Yesterday we breakfasted on liver and kidney, bacon and sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, with a Cashel blue stepping in for the gorgonzola. A replica of the breakfast Leopold Bloom ate back on 16 June 1904.
Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.
It was back in 1929, on the 25th anniversary of the day Joyce immortalised, that his publisher Sylvia Beach, organised a Déjeuner Ulysse at the Hotel Leopold near Versailles. This has been marked as the first Bloomsday celebration and the guest list included one Samuel Beckett, who, the story has it, had a tad too much to drink and didn’t make the official photograph.
Anyway, yesterday morning, we breakfasted like Bloom, peppered with speeches by the Ambassador and professors of literature, all of whom added to my rather sparse knowledge of a man I’m becoming quite taken with.
But to be understood, I think Joyce has to be heard, read aloud, not quietly. The female actor who had been lined up to read a part of The Dead was a no-show and I was asked to step in. Not to act mind you, just to read.
I didn’t know either the story or the context but gathered enough of it to realise that I was to needle my interlocutor.
More dancing follows, which finds Gabriel paired up with Miss Ivors, a fellow university instructor. A fervent supporter of Irish culture, Miss Ivors embarrasses Gabriel by labelling him a “West Briton” for writing literary reviews for a conservative newspaper.
We had a couple of read-throughs before the main event and I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Later that evening, at the Belated Bloomsday celebrations on Raday utca, I was asked to step in again. If it’s something I want to do, I don’t need to be asked twice. Various conversations ensued and I may well get to read next semester for some students of Irish literature. I’m already looking forward to it. So much so, in fact, that next year, I think I’ll make it my business to be in Dublin for Bloomsday and overdose on all things Joycean. Or else make my way to Szombathely for the Hungarian version.
But it was the boy who surprised me. He’d enjoyed the breakfast – anywhere he can eat unlimited sausages rates. We took his new friend H to see Miniversum (again). [I’m getting braver – I left them there with strict instructions not to leave until I got back. Instructions they ignored, mind you, but I was waiting outside so panic averted.] We went for proper ice-cream at Fragola on Nagymező utca 7 (they have gorgonzola and camembert flavoured ice-cream) before heading over to Orczy-Kert to another birthday party. He got into the thick of it all with L and A, leaving me to marvel at how easy it is for kids to get along. What goes wrong? When does it go wrong? When do we stop living and letting live and instead judge our way to ostracism? When do the walls go up?
I’d expected him to want to stay and play rather than come with me to the Bloomsday thing but he takes being Irish quite seriously and saw it as a duty, of sorts, to celebrate Joyce and Ulysses on his birthday. And in fairness, it wasn’t until 9pm that he announced, with all the solemnity a just-turned-14-year-old can muster: Mary, my patience has finally run out. It’s time to go home.
This week has been exhausting. I’m wiped out. Yet I’ve learned a lot, for which I’m grateful. I have a newfound appreciation for Joyce. I stand in awe of mothers and parents in general. And I am glorying in how simple life looks through the eyes of a child.