Just arrived back in Hamburg, hearing about the terrible tragedy that happened in Berkeley where six Irish students on a J1 visa died and eight got seriously injured when the balcony of an apartment where the students were celebrating the 21st Birthday of one of their friends collapsed. One of Pádraig’s sisters knows people who were at the party and has been in contact with them. They are ok but some of their best friends passed away tonight. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Tonight, Ireland will stay awake. Families will be trying to get onto flights to San Francisco in the morning. Parents will not believe what they are hearing.
I wish them the strength and the support they will need over the coming days and weeks.
On my way over today, I started to write. I had time. When I was writing, I had, of course, no idea of what was happening almost in parallel in California. I would not have written this had I been aware of the tragedy happening at the same time in Berkeley. I would not have said that the world would keep turning and life would continue as before – because I know from my own experience that time is suspended when a tragedy like this happens. The world stops turning, stars are falling from the sky and the moon and the sun disappear, leaving you in something like a black hole…
I listened to Niamh Kavanagh’s In your Eyes again which now, today, acquired a whole new meaning.
Do you know the feeling when your mind detaches from your surroundings and all of a sudden you get the feeling that you are watching a movie? Well, that’s what happened to me earlier. When, all of a sudden, I realised that all these people, so busy with their lives, would all die. Not today, not tomorrow. But one day, their turn would come and in one second, all their efforts, their work, whatever they had bought, whatever they had enjoyed – all of that would disappear with them.
Of course, nobody would even notice that, except for their families and friends – but in the grand scheme of things, the world would keep turning and others would take their place.
On Sunday, I had learned that one should never agree to play the part of poor Paddy Dignam on Bloomsday when people around the world, but especially in Dublin, dress up as the characters described in James Joyce’s Ulysses in order to re-inact that day, 16 of June 1904, described in details in one of the most famous books of all times. The reason is simple: poor Paddy Dignam was dead that day and, therefore, you would most likely spend the day dressed up as a corpse in a horse-drawn open hearse. (The man who once ended up as poor Paddy Dignam, today re-inacted one of the more lively characters of the novel and was planning to perform “The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo“.)
I am on my way back to Hamburg via London Gatwick with Ryanair and onwards with the one airline that is worse than Ryanair, Easyjet, to Hamburg, because of what I would call, in the nicest of ways, ‘adverse circumstances’: important meetings at work running into the afternoon which I had to attend, apparently there was no way out of it. It was just too important. Truth be told: I felt like poor Paddy Dignam during those meetings, pretty useless and not very much engaged with what was going on around me. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.
While I was away, Pat also had to come over for work (but only yesterday) and Pádraig’s sister had to look after him yesterday in the evening and during the night. She was in awe how much he helped her last night, turning him into comfortable positions at regular intervals. For the first time, she was looking after her brother on her own and the two managed brilliantly. It’s great to know that they got on so well and that, in addition to Pat, her sister, and myself there is another person who can take care of Pádraig overnight.
In Dublin, I emptied the sheds so that they could be demolished by the builders preparing the ground for Pádraig’s extension. Stuff I hadn’t seen for decades surfaced and was distributed across our back garden.
Among the stuff was a big tent we had spend the summer in, in Santander, the year Niamh Kavanagh won the European Song Contest with In your Eyes (1993).
That summer in Santander was so wet, they closed the outside swimming pool on the camp side. All those memories came back when I pitched the tent, most likely for the last time, to provide interim shelter to the lawnmower and all those long-treasured absolutely useless things I’d taken out of the shed. The result is an airy, summery feeling in our back garden.