As you can see, the house that we’re renting at the moment is in danger of flooding and Westmeath County Council has just delivered a supply of sandbags to us – helpful, but not a good sign!
All of this got me to thinking about references to water in Ulysses. The most obvious ones occur in the Ithaca episode, towards the end of the novel. This is the episode which is presented to us in a question-and-answer format and in which Joyce goes into mind-boggling detail about the simplest of everyday tasks.
Leopold Bloom has brought Stephen Dedalus back to his home and in the course of making a cup of Epps’s Soluble Cocoa for Stephen, he turned the water faucet to fill the kettle. Pretty simple – an automatic task undertaken by thousands of people every day.
But Joyce wanted us to know everything about this action, and the water, so he wrote the following:-
Did it flow?
Yes. From Roundwood reservoir in County Wicklow of a cubic capacity of 2400 million gallons, percolating through a subterranean aqueduct of filter mains of single and double pipeage constructed at an initial plant cost of 5 pounds per linear yard by way of the Dargle, Rathdown, Glen of the Downs and Callowhill to the 26 acre reservoir at Stillorgan, a distance of 22 statute miles, and thence, through a system of relieving tanks, by a gradient of 250 feet to the city boundary at Eustace Bridge, Upper Leeson Street, though from prolonged summer drouth and daily supply of 12½ million gallons the water had fallen below the sill of the overflow weir for which reason the borough surveyor and waterworks engineer, Mr Spencer Harty, C. E., on the instructions of the waterworks committee had prohibited the use of municipal water for purposes other than those of consumption (envisaging the possibility of recourse being had to the impotable water of the Grand and Royal canals as in 1893) particularly as the South Dublin Guardians, notwithstanding their ration of 15 gallons per day per pauper supplied through a 6 inch meter, had been convicted of a wastage of 20,000 gallons per night by a reading of their meter on the affirmation of the law agent of the corporation, Mr Ignatius Rice, solicitor, thereby acting to the detriment of another section of the public, selfsupporting taxpayers, solvent, sound.
So the next time you turn the tap on in the kitchen spare a thought for what’s actually happening!