Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Birthday Padraig

OK, this is one day late, but it's the intention that counts. And now, we will never forget that 29 May is your birthday. My Palm calendar only goes as far as 2031, but by then, I'm sure I'll have another PDA device that will take us to 2057! Looking forward to the celebrations!

Here is a link to what is probably your favourite page on the web.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hello again

It's been a while since I've had the chance to sit down and write my blog. Last weekend, I was in Belgium and didn't get back until Tuesday evening. I enjoyed seeing family and friends - it was great to see the kids on Saturday, and I got a chance to see Françoise on Sunday evening, and Marie-Gabrielle on Monday - it's great to be able to have friends that you don't see for a year, and then just be able to pick up where we left off, as if it was only a week since we last met.

I haven't stopped for a moment since I got back - plenty of work to keep me busy, so I don't have much else to report really. It took me a few days to get back on top of things - I like things to be "just so", and it's hard for me not to unpack my suitcase straight away and tidy things up immediately. I still have a fairly long to-do list, but nothing compared to what it used to be when I was in IBM (when my Organizer had dozens of entries for every day, and I was juggling about a hundred emails a day). Now, my to-do list fits on a standard post-it. Much more manageable - I get great satisfaction from ticking items off the list!

My current watercolour project has been very slow. I must have started it 3 weeks ago and it's still not finished, despite it being a very simple abstract picture, based on water reflections, which I could have done in a day if I had had time to stick to it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

This is England

Last Monday, we went to the IFI to see This is England. It was a long time since I'd last been there, but it hasn't changed at all - a very nice cinema and centre. It was buzzing - great to see a place like that doing well.

This is England is the story of a 12-year-old boy, Shaun, whose dad died in the Falklands war and who hasn't got any friends at school. His mother is nice, but he is looking for a male role model. He is "adopted" by a gang of nice skinheads. The movie is his story, when a racist skinhead gets out of prison and comes back to the gang, splits it and aligns himself with the National Front.

A simple enough story, but the little boy is fantastic and the other characters are great too, including "Combo", the guy who's just come out of prison (he is a wacko really, who has trouble controlling his violent impulses, but you get to see sides of him that the others don't see).

And the music is spot on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Lives of Others

Last Friday, I went to the pictures with Susanne - our choice for the evening was The Lives of Others, a German film I had read about in Newsweek a couple of months ago. More recent reviews in the local press were equally good, so we decided it would be an interesting movie for us to see.

It was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time - it's very low key and slow, but very moving at the same time. It's set in 1984 and is about an East German Secret Police (Stasi) officer who has been assigned to watch (or rather listen to) a writer and his lover, an actress. As the story unfolds, he becomes emotionally involved in the lives of these people. The actor who plays this officer, Ulrich Mühe, is excellent throughout. He doesn't say much, but he really draws you into his world.

At the start of the movie, he is very much the dedicated agent - his whole life revolves around his work - he seems to have no other life - he lives in a drab apartment where he watches TV while eating a dish of rice and tomato sauce. He cares deeply about his work, he is very precise and punctual, he teaches interrogation techniques at the Stasi "academy", and seems to be perfectly suited to his job. He dresses in grey and looks completely invisible. But, as the story develops, he starts to care about the people he is watching too, and to see a glimpse of another life.

It won Oscar for Best Foreign movie, and it's sad that it's not getting a wider audience, but I guess that's always the way with non-English-speaking movies. I really would recommend it. Even if you're not into sub-titled films, you should give it a try

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

True Romance

About a week ago, we watched a movie called True Romance. I had never heard of it, neither had Brendan, despite its star-studded cast - Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken & Samuel L. Jackson, and James Gandolfini & Val Kilmer (though you don't actually see Val's face in the movie - let us just say that he is Christian Slater's special mentor in the story).

The script was written by Quentin Tarantino, so it's violent, very violent, but it's also a love story. Like most Tarantino movies, there is a great sense of humour running throughout. If you're into Tarantino movies, here is a website I found called Everything Tarantino, which has interesting bits and pieces. I liked Pulp Fiction and the 2 Kill Bill movies. I have to say that I found Reservoir Dogs too violent for my taste. There is plenty of violence in the other movies too, but they all share a "sunny" aspect, whereas Reservoir Dogs is too dark for me.

Thank you Nesta for giving us the DVD. It's quite a find. I'll be watching it again!

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Here is the final result of my lilly project. It took a long time to get going - In the end, I worked from a cropped photograph, in which I enhanced the blue hue, so it's not as greeny-yellow as the original

The background took a good dozen glazes, starting with vanadium yellow, and a good few layers of hooker's green, phthalo blue and neutral tint. It was hard to get the fuzzy effect I was after, but I'm pleased with the result.

My main problem after that was the base of the flower, where there is a delicate play between light and shadow, which I found very hard to capture. Again, it took many glazes to get it (more or less) right. If I was to do it again, I wouldn't go as heavy on the masking fluid.

Once I was past that stage, I actually finished the painting very quickly. Cadmium red (pale hue) and Cadmium yellow, and neutral tint (or was it Payne's grey?) were the main elements.

I painted with fairly dry brushes, except for the background, and for the front part of the flower, where I worked wet in wet.

The next project is going to be something simpler. I'm looking at a close up of water on the river in Ballynahinch (we got a lot of good pictures there!), which looks quite abstract. I'm hoping to work with just a few colours, and to catch the abstract quality of it. I'll have to be careful not to go heavy on the masking fluid, or it will look clunky.

Friday, May 04, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, we went to Rhodes D7, the Gary Rhodes restaurant on Capel Street, with Niall and Rita.

Gary Rhodes is the celebrity chef with the spiky hair, who looks like Nigel Kennedy. You'll be happy to know that bad hairstyle is not an indication of bad taste. We had a lovely evening there - it's a big place (according to reviews, it can take 250 covers!), and there was a nice buzz. There is one big square room which looked and sounded very busy. Luckily, we were seated in a slightly quieter area, which suited me fine. I find it very hard to catch what people are saying when there is too much noise - I end up smiling vaguely and nodding my head, but not really catching every bit of the conversation, and probably committing endless social faux pas.

There were some big, bold, paintings on the walls - one big pig, one big cockerel and a big picture of tomatoes. The artist is Deborah Donnelly. I wish I could paint in such big bold strokes. I particularly liked the tomatoes and the cockerel - it just looked so simple. That said, looking at the website displaying her art, it looks like she could fall in the trap of churning out too many paintings in the same style - even the cows are starting to look like pigs! But she is probably making plenty of money in the process, so I'm sure she's not complaining!

The food was very nice. Simple dishes, nicely cooked and presented. I had a tasty salmon starter, pork for main course (with a sweet baked apple - pork and apple are made for each other, as far as I'm concerned, just like black pudding and apple sauce) and yummy sticky toffee pudding. All very nice. Would I go back next week? Probably not - I would wait a while longer, as I'm not sure what dishes I would pick from the menu (though the fish and chips Brendan got looked very appetizing!). I would have liked to see a few specials of the day, to spice things up a bit and give a few extra choices.

We had taken the Luas in. Brendan and I had a drink in the Octagon in the Clarence beforehand. By the time we got home, my feet were in bits - I'm just not used to wearing heels. Next time, I'll bring flat shoes for walking!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Baby Spiders

Remember our lovely garden spider last summer? Remember the sad part - the information I found on the BBC web site, that after laying her eggs, the spider keeps watch over them, unable to hunt, and then dies in the autumn. Well, we didn't actually see our garden spider die, but I've been looking in the pots out the back, where she used to be, and there was definitely no sign of her.

Now, to the happy ending! This morning, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a yellow and brown mass, hanging from an old geranium in one of our pots. I thought it might be our spider. But, no, it's baby spiders - probably about a hundred of them. Tiny little dots. Most of them were not moving, but then I saw one at the edge of the nest, happily walking along.

And this afternoon, as the day got hotter, we witnessed the spiderlings' flight! Just like in Charlotte's Web, the baby spiders are walking to the edge of the web, and then launch themselves into the air, casting a long, fine, thread that catches the wind. Some of them are not going far, landing in a pot nearby, or my hand. Others look like they're flying up into the sky, I guess catching an updraft that will take them god knows where. I had never seen this in my life, except in Charlotte's Web, and I thought it was just something made up for the movie. But there you go - one of the small miracles of life! And another episode in the Wildlife of South Dublin.

Brendan took some lovely pictures, which I'm sure you'll enjoy. Click on the first picture to see it in full detail.

PS: I have really no idea if these little guys are our garden spider's babies. They could be any spider for all I know. But I do hope that a few of them at least will make it to adulthood and will choose to nest in our garden.

In case you're wondering...

No birthdays this month!