Yet not so fair yesterday – with some of the heaviest rainfall ever recorded, flooding, traffic chaos, and a state of emergency declared. Our taxi back to the airport through almost the worst of it at times resembled more of a speedboat ride than a car journey.
Only one thing could ameliorate any of this, but we found it – and found it in plenty. Some legendary Irish hospitality. A warm welcome at our first port of call – David Cunningham at Cathach Books in Duke Street. A lovely stock – especially of Irish literature, full of interest and rarity. And how splendid that a serious shop like this can survive just off Dublin’s main shopping street – and that
despite all we hear of the Irish economy, there were no obvious signs of retail doom. Very few empty shops – and Grafton Street in full swing despite the weather, which was just beginning to turn ominous.
Next to the charming Stephen Stokes in the George’s Street
Arcade – yet more attractive books and strains of Miles Davis from the adjacent music-shop. We are enjoying ourselves. (Time you joined the ABA, Stephen?) And then a cab out to Blackrock to the house of books of Éamonn and Vivien De Búrca. “To be sure, he’s a famous man in Ireland” confided our cab-driver with genial satisfaction when told our destination. Royally entertained to a fine
lunch (smoked salmon with oh-so-many extras and a slab of Vivien’s famous apple pie – thank-you both). Book-talk, laughter and reminiscence. Tall tales and short – and twenty thousand books.
The rain by now lashing down, but on to the main business of the day. Membership Secretary Roger Treglown and I are in Dublin to present the ABA’s seldom-presented Fifty Years a Bookseller badge to James Fenning (it’s actually fifty-three years, Jim tells me privately). Another house of books – a carefully chosen and impressive stock – the finest Oliver Twist in cloth I have ever seen – two more three-deckers which I presently purchase – coffee and cake, and more book-talk, wry humour and entertainment. Jim’s grandfather had a bookshop right on the Liffey back in the days of the Great War (we see some photographs), his father too was a bookseller (as well as Ireland’s most famous amateur snooker player), and via a training that brought him through the inter-linked famous old Dawson’s, Frank Hammond and Deighton, Bell firms he
returned to Dublin some forty years ago. The pedigree shows. Ours is sometimes a solitary occupation and Jim perhaps does not know, perhaps has never been aware of, the esteem and regard with which his peers regard his taste, discrimination and skill in cataloguing. I try to express a little of this on behalf of us all – but make the presentation without trying to embarrass him too much. A master of his trade.
A commemorative photograph or two. A cab called for – it turns into our longest taxi journey ever. But eventually safely home at the end of what has turned into a twenty-two hour day – but all well worth it. A truly memorable day – thank you all in Dublin. I shall return.