Monthly Archives: February 2012

There are Daffodils Everywhere.

Well, I’ve made the big move up to the big smoke. Even though it still makes me have a little cry on the inside, I’ve packed all my stuff up and lugged it up the motorway to Dublin. Actually, that’s not strictly true. I’ve packed most of my stuff up and lugged it all the way to Dublin. The other stuff is still to be lugged.
In all fairness, Dublin has done its best to make me feel welcome. Friday was balmy and sunny. Saturday was similarly idyllic. As was Sunday. After my experiences there last year, it almost seemed too good to be true. It was like the world and/or Dublin was giving me a message: coming here in February 2011 was the wrong time to come to Dublin. We had to persuade you you hated Dublin to make sure you kept going to Cork, as there were lessons for you to learn in Cork (‘What lessons world?’ Shhhh… don’t interrupt). But, now, now is the right time to be in Dublin! And to celebrate, we will light your way with sunlight and daffodils! Huzzah!
I’m certain that at this point, the thought may cross many of your minds that in actuality, the reason for the sunlight and the daffodils is the changing of the seasons, and that this occurrence is usual and annunal and shouldn’t be read into too deeply. To which I say, ‘phish, you Doubting Thomases, it is clearly a sign, and even if it weren’t, pretend that it is so that I can feel better about my life choices, k, cool, thanks.’
In all seriousness, I’ve never been so happy about the changing seasons. When I was in Norway, I turned up halfway through winter, and I left halfway through winter, so I never had to experience the full 4 – 5 months of cold and darkness. I was getting pretty jackshit of it all by January, let me tell you. Since February, every day, I’ve been delighted to see the sun stay out that little bit longer in the evening: ‘4:30pm before it gets dark! Wow, that’s fantastic!’ And, gradually, its become acceptable to wear less layers when going outside. First, you stop wearing gloves. Then, you stop wearing a scarf. Then, you don’t wear a jumper as well as a jacket, and some days, you don’t wear a jacket at all, just a jumper! The feeling of freedom when you walk out the door and think, ‘Actually, you know what? I can leave my jacket at home! Providing, of course, that I return to the house before it gets dark or the weather changes and it starts to rain…’ There really is a difference in the air. Everything feels lighter. Oh, its so, so lovely. And there are actually daffodils everywhere. I realised this last year too, that ‘Daffodil Day’ suddenly made sense, when it never really did in Australia. ‘Oh, its Daffodil Day, because there are Daffodils everywhere. Of course.’ Did I write that in a blog post last year? I can’t remember. And I can’t be bothered going back and checking. I may have done. I certainly remember thinking about putting it in a blog post. Daffodils were very important when I first started looking after the little girls, because they were all over the road when we went on our bike rides. I remember stuffing 7 or 8 daffodils down the collar of my jumper, as my elder charge wanted to bring them home for friends, and then continuing to cycle down the road, nodding seriously to the amazed passers-by.

From: http://www.emeraldinteriordesign.ie/blog/daffodil-day-friday-25th-march-2011/

Anyway, its all about Dublin now, not Cork. I had my first meeting with the Literary Manager of Fishamble Theatre Company on Friday afternoon, after arriving in the city. The theatre company is in an old school  building in the middle of the city, with and old-school black wrought iron elevator (like the ones you see in movies about Paris between the wars) and windows with flower boxes and views out across the cityscape. I don’t think I’ve ever grinned so much about being able to see into offices and over the top of heating vents. After a short, thought-provoking meeting, I was dispatched with a pile of 8 – 9 plays previously produced by Fishamble that I was to read before I started the next week, so that I could form opinions and ‘have a conversation’ with the Literary Manager when we next met. That was all I had to do. Read plays and form opinions. It was suddenly like, ‘I’m sorry? Where has this job been all my life?’ Of course, I’m sure things will be more complicated than that, but I left the office with more than a slight skip in my step.
That night, I met my new housemate, who is lovely, her dog, who is also lovely, and was shown around my new room and new house, which are beautiful. I went to bed early, very excited about the next day, when I would drag my crazily heavy bags from the top floor of my hostel to my new abode. 
The next morning, I went to a training session at ‘Fighting Words’, a creative writing centre set up to inspire kids and teenagers and help them to improve their writing. It was set up by Roddy Doyle, and I’m hoping to do some volunteer work there. It seems like a truly wonderful place to work, so I’m looking forward to my first session.
After training the sun was STILL out, so I searched (with the rest of Dublin) for an outdoor table at a cafe where I could drink tea and attempt to bleach my hair back to the lovely blonde colour it used to be in Australia. I had planned originally to go and see some movies or theatre (now that I was in the big city), but it seemed ridiculous to spend such a glorious day inside. I got my tea, I got my outdoor seat, I got out one of my plays, and, then…. I was joined by an old Irish lady. Normally, I would be very happy to talk to old Irish people in this sort of situation, but, on this particular day, all I wanted to do was drink my tea, read my book and watch the people go by. I thought that if I went back to my book, it would become obvious to her that I did not want to talk. Not so, grasshopper. She was intent on talking to me, even if I didn’t respond. At the point that she told me I needed to be careful of my handbag, because there were many Romanians in Dublin now, and they were ‘all dreadful people’, I carefully excused myself and decided it was time to move to my new place.  
Sunday was ridiculously lovely as well, I walked into Temple Bar to find a ‘Festival of Russian Culture’ (they don’t just have a Pancake Day, they have a Pancake WEEK), and then headed on to Phoenix Park, with most of the rest of Dublin. Again, I sat in the sun, and pretended it was Australia, taking off my jacket and sitting in 3/4 sleeves until the goosepimples on my arms convinced me that it actually wasn’t all that warm just yet, and I should at least get up and walk around before I died of hypothermia.
Today, I had to get up early to do ‘useful things’, including applying for my British visa. After the past 3 glorious days in Dublin, I was very surprised to open the curtains and find it overcast. ‘Oh well,’ I thought, forgetting everything I had learnt from my year in Ireland, ‘At least its not raining.’ Of course, the minute I walked outside, it started to rain.
I had thought I had prepared very well for the trip to the UK visa office, checking everything the day before, where it was, what I needed to bring, writing out directions, printing things, getting passport photos taken (which were NOT the most hideous things in the entire world – LIFE WIN) etc. I read a blog post on applying for the visa I wanted to apply for (Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa), and followed the instructions for what things I needed to provide.
Of course, everything went to shit, and I have to go back on Friday with more documents. But, at least they didn’t take my money and laugh in my face and say I was never going to get to the UK, which is kind of what I expected would happen if I got things wrong with my visa application.
But, in the meantime, I learnt a few very valuable life lessons, which are, as follows:
1) Do not listen to things written in random, out-of-date blog posts. And, I include my own blog posts in this categorisation. Disregard everything I have ever told you! Go forth and live your own life and make your own mistakes, free in the knowledge that if you turn up to the British Embassy after having spent 8 Euro on a cab, and spending 45 minute waiting in the rain and the cold to get through security, only to have them say you didn’t bring enough documents, at least you will know that it was your own mistaken advice you were following and not some douchebag on the internet’s!
2) I don’t know how I still don’t know this, but, Lesson No. 2 is that, when it comes to the Irish roads, Google Maps is as confused as the rest of us. It is probably best to just head out the door in the general direction that you sense something is, and hope for the best, asking for assistance along the way from friendly locals, or catching a taxi when all hope seems lost and your British Embassy appointment is in 5 minutes and you’re turning around in desperate circles so that all the other pedestrians avoid you, in case you start hurling abuse at them, or possibly also small rocks and sticks. And, yes, it was definitely Google Maps’ fault, and not mine, even if I did possibly right down ‘turn right’ when it should have been ‘turn left’, but no one can prove it, so bugger off and die in a hole. Ahem.
3) The rain in Ireland doesn’t stop. Or, if it does stop, it will start again. Always take an umbrella.
4) In Ireland, your shoes are never waterproof enough.
5) I don’t deal well with people jumping in front of me in queues, no matter what their reason or excuse. I feel that this should be a point in my favour when applying for my UK visa, as I am clearly in tune with important aspects of their cultural heritage. However, considering the Brits’ famous love of queues and queueing, I am surprised at their slapdash approach to lines in front of the Embassy. Truly, I was disappointed. People jumping ahead just because their appointment was at 9 am and mine was at 9:30am. If they had wanted to be on time, then they should have gotten there earlier.
So, I’m back in Cork/Kinsale for a day or two to finsih clearing out my old cottage, and then its back to Dublin. On a completely different topic, do you know a good way to get crazy amounts of hits on your blog? Write a post about an actor who then goes on to win an Oscar. My piece about Captain von Trapp has never been so popular. 115 hits in one day. Go Christopher Plummer!

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Things I Like About My New ‘Hood

1) One of the local pubs, evidently a classy establishment, has a sign stating, ‘No tracksuits after 6pm on weekends.’ Presumably this is the Irish equivalent of ‘No thongs and shorts.’
2) There are 3 butchers on my new street. In a row. One after the other. You’d think that, being a vegetarian, this would displease me. But, these are like old-school, vintage butchers. These are the butchers that you learnt about in those lovely brightly coloured books from primary school, you know, where everyone in the town has a their own distinct and very useful job, like ‘doctor’ or ‘fireman’ or ‘postman’ etc. These butchers wear white jackets and all the meat is on display in little trays in the front windows. There may even be red and white or blue and white striped awnings. These are the original, vintage butchers! Everything about them looks like it came from 50 years ago. Well, except the meat. Because that would be gross.
3) There is an indoor market across from my new street in a building named, ‘The Bull Ring.’ The sign stating, ‘The Bull Ring’ looks like it was stolen from a 1950s bowling alley or cinema or jazz bar or something. Inside, you can buy anything from lollies, to shoes covered in bling, to tattoos
4) Brenda Fricker (Irish actress from ‘My Left Foot’) lives around the corner. Apparently she is a little eccentric, so I have promised my new housemate not to accost her in the street.
5) Take a right from my house, go down the road a bit, and you will walk straight into Jesus’ open arms. Seriously. He’s standing there, in the middle of a roundabout. I will never get over these random shrines the Irish have everywhere.
6) I can smell the roasting hops from the Guinness Storehouse when the wind is blowing the right way. Not that I really like Guinness, but I feel like being able to smell the hops is a particularly Dublin experience, so, I’m quite the fan of that.
7) On Sunday morning, you can hear the church bells ringing out from about 5 or 6 different churches around the area. I don’t like this because of the spiritual element or anything, but it just sounds really pretty and joyful.

McNulty. Unfortunately, not in my ‘hood. But, he’s still very pretty. Image from: http://ladyofsilences.blogspot.com/2011/01/wire3.html

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February

So, you may have noticed I have been pretty slack with the whole ‘blogging’ thing over the past month. Today is the first time in 3 weeks I’ve actually had the urge to blog (and, more importantly, time to blog). I blame February. I don’t know about you, but I always find that January drags its feet, where you are constantly looking on the calendar going, ‘Seriously? Its only January 7th? But, last time I checked the calendar it was January 6th! Would the year not hurry up?’ Then, something happens on February 1st, like someone injected all the clocks with speed and it seems that the next time you get out of bed its February 26th and you’ve no clear idea of where the time went. And it can’t just be that February is a shorter month, because its only 2 days shorter than January this year, and usually its only 3 days shorter.

Anyway, no matter how it happened, its now almost March, and I have to sum up 3 weeks of one month in a single blog post. So, in a nutshell, what have I been up to?

1) Went to Wicklow Mountains and Kilkenny with the most irritating tour guide in the history of forever (no exaggeration). But, I will not tell you the tour group’s name, because I do not wish to get sued (if you wish to avoid said tour group, you may PM or email me, and I will divulge the secret). But, the whole day was full of bad jokes surrounding how stupid and drunk the Irish are. All the time. Forever. I was insulted on behalf of the Irish. After my wonderful year, full of wonderful Irish people of all types, I had forgotten that the Irish are always the butt of the joke in those ‘Scottish, English and Irishmen’ stories, and it suddenly all seemed very unfair. Along with the drunk and stupid jokes, there were also many jokes at the English’s expense. There were several English people on the bus. Now, normally I wouldn’t mind that sort of thing so much, except that these ‘jokes’ were not so much funny, as just insulting and uncomfortable. I’m all for a good joke at someone’s expense, as long as its funny. But, not these. Anywho. Wicklow and Kilkenny were very pretty, and almost made up for the tour guide. If I had met Gerard Butler on a certain bridge that will be familiar to all your female readers out there, and he had given me his leather jacket and invited me to the pub that night, where he had then sung me ‘Galway Girl’, well, I would have forgiven anyone anything. There were also two hilariously stereotypical Bronx New Yorkers on the tour, so that brightened the day. One of them wore one of those Irish tweed caps, a celtic cross and a hideous scarf in the colours of the Irish flag, clearly bought from an Irish tourist shop. He was obese, and wheezed and spoke like he had throat cancer from chain-smoking. I think he was in Ireland getting in touch with his ‘Irish roots’. I’m always intrigued when people manage to be such an obvious stereotype. Do they do it deliberately? Or can they not see it? Perhaps I am a terrible stereotype and I just can’t pick it (no need to suggest offensive stereotypes for what I might be, thanks all the same, anonymous blogger-verse…)

2) Got offered two very exciting opportunities, both outside of my beloved Co. Cork. So, next week, I pack up my lovely little cottage and head up to big smoke of Dublin. First of all, I spend two and a half months with Fishamble Theatre Company. They are advocates, producers and developers of new theatre writing in Ireland, and I cannot wait to work with them. I’ll be doing boring admin work, but I’ll also be working in the literary department, so I am hoping this will have a great benefit on my own writing, by learning what companies are looking for, and what stands out (both bad and good) in people’s submitted scripts. I have got myself a share house with a lovely Irish girl in a very central location (near the Guinness Storehouse, as well as one of the better music venues in Dublin), called ‘The Liberties’, which is apparently ‘real Dublin’. That means that 40 years ago it was slums, but, now its halfway through the process of gentrification, and all the local funky young people feel smug for living in a gritty and real neighbourhood, but still get angrily self-righteous when their expensive laptops and i-thingies are stolen. Well, I’m guessing. I actually have been told that its a lovely place and I shouldn’t have any troubles there (but don’t walk around alone late at night – so, just like the places I was mainly living in Sydney). I have also been accepted into a mentorship program (50 Foot Women… which my father and brother have so kindly pointed out conjures up images of monstrous, out-of-control women destroying cities in Japanese horror/sci-fi films). In a reflection of the shifting focus of my life this year, the mentorship is in London. So, I will be flitting back and forth between Dublin and London until I eventually make the move to the UK permanent in May/June. I’m utterly delighted to be getting some mentoring though, as I have frequently felt completely directionless over the past year and a half. They may not be able to solve all my problems, but they might reassure me that feeling directionless is common and not to be worried about. Or, maybe they will solve all my problems. Who knows. Either way, at least I’ll have a few contacts in London when I move there, instead of when I moved into the relative wilderness of the Irish countryside. I will also be attempting to keep my connection with Creative Connections (ha!) in Cork, as we are currently in the process of writing a book, and are also creating the most fantastical performance piece for the Cork Midsummer Festival with Mark Storor (seriously, its gonna be awesome. You should come to Cork for it). Its going to be exhausting flitting between Dublin, London and Cork, and I feel sick about the greenhouse gas emissions I will be contributing to (though, would it really be improved if I wasn’t on the planes? Surely, its best that the planes are at least full when they’re flying around destroying the atmosphere than if they’re flying around half empty… not that I take up the space of half a plane, but, oh, you know…), but I’m also kind of excited. As my father says, it sounds like the typical schedule of an international artiste. Well, he said artist, but I think artiste is funnier.

3) I ran a week-long workshop for writers at the Theatre Development Centre in Cork. This was also exhausting, but very rewarding. I think my writers really enjoyed themselves, and learnt a great deal. I certainly learnt a great deal. I’d like to do it again with a more concrete idea in my head of what I’m aiming to get at the end. I mean, I ran it just hoping to teach people a bit about theatre writing, and for people to end up with at least one piece of writing that they were happy with, but I think the structure would also be very interesting for experienced theatre people, actors or writers, or dancers, musicians, directors, whoever, to explore a specific theme or idea and then we could create some awesome performance monster out of it at the end. If anyone would like to pay me to do that for their community, or festival, or theatre, or their Sunday evening family talent show, please get in touch. I’m totally out for hire. And, we should definitely call it ‘Performance Monster’.

4) I went to an Irish Singles Night. Yes, that’s right. Not content with the seeming social suicide that was associated with actively participating in internet dating (friends who have also been on internet dating and who have met the love of their lives through it, please note I am joking), I decided to attend a singles night with a bunch of single lady friends (no, we did not sing Beyonce ad nauseum as we got ready. But, I will admit I danced enthusiastically when it came on at the club). I figured it could either be terrible or just ok. It turned out to be absolutely awesome. I’ve not had such a fun night in a very long time. It was one of the least sleazy evenings I’ve had out in Ireland, because the guys there seemed genuinely interested in talking to you. Perhaps it was the early hour of the evening, and they weren’t drunk yet (oh, whoops, just made a drunken Irish joke after all that self-righteous talk at the start of this post). Either way, it was very fun, and I had many lovely conversations. I didn’t meet the love of my life, but I did get dressed up, go dancing and meet some fun people. There were still, of course, some very sad and lonely people there, but, hey, I guess that’s to be expected. I was also chatted up by a middle-aged man, which seems to be a requirement of any night out I have in this country, but at least it wasn’t all middle-aged men (and no-one told me they were from a parallel universe which will, from now on, always be a point in favour of an evening).

6) Wreaked whimsical havoc on inner-city Cork at the behest of Mark Storor. We had two more workshops last weekend with Mark, and on the first day, despite my exhaustion from the writers’ week, I had a great time running around a small part of Cork attempting to complete various tasks, such as leaving little tags with messages all over the place (I left mine in a phone box, on a dress in Penney’s, in a book, on a tea-cup and in a box of groceries), making a trail of chalk marks, convincing people to give us things, taking photos with disposable cameras and many others. I had a great time leaving what I considered to be delightfully positive and zany messages for unsuspecting people. In my head, they read them and then live their lives that little bit more happily. Please don’t ruin this image for me by suggesting that people will simply throw them away or destroy them or think they’re weird.

Well, that’s about it. I’m going to have to stop and finish some assignments which are due for Creative Connections on Monday now. Plus, there is a seal in the harbour, and I have to go watch him bob his head in and out of the waves before he swims away. I will miss that sort of thing when I move to Dublin. All in all though, I think I am a big city girl, and am looking forward to moving back into the ‘thick of things’. The small town thing has been interesting for a while, but I think I’ll go back to my original life plan, which was to put off moving to the countryside until I’m old and grey. In the meantime, its back to the rat-race.

I will miss you, swimming friend. Image found at: http://www.sealswimming.com/

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Pancake Tuesday!

Today is Pancake Day, which, as I am at best, Church of England, and at worst, an irreligious heathen, I had never heard of until last February. Last year, I walked into the local Bandon Supervalue and saw signs up everywhere wishing me a happy ‘Pancake Day’, and a woman cooking up free pancakes with lemon and sugar. It was a very surreal moment, where I genuinely felt completely out of place in the country I was in, uncertain of what to do or what to think (like the moment I was walking around Belfast and went to look in a shopping centre’s window and thought, ‘Gosh, what’s with all those miniature bridal gowns? Are there a lot of vertically challenged people getting married around Belfast?’ Before realising that, of course, they were holy communion dresses…). What was this pancake day? Was it like the Big Morning Tea in Australia? Was it raising money for some charity? Was it something made up by Supervalue to shift sales of pre-packaged pancakes as well as flour, milk, eggs, sugar and syrup? When I went home to check with the host family, I discovered it was a ‘Catholic thing’, where you are meant to use up all the rich (and indulgent) ingredients in your house before Lent begins.
Last year, in an attempt at self-punishment (flimsily disguised as an attempt at ‘being part of the culture’), I thought I might give up something for Lent. Hell, I was going to give up absolutely everything for Lent. Sugar, chocolate, cakes, cheese, biscuits, ice-cream, alcohol… you name it, I was going to give it up. This year, I know better and will not attempt to do so. But, I felt Pancake Tuesday was something I could get on board with this year. That is to say, I could eat pancakes on the specified day. Baking all my forbidden ingredients into a single day’s pancakes, eating them all and then not buying anymore until Easter is, of course another matter.
I spoke to a few people over the weekend who rhapsodised so passionately about Pancake Tuesday that I got very excited taking part this year (I did not partake in pancakes last year as an extended form of self-punishment/attempted cultural experience). It was their ‘favourite day of the year’. I felt this was high praise indeed, considering Pancake Tuesday had birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, Australia Day, St. David’s Day, International Women’s Day, May Day, Waitangi Day, Guy Fawkes Day, Yom Kippur, various Independence Days, Carnivale, the Queen’s Birthday, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day, Bhutan’s ‘Blessed Rainy Day’,  Azerbaijan’s ‘Victory over Fascism Day’ and Suriname’s ‘Day of the Run Away Slaves’ (which, let’s face it, all sound pretty darn exciting, and where is Suriname, anyway?) as well as innumerable other international days to contend with. So, when I walked into my favourite cafe at lunchtime and saw the extensive list of potential pancakes I could partake of for Pancake Tuesday (a whole 6!), I was delighted.
Not having had my lunch yet, and not being particularly hungry, I decided to avoid some of the more fanciful concoctions, such as chocolate and hazelnut sauce, or bacon and maple syrup (plus, there was that whole ‘vegetarian’ thing), settling on a berry and cream. Three perfect pancake circles came out 10 minutes later.
Well, I don’t know what to say, except, after all that build up, it was pretty darn boring. The pancakes were dry, not particularly sweet (had the kitchen already used up all their sugar and were preemptively not buying any more in case they ended up with leftover and would then be tempted to make pancakes for the rest of Lent?). I had images of pancakes dripping berry sauce, and great big, soft dollops of whipped cream creeping down the plate. Not so. A bit icing sugar, and a tiny bowl of cream with, say 3 berries in it and a slight pink tinge. Disappointing, I must say. I have a feeling they may have been more exciting if I truly felt I was giving them up for the next little while (either that, or they would have been even more disappointing). But, I hardly ever eat pancakes anyway. In fact, I never do. So, all in all, I think Christmas remains my favourite day of the year.

Image from: http://queenofthecupcake.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/pancakes-with-honey/

Now, if someone was to create a Cheesecake Day, before a Healthy Eating Month, perhaps I would change my mind…

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