Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Having a Blast in the Home of the Black Stuff - Friends Reunited!

Sláinte! Theo with Jan and me in the Guinness Storehouse
Last Sunday hubby Jan and me travelled to Dublin to a very special musical interlude - our old friend Theo from Deurne in Brabant in Holland was conducting his Dutch Brass Ensemble Mé Tresse (My Tresses in the local dialect) in an afternoon performance in the Guinness Storehouse - the Home of the Black Stuff, as the ads have it - and we planned to be there. Theo had sent us his tour schedule some weeks back and we decided there and then to go to at least one of the shows. The last time we saw Theo perform was in Schouwen Duiveland in 1995, during our leave from Tanzania, when he played with a Jazz Quartet or Quintet in a local venue.

Theo playing to the gallery with Jan & Martin
Sinking the Black!
Theo the Musical Director
A bit of background mightn't go amiss here for those of you who mightn't know who Theo is or where our friendship developed. We met in Iringa in Tanzania in 1993 when he came to be a "manny" - male nanny or au pair to two Dutch boys whose mother worked for an international aid agency. As everyone knew everyone, especially expats, in Iringa, it didn't take long for us to meet up. Our kids were already friendly through the Danish School where they all went for sport and music and craftwork, subjects not covered by the homeschooling we were all doing to some extent or another. The Danish school catered for the MKs (Missionary Kids) of the Danish Lutheran Pastors around Tanzania, and the Danida (Danish Bilateral Aid) kids from the area - Iringa was a prime recipient of Danida largesse. Thus we got to know Theo very well over the year he was there, and we had a lot of fun together - not least because he was and is a brilliant musician and entertained us all at Christmas and parties with impromptu concerts on the trombone and piano, and his warm extrovert personality endeared him to everyone. We even first saw Riverdance in his house, on a video of the Eurovision that someone sent out to Iringa weeks after the event took the country and world by storm.

Mé Tresse with Theo directing in Guinness Storehouse
Not surprisingly, we kept in touch - albeit erratically - in the years that followed. He visited us on a number of occasions when we were in Holland and when we were staying in Liessel with Addie in 2002 we had a memorable evening around a campfire with music and craic into the small hours. A few years ago he turned up on our doorstep in Lismore and we had a lovely few days with him and his friend Liet, and relived a tradition of beercan building from floor to ceiling that had begun in Iringa on a memorable Good Friday back in the 90s.

Jan and Martin - pints and Peelneutjes!
Since then we've had sporadic contact until now, and we were delighted to renew the links with this great performance in Dublin, having collected son Martin before heading to St. James's Gate and the Guinness Storehouse, the iconic shrine to the national drink (besides tea!). The band played under his direction for about an hour and a half and the crowd loved them. Theo played trombone and conducted all his own arrangements, and included a number of Irish songs including Molly Malone and The Fields of Athenry, and they finished up the show with a rousing rendition of what we know as The Red Rose Café - in Dutch, Het Kleine Café aan de Haven. He welcomed us in his speech as old friends from Tanzania and he even played a bar of Mungu Ibariki Afrika (the Tanzanian National Anthem - God Bless Africa, the universal Anthem of Africa that we all know from South Africa as Nkosi Sikelele Afrika,).

Theo and me having a laugh
We repaired afterwards to the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse - where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were offered a pint - and enjoyed the panoramic vistas over Dublin. We had a lovely afternoon together catching up on old times, taking some photos of the reunion.

All the boys have fond memories of their time in Iringa with Theo when they were young and homeschooling, and his flamboyance made him easy to remember. If the others hadn't had work Monday I think they'd have come from Cork to meet him.

In fact, Jan went to Galway tonight to see them play in the Augustinian Church with the Galway Choral Society which was a terrific show. I was working and couldn't go, but our friend Fran who lives in Galway went and thoroughly enjoyed it, I had texted her earlier this evening to tell her about it.

I will post a few photos and a video clip if I can upload it to YouTube, and hope you enjoy them and get a sense of the fun and enjoyment of the show as much as we did. Here's a clip from the band from YouTube.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Trying out a new Blogging Platform - Tumblr Time

Darragh Doyle, Rolf Potts, Manchán Magan, Áine Goggins & Karen, me
The Immrama Festival of Travel Writing 2011 was held in Lismore from June 9-12 and one of the highlights was the Bloggers' Clinic with Manchán Magan, Darragh Doyle, Áine Goggins and Rolf Potts.

Some people who'd been in contact on cyberspace were meeting up in person for the first time - Susan from Clonmel and Susan from Kilkenny were both there, fellow-bloggers and tweeters and book clubbers, and it was a great meeting of minds. I enjoyed it immensely and as I normally work flat out during Immrama covering Health and Safety at all the events, it was a real treat to take some me time for this clinic.

Susan and me
 Darragh Doyle from introduced Tumblr and I am giving it a trial and if it works I might divide my loyalties between it and Blogger - or they might work in symbiosis. Time will tell. I need to be adventurous and not get stuck in a rut with Blogger which has the comfort of familiarity.
The crew at the Bloggers' Clinic

So it we verified the news

Irish people can relate to this!

Susan, Manchán Magan and me
Here are some photos from the clinic - they include Karen, an extreme couchsurfer from Tramore, Manchán, old friend of Immrama on his third visit here, and the clinic "Docs" who presented - Manchán, Aine, Darragh and Rolf, in the group pic. Susan (Queen of Pots!) and me are with Manchán.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lismore - and one of its citizens - in the Spotlight of Immrama and beyond

 I want to share these few YouTube video clips from a local Waterford company called Waterford First - they have been around for a while now promoting the beautiful county of Waterford and its beautiful people!

They came to Lismore this week and shot some footage of Lismore in glorious sunshine which shows it at its best and at this time of year it certainly looks stunning.

 There were some small clips made of hubby Jan in his capacity below here as coordinator of Immrama the Lismore Festival of Travel Writing,

and in two further short clips, from a personal perspective, where he talks about his life and work in overseas and community development and his role in local government and politics.

I hope you enjoy them - they are brief enough to hold the attention span of a proverbial gnat, yet long enough to give some insight into the place and the person, as well as some background to Immrama from one of its founder members.

This year the ninth festival takes place from June 9th to 12th in Lismore, so this time fortnight it will be all over. We are looking forward to it and I am particularly anticipating a lot of craic as well as information at the Bloggers' Clinic which is hosted by a former speaker at Immrama, Manchán Magan, who frequently writes about the festival in his Irish Times column, most recently here when he wrote about the Bloggers' Clinic.

Co-hosting is Áine Goggins from TG4's Irish Language series Ó Tholg go Tolg (From Couch to Couch) on Couchsurfing, the latest backpackers' global phenomenon which has some local participants who will host couchsurfers for Immrama weekend. Lastly, Darragh Doyle from a discussion forum will co-present the Clinic.

I usually hover at all the events in a Hi-Viz jacket as a Health & Safety person and often miss the events but this is one gig I am looking forward to as I enjoy blogging - bad and all as I am at it lately, sorry! - and social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionised communications.

TV programmes have never been the same since I started following their hashtags on Twitter, and they make the political programmes and some entertainment shows far more fun to watch if you read the comment stream simulataneously. Multitasking writ large I know, but that's what we're supposed to be good at! I will post about the gig after Immrama.