Friday 28 February 2014

February Scavenger Hunt

Joining in with Suzzie for the Scavenger Hunt once again. As the weather was quite foul with lots of storms in the early part of the month, I found it harder than expected to come up with images for all the clues.

F is for  Fishing Boats

Fishing boats tied up in Dundalk Harbour


Finished work early so time to get a photo of the tower of Dundalk's St Nicholas Parish Church, popularly known as the Green Church because of its copper spire. It's the oldest building still in use in our town.


 We buy logs from a local forester for burning during the winter months.


A dusting of snow on this street lamp on our one hour of snow this  year!


Clock tower in Drogheda


I like to put a little honey on my porridge for breakfast in the winter.


This is the fountain in Dundalk's Market Square. It's very popular with children and usually gushes  up much higher than this but it was on a  subdued cycle when I stopped to snap it on my way home after working late. I intended going back in the hope of getting a more impressive shot but it has been closed off due to roadworks ever since!


Ireland is famous for its round towers which were used by monks as a place of refuge during Viking invasions. This one at Dromiskin, Co Louth, dates back to the 12th century. It would originally have stood higher but the top was altered at some stage leaving it with a squat appearance.

We had so much dull weather at the beginning of the month that it took me longer than I expected to get this shot of shadows on the wall of the old St Joseph's orphanage at Seatown Place, Dundalk.

A group of birds including swans, mallard ducks, moorhens and gulls in Ice House Hill, Dundalk after a brief snow shower.

Beer barrels which were cut in half find a new use as planters outside a pub in Dundalk


It's great that the evenings are getting brighter so I can get out to take photographs and walk the dog, and enjoy sunsets like this, after work.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Grave Matters

I am rather enjoying my weekly visits to Drogheda as it gives me the chance to explore our neighbouring town.
Lunchtime presents a limited opportunity for discovering something new, so I've got into the habit of grabbing a quick sandwich and then going for a walk on the axil of streets near to where I park.
This week I wandered into the churchyard of St Peter's Church of Ireland as I had seen some interesting photos on Instagram.
Maybe it's a photographer thing, but I do enjoy walking around old graveyard, looking at the tombstones and wondering about the lives of those long gone.
John Duggan, commemorated in the tombstone above was a soldier who fought in the Charge of the Light Brigade before settling down to the more peaceful existence as a sexton of St Peter's Church.

Above left is the skeletal couple  believed to date back to the first quarter of the 16th century. It's what's known as a 'cadaver stone' and was taken from the tomb of Sir Edmond Goldyng and his wife Elizabeth Fleming. It has been built in the churchyard wall and shows two cadavers enclosed in shrouds which have been partially opened to show to remains of the occupants of the tomb.
Much prettier was the dove resting on another tomb stone while the snowdrops were a reminder of hope in a somewhat spooky place.

Sunday 16 February 2014

A Lunchtime Discovery

Drogheda. Lunchtime. I have a small window of opportunity to get a photo for my Photo A Day Project. I wander into a church and immediately I'm in awe as I see the light streaming through this marvelous window.
I didn't need the plaque underneath to know that it was by the famed Irish artist Harry Clarke.

The Passion window, which tells the story of the Passion of Christ through  key motifs
including  the crown of thorns, nails, rooster, and shroud, was originally installed in the tower of the
Ausgustinian Church, Shop Street,  in 1927 but later relocated to the front wall of the church in 1979 as the tower was never finished.

Born in Dublin on St Patrick's Day 1889, Harry Clarke was a noted stained glass artist and illustrator of books.
His father had a church decorating business and Harry studied stained glass making at the Dublin Metropolitian School of Art, winning a number of national competitions.
He received many important commissions for both church and secular work both in Ireland and further afield, and after  his father died, he took over the running of the stained glass studios.
One of his most acclaimed pieces was created for the International Labour Court in Geneva. However, the deeply conservative  Irish government which had commissioned it, didn't like it and it was never exhibited by the State. His widow, the Newry born artist Margaret Crilly, bought it back after he died of TB, aged 41. It is now on permanent exhibition in the University of Florida.

Many of his windows are to be found in churches throughout Ireland although not all those that are attributed to  him are actually by him, as the studio also produced windows without his input.
There were quite a number of people in the church while I was taking photos. Two ladies were having  loudly whispered chat, and one man wanted to know why I was taking pictures of the window. When I explained that it was by a famous Irish artist and that I thought it was beautiful, he admitted that he had never noticed it.  He then had a good look at the window and thanked me for bringing it to  his attention. That's one of the reasons I love photography - it helps you see things which you otherwise mightn't notice.

Friday 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day

Whether you think it's the most romantic day of the year
 or the commercialisation of smug coupledom,
I hope this St Valentine's Day is a good one for you.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

What's Rare Is Wonderful

There's a saying is Irish 'An rud is annamh is iontach' which mean's what's rare is wonderful.
That is certainly the case with snow.
We don't get much snow. Some winters can pass with scarcely a snow shower and we're still talking about the winter of 2010 when it snowed for most of December and the country almost ground to a halt - and I'm not just speaking figuratively as local authorities ran out of salt to grit the roads.
Anyway, the long and short of it is, snow is regarded as pretty special. Certainly by children and by adults like myself who see photo opportunities in every snowfall.
I couldn't believe my luck when it started to snow this afternoon as I had finished work early. That meant I had time to visit the pretty Ice House Hill Park to get some photos before picking my son up from collage.

Naturally enough, I wasn't the only one taking photographs.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Looking for Spring

Between bad weather and bad health, it seemed like an eternity since I'd been out and about with my camera.
So when Saturday came along, I was determined to go and seek out some signs of spring. Ideally I would have inspected the garden, checked on the bulbs I planted last autumn, and maybe taken a walk though the fields.
But still it rained. And rained. And rained.
I'd have to  find spring indoors and what better place than Strandfield Flower Market? I had time to pop in for some quality 'me time' before going into town.
There was a cosy fire to chase the chills away but the blinds were pulled in the coffee shop making it too dark for photography.
However, there was plenty to see in the large conservatory and flower shop.
The spring bulbs look tempting so I think I might buy some later in the week to augment those I planted.  Perhaps I will drop a few hints that they would be preferable to overpriced roses for Valentine's Day.

I am really drawn to that botanical print and would love to buy it but unfortunately I  don't think there's a space for it on our already crowded walls.

Fortified by a hot chocolate, I made my shopping list, read some of my book, and left refreshed to face the weekly grocery shop.

Thursday 6 February 2014

Keep Calm and Make Soup

February 1st is St Brigid's Day and, in Ireland, it is traditionally regarded as the first day of Spring.
This year Ireland was battered by Atlantic storm Brigid, causing major flooding in coastal communities.
We checked the weather forecasts,  tapped the barometer, listened to the wind, and hoped we'd be safe.
Luckily the wind dropped just in time and the high tide on St Brigid's Day passed without incident.
There's been another storm, Petra, since then which brought more flooding and hardship. After a night of fitful sleep we arose to find that we had once again escaped safely.
It's calm now and I'm desperately searching for signs  that perhaps Spring isn't too far away, welcoming the snowdrops in the garden, buds on the plants,  and birdsong in the air. Anything is better than the wind and rain.
This is the weather for homemade soup, warming and comforting. My favourite winter soup is leek and potato, rich and creamy, full of natural goodness.

It's a quick and easy soup to make, and with leeks in season and often on special offer this time of year , it makes a cheap and nourishing winter lunch, accompanied by some homemade brown bread.

This is a recipe I've adapted from a couple of cookery books, experimenting until I came up with a version that I like best.
3 leeks, chopped and washed
1 onion, chopped
2 or 3 potatoes, chopped into small cubes
1 litre chicken stock
rinds of parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
olive oil
Gently fry the onions in the olive oil until soft, add the leeks and potatoes and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the stock and old parmesan rinds (a tip from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries), and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then simmer for approximately 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Scrape the melted cheese from the rind, discard the rind itself, and blend the soup.
Delicious served with some crispy fried bacon to garnish.

Monday 3 February 2014

What I Read in January

I  had already decided that I wanted to read more books this year, so when Laura of Circle of Pine Trees posted launched the  The Year In Books I didn't think twice about joining in as this was just the encouragement I needed to make sure I didn't go back on my resolution.
The first book I read in January was 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn.  The book opens as Amy disappears on her wedding anniversary and pretty soon suspicion falls on her husband. Set in contemporary America, it's a real page turner with lots of unexpected plot twists but ultimately I found the ending unsatisfactory. As it's a thriller, I'll say no more.
The other book I read was 'N W' by Zadie Smith. Smith, of course, is a highly acclaimed young author and I was looking forward to discovering her work. In 'N W' I wasn't disappointed. I loved her adventurous use of language, particularly the streams of consciousness in the first section of the book  which reminded me of the cadence of  rap music.
'N W' tells the story of four people who grew up on a grim working class council estate in the cultural melting pot of  North West London. Three of them, Leah, Keisha (who later calls herself Natalie) and Nathan went to the same school. The two women were among the few to go on to university while Nathan has become a drug addict.  The women keep in touch but their friendship is brittle. Leah, still living in the area where they grew up, is married to a romantic Frenchman who dreams of improving their lot and of having children. Natalie's life seems perfect on the outside - she is a successful barrister, married with a handsome husband and two children, a nanny and beautiful house. But the cost of what it took her to achieve this takes its toll.
The other character is Felix. A one time drug addict, he has but his bad habits behind him. He's in love with his girlfriend, calls to visit his father (the description of his Rasta dad and his overheated apartment is outstanding), seals a deal to buy an old MG car from a yuppie, and calls in on an old girlfriend to seek closure on their relationship.
To say anymore would spoil the story which I would highly recommend if you enjoy a book which challenges and sparkles in equal measure. It might not be perfect, a couple of things jar, but then life isn't perfect either and this is a book that's all about life.
As I've been feeling poorly lately, with a sinus infection which refuses to go away, I've been doing a lot  more reading than usual.
I've read some short stories from the Richard Yates collection 'Eleven Kinds of Loneliness', dipping into perfectly crafted and heart-breaking insights into the lives of 1950s New Yorkers. They're so good that I want to save them, like rationing a box of rich dark chocolate.
And I've even read my first February book, 'Italian Shoes' by Henning Mankell, which I'll review at the end of the month.
What next?  At the moment it's a toss  up between 'A Street Cat Named Bob' as I'm in the mood for some undemanding reading or 'Noctures' by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Of course, now that I've rediscovered my love of reading, there could be even more.
Thanks to Laura again for this great idea to bring readers and bloggers together.