It’s art, Deco



With no set target on the horizon, the training has drifted a little. This is to be expected. The programme for the marathon was six days a week, and it was unlikely I was going to keep that going straight after. I have had a few decent runs since, and today was a parkrun, to see if any of that long distance running had done much for the shorter runs. But before we get to that, let’s talk about art.

I suspect anyone out there who has really worked towards a goal such as a marathon (yeah, lookin’ at you, Cat Bradley!) knows full well that life is put on hold for those few months of serious training. And those around them know it too, as all those little jobs start to pile up, and the once-routine walks with the partner (and occasionally the dog) fall by the wayside. Not to mention the neglected garden (or the jungle, as it’s currently known). There could be whole new tribes living out there and we would never know.

Well, S and I, we’d had our eye on a few things in Dublin, and the stars aligned last week and we both had a day off work (well, I think I just took a day off) and headed into the Big Smoke. In particular we had booked tickets for a Frederic William Burton retrospective, including his best-known work, Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs.

© National Gallery of Ireland (with apologies)

We have a nice print of this at home, but there is truly nothing like meeting your heroes in the flesh, so to speak. This is a watercolour and gouache from 1864 but it positively glows in the frame. It was voted Ireland’s best-loved painting recently, and when you consider the competition from Irish artists, that’s high praise indeed.

The National Gallery is on Merrion Square, and the previous week, Tamsyn, Saoirse and I had been to see Mark Geary playing in the Pepper Canister Church; a road off the square, and the scene of so much raw emotion the week earlier when thousands of souls had poured through the city to finish their own personal marathon journey and collect their bags. It was quite a different scene now; no crash barriers, no sea of plastic bags full of sports gear, no huddled masses… okay, I had best check my poetic licence, as I fear it may be out of date. Let’s just say it was a more serene place of a quiet, damp Dublin evening.

So, check out Mark. He’s a serious talent. He’s just as likely to rock up in New York as he is Dublin. We played in a band together a lifetime ago.

The entrance to the National Gallery from Clare Street. I see what you did there with the old painting on the stair risers… nicely played!

So, where were we? Oh yeah, slumming it in the National Gallery. If you are a local and haven’t visited; for shame! Do it now. The new extension is a triumph. The atrium which joins the old and the new is dominated by a 7 metre high sculpture called Magnus Modus by Irish artist Joseph Walsh. The piece is made of laminated olive ash wood and sits on a Kilkenny limestone base. Even if you have no real interest in the artist’s ambition or vision, from a purely structural viewpoint, this piece is hugely impressive.

Make sure to check it out, though I suspect you won’t miss it if you visit the gallery. We had a whistle-stop tour of the old section too, which has had a facelift as well, and all looks very smart. Plenty to see too, even if you don’t know your Monet from your Manet. In particular, some paintings of familiar scenes caught our eye…

roberts A View of Lucan Demesne large.jpg
Lucan Demesne, by Thomas Roberts, a painter working in the mid-to-late 1700s. This is also known as St. Catherine’s Park, and it’s where I do most of my running. This is the weir I jog past several times a week, and in fairness, little has changed. Which is wonderful. © National Gallery of Ireland (with apologies).

Some of these old ‘institutional’ buildings from the Georgian period did become a little stuffy over time, and as Irish kids who were shooed and herded into various galleries, museums and exhibitions over the years, the very sight and smell of polished parquet flooring and high ceilings was usually enough to shut your brain down. Or, if not shut it down, at least make sure you studiously ignored what delights were on offer from the official display, and instead spend all your time trying to sidle up to Andrea Lowry, or whatever girl in primary school was catching your eye.

So, it’s partly due to older age and (hopefully) some degree of maturity and appreciation of the arts, and also an understanding from the artistic community that you need to offer fresh spaces to attract people through the doors in the first place – either way, these galleries are truly open for business, and that’s great.


Saoirse certainly enjoyed the visit, and here I have to admit I was sorely tempted to Photoshop out the camera phone and turn her pose into one of worship before the great wooden sculpture. But I would have got a slap, so I resisted the urge!

Not sufficiently sated with Burton and other Pre-Raphaelites, we took in the print exhibition of Kathe Kollwitz too. Whilst there is no such thing as ‘diametrical opposites’ in the art world, if I was forced to pick two artists, then I suppose Burton and Kollwitz wouldn’t be a bad example. Kollwitz was heavily influenced by both World Wars. If Burton used a scalpel, then Kollwitz brandished a chisel. There’s enough raw energy in that print room to power the national grid.

And after some light refreshments in the gallery’s really good café (the wifi signal there is poor, and the cashier could be seen wandering around the tables looking for a signal if you wished to pay by card. The word is mithered. Look it up.) we headed on for yet more art. Oh yes! This was a serious OD. Last on our list was the Lucien Freud exhibition in the Irish Museum of Modern Art, or IMMA for short, at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The building alone is worth a visit. My Dad worked here during the last renovations as a plasterer, and you can see some of his work as you walk around. Though I guess the idea is that you don’t acknowledge his work but rather gaze in admiration at what’s hanging on the walls… oh well, he knows. That’s the main thing.

Freud’s work is just astonishing. If you like your oils and you like ’em laid on thick, then this is your guy. His portraits are world-renowned but I quite like his incidental urban cameos that pop up now and again, often as backdrops to his figures. Not to mention the dogs. But sure, get along yourself. It’s fantastic.

And so on to this morning. I didn’t have any running mates to accompany me to the local parkrun in Castletown, but I am a big boy now, so I made my own way over and after a short limbering up, we got going along the track in what was a fairly overcast, damp and cold morning.


Over 200 runners completed the course, though the pic above doesn’t suggest that. If you don’t know parkrun, then make a date with your nearest event. It’s been a revelation, and long may it last. It’s totally voluntary, free of charge, and pretty much takes place somewhere around the globe every Saturday morning at 9.30am. You can run, jog, walk, bring the buggie, bring the dog… it’s all G, as my daughter would say.

Well we took off at a fair pace this morning, and I tried to stick with it as much as possible. The route is really lovely, even at this time of year, and swings down in a clockwise route by the Liffey and then back up towards the house. And when I say house, I mean this house…


As is common with quite a number of parkrun routes, it’s a two lap course. The first kilometre was tasty enough at 3:52 minutes, then it settled down into a more steady but still lively 4:11, then 4:10… goodness me, if we can keep this up we might just break the previous best set in Griffeen in Lucan, which is generally a faster track. That was 21:15, set just over a year ago.

Nothing for it but to keep the head down and keep truckin’. Try not to let anyone get away from you, nor anyone past. Down by the Liffey for a second time and back up the hill towards the house and the finish line.


The 4k mark was passed and the watch beeped again. A 4:09. One last push. I briefly overtook the first lady home but she was well able to pick up the pace and get in ahead of me. Over the line and the watch said 20.47. The official result came back as 20:48. I was 14th overall. The young lady in the 15-17 age category got a PB too, as did four other blokes ahead of us. So it seems like it was pacey enough run today. And for the first time, I broke into the age graded rating of 70 plus with a 70.35%, and came first in my age category; something I didn’t think I would achieve until I passed into the next grouping, which will happen in about nine days 😉

Very pleased with that morning’s work. It shows the hard work put in for the marathon has paid off. It even brings the rather daunting possibility of a sub-20 5k within, if not touching distance, then at least ‘maybe one day’ distance.

So next up is the Waterford Half Marathon at the start of December. Then hopefully it’s another full marathon at the end of the year. But there’s a way to go yet, so we won’t get ahead of ourselves. Then we will be into a new year, with new challenges.


And finally, (above) some retained brigade humour. Alas, this is a double-edged gag because Banagher Station was closed several years ago, despite protests. It’s hard enough getting a new station online; once an old one is closed, it’s very hard to see it getting re-opened. Unless it’s a Garda station… but that’s another scandal for another day.

Enjoy it out there, whatever you do. And stay safe.

3 thoughts on “It’s art, Deco

  1. Hey!! Feeling pretty freakin special over here to get shouted out on the UM blog, thank you thank you!! Sounds like you and S had a fantastic day. I’m not even that into art but your post made me even more anxious to visit Ireland-just so curious about the whole place. I told S I will def be coming to you guys with questions if we decide to come in May—I’ll need all your best tips, so get ready!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Ná habair é, tá fáilte romhat” as you might say in Irish. Don’t mention it, you’re welcome. Ireland in May can be the nicest place in the world, and we would have loads of ideas for you, starting in Dublin, but then sending you west, Plenty of time to work out the itinerary!

      Liked by 1 person

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