I happened upon the Happiness Project blog recently (click here), complete with its weekly suggestions for the Happiness Challenge 2011. I haven’t fully digested all that’s on it but one thing that caught my eye was the idea of becoming a tourist in your home area. Thus, I found myself in the centre of Dublin yesterday, an atypical tourist in my native city. My mission was to see the Book of Kells.
I headed to Trinity College, a university founded by Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1592. Once through the main gate, I was in a world far removed from the surrounding urban cacophony; a forty acre plus site filled with cobbled quads, ancient imperious grey-stoned building, grassy squares, centuries old trees and verdant playing fields. I was not alone as there was a long snaking but fortunately swift moving queue, waiting to get access to the library building where the Book of Kells is kept (I was there just after the 12 noon Sunday opening time, it’s apparently much quieter later in the afternoon).
In case you don’t know, the 9th Century Book of Kells is an exquisitely decorated copy of the four gospels in Latin, four pages of which are on display in a dimly lit room in the library building. There is an exhibition area, with displays explaining the background to the book and related manuscripts. The €9 admission charge to see the Book of Kells includes access to the extraordinary sixty-five metre Long Room which is the main chamber of the old library. The room is high ceilinged, with to-the-rafters oak shelves holding a mass of leather-bound first editions. White marble busts of famous philosophers, writers and others who have a connection with Trinity stand sentinel along the length of the room. In the center there are display cases in which some of the Long Room’s 200,000 books lay open (the display changes every few month).
I spoke to the very helpful Ken, one of the library’s staff. In a curious circular twist of fate Ken started his working life as a bookbinder and now many years later he again has a book-centric job (in between he has had various other non-book related employments). He loves his work in the library, especially the opportunity to meet and talk to people from all over the world. He has met the great and the good; Bruce Springsteen and Al Pacino visited separately on the same day, Ken says his fifteen-second claim to fame was asking Al Pacino to leave (nothing Al did, just that the fire alarm went off when he was there). A particular highlight for Ken was watching the Queen visit the Long Room on her recent trip to Ireland.