Brunch @ Brother Hubbard

My plans for today fell apart at around 3.30 this morning and in the end, I wound up in the Capel Street area having discovered that Evans Art Supplies sell Copic markers while actually spending money on other stuff. This is a good, if potentially extremely expensive discovery for the future.

Anyway, this trip took me past Brother Hubbard and having heard great things about it, I decided to see if brunch could be procured. People who are awake making decisions at 3.30 in the morning usually welcome other people doing the cooking. I am aware they are popular so I was surprised when they said yes, but in their premises next door which I think is known as Brother Hubbard’s Little Brother.

Foodwise, I wanted something more substantial than granola so I went for one of their cooked breakfasts – they have a lot of great looking options and menu wise, it’s probably the best brunch menu I have seen in Dublin – and made the choice with some difficulty. Eventually, I went for Breakfast of Champignons, I think it was called, which was basically 2 poached eggs, three large field mushrooms on sourdough bread with I think, onion marmalade. Along with that, I ordered Irish breakfast tea and some orange juice.

The orange juice was freshly squeezed (hardly surprising given the reputation of the establishment) and probably the nicest freshly squeezed orange juice I have had. I don’t know who their orange supplier is, but they chose well on the orange front. Not a hint of bitterness that ever was.

The main event, the breakfast for champions, as the waiter said he took it, was excellent. Everything was cooked to perfection – I might have given the poached eggs a moment longer but that’s the subject of the wider debate on boiled eggs – runny or hard – either way, beautiful. And the bread was gorgeous.

They provide pepper in a beautiful grinder which doesn’t look unlike a mini Turkish coffee grinder, and the salt is in flake format. I liked that, in particular the grinder.

The tea was meh. I’m not sure what tea provider they use and arguably I could have drunk it a bit sooner, but I’d argue it was one of the weaker elements of the universe. It absolutely wouldn’t put me off going there again – the food was excellent – but I wouldn’t necessarily have tea the next time. Would, perhaps, experiment with their hot chocolate.

The one thing that would put me off going back is I didn’t find the table/chair/seating arrangement very comfortable in the little Brother premises. To be blunt, it felt very squished in – I was seated beside the glass wall between the tables and falling down the chairs and this left my arm shoved into my body with nowhere to go. The tables were small and put me in mind of school desks, and if I’m honest, they were probably smaller than that again. It is not a place you would feel tempted to linger, which, I suppose makes good business sense if you’re aiming for fast food level volumes. I don’t think they are. So, if I were going back there, I would prefer to try the main premises before making a final call on it.

On the other hand, their wait staff were unfailingly polite and friendly – I somehow managed to deal with at least four of them during the course of my business there – and the service was unobtrusive and relatively quick. I bought one chocolate pastry as I was leaving just to taste as I hadn’t ordered any with my breakfast. It was gorgeous.

I’d strongly recommend the place for the food. As somewhere to relax, where I ate today really isn’t an option.


Ireland is a country of assumptions and judgements, sometimes it seems, and one of the most irritating assumptions I know is the assumption that everyone drinks.

It’s not that I don’t drink alcohol, it’s that I so rarely drink it that the unit count is rarely more than 2 units a year. But it seems that the only reason people in this country would not drink is because they are compelled not to. So I get a metric tonne of sympathy for not drinking because I’m driving.

Questions I don’t like: “Would you not just have the one?” It hasn’t gone away. Or looks of disappointment on my behalf from waitresses because I’m driving. In truth, I’m driving, but I’m also lying. I don’t need that sympathy. I wouldn’t be drinking anyway.

Most people, when you say “well I’m driving” assume that if you had a choice, you wouldn’t be driving, and then you’d have a drink. I’d love to get a taxi some evening and not drink and say “I’m not drinking”. I’ve tried that before and the answer is generally “But sure you’re not driving”.

The assumption seems to always been that people would want to be drinking and it’s only the demon car keeps them from having that 10 euro cocktail, pint or whatever. It’s rarely accepted straight off that someone might not want to drink alcohol.

People choose not to drink for various reasons. It would be nice if no one made any comments about it and just accepted other people’s choices. I just don’t want a drink shouldn’t be a defensive response.

But in Ireland, the assumption, the default position is that sure everyone wants a drink.

Looking for….Finnish media stuff


I’m back learning Finnish (again) and this time I’m making more headway. The tools available now are much better than they were last time out.

I’ve got a bunch of online resources here, but I’m looking for the following items:

  1. interesting podcasts
  2. interesting twitter feeds
  3. interesting FaceBook feeds.
  4. Finnish media in general.

I have some of the obvious stuff like YLE, the news in Easy Finnish from YLE, Helsingin Sanomat and a few things like that. I don’t mind that it will be way over my head for the time being – I want to look and get a feel for what I’m learning. I know from past experience that being able to see things I know in the context of stuff I don’t know helps a lot in learning. I’ve had some breakthroughs with YLE’s easy Finnish stuff since I went on a vocabulary bender. (seriously, if you see me with my face stuck in my phone, I’ll be drilling Finnish vocab rather than playing Candy Crush). But drilling the vocab in isolation isn’t going to help unless I am also seeing it in context.

I like the morning news program on Puhu Radio YLE or whatever it’s actual name is, but because Finland is 2 hours ahead of Ireland, I actually get that at 6am. I need some pleasant bus listening. I have to get the radio stuff.

Comments can be left here or on the Facebook page that you may have gotten to this. I’d really appreciate some recommendations.

Thanks a lot in advance.

Boxed Lives

I have an ongoing struggle to organise stuff in my life. I own a lot of stuff. I own a lot of CDs, a lot of notebooks, a lot of books. And I’m limited in how I can organise things to keep them under control. In my wardrobe, there’s a box of yarn, and a box of tapestries. Yesterday, I emptied some boxes of stuff.

Over breakfast, I was thinking about this. All this stuff I have, arguably, some of it isn’t necessary. But some of it, I don’t quite want to let go and, if I am honest, deep down, I don’t like having it in boxes. For example, I have 10 years worth of personal journals. Now people have different views of diaries/journals/whatever term you’d like to apply. In past lives – of which I’ve had a few at this stage of my existence – they weren’t kept in boxes. They were kept on shelves. They were a living testament to me, the things I did, the things that made me happy; the things that made me sad. This is not a eulogy of my life, more a feeling that when I box up my memories, I box up me.

One of the dangers with putting things in boxes is that they slowly become irrelevant to your day to day living. One of the boxes I emptied yesterday was a box of tins.

Pretty tins. Some of them came with tea inside, some of them were picked up on travels. Two of them I know I bought in Belgium which means I definitely had them at least 16 years, and possibly closer to 18. I won’t say I wasn’t slightly sentimentally attached to them. But…they had been in a box for at least a year; I have no where to store them and, more importantly, I wasn’t using them. I had two boxes of tins. I now have less than one box of tins. I won’t be adding to the collection beyond the tins which are in circulation in my kitchen until I can actually use the tins.

Boxes are handy for storage. We go to IKEA, we buy boxes and temporarily put stuff away. Sometimes, temporarily…becomes long…

I want to limit the existence of boxes in my life. I don’t know how to fix it all immediately, but I’m not really in a hurry to box up all my books and CDs, my bottles of ink for some indiscriminate time in the future when it will all be grand. The things we keep in boxes slowly migrate from our lives and when that happens, we’ve already lost them.

Gorges du Verdon

Someone posted a link to my FaceBook newsfeed today of an Irish Times amateur travel writing competition. I didn’t read the instructions too carefully, but figured “I can do that”, and went off and wrote a six hundred word piece – this is not a lot of space by the way – about a trip which I felt was likely to be appropriate to enter, and then I read the conditions in more detail. There was a fairly significant rights grab and while I might consider it if I won, I felt it was unfair to take ownership of all entries, even those which the Irish Times might not see fit to publish. The only problem is I’d already written the piece and while I thought about entering it, you know for the power and the glory, there were some comments about any photographs submitted as well. This didn’t really make me very happy. I mean, technically speaking, the text around the rights meant that even if I didn’t win, I couldn’t actually publish the piece anywhere else myself.

So I decided not to enter, bearing in mind I have several blogs of which this handy one is not listed by Google, or wasn’t the last time I checked. Plus, I did actually have some photographs which I had scanned some years ago as they were shot on film. Here then is a 600 word piece about travelling in Provence, written for the Irish Times, but not submitted but since the 600 word limit no longer applies I’m also editing it a bit.

Driving the Gorges du Verdon in France


Pont de l’Artuby

The girl at the car hire place at Nice Airport was a bit lost when I said I didn’t want the upgrade. She wasn’t used to this. Usually people were dying for the free upgrade, for the getting something for nothing lark. She categorically could not give me a small little Peugeot and now I found myself with an allegedly small Mercedes, on a hill, attempting hill start number four, because the wretched thing had cut out on me in a rather inopportune place. Several times.

The road ahead was at least a 45 degree angle and climbing, the road behind me disappeared downwards around a corner in a usefully invisible manner, and I, I now knew what a cold sweat really felt like. Behind me, only trees sloping a long way down. The car had already made several attempts to roll backwards in that direction too. I was a less than relaxed little camper. The hill start in my driving test was nothing like so stressful on a slip road outside Mallow. I had visions of winding up in the wreckage of a silver Mercedes A-Class tumbling down the side of a friendly Alp. As a way to go, it wasn’t what I would have wanted, per se.

Angles is a tiny village in the south of France. It very much is a handy place to base yourself if you want to visit the Gorges du Verdon, a site which is very often described as Europe’s Grand Canyon, somewhat unfairly I feel. They may both be fairly noticeable gashes in the rock we live on, but they are truly different from one another in terms of colour and feeling.

One of the things which has haunted me for years is the glittering turquoise water of the lakes in the region. I saw a picture once as a child and it took me fifteen years to find out that it was the Lac de Sainte Croix, easily accessible by car from Nice Airport.

For all that ease of accessibility, Angles, however, is truly isolated. I imagine it would be a hard place to live in the winter sometimes.

I am staying with very nice people who loan me a map and show me the small, narrow roads with the spectacular views to drive around the Gorges du Verdon. The small, narrow roads, incidentally, which are not on the map of the south of France which I may have bought in a leading Irish bookseller in the days before Google Maps and Garmins gave us directions.

The roads around the gorges themselves can be challenging and damaged but the department of Alpes de Haute Provence has provided viewing platforms all over the place. Stopping to look is never anything other than awe-inspiring, even if the roads to get to them can be a bit terror-inspiring.

On the day I drove them, some brave and foolhardy soul took a Ferrari up there. And people climb up the cliffs, casting occasional looks over their shoulders to the view. I would love to be the kind of person who could do it, but deep down, I know I might never have the nerve.


The River Verdon is a long way down, a mere flicker of turquoise in the distance.

The high point – in more ways than one – of the trip is the Pointe Sublime, a stunning area where the cliffs on either side of the river seem to reach across and try to kiss. It is an extraordinary view, and the rocks are an unusual creamy colour for a tourist from Ireland where the mountains are generally grey, regardless of the rain or not.

To come home I have to navigate the narrow road back in Angles. It never occurs to me that a car can cut out so often, especially when you absolutely, totally and utterly need it not to cut out but reader, I made it on attempt number 5.

Rainy Saturday

It’s been raining.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. My garden, such as it is, could do with it.


And I have been painting. Some lucky family members are going to get postcards in the future – dependent on when I have stamps sorted out.

Way back in the early days of my search for suitable paper, I picked up a set of watercolour postcards. I’ve played and failed with them over time. I wasn’t very good at painting, by which I mean, noticeably worse than I am now. But there were half a dozen postcards left and the only thing anyone gets in the post lately seems to be bills. Postcards were once a thing. Now it’s email and pinterest pins, and FaceBook posts.

What you see above is pretty much my painting painting kit (I have pencils as well, let’s not go there). The paintbox on the left, my mother bought for me. The one on the right I bought yesterday as a spill over. It came with 12 half pans of colour to, out of which I took 7 which I don’t use much, put in five commonly used colours as spares, and added a couple of new colours which I didn’t have a lot of success in mixing. The half pans are a mix of Cotman student half pans and two or three Winsor & Newton Artist Grade colour. I can’t get the Cotman half pans loose in Dublin (so far) and while I’m well aware that the W&N are technically “better”, I really can’t send too much money in their direction right now. But the blank spaces are for other colours I may feel the need to get in the future.

I like the little boxes because they are small and tidy – compared to my camera equipment, for example. I have looked at some of the enamel (otherwise known as “expensive” boxes) and while I strongly believe in getting the best tools you can go for, the truth is, I got into this whole thing not because I had visions of producing great art, but because the urban sketching movement appealed to me, the whole idea, I suppose not so much of location painting, because sometimes I just don’t have time and there’s a camera on my phone which I use to take snaps of things I may want to revisit with a sketchbook later, but recording the environment around me because it changes. Dublin has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Not doing the paintings on location, however, means that to some extent, a lot of my stuff can’t go on the urban sketcher feeds yet. However, for those days when I do hunker down and do some painting on location anywhere, I don’t want to be schlepping a whole art studio around. All that gear, excluding paper, fits into a pencil case.


The pictures aside, this is basically my art journal kit minus the paper. Two small paintboxes, a pencil, a fineliner, an eraser and a waterbrush. I have a set of actual brushes too, but one of the things that is handy about the waterbrush is that if I keep it filled, one thing I don’t need is a bottle of water. I had a vision of this all fitting into my handbag, which it did until I added the second paintbox (it doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t now because what also didn’t really fit was any thing like paper). I use Caran d’Ache water brushes, or that size in particular, because I like using them, they seem to survive longer than my Derwent ones and they behave better as well. I have one Pentel one as well. Like a lot of things in Ireland, the supply of some art materials can be difficult and the easiest water brushes to get now are Derwent ones; Easons had some yesterday and the Art and Hobby stores stock them as well. It was in an AnH store I got the Pentel one; it’s the only one I’ve ever seen here and therefore I’m somewhat sparing in my use of it. Kennedys have recently started stocking the Caran d’Ache ones so if you are in Dublin at least, that’s an option.

One of the things I have blogged about in some detail is the regrets I have about not keeping a travel art journal when I was travelling over the last 20 years. So when I sat down this evening, to the sound track of a fog horn (seriously), I sat down to paint places I have been. I’ve been to all three locations above. Two lighthouses, one in Ireland, and one in almost a direct line due south, in Spain. For people who know me, the lighthouses are probably not surprising. The other one is Sydney Opera House, and that’s round 4 of its sails in my life. They are getting better all the time. I do have the journal set aside to start revisiting places I have been and now I am starting to draw these places.

First impressions: Kusmi

Most people who know me are aware there’s a tea thing going on in my life, and if you know me at all well, you’ll know that the default choice if I have access to it is Marco Polo Noir from the Mariage Freres range. I can’t get it in Dublin.

Last week, one of my friends gave me some Kusmi tea, a sampler box if you like, of 24 teabags. Brown Thomas sell (or at least used to) sell some Kusmi tea and they are well known, apparently for detox teas.

I’m not going to review the tea right here, right now, as I only have one mug of tea beside me here (in a beautiful Dunoon china mug notable for the presence of at least one lighthouse painted on the exterior). I will say this though: the aroma on ripping off the crinkly transparent paper from the outside is utterly gorgeous. I am very happy with it.

Automated newsfeeds

One of the things I liked about Facebook over Google News (and in practical terms, there are few enough of those) is that I could set the newsfeed up to deliver me stuff from a lot of different language sources. Google assumes monolinguality; it’s constantly offering me tips for searching for English results only and for someone who is multilingual and interested in what’s happening in the communities of her other languages kens, it’s a bit frustrating.

However, as an advantage, it really is waning and the reason for that is the famous Algorithm. Now, in simple terms, algorithm is just just a method for achieving some result. The result which Facebook allegedly wants is for me to have the most relevant material turning up in my feed as that enhances engagement, and engagement is a handy asset for getting money out of advertisers.

Whatever way it works, it’s serving me a lot of drivel I don’t want, particularly on the news front, to the extent that shortly, I’m going to unlike pretty much all the news sources. I’m sick of them. I get pages of Royal Weddings, pages of Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner, pages of entertainment rubbish that I really don’t care about, don’t want to see, and can’t switch off without switching off news altogether. Note to twitter: do not mess with the time driven method by which you serve me content.

Facebook is a time sink. Today, it’s been highly negative. There has been a preponderance of news stories that annoy me, and drivel that, if I’m truly honest, I don’t want to read, but still wind up reading. Much of it is repetitive with the same stories coming from several different sources, and the occasional marginal different angle. A lot of what turns up serves to make me feel inadequate too as there’s the stuff that tells you what you need to do to have a good career, what vegetables you should eat to get healthy sleep, the ten, fifteen or a million habits of Steve Jobs.

I loved computers and technology but I realised last night that possibly the two highest profile tech companies in the world, namely Facebook and Google, make money from advertising. You can spend all the money you like developing a better newsfeed selector but it’s not going to make the world much better. The tech industry often solves the wrong problems.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the things that made me happy about the internet 20 odd years ago when my life got Netscape Navigator. It was the pretty things. The things that made me happy. The things that opened the world to me, and opened the possibilities.

It wasn’t a constant feed of news that I couldn’t directly influence myself. I haven’t worked out what to do to make FB give me politics not celebrity rubbish from the Guardian. And so, the news orgs are going to have to go and just maybe, FB will no longer become a pit of stuff that irritates me.

Loving pinterest and the search for search

If you read my tech blog at all, you’ll have seen me occasionally refer to issues with online search, mainly with Google because that’s my default search engine across all my devices. They don’t index this site for some  reason either.

I’m finding that the returns I get from Google really aren’t great lately, particularly in the area of image search so I’ve changed the default search on my machine to Bing (which is a really stupid name albeit better than Yahoo). Their image search is better. I also started thinking about search in general. Google has a monumental amount of the market in Europe and I wonder how much of that is linked to their localisation practices in the early days. But they aren’t fulfilling my needs lately.

The Bing image search, which I didn’t much play with until very recently, is far better for several reasons – in certain respects it works more effectively like the Pinterest search which is extremely good at drill down searches and associated search strings which might return useful information to you. The underlying AI for pinterest is very good, but then it is basically image focused and, I suspect, exploits both textual and associative data. Bing has a similar offering which I like very much and ultimately, this is a good thing. But it also handles pure web search as well.

Google revolutionised web search but it seems to me that search is ripe for disruption. I think disruption to image search will come through something like Pinterest. In the meantime, I don’t think that Google’s qualitative evaluation of its search returns is as good as it might be given that they have had years to scale it and are investing heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Ultimately, search, which has been gamed by search engine optimisation, now needs to game search engine optimisation.