Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Pastry Plunge

Alrightey, today I suspect is going to be all about cake.

When I was a child my mom used to get a Gateaux Saint Honore from time to time - though I adore anything choux-esque, it was a bit busy for me. At the best of times, it has lots of textures and flavours going on, but our local bakery also added a layer of crushed pineapple, which I always squodged over to one side of the plate, along with the heavy pastry base.

I said I'd make one for the birthday boy, and so this week I've been reading recipes. There is no crushed pineapple in official sources, and the base is more often puff pastry than anything of the shortcrust variety. Basically, it's pastries puff & choux, and cremes patissiere & chantilly. And some caramel.

Deep breath. Saint Honore is the patron saint of the Pastry Folk, so there'll some incantations coming his way. Or teary pleas.

In related news, the official day was yesterday, but as the official celebration is today:

Autumn drawing to its close already. Goodness me, this season just blinked by :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elusive textures

Oh how the kittens love chasing the cursor along the screen...

Well, the bank holiday weekend turned out to be extremely holiday-esque for me: cooking and friends and late-night drinks. I did manage to dabble with a story, but it's at the dough-proving stage now; I just need to leave it in a warm spot and let it rise.

So, back to weaving sub-plots into the book. Some have a fine silken texture, which makes them kinda fecky to work with, but you just need to foster patience :-)

The photo below is from Annaghmakerrig - the fence by the boathouse. There was a fabulous array of lichens there, in every shade of green - silvery and wet-moss and verdigris... they highlighted the most mundane post or stone, drawing the eye to its decorative texture.

Meanwhile, the kittens can't quite figure out why they can't feel the texture that they can plainly see.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kittytalk #1


Spiritual persuasion:
Rather not say

Favourite colour:
Well duuuhhhh!

Favourite book:
Any newspaper. Absorbent :-)

Greatest fear:
That the world will run out of ham

If you had a superpower, what would it be:
Ability to turn things into ham

Words of wisdom:
Purr loudly, nap often, inhale all the ham in sight.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scents of place

Tappety tap tap (the closest I can come to a typing version of 'scribble scribble'). Writing today was all about very physical Cloisters details - stepping from room to room, remembering how the light enters through the stained glass in several of the galleries, casting jewels of light along the floor. Easy to feel mildly disorientated when immersed in that world :-)

Well, it's autumn: the house is filled with roasted vegetable aromas; I have emptied out the dried petals from my sweet little wooden bowl and filled it with glossy conkers instead. All most seasonal.

But orchids just do their own thing, don't they; they operate on their own internal, unpredictable space-time continuum. I had bought one en route home from Dublin the other week, and settled it in before I headed for Annaghmakerrig (a moment's revered silence for that place). When I arrived home, it had flowered :-)

I thought the flowers would be white, so the dainty yellow was a treat. And it releases an exquisite scent, which I inhale, curled up on the sofa, typing quietly, kitties sleeping on me. Doubly treaty.

Funnily enough, the scent suits The Cloisters perfectly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seasonal colour

Wind is whistling down the chimney... definitely an autumnal feel to the evening.

Trying to emulate the Annaghmakerrig flow of life at home means I seem to miss a lot of e-life. And at the moment, the writing needs that. I'm scribbling away; missing my podcasts and zillions of updates, but there you go.

Last week I took a walk on my last day in the Tyrone Guthrie Center, to try to capture some of the autumn colours festooned on the estate. As I traipsed around I thought of people I know who love trees, who feel them as real as people in their lives; they would enjoy this place.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New arrivals

Okay here are the little guys; a selection taken over the weekend.

Clearly, they're spending a lot of time on the couch. I expect it's just a phase...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

House rules

There's a lovely tradition here: you're not allowed to knock on anyone's door unless you've been invited.

It doesn't entirely work in practice. This morning's example was the Chairman, who appeared with some visitors in tow. 'I'm quite put out,' he declared, 'this is the room I'm normally given when I stay.'

I waffled about feeling terribly privileged, and then went on to Louis MacNeice, and snow, and roses.

And when they left, I turned slowly, praying that I wouldn't see a vista of wine bottles or laundry.

It looked pretty neat. Phew.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Roses and Snow

Conversation last night turned to past guests, before Annaghmakerrig was a retreat, when it was personal theatre-friends like Alec Guinness staying here, or since the centre was established. (One person appeared in both, a woman who used to live here, and who lingered here after her death.)

Someone mentioned that when Louis MacNeice stayed there, his room was my room; and that he'd written 'Snow' sitting at the desk, facing the bay window.

I looked up the poem this morning:

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands -
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Photos galore

Okay, let's start with Editors; kind of a mood-collage rather than fine detail close-ups (all these, you can click to enlarge):

Lots of good lights; great crowd; and yes you're right - the image on the bottom right is not the band, but some odd Riverdance-esque thing that we passed on the way back to the car.

And so to the outdoors of Annaghmakerrig - gorgeous house, beautiful grounds sloping down to an ever-changing lake. This morning a thick mist blanketed the estate, which later transformed into gorgeous sunshine-drenched green. I took a walk down to the boat house (residents here eagerly explained how it would be a perfect way to kill someone off, er... in a book that is), and I sat on the wobbly jetty and gazed out on the mirror-lake. Very peaceful.

And then back inside, pausing to top up on coffee before retreating to my cosy room.

There are times when you're working on something; it feels like the reins are let slip, and work becomes play. There's this tremendous energy of sheer creating that catches you up and you just type or scribble as fast as you can, knowing - trusting, I guess - that connections are being made and patterns are being formed, even if you can't yet make them out.

And that was my afternoon. Which for the book, is like a paradigm shift.

All in all, a treaty day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sneaking online...

In brief: the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is fantastic. And work is going great. And in this rarified atmosphere, we all seem to feel guilty for checking twitter or facebook or email or texts. Amazing how much extra space - extra air - there is when you limit or excise all the e-talk from daily life.

So the blog may be scanty this week, but I will try to get some photos up. In the meantime, keep an eye on the twitter feed for mini-updates from my mobile.

And the writing - oh my writing is going great! Speaking of which, I can get another hour in before supper :-)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Full to the brim

Early start le matin, so this post will be superer-quicker than yesterday's.

A friend&family-filled day; the great Kitten Adoption Plan seems to be going... well, according to plan (see above). And Editors in the Olympia were fantastic. They'd clearly put a lot into the stagecraft side of things: from the running order to the lighting, all aspects were well-considered, and phenomenally entertaining. Could have watched them forever :-)

Okay, sleep before my expedition to the land of artists. Nighty night x

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mid-Week Mix

Super-quick pre-bedtime post. So, Dublin is a smidge hectic, and charmingly so. Last night I headed out to UCD, as a guest speaker for the English Literary Society. The committee were impeccable hosts; there was a good turn-out of members (who sparked a bunch of questions/interesting conversations), *and* there were a couple of (most welcome) gatecrashers to add to the mix. And after all that, there was my sister-in-law and a bottle o'wine in the early hours, and much catching up. Lovely.

Today I caught up with friends, and a professional therapist who treats/massages/pummels you until you bruise. But in a good way. Honest. This evening was the world premiere of Sebastian Barry's latest play - challenging and captivating - followed by Dublin pub life.

Tomorrow I'm on a kitten-seeking road-trip, and then friends-family-friends-family-concert.

Reading that back, it sounds like a lot. Time for sleep.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seeing and Doing

Wanted to link to one of TED's talks today: photographer Taryn Simon gives a brief tour (18 mins) of two projects.

The first began after September 11: instead of looking outward to map other lands, she spent five years gaining access to traditionally secret American sites (her favourite rejection letter was from Disney, who didn't want a photograph to threaten their created world). A great presentation, from inbred white tigers and Lucas's Death Star to live HIV virus. Gets the neurons firing :-)

The second project focuses on men who were wrongly convicted based on photographs, highlighting how easily images can be distorted, and deceive.

In the midst of prepping for being in Dublin most of this week, and from there I'm head on to an artists' retreat.

Sigh. Perhaps I'll just type that again, slowly, and savour those words:

An artists' retreat.
For a week.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A rose by any other name...

A dashey-roundey day, just wanted to inform y'all that Robert the Goldfish now answers to 'Guildy' (again) and 'Tom'.

Let's hope he never needs business cards.