Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Busted in Dublin

On my last blog, I closed by saying: unless I get arrested for lunacy. Well, since then, I did get busted, but not quite for lunacy. Also, I got busted in the nicest of all possible ways. If asked to plead, I would have to plead “guilty, but with a touch of innocence”. Please. The thing is that I am such a rule-following monkey that I usually drive my husband to distraction. I was once called “pathologically honest” by a dear friend – which I had to agree was sort of true. Or maybe she said pathetically honest. Anyway, in this particular instance, my problem came from noticing two quite different kinds of rules, watching how the locals observe them and then coming to the entirely wrong conclusion.

Remember Uncle Travelling Matt from Fraggle Rock? Not unlike the Uncle Matt puppet, I had started by internalizing how the locals behaved when it came to using crosswalks, It seems that Dubliners take little interest in whether there is a red man or a green man flashing on the pedestrian crosswalk sign. They merely look to the left or right, whatever is appropriate, and then cross when they deem it to be safe. Women with strollers, the elderly, the halt and the lame, they all do it. After a time, I joined them, albeit somewhat sheepishly. I always put myself safely in the midst of the flock with my gaze focused on the pavement in deference to my sense of residual guilt.

A couple of years ago, I had observed what seemed to be a similar Irish approach to rules at the Deeds Registry. Yes, there was the occasional sign asking people not to photograph, but at the same time there was a significant number of people with Irish accents who would whip out their camera and snap off a few shots. I figured that on this trip I would follow the observable practice rather than the written rule. Making the idea of illicit photo-taking even more tempting, my husband had bought me a totally snazbar camera for my birthday. A Panasonic Lumix DMC-Z57. Long before I left home, I imagined myself at the Deeds Registry performing as some sort of whirling dervish queen spinning through the tombstones - as the bound parchments are called. No more need to log in hours of transcribing while perched precariously on a high stool. I could simply snap a great swat of shots and go home to transcribe in comfort.

Well, actually not. 

I had just focused in on a deed from 1846 involving a tortuous court case concerning land deals in the townland of Aghavilla in the Parish of Carrigallen, when the most courteous of concierges crouched by my side to whisper, There are cameras in the ceiling now, and really my dear ...

OMG. I was so totally busted. To use a phrase I heard recently in England, I was gutted. There isn't much to add to this except that I don’t think I will close with anything as risky as the closing lines of my last blog. 

Tomorrow, I plan to head out ready to take on another full day of transcribing, pen in hand and camera left behind. Also, I fully expect the research gods to reward me with bountiful finds. It would seem only fair.

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