A red carpet has been laid across Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge today to celebrate its 2ooth birthday.
It’s a little snippet like that, half heard on the radio during the school run, that can send you spinning back in time.
There is something about that bridge, its narrowness, the steep slope, its intrinsic prettiness embellished by the romance of history. They combine to give you (or at least me) a frisson of excitement. It’s that little thrill, I think, that makes the memories stick. I’ve crossed it more times than not holding my grandmother’s hand. That was her regular route; from her bus stop on the quays to her favourite shop, Arnott’s department store on Henry Street. The self-service cafe in Arnott’s, bustling and smelling of vegetable soup, was our haunt. Granny liked a chocolate eclair and mine was a coffee slice.
She would complete her errand, buy a spool of thread perhaps or curtain hooks, and then lead me on a leisurely stroll around the furniture department. She might purchase a small treat for me, new socks or vests, and then her own treats. She took great pleasure in owning high quality teatowels, dishcloths, table runners and napkins. These were the small props that re-enforced her position as an excellent housewife. These are hers:
They work, these small, collected things.
They remind you who you are and what matters to you.
You can hang your hat on them.
You can cling to them.
Back, then, across the bridge to the bus, ‘one and a half, please’, and home to make the dinner.