Friday Night Dinner

Friday Night

Last night we tried out a new restaurant:  Féte du Vendredi Soir.  It’s a bijou (very small) bistro hidden away in the countryside of County Tipperary, near Cashel.  Very hard to find, they have no website and are not on Trip Advisor.  Even harder to get reservations.  But they say you can find all the best people here.  Tamsin Greig is a regular and I heard that Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal have dined here.

We were lucky to get a table for our Wedding Anniversary.  The menu is set, there is no choice.  The chefs decide on it based on what they have available.  One week it could be squirrel, the next it could be soused herrings, always a surprise.  Louise, being a vegetarian, was delighted that our main was a mezze maniche rigate with a wild mushroom sauce.  I love the name of that pasta “striped half sleeves”.

When we arrived we were greeted with cocktails, a big G&T for me and a Mojito for Louise.  Her mint clearly came from the restaurant kitchen garden.  In the bistro you are dining in a half open kitchen, so you can see the chefs at work, smell the bread baking and hear all the clitter-clatter of a busy restaurant kitchen.  A little bit of “Gordon Ramsay” style shouting was going on between the head chef and the maître D which is a form of entertainment in itself, like watching Fawlty Towers.

The vibe was very chill, some great music playing in the background, Lou Reed, Kinks, ELO, Bryan Adams, Mungo Jerry, Rolling Stones etc.  Kind of a psychedelic rock theme.

The food was quite simple, but truly excellent.  When someone gives you a dish of salt, oil and bread it doesn’t sound like much.  But the bread is fresh baked out of the oven, first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and Breton grey sea salt – Gros Sel de l’ile de Ré.  When you taste it you understand the difference between what you can do in your own kitchen and the magic of a trained professional chef who selects the best ingredients.  That attention to the smallest details is what Michelin Stars are awarded for.

The service was excellent, a good balance between personable attentiveness without being intrusive.  Our glasses were never allowed to run dry.

Our journey through the menu was a voyage of the senses.  In a period of quarantine lockdown we had a tour of the Mediterranean.  Olives from Greece, white wine and pasta from Italy, red wine wine from Southern France, then to Canada for the Moose.

Dining here is not cheap, but let’s say no more about the price, because it is worth every penny.

As Bread and Salt; Janina Degutytė (trans Marija Stankus-Saulaitis)

Through a high gate, decorated
with wreaths and slogans…
Through a high gate
I enter
like a guest
the dale,
encompassed by woods, clouds, and flights of swans.
And I accept
with lips chapped by north winds
the black night and the white day
as bread and salt.

Bread and salt

Ye goode olde dayes.

Myles_Birket_Foster_-_The_Country_Inn

The Country Inn: Myles Birket Foster

Born on this day in 1859 AE Housman was too old to serve in Flanders Field but he was a poet ahead of his time.  The sentimentality of his poetry conjures up the nostalgia of a bucolic idyll of an England that never was.  His verse was the poetic equivalent of the chocolate box art of John Constable and Myles Birket Foster.  His nostalgia for a simpler and more wholesome life is reflected in JRR Tolkien’s image of the Shire from Lord of the Rings.  I like the lyric from the Kinks “Muswell Hilbillies” which says “Take me back to the black hills where I ain’t never been”.

World War One began with the Jingoistic and Triumphalist doggerel of music hall verse singing of the glories of adventure:  It’s a long way to Tipperary!

It then moved towards sacrificial verse like Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier” and of Housman which said “This is what we are fighting for”.

Eventually it descended into the true war poets like Sassoon, Owen and McCrae who expressed the absolute futility of young lives thrown away.

 

A Shropshire Lad 53; by A.E. Housman

The lad came to the door at night,
when lovers crown their vows,
and whistled soft and out of sight
in shadow of the boughs.

‘I shall not vex you with my face
henceforth, my love, for aye;
so take me in your arms a space
before the east is grey.

‘When I from hence away am past
I shall not find a bride,
and you shall be the first and last
I ever lay beside.’

She heard and went and knew not why;
her heart to his she laid;
light was the air beneath the sky
but dark under the shade.

‘Oh do you breathe, lad, that your breast
seems not to rise and fall,
and here upon my bosom prest
there beats no heart at all?’

‘Oh loud, my girl, it once would knock,
you should have felt it then;
but since for you I stopped the clock
it never goes again.’

‘Oh lad, what is it, lad, that drips
wet from your neck on mine?
What is it falling on my lips,
my lad, that tastes of brine?’

‘Oh like enough ’tis blood, my dear,
for when the knife has slit
the throat across from ear to ear
’twill bleed because of it.’

Celtic Tiger Relic

Vernacular

On a quiet lane in Rural Tipperary stands a tiny two story cottage of a vernacular very common in the Golden Vale.  It harks back to an older age when people lived simple lives, subsisting envionmentally on the land.  It was a live devoid of any excess in materialism.  Consumer culture was a distant dream, something you might hear hints of from distant American relatives in the Christmas letter they sent home with cast off clothes that became brand new again for poor Irish kids.

In these days of McMansions it is hard to believe that a tiny cottage like this might be home to a Catholic family in an era before family planning.  Granny slept in a settle near the range for the warmth.  A half dozen boys and girls topped and tailed in an old double bed in what should be the parlour.  Mother and Father slept in the attic with the babies nearby.  As children became teenagers they were farmed out, the boys to labour on farms, the girls to service in big houses.

The cottage is a lovely design, proportionate, sitting gracefully in its environment, built well, built to last.  No longer fit for the lives we lead.

The original single glaze wooden sash windows were torn out and replaced with double glaze uPVC.  Less environmentally friendly, less pretty,  less drafty, more energy efficient, a balancing act of confusing priorities.

And so, in the era of the Celtic Tiger when property madness struck the nation, the owner attempted to extend the old girl.  He slapped on a blockhouse to the back.  The first floor sills speak of an ambition to go up to the level of that elegant apex roof.

Extension

The floorplan will be doubled at the expense of any attempt to preserve the original design.  But the work stopped a long time ago.  I would love to know why.  Was it the market crash and the 2008 recession?  Did the funds dry up?  Did confidence in the ability to secure a sale wane?  Did the bank choke it off stillborn?  Or did some diligent planner leap in just in time to preserve the existing building?

Back at the front the door is secured by a pink girls bicycle lock, a head nod to the most crass aspects of the consumer madness that struck this country.  The pink aisle at Smyths Toy Superstore in the run up to Christmas.  A temple to cheap Chinese manufacturing and dodgy work practices.

This building should be preserved, in its current state, to serve as a symbol of that madness, and a warning to future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloody Sunday

TippDub

Eighty eight years ago for the admission price of a shilling, you could have participated in a massacre.  British Auxiliaries and RIC entered Croke Park in Dublin during the Tipperary V Dublin football match and opened fire indiscriminately at the players and spectators.

It was the lowest ebb of the British Empire and mirrored the Amritsar Massacre, also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 1919, only one and a half years before.

What led to British Irregulars taking such action?

On the morning of Sunday 21st November 1920, under the orders of Michael Collins, military commander of the IRA, 15 men were shot.  The assassinations wiped out the pride of British Military Intelligence in Ireland, the Cairo Gang.

The attack in Croke Park was a direct response to the IRA action.  It was followed later that night by the murder of three IRA prisoners held in custody by the British Security forces.

This day, like no other, undermined the legitimacy of British Rule in Ireland and led ultimately to a truce in July 1921 and the eventual end of British Rule in the Republic.

Over Seventy innocent bystanders were wounded or killed in the football ground, victims of anger and frustration.

The Hogan Stand in Croke Park is named after Michael Hogan who was shot and killed on that day.

Happy Birthday Eileen Shanahan

West-Gate-Clonmel

Clonmel West Gate

 

Eileen Shanahan was born in Dublin on Oct 28th 1901. She worked as a secretary at the League of Nations in Geneva from 1929 until the invasion of France in 1940. Published widely in magazines and anthologies, she never published a collection of her poems and her work remains uncollected. The Three Children is her best-known poem.

I too have three children, and live not too far from Clonmel.  I too am a king of all that I survey, a road, a mile of kingdom, of banks and stones and every blooming thing.

 

The Three Children (Near Clonmel); by Eileen Shanahan

I met three children on the road,
the hawthorn trees were sweet with rain,
the hills had drawn their white blinds down,
three children on the road from town.

Their wealthy eyes in splendour mocked
their faded rags and bare wet feet,
the King had sent his daughters out
to play at peasants in the street.

I could not see the palace walls;
the avenues were dumb with mist;
perhaps a queen would watch and weep
for lips that she had borne and kissed —

and lost about the lonely world,
with treasury of hair and eye
the tigers of the world would spring,
the merchants of the world would buy.

And one will sell her eyes for gold,
and one will barter them for bread,
and one will watch their glory fade
beside the looking-glass unwed.

Eternal sunshine of the Irish Summer

Athlassel Drone

The above photo is a drone shot taken of Athlassel Abbey in Golden Tipperary.  On the left of the shot is the river Suir and on the right you can see the green area that is what remains of the fish ponds built by the Monks as a fish farm.

In between the grass is burnt dry as a bone, the effect of weeks of a heatwave, unbroken by the rain that usually falls in July in Ireland.

Elsewhere the dry conditions have been turning up interesting archaeological findings.  At the world famous Boyne valley site of Newgrange the perfect outline of an entirely undiscovered Henge has magically appeared due to ancient post holes holding just a little more moisture than the surrounding ground.

Newgrange 2 2

Usually invisible; the combination of a long dry summer, and the widespread availability of drones have brought a whole new set of possibilities to the Newgrange site.  At first guess the henge is thought to date from 2,500 years ago, some 500 years after the construction of the passage tombs.

The finding is an incentive to drone fliers to get out there and exploit the conditions.  There are more sites waiting to be discovered.

In the meantime we will sit here and swelter, and wish we were more used to coping with this weather.  The Spaniards are better prepared as you can see.  Photo from the Guardian this week of a girl cooling off in a fountain.  With a hosepipe ban in place and dire warnings from Irish Water for the coming September we can only look on jealously.

Fountain

Ramona Street on a Hot Summer Day; by Betsy Franco

You can hear the whack
of a tennis ball against the plastic bat.
You can smell Ms. Lowry’s
honeysuckle bush
that grows along her fence.
You can lick an ice cold popsicle
from Petey’s ice-cream truck.
You can feel Joey’s sprinkler water
tingling on your skin.
There’s no place I’d rather be
than Ramona Street
on a hot summer day!

 

 

Dublin 1029

TECallcard

Back in 1988 when life was miserable and Ireland languished in recession the government was looking for any reason for a celebration.  A historian uncovered a document indicating that the Norse King of Dublin, Glúniairn, recognized Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill as High King of Ireland and agreed to pay tribute/taxes to him in the year 988.

He was not the first Viking King of Dublin.  Dublin was probably established by the Vikings in 839.  Using 988 as a “foundation” date is somewhat strange.  It is more properly the date on which the Irish Gaels established nominal control over the city.  But such niceties were lost on the downtrodden miserable debt ridden Dubliners of 1988.  When the government of the day offered to stump up for a party the population were happy to pretend that it was a millennial celebration.  1,000 years of taxes, hurray!

In 1988 I worked for the Irish national telephone company, Telecom Eireann.  It was previously the Government Department of Posts and Telegraphs.  This was split in 1984 into An Post and Telecom Eireann.  The latter no longer exists.  It was broken up and sold in the interests of competition, better services for consumers, lower prices etc.  This is why I don’t have decent broadband in my home.  So much for the better services.

The Mobile phone arm of the company, Eircell, was sold to Vodafone in the 1990’s.  In 1996 Denis O’Brien won a second Mobile phone operating licence for ESAT Telecom.  The Minister for Telecommunications at the time was a Tipperary politician called Michael Lowry.  There were rumours of dodgy dealings which were eventually investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal.   The Moriarty Tribunal found in 2008 that the awarding of the licence was influenced by payments made by O’Brien to Michael Lowry.

In the last general election in Ireland Michael Lowry topped the poll yet again in the Tipperary constituency, which says everything you need to know about Irish voter attitudes to probity in public office.  Denis O’Brien lives as a tax exile, but still has unrivalled access to business opportunities under government control, such as the recent award to provide water meters.  Given the findings of the Moriarty tribunal one would seriously question why any politician would have dealings with such a businessman, unless they aim to profit as Lowry did.

One of the hot new services we pioneered in the 1980s was the Call Card.  Instead of using pesky money to make your phone call in the public payphone you could buy an all new singing and dancing call card.  The photo above shows the millennium celebration limited edition Telecom Eireann call card from 1988.

Today you would be lucky to find a public payphone, let alone find one that works.

If my career in Telecomms taught me anything it taught me this; there are some things that should not be privatized.  Never privatize a network, that applies to road, rail, power, water, communications, information.  Keep them public, let them serve the common good.

That’s my rant over for today.  Happy Birthday Dublin, 1029 years old today…… or 1178 years old, depending on the government of the day.

Milkbottle

Dublin Milkbottle: Another thing we have no more.

Capture of Ned Kelly

Armour

On this day in 1880 the famous Australian Bushranger Ned Kelly was captured at Glenrowan.  What immortalized Kelly above other outlaws was the suit of armour he cobbled together from bits and pieces of metal.  All his gang were dressed in the armour but only Kelly survived the shootout with the police at Glenrowan.

Son of Irish convict Red John Kelly a man from Tipperary , the County where I live, Ned Kelly won the hearts of the ordinary people.  They represented smallholders, the downtrodden, victimized by the police and all that was wrong with the British Imperial system.  Kelly was already a folk hero before his capture and there was a groundswell of opinion to pardon him.  The crown saw the world differently and Kelly was hanged.

He represents the Australian psyche, a rebel spirit, a frontier mindset, a reluctance to slavishly bind to rules and laws, a desire to kick at the traces of British overlordship.  Many of the original Australian settlers were convicts and their descendants who had more in common with Kelly than with the Crown.  He ranks with other Aussie heroes like Jack Duggan the “Wild Colonial Boy”, and those of song and story like Clancy of the Overflow and the Man from Snowy River.

This brings me to a funny association, because one of my favourite poets is Shel Silverstein who also wrote some great songs.  Here is “Blame it on Ned Kelly” from the 1970 movie starring Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.  Lots of people I love all involved in the same project.

It’s going to be medieval!

All Ireland

Brilliant photo which fronts the Nenagh Guardian.  You probably have to come from Ireland to get the significance of the All Ireland.  One of the classic rivalries plays out this year, Tipperary V Kilkenny. The photo captures the pure drama of the clash.

Tipperary and Kilkenny share a county border and it is along such a border that the greater drama is played out in rampant displays of tribalism.  Peer pressure is exerted in communities to get householders to deck out their homes with flags and bunting in their county colours.  As you approach a county border the concentration of colours intensifies.

Drive north from Tipperary or south from Kilkenny along the Cork-Dublin road today and you will be able to mark the exact point of the county line.  That is the point when the colours of the flags change.

I’m a Dub living in Tipperary with more interest in Rugby.  Still, I’d love to see more of this tomorrow……….Come on the Blue and Gold.

TipperaryvWaterfordJul16_large

 

 

Clonmel Tragedy

Clonmeltower

SS Peter & Pauls’ Church Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

Tragedy unfolded in the early hours of this morning on the quiet streets of Clonmel in Tipperary.  The situation is described as “Bizarre” by local Gardai.  The body of a young man was found at the foot of the bell tower of Saints Peter & Pauls’ Parish Church.

Described as wearing “some kind of hoodie” the deceased had lethal blades strapped to his wrists.  The young man carried no identification and the Gardai are appealing for information from the public.  Anybody who was in the area between the hours of 2 and 4 am on Feb 6th are asked to contact the local Garda station.

They are particularly interested in the whereabouts of a cartload of straw which has gone missing from the grounds of the Church.