James’ Bloomsday

My main requirement for this trip was to be in Dublin for June 16th: the day described in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce chose the 16th for his novel because it was the day he had his first date with Nora Barnacle. They’d met on June 10th and she stood him up for a date on the 14th. She did meet him two days later and now June 16th is immortalised in Dublin by literary geeks like me.

My Bloomsday began at Sandycove with a plunge in the Forty Foot pool near the tower. Tom, an Australian from the hostel, heard of my plan the night before and joined me for the early morning expedition on the DART. We wanted to skinny dip, as people used to do and as Lonely Planet says men still do before 9 a.m., but when we reached the rocky bathing area we were greeted with “Togs Must Be Worn” signs and a young girl filming her parents swimming in the icy cold water. We kept our shorts on and, avoiding the jellyfish, earned a place in the ranks of the Forty Foot Gentlemen.

Forty Foot Gentleman

We didn’t stay in the water for long. Tom had to go back to Dublin to go to work and I wanted to go to the top of the Martello tower (which is also a Joyce museum) and explore the town.

Forty Foot Gentlemen as seen from the Martello Tower

Bloomsday Breakfast

Back in Dublin, I went to St. Stephen’s Green and spent the first half of the afternoon reading Dubliners in the sunshine.

St. Stephen's Green

At 3 o’clock I went on a Bloomsday walking tour led by Clarissa from the James Joyce Centre. She pointed out landmarks associated with Joyce’s works and finished the tour on O’Connell Street. I met up with Brice and we went to get tattoos. We’d selected a studio and artist a few days earlier, but I didn’t want to get the tattoo until Bloomsday. I have no particular association with any days in the middle of June, so I decided to make the day most important to Joyce a day forever important to me as well.

This was my first time getting a tattoo and it does hurt, but not nearly as much as I expected—the teeth cleaning I received last January was far more severe. It also helped that I got the tattoo on my right ankle, just above that bone that hurts like hell when hit with a hockey puck. I felt the needle enter the skin and then it felt like I was being cut with a small knife. Over and over and over. I heard that getting a tattoo can also feel like being burned, but I only felt heat once during the process. I’ve been dressing the tattoo frequently as I travel and have had to wrap it up to avoid all the germs present in hostels.

I’m glad I got it. I’m glad I got it with Brice. I’m glad I got it on Bloomsday!

Slainte us!


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