I’ve been thinking about those wonderful people, often creative souls themselves- who allow random strangers to sleep on their couch/ spare bed and in so doing allow them the space to nurture their creativity or just to help them along when life is tough. It was one of the things that struck me when I read Nuala O Faolain’s memoir ‘Are You Somebody’ where she talked about the poet Leland Bardwell’s basement flat in Harcourt street.
‘For a while when I was a student I lived on Leland’s sofa, under a pile of coats, in one corner of the big front room, and Patrick Kavanagh had a bed on the other side.’
Those were hard times but obviously Leland Bardwell was one of those people who opened her home to those in need though she probably hadn’t much herself. I was fascinated by her and tried to read anything I could find about the times and her work.
What brought it all back to mind was Glen Hansard’s moving speech at the launch of the Kildare Biennale exhibition on 15 Nov in the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge. http://www.riverbank.ie/visual-arts/the-kildare-biennale
He talked about the artist Philippa Bayliss and what she had done for him. One day after busking in Grafton Street as a teenager he started talking to a street artist. After a while the other lad invited him home with him and off he went, as you do when you are young and carefree. So they got on the 67a bus and after a while the lad from Ballymun realised they were in the country and when they got off the bus in Celbridge there was a six mile walk to the old schoolhouse in Ardclough. The home he went to was that of Philippa Bayliss and her sons, and not only did she let him sleep on the couch that night, but also for the next five years and when she realised his talent she paid for him to go to music college. And so on to his role in the Commitments and the Oscar etc. He talked also about the simplicity of such a life- making do with what they had for the year or so while she worked every day on her paintings, then one day she’d emerge from the studio, and get the lads to help her load up the van for an exhibition. When the work was sold there was money for new clothes for everyone and the stocks of wine and food would be replenished and the cycle would start again.
Sounds great doesn’t it? I want to be that wonderful generous person but sadly no, my couch is only open to the cat for long term residence at the moment. I want to be a person who lets strangers sleep on my couch and nurtures their creativity while simultaneously nurturing my own. (I also want to be a person who does not notice housework that needs to be done, whose kitchen is a mess with dishes piling up while blissfully unaware I carry on with my real work.)
Sadly I am not that person because it is not a lifestyle choice, it is something innate, it seems to me, not a quality you can acquire. There is no one in residence on my couch, because if there was I would feel responsible for them and worry too much about them and I wouldn’t be able to get on with my own work. (And If you have been to my house you will know that it is always in need of some old fashioned TLC – but here’s the thing- if you are like me you can always see the dishes piling up and the things that need to be cleaned even if you don’t do it)
But I applaud those selfless generous people who take strangers into their homes and help them on their journey and it felt very special to be part of the group of people in the Riverbank listening to Glen Hansard talking so movingly about his own experience – and the beautiful ballad he sang afterwards made the experience even more special.
You can see more examples of Philippa Bayliss work here: http://philippabayliss.com/