Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Renaissance Man says Yes He Can! Cheers Mr. Obama

Eureka! I have at last found the ultimate answer to our modern life strife
When an absence of purpose and fulfilment can permeate ones very life
But it’s really no secret for the solution does not need a savvy soothsayer
So there is no need for wringing of your hands or even gasps of despair.

History often repeats itself you may recall in textbooks having often read
But unfortunately learning from it does not gain much social kudos instead
We are advised to concentrate on an ever specialised and refined life role
And can miss out on any positive world experience if we end up on the dole.

As an antidote many indulge in dull electronic trivia and banal social media
And some have recourse to drugs for reasons not requiring an encyclopaedia
So it is evident to all that trouble and personal strife has now come to the fore
But do not think us especially different, for man has faced this problem before.

In the Middle Ages artists were also prone to such exhortations of hocus pocus
But they found a solution in a broadening of their human sphere of mental focus
Thus Da Vinci was a great painter and an inventor of strange concepts appealing
And Michelangelo was the world’s finest sculptor and painter of the Sistine ceiling

In this manner these famous Renaissance Artists established their skills and their fame
For they needed to broaden their artistic scope if they were to keep ahead of the game,
So I have decided to broaden my own interests to embrace artistic skill and pure invention
And in this way I intend to dazzle my family and friends and hope to keep their attention.

From now on I will proudly proclaim to all ‘Yes I can’ like the President Barack Obama
And will forge a new spiritual renewal the likes of which characterise the great Dali Lama
My head is already teeming with wild artistic ideas which I can soon hopefully espouse
But to start off I shall in a simple way first apply myself to making a new hen house

But wait, where are the timber laths and nails which are essential for my creative work
Surely Michelangelo did not proceed without basic tools and so I’m being driven berserk
As a result my creative instincts are now stymied and I alas sit forlorn on my garret floor
And if I make too much fuss my family will ridicule my efforts and even call me a bore.

Thus the motto of this verse is Renaissance Artistic fervour is laudable and true to tell
But without proper tools and good equipment available, you might as well rot in hell
So perhaps its really best to reign in my own creative efforts at this Yuletide time of year
And simply to drink a fine toast to all and to offer my fond Twitter Friends good cheer!

Note: This is a purely fictional verse written for amusement only.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Artistic Antagonisms, Anghiari And a Sweet Room in Hell.

The battle of Anghiari is now more famous because of a lost masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci than any perception of the historic significance of the battle itself which took place between the competing forces of the city states of Milan and Florence in mid 1440. The actual painting has being lost for centuries due both to its method of execution and indeed political changes affecting Florence itself over the intervening centuries. However, the sketches which remain and the copy executed by Pieter Paul Rubens depict in stunning graphic detail the ferocity of the struggle between men and horses which characterised the battle and the visceral energy expounded by the participants. To a modern sensibility this may seem like a profound comment of the horrific intensity of human warfare but it was in fact commissioned in the 16th century to actually celebrate it from the perspective of the supposed glory of Florence.

I visited the pretty hillside town of Anghiari some years ago while on holiday in Arezzo and had seen the Leonardo sketches of the battle in a small local museum. However, I had no idea at that time that this work was the subject of a major competition in Florence pitting the then perceived greatest artists of the time directly against each other in producing paintings to adorn the Great Council Hall of the city until I read the wonderful book ‘The Lost Battles’ by Jonathan Jones. In this book he expertly analyses and explains the forces, both artistic, social and political that shaped the work of both Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti in approaching their respective commissions within not only Florence but other key city states such as Milan and Rome at that time. It also introduces us to the personalities and political intrigues of key medieval figures such as Savonarola, Lorenzo de Medici, Machiavelli and Pope Julius among others who not only influenced but sometimes dictated the scope of the work being undertaken by both artists. In fact the Great Council of Florence deliberately encouraged and fostered the competitive ‘duel’ between these artists not only to encourage them to try harder to achieve artistic excellence but also as a symbolic expression of their power base and control of the local populace. Indeed, such was the intensity of the bitterness and rivalry actually forged between these two famous artists that Michelangelo himself wrote a verse in the margin of one of his drawings for the competition referring to the ‘dolce stanza nell’ inferno’-‘a sweet room in hell’.

The Lost Battles book captures in a realistic and profound way the level of intrigue and rivalry which gave rise to the social milieu within which both Leonardo and Michelangelo had to curry favour in order to work at all and the acute strains which developed between each artist as they sought to outmanoeuvre the other. In fact, it is interesting to note despite our own expressed ‘level field’ attitude to modern competitive commissions that such forces are all too evidently at work in the Arts today.

A final interesting aside to this historic perspective is the row, reported in the Irish Times of 4/12/2011, which has broken out among Italian Art experts over the decision to drill a hole through the great painting by Vasari which currently adorns the Great Hall of Florence but which it is thought may hide the lost painting of the Battle of Anghiari behind it. Once again in a small illustration that history repeats itself, the social, political and artist forces within and without the artistic establishment are at ‘war’ over this painting. For my own part, I feel that the artistic vision encapsulated within the sketches and reproductions should encourage us to reflect on the intensity of Leonardo’s vision rather than attempt to uncover small parts of a painting which even at the time of its execution was quickly falling into disrepair.

I would highly recommend Jonathan Jones fine book to anyone with a shred of interest in the forces which mould artistic endeavour and those great artists who give it tangible expression for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Musical Magic with Kafka Cats and Wonderful Water-Ways!

I’m sure that many people share my experience when I leave off reading for a while in that I find it difficult to refocus on the kind of new book that will both stimulate and perhaps amuse but at least will not bore. The recommendations in the newspapers are often unhelpful as they seem at time to veer wildly between ‘solid’ academic tomes and chick lite pap. So I was delighted recently when my good wife recommended the Japanese author Haruki Murakami to me and especially his novel ‘Kafka on the Shore’.
It is a marvellous read which in an often bewildering fashion blends the lives of twin character both young and old in a magically cohesive way linked by suspense, humour and the power and beauty of music as a medium of expression. Furthermore he mixes dreams and reality in a highly original way during which we meet lost cats and raining fish in such a mesmerising manner that I kept staying up late to sneak in another chapter.

As an accompaniment to reading I often find that some mellow music playing in the background, and perhaps an odd glass of wine, can relax the spirit and make the experience of the imagined fictional world more tangible. I have long been an admirer of the music of Toru Takemitsu, who also being Japanese, has an acute sensibility in his musical expression which I feel compliments the written words of Murakami. I chose Takemitsu’s cd Riverrun &Water-Ways to listen to during my recent reading and I found the music deeply moving and heart felt and a perfect companion to the book.

Thus, I would recommend to anyone reading this blog that they investigate the work of both artists. My good wife suggested that perhaps a little Sushi might add the final touch of excitement to my Japanese experience. However, the very idea of raw fish being consumed still leaves me cold but I might just try some Sake instead.

Note: Toru Takemitsu’s CD with Paul Crossley and the London Sinfonietta with Oliver Knussen are on the Virgin Classics label and of course, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is published in paperback by Vintage Books.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Followers Leading me on a Merry Twitter Dance?

I have just reviewed my fond followers list on my home Twitter page
And the make up of this motley crew would even puzzle a savvy sage
You see a wish to keep up with my blog rantings is all good and well
But reviewing the interests of these Cyber tweeties is like visiting Hell.

The writers, publicists, economic pundits and media types are all very fine
But at voodoo and black magic interests one should surely draw a clear line
I know that people are just looking for some social media attention it is true
But like Jedward said, if you’re going to talk its better if you do it with two.

The trouble is that I have begun to see myself as a reflection of this media hype
With unfortunate consequences which run against my normal conservative type
For example, after I have on occasion taken to calling myself Laddie Da Da
After reading tweets on celebrity gossip and attempting to sing like Lady Ga Ga.

Cyber space singing may even be cool but there will certainly be no glitzy frock
As such manifestations of new image would hardly increase my ‘HE’ manly stock!
I suppose like @8Orion8 I could try to calculate how many cats reside on this earth
Or like @MakeMommyCoffee I could even befriend a unicorn for what its worth

More pointedly like @mduffywriter I could bravely assert that’ any dream will do’
Or even like @hlane try fen shui with dogs to get me out of my current cyber stew.
Should I even talk on FM radio and try like @Barbarascully to befriend a large spider
Or write fine short literary pieces like @Bigalphy before I take to drinking only cider.

I could have recourse to a Beatle with @Musicshosh on my Long and Winding Road
Or try ‘sort of’ everything as per @Tracytid to avoid being perceived as a social toad
Like @bloowriter I could assert the importance of intelligence in language of colour
Or @DrCesa assert psychology as a means of refining my sense of not becoming duller.

But in the end I have decided to follow @linda_grimes and seek solace in a hearty laugh
For her blog site is an ideal breadth of fresh air, good humour and not a little social gaffe
You see for me its not enough tweeting about cups of strong coffee or bubble and squeak
For in these times without humour social media has much interest for me as taking a leak.

So I am now renewed and ready with my followers for a new dawn on my Twitter Day,
As no new vast number or range of friends will be needed to tweet in a very positive way
So here’s thanking all my followers for their forbearance and the their keen sense of fun
As celebrity fame or fortunes are no substitute for real life when all is said and done.

Note: This is a purely fictional verse written for amusement only.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

No need to feel Forlorn as I'm Cooking up a Storm!

Everyone does it with conviction whether at home or in business I hear you say
But the truth is I have never until now really thought about it in my very own way
You see that cooking was something best left to the wife or before her the mother
And committing time or energy to it was beyond me and really too much of a bother.

But now for once let’s sound the bugle and lets with total conviction issue a rallying call
For with idle time on my hands I have at last committed to master the art for once and all
And like any previous resolution in life I will study it with great precision and some care
For it’s useless to start out on this venture with no proper utensils or the cupboard bare.

So I have acquired a series of colourful cookbooks, mostly I’ll admit with fine Italian fare
And I have redecorated the kitchen to give it a new image of a sophisticated culinary lair
Of course I have also watched DVD’s of Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and even Contaldo
For though I wish to cook mostly Italian I don’t want to basically mix up freddo and caldo.

Like all men who aspire to taking lessons in life I am not ready to simply just rely on luck
For like Hester Blumenthal, my ambition is to run a famous restaurant like The Fat Duck.
I have already begun to take notes and to ponder whether snails go with salmon moose
But my wife remains very sceptical and thinks that I will just end up cooking my goose.

She should wait until she tastes my fine food and she can ask her friends round for tea
And perhaps she could even recommend me for TV fame or at least Come Dine with Me.
Yes there is no limit to my potential for achieving an expression of gastronomic delight
Alas my efforts so far could be deemed a trifle banal, trivial or even a sad and sorry sight.

Perhaps my first efforts in preparing Fegato Grasso al Balsamico left me in a sort of bind
And my wife’s view that my Risotto Primavera was just edible could even be deemed kind
Maybe I was a little over ambitious in first attempting to serve Tuscan Fagiano Tartufato
But I have to admit that her criticisms of my cooking process were beginning to ‘grato’.

So she took me aside, sighed and said that my cooking fare required some key reflection
For example, could I without any knowledge or skills achieve a harmonious perfection?
Cooking she said is an art form forged by many people over a lifetime of trial and error
And any attempt to master it by me over a weekend could lead to disaster or even terror.

In cooking like prison, she said, you have to do time and with my efforts she was pleased
But I’m not sure if this assuaged my sense of unfilled ambition or indeed of being teased.
She said why not start by aspiring to getting her breakfast in bed which would be super
And would give me a real break from rugby football matches and drink induced stupor.

I now realise that cooking for each other is best thought of as a form of human sharing,
And that the relative skills of each party should not be a source of friction to that pairing
But deep down in me there is still a small but smouldering sense of uneasiness and dread
Because I sometimes think that she may have hoodwinked me just to get breakfast in bed.

On balance though when I smell and taste her fine cooking I get a great sense of yearning
I suppose it’s not too much to ask to bring up her coffee, porridge and toast of a morning.
You see cooking fine dishes are but pastimes best enjoyed with friends purely for fun
And endless discussion on their relative merits is unnecessary when all is said and done.

Note: This is a purely fictional verse written for amusement only.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Colour me Beautiful with Fish, Fruit and Florio wine!

Words seem superfluous here because I am posting a few photographs largely for my own sake to remember fondly all the magnificent vibrant natural produce of the Sicilian seas and countryside which of course can best be savoured with a glass of wine. Although the Florio Marsala wine is very sweet and is therefore best enjoyed in a milder climate than the average 37 degrees of heat common throughout the summer in Sicily, it’s labelling at least catches the colour and light of the landscape where it is produced. A celebration therefore of Pure Magic all round!

A Sicilian Sogno with Cheerful Cherubs and 'Ellenico Splendico'

It seems that we arrived too late in Syracuse. The famous tenor, Andrea Bocelli had been singing at the wonderful open air Greek Theatre the previous week. However, my wife and I did take time to visit the Theatre which is still in operation and dates from the 5th century B.C. It is a magical place set in the hills above the city and indeed it is only one of many Hellenic Splendours (Ellenico Splendore) to be found in Sicily from another open air Greek theatre in Taormina to the magnificent Greek Temple at Segesta. However, a few days later when we visited the famous baroque Town of Noto I came across a street trader selling cd’s in the market square and I was able to acquire from him Bocelli’s CD ‘Sogno’ or dream in English translation. It is a lovely collection of songs and we were able to listen to them in our apartment in Ortigia while we savoured the historical ambience and were seduced by the lovely old buildings of Syracuse.

Sicily is of course famous for its fine baroque buildings. This architecture dates from the late 16th century and was employed by the Catholic Church as an expression of triumphal power and prestige in response to the detractions proffered by the Protestant reformation. Thus it became a dominant force in Sicily after the devastating earthquake of 1693. There are of course many fine examples of Baroque architecture throughout the cities of Sicily. Indeed, Ortigia itself, being the area of Syracuse jutting out into the sea, is an UNESCO World Heritage site where 380million euro has been spent between 2001 and 2006 restoring the city infrastructure. However, it is probably Noto, which is more famous for its Baroque buildings probably because they dominate the whole character of the central area from the main piazza, to the town hall and the magnificent Duomo. It is also famous however for its Spring Festival which culminates in the “Infiorata di Via Nicolaci” when local artists decorate a steep narrow street in a carpet of flowers.

Although Baroque decoration and ornament can appear excessive and even a trifle ‘vulgar’ to some modern minimalist aesthetic tastes it is nevertheless a wonderful celebration of artistic endeavour at a particular period in Italian history. However, while acknowledging the significance and intrinsic value of this architecture I must say that I find the Italian fascination with ‘cheerful cherub’ stucco or Putti statues a bit ‘off putting’. These little chubby figures of supposed infant children are found in abundance in churches and paintings and we even found a pair of reproduction Putti attached over the bed head in our apartment. However, the most extreme example of these petty ‘puttis’ was I feel in the Cappella Palatina (Palace Chapel) on the upper floor of the castle in Castelbuono. It is described in the brochure as a “sumptuous spectacle extremely rich in images within a setting of the relic of the Virgin Mary’s mother”. However, such is the profusion of marble, stuccowork, putti and friezes that the overall effect is one of bizarre overindulgence in cherub chic. Indeed I feel that the brothers Guiseppe and Giacomo Serposa who are credited with this work must have had the historic equivalent of a Barbie doll fascination such was there affinity with these ridiculously banal cherub statues.

May I therefore end this little discourse by recommending to you a YouTube video of Andrea Bocelli singing with Eros Ramazzotti the song from the CD Songo called “Nel Cuore Lei” in which the following lines are sung and for me sum of the spirit and magic of Sicily:

“She’ll touch your heart” or in Italian”Ti prendere il cuero”

Sicily indeed renews one’s faith in baroque architecture and the people who continue to treasure it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Enjoying Perfect Pizza with a side order of White Tiles and the Colour of the Wind

If I were to list my favourite foods, pizza would not be high on the list. I have a particular aversion to the stodgy food under the pizza label, sold in many supermarkets packaged under the name of a gangster movie or card game title. In fact many of these pizzas resemble a flat pancake with a thinly spread dubious looking sauce and what appeared to be synthetic plastic like vegetables interspersed on top. Not a sight never mind a taste inclined to make one salivate in anticipation of a delicious meal. However, my opinion of Pizzas has changed radically after visiting the Calvino Pizze in Trapani on a recent visit to Sicily. This small establishment in the old town is famous for its wonderful freshly made food and local wine and does a roaring trade both in talk away pizzas and in house dining. Its layout is supposed to be based upon a Moroccan theme in that the interior is decorated with only white tiles with a green trim and green tablecloths and it has stepped ziggurat pattern of small opening between each eating area. It is the first restaurant where I have eaten where the toilet décor is exactly the same as the front house treatment. If the food were in any way questionable this décor might appear somewhat banal but in reality the food and wine are so good and the fellow guests and indeed staff so friendly that the whole experience could be said to be a gastronomic delight. The secret of course lies in the fresh ingredients used and the attention to detail employed in cooking the food. After this fine dining experience I would prefer to eat the packaging than resort to precooked supermarket pizzas ever again.

While visiting Trapani my wife and I stayed for a few nights in the wonderfully named “I Colori del Vento”, kindly translated by the owner for us as the colour of the wind. This small B/B establishment is located facing directly onto the seafront on the edge of the Old Town itself. Thus it is readily accessible to the fine Baroque buildings nearby but is also right beside the ferry to the Egadi Islands and also to the busy fruit and fish market adjoining the old port. The rooms themselves are spacious and nicely decorated and there is also a lovely reception room accessible all day where snacks and coffee are available. A particular nice feature was the nice music playing in the reception area when we arrived. Thus we were serenaded by Diana Krall and Cat Stevens at various times during our stay. I also feel that the music of Melody Gardot would find a true echo in this lovely place. In fact I was so impressed by the B/B name that I looked it up in Irish on my return. The nearest translation would be ‘Dathanna na Gaoithe’ I think. However, while the sound of the spoken Irish translation has a nice ring to it, I feel the original Italian one, I Colori del Vento’ really sings to you. Like the guesthouse itself it has a special resonance. Thus, if I was asked to choose a colour which best summed up our visit to Trapani I would have to refer to the title track from Donovan’s 1967 music album. It was aptly called ‘Mellow Yellow’ and that exactly summed up our holiday experience in the sun of Trapani despite temperatures reaching in excess of 37 degrees at times. Thanks to all concerned for making our Trapani break so special.

Friday, August 5, 2011

An Irish Twitter President for every Man in the Tweet!

As you may know in Ireland the election race for the Aras* is now in full swing
But in betting on the candidates yet declared there is surely not any sure thing
So when I was recently reflecting on the nature of the policies, pundits and refrains
I could not but wonder if they really had any relevance to social media domains.

Poor old Davis Norris had to retire from the fray because of an inappropriate letter
But had he simply tweeted his views on the web he might have done a lot better
And now it is rumoured that Dana, Rosemary Scanlon, has cast her hat into the ring
But in society circles voting again for ‘all kinds of everything’ is hardly the done thing.

In the political sphere Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael seems to think the election is in the bag
But what of Michael D of Labour whose verbal eloquence has never been known to lag
Still I can’t help feeling that the ambition of many politicians owes more to ego or vanity
Not to mention the odd perk and a degree of high expenses that many regard as insanity.

In truth most young people are bored by the presidency and so we must make amends
If its role is to impinge positively on the quality of their lives or that of their friends
So what better place to find a new outlet for the President but on a social media forum
Where he/she could choose from Twitter or even Facebook without loosing decorum.

I would go even further by suggesting that the President be elected only by Twitter vote
And could then genuinely lay claim to the support of tweeters and many bleaters of note
The cost of the institution could be reduced and foreign travel would be greatly curtailed
As the President in web mode using access by tweet would be seen not to have failed.

But is this in itself really an adequately radical approach or do we new a new creation
For when all is said and done perhaps the answer best lies in the field of Pixar animation
After all do we need an actual human person in the role and so I exclaim what the heck
Couldn’t we simply draw up a new superman hero along the lines popularised by Shrek

I realise that this might prove a slight problem for Miriam O’C on her Saturday show
But we know she has had her fair share of Monsters and Aliens on previously, so let it go.
Our new President could adopt a name like SuperPres, Perkman or even Lark in the Park
And so you see that the options are endless but without Twitter the choices are stark.

But even the best animated character needs a distinct voice over artist to seal his fame
And I’m glad to relate here that I am reluctantly out of sense of duty up for the game
So if you in future choose to tweet your vote of approval to this humble Irish resident
Just curtsy at first to this newly created superhero and call me for know Mr President.

So lighten up friend, while this new animated character provokes a merry Twitter dance,
And please all you traditionalists, don’t just carp and adopt a too rigid judgemental stance
For Twitter experience has leads me to assert one crucial thing about any subject matter
That social media trivia is to some as fine as Alice in Wonderland or even the Mad Hatter

Note:*Aras refers to the current home residence of the Irish President in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.

This is a purely fictional verse written for amusement only.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ancient Mores, Front Doors and 'Hearths' of Gold!

The folk tales of Ireland contain a wealth of myth and legend attached to traditional vernacular dwellings. There are several features common to these houses which served to symbolise the life cycle within and may have a resonance for our own very different lifestyle. Among the most striking of these features was the location of the front door and the hearth for the fire which were closely integrated.

In western areas of the country the door was often placed well away from the fireplace with a second door leading out through the back of the house directly opposite the front door. In windy locations these two doors were used to regulate the draught so that the kitchen fire did not smoke. Sometimes they were known as ‘doras na foittine’-the sheltered door and ‘doras na gaoithe’-the windward door. A stranger who presumably did not know the district or was unaware of the direction of the prevailing wind might try to gain admission by the wrong door and be gently reminded that he would make a poor sailor as he did not seem to be aware of the wind direction. In my own modern humble abode I also have two doors both front and rear. However, they do not function as symbols of the wind direction but rather as formal and informal social entry points to the house. I was amused some years ago when one our young children declared that the rear door was really the ‘front door’ as most of her school friends entered that way. It is sad to relate however that some modern houses have no front door at all but only an obscure side entrance thus offering a confusing symbolic greeting to those approaching the house. It is interesting to note that one of my favourite public houses in Galway is called the Front Door over the entrance facing one street and Sonnies on the other street entrance. Little do they realise but they may well be asserting the importance of a unique historic tradition and I’ll drink to that.

John O’Donohue in his book ‘The Four Elements-Reflections on Nature’ stresses the importance of fire as an elemental association in any settlement grouping. The hearth in traditional Irish dwellings is where this fire was accommodated within a house shelter. It was not only a place of warmth however as it was a place for imparting wisdom and knowledge and for social meetings. Here the ‘seanchai’ (storyteller) held court and the cultural traditions of the local people were handed down to future generations. Indeed it was the simple traditional equivalent of our modern technological information highway. Thus, John O’Donohue beautifully described it as ‘a theatre of word’.

However, with the increased urbanisation of modern life rural traditions are no longer learned informally but are taught academically according to explicit rules. The knowledgeable scholar has become the arbiter of public taste, while real choice is now constrained by shared aspirations forged within the confines of accepted good taste and social manners and within the dictates of styles of building deemed appropriate to our modern age. These building types are often the same whether for farmer or urban dweller, large family or small, rich or poor and may bear little or no relationship to community structure.

In the home, the television has replaced the hearth as the primary social focus and the I-Pad or home computer has become the primary means of acquiring or dispersing knowledge. Despite the huge number of animated interactions between those social media forums such as Twitter and Face book, perhaps there is a sad and lonely core of personal isolation at the heart of these endeavours. While I accept the personal value of these technological innovations, when it comes to our homes we should remember that a house should not be simply a structure which gives basic shelter and towards which we adopt an aesthetic attitude and a social aspiration. Rather it should also reflect the activities and personal associations of the people living within it. Hence, like out traditional predecessors we should endeavour to make a conscious place in our home for flexible social interaction whether through food preparation, family dining or indeed group conversation around the fire in the Hearth. It is not for nothing that the Irish proverb had a special place in our hearts:

“Nil aon Tintean mar do Thintean Fein”
(Translated: ‘There is no Hearth like your own Hearth’ or more simply Home is where the heart is.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DeMent,Dinosaurs and the Devils Spine Band in Galway

Firstly today I have to confess to an addiction. I have had it now over 30 years and it flares up every July in varying degrees and it’s is highly contagious and has affected my children and in turn my young grandchildren are now starting to show distinct signs of its pervasive influence. Its symptoms are usually defined in turn by sudden bursts of wild laughter, dramatic jaw dropping wonder, magical musical outbursts and a tendency to take to the streets in the most outlandish garb and costume. In its earliest manifestation this infection was confined by the World Heath Authorities to a small area around a small city in the west of Ireland but recently its influence has spread across the globe. It knows no barriers of culture or creed and indeed many sufferers have been known to carry the affects of its benign affliction from one year to the next. It is an addiction shared by famous actors and humble artisans alike and it goes by the name of the Galway Arts Festival and this years Festival runs from 11-24th July in the City of the Tribes.

I read in the national press in the last few days how some 70,000 people attended an open air concert in Dublin where they witnessed a small group of singers perform on a stage in the centre of a football pitch and tried to follow them in close up on huge television screens on either side of the stage. Perhaps this was a worthy spectacle but it certainly was hardly an intimate concert. Had they decided to visit Galway in July instead, they could have attended an intimate concert by Blondie, Afrocubism or De La Soul in the Festival Big Top Tent, gone to the World Premiere of Misterman with Cillian Murphy in the Black Box Theatre and literally touched and been touched by the ‘Fierce Beauty’ of the famous Macnas performers through the narrow winding streets of the Medieval city. They could probably also have done this for less than the cost of the Dublin concert and they still would have had time for a drink or meal in the Latin Quarter of Galway after the show. If they needed a break from the magical mayhem of the Arts they could always visit the wonderful scenery of Connemara to the north of the city or indeed the dramatic landscape of the Burren to the south.

I suppose I should admit that I am not entirely an unbiased spectator in the sphere of the Galway Arts Festival. Although I have no direct involvement in the Festival itself and therefore this blog is written entirely in a personal capacity, I was the architect for both the Town Hall Theatre and the Black Box theatre where some of the Festival events take place. Indeed I have very fond memories of an open air concert performed by Chinese drummers before a crowd of thousands in front of the Black Box soon after its opening. Thus my sole reason for this little blog is to remind everyone to support this wonderful Festival especially during a time where the economic recession is affecting the Arts so badly. As usual there is a wonderful variety of performance scheduled covering theatre, music and dance and I have especially noted the attraction of Iris DeMent, whose music has been featured on the soundtrack of the film ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, the children’s spectacle of the Dinosaur Petting Zoo and 'saloon' theatre of The Devils Spine Bank inspired by Oscar Wilde’s visit to the mining town of Leadville, Colorado in 1881.
Indeed it was Oscar Wilde himself who proclaimed that the best way to overcome temptation is to yield to it. So I will be feeding my addiction happily again this year and my long affection for the Festival is underlined by the number of old festival posters on walls throughout our house, photos of some of which are included with this blog.

May I end therefore with a quote from the Festival brochure on the Macnas parade ‘This Fierce Beauty’ which I feel underlines both the beauty not only of the Macnas personnel but also of the entire Festival staff of volunteers:

“Somewhere in space
My heart hangs
Sparks streaming,
Shaking the air
To other boundless hearts.”

Enjoy the Festival.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Snap Shot on Blue Moods,Green Fingers and Little White Lies

Let’s face it; my gardening process is never going to win me an award at the Chelsea Flower Show like my compatriot Diarmuid Gavin. Far from managing to design a flower garden suspended in mid air, I am finding it difficult to control the one I have at ground level. The severe cold weather last spring damaged or even killed many tender plants and frequent downpours in recent weeks have made it difficult to even cut the grass never mind attend to the needs of flowering shrubs. This has led to some blue moods of despondency at times. It also occurred to me that my wife and I have been spending large amounts of time each year transporting weeds and decaying vegetation from one part of the garden to another and then returning it back the next year in the form of compost. This work was so extensive and back breaking that we resembled bit players in the Coen Brothers movie ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ in that we could have been taken for members of a chain gang on a prison farm. Thus we have decided to ‘execute’ these weeds in future rather than transport them to pastures new. With our new resolve to stop ‘Dead Weeds Walking’ as it were, we find that we have more time and energy to manicure our green fingers and apply them to positive gardening. Thus, some recent photos posted by some of my blog followers of their own idyllic shrubberies and lovely lawns have enhanced my enthusiasm and sense of purpose in applying me to the restoration of my own humble patch of green. So I am posting some photos of my own garden as a work in progress. However, I must admit that I feel a little guilty about the subjective close ups of some of these pictures as they as yet are not typical of the garden as a whole. I hope though that in offering a limited and somewhat false photographic perspective on the overall garden condition, my fellow green garden goblins will forgive me my little white lies.

PS. Our grandchildren consider our hens and indeed the garden their ‘gnome away from gnome’, which may help to explain the increasing number of little cherub like statues beginning to proliferate there! Hi Ho! Hi! Ho! It’s off to work we go---

Special Thanks to @TheIrishMother and @Peepsqueak for lovely photos shared.