Friday, May 29, 2009

Bloggus Interruptus

In brief... in Dublin... friends... family... sunshine... various celebratory occasions... camera now fully charged & I am ready for the evening!

Will be babysitting twins & baby tomorrow day & night, with a bunch o'chicken pox added into the usual mix. I suspect that there will be no time for blogging.

Have a wonderful weekend :-)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wooden Boat Festival, Part Two

So, I was invited to sail on Sunday, and despite my lack of gear or terminology, off I went. The morning sail was the Lobster Pot challenge: boats race to find the pots, pull them up and collect a wooden token inside; first one back is the winner. We... ahem... experienced some difficulty involving our rudder and the limpet-like twisty turny lobster line. Anyhoo, it's all about the taking part!

So, having come last (twice) we made it back to the pier in time for the Carbery Timber boat race. People had been working on these boats all day Saturday: each team gets a bunch of wood and some double-sided stickey tape, and has a day to design and build a seaworthy craft. During the Build, some looked like kennels, others like coffins, one was straight out of Star Wars. By Sunday morning they were painted and christened: for names, I had joint favourites: 'The Sneaky Badger' and 'This Way Up' (which, it transpired, was sadly misnamed). And with a great audience lining the pier and the square and all the docked boats, the little makey-uppey boats launched out to sea.

Some... well some experienced difficulty in staying afloat; there's clearly a knack between balance and momentum, and design I guess. Slowly, the first one sank, to thunderous applause & roars. Other boats zoomed off, and the sturdy crafts ended up ramming and battling each other until each boat went under. Outstanding entertainment, and a brilliant effort by all.

And then, with a little break to taste fare of the seafoodey kind, off we went to race again. As we set off, we... ahem... experienced some proximity-related difficulty with another boat (I believe the term is t-boning). Anyhoo, it's all about the taking part. So having come not quite last, we finished off with the Parade of Sail, where we strutted our collective stuff. And oh my goodness, there was much stuff to strut:

I kept resisting the temptation to go all Grace Kelly and declare 'Oh, she was yar!!'

Back on land, there were sunshiney pints and prizes galore, fabulous hats, cajun music, pizzas, much slagging, newly-arrived visitors and more pints and a great session in the Algiers.

Colombo-like, we had just onnnnnne more drink when we got home, and finally, the Festival was ended.

An outstanding weekend :-)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival, Part 1

So, last year I was staying in Rosscarbery at this time of year. I noticed a poster for the Wooden Boat Festival, and thought I'd nip over, maybe take some photos for my sailing-loving brother.

I came here pretty early on the Saturday morning - they were still setting up stands - but there were a lot of people around, and I drove through the village trying to find somewhere to park... I found Baltimore an odd mix of very touristy folk and very local locals - I didn't really feel like I fit into either camp. So I had a wander, took a few snaps for my brother, and headed home.

This year's festival was a different experience for me (you can click to enlarge):

And this is before I even got out onto the water!

Beautiful weekend :-)

Friday, May 22, 2009


Just to explain, I'll make crowns at the drop of a hat. Give me an idle fifteen minutes with some kidlets, and we're whipping up magic prince & princess crowns before you can say where's the glitter glue.

A few weeks back, on the day of the Munster-Leinster match (sigh), a fifteen-minute window materialised. A window featuring three kidlets. And in a whole three-crowns-of-Munster kinda way, it seemed most appropriate to make some regal accoutrement, that each child might mark the day.

One crown-wearer stole the show.

Ah, that little laydee...

Anyhoo, in other news: the Wooden Boat festival is almost upon us! Much exploring required...

Have a great weekend, all :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blood matters

Just back from giving blood. Like last time, I went over my recent food habits as I wandered in: popcorn featured heavily, but there were seeds too - they surely have lots of trace good things - and that burger I cooked up before I left the house must count for something...

Anyhoo, iron levels & blood pressure were declared "perfect". I lay back, scrunching one of those rubber chew-bones for dogs, and we were done before the lovely nurse had finished telling me all about her favourite thrillers.

Afterwards, they like you to hang out for a bit so there's no sneaky fainting once you get outside. So I loitered, refusing guinness and beer (on this gorgeous sunny afternoon, sigh), and nibbled at chocolate while sipping fizzy orange. I got my not-likely-to-faint seal of approval, and off I went.

Inside my head, things sounded like this:

Anyhoo, home now, no more driving. And you know the fourteenth rule of blood donation: give a pint, take a pint.

The bordeaux is breathing :-)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

endings and beginnings

I swear, time has sped up today... so before I suddenly find that dusk has fallen:

I was thinking about great endings to poems, like 'tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new' or 'so long lives this, and this gives life to thee' - poems that sweep the reader up, each line building up cumulatively, so that by the end you're aloft on this unstoppable crescendo. And for me, although lots of Kahlil Gibran works as small stand-alone quotes, his piece on death really delivers when read as a whole.

Then Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."
And he said: You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

He makes it sound like the greatest beginning.

Hope everyone's having a happy Wednesday :-)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cork in a nutshell

So, super-quick post this evening, as I'm back from my little road trip to Cork (cue song: "on the road again...") and in need of some concerted flumping.

In brief: a fantastic day, shared with the Fabulous Baking Lady. And one of the many lovely things about such company is the early-morning moment when we're deciding who should drive, when she simultaneously passes me a parcel of scrumptious chocolate blondies - instant decision: I clearly need both hands free to eat and drink coffee. She should, like, toooooootally drive :-)

In the metropolis, we were both similarly enraptured by things of an arts & craftsey nature: we ooohed over papers and ribbon and paints and... well, fecky things in general. And we also hit the grown-up shops, until we were TK Maxxed out, and had bought enough bulk health-food seeds & nuts (dirtydirtydirty) to give the impression that we were stockpiling for the apocalypse. Or the Rapture. I'm never sure what order in which that's supposed to happen...

Anyhoo, Rapture aside, it was a delightful day. And now to focus - One, Two, Three: and Flump.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May colours

Ah, the colours of blossoms at this time of year: the creamy-yellow of wild primrose, the myriad blue-purple variations of long-established bluebells...

For me, it's the whites that point forward to the summertime (an association with lillies, I guess): anemone blanda, spring jasmine, and dicentra alba, with its graceful arch of white hearts. And lily of the valley, scented, each flower perfectly rounded, delicately unfurled; symbolising sweetness and a return to happiness. Scrumptious.

This lily of the valley is from one of the gardens in The Cloisters museum; their blog over here is a lovely blend of gardening and medieval art & culture. A delight to dip into every once in a while, and glimpse a medieval haven on the northern tip of Manhattan.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Constant Gardener

Is the still-waiting-to-be-mown lawn nagging at your conscience? Finding it difficult to motivate yourself to go out and get it done, especially at dinnertime, on a Friday evening?

Never fear, the Never-Fail, One-Size-Fits-All, Super-Duper Reward Système is here:

Have a treaty weekend, all :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Forming a habit

For when there's exploring-time online, I'd recommend TED: Ideas worth spreading (which reminds me, FORA changed their tag from FORA: The world is thinking (=good) to FORA: Feed your inner genius (=kinda self-absorbed)).

Anyhoo, my point was TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It explains itself as 'riveting talks by remarkable people', and it covers the usual gamut from tech to green issues - Al Gore to Jane Goodall, Bill Gates to Philippe Starck - but the interface is organised by themes: How We Learn, Master Storytellers, Not Business As Usual - each theme groups together talks from across genres. I was meandering through the 'Words about Words' section, which included Steven Pinker on language and thought, Evan Williams on how twitter developed from a sideline, and Isabel Allende on tales of passion.

Through one tangent or another I stumbled upon the delightful Matthieu Ricard, who (did his PhD in cell genetics under a Nobel Laureate at the Institut Pasteur and) ended up as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Nepal. These days he's all that and more: author, photographer, great humanitarian, the French interpreter for the Dalai Lama...

Ricard is into being happy, but he's also interested in why and how we experience happiness: he approaches happiness as a skill that can be developed habitually, rather than as a fleeting, conditional emotion: "this is not just a luxury. This is not a supplementary vitamin for the soul; this is something that's going to determine the quality of every instant of our lives. We are ready to spend 15 years achieving education. We love to do jogging, fitness. We do all kinds of things to remain beautiful. Yet we spend surprisingly little time taking care of what matters most: the way our mind functions."

Very interesting.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Starry starry night

Meant to mention last week but the thought was drowned out by fiddles - this picture-of-the-day from NASA is helpful for those stargazing at this time of year.

Over at their site, 'A Spring Sky Over Hirsau Abbey' is interactive, and perfectly explained, but the basic idea is a 'fisheye' image looking up from the courtyard of the ruins of a purdy Benedictine Abbey; the image tells you what you're looking at, but the explanatory 'science bit' offers a good method of getting from one constellation to another, when you're just staring up, without the benefit of magic lines joining the dots overhead:

Now all I need is a cloudless night :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Roads to nowhere

This morning, my thoughts meandered over two things:

(1) Yesterday, I breakfasted (late) on hot rhubarb crumble with custard, made a roghan josh at some point in the afternoon, and had a slab of killer chocolate birthday cake for tea. All very scrummy.

(2) It's famine commemoration week.

Skibbereen was chosen as host for what seems to be the first provincial National Famine Memorial Day (Sunday 17th May). It's an appropriate choice: the town was... what's the word I'm looking for... devastated by famine in the 1840s, as attested by the mass graves at nearby Abbeystrewery (which hold somewhere between eight thousand and twelve thousand people).

There are a week of events leading up to the official memorial (music, drama, talks, walks - pdf programme available here).

Anyhoo, so the jolting perspective, thinking back on famine, brought to mind a great poem by Eavan Boland (which I've mentioned another time, in another place):

That the Science of Cartography is Limited

-and not simply by the fact that this shading of
forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam,
the gloom of cypresses
is what I wish to prove.

When you and I were first in love we drove
to the borders of Connacht
and entered a wood there.

Look down you said: this was once a famine road.

I looked down at ivy and the scutch grass
rough-cast stone had
disappeared into as you told me
in the second winter of their ordeal, in

1847, when the crop had failed twice,
Relief Committees gave
the starving Irish such roads to build.

Where they died, there the road ended
and ends still and when I take down
the map of this island, it is never so
I can say here is
the masterful, the apt rendering of

the spherical as flat, nor
an ingenious design which persuades a curve
into a plane,
but to tell myself again that

the line which says woodland and cries hunger
and gives out among sweet pine and cypress,
and finds no horizon

will not be there.

Eavan Boland

Monday, May 11, 2009

The fiddle fair

What a fabulous weekend!

No-one witnessed an actual end to any particular session - the music may have changed venues and locations, styles and players, but it never stopped. Baltimore had a superb atmosphere, with sessions starting up all over the place, organically, as strangers sat down together around a table and brought out their instruments, a few words enough to figure out their areas of intersection.

I love the apparent effortlessness to these kinds of music, and also the care with which the musicians listen to each other, allowing space for a player to improvise away on the tune, before they give a nod and the others pick up their fiddles or squeeze-boxes or spoons, ready to be recalled in. I forgot my camera on both Friday and Saturday, but Sunday I was prepared. And boy oh boy, it was colourful!

Sunday highlights were Les Violons du Rigodon in the Glebe Gardens, which was music and theatre; in addition to regular violins, it also featured violins of the teeny-tiny variety, and also recycled instruments, made from oil cans, Werther's Original tins etc. Splendid, joyful, beautiful performance.

And walking back from the concert, the strains of a waltz still playing over in our ears, we turned into the sunshiney square, which was filled with music, and friends, and friends playing music.

*And* as if all that wasn't treaty enough, I got to catch up with family. Simply superb weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Things of a fiddley nature

The Baltimore Fiddle Fair is up and running!

I knew I'd miss last night's activities: a text from the organiser (close to 3am) told me that all had gone well - though by then we were in the midst of storm-force gales, so I expect the sessions moved from the marquee to more insulated shelters...

Anyway, will aim to take some photos this weekend; in the meantime here's the first official report on the festival, from over at

Brewing Up A Good One

Liam O' Flynn and Sean Keane along with Laura Cortese and Paul Jennings braved the elements last night and served up a top class opening night to Fiddle Fair 2009.

The wind was blowing hard and it certainly wasn't typical Fiddle Fair weather for the inaugural Fiddle Fair Marquee show but a hardy audience wrapped up well and the music certainly helped to keep us warm (warmish anyway).

Laura Cortese is a true entertainer and a great fiddler with a beautiful voice, and along with Scottish beat box man Paul Jennings they charmed the audience with a great set.

Then it was time for Old School Traditional music of highest order. I'm sure it's been a while since Liam and Sean played in such wintry conditions but it didn't knock a stir out of them and they treated us to a very special concert. Beautiful tunes and such a comfort with each others playing that at times it seemed we were listening to one instrument.

So we're up and running and the weather's going to get better and if last night I anything to go by, Fiddle Fair 09 is going to be a good one.



Locals have a whole gauging-of-tourists système (more complex than in Devon, where the term 'grockel' covered every non-resident equally and derogatorily). Word on the street is that the Fiddle Fair and the Wooden Boat Festival (22-24 May) both draw 'nice' people. So in theory, start with either of those for some street cred, and maybe you'll be recognised during the lunacy of high-season August.

In other news, I idled around the kitchen this morning, adapting a scrumptious dessert that my sister made last weekend. I just took inspiration from the top layer, ignoring both the baked cheesecake and the brownie cake that lay underneath - which left me with a particularly fine ras-a-bee mousse. I figure, throw in some melted white chocolate, it's a stand-alone dessert.

And turns out, that's true. But it appears to be a dessert for about twelve people. Twelve greedy people. Twelve little piggies.

I may be appearing at the pub with care packages...

Have a fab weekend folks :-)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alternative Window Treatments

I'm still refusing to get net curtains for my oh-so-popular front window (ah, the O'Sullivan-Fitzgerald strain of stubbornness, a mix of bulldog tenacity and I'm-on-my-high-horse-and-sooo-in-the-right obduracy).

Ahem. Anyhoo, so my Next Bright Idea for the window is this: while I'm waiting for the teeny tiny but growing-just-as-fast-as-they-can sweet pea to screen the outside, I'll train a jasmine on the inside. And while at present, the plucky little plant would obscure the view for someone standing in a very specific spot and peering from the level of, say, a daschund, I'm confident that in no time at all it'll provide a soft verdant protective partition.

And it smells way better than polyester.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Child's Play

This January, playwright Caryl Churchill wrote Seven Jewish Children as a response to the situation in Gaza. Staged in February, the nine-minute play was highly controversial (shock horror, I know). Anyway, the ever-tolerant-of-typos Guardian worked with Churchill to record a performance (by one actor, rather than nine) so that it could reach wider audiences online, and continue the conversation. The result is thought-provoking, and it's over here...

The play lingered in my mind today: its inability to sum up such long-term conflict, to synopsise the rationale for an inherited war to a child. And it reminded me of a quote from the ever-lovely Thich Nhat Hanh (nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr.), in which he affirmed that there is no "path to peace":


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Weekend Round Up

Another bank holiday put to bed...

Well, our little Munster clique (in the midst of Leinster supporters) ran the gamut of emotions on Saturday: 'they-always-take-a-while-to-warm-up' confidence; sympathy at some unlucky bounces; then bewilderment at every play being just a tiny bit off...


Still, there was some great rugby played; bets were won and lost; and consolatory pints were drunk.

Meanwhile in Baltimore, I'm reliably informed by Our Man on the Ground that the 'Lunsters' were painting the village blue. All's quiet again today; the only movement is the Fiddle Fair marquee going up. Which means two whole days of peace & serenity before the next onslaught...

And in other news (although this was an evening thang), this may be how the working week should start. Before you switch tubes, just nip above ground, sing your heart out with 13,500 other people, and you're ready for Monday.

I know I know: it's sponsored, and therefore pretty much an ad, and therefore eeeeevil (sorry Tara, but you know it's true); however, if we all promise that our mobile arrangements remain unaffected, then we could just enjoy the moment without feeling... tainted.

I defy anyone not to smile :-)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Comic interlude

Received some excellent guidelines from the World Health Organisation on how to keep safe during these worrying times:

Don't do this.

Friday, May 1, 2009

At the dimming of the day

Okay we've made it. Baby settled [invisible pause while that proves to be not the case at all... okay, Baby settled again]. Twins sleeping. And while it transpires that I'm a bad person for not knowing the entire back catalogue of Thomas the Tank Engine songs, still, we have reached a point where all is calm.

I started reading War and Peace last night (which I have never read; been on The Big List of Things to Read for many a year). It appears we're starting with the war bit [invisible pause for re-settling... :-)]. Anyhoo, 17 pages down, 1341 pages to go.

By this point in Lord of the Rings, wasn't there a dragon or an urgent mission, or at the very least a birthday party with fireworks and invisibility?

I'd even welcome some finely blown smoke-rings at this point.