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Remembering

Sometimes the past isn’t as far away as we think.  We can get there on the memory of a scent, or a word, or the way the light comes through the clouds, hazy, and distant, and shattered. Sometimes things happen, purely by chance, which send us flying back through years of living, back to the world of before ——-

Recently, in an attempt to restore a semblance of order to my life, I was sorting through some boxes of old books and papers, things I was sure I’d gotten rid of years ago, when I found, hidden beneath the spiders, (dead),  and the dust, (plentiful),  an assignment I wrote in 3rd year English for a module entitled Literature and Modern Ireland. What is it that made me reluctant to part with this?  Was it perhaps because I’d been so sure this assignment was destined to fail, as I had no idea what I was talking about, but instead was awarded a 73?  No. I think I kept it because of the memory, because somewhere in the darkness of my unconscious, I knew I’d need to live this time over.

Larry and I spent the entire first year of our BA being terrified , slinking around the campus, waiting  for someone to come along and tell us there had been a mistake, and we didn’t belong at UCC at all, so could we please leave without further ado. (I think a lot of the mature student population have a similar experience. The second year is easier, guys!).

I signed up for Literature and Modern Ireland because one of the lecturers in particular was exceptionally brilliant, and also because Larry was taking it, and back then, there was safety in numbers.

This essay could very well have been the final one for this module, I don’t remember, but I do remember the  despair I felt at having to write it. I will never be a historian, and I think politics flicks the ‘off’ switch in my head. Suffice it to say that I didn’t hold much hope. There were tears!

IMAG0786_1 (2)The title of the paper reads:

All the writers of this period seem to have felt compelled in their work to take up a position in relation to issues of national politics” Comment in relation to at least two of the writers studied. (I discussed the work of Sean O’ Casey and W B Yeats).

Back in 2007, it was necessary to present yourself at the English Dept. office in order to have your essay returned to you. (Maybe that’s still the case. I miss how very civilized the English Dept. always was). Larry and I went together, this day, for moral support, you know. Certain as I was of my pathetic failure, I remember asking Larry   if he’d handle the collection of said miserable essay by explaining how I was ill and couldn’t get there.  I didn’t want the girls in the office to see my disappointment, my shame. I didn’t want to look at the thing ever again.

I was touched by the kind comments written at the end of my essay: “elegantly written”, “very well researched”,  I mean, who goes to that trouble any more? I thought it was so…so…just lovely.

 

And I remember Larry laughing,  saying in that soft, comforting way of his that  we were both gifted creatures, and  could make a valid argument out of anything…rocket science wasn’t beyond us, just give us the reading list and we’d have a paper on the desk in three days.

Larry’s not around anymore, and I’m so sad that I can’t ring him up and say ‘Do you remember that time…’, and listen to him laugh at how silly we were to take it all so seriously.

Rest well, my friend

 

 

 

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Farewell John Smith’s

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Well said, Stephen!

Today was a sad day in the history of University College Cork, as it saw the closure of the university’s bookshop. I can’t begin to describe how devastated I am on realising I can no longer wander in to browse through the treasures on the shelves, exchange a few words with the friendly folk who work there, and probably forget my umbrella because I’m so distracted at finding the perfect read to go with my cuppa.

I was going to write something to the tune of ‘given the current economic climate, it’s not surprising to see even university bookshops closing down’ and blah blah blah,  because that’s what people keep saying when I moan about it, but that would be a lie. It is surprising, it’s shocking even, come on, this is a university – who ever heard of a university without a bookshop? Really?  I understand that the decision to close was not up to UCC, and that there is no doubt a John Smith’s head-office somewhere which, in its wisdom, decided we didn’t actually need a bookshop – hey, we’re just a university, why would we need a bookshop?

I don’t hold with the reasoning behind the closure at all- that ‘most’ students are going online now to the likes of Amazon to source their books for the coming year, how many is ‘most’?  Not everyone is prepared to do that. Some still enjoy leafing through a physical book before they make a purchase, they like to see if it’s reader-friendly, what size the font is, the chapter layout, the overall ‘feel’ of the book, if it ‘speaks’ to them. Amazon won’t go to the trouble of organizing all your first-year English books by module and wrapping them nicely together so you know you have everything you’ll need. Amazon has no comfortable red couch downstairs for you to sit and breathe in the quiet book smell, or launch into the first few pages of your latest exciting find because you just can’t wait until you get home.

Perhaps another bookseller will see this as an opportunity and come to fill the John Smith’s-shaped space left now in Aras na Mac Leinn.  Let’s hope so!

 

 

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