St Patrick's weekend
Posted Mar 23, 2013
St Patrick's Day fell on a Sunday this year, which meant that Monday was a bank holiday. The previous weekend I'd been to Dublin to visit two friends. I stayed with my friend J, who I'd met in Galway but has since moved to Dublin. I slept on his couch and chatted to his housemates, who were friendly. Fun, but I didn't get to see my friend T, because she was ill. So on St Patrick's weekend I went up again.
I took the train up to Dublin on Saturday morning, and, because T wouldn't be around till the afternoon, I went for a walk. I strolled through residential areas behind Collins Barracks (the barracks is now a branch of the National Museum of Ireland), when I suddenly came across a small park and the United Nations Veterans House. It's a place for soldiers and police who had served with the UN. I hadn't even known that police did serve with the UN. I couldn't get into the park, but I did take a couple of photos. A man passing stopped to chat, and told me it was open on weekdays, and that there was access through door from the a churchyard behind. He (and his small boy, who looked about four) gave me directions to the church. He said that you pass Lilliput Stores on the way, so you can grab a coffee and take it with you to the area.
Lilliput Stores was impressive. This was an area with few shops (there were shops not far away, on the main road, but this little section was almost purely residential), and the houses all had that built-in bootscraper by the door which signifies the housing originally built for workmen. The shop was tiny, and full of people, and sold figs and yams and high-quality chocolate and very very good take-away coffee. It was a little cornershop with big ideas, and I loved it. And I bought some figs and some Green & Blacks dark chocolate along with my coffee.
The church was managed jointly by the defence forces and the Office of Public Works. It was originally the church of the British army in Ireland, and the old graveyard around it was a very peaceful place to stroll. Up at the back was a memorial to the Easter Rising, with the names of the fallen and the declaration carved into a curved stone wall. (I found it interesting that the wording pledged that the soldiers would conduct themselves honourably, and explicitly mentioned rape as something they wouldn't do. Was it common knowledge that soldiers raped? I suppose it was. I don't know how well that pledge was kept to, but at least rape was never used as a matter of actual policy, as it has been in some wars.)
I took some photos, then got chatting (by way of a very friendly dog) to a small group of people who were also enjoying the sun. A graveyard may seem an odd place to relax, but I got the impression that this one is commonly used as a park. I like graveyards anyway, for many of the reasons mentioned by Bryarly Bishop in her video on the subject: http://youtu.be/sDlWj2Jz8lM.
And then it was time for me to head to Pearse St Station to meet T. We had a grand time wandering around Dublin city centre, starting with the funfair by Merrion Sq. Both she and I have an inordinate fondness for waltzers, perhaps because they're so simple, and because they're so much more exciting than they look. (I mentioned that I'd love to take a kid who'd never been on a waltzer for a ride on one, because they really do look quite tame.) Also, they feel safe: the faster they spin, the more you're pressed into your seat.
At some point, we went for food: tortilla wraps somewhere near the top of Grafton Street. We lamented the fact that they didn't serve hexaflexamexicans. http://youtu.be/GTwrVAbV56o
I'd been warm that morning in the church graveyard, but the day was getting cold fast. When the rain came down, we took shelter in the Natural History Museum A22691469. It was, of course, packed with other people who'd had the same idea. Also, a snake exhibition had just finished. There was one snake in a box in the lobby: it had been part of the exhibition; we had a brief chat with the young boy who owned it and with his dad. We went for a short wander around the museum, T looking for an eagle she'd once seen there before, but it was getting close to closing time and we were kicked out again.
We had a few more funfair rides, then went for food, and experimented with bubble tea (which we'd noticed on our previous expedition, when we went for the food), from Taiwan. Interesting, but weird. (I think I would actually have preferred it *without* the tapioca.)
That evening, we went to a percussion event in the Chester Beatty Library. The library is in Dublin Castle, and is a very important collection of ancient manuscripts collected by an American millionaire and left to the Irish people. If you're interested in Biblical or Quoranic manuscripts, or eastern jade snuffboxes, it's a wonderful place to visit. It also has a rather nice roof garden. This event, though, was held in the foyer to the library, in an area which used to be a courtyard but is now roofed over. An odd choice of venue, but it worked. There were two Irish musicians, who played mainly percussion but also fiddle and flute, an Irish dancer, and two Brazilian musicians and dancers. And it was excellent! The bodhrán made sounds I wouldn't have thought were physically possible. The male Brazillian dancer demonstrated capoeira, the dance-cum-martial-art. He also played a strange instrument that looked like a longbow and sounded like a combination of a rattle and a piano (actually, it sounded beautiful). The Irish dancer tapped on the stage then came down and tapped on the tile floor, right down the aisle. Then he stood by the wall, kicking both the wall and an iron drainpipe, which reverberated wonderfully. It was, I admit, a lot better than I expected it to be.
And when we finally emerged, I had, of course, missed the last train home. Staying with T would be possible, but awkward. Her place is tiny (and full of cats). J was out of town that weekend, visiting family. It being the weekend it was, finding a hostel bed was ... unlikely. We were probably twenty minutes in Busáras, the main bus station, before we managed to find a member of staff. At one point, a chap in uniform came in and was mobbed with requests. "I don't work here! I'm a driver! I'm just passing through and coming in to use the toilet!" Poor guy. Eventually I decided to take the Galway bus as far as Kilbeggan, and a taxi from there. Tullamore is not well served by buses.
The bus was delayed, so there was time for us to stroll down the road for pizza before I left, promising to come back tomorrow.
On Sunday, I stayed in Tullamore, and for what I'm pretty sure is only the second time in my life, went into town to watch the parade. (I have vague memories of the first time: standing on Bury Quay with my family, watching the parade crossing the Clara Bridge. My mother was wearing a red dress with green patterns on it, and it suddenly occurred to her that someone might think they were supposed to be shamrocks.)
The parade was interesting. Lots of kids. The rugby team went past, hosting their trophies aloft and cheering, the youth members (and I had no idea they had so many) actually playing a little bit with a couple of rugby balls. A few young girls in Irish dancing costume (there were only about four of them, and they looked frozen) did a few steps as they passed. A tractor came by pulling a flatbed truck advertising a local pub. On the flatbed were (a) a DJ dressed as St Patrick, (b) three dancing couples, all wearing sheep-head masks, and (c) a pen containing three live sheep. This was to advertise Hugh Lynch's pub as a "party venue". I don't know whether this confuses you, but it certainly confused me. Only as it was leaving did I hear the DJ announce something about the pub hosting a live sheep-shearing competition later that day, which made the whole thing a *little* more comprehensible, if no less strange. (Apparently sheep shearing is a party thing around here. Who knew?)
I didn't do much else that day. The last train home from Dublin was quite early, so it wasn't worth the effort of going up.
So I went to Dublin again on Monday instead. We met in Conolly Station, and again, we visited a funfair, this time the one in front of Custom House. There were chairoplanes. There were chairoplanes which took you up quite high, so you passed over the top of lampposts and (this freaked me out a little) looked down on the roof of Custom House. (It looked a little like http://youtu.be/D5CJubZ5psU except that the seats were in pairs (so we could chat), and it brought you up before spinning. Also, the top wasn't so elaborately decorated.) There was an angry frog (boingy, boingy, whee!), which looked like http://youtu.be/X8J3xRxcKOI. And there were waltzers, where, as always on waltzers, I laughed my head off the entire time. And then it started to rain, so we grabbed a go on the dodgems, which are at least under shelter.
It was light rain, so we then walked the long way around to the beer festival in St George's Dock. (We didn't go in, because you had to pay. We thought maybe there'd be some free stuff on the fringes, but there wasn't, so we kept going.) We had crepes in a place called Lemon. Some very good crepes. We had a savoury each (mine had lots of cheese and mushrooms in it), and then bought a crepe suzette served on two separate plates. Neither of us had had one before, and we both loved it.
Then we walked through Trinity College grounds, to the medical garden ("Warning: Most of these plants are poisonous"), where we had a long look at the plants and discussed their usages (T was surprisingly knowledgeable), and how few of them were actually poisonous (many of them were kitchen herbs), then we exited by the Science Gallery and separated, she round the corner to Pearce Street Station and I to walk up to Busáras to take a tram to Heuston Station. This time I made my train home comfortably (and I got a seat easily, as it was considerably less packed than it had been on the way up).
I can't afford to do that sort of thing every weekend. This weekend I'm staying home. And tomorrow I'll have to do what I intended to do last weekend, and prepare my speech for the Toastmasters competition on Thursday night.
Bother it! Househunting (again)
Posted Feb 22, 2013
So, how many times have I moved house recently?
At the beginning of November 2011, I moved back into my parents' house. They were going to China for six months, and wanted a housesitter. That was rather good fun, actually.
Six months later, they came back, and wondered why I hadn't got my hair cut in the interim. Then I moved out, renting a room in a shared house.
At the end of November 2012, I moved out again, this time to mind the house of a family friend who was going on holiday for three months. I wasn't that fond of the place I was in anyway. It was okay, but pricey for what I was getting. And I like my privacy. I like living alone.
In the middle of January 2013, I found a place to move out to. Again, a room in a shared house. Seemed fine. Quiet street. No traffic noise. Short walk from the town centre and my place of work. All good. I started paying rent there from the 20th of January, but Dolores extended her holiday so I didn't actually move in till the beginning of this month. (Incidentally, I went to Galway for a dentist appointment on the 31st of January, and got my hair cut. It's a bit of a change. I use a lot less shampoo, but my ears get cold.)
We're now most of the way through February, and I've decided I don't like the house. First, I was told it was a non-smoking house. There are even signs up in the place saying so. It isn't. Cigarette smoke curls under the bedroom door of an evening. Second, any sound anywhere in the house echos throughout, even though it's a fairly new build. Third, the lock on the front door needs a key to open from the inside, which is a rather nasty fire hazard. Fourth, I really really like my privacy. And fifth, some previous tennent must have paraded elephants across this mattress. (I do actually own a memory foam mattress, from the first time I moved out of home, but it's now in my parents' house. I could bring it down here, but given the other problems, I think I'll not bother.)
So I'm looking to move out again. Not just yet: I have two Toastmasters talks coming up, so I'll be preparing them. Then I'll be moving. One day I'll find somewhere worth living.
Posted Feb 15, 2013
> The mayor has supported the idea of a new man-made four-runway hub airport, dubbed "Boris Island", located at Shivering Sands in Kent.
A man-made airport? Really? Whatever next?
Posted Feb 1, 2013
I was in Galway yesterday for a dentist's appointment. While there, I got a haircut. Blade 6. My previous haircut was at the beginning of November (or perhaps the end of October: I'm not quite sure) 2011. It's a bit of a change.
Revisiting a changed life
Posted Dec 23, 2012
For various boring technical reasons, I was last night rereading some blog posts I wrote a few years ago when I was first coming to terms with being gay. It was a slightly unreal experience. I've changed so much since then.