I didn’t cycle up the Liffey on a bicycle

May 22, 2013

Edna O’Brien’s book Girl With Green Eyes has a romantic line involving bicycles in Dublin:

Ah, the bloom of you, I love your North-Circular-Road-Bicycle-Riding-Cheeks.

It’s a sweet declaration ending in an impressive hyphenated string (though if I were editing it I would separate cheeks from the compound and reduce the capitalisation: North-Circular-Road-bicycle-riding cheeks).

In a modest correspondence between books decades apart, Declan Hughes’s Irish detective novel The Dying Breed has another elaborate compound phrase constructed with the help of bicycle imagery:

I made a face at that, my d’you-think-I-cycled-up-the-Liffey-on-a-bicycle face.

When I tweeted that sentence I was treated to a few variations on the theme: Belfast’s D’you think I floated down the Lagan in a bubble? (@charlieconnelly), and Glasgow’s D’ye think ah came up the Clyde on a water biscuit/banana boat? (@ozalba; @Yanbustone).

There are many versions of this idiom, often beginning Do you think…, You must think…, or I didn’t… More (or less) familiar lines include: Do you think I came down in the last shower?, You must think I was born yesterday, and I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

I love the water biscuit one, but for some reason I relate most strongly to cycling on the Liffey – so long as I steer clear of Gogarty’s swans.

Bookmash: Dead Voices Reading

June 1, 2011

A new bookmash:



Dead Voices Reading

All the dead voices
Reading in the dark,
Stories of five decades rumble
Tumble in search of memory
Up the line to death.
Almost there.


And an old one (well, from last November):



The News from Ireland

A night to remember
The news from Ireland;
Something under the bed is drooling.


These two bring the bookmash count to 10. Nos. 1–8 are here.

Thanks to the authors: Declan Hughes, Seamus Deane, Hermann Hesse, Joe R. Lansdale, Eric R. Kandel, the war poets, and Nuala O’Faolain (Dead Voices Reading); Walter Lord, William Trevor, and Bill Watterson (The News from Ireland); and thanks also to artist Nina Katchadourian, whose series of Sorted Books got me started.