Liffey Park Newbridge Yarn Bombed

Yarn bombing

I nearly crashed the car. Driving a road I’ve driven hundreds of times, I had to do a double-take. Were all the trees in the park wearing sweaters? Had the park benches been kitted out in knitted flags? Mad.

On the way back, I pulled in to have a look. And yes, Liffey Park in Newbridge has been yarn bombed in celebration of the creativity in the county. Love it.

Liffey Park Newbridge Yarn Bombed Liffey Park Newbridge Yarn Bombed

Yarn bombing is also known as yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, kniffiti, urban knitting, or graffiti knitting. Wikipedia says:

[…] yarn bombing has become synonymous with the current feminist movement due in part to the reclamation of a traditionally feminine act (i.e. knitting and/or crocheting) to partake in the traditionally masculine and male-dominated graffiti scene. The women and girls who make up the yarn bombing subculture are diverse in race, age, sexuality, class, etc. and create space for themselves and their art everywhere from college campuses to public parks. This creation and preservation of space is what motivates some of the participants, some of whom have never been able to access a political art space before.

Liffey Park Newbridge Yarn Bombed

It’s a relatively new phenomenon, apparently originating in Texas back in 2005 when boutique owner Magda Sayeg covered the doorhandle of her shop in Houston with a knitted cozy. And from such small beginnings, a global movement has sprung. International Yarnbombing Day was first celebrated on 11 June 2011. Who knew.

Liffey Park Newbridge Yarn Bombed

In a 2005 article published in the Royal Geographical Society journal Area, author Joanna Mann argues that  yarn bombing

[…]does more than feminise the city, for the whimsy with which it is imbued has the capacity to increase our attentiveness to habitual worlds in a series of micro‐political gestures.

Liffey Park Newbridge Yarn Bombed

It’s quite something. When I first came across it (can’t remember where) I remember thinking that it brightened up what was otherwise quite a dreary place. And admittedly, it is all rather frivolous – but it certainly attracts attention, is temporary in nature, can be easily removed, and makes for a happy place. Kudos to the Kildare Yarn Bombers. Job well done.

Liffey Park Newbridge Yarn Bombed

 

 

 

2018 Grateful 29

I was in Venice during the week for a few days. I packed my laptop. I had about an hour’s work that I didn’t quite get done before I left, so I brought it with me. As I like to blog, too, it’s handy to have. I have it in my mind that one day I’ll use the text in my three blog/websites as the material for three books: Unpacking My Bottom Drawer (a work in progress, scheduled for later this year); Any Excuse to Travel (a vague notion for 2019); and Dying to Get In (still in my head). I like the discipline. I like that when I write about a city, or somewhere I visit, I have to research. I have to read around it. And all too often, I learn of places I would have gone to visit had I know about them while I was there. [Next time, I want to visit the Armenian Monastery where Byron went to study the language.]

We didn’t walk through St Mark’s Square. We didn’t take a Gondola trip. We didn’t visit Murano. Or Burano. Or San Michele. We didn’t go to Harry’s Bar for a Bellini. And I never once ate pasta. But I did get a taste of life on the water. I discovered Tintoretto and his amazing story. And I got to the Biennale. We stayed on Lido and even spent one entire day lying by a pool. What poor tourists we were.

I can’t remember when I stopped always doing what was expected of me. I don’t have a firm recollection of when I began to lessen the hold that obligation had over me. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the date when I started to offer a considered no in place of a blind yes. None of this happened overnight. You can’t change a lifetime of behaviour just by willing it so. I’ve had to learn…and often the hard way.

I know it’s working because I’ve heard that I’ve changed. I’m not nearly as much fun, apparently. Not nearly as sociable. Not nearly as available. And I’m hearing more and more lately that I seem to have settled. Oh man – the first time I heard my name and that word in the same sentence, I had palpitations. Me? Settled? Seriously? But perhaps I have settled. I still like a drink but no longer want to waste the next day recovering so those times when the weakness in me get strong are few and far between. I still like to go out but enjoy my time at home even more. I still like to travel but am picking and choosing my destination a little more carefully.

I’m still working, still chasing my tail, still trying to juggle a million things at once, but I’m also taking more time to experiment, to pick fruit, to paint tables. I’ve given up on SEO, and social media, and tweeting resigning myself to the fact that people don’t have time to read anything but headlines. So when I write now, I write for me. For my own records. And for some dear old friends who, through age and circumstance, like to travel virtually with me.

Happy birthday week DLW – hang tough. UNESCO has it right – normal life is a full-time job. And I’m grateful for mine, however settled it might be.

2018 Grateful 30

I’ve had one of those weeks when I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me. It started when I left two bags of cherries in the fridge in the village. I’d meant to bring them to the city to stone and freeze. I wouldn’t mind, but I wondered not once, but three times, why the food carrier was so light.

Then my store of novelty Budapest chocolates, treats for a workshop I was running on Friday, treats that I’ve only ever found in one little shop over in Buda – I had those all ready to pack – but didn’t want to crush the boxes, so I Ieft them aside and then left without them. Airport chocolate is five times more expensive and not nearly as nice.

Then the flight was late.

When I got to the car rental desk, the lovely lady told me that my credit card had expired last week. So no car. They, of course, don’t take cash. Or a debit card. And even had I taken full insurance, they’d still need a credit card. Why or what for I’m not sure. Thankfully, the mates I called came to my rescue. They’d rent the car but name me as the driver. They arrived with a credit card but no licence – why would they need it if they weren’t driving? So another friend had to be called in. I was now three hours behind schedule. But I was on the road.

Next day, I get to my workshop more than an hour early. I wanted to be sure that I’d be able to use my laptop with their system and if not, have time to source another. All was good. But the that massive Windows update that I’d been putting off all week kicked in and for more than an hour I wanted the minutes tick away, one percent at a time. I just about made it.

I couldn’t get my Internet to work, so I texted their support guy, who asked questions like when I run config/all (or some such) what does it say? WTF? The presumption of knowledge was hilarious. It was something to do with hardcored DNS numbers in the end.

The workshop went fine. They enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. All good.

I still had time before the shops closed so I headed into TK Maxx to buy a frying pan. I get lost easily and if I enter the shopping centre from a different door, I find it nearly impossible to orientate myself. I spotted a lift that I knew would open on the floor I needed, so in I got. Halfway between two floors, the electricity cut out and the lift stopped. With me in it. And I was in it for 29 minutes. I counted. They eventually got the door open and lowered a ladder for me to climb out. It was, of course, the only day this year that I’ve worn a floor-length skirt. All I can say is that it wasn’t pretty.

I had yet another fruitless trip to M&S who really need to do something about their ordering policy. It’s pretty clear to me (someone with little to no retail experience) that if something regularly sells out, you should order more of it than of anything else. Every other woman in Ireland must wear the same bra size as I do because M&S has not had that size in stock the last three times I’ve shopped there.

So, with the week about to close and a new one set to begin, I can only hope that the universe has said whatever it needs to say to me. These were, of course, all first world issues. As the rest of the world continues to go mad, I’m grateful that my issues are trivial.

 

 

 

Whassup Ryanair?

I’m due to fly tomorrow. I checked in last Wednesday. I even printed my boarding pass. And I just got an email reminding me that my flight is tomorrow and that I should ‘consider checking in’. mmmm…For a minute there I stopped and wondered if I were me or someone else but no, the codes are the same. And yes, the site says I’m checked in. But the message came from Outlook. Whew. For a minute I wondered.

In and of itself, even if it had been RyanAir, this would have been no more than a blip in the system. But in the last week or so, I know of five RyanAir flights that have been delayed. And not just delayed but planes sitting on runways for an hour or more with other in-terminal hold-ups. And this is just between Budapest and Dublin going both ways.

And just yesterday, the Indo ran a piece of a flight from Dublin to Budapest that was diverted to Bratislava, according to the Captain, but then ended up landing in Vienna – with passengers left to find their own way to BP – after midnight.

I can forgive RyanAir a lot of things. I suck up the priority boarding fee because it really is a baggage charge – the only priority you get flying from Budapest is to board a bus first – not a priority bus, not a bus that allows priority passengers to disembark first, just a bus with all the other punters. So I’m really paying for the privilege of carrying on my carryon. I can live with that.

I can forgive it the steadily deteriorating inflight service. Last flight, my hot sambo had gone cold before my luke-warm coffee arrived. But I really should have known better and eaten before I got on the plane. And given that it would appear that the cabin staff pay for their own training and bring their own food onboard, I shouldn’t be expecting stellar service.

But after years of suffering that horrendous clatter they make when their flights arrive on time or ahead of the buffered schedule, I’m beginning to miss it.  I can’t believe I said that. But I hate being late. So, whassup RyanAir?

 

2018 Grateful 31

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who needed affirmation – confirmation that I was doing the right thing or making the right choice. I pretty much do what feels right when it feels right to do it. Nothing more complicated than that. But occasionally, when affirmation and unsolicited approval come my way, I do a damn fine imitation of a peacock in full preen.

I’ve long since realised that I live a blessed life. My wants outnumber my needs and even those are manageable. I have the best of both worlds, with my time split between city and country living and frequent trips to Ireland and abroad. Work comes my way when I need it and life is never dull. I have so much to be grateful for.

But I’m in danger of taking it all for granted. I do things on a daily basis that others have never had the chance to do at all. I have a friend visiting from home home who is crossing firsts off their list of things to do at an alarming rate.

We’ve picked cherries and made jam and cherry syrup. We’ve shelled and candied walnuts. We’ve picked mulberries and having researched their superfood properties, made syrup of those, too. And this was just Day 1. Today, with so many working in the service industry and the manufacturing industry mainly automated, few of us get to see the fruits of our labours. We miss out on the satisfaction that comes with turning a bowl of cherries into a pot of jam. We don’t get to feel that sense of tired satisfaction that comes after spending a day doing… doing stuff.

Day 2, being Sunday, was a rest day that started with us scoring some nice pottery at a flea market outside Keszthely and then finding a birdhouse, a hall table, and a compost bin at another market near Tapolca. Lunch at the Istvándi winery overlooking the Balaton in Káptalantóti, with its cold cherry soup and home-grown mangalica pork was about sustainability. Everything we ate was grown locally. Everything we drank, from the syrup to the wine, was made locally. A stunning environ with great food; a model worth replicating.

From there it was over to Szigliget for a dip in the Balaton waters, before popping into the neighbours for a chat and a catchup and then catching a nightcap in the local presszo. From my viewpoint, looking out, these were normal days for me. For my friend, looking in, they were days with a difference.

Sometimes, looking at our lives from another’s perspective can make us appreciate what we have just a little bit more. And that new perspective is one to be grateful for.

 

2018 Grateful 32

Wednesday. May 23rd. The day John Malkovich came to Budapest and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. Right now, I’m trying to decide if it was worth the experience.

In true marketing fashion, I made a rash purchase (4 tickets) and am now trying to rationalise my decision. Apparently, this is what we consumers do all the time. It’s what keeps the marketers in business.

The facts I had at the time were:

  1. John Malkovich was coming to Budapest for one night only.
  2. He was performing what was billed as one of the top 10 shows in the world (I can’t recall where I read that snippet)
  3. If I didn’t see the man this time, I was unlikely to cross paths with him again.
  4. The cheapest tickets I could get were 20 000 huf (~€60 / $70).
  5. We were expecting visitors and I thought it would be night for them to rememeber.

And it was, but probably not for the reasons I imagined.

We rocked early to Budapesti Kongresszusi Központ, in plenty of time to have a pre-show drink and take our seats at a leisurely pace. I was all excited. I’ve had a thing for the bould JM for just about ever. What a voice. The 26-piece string orchestra – Danubia Orchestra Óbuda took their place. And the show started. No sign of the man himself. But I didn’t panic. Perhaps, I thought, he’d enjoy a grand entrance. Above the stage, rain was being projected onto a white screen. I quite fancied that I saw his face in the droplets and given the title of the programme – Report on the Blind – my imagination began to run riot.

Maestro Dirk Brossé was conducting and violinist Ino Mirkovic also made an appearance. Now, had I done my homework, I’d have been all the wiser. But I hadn’t. And I wasn’t.

Psycho Suite by Bernard Herrmann and the Adagio (To the Unknown Soldier) by Dirk Brossé and still no sign of John. My blood pressure began to rise, slowly. I could feel the anxiety setting in. I began to wonder if we were in the right place. I drew a map of the venue in my mind and decided that there were no other gigs on that night (and it would have been strange, anyway, not have to have been ousted from our seats had we been in the wrong place). The rain at this stage had turned to snow and the images of frosted glass and the ice patterns provided only a mild distraction. The avalanche footage was quite compelling though. But 45 minutes in and still no John.

Then a man appeared on stage – and I breathed a sigh of relief – a short one. On closer inspectection I saw a face that was too round, a body that was too slim, and a hairline that wasn’t quite far back enough. Not John. They danced. At one stage he blindfolded himself and hope rose within me briefly – I was grasping at blind straws. I tried to control the angst. And then came the intermission.

I left my company inside and went outside to calm my nerves. Everyone seemed to be wondering what was up. I wasn’t the only one. Then I heard that this was just the prelude. The warm-up. The man would make his appearance in the second half. And he did.

Accompanied by pianist Anastasya Terenkova, Malkovich took us on a rollercoaster ride, his voice doing more than the 26-string orchestra could have done. He was quite something. He posited some theories:

  1. God does not exist
  2. God exists but he is a bastard
  3. Good exists but falls asleep and his nightmares are our existence

I quite liked No. 3. I thought ‘wow – he wrote this stuff. Amazing.’ But he didn’t. It was a chapter from Ernesto Sabato’s novel On Heroes and Tombs. Malkovich played the protagonist Fernando Vidal who reckons that blindness drives the world. It was mesmerising. Mesmerisingly short. Just 30 minutes, if that. And it was over.

It’s taken me a week to process it all. Am I glad I got to see and hear the man in person? Yes. Am I glad I didn’t pass up the opportunity? Yes. Do I reckon it was worth the guts of €250 – which is a plane ticket somewhere – I’m not sure.

But I learned a lot about myself. If I have no expectations at all – which is generally the case – I can’t be disappointed. My mother tacked that one on as the ninth beatitude. But if I have expectations, and I’m thrown off course, then I get ansty and anxious. I let it consume me. I tried to enjoy the music in the first half, which was stellar by the way, but my heart was racing and my mind was all over the place. I had brief moments of enjoyment but peppered as they were by a sense of being utterly lost, I barely remember them.

I wanted to see him so badly that I didn’t think to check what it was he’d be doing. I could have. It’s out there. I could have done my homework, perhaps before I bought the tickets. But I was blindsided by fame. Still, though, as a lover of oratory and the spoken word, I think Malkovich would be hard to match.

I’d like to see  Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters. The interview with photographer Sandro Miller makes for fascinating reading. And I never knew that JM owns a restaurant in Lisbon, speaks fluent French, and lost millions in Bernie Maddoch’s Ponzi scheme. For the background reading, I’m grateful. For the opportunity to hear the voice in person, I’m grateful, too. I only wish he’d spoken for longer and that I’d known what I was letting myself in for.


 

2018 Grateful 33

I like the road of least resistance. I can be quite lazy. If you can do it better, quicker, and more effectively than I can, then have at it. I’m not one to feel I have to prove a point. Usually, when confronted with an easier, equally moral option, I’ll take it. I see this so often when it comes to using my pitiful Hungarian. If I’m with someone who speaks it better, I simply don’t try. If I get a firm nem (no) to my initial inquiry as to whether the other party speaks English, which, by the way, is just about the only complete sentence I can pronounce pretty near perfectly in Hungarian, I usually thank them, hang up, and have someone else call for me.

But on Friday last, something clicked in…or clicked off. Perhaps the lazy gene is on sabbatical.

The electricity lads have been after me to do a meter reading. I’ve been away each time they’ve called and their notes were getting slightly more frequent. They dropped a note in my box sometime Thursday to say they’d call Friday between 4 and 6. I  didn’t see it till Friday lunchtime – I don’t check the mail daily because it’s usually window envelopes and junk,  neither of which particularly rock my world. Anyway, I was meeting a mate for a coffee at 4 and didn’t want to reschedule. Himself had plans, too. So I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and rang the number.

The chap who answered, answered simply with a harried Igen (Yes?) I wondered if I had the right number. No mention of the company at all. I asked, haltingly, ELMŰ? Another igen. This time a little softer. 

I asked if he spoke English and got a firm nem for my troubles. I was about to thank him and hang up but a voice in my head taunted me. It’s been a while since I was called a scaredy cat!

So, in pitiful Hungarian, I explained that I didn’t speak the language very well (another sentence I can say almost perfectly!) and that I was slow, hoping that in Hungarian it didn’t have the same alternate meaning as it does in English – there’s nothing wrong with my intellect – just my language skills. He laughed. So perhaps it does mean the same.

Anyway, I went on to say that I had a letter in my mailbox saying I had an appointment that day but that I wasn’t at home. It said that they could come on Monday, even though Monday was a holiday, so I asked when he could come then. He suggested Saturday instead. Now this is where I got a little cocky, I tried my hand at banter. I think I said that working on a Saturday wasn’t a good thing. I got another laugh. Man, I was on a roll.

I asked what time. He said 10am. And then he took off… a fast roll of three consecutive sentences that I completely missed. But I wasn’t even listening. I was on a high. We said our goodbyes. I thanked him for his patience. And as I hung up, I wondered if he’d come.

The next morning, I was out. But himself was here. And they came to read the meter shortly after 10am. Score for me!!!

I’m ridiculously pleased with myself, which is sad really. Ten years and this one successful conversation is what I have to show for it. But perhaps this is the start of it all coming together. Regardless. I’m grateful that I can chalk up a Hungarian language success, however minor.

Rules of engagement

One of my friends doesn’t have a smartphone. She doesn’t have a mobile phone of any sort. She has that rare thing that is rapidly becoming extinct – a landline. We keep in touch by email, which she checks every other day…maybe. If I’m in-country, I might call her at work. She’s not on Facebook. She doesn’t Tweet. And I doubt she’s ever heard of Instagram. When we meet, I’m never late. Not that I’m ever late anyway, but with her, there’s no last-minute texts to say I’m running 15 minutes behind. An arrangement with her is an arrangement that will be kept. She isn’t plagued by random offers, group posts, irrelevant conversations to which she doesn’t want to be party but is reluctant to opt out of because she might miss something. And I used to think she was missing out on lots of things – on invites, on events, on last-minute, spur-of-the-moment decisions. But I’m beginning to think that her way might be the better way. Everyone knows her rules of engagement.

My relationship with Facebook is a love-hate one. I first joined to play scrabble. I log in a couple of times  day to check what’s going on in the world, what’s happening with my peeps. I don’t have FB on my phone and I don’t have FB Messenger on my phone either. I’ve been  missing out on stuff lately though as people seem to be using Messenger more and more. And if something comes in, in between log-ins, then I don’t see it in time. But I can’t complain about not being told. The message was sent. I just didn’t pick it up. WhatsAp and Viber are my preferred choices but they’ve been quite quiet lately as the masses migrate to Messenger.

If I’m in company, my phone stays in my bag so I don’t read texts when they come in. And afterwards, I’m unlikely to check my phone until it rings again or until I go to Google something. When I’m at mass or in meetings, I put my phone on silent and it could be hours, sometimes a day or more before I remember to turn the volume back on. When I’m working, my phone is often in another room. I might not hear it beep or ring and it could be a while before I think to check it. The result? I miss updates. I miss messages. I miss calls.

I used to have Skype turned on when I was online but that got to be too much. Constant interruptions. So now, I schedule Skype chats and log in only when I need to. I check my emails at least once a day on the premise that there’s no such thing as an urgent email – you’d never email the police to say you were being burglarised. And while my response time might fall well short of modern-day expectations, it’s still pretty decent.

I’m beginning to resent these expectations. The ticks, the read reports, the sent confirmations – they all contribute to this. And somewhere along the way, we lose our sense of reason. I send you a message on WhatsApp. I see the two ticks, so I know it’s been delivered. When they turn to blue, I know you’ve read it. So why don’t you reply? Immediately? Hey! I’m talking to you! I disregard the myriad rational explanations that run the gamut from you just sat on the dentist’s chair to you’re dealing with a clowder of cats and a carton of spilled milk and instead, I go immediately to you can’t be arsed, Now that says a lot more about me than it does about you. That’s scary. So I’m now beginning to resist the immediacy that’s inveigling its way into our communication. I’m thinking, seriously, of disengaging. Like my friend.

But because I have a presence, because I’m online, because I text, tweet, and FB, going cold turkey would be akin to a virtual death. I think I’ll start by changing my expectations of you: If I want an immediate answer from you, I’ll make a phone call rather than rely on SMS. If I’m running late or have changed my plans, I’ll call. If there’s something you need to know, I’ll talk to you. If I send a message, feel free to reply at your leisure…or not. And then I’ll stop the apologies – apologies for not reading a text, for missing a call, for not checking in on FB. In time, it will be known that I’m not on messenger, that I  can take days to answer FB messages, that I only occasionally check my phone for SMS. And like my friend, you’ll know to call or email if you want to get in touch.

 

 

2018 Grateful 34

“‘There’s a James Thurber cartoon I’m very fond of …’ He turned to Shaw then, the face relaxed, honest, and open. ‘Thurber – you know Thurber?’ Shaw nodded. ‘He sketched this graveyard, glimpsed through railings, the pavement crowded with determined men and women walking to the left, to the right, clutching shopping bags, briefcases, pushing prams. The caption read simply: Destinations. Devastating, really.’” This conversation is from Death on Demand, by Jim Kelly.

“It reminded him of one of his favourite cartoons, by the humourist James Thurber, depicting a street full of determined men and women striding to their next appointments, against a background of a cemetery. The caption read simply: Destinations.” This reference is from The Funeral Owl, also by Jim Kelly.

Were I cynical, I might scream Lazy! But I like how Kelly writes and I enjoy his characters (Valentine & Shaw and Philip Dryden). This is something that obviously resonates with him. And now that I’ve come across it a second time, it resonates with me, too.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow down, to stop occasionally and smell the grass cuttings. I ran into someone I knew from my early days in Budapest who took to country life a lot sooner than I did. We compared notes, Both of us in our day had been medium-sized fish in a very small pond and had enjoyed a certain measure of fame and attention. But neither of us miss it. Both of use have crossed the half-way point and probably have fewer years ahead of us that are behind. Perhaps that has something to do with the mellowing. But this Thurber cartoon sealed the few cracks that might have been lingering in my perspective. Life is simply too damn short to keep up that level of manic candle-burning.

I’m readying my jam-jars as the cherries ripen. I’m culling recipes for preserves. I’m noting bookings in the diary as friends make plans to come visit.

But recognising the danger of becoming too insular, too settled, too comfortable, I’ve decided it’s time to go somewhere I’ve never been before. The itinerary changes daily but Thailand and Indonesia are on the cards later this year. It’s never too late to try Paniki (a dish made from wild bat) or Belalang goreng (deep-fried grasshopper) but I might just draw the line at Tikus panggang (grilled rat).

Am grateful this week for the life I’m living and the adventures to come.

 

2018 Grateful 35

Usually I don’t get heat-cranky till late June but this hot weather is playing havoc with my schedule. The hottest April on record here since records began 218 years ago, the highest low temperature ever, and the highest morning temperature registered on 1 May.  We’ve skipped spring and leapfrogged into summer. Madness.

Over in Alaska, friends are waking up to snow-covered decks. They had summer last week and have now reversed back into winter. Avalanches are being forecast with 33 inches falling on Thompson Pass since 4 May. More madness.

In Dublin, they’ve had a rocking weekend with an Irish hot of 20 degrees. That’s practically a heatwave. I’d say it was madness, but sure they’re mad anyway 🙂

And with far more to complain about, friends in Hawaii are watching lava warnings after a massive earthquake the other day. Evacuations are underway. Lives are falling asunder. What’s happening in the world?

 

All I needed was some perspective. My lot don’t seem half-bad in comparison. I’ll quit my bitchin’ and deal with the perspiration. I’ll bring out the perfumed hankie to combat the rampant BO, and start planning a trip to the sea. Lots to be grateful for.