Greece and Ireland

Sunday evening. I’m waiting, along with the rest of Ireland, to learn the results of the Greek referendum. RTE1 has been making hourly announcements all day about what time the earliest prognostications will be available (7pm Irish time) and what time the results are expected (two hours later). With no TV or internet, I have a timer set so I don’t miss the radio broadcasts. The headline in this morning’s Irish Times says, ‘Greek troops prepare for street battles,’ and the front-page photo is a Greek expatriate woman from Dublin wrapped in a Greek flag and with an Irish flag behind her. At last report the no vote was slightly ahead, but a yes vote (which would have the Greeks accept the stringent rules of the European bailout) has been predicted all week.

Irish Times photo The Irish have been perhaps the most interested country in the EU in this referendum. It was the Irish, after all, who accepted the austerity conditions of their own bailout and are still waiting to see if that decision was the right one. I’m not sure about this, but I suspect that for at least some Irish a Greek no vote would feel to them like they themselves had caved in too easily. This is a nation, after all, which is less than a hundred years old and whose citizens have a powerful awareness of both their centuries of obeisance to the British and the brashness of their revolution. Since the 1916 Rising —hugely brave but failed—is being considered very closely in preparation for a centenary next year, the country is in the throes of historical examination and a renewed sense of pride in its republicanism. I think that the Irish are seeing the Greek vote as something of a referendum on their own docility, and are wondering a bit about how they got from 1916 to now.

The Greeks voted overwhelmingly—by 61%—no. Now the whole EU is collectively jumping off a cliff.

July 4th in Exile

In Julianstown for the 4th. The Americans temporarily outnumber the Irish in this house—myself, expat Matthew and Matthew’s brother Tim are here along with Geraldine, Matthew’s wife and, although she isn’t really present, having gone off to Belfast for the night, their younger daughter Helen. We were up late last night (I had embarrassingly held up dinner until almost 9) drinking Irish coffee and discussing the ruination of San Francisco—Matt and Tim grew up in southern California and Tim still lives there in an itinerant way—and, with a certain perversity, the inevitability of AirBnB.

IMG_0447Matthew and Geraldine live in a cottage beside a river in this speck of a village between the town of Drogheda and Dublin. I met them through mutual friends on one of my first summers here. At that point they were excavating a ruined abbey outside of the medieval town of Trim. The excavation was a family affair: both daughters worked alongside their parents every day, organizing the tea breaks and lunches for the young students who were on the dig. I was a miserable failure at helping, finding the work of dusting a cavern with a toothbrush tedious beyond belief, but the bonhomie was terrific; Geraldine, who doesn’t so much move as explode from point to point, could energize an opium den.

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It’s still early here and I don’t know what the day holds; as far as I know we have no plans beyond Matt’s Eggs Benedict for brunch and an attempt to find a way to stream Wimbledon, which will have to be illegal. There was a terrific rain last night after the driest June here in decades—sleeping weather. Even Sophie the dog has gone back to bed.

I am happy to be here with no agenda. Celebrating the 4th in another country, which I have done several times, is odd. Those other places all know about our Fourth of July, which alone makes me queasy. (How many national holidays outside of the US–possibly besides Bastille Day–are Americans aware of?)

One summer my two girls and I were living outside Oxford. On the Fourth we went to a local band concert on the grounds of an estate. As the evening grew darker the music became more rampantly patriotic. At the end, the entire audience rose from their blankets on the grass to belt out Rule, Britannia. We stood too, of course, and I whispered to the girls that if anyone spoke to us they should put on their best English accents and answer back. I, having no ability with the accent, would keep my mouth closed. This was no time to be an American.

Long Room Pilgrimage

long room spiral staricaseWorking in the manuscript room at Trinity again, with its codes and alarms and alternately friendly and supercilious staff. About noon Aisling, the assistant who does most of the retrieving of materials, announced to the small group of us working in the room that, beginning at 1pm, we would not be able to leave via the normal route (down the elevator, back up the steps, around the velvet ropes, through the Long Room, down more steps and through the gift shop). She said that a member of staff would escort us out and, if we needed to return, back into the room ‘until further notice.’

I finished my work at about 1:30. At that point there were three of us left. The man next to me decided to leave at the same time to spare the staff two trips to escort us out. We packed up and the young student worker jumped up from her boxing and sorting to lead us. Instead of getting on the lift we went through a large door, and there we were in the empty and silent Long Room. We were up on the balcony that extends down both sides the entire length of the room.

You’re lucky, she said. No one is allowed up here. It was amazing to be so close to the books, to be able to touch them as we walked by. What looked from the floor below like a solid mass of brown leather was in fact row upon row of ordinary books, many with their library stamps on their spines. These are the books that form the Early Printed Books collection, the ones the librarians retrieve when readers request them. Our guide pointed out that the low bookshelves that were in between the floor-to-ceiling cases were stacked two deep, an eighteenth-century iteration of today’s collapsible library shelving. The front case could be moved out along metal tracks that were built into the floor so that the back case became accessible. These tracks were beautiful in their own right, carefully calibrated to allow the shelving to swivel so the back shelves are easier to get at.

Later I was told that the original design of the Long Room had a flat roof, but when the librarians realized that all of the books would not be accommodated the architects created the domed roof that allowed for more storage and created the iconic space we marvel at today. What a difference between that outcome and the notorious dumping of books at San Francisco Public Library when the architects created an enormous atrium but failed to make space for the library’s holdings.

            I wasn’t supposed to photograph anything, but I managed to get two pictures, the first of one of the glorious corkscrew staircases that go from balcony to main floor, and the second of the room itself. In the foreground of that photo is a small crookneck lamp that sits on a desk, a reassuring reminder of the quotidian use that the room is put to despite its period grandeur.long room!

At the other end of the room we stepped into the Early Printed Books Reading Room, and now I understood that the two rooms I had been working in for days sat at either end of the Long Room, made accessible to readers via the circuitous pathways I had been taking in order to keep the Long Room open for the hundreds of public that moved through it every day.

My brief passage along the balcony felt like a holy pilgrimage. It is impossible not to be awed in those surroundings and in the presence of so many books. The wide planks of the wooden floors gave a bit under my feet, the unmistakable odor of books was profound, the space was hushed and the thin light of a Dublin afternoon made its way past layers of dust to light our way.

In the Early Printed Books room I was told by one of the librarians that the closure was so that a page could be turned in the Book of Kells. When I went outside to head off to lunch there were only a handful of people lurking at the doorway of the Old Library, perhaps waiting to see if they could be first in line when the building opened again. And when I left later, finished for the day, the queue was as long as I had seen it, all of them on their own holy pilgrimage in the mundane way that Trinity has chosen to expose its treasure to the world.Book of Kells line

John the Postman

IMG_0334Yesterday at lunchtime I decided to walk up to the garden and pick some of the lettuce Esther had invited me to eat. I had just gotten to the path when John the postman pulled up in his white van. He jumped out and gave me a hug and a welcome back, then leaned against the front fender (“Plastic,” he says, knocking it. “If I get a bash in in I just push it back out.”) and, with the motor running, proceeded to talk for the next 30 minutes.

John’s usual story for me is about his summer in Walnut Creek, where his hostess and cousin kept them from visiting the local by stocking the basement fridge with beer and telling them there was no reason to leave the house. We skipped that story this time. Instead, I learned that John has four children and ten grandchildren. His youngest daughter (who just had his youngest grandchild) will be married in September with a reception in Tullamore after a ceremony at the Edenderry church. He’ll go to a stag night at Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday (a popular destination for stag and hen parties, he tells me) where he’ll participate in archery but not clay pigeon shooting. He’ll go, that is, unless his handicapped sister, who lives in a nursing home, deteriorates further; he is waiting for the call. (As if on cue his mobile rang, but he checked the number and didn’t pick up.)

This was all prelude to his main story, which is the pilgrimage he and his wife (who won’t fly more than 2-and-ahalf hours but made an exception this time) took to Croatia. There is a town there that has been visited by Our Lady, he says, and he and his wife went to see what the fuss was about. There they had an audience with an 85-year-old woman who is one of the three people whom Our Lady has visited. She told them about being taken by the hand by Our Lady and brought to Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. In Heaven everyone wore the same colored robes, although John couldn’t remember what color they were. In Hell there was no fire, but something like a fire; he had difficulty understanding the Dutch interpreter. He remembered that Purgatory was covered with mist so the woman could see nothing.

Another of the three people visited by Our Lady, a man this time, organized a viewing to be held at precisely 10:10pm in the same field that has hosted all of the visions. As the crowd gathered, the man told them that whatever they did they must not use flash photography. But wouldn’t you know, the Italians didn’t listen and at 10:10 they started flashing their camera phones all over the place, so no vision was recorded that evening.

For all of the silliness, I could see that John was moved. He and his wife hiked up a mountain while they were there and had a view all around the countryside. They ate well, spent little money but most of all they “felt something.” It’s impossible not to feel the sincerity of this man. As they were leaving Croatia, his wife, she who hates to fly, said, We should come back. And John agreed.

Further adventures in the library

Getting to the Manuscripts Division of Trinity is an altogether different experience from the tunneling required for the Early Printed Books room, even though they are in the same building. I begin once again at the Admission Desk in the Berkeley Library. This time my letter of introduction, my name in the Dickensian journal and my reader’s ticket fro EPB are not enough; I fill out another form and am issued a business-card-sized pass to the Manuscripts Room. The expiry date is left blank; that will be for the Manuscripts librarian to determine after I do or don’t pass muster.

The next part is the best: In order to enter the Old Library through the front door, the only way to get to Manuscripts, I jump the very long queue for the Book of Kells, then head up some stairs marked, No Entry. The stairs lead straight into the Long Room, the epitome of grand library spaces. Built in 1732, the room is lined floor to very high ceiling with 200,000 leather-bound volumes in an infinity of print. It is wildly romantic in its own way, not like the mysticism of the Hill of Tara but in the wisdom and hubris of attempting to capture an 18th-century ideal of knowledge in one massive, glorious place.

            What I should hear when I reach the top of the stairs is a hush of respect, the tap of a librarian’s foot on boards and the slide of one of the ladders being moved, perhaps a quiet discussion among students. Instead, there is the terrific din of perhaps a hundred tourists roaming the room in a way that both belittles and democratizes the space. The tourists are penned in to the center of the room by a double row of velvet ropes and watched over by a line of bored security guards. Ironically, the very reasons for the room’s existence—the books–are now off limits to all who enter there.Long Room

            When I flash my pass, one of the guards, glad to have something to occupy him for a minute, hops to attention to unhook one of the ropes and let me through. He leads me to a closed door along the back wall and gives me directions. This time I walk down a couple of flights of steps to another basement where I again take an elevator back up to the top. When the elevator opens again the room in front of me is so unassuming that I look around to see if there were another reading room somewhere, but there was nowhere else to go, so I pushed open the door. A cheerful librarian asking me my business (never mind that I had been emailing with several people, possibly including her, for steps to ms roomdays). I was given another form to fill out—this was the fourth or maybe the fifth—and asked for my letter of introduction.

Oh dear, I’m afraid my letter was left with the Admissions Desk. The librarian looked peeved and said something I didn’t catch about the Admissions Desk staff. I offered to retrieve it and said it hadn’t occurred to me to bring two copies (I mean, who in heaven’s name would bring two copies of this ridiculous letter that anyone cold forge and many probably do) but she said she would request a copy from Admissions ‘for our records’.

If I hadn’t thought before that I had stepped in to a time warp, I no longer questioned that when the librarian told me that there was no photography of anything, period. Anything. I must have looked surprised, because she said they were re-considering the policy but that for the time being, no photography it was.

I sat down and was brought a giant shoebox of records. When I lifted the lid I found hundreds of slips of paper, each about 10 inches wide and 4 inches high, tied together with a long white string. Next I was brought a file folder; inside was a letter. When I reached out to read it the librarian told me to try not to handle it. Since it was written on several sides of folded stationery, she admitted that this would be difficult. In end I was left alone with it, after being given two acid-free strips to mark my place as I marde my way through it, somehow.

A Yeats had written the letter, but it was the wrong Yeats. It was catalogued in the collection of Elizabeth Yeats but in fact was written by her far more famous brother, Willie. It turned out to be a fascinating letter, written by Yeats in the 1890s to a Miss Black. She had evidently sent him some poetry, along with a plea for advice. He answered in a thoughtful and careful manner, and did direct her to send one of her poems, which he named, to an Irish literary magazine, since all poets eventually end up ‘thither’.

As is necessary when material is kept off site (which it is in nearly all large libraries) I had emailed my requests in advance. In order to retrieve each document the librarian would first tap a combination into a locked box on the wall behind the reading room staff desk. As she tapped out the code the keypad played a sort of tune, dah dah dah dah. When she opened the box another sound played, a sort of rising alarm. From this box she would take a key, and then use that key to open a metal cabinet that sat in another part of the room. This is the cabinet that held whatever materials the reader—in this case me—was seeking. Since readers can have only one document at a time, this ritual proved to be depressingly clumsy, not to mention noisy. I tried to count up recently the number of libraries I had worked in—there have been many. I have encountered some tedious rules but I have never seen this level of hysteria over security, as if the library were holding the Holy Grail– instead of some possibly mislabeled nineteenth century letters– and had to continually insure its safety.

Of course Trinity does have what amounts to one piece of the Grail. I’m told that when the conservators turn the page of the Book of Kells, which they do three or four times a year, metal gates go up and the entire building is in lockdown; even the staff can’t use their normal entrances but must go to work via some side door. When I asked a staff member if he had ever seen the pages being turned he said there was not a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. Lucky, lucky conservators.

            Late in the afternoon I find quiet in a lovely small garden on the campus, which is, astonishingly, not overrun.  Trinity garden

Taxi ride

Waiting for the AirLink bus on O’Connell Street last evening, after a long week of hauling stuff around Dublin (mainly my laptop, which always feels like it weighs ounces when I leave in the morning but 20 pounds when I head back at night). In addition to the laptop I had a small duffle from my four nights’ stay in the city, my handbag, and a Chapters Bookshop bag of books, which of course I had vowed not to buy but who can resist?

A taxi driver started hustling the crowd waiting at the bus stop, but it turns out everyone but one other person and me already had tickets. When he offered to drive the two of us to the airport for 7 euro each, one euro more than the bus fare, I jumped at the chance. The ride was great: My companion for the trip was a young man from Brazil studying IT in Dublin and looking to work at Facebook in Menlo Park. The cab driver with a very heavy Irish accent was born in Bensonhurst. And I was an American transplant with an Irish passport who can’t seem to stay away. This is Ireland, through and through.

When we got to the airport I gave the driver a twenty and told him to give me back ten. Best tip I’ve ever given.

Madness & Shadows

Dublin is a city for the theatre-mad. Ever since W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory opened the Abbey Theatre in 1904 as the national theatre of Ireland, theatre has been cherished. In the correspondence of Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, Willie’s younger sister, she mentions the Abbey frequently, always referring to the packed audiences.

Abbey  This summer the Abbey is producing The Shadow of a Gunman, the least-known play of Sean O’Casey’s trilogy (with Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars). The action of the play takes place in 1920, between the 1916 Rising and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. O’Casey was a Socialist who took on the story of the working class in his drama. The Shadow of a Gunman considers both the bravery and foolishness of the revolutionaries but doesn’t flinch from the cowardice, and the tragedy.

The Abbey’s production is dynamic, but ultimately the play remains a period piece, which is why the theatre is not, in this case, packed, but respectfully full. This is also possibly not a play that draws tourists, a generally reliant audience in the summer. (Across town Mamma Mia and Once are probably doing well.) As I watched the O’Csey play I realized that, after all the plays I have seen here, I may be gaining a deeper understanding of Irish theatre; I also realized that Enda Walsh has a lot of answer for in his absorption of O’Casey’s influence.

Earlier in the day I saw a walking play, Glorious Madness. The theatre company is calling this a Prologue, and in fact many arts organizations are gearing up for the 100th anniversary of the 19196 Rising. The play focused on the women of the Rising, who are often overlooked. The women’s organization, Cumann na mBan, has been largely forgotten, and the women who risked their lives along with the men have not been acknowledged by history. (The O’Casey play also considers a young woman hero, as it turns out.) As we followed the actors to several sites which would have been in existence in 1916, we were able to get a flavor o the complex set of events that brought about the ultimate failure of the Rising.Madness 2Madness 1

Research

Trinity College on a Monday morning in the summertime is a polyglot craziness of tour groups, crowds queued to see the Book of Kells, cyclists, conferees and even the occasional student. Because the campus is enclosed, the experience is more akin to Disneyland than, say, NYU, although the overall effect is more dignified, and no one is trying to cut in line.

I am here to do research in the Berkeley Library, the working library of the college, across the quad from the Long Room and the Kells mayhem. The plaza in front of the library features a sculpture by the Italian Arnoldo Pomodoro. This one is a sphere rather than a disc, but otherwise the spinning metal piece is quite similar to the one on the Mills campus. Passing it, I feel right at home.

Research at Trinity turns out to be like stepping back in time. First, I needed to bring a letter of introduction from my boss, who in my case would be the Provost. Since our interim Provost had been in her office approximately a week, this proved to be trickier than it should have been; she is also not an academic and not used to arcane requests. In the end I wrote and formatted a letter for her signature; even so she had to take it ‘under review’ but I did get her signature the day before I left. I handed in this letter at the front desk, and they checked my name in a Dickensian-style journal—yes, I was in there and had been approved (pending my letter) to work in the library this summer.

In other libraries—even the National Library here—I would have my photo taken and be isreaders ticketsued a reader’s card. Here, the librarian picked up a massive date stamp and rolled out a beginning and an ending date to stamp on a yellow slip of paper. She then gave me directions to the Early Printed Books Reading Room, one of the most terrifying paths to Special Collections I have ever encountered.

Once, when I was researching at the Bodleian Library, I was sent to the basement stacks to seek out some issues of the London Illustrated News. I was handed a flashlight and a map and set loose among several acres of pipe-lined low-ceilinged bookshelves. The trip to the Trinity reading room left me with a similar sense of terror and claustrophobia. Immediately after going through the turnstiles (showing my yellow pass for admission) I turned right and headed down some stairs. At the bottom was one of many fire doors that I would encounter along the way—I might get trapped between these doors and die of starvation but at least I wouldn’t burn up. The door led to the tunnel, a warren of turnings, heavy doors, more turnings, and eventually to a choice of elevator or stairs. steps in Old LibraryThe stairs, I had been warned, were circular and stone and wound up for several stories. The elevator, the smallest I had ever encountered, seemed even less inviting, but I opted for it, not knowing what lay in store for me on the stairs. The elevator door opened with such gusto that the noise made me jump. I got in, pushed 2, and watching the floors slowly pass by.

Reading RoomAt the top I stepped into a familiar space. The Reading Room with its tables and foam book cradles looked like every other reading room except for the grand ones. This one, though, was the smallest I had worked in and there was a casualness about the handling of materials that was refreshing and friendly. I locked up my stuff, set up my laptop, and got to work. As I pored over letters and news clippings (the best kind of primary research) my reading was punctuated every twenty minutes or so by the sound of light clapping coming from somewhere below. The applause, a pleasant tinkling, was from whatever tour group in whatever language was thanking their guide. The squawk of seagulls, which also carried into the room from the open air just glimpsed through the windows, filled in other silences.

At lunchtime I left my laptop in the locker and headed out, this time trying out the stairs. They were narrow, airless, made of stone, completely entrapping and winding on forever. I decided I would take them down but not up; if I had a heart attack on the stairs it could be weeks before anyone found me, but at least taking them on the way down meant that I would cut my chances of being trapped in the elevator by 50%, which seemed like a good trade-off.Reading room 2

A tragedy & a travesty

Driving from the airport in a sliver Skoda (another rattletrap rental car, but I only have this one for a week). The radio was fiddly; even RTE1, the country’s primary all-purpose radio station, the equivalent of NPR but with ads, was fading in and out. Suddenly the word Berkeley came through clearly, followed by tragedy and students. Over the next few minutes a story began to unfold in fits of disconnected sound. Balcony collapse. Students injured. Students dead. Twenty-first birthday party. Irish one and all.

The tragedy has sunk the country into deep mourning. The smallness of the island is emphasized when something like this happens: So many people here know one of the students or know someone who does, or they know someone currently on a J1 visa. Even I know someone (who, luckily, is in New York, not San Francisco). This year 8,000 Irish students used J1s to travel to the US.

The JI visa is a rite of passage in Ireland. For those college students who can afford it, the visa is akin to study abroad, although the trips are all to the U.S. The four-month summer trips are in some ways a ghostly legacy of the original Irish migration: students don’t travel to study but to work, as bartenders, barristas, wait staff and restaurant hostesses, the twenty-first century equivalents of street sweepers, rag pickers and other less salubrious jobs taken on by those Irish who managed to survive the famine and the sea journey in the 1840s. Since 1965 over 150,000 Irish students have travelled to the US on J1s.

IMG_0003As I stood in a short line at the newsagent’s to buy an Irish Times the next morning, the accident was of course on everyone’s lips. It was a man standing behind me in line—a worker wearing a denim shirt with his company’s logo on it—who told me about the New York Times article. He was irate, and we discussed the articles and its implications as we left the shop, the man saying that the Times was the paper of international record, which made the article even more base and infuriating in his mind.

‘Death of Irish Students in Berkeley Balcony Collapse Cast Pall on Program’ read the headline. Lead reporter Adam Nagourney chose to focus on a 2014 incident in the Sunset district of San Francisco in which ‘loaded Irish students’ supposedly trashed the house they rented, smashing windows and punching holes in the walls, then ‘abandoning the place without a heads-up or a word of apology.’ Nagourney is quoting a column written by an Irish arts and culture editor that appeared in The Irish Voice, which was I suppose Nagourney’s way of covering his own tail—since an Irishman wrote it, it must be true. The article then went on to mention a Facebook page set up by Irish students in, of all places, Isla Vista, while never mentioning the particular notoriety of that community as a heavy party town. The article suggests that it is the Irish who are establishing the ‘work-hard, party-hard lifestyle. ‘ It doesn’t say that hordes of American students attend UCSB to avail themselves of the party atmosphere that overtakes the residential area (really a student ghetto) next to the university every Saturday night.

The insult of this article, with its raw prejudice and stereotyping of the Irish as unremitting drunks, could not have stung this country more. The Irish as a people know their own history. The country sees the J1 students as young ambassadors, and the population is proud of the connection forged between two nations that has, they thought, moved past the days of signs posted all over America saying, No Irish Need Apply. In print, online and in the media Ireland has projected dignity and pride in their response to the Times’ slur. They have taken the same measured but clear approach in calling out any suggestion that the students are in any way at fault. Reportage has uncovered past lawsuits over building lapses on the part of the contractor responsible for the Kittredge Street apartments, they have disproven the suggestion made by a Berkeley Planning Commission member that the collapsed balcony was meant to be decorative rather than functional.

Meanwhile, the country grieves while it holds its collective head up with pride, sorrow and hope.

Galway

Galway is most intriguing—at least in the summer, which is the only time I have seen it—early in the morning. This is when trucks make their deliveries to the otherwise pedestrian streets, and when Galwegians, shopping bags on their arms, hurry to do the day’s purchases or, dressed in business clothing, head out to work. The first of the buskers begin to roll up on their bicycles, carting fiddles and speakers and all the rest of their street paraphernalia. At this time of the morning they all look groggy, although they will be lively enough in a couple of hours. Many of the breakfast cafes don’t even open until 9, so tourists tend to eat in their hotels, which I suppose is a safer bet if your sense of adventure doesn’t extend much past the beer gardens that line Quay Street.

Galway riverI come to Galway most summers for the Arts Festival, a two-week extravaganza of theatre, music and art that fills many city venues. The Arts Festival is bookended by the Galway Film Fleadh and the Galway Races; I haven’t gotten to the Film Fleadh and I would never go near the Races, which reportedly fill the town with hordes of drunken tourists.

This year I saw two plays. Ballyturk was the main draw, a world premiere by the Irish playwright  Enda Walsh about, well, no one seems to know what it’s about, and Walsh isn’t talking. I saw it as a combination of Waiting for Godot, except that Godot shows up this time, and Walsh’s meditation on the lonely act of writing. Cillian Murphy is deservedly getting all the accolades (he is Walsh’s actor of choice since Disco Pigs), but the play really belongs to Mikel Murfi, a much lesser known actor than Murphy and the third actor, Stephen Rea. After the play I bought the script and read it through the next day when the play was fresh; I’m going to try to make this a habit.Ballyturk

It seems like there is always one work that makes any effort at seeing art worthwhile. In this case, of the five galleries I visited between two evenings of theatre, Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet was it. Originally presented in 2001, this is a sound installation based on the English composer Thomas Tallis’s masterwork, No Other is My Hope. The installation was presented in the very church-like setting of National University of Ireland Galway’s lovely Aula Maxima, a large empty public room with soaring ceilings and an arched stained-glass window. The installation is forty speakers ranged in an oval, with various parts of the music coming through a constantly shifting configuration of the sound. As the eleven-minute work ebbs and flows, visitors are encouraged to walk around in order to capture both the full power and the individual pieces of the work. During the three-minute interval between the looped presentations, many people in the gallery talked, or left. But, hearing some ambient noise in the room, I went very close to the speakers; the artist had captured the sounds of a performance intermission, with rustling of programs, disjointed bits of conversation and musicians warming up their voices. It felt like a secret gift from the artist to those who were paying particular attention. I could have stayed all day.Cardiff installation Galway