Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Irish Tour - day seven

So, our last day. We got ready to leave while watching the news coverage of the floods in Cumbria. The breakfast was a little odd. Some of the staff seemed a grumpy – it’s hard to say why. I think it was more to do with inter-staff tension than us but it made us feel a little weird.

Anyway, we checked out and were back on the road, dragging my £16 suit case with wheels along the pavement. Those wheels have survived some dragging. The case may be one of the best value purchases I’ve ever made.

We got off the bus at O’Connell Street and pulled the suitcase even further to Connolly Station. We were off to Maynooth – Ireland’s university town.

Anika met us at the station with a warm welcome and a very friendly smile. It has been strange to turn up to these places and wait for someone you don’t know. I never really knew if I’d met my DAAD hosts before so I didn’t know who to look out for. Having said that, I never had any difficulty spotting my rendezvous – I just learned to look out for the person standing alone and smiling at me. Weird to think they all knew me.

She introduced us to one of her senior colleagues and we all went for lunch. We discussed why German people seem to like Ireland. I’d theorised earlier in the week that the British love to hate the Germans (and the French, and the rest of Europe – but there’s a particular thing about the Germans). In many ways, Ireland represents a slice of something very similar to British life but without the Nazi jokes. I think I’d appreciate that if I was German.

The campus at Maynooth is lovely – especially the old bit. It had a collegiate atmosphere and we took a quick look at St Patrick’s. Very impressive. The screening itself had taken place earlier in the day so I was only due to do my presentation and discuss the film. A few technical hitches and a lecture theatre change later, I made a start.

I’d been sad for a few days about the prospect of the tour coming to an end. The whole week was a little bit like an episode of Mr Benn (NB that’s Mr Benn, not Mr Bean). I was able to don my filmmaker outfit and be a filmmaker for the week. Of course, my filmmaker outfit is almost identical to my every day outfit, it’s the purpose that matters. The end of the tour meant handing back my outfit until…well..until who knows when?

The Q&A went well but there was something subdued about it. Mainly from my point of view for the reasons above. At the end, we shared a coffee with Anika, said our thanks and farewells and headed back towards the train station. Our train was delayed for about an hour.

Back in Dublin, we grabbed a bus for a little of the way and walked for the rest. We called into the Irish Film Institute to buy tickets for A Serious Man and continued on the way to Jury’s Inn, Christchurch. This was the only night we paid for ourselves and we had a mini-history at this hotel. Of the previous visits to Dublin, Jury’s had provided a great base for exploring the city. It also has a good pub next door (the Lord Edward) and a cracking chippy.

Shortly after checking in, we were tucking in to fish and chips in our room. After eating out for most of the week, a bit of junk food on our own was just the job. As was the quick sleep that followed.

When we woke up, everything felt different. It already felt like a different trip. Like that Mr Benn outfit I mentioned earlier was already back on the hanger. It was good to watch a film (that wasn’t My DDR T-Shirt) but A Serious Man wasn’t great. It was full of Coen Brother signatures but ultimately unfulfilling.

What is it about art house or independent cinema audiences? Everyone’s so keen to demonstrate they understand, that they ‘get it’. They laugh out loud at anything. The mildy amusing becomes hilarious. A snigger becomes a belly laugh. I don’t know what it is but I’ve witnessed it in several art cinemas. It’s dark in the cinema – no-one can see anything but the film and no-one cares whether you get it or not. And if you really do ‘get it’, why do you need to tell me?

I went to see a filmed interview with Edward Said once at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. Every now and again, he said something a little tongue in cheek about Isreali policy. At best, it warranted a wry smile and a quick burst of air from the nostrils – but not with an art audience. They had to laugh long and they had to laugh knowingly. What’s all that about? Or ‘WTF?’, as modern web parlance has it.

Anyway, back to Friday night in Dublin. There was definitely something different about things. The tour was already a memory and a very proud one at that.

In many ways, the whole week was reminiscent of the filming trip to Berlin. It had that strange sense that this wasn’t a holiday but not quite work either. It also had that sense of something cool and extraordinary. Something of an adventure and something akin to touching something real.

Lot’s of the word ‘something’ in the paragraph above. It’s a little inarticulate but maybe that’s enough? I had a great week on tour in Ireland – it really was something.

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