Saturday, March 26, 2011

An Apple a Day: My birthday iPhone - and Macs Past and Present

The Birthday Present...
Yesterday was my birthday and I got a lovely new iPhone 4! It was a pleasant surprise to discover I was entitled to an upgrade so that was my birthday wishlist fulfilled in one fell swoop. I hope I'll get years of fun and use from it - I am not normally in the frontline for the  latest gadget but I was more than prepared to make an exception in the case of the iPhone.

Hubby Jan got one last year and it really is the business, he uses it a lot for everything and on bill-pay with Vodafoneit is actually cheaper than the old price plan he had. He has a 1GB Data download limit whereas I only have 500MB for the same price plan which is a mean move on Vodafone's part. I was almost tempted to switch providers to 3Mobile who have an unlimited Data download for now but that could change in the future.

One reason I stuck with Vodafone - apart from some innate unexplained conservative nature where brand loyalty is concerned - was the unlimited free calls and texts to other Vodafone users, and the 150mins and texts to all other networks per month. That and the fact that I can use WiFi to access the internet and apps when at home or in a WiFi zone and just use the 3G data thingy when I'm out and about.

...and again
I have a thing about Macintosh products and would love a Mac computer like graphic designer son has - it is so cool and the desktop alone is lovely. I sometimes use Safari the Mac web browser -purely for aesthetic enjoyment - but it just doesn't work as well as Firefox on my PC laptop.

iPod Classic 30GB 
I have a vintage iPod Classic 30G in white, from an earlier birthday about 5 years ago. I get daily listening pleasure from it when I go for an evening walk with the dog around town. I just hope I don't frighten any locals I might encounter with my maniacal laughter at some of the wackier podcasts I subscribe to, as I find it hard to keep a straight face when listening to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion's News from Lake Wobegon, or BBC Radio 4's comedy The  Now Show or The News Quiz, both of which are topical satirical panel programmes on current affairs. Sandi Toksvig and Hugh Dennis, Mitch Benn and Jeremy Hardy are always good for a laugh and their near-libellous commentary is hilarious. Nob Nation from 2FM on RTE is another laugh-a-minute.

Mac PowerBook (early 1990s)
Writing this just reminds me of other Macs in our life down the decades. Our first computer doesn't count as it was the trusty floppy-disk Amstrad PC 1512DD - unencumbered by a Hard Disk it had to be started up with those 5.25-inch floppies, and it was revolutionary back in 1987. It travelled from Wales to Tanzania with us, and served us well with PacMan, Brickbats, Dungeons and Dragons, and lots of preschool games and word-processing for the next few years. By the mid-90s we had B&W  Mac Classics and Power Books at work, which were amazing. I got familiar with MS Word and Excel and became a whiz touch-typist, self-taught, and a long way from the portable Remington I'd had at some stage in the 80s.

Mac LC11 (1994)
We moved to Lao PDR (Laos) in 1995 and there bought a new Mac- LC11. That had a 40 or 80MB Hard Disk, which was massive compared to the 0MB of the Amstrad. We played games like Snood and wrote letters home. We didn't have email till 1997, just before we left Laos, and we could get the Irish Times for £80 a year delivered in our email box - no pictures or formatting, just pages of text in the body of the mail - not even an attachment! How times have changed, and we couldn't have imagined back then what a revolution would take place over the next decade in communications, culminating in the Smartphone and the internet in your pocket.

Mac Performa PC (1996)
When we came  to live in Ireland in 1997 we bought another Mac - this time a Performa PC and it had a 500MB disk, a jump from our previous one. It was an all-in-one unit with the monitor over the CPU - no big boxes under the desk for Mac users - it was way ahead of the PC brigade even back then, and so it remains. This computer saw us into the dial-up internet age with every second counting in those pre-broadband days and we really had to ration our internet use or face huge phone bills. It was another four or five years before we moved to broadband, and it's hard to believe that you can now run a number of home computers from the wireless broadband.

In the Millenium year hubby had a significant birthday and got a new iMac - the hottest computer on the block. It was bright blue and shiny and see-through - and we all loved its aeshetic beauty. It had a massive 10GB hard drive and we were now downloading and storing masses of PDF files as we used it as a study hub when I was in UCC and the boys were going through secondary school and college. We always had Epson printers to go with the Macs and still have an Epson 3-in-1 which is perfect.

So, while we have succumbed to the mass appeal and affordability of the ubiquitous PC over Apple Mac in our daily lives with our Dell desktop and our Toshiba laptop, we'll always love and covet the Apple just like Eve back in the day in the Garden of Eden. And remember, an iPhone's not just for birthdays - it's for life!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Knit-Crochet Hybrid: Hippie Headbands - More Reversible than the Recession

Headband - Fisherman's Rib side
I was admiring a lovely fuchsia silk scarf worn by a good friend last Sunday at Devonshire Day, and she said a hat or headband would be lovely to have to go with it. In my optimistic post-election regime-change euphoria, I offered to make her one. So I decided to knit rather than crochet, as I had previously done for the teenagers in our midst.

Reverse side of headband
 For inspiration and a new pattern idea I turned to my trusty knitting bible "How To Knit" which is really great as it has load of tips for the likes of me who's been knitting since God was a boy but never knew why I did things the way I did. This included tips like when to use the various casting on different methods (thumb, two needles) and the right seam to use in different situations, and how to turn a sock heel, as well as lots of pattern/design swatches, not to mention lots of practical patterns.

Wearing the headband Rib side.
Me with the reversed headband
From the design swatches I got the pattern sequence for the stitch I used in this headband - Fisherman's Rib. I hadn't ever used this in a garment before, though I'd seen lots of chunky manly jumpers knitted in it when I was growing up. It seemed to be the rib-du-jour for army surplus sweaters, which featured lots of leather elbow patches and shoulder yokes, which were downright ugly, so no wonder I was never attracted by its charms.

Grey headband - Fisherman's Rib side
Grey headband - reverse side
Somehow I've changed! After a few false starts with too many/too few stitches, I settled on a pattern I liked and ran it up in a few hours, spread over a few days as I seemed to have only an hour here or there to snatch at it. I spent a couple of half-hours of  my lunch-hour relaxing in Dungarvan library reading and knitting a bit of the band, and then I finished it off last night with the crochet flower - ubiquitous by now on many of my caps and headbands, and which comes from terrific Teresa's crochet patterns. You can find her great tutorials  here on YouTube, and then there's a link to download the written pattern.

Apart from that my headband is my own design, simple and easy, so I want to share it with any interested bloggers out there. As I neared the end - using my head as a guide - I realised the reverse was a lovely design in itself, so decided to try and make it reversible. That necessitated putting the flower on a band that could be turned to either side, simplicity itself. So it's double the value with two headbands in one

I used Double-Knitting/US Worsted/8-ply yarn, acrylic and washable, and the tension gauge is immaterial as I used thick 6mm/10 US/4UK needles which is usually advised for chunky wool, but worked fine here - proof that there's always exceptions to the rule. I used crochet hook 4mm for the flower and flower-band, so it's a bit of a hybrid headband - hence the alliterative title of this post!

Hybrid Headband
  • Using either Thumb or Two Needles Method, Cast on 17 or 19 or 21 stitches - depending on desired width - I used 19 for the cerise band. 
  • Row 1: Purl to end.
  • Row 2: *P1, knit next st in the row below; rep from *,P1.
  • Repeat above 2 rows until headband is the desired length - allow for some stretch if yarn is elasticky. Mine was for a 55-56cm/22in head circumference. 
  • Cast/Bind off
  • Join end-to-end with simple whip-stitch seam.
  • This is a flat seam and suitable for the headband.
Crochet Flower
How to Add Rounds
(Written by Teresa Richardson of the YouTube tutorial above)
FPSC - Front Post Single Crochet
SC - Single Crochet
SL ST - Slip Stitch
DC - Double Crochet
TC - Triple Crochet
  • Chain 5, Join
  • Round 1: 10 SC through the loop, join in the beginning single crochet.
  • Round 2: CH 1, *SC in the same stitch, CH 3, SK 1 SC, SC in the next, complete 5 times total from *, the last chain 3 will be a slip stitch to join. (5 chain 3 loops total)
  • Round 3: *CH 1, 6 DC in loop, CH 1, SL ST in the next SC, complete 5 times total from *. (5 Petals Total)
  • Second Set of Petals
  • Round 4: CH 1, *BPSC around the post of the SC on round 2. CH 5. Complete 5 times total from *, SL ST to join in beginning SC. (5 Chain 5 loops total
  • This section will provide two alternative petals.
  • Method 1 -
  • Round 5: *CH 1, 9 DC in the loop, CH 1 SL ST in the next SC, Complete 5 times total from *.
  • (5 sets of petals total, with 9 double crochet each )
  • Method 2 - 
  • Round 5: *CH 1, 3 DC, 3 TC, 3 DC, CH 1, SL ST in the next SC, Complete 5 times total from *.
  • (5 sets of petals total, with 3 double crochet, 3 Triple Crochet, 3 Double Crochet, total)
  • Third Set of Petals
  • Round 6: SL ST to the center of the previous petal on round 5, CH 1, *SC between the stitches of the petal, CH 5, Complete 5 times total from *. SL ST the last chain to the SC at the beginning of the round. (5 Chain 5 loops total)
  • This section will provide two alternative petals.
  • Method 1 -
  • Round 7: *CH 1, 11 DC in the loop, CH 1 SL ST in the next SC, Complete 5 times total from *.
  • (5 sets of petals total, with 11 double crochet each )
  • Method 2 - 
  • Round 7: *CH 1, 4 DC, 3 TC, 4 DC, CH 1, SL ST in the next SC, Complete 5 times total from *.
  • (5 sets of petals total, with 4 double crochet, 3 Triple Crochet, 4 Double Crochet, total)
Loop for holding flower
  • Crochet Chain 15
  • Row 1 - SC into each chain, turn
  • Row 2 - SC into top of each SC of Row 1
  • Cut yarn 10cm long after final  SC and pull through final chain to secure. 
To Assemble 
  • Put Loop around the Headband and stitch end-to-end. 
  • Attach flower to Loop by securely stitching back of flower to the loop. 
  • Ensure it is not stitched through to the headband as the loop needs to turn freely to make the headband easily reversible.

The Headband can be worn either side out - the rib or the more textured reverse, which looks a little like Moss/Seed Stitch. The flower can be moved to the side being worn thanks to the loop.

As Aleksandr of Meerkat Manor says - "Simples!"

Hopefully this headband pattern with the videoclips will make it an attractive project for you - an evening in front of the telly should suffice to finish one - I made the grey one today, St. Patrick's Day, when I relaxed at home knitting, garden-cleaning and reading on the sunny patio and it was done in a few hours. We even had a hybrid BBQ - cooked outside and eaten inside as the evening was too chilly for alfresco dining.

Hubby keeping warm by the BBQ on St. Patrick's Day - 1st BBQ of the year!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Devonshire Day 2011 - A Special Spring Preview of Lismore Castle Gardens

Enjoying cream tea in the Pugin Room Lismore Castle
Today was a beautiful crisp sunny Spring day - the birds were singing, there was a coating of hoar frost on the grass and cars and rooftops this morning before the early sun slanted across the shadows to thaw everything and burn a few shrubs with leaf-burn - but as it was Devonshire Day 2011 all we were interested in was the actual weather, as Ross O'Carroll-Kelly might say.

When I went to bed last  night - quite late as is my wont in the weekends - the cars were white with frost, as forecasted. This morning dawned bright crisp and sunny. Perfect for the event that's become enshrined in Lismore fundraising folklore as a day to be enjoyed by visitors from far and near.

Farmers' Market Lismore Castle Avenue
It's the second event after the Table Quiz in January that's become a fixture as a fundraiser for Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, and we have been involved since the outset 8 years ago. The event receives widespread publicity in the local and national press, and people from all over come to it, many who return year after year.

This year we were delighted to welcome our most recent distinguished guest - Ciara Conway TD - our newly elected Labour Party member for Waterford about whom I've blogged extensively in the run-up to and beyond the election.

Bernard gives his talk on Lismore history
Chris talking about the Castle and gardens
The day consists of a cream tea in the Pugin Room of Lismore Castle, which is a privilege in itself as the Pugin Room is never open to the public during the rest of the  year. It is only on Devonshire Day when people get to see and hear the history of the castle which is in private ownership of the Duke of Devonshire, who's had it on and off for centuries. A last bastion of colonialism, it has shrunk in size considerably since the days of Sir Walter Raleigh when it was a huge estate. The Land Acts returned a lot of the arable land to the people and the Castle retains about 10,000 acres of which 8,000 is forested woodland. The rest is a working farm with managers and staff. The castle runs itself by being an upmarket B&B with rates of (those of you who've read previous posts on Devonshire Day will be familiar with this) about €35,000 per week for a party of 12! So it's obviously only for the well-heeled.

The gardens looked lovely despite the harsh cold winter - compared to last year's Devonshire Day, which followed a really hard late winter, this year's winter was earlier and by January and February the weather was warmer and spring had sprung a few weeks ago. The daffodils were starting to flower and the magnolias were in bloom, although one pink magnolia had its blossoms burnt by the recent night frosts. There was evidence of a lot of plant damage from frost and frost burn.
Castle from Courtyar

 The yucca-like palms didn't survive the -15C temps of the past winter and a number had to be cut down, and a lovely Mimosa and Chilean Myrtle have also been damaged beyond resurrection. The Mimosa is normally ablaze with yellow blossom at this time, in-keeping with its International Women's Day symbolism - and this year the entire tree is deadwood. The Myrtle might survive but it seems unlikely, as only a few branches are in leaf.

The Castle from the Courtyard
It was lovely to walk around the garden with the groups of visitors and Chris Tull the extremely knowledgeable Head Gardener kept everyone entertained and informed in each of the five tours he conducted. People really enjoy having the guided tour as it's the only time it happens. The gardens are open from March - October but not with guided tours. The Lismore Castle Arts gallery is also open during the summer and this year these artists will be exhibiting.

Part of the draw of Devonshire Day is the Cream Tea served in the famed Pugin Room or Ballroom (the former Chapel) while Immrama Chairman Bernard Leddy and Immrama President Peter Dowd give very informative talks on the Castle's history in the context of the history of Lismore, which is pretty amazing as it encompasses the Book of Lismore, an illuminated manuscript from the 15th Century in Irish which documents the travels of Marco Polo. Another famed travel link to Lismore, along with the more contemporary Dervla Murphy link!

First group enjoying the noon sun
Carlisle Tower Lismore Castle
View from Courtyard
Chris standing on the Ice House grid. Gallery in Tower
Chris Tull, the aforementioned Head Gardener, gives a talk on the Castle and the Gardens, with their links to Joseph Paxton (the Greenhouse) and the Devonshire's links to the Kennedy clan and Fred Astaire. (A sister of President Kennedy's should have been the Duchess of Devonshire but she and her husband - the Duke-in-waiting - were killed in separate aviation accidents during and after WW11). The incumbent Duke's mother was one of the famous Mitford sisters - Deborah, the Dowager Duchess, who was the least controversial of the Mitfords - and recent visitors to the Castle included Prince Charles and his now-wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, who came here in 2004. Our sons were then working as butlers in the castle for summer jobs and were serving them their dinner - surely something for them to dine out on but they're not fazed by fame at all - they leave those bragging rights to their mother!

I'm on duty as the health and safety first aider but thankfully I have never had any problems, other than the odd fall during bad weather when the ground becomes slippy underfoot. Today was uneventful but I still have to be there to accompany the groups on their walkabout, just in case. The Farmers' Market reopened for the season today and we can enjoy this every Sunday until October.

All in all it was a great day; I am at home now with aching legs from all the walking around the uneven terrain and garden steps, writing this up and sharing some of the photos with you. I hope you enjoy them and that they give an idea of the lovely day we had. Compared to last year the garden was further on but compared to the previous year it was still very late.
Carlisle Tower from Lower Gardens

As we have seen in the tragedy of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, we mess with nature at our peril and we have to bow to the strength of the forces of nature. When they are unleashed we are pretty powerless to do anything, and it was heartening to hear Chris in his role as head gardener of the castle extol the virtues of symbiosis with nature, working with rather than against it in being as organic as possible, crop diversity and selection of indigenous and not exotic plants, and not using chemicals at all as there are none without consequences. The results are seen in the wonderful working kitchen gardens that are ready for planting now, to provide the house and guests with fresh produce throughout the season.

Arbutus tree planted by Pres. Mary Robinson 1991
Chris and Antony Gormley sculpture
Crest over entrance "God's Providence Our Inheritance 1615 "
An Irish Man (1907) Unknown Artist
"Up and Over" Irish Artist
Me with Mary Roche and family
The Yellow Jackets - me with Jan and the boys!
Pugin Chandelier in Dining Room - Note D for Devonshire
Joseph Paxton greenhouse
Accurate Sundial

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Historic Day Out in Dublin - the Labour Special Delegate Conference

Labour Women - Ciara, me and Kirsi Hanafin
Kirsi, Jan and Ciara at the Conference
I felt very proud yesterday to share a part of the history of our beloved albeit beleaguered country when hubby Jan and me set off to Dublin (with me knitting all the way) for the Labour Party's Special Delegate Conference - the conference being special, not necessarily the delegates! Around a thousand delegates from all over the country gathered in the O'Reilly Hall in UCD in Belfield to listen to the proposal of the party leadership to go into government in partnership with Fine Gael, the largest party with 76 seats, with Labour being the second largest party with 37 seats. We were equally proud to see among the new TDs Waterford's own Ciara Conway, up there on the stage with the biggest parliamentary party Labour's ever had. We cheered as each new TD was introduced to the delegates, and especially loudly when Ciara's name was called.

Ciara Conway TD speaking to the motion

Fianna Fail have been reduced to a fraction of their former seats - losing 58 they are down to 20, which is a huge humiliation and a vindication of the anger of the people of Ireland at the mess they left us in after 14 years in government - a time marked by a Celtic Tiger boom and vulgar conspicuous consumption that was all built on the sand of a building and property development bubble, that when it burst two years ago left us high and dry.

I have already mentioned in previous posts about the ghost estates littering every county of Ireland, where apartment blocks and ticky-tacky housing estates sprung up overnight in remote villages where there was no sustainability in terms of schools, jobs or infrastructure. Even water and sewage supplies weren't able to cope with the size of some of the developments, which have left so many families living in negative equity in the middle of a building site morass of unfinished roads, footpaths and half-finished houses.

The developers have long since fled the scene while the banks who lent them money are now being bailed out by us, the taxpayers and citizens, and to enable that we have been bailed out by the IMF and the ECB. It's a tale of GUBU proportions (Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented - the acronym famously attributed to Charlie Haughey's reaction to the double murderer Malcolm McArthur hiding out in the apartment of the Attorney General while he was on holidays).
Programme for National Government 2011-16

Yesterday's conference was called for the party membership to debate and vote on the revised Programme for Government that was drafted after 5 days of tortuous negotiations between Fine Gael and Labour's negotiating teams. The Labour Team was headed by veteran TD and deputy Speaker/Ceann Comhairle Brendan Howlin, with Joan Burton TD, Finance spokesperson and Deputy Party Leader, and Pat Rabbitte TD and Justice spokesperson with the razor-sharp wit.

That same sardonic wit and rhetoric entertained us during dull days of the 30th Dáil, as when Pat famously excoriated the Greens for a full 10 minutes - without interruption, which was probably due to the timely presence of Brendan Howlin in the Chair that day. It became known as the day Rabbitte ate his Greens - and with good reason. You can have a look back at the YouTube clip here and it's also on my blog sidebar. The funniest part is seeing Conor "Kebabs" Lenihan (who just lost his seat as Fianna Fail TD) in stitches over beside the Taoiseach Brian "Biffo" Cowen (soon-to-be-ex as the 31st Dáil meets on Wednesday).

Rabbitte eats his Greens - Budget speech 2009

The buzz at the Conference was palpable, as there was a charge in the air that change was afoot; that we were about to vote for the motion that would give the green light to Labour's leadership to follow through on the mandate given them by the voters and the people the canvassers and candidates met on the campaign trail. There was an overwhelming sense that Labour had to take the reins and go into government if invited to join a coalition with Fine Gael as to not do so would be letting down the people who voted for the most Labour TDs ever seen in Ireland's history.

Eamon Gilmore, Ciara, Brian O'Shea, Ita McAuliffe
 Many speakers against the motion had strong arguments for staying out of coalition, but the sense I got was they were arguing for the possibility of providing a robust opposition (true, they would and could) and be returned as a party with a popular majority to lead government in 2016. But Joan Burton summed up the feeling of the majority of delegates and TDs by saying that "Power postponed is not an option". That is very true, as most of us canvassers found that people were wary of Fine Gael going into single party government, that untrammeled they could wreak havoc on the public sector, being a party of the right with vested interests in the private sector, and they would need to be marked and kept in check by Labour.

The document "Towards Recovery: Programme for a National Government 2011-2016" contains a lot of the Labour Party's Election Manifesto, and while there are compromises, there is a lot to be positive about, as this provides a framework for working out the finer detail of the various plans. Labour are in a much stronger position than that of the Greens at the start of the last government when they went into coalition with Fianna Fail with six seats, and they were totally out of their depth with the cunning ploys of the party that wrote the handbook for cute hoorism and cunning plans Irish-style. Not for nothing did Charlie Haughey call Bertie Ahern "the most cunning, the most devious and the most ruthless of them all".

After three hours of pro-con debaters on the podium, we were all ready for the vote, which was overwhelmingly carried by a show of cards. It was a powerful moment and a proud one, to see the reality of a change of regime in Leinster House so imminent, and the hope that will shadow this government will give them the momentum to carry through their programme committments, and deliver a new and improved economy over the course of the 31st Dáil.

The best chipper in Dublin - Perki Chick on Dorset Street.
We went home following the conference after visiting son Martin over in Drumcondra where we had a delicious fast-food supper from the best Chipper in Dublin - in my humble opinion - from the Perki Chick on Dorset Street, beloved of punters to Croke Park at many an All-Ireland Sunday Game. I enjoyed a large curry chips and fresh battered cod from that august establishment that's been around since my student days in the 1970s  - and probably long beforehand.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bloggers' Book Club - The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

I have to confess that I read this book a few years ago and didn't get a chance or time to re-read it - it was a library copy and I know it is still in the library here but I haven't had a minute to get back there- and I also was being distracted by reading the marvellous new book by Jonathan Franzen, Freedom. I adored that book, as I did his last book, The Corrections, and as I'd read The Reader before, I didn't feel too guilty. Thanks to Lorna for recommending it.

Also I saw the DVD of the film with Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes a year or two ago. It was one of those rare films that was faithful to the book. It captured my impressions of the book's atmosphere - lyrical and very evocative of the era in which it is set, which is post-war 1950s Germany when Michael is a teenager and meets Hanna and their affair starts, right to the war trials of the 1960s which are underway when he's a law student.

I remember the book left an impression as a powerful read, which has stayed with me in its general context rather than the detail. Michael's whole life is changed and affected by his encounter with the older woman who is Hanna, whom he meets when he is sick near her apartment and who takes him in to care for him. The initial meeting leads to revisits and the start of a torrid affair. He knows little or nothing about her other than her work as a tram conductor, and her secret of illiteracy is only discovered by him much later on.

The title of the book comes from Michael's role in their relationship, that of her reader, when he reads aloud the German classics, in a post-coital haze, and this pattern shapes their encounters. It's an intense relationship, excluding all others, and its eroticism precludes too much information. When the denouement of her Nazi past is disclosed in such a shocking manner to Michael when he turns up at her war crimes trial it's a life-changer for him. He has to come to terms with the fact that his lover was an SS guard at a camp for women prisoners, 300 of whom died in a fire in a church on the death march from Auschwitz, and her illiteracy is such a secret shame she accepts responsibility for a report on the fire rather than admit illiteracy. She also admitted to selections at Auschwitz of women who ended up in the gas chambers.

As she had left him suddenly at the height of their affair years earlier, he never got over her and had no chance to expunge her from his impressionable youth, and this lasting damage led to his subsequent marriage breakdown, and his sad and lonely future is well portrayed out when he renews his relationship with Hanna - albeit on a platonic level - in prison. He sends her tapes of his readings, and she learns to read by following the recordings with the books in the prison library. He seems to treat her like a benevolent nephew but he never visits her in her 18 years in jail. On her release he agrees to find her a place to live, but she hangs herself prior to her release, and he discovers her conquest of illiteracy through his readings.

I liked Schlink's style of writing. It's a very spare and sparsely written book, and he chooses his words very thoughtfully. I found the eroticism almost contradictory to the spare style of the writing, yet paradoxically it fitted into the intensity of an affair predicated on lust, secrecy and isolation - they were locked away from the wider world in their own bubble, and it's full of conflicting emotion, and the old debate on German collective guilt is well illustrated. It's not a very long book, and I remember it as a gripping read at the time. I think I would re-read it again, if and when I have a minute. Would I recommend it to friends or our book club? I think it would be a great trigger for a good heated debate, and well worth the effort.

Don't forget to visit the other members of the Bloggers' Book Club - Lily is the terrific moderator who keeps us all coordinated, and as it's late and I'm wrecked after a day in Dublin at the Labour Party Special Delegate Conference deciding to go into Government with Fine Gael later this week, I won't list the other members here - rather you can find them over at Lily's blog. Read their reviews, always entertaining and informative and they're a great bunch of women(thus far, no men, but I'm sure that's always open to change!)

I have our own Book Club tomorrow night and have a few chapters to finish of our chosen book - Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill - who was on BBC World Service this morning on The Interview which was a bit of a blagger's guide for me! Serendipity I can live with, as I enjoyed putting a voice on this feisty 90 year old.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring has sprung - Road Art Spotted around Co. Waterford

Golden Harvest by Colm Brennan - Kilmac bypass, N25
Today was one of those glorious spring days that started off with a sharp hoar frost whitening everything and a dense fog that  took a few hours to clear and led to a few pile-ups on the motorways up the country. No-one hurt but lots of inconvenienced motorists and closed lanes. The sun shone through around mid-morning and some things just begged to be photographed - like this shot of the sun glistening on the sea off Helvick Head in Ring, and the view from Helvick across to Mine Head.

Golden Harvest, N25 on Kilmacthomas Bypass

Falla na Sioga by Alan Counihan, Windgap,Dungarvan-N25
 I feel really lucky to work in a job that involves driving around the beautiful scenic south coast of Co. Waterford, and quickly forget the days of winter ice and snow and dark dense fog that never clears and totally disorientates even the most seasoned drivers, particularly around Old Parish, which is an upland area near the coast that often seems to be the only foggy part of the county!
Falla na Sioga detail-Alan Counihan,Windgap,Dungarvan-N25

Falla na Sioga (Fairy's Wall) Alan Counihan,N25 Windgap
 The election posters are nearly all gone- tomorrow's the deadline after which there'll be hell (and fines) to pay, so every candidate's making trojan efforts to get rid of them. I took this last billboard standing of Ciara and Eamon Gilmore today near Ring Cross on the N25, with nicely bilingual Thank You stickers attached.
Falla na Sioga by Alan Counihan, Windgap,Dungarvan-N25
Falla na Sioga -detail of inscription-Windgap,Dungarvan-N25

Last Billboard Standing in West Waterford! N25 Ring Cross
Sun over Atlantic Ocean from Helvick Head today
Then this evening I was checking my phone in a lay-by near The Sweep on the same N25 up near Windgap, when I thought to photograph this piece of road art in the lay-by. The funny thing is that the gap in the wall is art which I erroneously attributed to a botched County Council repair job, until I realised it had a name - Falla na Síoga (Wall of the Fairies) and an inscription - and what's even more bizarre, I'd met the sculptor (Alan Counihan) and his partner Gypsy Ray (to whom it's dedicated) a number of years ago in Lismore at travel writer Dervla Murphy's house. He is also an actor who played in a stage production of Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man in Lismore some years ago, which I really enjoyed. On the Co.Council's website photo they only show the doughnut and not the inscribed wall.

There's a fascinating piece of well-known road art on the N25 at the Kilmacthomas Bypass - Golden Harvest by Colm Brennan - which represents sheaves of waving corn. It's a lovely prominent piece of sculpture which always gladdens my heart on the road to Waterford - especially if it's for some interminable meeting.
Panoramic vista from Helvick Head to Mine Head today
So I hope you like the first days of spring which seems to have sprung in West Waterford- we can live with the cold frosty nights as long as the days are warm and sunny - and nothing like the stretch in the evenings with the setting sun blinding me on the drive home every evening. Another three weeks or so and the clocks go forward. "Spring Forward, Fall Back" is my mnemonic for Daylight Saving - I hate it when the clocks go back in October and love it when they go forward in March - even if I lose an hour's sleep!