Category Archives: being me

Visiting the past

I had cause at the weekend to wander into the hidden storage of my life, looking for things put away some fifteen years ago which, I suppose, most reasonable people would assume I might not need again. But need and want are not the same thing and having reviewed online options, I decided that I already owned decent Finnish-English dictionaries and what appeared to be still considered the better of the Finnish language text books. In fact I also had a decent grammar book as well which is useful.

They are all in pristine condition, despite being out of the day to day running of my life for quite sometime. Some of them were located in under 10 seconds, much to my surprise. Others amongst them caused me to visit more recent pasts in storage. It transpires that when I was in my cassette buying phase (for those of you under the age of 25, music didn’t come on CDs but on cassettes and records) I was also a fan of Bad English and Alias. This came as a surprise to me in a lot of respects. I wouldn’t even recognise an Alias song now which is particularly surprising.

The tapes are stored in a carry all bag which I used to shlep my stuff around between 1995 and 1999, ie, for most of the time I was one of those much mourned items, an emigrant. It’s something of an odd feeling to look at this bag and realise that for five years, between it and a long gone rucksack, I could contain the most of my life when I chose to move house. Moving house was, at that point. For people in the future, moving house may, furniture aside, become much more easy again as books and music and films get stored in digital format; an entire library hiding on a Kindle, an entire library of music coming from a streaming service. But I hit the transition phase, that place where people bought more stuff, but it wasn’t small in physical size. 20 years ago, kids didn’t have loads of music because they didn’t buy loads of it. Now they store it on a little box that fits in your palm, if you like. And the same with books, well, most fiction books anyway.

I’ve often considered, lately, how I would sort out completely clearing down my possessions. The furniture from IKEA, I’ve no particular emotional attachment to it so I could live without that, I suppose. After that, I run into trouble.

And yet, I know that we can recover from the loss of most things.

on shoe shopping

I don’t especially enjoy shoe shopping. Part of it is that I find it a hassle trying stuff on, trying to work out whether it fits, and hoping for the best. Trying shoes on in shops is never really that ideal.

I like to think I’m not very demanding on the style front. I don’t need 27 different pairs of shoes in every colour under the rainbow. What I need are a pair of runners or two, a decent pair of runaround town flat shoes, and two or three pairs of reasonably dressy shoes which I can wear to work and, more importantly, can catch buses on and drive while wearing. More often than not, lately, there’s been a flat pair of shoes for wearing until I get to where I am going…

You can’t see me now but I’m sitting at my desk wearing a pair of shoes I have quite a while because I haven’t been wearing boss shoes for a while on account of being a student. Comfort is my king. Running around UCD was a boots or trainers trick, and not four inches of torture.

I don’t know if it’s only be, or what, but I cannot wear very high heels while driving. 7cm is SERIOUSLY pushing it. Anything above that and the pedals feel all wrong. For the odd special occasion, it’s not a big deal to fling a pair of flat shoes on while driving. I’m looking for shoes I can wear to work, with a suit or a dress.

A nice, decent pair of black court shoes, circa 5 or 6 cm high, and with a pointed but not life threateningly sharp toe is what I am looking for. I’d like it in particular if they had a tapering heel but not stiletto. A particular plus point would be if they did not cost 245E+ Much better if they came in below 100E. I’m all for buying good stuff but I have to be prudent for a short while here and shoes, unfortunately, are consumables, unlike, say, good pens.

This however, is too much to ask. I’m watching carefully for a Repetto sale – I like Repetto shoes but right now, they are above budget and need to be delivered from France. In the meantime, having gone through the three big department stores, what I am looking for is not available from what I can see. There’s a gap in the market between absolutely flat, and 3.5 inches high and growing. I know it’s coming up to Christmas; I know the glamour shoes are all the range. I’m aware that there are shoes which are probably not shoes at all but throwing weapons. What there are not are simple, beautiful mid heel court shoes without a million decorations in plain black leather.

It breaks my heart.

So those cookbooks: Anyone want them?

If anyone is based in Dublin and wants any of the following, free to a good home, let me know either here or through Facebook. First come first served.

Breakfasts more than 80 inspiring ideas Jacque Malouf

low GI food

Keelings Book of Fruit

Feast by Nigella Lawson

The Real Food Real People Cookbook from Supervalu.

Greek – Love Food

Dumonts Lexicon of Spices

Fresh in Summer, Fresh in Spring, Fresh in Winter, Fresh in Autumn, all by Alistair Hendy

Fat Free Low Fat cooking Anne Sheasby

BOUGHT Borrowed and Stolen Allegra McEvedy

French Leave John Burton Race

Gorgeous Suppers – Annie Bell

Bread Machine Cookbook – Jacqueline Bellefontaine

I believe this reduces the number of cookbooks to about 80. A remarkable number of them were gifts though which is surprising.

Anything strike through is gone.

in the morning

I came across an article a few weeks ago (which I did not bother book marking because I have 11000 favourites bookmarked in twitter and who knows how many bookmarks in Chrome and what I’ve noticed is a tendency to save and forget which strikes me as non-optimal…) on the subject of not telling people to be morning people.

All over the place, there are articles about being morning people, early birds, and how easy it is to get up 10 minutes earlier and build up to gradually being a morning person. This is absolute rubbish. It’s easy to be a morning, if, and only if, you can structure the rest of your day to fit into being a morning person. I used to get up to go to work at 7.30 for a while in my last job and while it paid untold dividends in terms of what I got done between 7.30 and about 9.30, the corresponding exit time, which was 3.30, was something I never managed. Everyone around me working around 8 hours a day. I was working nearer 9 and a half. Presentee-ism is a bit of a killer. I never got out at 3.30 with hearing remarks about only working half days.

The thing is – I had very good reasons for doing the 7.30 thing – so I’m not going to bash it. What I am going to say is that there are benefits to being a morning person, even if you don’t rush out the door to work. On summer mornings, getting up at 6.30 can be a thing of absolute beauty. This morning, the sunlight at 6.30 was just gorgeous. It’s a good time to water the plants if you have any. There’s a feeling of untold peace around the place, unless you’ve got the greater spotted urban house alarm to deal with. Small things get done so much more quickly. You can relax over breakfast. If – like me – you’re the type with a taste in slowly cooked coffee on a very low heat, you have the time to do it.

And you can do it any day of the week.

Being a morning person comes with a price and that price may be more or less high depending on your view in life. You have to go to bed early. Being a morning person is not a recipe for burning down the amount of sleep you get. If I am waking at 5.30 – which I often am during the summer – I am falling asleep at 9.30, 10pm. I cannot burn the candle at both ends. And having your sleep disrupted at any stage messes things up.

But I find it worth the effort mostly when I’m not getting night disruptions. I feel a lot more alive; I get a lot more done. It fits in with the way my brain works.

I’m not in the business of telling people they should be morning people to get more money or get ahead. I’m more in the business of suggesting that if you feel better for it, there’s a lot to be said for it.

List yada

Sharpy pointed me at a list of 20 things that made men feel confident which he felt was somewhat lacking. He noted that the corresponding list for women was even less credible so he sent me that too. I threatened to do my own list.

He suggested in very short words that this might well be a very good thing to do.

So here we are.

  1. Finding someone friendly to help you zip you into your wetsuit.
  2. Chatting to friends
  3. Finding shoes that are both comfortable and pretty.
  4. Tea.
  5. Catching a really neat wave when you’re a lousy surfer. I’m still a lousy surfer but I assume that catching a really neat wave when you’re a good surfer works too.
  6. A decent breakfast of whatever turns you on. Sometimes it’s Weetabix, some days it’s fruit salad
  7. Not chipping your nail polish on coat 4.
  8. Not being physically sick going into an interview
  9. The right dress being available in the right size at the right time (not always guaranteed)
  10. Ignoring people who tell you that you shouldn’t like pink things (you will prise my pink calculator out of my cold dead hands).
  11. Getting a photo published somewhere.
  12. Waking on the first morning of a holiday
  13. Successfully communicating with someone in a foreign language without them needing to show off their English prowess
  14. Hugs and snuggles
  15. Passing your driving test (it’s been 15 years but I rock, man)
  16. Not burning toast and therefore not setting off the badly positioned smoke alarm
  17. Remembering to make ice for those lovely sunny summer days
  18. Asking someone attractive for their phone number, getting it, ringing them and moving swiftly onwards…
  19. Winning something unexpectedly
  20. Did I say tea?

That’s my list and I am sticking to it.

 

Open letter to Amazon

Dear Amazon,

I am a customer of your dot co dot uk store and I have a Kindle which is linked to that store.

I know that you sell books in French, and German through your dot fr and dot de stores in Kindle editions.

I live in Europe. I speak fluent French and fluent German. I occasionally order books  – actual hard copy books – from both stores. The number of books I can get in either language on to my Kindle, however, is restricted to what is on offer in the dot co dot uk store.

I realise you need the Kindle to be limited to one store. But the array of books available across Europe, that would be great. Surely, given that the European Union has some small pillar regarding the free movement of goods and services across its internal borders, this has to be possible?

Could you maybe have a look at it please?

 

on interests and judging them

Shane Hegarty has written a piece in today’s Irish Times which you can, if you’re so inclined, read here.

but it did hint at a key point about the modern foodie industry, which is that its chief product isn’t delicious meals, artfully presented: it is waste

He’s talking in the context of waste of time buying cookbooks, waste of time taking pleasure in your cooking, waste of time in taking instagram photographs of your food, waste of paper in printing cook books which will never be used.

I think he’s wrong.

I own about 100 cookbooks. Pretty sure it’s in that zone because they were recently counted and this does not include myriad copies of Delicious, Donna Hay, Tesco and Superquinn magazines. I also have an A4 notebook into which I glue oddball stuff cut out of magazines, newspapers, the backs of ingredients containers and such like. All of it gives me very great pleasure even if I do not cook.

I’ve always taken the view that if it’s feeding yourself is all it’s about, then you really only need one cookbook, be that either Nigella Lawson’s first one – How to Eat, or, possibly better, one of the Good Housekeeping ones. But that’s really not what it’s all about. There is something beautiful about opening a cookbook, looking at the pictures, and considering whether you will cook this or that.

It’s a pleasure to read cookbooks; not just cook from them. And sometimes you will cook from them and get things right, or sometimes you might not. It is ultimately a voyage of discovery.

In that respect, you cannot possibly consider the acquisition of books – of any type – which give you pleasure as a waste. Effort in cooking, likewise, is not a waste.

I swim because…

Four mornings a week I now go swimming before having breakfast and heading into whatever morning activity I have lined up. I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer – far from it – but I do it because it sets me nicely up for the day.l

Sometime ago there was a hooha over obesity and the Minister for Health in this country, and some journalist or other mentioned that she suffered, between gym membership and going running and stuff.

I was thinking about that word suffered the next day and it occurred to me – to some extent – that there seems, occasionally, to be this idea that life is some sort of penance.

You’d think with the pushing back against the Catholic Church that this whole concept of penance and suffering just to behave properly inline with society’s expectations might have gone the way of the snow a few years ago but no. It lives on.

I don’t run. And when I swim, I don’t feel like I am suffering. I enjoy it.

There are generalised health issues around the western lifestyle. The whole desk-lifestyle isn’t exactly great, and most people don’t get enough exercise. People’s eating habits have changed too. SO one of the things that I know to my cost is sometimes it’s very hard to get exercise.

And exercise is important. If you’re doing it right, and if you’re doing something you like, you feel great after it. It brings other benefits. I mean, I get up at 6.30 and drive to UCD and am in a swimming pool at 7.20 every morning and I really, really enjoy it. I couldn’t do it if it were a sufferance or a penance. I’d just find something else I like doing. While it will not really enable me to run away from a bad guy very fast, per se, it does have helpful things like a) making me fitter and b) having me more prepared for other stuff I like doing, like surfing, and kitesurfing. I get more confident in the water.

I have a couple of targets a) swim 1500m again and b) swim 400m in 8 minutes. I’m a long way off both of those. Currently I’m touching 500m in the mornings. Given the time available to me, that’s going to reach maybe 800m, maximum 900m. But that’s okay – it’s four times a week.

There is this moment – it’s not a measurable moment and it’s not even guaranteed to happen – when I am swimming, when everything just fits together and I feel great.

I swim for that.

Something new

I know. It’s a banal kind of a headline. Headline writing has never by my strongest suit.

Last week I registered at University College Dublin as a full time student for a taught Masters in Science in computer science. Yes, yes I did.

I am incredibly lucky. I found myself at a confluence of time where I a) was able to leave work to do this b) able to fund it for one year and c) was given a place on the course to do it.

Not a lot of people are so fortunate, not when they are my age anyway.

My life has changed a lot and despite a lot of unknowns, such as what the weather will be like in January, and how long I will cope with the idea of getting two buses to college every morning instead of driving for 15 minutes, I am incredibly relaxed about this. And very happy.

I’m not really into termtime yet – lectures start on Monday so it’s all going to be terribly exciting, and no doubt, a complete shock to start dealing with studying and assignments again on a full time basis rather than on a when I have time after work basis. There is a lot of autonomy here, and a huge onus on myself to achieve what I want to achieve.

I’m focusing on data analytics and if you’ve any vague interest in this, I’ll occasionally be blogging on that and related tech matters on this other blog which I have.

time better spent

The weather in Ireland has been fairly impressive lately; stunning sunshine which has not yet yielded to cooler weather, clouds and rain. Last Sunday morning, I got up and drove from Dublin to Clare for the day. I don’t usually do this at the start of July, for two reasons 1) Clare tends to be busy and 2) there haven’t generally been waves I could remotely or imaginatively attempt to learn to surf on. I learn to surf, have been at that zone for a while because mostly, I don’t make it to Clare.

The drive from Dublin to Lahinch takes about 3 hours now, via Limerick. I think it’s faster via LImerick than Galway; the tolls are lower as well (No Enfield :-)) It’s a pleasant drive early on a Sunday morning, if somewhat nervewracking. Those are clouds overhead. I got to Lahinch at 10.20 in the morning, parked up in front of John McCarthy’s Lahinch Surf School.

Pretty sure the last time I had lessons there, it was a freezing cold New Year’s Eve.

Lahinch, at 10.20 last Sunday morning, was still cloud covered; for all that, it was warm, and families had staked out their territories on the beach. Kids surf lessons were in the water; people were swimming. Adult lessons, I was told, would start at 11.45. This suited me fine. I went for a walk around the town; somewhere to have coffee if possible.

I wound up in Philip Morris’s gallery on the corner of what I call the main street but which I am pretty sure has a different name in Lahinch terms, and I bought a beautiful print of a beach which is a bit far away from me in Dublin, Barleycove in Cork. If you’re in Lahinch, I strongly recommend a trip into Philip’s gallery as he has a lot of interesting things hanging on the walls; and they are all in lovely, strong vibrant colours. It does not matter what the weather does outside; they will put sunshine in your life.

They recommended I went to Dannie Mac’s for brunch. It was still before 11; most of the bars were still closed at that point, but Dannie Mac’s was serving breakfast. I had pancakes. Breakfast in Dublin, Weetabix and some orange juice had been well over four hours previous and I was hungry. I recommend the pancakes if you’re ever looking for grub at that time of the morning on a Sunday in Lahinch. The place was packed, and while there were a few families and couples; a lot of their custom came from groups of young men. I suppose there were a few stag parties around.

By the time I finished up in Dannie Mac’s,. Kenny’s had open. Kenny’s is a fantastic shop; seriously. I’m biased of course – last time I was there I discovered they sold Dunoon China mugs. I haven’t found a source in Dublin, and the first one I ever bought, I bought in a tea shop in a shopping centre in France.

They are beautiful. If you want an idea of the ones I like, I have a pinterest board full of them amongst other things (but mostly them). So I bought another three, this time, only one with a lighthouse; the others were a pair of very nice surf mugs. I was surprised and happy to see them.

I should probably stop buying mugs now #itsworsethanthestationeryproblem.

The tillkeepers in Kenny’s always thank me for my custom. Always. It’s almost unique in my experience.

At this point, it’s wandering on to time for me to go back and get back in the water for the first time.

Firstly – I am going to say this. There are at least 8 surf schools in Lahinch. I went to John McCarthy because I know them having had lessons from them before at a time when there were only 2 surf schools in Lahinch. Customer loyalty I suppose you’d call it bar the minor detail that I can’t really surf and I don’t go often enough. I had my first surf lessons at least 10 years ago which should tell you a lot about how much money Lahinch Surf School has actually earned from me (clue, West Cork Surf School in Inchydoney in Cork has done slightly better). But I do also have to commend the staff at work on Sunday. I do not know the name of the girl taking bookings but she was unutterably helpful. The instructor I got paired up with, David, I think his name was, was extraordinarily helpful. Mind you, I still can’t surf but that’s definitely a lack of practice and it’s definitely a lack of time in the water. Also, I’ve put on weight since the last time I was in the water (so XL wetsuit, good to know, takes less than a minute to put on, probably a clue it may be slightly too big) (also good to no). I wore bootees.

I. hate. wearing. bootees. So I asked whether, you know, was the water, maybe warm enough, that I could avoid bootees. You’re talking to someone who stands in 4 foot of freezing cold water in Dublin taking photographs (ie, freezing) so I Can HANDLE the cold.

They mentioned jelly fish.

This is an entirely different prospect to freezing your toes off.

I got four great waves, fell off the board 19 times and had a decent chat with Dave about such esoteric matters as “can’t remember which foot I used to put my leash on but this doesn’t feel right” the truth is I really don’t know now whether I’m goofy or natural although I’m tending to think natural.

I tried both last Sunday. I was neither, if I’m honest.

I love the momentum you get when you balance right on the board, and paddle right and you, board and wave head for the sure. I imagine it’d be even better if I were popping up. But it’s that feeling as you fly back into shore that gets you to go back out and try, and try again. I had a ball. I loved it. I want to do it more often. The sun came out at that point in time as well.

After the surf lesson, I packed everything up and then drove from Lahinch to Loop Head. It took rather a long time; much longer than I expected. I had to reasons for going down there. Firstly, Loop Head Lighthouse is now open to tourists. You can hire one of the lightkeeper cottages as well via Irish Landmark Trust and that, along with Wicklow Lighthouse and Galley Head, is on my list of potential honeymoon locations.

The tower lighthouse at Loop Head is not inhabited because they could build cottages for the lightkeepers, even though it’s on a particularly pointy bit of land, over a few cliffs. The tower itself is made of limestone so on what was probably the warmest day of the year, it was still FREEZING in there. You can climb up the lighthouse and see to the Aran Islands on one side, and the Brandons in Kerry on the other side. You can also see the ruin of the coastal watch look out post, a concrete bunker, 83 of which were plonked around the coast in the early 1940s to watch for any trouble during the Emergency. I know quite a lot about these. What you cannot set from the lighthouse, because of the way the land slopes on Loop Head, is the EIRE sign. I know a monumental lot about these and the main reason I was in Loop Head was to see their sign as it was renovated last year.

Mind you, long before I ever knew about EIRE signs, I liked lighthouses and Loop Head was on my lighthouse bingo card, so amongst the achievements for this year is “saw Loop Head Lighthouse and did the tour”.

And went surfing.

When you have a day where you get to do something related to three major interests, which includes some exercise (oh god did my arms hurt on Monday), it’s got to be a good day. I drove back to Dublin the same evening.

but to quote Calvin and Hobbes, “but it was worth it”.

(and I’ve just discovered there is Calvin & Hobbes fan fiction…colour me nonplussed)