Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In search of The Winding Stair (way) to Heaven

“There’s no going back …. No revisiting some precious memory or getting a chance to savour a special experience once again or so I’ve been told or have read; maybe in not these very words but you get the gist right? I was in Dublin last week on work and had one free afternoon to myself and was hoping to go and yes, re visit a favourite spot of mine in that charming city. It had been five years ago that I visited Dublin for the first time and chanced upon a quaint bookshop and spent a blissful afternoon there browsing amongst its very interesting collection of books. It had hit me then that almost all writers I admired were from Ireland ; Jonathan Swift to James Joyce , Oscar Wilde to Bernard Shaw and my favourite poet Yeats …reader, you may fill in the others !! My already strained budget, then stretched to its very limits prevented me from splurging and I had somehow scraped together some money that time for a special edition of a collection of Yeats’ poems and a cup of hot chocolate in the café upstairs. There was an ancient curved flight of stairs , I remembered , that led to the charming café where one could sit and look across the land mark Ha’Penny Bridge , nurse your drink and leaf through the treasures you had bought . Stairway to heaven indeed !! I had no memory of what it was called nor the name of the street it was on; just that it was across that lovely white bridge over the river ; the pedestrian bridge on the Liffey. This time I had the time and some money put away too ; now if I could only find the shop !! I had my colleague from Russia , sweet Sasha with me and I dragged her off with promises of rare and interesting tomes she could lose herself in . Actually I was quite sure I would not be able to locate it despite the famous landmark for I did not know where that was either . The last time I had just hopped off the Hop On Hop Off bus at the pretty bridge but this time we had to find it ourselves.

Soon we were walking down the busy O’Connell street towards the gleaming silver Spire that seemed to reach into the very skies. Strolling across the wide concrete bridge bustling with late afternoon shoppers and traffic , I happened to look to the other side and there it was a slight distance away , the Ha’Penny Bridge . Thrilled and excited we walked down the side of the little street hugging the river and crossed the bridge . My eyes were scanning the buildings that lined the other side and right enough there it was , “The Winding Stair” not Crooked Steps or Quaint Cottage or anything like that and as soon as I saw it I knew this was it. Entering it my first thought was to look out for that little door that led to the stairs up to the café but I found the wall completely lined with book shelves ; floor to ceiling and I wondered oh was this indeed the place ? It was of course the very same place but I was missing that little door . The person behind the counter raised enquiring eyebrows and came out to see if I needed any help – haltingly I asked him about the stairs upto the café and he said of course I was right but some five years ago the “authorities had , maybe rightly , decided that those stairs were not safe enough and walled them out.” But the shop was the same , the amazing collection as enticing and I realised this must have been exactly after I had been there last and I suppose I could not keep the disappointment out of my voice and visage for both the kind man (Regan the Manager ) and the sweet lady ( Book seller Emee) at the counter with him were quick to reassure me that we were welcome to look around and browse and the café was still there.
Finding the store was joy enough for me and I could see Sasha was equally enthralled and then began the dilemma..Which of the ones I picked up do I take with me ; books are heavy na?

There was no way I was going to leave behind the beautiful collection of A A Milne’s poems nor the Tales from Ireland I picked up for the grandkids nor the little gem on Jazz and Blues that I had earmarked for my brother and the copy of Dame Doubtfire for myself ; well even if I kept that aside , as the lady told me it would make no difference it hardly weighed anything.
(By the way Mom finished reading it in a day and simply loved it)

Some of the books on display brought back memories of childhood for here were publishing houses their logos imprinted in my mind from days long ago and collections like the Girls Annual which I grew up reading. And I simply had to sit down with the Pick of Punch collection …..Nostalgia in its purest form.
Took permission to take pictures and blog this charming experience from the manager and the young lady and came out happier than ever . For some reason we did not go up to the café ; maybe it was because the experience was anyway complete and the charm of the crooked , winding stairway was denied to us anyway . Going up a normal staircase would forever mar the memory I had of the pervious experience. So we walked across to the chocolate shop ahead and ordered steaming hot chocolate and chatted with the other friendly Dubliners there sharing with them our little experience at the Winding Stairs. People are so, so friendly in Dublin ; everyone we met and interacted with had a ready smile and kind words for us and as two ladies prepared to leave making place for us at the tables they promised to go check out this “charming bookstore” that had me waxing eloquent !!!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you've read the book ' 84 Charing Cross Road' by Helen Hanff or seen the movie - Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins...

Your post reminded me of it.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Great , Viji. Could vicariously live your experience - I can imagine your joy at seeing the Pick of Punch.!

Anonymous said...

Great article viji.... (been a while) although have not been to Ireland your blog almost took me there...

And ofcourse the 2nd photo is particularly nice ;-)

/Superman

Anonymous said...

And here I was looking for a picture of the ghost of Molly Malone!
-O'Bala

Anonymous said...

Swift, Yeats, Wilde, Shaw and Goldsmith lived in England where as Joyce spent his almost life time in Europe. Your pointers as them being Irish is very peripheral as they were of Irish culture by birth. Could we have some depth in such remarks?

Gardenia said...

I enjoyed this thoroughly!

Anonymous said...

84 Charing Cross Road was a real bookshop and it was a real story. This book shop was closed in late 1960s and a plaque stands commemorating it. I pass through many times a week.