The Bridge of Happiness Comes from Nowhere

In March 2012, I put a call out to fellow writers to sketch a few lines on memories (real or imagined) of The Ha’penny Bridge which features on the cover of Happiness Comes from Nowhere. Enjoy reading the wonderful selection below and in the comments. Thank you those who have contributed!

Want to know what it’s like in real life – here’s a YouTube Interactive walk over the Ha’penny Bridge

Memories of The Ha’penny Bridge

Here is a wonderful short prose piece by Mike Horwood.

The Ha´penny Bridge

Funny thing about bridges: their whole purpose is transitional; to convey us from one side to the other. Not really an end in themselves. And yet the best of them are so hauntingly beautiful and atmospheric. We genuinely go to the bridge because of the bridge, not because of its other side.

Or, then, for both reasons. And that´s perhaps, the best of all; being on our way somewhere interesting and enjoying the bridge on our way there, appreciating the fact that it´s only thanks to the bridge that we can get there at all.

So we pause, don´t we, nearly always, on our favourite bridges? Look down into the water, or at the buildings along the embankment, glad we aren´t sitting in the cars rushing past without seeing anything. Let our thoughts follow their own path. Just dream for a while. A pause on a bridge is like slowing down time.

These rambling observations accord well with my memory of the Ha´penny Bridge. Leaving our over-priced hotel on O´Connell Street (no longer there these days) where we had chosen to forgo breakfast in order to save ourselves £15 each, we would make our way each morning down to the Liffey, onto the Ha´penny Bridge, linger, watch the river, consider the quality of the clouds, then hurry on to The Queen of Tarts for coffee and a bacon sandwich.

Memories of The Ha’penny Bridge

Here is a beautiful piece by Clodagh O’Brien which started off as musings of a typical drizzly Dubin day and ended up being a love story to the city through the eyes of someone forced to leave it.

The city was sweating; dripping drops that matted hair and sprayed faces with letters cast off by strangers. From O’Connell Bridge I gazed on it, Ha’penny Bridge arched like a whale with a lung full of air. Beneath metal lattice, city lights shimmered; hues of green, silver and orange as if the earth, moon and sun were trapped within watery jaws. Bodies rushed by, feet caught in their own dance, treads and heels acting as fleeting umbrellas. Wheels turned and paused, their movement determined by the trio of lights intersecting D’Olier and Westmoreland Street.

Everything was so familiar; like the comfort of an old friend’s arms or lips cushioned against those of an ex-lover. But yet it was over. The place I spent my life had turned its back on me; spat me out to go in search of another. Standing there I knew it would change; morph and evolve in my absence into another version of itself. It was the little things I was going to miss; a treasured drinking hole, soaking up the sun in Stephen’s Green, the tang from Guinness brewery perfuming an errant wind.

Now Ha’penny and its surroundings exist as a fragment, a celluloid of memory prone to warp and fade. It is shadow of itself, a ghostly spectre roaming in my head. But the feeling still remains, tight and warm; a place reserved somewhere deep inside. My Dublin, the only place I can ever call home.

Memories of The Ha’penny Bridge

Here’s piece of dialogue from Deborah Henry‘s novel The Whipping Club:

“You do? Listen, I know you love him more, Ma,” Jo ventured again. “I see the way you look at him. I didn’t come up the Liffey on a bicycle.”

Memories of The Ha’penny Bridge

I love this short, evocative piece of fiction by James Claffey:

We decide to go to the BadAss Café for Una’s sixteenth birthday. She wears the bottle green scarf I bought for her from Sisley in the Stephen’s Green Shopping Center.

This is a few years after they’d torn down the Dandelion Market and Rice’s Pub, the one where the Old Man said, “Only fairies drink there.” He was a man for Grogan’s, or the Long Hall, dark, masculine bars with spit gobs on the counters next to your pint of Guinness.

So, we’re walking through the narrow alley from Dame Street, by Bloom’s Hotel, and heading towards the Bad Ass, when five or six young fellows walking in line like they’re playing Red Rover approach us. They won’t let us past them, refusing to break their chain, and teasing Una, calling her “Redser,” and “snotty bitch.”

“Eff off,” I tell them, and one of them lashes a Doc Martin foot at me. I grab his leg and pull it from under him, and next thing he’s laid out on the pavement, his buddies cursing at us. “C’mon, Una,” I say, and we leg it past them and make for the Bad Ass’s entrance.

“C’mere, youse,” one of them shouts, coming out of nowhere and blocking our entrance.

“Crap. Let’s try and get away from here,” I say, pulling Una’s hand and heading for the Ha’Penny Bridge.

We sprint into Merchant’s Arch, the dark tunnel leading to the Liffey. I look behind me and can’t see the knackers chasing us, so we stop at the traffic light and catch our breaths.

“Do you think they’re still after us?” she asks.

“Doubt it. They’ve probably gone for pizza themselves,” I say, as a joke.

The light in the middle of the bridge glints in the evening light, the sky that darkest blue you only sometimes see over Dublin city. We pause under the wrought iron archway and I kiss Una on the lips as a motor launch passes under us. Whistles and shouts ring out and I feel the tips of my ears scarlet. She whispers to me, “Don’t mind them, kiss me again.”

Everything else becomes irrelevant—the gougers chasing us, the fact that we’ve had no birthday dinner yet, the almost four years difference in our ages. On the Ha’Penny Bridge that night, the velvet sky overhead, my mind spinning-tops out of control as I kiss the girl in the Sisley scarf.

Memories of The Ha’penny Bridge

And here is another short piece of lovely memories by Valerie O’Neill Morrissey:

My dad used to drive into the city back in the 70’s and drop us kids on the north side of the ha’penny bridge. We would then race across it laughing as he would attempt to drive across O’Connell Bridge and get to the south side of the bridge before we did.

When I tried to recreate this scenario with my own children many years later- they were 10 and 8 at the time, I was met on the south side of the bridge by two bawling children who were afraid that I had abandoned them in the city.
Two very different sets of memories of the Ha’penny Bridge.

Memories of The Ha’penny Bridge

Here is a beautiful passage from Noel Duffy‘s The Return Journey as the character, Hermann, walks the streeets of Dublin, crossing the bridge on his travels.

The things I had found fresh and different when I first arrived, now had the same jaded, hollow feeling I had experienced that day in Zurich: the flea market on George’s Street; Stephen’s Green with its with people in suits eating lunch, so like that park I had crossed two years before. Even the Georgian grandeur of Trinity College seemed like a faded imitation of some grander institution in England. The red brick of the houses on Merion Square, smut-grimed and depressing to me now.
         The qualities I once enjoyed in the people began to grate also – the way they carelessly threw a cigarette butt onto the pavement, or crossed a street against the traffic lights. All that banter and easy charm felt like a casual disregard. It was my old self surfacing in me. I knew that. But I could only see fault in all the places and people I thought would mark a new beginning; that I wanted so dearly to become part of, that I had sacrificed my own accent.
          But I didn’t fit in. Not here, not anywhere. I just kept walking the city streets waiting for a jolt, a moment of inclusion, of being there in the street and feeling like I belonged in this place. On the Ha’Penny Bridge, I watched the faces passing, jostling in a swarm as they finished work and made their way towards buses that would undoubtedly be late. I looked at them – men and women of all ages, the teenagers with their baggy jeans and piercings – and I felt nothing. They were just a catalogue of expressions as they passed, the snatches of their conversations, a babble to my ears.
        I wanted to float above it all and look down and see some pattern: to see some purpose in the heave of people; in the line of buses idling on the Quays; in the rows of cars stuck in traffic. But a great weight was pressing down on me, fixing me to this spot as the faces continued by me on their restless errands.

Memories of The Ha’penny Bridge

Here is a touching poem by Eithne Reynolds. The inspiration for this was some years ago crossing the Ha’penny Bridge at Christmas. It was bitterly cold and there was a young lad with a cup, empty of course. . . In that moment I realised I had so much.

Beggar on the Ha’penny Bridge
Why do you sit on the Ha’penny bridge
With cold stares at your face
And cold steel at your back?
Your cup is empty
While mine overflows
Like the coursing, timeless river
Rushing below.I hurry on past
ObliviousTo your hungry, silent pleas
Drowned in the noise of the
Traffic laden quays
© Eithne Reynolds


8 Replies to “The Bridge of Happiness Comes from Nowhere”

  1. What a lovely idea to reach out to other writers. James, you are a master at memories, real or imagined. I like your piece here. Valerie’s story has me smiling as I type this.

  2. Shauna, here’s a passage from my novella The Return Journey as the character, Hermann, walks the streeets of Dublin, crossing the bridge on his travels. Hope it’s not too long… Noel x

  3. The Ha’penny Bridge

    Georgian iron and treacherous ships’ timbers
    slime covered and slipping
    all up and down
    a pox on the ferryman’s earnings
    by those who dare to cross
    from mean street to venetian passage
    this is the Ha’penny bridge

    leaning on both North and South
    owned by neither, both
    a no-man’s land
    twixt Norse and Brit
    chained to the granite quays

    on its crest, its pinnacle
    the luckless Lord Mayor of Dublin
    the toll gatherer-beggar
    with his bowl forever sits
    selling poverty for a pittance
    and redemption for avoiding eyes
    (mobile phone concealed).

    the royal barge
    the chieftains byre
    bananas from Bolivia
    they all have passed
    beneath this throne
    this crown of Anna Livia

  4. HI Shauna. What a nice idea. I´ve added a short piece below, I don´t know if it´s what you´re looking for. You can use it, or not, just as you see fit.
    All best, Mike

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