who freed the world back in World War II.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Out of the Past ...

I have many happy memories of being young and foolish. I don't have any idea if I was actually happy back in the days of my youth: but looking back--from the perspective of a wiser person who has lived the joys and sorrows of the life that intervened--looking back has often brought a smile.

At least it did until the Internet came along, and Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Myspace and findanyone.com and now I can actually see the people that brought these smiles to my face, not through the gauze of my imperfect memory, but it the harsh glare of an overhead fluorescent light as if on a Skype call from the past.

I want my old misty, gauzy memories back please.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When Artists Went to War

An American Thunderbolt ground crew in England, cleaning its guns on June 6, 1944. By artist Ogden Pleissner, for Life Magazine.   

Following a trail of facts that lead to an interesting story is what reporters love to do. That's how I happened to learn about the artists who went to war in World War II.

I stumbled upon the program when I found two framed color prints of Ascension Island in my father's things. My father had served on Ascension and I could see the prints were of really good paintings.  But, they had captions beneath them and looked as if they had been cut from a magazine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I am Not James Herriot, But ...

You can't tell she's Ms. Gimpy when you see only her side view.

I''m still monitoring the progress of the Blue Jay I dubbed Ms. Gimpy after an accident immobilized her right leg, September 19. Actually, I never did know if it was her leg, hip, or pelvis. But, after she hopped around on her left leg for three weeks, she began to put weight on her right again.

She continues to heal and to visit. How can I spot her?