Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blue Waves in a Shell

You know that people say you can hear the sea if you press your ear to a shell? Well, I've just created a shell in which you can see the sea! It's not pretty, I'l grant you that, but I had great fun in the process of making it. Brendan gave me a book about acrylics for Christmas, in an effort to encourage me to try a medium different from watercolours, which have been my paint of choice so far. I've dabbled in acrylics, but I haven't really explored what you can do with them. This book is called "The New Acrylics" by Rheni Tauchid, and it explores what you can do with new acrylic paints and media. Well, I had to try it, of course, and I went to the Art and Hobby Shop and got myself a big jar of Structure Gel which will help you "create impasto structure with good peak retention" (their words on the jar, not mine!).


I mixed a few dollops of blue and yellow acrylic paint with plenty of the gel and I applied to a piece of paper. The result was a shiny three-dimensional painting. Not great, but interesting to see how shiny it is compared with plain acrylics.


But then, I had to take it a step further, I grabbed an old shell that was sitting on the window sill, I mixed tons of gel with a tiny amount of process cyan, and I filled the shell, using a plastic knife, shaping it into rolling waves. It's really tacky. To make it even worse, I'm thinking of adding a tiny 2-dimensional picture of a surfer on top when it's dry. That could be weeks from today, mind you. The book says that a very thick gel application can take months to cure fully. Right now, the gel is still white in most places, indicating that it's not dry yet. It becomes transparent when it's dry. Of course, Brendan didn't know this when he poked at it earlier today and found himself with blue gel on his hands!

Sunset over Colour Blobs

I can't say categorically that "I hate waste". That wouldn't be true. But there is a compulsion in me to use every last bit of paint on my palette, even if it ruins the painting. So, I have found a way to satisfy that urge without causing damage: I take the disposable acrylic palette sheet and I turn it over a white page, and I press the colours down onto paper, forming big blobs of colour, that often look nicer than the original painting itself, and that you could use to carry out psychology tests. This one is particularly successful, with gorgeous bright colours.

And the fact that the sun was shining and my Christmas roses were casting a long shadow on the wall is just a happy coincidence

Art

Not much time for painting and drawing lately. But I haven't been completely idle.


I completed my cheap imitation, saving ourselves a cool thousand Euro, and it's now hanging over the laundry basket on our landing. It's very bright and it works nicely on the pale cream wall. Technically, it was very easy - mix the acrylics, apply to canvas, then apply black acrylic lines between the various blocks of colour. But I have to grant the artist his or her due - the composition and the colours work really well.



The painting looked like nothing until the dash of process cyan (that's turquoise to you and me) was added at the top. Somehow, that one colour brought all the others together and calmed the somewhat garish greens and yellows. I don't think I would have figured that out for myself. That's the difference between a real artist and an amateur like myself. Maybe I'll stick to imitations in future!

Farewell, Paul

Brendan's Dad died peacefully on Christmas Day, at 14:20 in Monaghan Hospital. We'll remember him fondly. He was a kind man who was loved by all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Maroon

Brendan and other people kept referring to our kitchen colour as maroon, and I kept saying it was burgundy, thinking they were suffering from some strange form of colour blindness. I was wrong (very hard words for me to utter, these!). I always thought that maroon meant chestnut. After all, that's what marron means in French. Not so in English, apparently! Maroon is actually a burgundy-like colour. Put in the word "maroon" in a Google search for images - the little sample above is the first thing you'll see (followed closely by the pop band Maroon 5, scary or what?) Exactly the colour of our kitchen!

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Road Home

It had been a while since I last got tearful at a movie. Well, Burn After Reading or Fearless are hardly the kinds of films you're going to cry at... But The Road Home is, and I responded accordingly. It's a sweet love story, set in Maoist China, a simple story, nothing much to it, but it worked its magic, and got me sniffling by the end.

If you want a good cry, The Road Home is definitely one I recommend!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Graduate

Brendan has been taping plenty of movies lately. I don't watch them all, but we watched The Graduate together, and enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately, we missed the end, as RTE was running late. We'll have to rent the DVD some time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

face mask

Last week, I tried one of Lush's fresh face masks. It's called Ayesha, and it looks awful, green and bumpy, but it did a wonderful job on my skin, making it look and feel fresh and tight. It doesn't keep for very long, because it doesn't contain any preservatives, I guess, so I've applied it several times. I still have a little bit left, which I should use tonight, as it's past the date already! Just as well I intercepted it from my Christmas parcel. It wouldn't have looked nice on Christmas morning!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nos enfants nous accuseront

I got this link from Véronique, and I have to share it with you. After seeing this, I feel more strongly about eating organic food now. I have to admit we don't always buy organic - the choice of organic vegetables in shops isn't great here, and organic chicken is very expensive. But really, it shouldn't be about price, nor about tasting better than non-organic, it's about it not containing carcinogenic chemicals.

I don't think this movie will show in all the big cinemas around the world, but hopefully, like Al Gore's movie, it will help galvanize public opinion enough to change things.

I read somewhere recently that bees in the UK - I think - are not producing honey this year, and there is a big shortage. And a lot of common birds just don't seem to be there any more. These are signs that things are not going well. And we can no longer ignore those signs. What worries me at the moment is that all governments are focusing on the economy - that's all we're hearing, and for good reason, of course. But when the focus is on the economy, the environment, and our health, will suffer. I don't have any children of my own to worry about, but we have 7 nieces and nephews. It's for them I want a safe world. I'm not a big campaigner or militant to change the world. But I can do my bit, by buying organic. I hope you do too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Midsummer Night's Dream

So, Benjamin Britten's opera was just lovely - completely weird, faithful to Shakespeare's play in spirit and words. The music was really sweet, the singing was glorious, and the whole production was nicely imaginative, without being abstract. My favourite bits were Pyramus and Thisby's love scene, Puck's beautiful dancing (and Horace Oliver's beautiful body of course!), Flavio Oliver's counter-tenor voice (which you can hear at this link), Bottom (Gerard O'Connor)'s hilarious braying, and the arias for the love triangle (or square, rather?) between Helena, Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander. I found that the little fairies were not as strong as could have been. Of course, the scenes with the dozen or so children are really sweet, but their voices didnt' carry that well.


If you would like to see most of the opera, in a production by the NorthWestern University, check out these 2 clips on YouTube. It's not as good as the Opera Ireland production, but it's nice to be able to see and listen to a long clip (unfortunately I can't find the 3rd and final act):

Clip 1

Clip 2

A Midsummer Nights' Dream

Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream was excellent. I'll tell you more about it in the next few days. In the meantime, here is another clip I found on YouTube, from one of the even lighter moments: Pyramus and Thisby (the quality of the video isn't great - it would be ok if whoever held the camera had made sure to film the singers' heads rather than their torsos and legs, but it's such a fun scene)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Madama Butterfly

Lucinda and I went to see Madama Butterfly at The Gaiety last night. I really enjoyed it - it was done in the simple style that I like - good lighting to indicate time of day and mood, and quite a bare set, with Japanese-type-sliding doors to open and close areas of the stage.

Last night, I found the lighting particularly good - there was one scene in Act II, where Butterfly, her servant Suzuki and her son, are sitting up, awaiting Pinkerton's return. No a word is sung, and there is no movement. This scene goes on for quite a good while, with beautiful beautiful music, and very slow changes in the lighting - at one point, there was a warm glow on Butterfly's intense face, and on the Buddha statue in a corner of the room. As the night goes on, and hope fades, the lighting turns almost to black and white - the scene looked like a sketch from a graphic novel, not quite manga, but very abstract. Yet, the strength of feelings is carried through, as Suzuki's posture slumps down, while Butterfly, refusing to lose hope, sits erect through the night.

I'm not a huge Puccini fan (not enough big ensemble pieces - Mozart is much more entertaining that way), but the music in Madama Butterfly is lovely, and the singing and acting was first class. My favourites (and everybody else's) were: Yunah Lee as Cio Cio San (Butterfly), Keith Olsen as Pinkerton, Marcel Vanaud (Belgian Baritone) as Sharpless, the consul, and Qiu Lin Zhang as Suzuki.

Hopefully Benjamen Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream tomorrow night will be as good. Looking at the article in the Irish Times, it should be exciting anyway!


I hope it's half as good as this production I found on YouTube. Here are 3 clips from it (in no particular order):





Indian Summer

Went out to the Indian Summer restaurant with Niall and Rita last Saturday. The food was as lovely as ever. Great buzz too. I think I prefer Indian Summer to Ananda - it's a warmer place, it doesn't feel as stuffy, and the food is delicious. I tried a lamb starter this time (I know! Living dangerously, not going for the Starter Platter!), and it was succulent!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Any ideas for good books?

I haven't heard of any good book lately, so I'm down to re-reading ones I've read before. I've just finished Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy (one of my favourites, this is my 3rd time reading it, and I enjoyed it as much as the first time - it's such a big page turner, at 1349 pages, and it has so many stories running through it, including some very interesting insights into India's political parties in the early years of independence, but don't be put off by those - it's also a darn good story. I'll read it again in a few years' time), and Alessandro Baricco's Silk (91 pages, and a lot fewer words, all in unexpressed emotions).

I found a BBC interview of Vikram Seth, which I'd like to share with you.

So if you know any good books, let me know

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thai Palace, Ennis

On Tuesday night, we decided to eat outside the hotel (we had eaten in the Town Hall the night before, where the food sounded better than it tasted, if you know what I mean) and we went to the Thai Palace in Ennis. It doesn't look like much - the decor is a bit cheap and cheerful, but the food was lovely.

Brendan had a chicken satay for starter, with a very nice homemade satay sauce. I had the tiger prawns deep fried in filo pastry, with sweet chilli sauce.
The main course was what made it for us, a Chicken with chilli and basil for Brendan and a Prawn Yellow curry for me (very mild). Both very flavoursome.
And they have excellent icecream - we shared a vanilla and chocolate Moevenpick (which I had never heard of) ice cream, and it left us very happy indeed.

Service was good, and it was excellent value at a little over €50 for the 2 of us.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Loop Head

And this one is of a big wave breaking against the cliffs on the Loop Head drive. We got a lot of salt spray on the car. We had to refill the windscreen wiper water tank - we couldn't see anything through the windscreen there was so much salt on it.

Lahinch

Here is a picture taken from the seafront in Lahinch. In the summer, this is packed with surfers. Not at this time of the year - the sea was very rough and the wind was freezing. Plenty of big clouds too - very dramatic skies.

Clare

We went down to Clare last Sunday, for a 3-day mini-break, courtesy of the Woodies vouchers (€100 discount - one of the good things about Recession Ireland!)

We stayed in the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, where we got an average room (not as nice as the one we stayed in a few years ago, and certainly not as luxurious as the ones showing on the website), but it was quiet and we slept really well, so we're not complaining. It was excellent value for money, and we were lucky with the weather, so we didn't spend that much time in the hotel.

On the 1st day, we toured from Lahinch to Doolin, Fanore and Ballyvaughan. It was cold and blustery and showery, but really invigorating.

On the 2nd day, we drove down South to the Loop Head peninsula, taking in the breathtaking cliff views of the coastline. We got plenty more sunshine than expected. The forecast for the few days was not good. We got a lot of rain on the way down on Sunday, but got 3 sunny days after that, a real bonus.
We took lots and lots of pictures, which we'll have to sift through now. Great inspiration for painting! I just need to find the time. I had brought my pencils with me, but didn't go near them. Where does the time fly?

China Sichuan

Tempus Fugit and all the rest - Hard to keep up with things.

Anyways, we went to the China Sichuan restaurant last night. It's nearly 2 months since we last went, so I thought it would be nice to see how they were settling in to their new premises. Very well apparently. They got a very good review from Tom Doorley last weekend, and were ranked in the Top 10 restaurants in Dublin in an article in the Sunday Independent.

Our going there was very much a spur of the moment. I rang at 6, and we managed to get a table for 6:30. It being Wednesday night, I wasn't expecting much trouble getting a table, but, according to the Maître d', the phones have been hopping since the favourable review, and the 1st dining room filled up quickly. Not bad for a Wednesday evening in Recession Ireland.

Brendan stuck to some of his favourite dishes, while I explored the specials - The prawn and ginger dumplings were sweet and light, and had a perfect consistency. A pity there was only 3. I would have eaten a dozen of them, they were so good! For my main course, I had the cod with corriander - perfectly cooked, with lovely flavours, and a bit of a kick to it, which I hadn't expected. We stayed away from desserts - I need to lose a bit of weight around the waist, and I'm not very successful at restraining my food intake!!

As always, there was a good buzz around the place. Must take my parents there over Christmas.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Blue Seas



This series was inspired by the Indian Ocean seen from Western Australia, from Perth to Margaret River. Such intensely blue skies, and dark seas.

Don't be surprised if you find one of these as your Christmas card this year (I can't be doing watercolour aboriginal snails every year, pretty as they were)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Blue Sea 2


Blue Sea

I got myself a BIG canvas today (762x610mm), to paint my cheap imitation (I'm using up vouchers I won in a Bord Gais competition this summer. Thank you Bord Gais!).

So, to get myself ready, I'm painting little squares (6x6cm) in acrylics. Eventually, I would love to paint one of these in a big size, but I don't think I'm ready for that yet (and I'll need to buy a lot of blue paint, big paint brushes, and a few palettes so I can mix enough paint in one go).

Let see how my cheap imitation goes first!

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Last night, I rediscovered an old favourite of mine, Mary Chapin Carpenter's album Come On Come On. I can't remember when I got it, was it a friend who had recommended it, or had I read about it at the time? A few months ago, I found this cassette tape (yes, it still works, and I still have a cassette player!) in my collection. I downloaded the album from an online shop last night and we listened to it for an hour. There are so many good songs on it, it's unbelievable, and it was such a joy to rediscover every single one of them. She is great with words ("Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug" is a pretty good example, I think!) and the melodies are only gorgeous. She is classified as a country artist, but to me, that's too limiting a classification.

If you'd like to see and hear her, check out YouTube, where you'll find plenty of concert footage - I like Come On Come On, Passionate Kisses, The Bug (despite the poor quality of the video!), and Only a Dream.

PS: I got the photograph from Wikipedia, and as far as I understand, almost all pictures from Wikipedia are licensed for re-use, which is good to know.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ananda

I'm struggling a bit to keep my blog up to date these dates. Work is busy busy. We went to see Brendan's dad on Friday afternoon, and we worked today, so not much time for anything. Brendan is cooking dinner. I'm looking forward to our lamb, roast potatoes, braised celeri and carrots. It all smells delicious. My appetite has been whetted by working on the Bistro One website this evening, so I'll be ready for my food when it's ready.

Last Monday was a bank holiday, and we treated ourselves to an Indian meal out, in a new restaurant in Dundrum Town Centre, Ananda. We had heard about it, as it is a collaboration between the owners of the Jaipur restaurant and a celebrity chef who wrote one of Brendan's Indian recipe books. It got a good review in one of the Sunday papers, so we had to try it. It was hard to find, a few steps up from the Kentucky Fried Chicken upstairs from the cinemas. Not a great location for passing trade. But once you open the door, you're in a different world. It's very nicely done, modern ethnic design, a bit Las Vegas (big lampshades and 3 or 4 areas with a different feel to them), but very cosy all the same.

I tried a crab starter - it was very small, beautifully presented, and a bit rich to my taste, but I'm glad I didn't have any more, or I would have been even more of a beached whale by the end of the meal. Brendan had a spicy kebab I think - it was good, but too spicy for me (perfect for Brendan).

For main courses, we tried the combination dishes (I can't for the life of me remember what they're called) - Brendan had the meat/seafood combo, and I had the vegetarian one. We ended up with 4 dishes each, plus rice and naan breads. It was very rich, each with distinctive flavours. Very nice. Next time, I would probably try one of the other main dishes, but this was a good way to sample their menu.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Burn After Reading

If you like the Coen Brothers, you'll love Burn After Reading (we went to see it last night, despite the rain and hail - though we drove down to Dundrum Town Centre, rather than walk). Definitely lighter than No Country for Old Men. A couple of gruesome deaths, but nothing too dark. Brad Pitt was hilariously dim, Tilda Swinton played the ice queen to perfection as always, George Clooney's character went from sleazy passion to manic meltdown in one fell swoop (and he looks gorgeous, if a little pudgy!), John Malkovich was at his maddest since Being John Malkovich, and Frances McDormand's Linda was scarily focused on the one thing she wants (she's the actress who played Marge in Fargo). How men fall for one woman's whim!

Halloween Night

It's Halloween, and our neighbours have the best decorations ever! They have a big illuminated balloon pumpkin with an illuminated balloon ghost coming out of it in their front garden, they have a "Pirates of the Carribean" skeleton to the side of the door, they have some scary thing hanging from above the door, and best of all, they have a wooden face mask attached to one of their trees, and it talks to you when you go by, and its eyes light up. They have small children and they go for Halloween more than anybody else in the neighbourhood. Certainly more than us, who turn off the lights and don't answer the door. And our poor Willow is hiding behind the sofa. He came out around 9 this evening, and went back in again 2 minutes later, as the percussion of large fireworks was felt through the house!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Warriors of Heaven and Earth

Last night, we watched a DVD Brendan got me last Christmas, Warriors of Heaven and Earth, a Chinese movie set on the Western end of the Chinese empire, which runs like a good cowboy movie, with 2 warriors who happen to be on opposite sides, but are actually very alike - with a strong sense of right and wrong. The story is told without too many words, and there are some gorgeous visuals (a lot of beautiful desert scenes, and one very bad CGI desert-storm). The story is fairly straightforward, though it wasn't easy at the start to figure out how some of the characters got together - the scene explaining it all wasn't very clear to us. It was only later that we understood what the bit with all the monks was about. And I have to say that to the very end, I wasn't sure how the only woman in the movie was connected to the 2 main guys (and isn't she pretty, by the way?).
It wasn't a Chinese kung fu movie, nor a big period drama, with fabulous dresses. Some of the men's costumes were more gladiator-like than what I had imagined Chinese warriors wore in the old days. But what do I know?

That said, if you want a good cowboy movie and don't fancy Clint Eastwood, Warriors of Heaven and Earth isn't a bad substitute.

Top 40

We were listening to the Top 40 on the radio on the way back from seeing Brendan's Dad (unfortunately, no JK Ensemble on a Sunday), and I recognised one of the top songs, much to my surprise, as I'm not up to date with young people's music.

Then it dawned on me that I had heard that song while checking out Laura's blog last week, where she has videos of her favourite songs!

In case you're wondering, the song was Hot N Cold by Katy Perry. I'm not going to rush out to buy it, but it was certainly better than the Number One, whatever it was!

Restaurant in Brussels

When I went up to Brussels to see Françoise, we went to a little café-restaurant not far from her apartment. We had lovely food there - she had "tomate crevettes" and I had "croquettes de crevettes", 2 very Belgian dishes, accompanied by lovely "frites", our national dish.
Before we got our food, we noticed the smell of cigarette, which was really strange, as smoking is banned in restaurants in Belgium, like it is in Ireland. We looked around us, and couldn't see anybody smoking, until we realised it was the waiter (who was probably also the owner of the place) smoking in the hallway at the back of the bar, with the door open! Both Françoise and I were really annoyed by this, but we were not sure what to do. You couldn't complain to the boss, as he was the one smoking. I know that in a situation like this, Brendan would not have hesitated for one second. He would have got up, gone to the bar, and, politely but firmly, asked the man to stop smoking. I'm just not as confident in situations like that!
Anyway, it didn't stop us enjoying our food!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Catch-up

More than a week since my last post - that's unheard of! I was in Belgium for 5 days last week, visiting parents, brother & family. Thankfully the weather was good - plenty of sunshine, and mild temperatures. Had a great time, loved seeing the kids, and glad I made time to drop over to Françoise. It's always good to catch up after such a long time.
Busy busy since I got back. It's late now so I'll continue tomorrow.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Home decorating

The only painting this weekend has been of the bannister. Brendan did a bit yesterday, and I did my bit today. We're still doing the first undercoat - if we can do an hour tomorrow evening, we should be done, I'd say. It's painfully slow. Hopefully the 2nd coat will be a bit faster. We thought we'd be finished by now, but it's not the kind of job you can stick at for hours and hours. I don't want to be all achy tomorrow. Slow and steady will get the job done - it's not bad, once you get in the zone!

I haven't touched a brush or a pencil all week, and the week ahead is hectic too. Though, I feel that once we're finished the last bits of decorating, I'll have time again for painting and drawing. We got 2 new bins (Brabantia touch-bins, very nice - not cheap, though), and our table and chairs got delivered this Saturday morning, so the main rooms are done now. I still have a bit of a mess upstairs, caused by a radiator that leaked. Kevin is due back later in the week to sort out the living room ceiling and close up the floor boards in the front bedroom. This was a bit of a setback - the heating system was losing pressure every few weeks, but Ray the plumber could not find a leak anywhere. So, he did something in the attic (I have no idea what) and adjusted the pressure up. Unfortunately, the increase in pressure made the leak worse, with the positive result that we finally found where the system was losing pressure. But the negative result was that on Monday morning, I saw water dripping on the floor in the sitting room, and when Brendan looked up (he is the clever one, who thought to look up!), there was a big stain on the ceiling. A bit of detective work, and we found the leaking radiator in my front office - it must have got a knock when the floor was laid down or when bathroom fixtures were taken in and out of that room during the tiling of the bathrooms.
The ceiling beams were quite wet and the ceiling plaster well damaged. So, Kevin will be back later this week to sort it all out. Hopefully it will be completely dry by then. Just as well we didn't have a big party planned for this weekend!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blue Flower

This one was also done using the same scratching technique. I haven't done any painting this week, unless you count helping Brendan to paint our bannister. We have decided to paint it white (it was dark brown). We're at the first undercoat, and it's going to take a long time. We must go back to Woodies tomorrow to get better brushes.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cheap Imitation

We are looking for a nice big painting to put up in our new dining room. So far, we haven't found exactly what we're looking for. Well, we saw a lovely big colourful painting in a gallery in Ranelagh, but it was about € 1,000 and, though the colours are bold and beautiful, I thought I would be able to do just as good! So, far, I've done a test, in a smaller size (40x25cm), and it's lovely, so I'm going to go out and buy a big canvas, and plenty of acrylic paint, and I'm going to paint a big painting! Brendan suggested I design my own, but I don't have the confidence to do that. The lines, the colours and the shapes work so well together, I can't think of a better design. I guess that's why it's worth €1,000!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Orange Flower

I'm doing acrylics at the moment (I think I'm staying away from the drawing of Willow, which will require more skill than I feel ready for - I've done both eyes so far). Acrylics are great fun - you get instant results, brilliant colours, no need for technique or talent.

This is a 6cmx6cm square, done by layering purple, orange and purple, then using a stick while the last layer is still wet, and pulling through the paint to reveal the layer underneath. A great way to play with colours. Takes 2 minutes.

Marlay Park World Food Festival

We live a short drive away from Marlay Park, and as the weather was lovely today - cool and crisp - we went to the Festival of World Food, which was held there this weekend. As you know, I'm not a foodie, but Brendan is, so I was quite happy to go for a walk in the park (which is at its best at this time of the year) and have a look at the food stalls. There wasn't much free food going, but there was plenty of variety, and we bought some sweetcorn from Co. Longford, cabbage and tomatoes from the organic fruit & veg stall, and we sampled the pretzels and the hot dogs.

We watched 2 pigs being roasted on a spit - it takes 8 hours to cook, and one pig will feed 100 people. It's stuffed with onions and garlic and oregano. And we went to the food demonstration tent, the best thing in the festival. We attended a Thai cookery class and a sushi demonstration, both very good.

The Thai chef was from a restaurant called Saba, which we've seen in town and looks nice. We always said we must try it out. After tasting the food today, we definitely will. And I think Brendan will try out the 3 recipes we got - all very simple. I think I would be able to do these myself even.

The sushi demonstration was by, Michel, the chef at Michie Sushi, a take-away place in Ranelagh. Michel isn't a very Japanese name, I hear you say, but his skill and dedication to sushi really came across - just to see him handle a full salmon and slice it and cut it, you knew that this man knows his job and cares about sushi. The bits we got to try were very tasty, and we'll be planning a hop to Ranelagh on the Luas to try it out.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

JK Ensemble Session

It's been one of those weeks - non-stop work, and that's always the week when you have plans in the evenings, so really no time to take a breath. Not even today - it was all go, between returning fixed computers and fixing more, and there are a good few more to be done before the week gets started.

But we had booked tickets for the JK Ensemble Session in the Button Factory in Temple Bar, on Thursday night, so we had to leave the work behind, hop on the Luas, eat a pizza in town, and face the music.

And what music it was. As you know, I'm a big fan of the JK Ensemble on RTE Lyric FM, and when John Kelly advertised a concert of a few of the acts he likes, we were keen to give it a go, although we had never heard of any of them before.

It was a great night. Of course, we had never been to The Button Factory - we don't go out that much really. It's on Curved Street in Temple Bar, not far from the cinema there. We didn't get seats, but we got a nice little corner on the side where we could lean on a pillar and the stairs. And we could see everything that was going on in the Sound and Lighting control room! While the Sound guy was quite focused on his job, the Lighting fellow didn't seem to have much to do, apart from writing emails, browsing the web, checking what's on in the cinema, checking some technical questions on Experts Exchange, and installing a new version of Adobe Acrobat Player. He seemed quite unaware that there were people behind the glass panel! Very entertaining.

The concert was very John Kelly in style - that means everything from classical to jazz to electronica to girl playing the guitar and singing!
The acts were, in order of appearance, Chequerboard, Ensemble ICC, Bill Carrothers with Kevin Brady and Dave Redmond, Carly Sings and the Callino Quartet, and The Jimmy Cake.

My favourites were definitely Ensemble ICC - a viola, cello, bass, saxophone and xylophone (it wasn't a xylophone - it was like a vertical version of a xylophone - I don't know what it's called). ICC stand for "Irish Composers' Collective" - they play pieces by Irish composers, all very contemporary - it blew me away. There was one piece where the viola player, Cora Venus Lunny (daughter of Donal Lunny, according to Wikipedia), sings at the same time as she plays - amazing. And another piece where the strings are quite percussive - again, not what you'd expect from classical instruments.

Chequerboard was just one man on stage, with his guitar and guitar pedals - he basically lays tracks of rythm and melody on the fly and -re-plays them in a loop while playing the guitar. (Brendan has put the CD on his Christmas wishlist). And there was a projection above him which I feel enriched my experience, though some of the images were disturbing. It reminded me of the El Nino (by John Adams) video I got, where opera, dance and film are all working together.

Bill Carrothers with Kevin Brady and Dave Redmond are a jazz trio - they were very good. I'm not that much into jazz really. The piano player reminded me of the main actor in the French movie Delicatessen. And the bass player reminded me of Serenity's captain in Firefly. He reminded Brendan of Ethan (one of the others who infiltrates the plane-crash survivors in Lost). Funny how the mind works. Bill's website is very good by the way. He even has pictures of his house restoration project. Have a look!

Carly Sings played with the Callino Quartet. The arrangements were lovely. She was a bit like a young, sweet and shy Suzanne Vega (though I don't think Suzanne Vega ever came across as sweet or shy). Like Suzanne Vega, the lyrics are anything but sweet. I loved the way she took her golden shoes off to stand up and sing.

The Jimmy Cake was more of a novelty act, from my point of view. A lot of people on stage, playing a lot of different instruments, and playing together perfectly. But the music itself, while it had a deep beat that made me want to dance, didn't really build up to anything. While listening to them, I kept thinking of Ravel's Bolero. Ravel really builds up to something big. The Jimmy Cake didn't. Well, that's my opinion anyway.

All that for € 15 per ticket! Definitely better value than Eric Clapton! And I didn't say "eclectic" once!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Duchess

Lucinda and I went to see The Duchess on Monday night. It was a quiet night in the Ormonde cinema in Stillorgan. There were only 12 of us in Theatre 6.

I'm not particularly fond of Keira Knightley - she is too skinny and she seems to only know one face (pout with the lips pursed - she will have fine lines around the upper lip when she gets old, I'm telling you) and one posture (shoulders back, elbows at an angle - that is supposed to be the aristocratic posture, which she used in Atonement, The Duchess, and I'm pretty sure in Pirates of the Caribbean too).

But if you can put up with her, I think The Duchess is a not a bad movie - it's a very good story (of power, glory, love and humiliation), and the period costumes and designs are fabulous. Ralph Fiennes is pretty good in it, though he does walk through the whole movie with the same puzzled expression on his face. He is a very different character from The English Patient! And I did shed a few tears at the end!

I recommend the "Discover" section of the website -plenty of interesting facts about the real Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bird

Brendan took this picture in Marley Park last week. Isn't it fantastic?


Willow

I have this idea of a big drawing of Willow's head, but I need to practise my drawing techniques first. I don't draw very neatly by nature, so I need to learn the skill. I'm not sure how to go about it except practise. And I haven't done any drawing all summer, so I'm a bit rusty. Practise is what I did this evening. I used a 3B for this, which tends to smudge. I'm going to have to use a drier pencil.


After drawing the full face, I tried to focus on the eyes. It looks a bit weird, like some Hindu deity! I find it very hard to get the shape right, which will be a problem when I try to draw this to a larger scale. I'm going to have to measure more and practise more. And that's just the right eye!


When I have the drawing figured out, I'd like to transfer it to watercolour - that will be a challenge of a completely different scale altogether!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Green Hills NZ

I'm finding very little time for painting these days. This is our busy time, workwise, so I need to snatch a few minutes here and there if I really want to practise. I just need to push myself a bit to get back into drawing and painting.What I really need to do is draw more, so I've set myself a difficult project: draw Willow. I've got a lovely picture of him I'm going to use, but I also want to do some action drawings.
In the meantime, here is the latest adventure, painted from a photo I took from the campervan in New Zealand:

Brendan likes it better than I do. I think it's a bit dull, but I'm quite proud of my greens (and of the fence, of course), which can be a bit of a struggle at times (it took 2 sets of Aboriginal snails to get them right!).

  • The green in the foreground is a mix of Hookers Green and Vanadium Yellow (my favourite colour when it comes to mixing greens!).
  • The green in the middle is an Emerald Green pencil from the Derwent AquaTone range.
  • The big hills in the foreground are Sap Green and Yellow Ochre.
  • And the hills in the background are Hookers Green and Yellow Ochre.

There you are - all my tricks revealed!

Here is the original photograph:









Life after E-days

We've settled back into our normal life after the extension was completed about a month ago. Although the builders are gone, we still have a few bits and pieces to finish, but seem to have very little time to get around to it. This week, the kitchen fitters were over to fit the last 2 panels, so it's nice and tidy now. We've ordered 2 new bins from Woodies. Actually, they were supposed to call today to let us know they were in. I'll have to call them tomorrow. Sometimes, I get really frustrated having to chase people. For instance: I've emailed our insurance company with a very simple question. So far, I've received 6 (SIX) automated emails, but no reply yet.

Got to go. Dinner is ready.

Knocked Up

Not Me! The Movie!

It was showing on one of the Sky channels during the week, and it was pleasant enough. Better than "27 Dresses", anyway, but that's not hard. The story is very simple. Katherine Heigl (of Grey's Anatomy fame) gets pregnant by a guy she met once in a club. He's a bit of a slob and a loser, but he is nice. She decides to keep the baby. Happy ever after (more or less). It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be. Actually, the funniest character in the whole thing was Heigl's boss's assistant, who doesn't particularly like Heigl. She's only in 2 scenes, but she was hilarious, very dead-pan, a bit like a character from The Office.

I really think that they don't make romantic comedies like in the old days, like When Harry Met Sally, Truly Madly Deeply or Moonstruck! You can probably guess my age from these movies!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Sopranos

We watched the last of The Sopranos on Friday night. We're a bit slow and we never got to watch it on TV. We just got the box sets over time, and we'd go through phases of watching an episode every few days to not watching them for months.

The last series was much better than the previous one I think, with all the cracks appearing, bit by bit. The ending was a surprise and a shock. I won't tell you what it was, just in case you're one of the last people on earth who hasn't seen the series, but all I'll say is that I was expecting a big shoot-out!

What will we watch now? We've started watching Mad Men, the series about the lives of advertising executives and their families in the 60s. And we're also watching NY-LON on 4OD. It's an oldish series, but we obviously missed it completely when it first came out.

And we must be due another Grey's Anatomy box set - I think we've seen Series 3.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Indian Summer

Yes, today is our Indian Summer, beautiful sunshine and warm air, but it is not what this is about. I went to the Indian Summer restaurant with Lucinda and Carmel last Thursday. We had a lovely evening there. It was busier than I expected at 7 o'clock when we arrived. We took our time and we were amongst the last few customers to leave. The food was lovely as usual. I didn't venture from my staples - starter platter & red snapper for main course. We had too much rice - next time, I must remember to order one rice less than there are people sharing, particularly if eating naans, which we did. We got a mixed naan basket, which included a sweet naan, with coconut. It tasted like a sweet pancake. Very tasty.
As Lucinda and Carmel were having tea and coffee, I decided to try the masala tea. A warming tea, with cinnamon and other spices (which I could not identify of course).

More furniture

It's taking longer than I thought to put the finishing touches to the house, but I think you need to live in the place for a while before you can decide on furniture and accessories. We have a table and chairs on order, which should arrive around the first week in October. Until then, we don't want to put in anything more in the extension itself, for fear of cluttering it.

We got a nice chair for the computer desk. It's a low chair from Instore - it's a bit Austin Powerish, but it's quite comfortable and I like its wacky colour. We found however that the chair was marking the floor, so we've put in our sitting room rug under it. The shape of it is wrong - it should be longer and narrower - but the colours look lovely by our Traby shelf. So, I guess we'll have to go looking for a new rug now.

We still have to paint the bannister and get carpet for the stairs and landing, but there always seems to be something else to do. We'll get there eventually!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flat-Pack Man III

We went to Ikea one last time on Friday, to buy a kitchen trolley. We had been thinking about it for a while, but we wanted to see how we settled in the kitchen before buying more furniture. It was great to have all that floor space, but it was a long way back and forth from the fridge to the counter, getting my morning cereal ready.


So we got a Varde kitchen trolley, and Brendan assembled it beautifully.


That's it now, no more trips to Ikea until they open in Dublin, hopefully in the New Year. Though Carmel heard somewhere that there are further delays, to do with the M50. I guess they can't open until the M50 is ready to take on the extra traffic. Ah well!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rigoletto

Lucinda and I went to Rigoletto last Thursday, at the Gaiety Theatre. We got the Luas in and barely made it in time. We were literally the last 2 to get in before they closed the doors - we had just left it a bit too tight, and the curtain up was at 7:30 sharp, as advertised. I find that classical concerts are one of the few things that start on time in this country - probably to do with the musicians' union rules or something.

The show was part of the Anna Livia Dublin International Opera Festival, whose founder and artistic director is Bernadette Greevy.

We both enjoyed the night, as the singing and the acting was gorgeous. The sets, on the other hand, were dreadful, really plasticky (I'm talking plastic grapes in bowls here!), and didn't work well in such a dynamic opera, where some of the scenes include 2 viewpoints, e.g. Gilda and Rigoletto outside Sparfucile's house and Sparfucile and his sister Maddalena inside. Very hard to present this in a realistic way. The first time I saw Rigoletto at an Opera Ireland production, it was done in a much more modern, abstract way, which worked much better.

But that said, the sets didn't really matter, given the strength of the top 3 singers, Scott Piper (The Duke of Mantua), Mikolaj Zalasinski (Rigoletto, the court jester) and Talise Trevigne (Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter). All 3 were fantastic singers, and excellent actors too.

Scott Piper's duke of Mantua managed not only to seduce all the women onstage, but also the audience offstage (despite being a little bit overweight!).

Mikolaj Zalasinski had probably the toughest role, as Rigoletto is onstage more or less through the whole opera - a fantastic actor - he plays the court jester who finds that the whole court is against him when the Duke of Mantua seduces his daughter - He managed to bring a lot of energy to the character of Rigoletto, while at the same time making you feel sorry for Rigoletto's plight. His voice was fantastic throughout.

And Talise Trevigne's Gilda was a real surprise - I thought she brought out Gilda's rebellious streak out perfectly. Her Gilda is not just an innocent young woman who falls (and is fallen by) the wrong man. She is her own woman who decides to take her life in her own hands (for the wrong reasons, of course, silly girl!) rather than following what daddy says. She had the most beautiful and powerful voice. And she is a stunning-looking woman, with the highest cheekbones I've ever seen!

For a clip of Ms Trevigne, check out RTE's The View. (You will need Real Player to play the clip)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Return of Flat-Pack Man

After a well-deserved break from his furniture-building duties, Flat-Pack Man is back. Today, he built my Malm bedside table (pick the oak veneer option). It integrates beautifully with our Malm bed, and it's bigger than you'd think. I thought that I would have to find alternative storage for some of the items I had in my previous (Protea Pine) bedside table, but not so. It all fits perfectly, and I have some spare capacity.

I just love re-arranging things in new presses and drawers - it's all so neat and tidy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yoga

I'm a devoted yoga student - I've been going to classes in Airfield for years. But our teacher, Patricia Murphy, had to move her classes to St John's GAA in Marley Park, as Airfield didn't want to have classes in the evenings any more. Apparently, it cost them too much to keep someone there to close up if there was only one class. You'd think they would have tried to attract other classes. It's a great location, with plenty of car parking, but I get the feeling that they couldn't be bothered. Go figure!

Anyways, we had our first class in the new spot on Tuesday, and it was quite nice - a nice big room with a wooden floor, and views of Marley. The only hassle is that I can't walk to it any more, but Lucinda and I will alternate the driving, so it won't be so bad. The traffic was OK, we got there in less than 15 minutes, so we can't complain.

The class was lovely, and I'm looking forward to getting fit over the next few months. We haven't been great at going to the gym during the summer, as we had to be home for the builders, so I feel I need to get into shape - and tone up those batwing arms and flabby thighs.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Salmon Fish Cakes

Who needs another recipe book when you have Recipes to Nurture? The recipes are healthy and easy - perfect for me in other words.



I tried the salmon fish cakes yesterday, and it was another big success for Aine McAteer! I had a bit of trouble with my breadcrumbs - I never thought of using our hand-held food processor to make breadcrumbs, so they were chunky and the little patties looked a bit silly with bits of bread sticking out. But it all worked out in the end when it was cooked. We slightly overcooked them, but they were tasty all the same.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Books

I'm still reading "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth. 3rd time and still enjoying it, but I only get to read 3 or 4 pages a day, so I've got another few weeks before I'm done with it. Anybody got any good books to recommend?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

China Sichuan

What will I talk about now that the extension is all done? I think I'll just go back to my good old topics: watercolours, books, eating out, music. Not quite as focussed as a blog about building an extension, but it doesn't really matter.

So, let's get started!

We tried out the new China Sichuan last night. They recently moved from their old haunt in Stillorgan to a beautiful new restaurant in The Forum, Ballymoss Road in Sandyford Industrial Estate. It's a strange location. Not that easy to drive to - a lot of one way streets in the estate make it difficult to reach. The simplest way to get to it is to park in the Luas car park and walk across the road. It's at the bottom of one of the apartment blocks in a quiet cul-de-sac just across the way from the Stillorgan Luas stop. Once you're in, you forget you are in an Industrial Estate, so don't be put off by it.

We decided to make an evening of it, and invited Padraig and Mary, who were regular diners in the Stillorgan location, within close walking distance of their house.

We arrived around 6:30, and were greeted by Kevin. We were seated in the quieter of the 2 dining rooms, which suited us perfectly. The air conditioning was a bit cold, but the Maître d' promptly adjusted it on our request and we were very comfortable for the rest of the evening.

The décor is a lot more tasteful than in the old location, very posh and discreet, with a few hints at Chinese influences, such as a bamboo glass panel, a black lacquer screen with Chinese characters. The tables are bigger too, and we were a good distance from the next table.

There was a good buzz about the place, and by the time we left, at about 8:30, our dining room had filled up with a big party at a long table behind us.

The staff seem to be mostly new. Kevin did the meeting and greeting, while his parents seemed to keep more of a background role. There were a good few waiters around, all looking very professional. The Maître d' is Irish, and very polished. He knew his menu inside out (a much smaller menu, it has to be said, but nicely complimented by specials - more about these shortly) and was very good at explaining the various dishes that we asked about. He also described the specials very well, tempting us into trying 3 out of the 4 specials - a pork dumpling, a pork belly main dish, and a pork liver starter. I had the liver of course, and it was to die for, very thinly cut, well cooked and very sweet, and perfectly complemented by a dark sweet sauce. The boys had a starter platter, with some of the China Sichuan's old favourites - shredded squid, bon-bon chicken and cold spice beef, along with a spring roll and another dumpling-type dish. I thought the presentation of the starter platter wasn't great - it was a bit packed together on a small plate, and it could have done with a few colourful vegetables to liven it up - the colour was too brown and not very appealing. Mary had the dumpling, which was served in the bambou basket and looked very nice.

For main courses, we had the crispy pork belly (delicious, with a simple mustard - it should have been served with some veggies on the side maybe), prawn with ginger and spring onion (simple but nice), a spicy kung po (I think?) chicken (served spicy as requested) and a hot pot chicken dish (I can't remember what it was called - it was a very homely dish, in a nice sauce, and even a few potatoes).

And for dessert, we persuaded Padraig to order the Peoni special (it tasted a bit like a fig roll, and was presented beautifully, like 3 little peoni flowers opening - I was the only one to like it), Brendan had a mango custard dish (not bad - would be lovely on a hot summer night), and Mary and myself had the toffee banana - the good old banana fritter, but presented beautifully, as 6 or 7 little banana fritter balls, dipped into a toffee sauce by the waiters while we watched, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. It was delicious, needless to say.

I really enjoyed the experience, and we were pleasantly surprised by the bill - roughly the same as in the old place. It has lost a bit of the feeling of the old restaurant, where you felt you could go on a Tuesday night if there was nothing in the fridge. This is definitely more the place for a special meal, but that's not going to stop us. We'll be back.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

That's it

The last of the pictures:






Glossy or what? I've just spent the last hour cleaning these kitchen doors. Just as well we don't have children with grubby little hands, or I'd be going mad!


I'm going to have to find something else to talk about now.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

And more

There are only 2 more pictures, I promise. We're still tidying up the house, so it's not 100% ready for viewing. We were expecting the fitter from Craftstone today, but then Ernest told us it would be next week - no explanation why. So, we still don't have our bin unit and the back panel for the breakfast bar.



I emptied the last of the boxes this evening, and we still have a few bits and pieces that need to be sorted in the front bedroom. I think we'll tackle painting the bannisters this weekend (it's that or do the cleaning and ironing, as our cleaning lady has quit!), and then we can order a new carpet for the stairs and landing (we're currently down to the under-carpet mat, so it's not pretty).


Next time we're in Ikea, we're going to get plenty more boxes to fit in the Traby shelf. The little CD box sets you see here are very handy for bits and pieces. And we also have bigger red boxes for bulkier items.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More Pictures

I'm really going to bore you with these - I have a total of 16 pictures of the finished article! And I'm going to drip-feed them to you all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

E-Day + 100

We got our Certificate of Practical Completion from Extend today, officially declaring our project done! So, it will stand at 100 days!

Here are a few more pictures of the place (and yes, I am obsessively cleaning those shiny red kitchen units already - finger marks on the fridge are my current bugbear!):


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

E + 98

A couple of pictures (I've got plenty more to post over the next few days - you'll be sick of it!):



Monday, August 25, 2008

E-Day + 97

Whose sofa is it? The evidence is pointing to a big cat called Willow!




Sunday, August 24, 2008

E-Day + 96 - Supplemental

And here is a movie of our shiny kitchen - it probably will be a nightmare to keep clean, but it looks beautiful, doesn't it!

E-Day +96

Another little movie of our extension. The more we see it the more we love it. Although the last couple of weeks were tough, we're very happy overall with the work done by Kevin McGrath and his team. They cleaned everything up so well, not only on the last day, but throughout the build. I think we were very lucky to find such a good builder. This movie shows the result of Flat-Pack Man's work - Gallant desk, Traby shelf, Arild sofa, etc. We feel a bit like an Ikea show house!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

E-Day + 95

OK, OK, I don't need to count the days anymore, but since this is still about our extension, I thought I'd stick to my stardate count.

We enjoyed today thoroughly. Brendan has become Ikea Flat-Pack Man, spending most of his time assembling our Ikea furniture - some of it was delivered to us, as it was too big to bring back in the car. I'm very happy with it all. The service was excellent, they ring you to tell you what day the delivery will be made, and then the driver rings you on the day itself to give you a time, and it all worked out well. And everything so far is in good shape, all nice an solid, and easy to assemble, and I love my beautiful sofa!

The builders are now finished here. There will probably be a few minor snags, but they have left us with a house in great shape. Kevin and his team were so obliging - I know the last week was frustrating as Stephen didn't work for us on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. We found it annoying that things were dragging on more than necessary, but, with a big push on Friday, it's all done and we're very happy with the final result. The design from Extend works really well, and the execution from Kevin McGrath is generally of a high finish.

We still have to get the hall, stairs, upstairs and outside painted, but that will have to wait a couple of months before Mark is available. We're happy to wait for him and know that it will be done right. He is a very nice painter, and very reliable - he turns up when he says he will. Very important to us, that.

We have to paint the bannister and stairs ourselves, and we have to get a new carpet for stairs and landing organised. Hopefully, we'll get that done in the next few weeks.

Here is a mini-movie of our new home - It's called "Brendan - aka Flat-Pack Man"


Friday, August 22, 2008

E-Day +94 - Supplemental

My beautiful Ikea sofa:

E-Day +94

DONE
(Kevin gave a big push and it's all done! Stan even cleaned my front door! We just have the kitchen fitters over next week to put in a back panel or 2. Will take pictures tomorrow - we're busy assembling our furniture)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

E-Day + 93 - Supplemental - Ikea deliveries

We got our Ikea deliveries today - my sofa, shelves and a new bed and mattress. They came with 2 different yellow Ikea vans. In both cases, the driver rang me ahead to give me a delivery time estimate and turned up on time. They were very efficient and we now have an extension full of boxes. We can't unpack anything until the skirting boards are finished.

E-Day + 93

We really really want our house back.

Stephen was here yesterday, and made some progress with skirtings, saddles and beadings, but it's still not finished and he is not here today. I rang Kevin who told me that Stephen was waiting for the door handles to finish everything. I told him we were finding it frustrating, as there is so little left to do, and it's not being finished. He could have been here today and finish all the skirtings. Never mind the handles. If the skirtings were finished, we could start putting our furniture back. As it stands, we don't have a single room that's completely finished or that's not full of boxes (apart from my bathroom).

On top of that, we got our Ikea delivery today, so there are boxes everywhere - and we can't open them and start assembling things until Stephen is finished with the skirtings, and until Mark the painter is back to touch up the bits of wall made grubby over the last few days.

Very frustrating ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

E-Day + 91

We want our house back!

We're at the stage where progress is slow, and we're stuck in the house waiting for tradesmen, and we just want things to get back to normal. Kevin had told us last week he was hoping to be finished on Wednesday or Thursday. That's last Wednesday or Thursday. Now, we think we'll be lucky to be finished before this weekend. Stephen the carpenter didn't turn up yesterday or today. He'd be finished by now if he had been here. On Monday, Kevin told us that 2 of Stephen's guys didn't turn up on another job and he had to go in himself. Today, when I rang him around 2, Kevin said that Stephen had suffered from a tummy bug last night, but that he would definitely be in tomorrow. Somehow, I don't think so!

This is really disappointing. It's getting us down. We feel we can't get settled in the house, as there is still finishing work to be done in most rooms. And it's leaving us with a bad last impression. Somebody else is obviously screaming louder than us. I know that's the way things are with builders - large or small - they are always juggling several jobs and contractors at a time, and things don't always pan out as expected. But there is so little to be done to get it finished. I just want it to be over!

Monday, August 18, 2008

E-Day + 90

No pictures today. Kevin and Stan were here pretty much all day working on making good the plaster around the electrical sockets and on a crack at the junction of the old and the new. Slow work, let me tell you! Brendan had shown these to Kevin on Friday - basically, the plasterers had cut holes for the sockets, but these holes were too big, and no amount of patching properly addressed this problem. It looked worse after painting - not the end of the world for sockets that will be partially hidden by furniture, but it looked quite bumpy. Kevin seemed to be annoyed with himself for not having solved this earlier, so today, he was like a man with a mission, determined to get it sorted.

To be honest, I don't think it's made much of a difference. If anything, the crack looks worse. Stan's painting skills and paint brush are not up to a painter's standards - we'll need to get Mark the painter back in to sand the bumps and touch up the paint.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

When Lighting Strikes

Global Warming is certainly bringing some strange weather to Ireland. We're well accustomed to rain. But not to tropical downpours! I wouldn't mind if we got some tropical sunshine and heat, but it's just grey and wet, very wet. It rained heavily again today (and no leaks, I'm happy to report!), but it didn't feel thundery, there was no grumbling in the distance, or anything to prepare us to what happened this afternoon.

I was in the upstairs back bedroom, browsing the web. All of a sudden, there was this huge flash in the sky, more or less at my eye level, between our house and the house behind, like an explosion, and the percusive sound was like a gun firing against your ear. Really scary. I ran down the stairs, calling Brendan, and as I got no response, I had visions of his chared body by the computer in the kitchen. And then I saw him rushing out of the shomera, alive and well, but as shook as me by what he had experienced. He didn't see the flash as such, but the explosion sound was so loud and so near that he thought one of the computers had blown. He had only just gone out to the shomera, and was about to sit at the computer. He was lucky he wasn't outside at the time. He had been outside, between the house and the shomera, less than 2 minutes before lighting struck.

We waited for the mad rain to stop, and went to check on things in the shomera. All was well there. Computers are fine, the phone is fine, but the telly hasn't come back on yet - we suspect it's NTL, as everybody we've talked to on the estate has told us their telly is down.

We were the lucky ones, that's for sure. One family wasn't so lucky, although nobody was injured, thankfully. When we heard a siren, like half the estate residents, we went to have a look. 2 firebrigade trucks and 2 garda cars were at the scene. Lightning had struck the chimney in one of the houses at the top of the estate (highest point and all the rest), breaking it in 2, and, according to a neighbour we talked to, the force of the lightning pushed the fireplace out across the living room. I'm not sure how much damage was done, but I can only imagine how scary this was for the family, who were in the house at the time. And the worry about the structural integrity of the house ! What a nightmare it must be.

I've never experienced anything like this in my life. I've seen bad thunderstorms in Belgium and Switzerland, but never anything so sudden and violent. I hope I never see anything like it ever again.

Half an hour later, the sun was shining, and the rest of the day has been more or less dry, with very dramatic skies.

PS: picture of the chimney courtesy of our intrepid photographer, Brendan!