In Dublin, in a place called Parnell Square, just off the bottom of O'Connell Street, stuck between the Ambassador Theatre and three sides of terraced buildings, is a small, strange public park called the Garden of Remembrance. I was never sure who it was supposed to be remembering and I prefer to leave that mystery intact rather than going on Google and finding out the shabby details of some Irish martyr or pointless war. Isn't the beauty of memorials the fact that they become more important than those they remember?
This garden is dominated by a huge cruciform pond with raised sides and blue mosaic tiles. You can walk around this cross on an equally cruciform path, and sit down on benches along the sides, to eat, or think, or remember, or whatever it was you wanted to do. Mostly, tourists and homeless people collect there.
There's a large sculpture of the Children of Lir at the head of the crucifix, raised up, overlooking the giant blue watery cross. Public monuments in Ireland tend to be of this character - mournful and full of memory, some of it real - like the Irish martyrs - and some of it imagined, like the Children of Lir. It's not so important to remember what actually happened - who said what, and what they really meant, and whether our real history matches up with the version we are taught in school. It's more important to sit in places like this, and understand how the dream of a country gets put together out of bits of myth, religious symbols, historical people who were in the right place at the right time - and the people in the present who tie it all together. The tourists snapping pictures of the giant cross. The bums sleeping on the benches. Me. You.
It's all very pretty with its flowers and its neatly cut grass and its benches and statues, and the high black railings that close at dark. I used to go there for lunch when I was playing a chess tournament for 2 weeks, close by. I didn't remember anything except vague visual impressions, and I'm sure no one who was there at the same time remembers me, and when I try to remember the details of the park now, as you can see, it's all mixed in with my own life and my thoughts and imaginings, because that's what memory is like. Whoever commissioned this garden wanted people to remember some specific thing, or some specific person, but it never really seems to work like that.
Have a look: http://images.dublin.tripod.com/images/big/peoples_garden.jpg