andrew burke





Bloomsday Halifax: Lestrygonians at Durty Nellys

Posted on: 2024-07-09

I'm describing my big Bloomsday Halifax project by writing up what I did for each episode. In this entry, I'm covering Episode 8 of "Ulysses": "Lestrygonians".

The episode takes place at noon and the main action involves Bloom wandering the streets of Dublin and trying to find a place to eat lunch. He stops by a cafeteria and is repulsed by the slobby voracious customers, and finally settles on Davy Byrne's: "Moral pub. He doesn't chat. Stands a drink now and then."

This was one of the first episodes that came to mind when I thought of places to have Bloomsday happen. Halifax has a lot of great pubs, and several very Irish ones. Durty Nelly's is a mainstay of the Argyle street strip. The interior wood-work was made in Ireland and shipped over to Halifax. I go there every so often for lunch or an after-work Guinness, especially during patio season.

As I mentioned before, I wasn't very good at breaking the ice about this project in the early stages. So my much more outgoing friend was able to make the initial connection—and just like with Jennifer's of Nova Scotia, we found another enthusiastic fan of the book! There's a lot of us around, like a secret society. They were game for whatever we had in mind.

The main thing was to allow participants to recreate the lunch that Bloom famously has at Davy Byrne's: a gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of Burgundy wine. Durty Nelly's didn't have specifically either of these, but they do have a good grilled cheese sandwich and a variety of red wines available by the glass, and they made sure to make them available, even during Sunday Brunch hours.

I managed to get there around noon and had the proper official lunch:

Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Red Wine at Durty Nellys

Several other participants and friends came by as well. It was really my first chance to experience Bloomsday as a group event. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, which was heartening. It helped that it was as pleasant sunny day.

Besides the official food on offer, Lestrygonians also features one of the first inspirations I had for a physical collectible object: Bloom bumps into an old flame who complains that her husband has received an anonymous postcard with just the letters "U.P." on it, which he has taken as a grave insult, and he is roaming the streets looking for a lawyer to start a lawsuit against whoever sent it. It turns out anonymous insulting postcards were a common thing back in 1904, filling a gap we now use social media and email for. I thought it would be fun to actually have the card available for people to pick up. The card isn't described in much detail in the book, but I decided to use the decorative letters and borders collections from the Vintage Clip Art package I had picked up a while ago, to make something at once fancy and a bit ridiculous. I got punch-out card-stock from Staples and printed them out at home. Here they are being delivered a few days before the event, to appropriate accompaniment:

A collection of 'U.P.' cards on the bar at Durty Nelly's, with a Guinness

What does U.P. mean? It's never really explained, but it still seems pretty rude.

Finally, for the background, I transported another person from J. J. Clarke's great photos into a modern location.

1900s Dubliner in Halifax's Durty Nellys pub

(Don't look too long at this, or else you'll notice that he's floating above the floor! I was more concerned with framing than strict realism, okay?)

Previous: Bloomsday Halifax: Aeolus at the Nova Centre
Next: Bloomsday Halifax: Scylla and Charybdis at the Central Library