Pillow Talk

You wouldn’t believe what I went through to find these little darlings. I’ve been searching for months and it was not without some amusing misunderstandings along the way. John had no idea why I kept saying I was looking for pillows for the sofa and one for our bed.

Because I wasn’t very descriptive as in, “We need more color in those two parts of the house,” and we weren’t shopping for them together, he never had a clear idea of what I was looking for until recently.

Here in the UK, a pillow is something that goes on the bed and under your head at night. After seeing that the term “pillows” seemed confusing, I moved on to words like, “throw pillows and decorative pillows” which produced a few more strange looks before he said. “Oh, cushions, you want cushions!”

To which I replied, “Nooo … cushions are what we sit on, not put behind the small of our back for support or use to provide an accent color.” When I asked him if he knew about accent colors he said, “Accent colors … not really no.”

In the end it all worked out fine once he discovered what I wanted and why it was important to me. I say again important to me, because he didn’t see the need for them. I know I looked at hundreds of “cushions” online and spent months physically looking in various stores here and in the US when I happened to be someplace that sold them, but last week I finally decided that I would just have to make my own and asked John to take a trip to Truro which has a great fabric store.

Of course, it was the same thing … loads of choices and none of them right. It was only after I went into a little market area nearby that I narrowed my search and found the perfect and lovely pillows below. House of Rugs was the store where I snapped these up and put an end to a long hunt.

The sweetest part of it was when I took John into the store to show him the pillow, he took one look and said, “Right then, let’s get it.” He didn’t even pause at the price although I had a few minutes earlier which was 33 BPS or the equivalent of $51 for my American readers.

I was pretty surprised because even I thought they were a bit pricey, but we paid for the one we took with us, ordered a second one, and I walked out of there all giggly that I had found the perfect pillow.

I asked him later why he didn’t even hesitate over the cost as he’s usually fairly frugal and he said, “I could see they made you happy.”

What a sweetie, huh?

Now if I can just convince him that we need a new rug to go with the cushions … or maybe even a blue comfy chair for me … I have just the spot in mind.

I’m holding this up at a funny angle so you can see the colors I was trying to add to the room. The colors I wanted are in the artwork around the room with some right behind it in this photo. These are just two that have the blues and greens I was hoping to duplicate in my pillows.

Here’s a look when we just had the one cushion and later with both after we picked up the second one yesterday. I can imagine a blue chair off to the left side of the fireplace … can you?

The coffee table is not as bright white as it looks here and it usually has something on it such as flowers or a plant. John made it 42 years ago mostly from driftwood he picked up on the beach in Ireland. I like how it provides some lightness with so much dark furniture and the pillows help as well.

I pulled the oil painting above the sofa out of the attic when we were decorating the living room a couple of years ago and I’m thinking it may be time for a change to something else now.

It’s funny how you begin by thinking that adding a throw cushion or two will complete the picture and suddenly see that there’s more to do.

Suggestions anyone?

Pub Crawl Failure – My First Taste Of Guinness

I’m a woman who believes in marking an occasion and while I’m not a big drinker, when I learned I’d be spending a weekend in Dublin, I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to have my first taste of Guinness in the place it originated. I spotted the sign above on the day we arrived and briefly and I do mean briefly, considered doing the tour, but decided since alcohol consumption was the implied expectation, I’d be a dismal failure.

We squeezed in loads of sightseeing during our Dublin experience, but it wasn’t until our last day that I had an occasion to make good on my plan to have a taste of Guinness. By Sunday afternoon we were trying to find a pub with live Irish music for David and a Guinness for me. Michael was happy leaving the choice to us and having read the reviews for the Oliver St. John Gogarty pub, we chose it for a late afternoon rest stop.

It was our only pub visit and as it turns out, the best choice I think we could have made. Having researched the man the pub is named for, I discovered Oliver St. John Gogarty was the contemporary of a many literary figures of his day and served as the inspiration for several important characters as this snippet from Wikipedia revels ” His most famous literary incarnation, however, is as Buck Mulligan, the irrepressible roommate of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses.”

I left the pub that evening assuming he’d been a publican, but discovered later that he was medical doctor, published author, playwright, and poet who was involved in Ireland’s fight for independence along with Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. 

The Gogarty pub was so much more than I’d expected and the music and atmosphere alone would have made it worth talking about, but the fish and chips … were the best I’ve ever eaten! The tartar sauce alone was good enough to make a southern woman weep.

There’s a saying I’ve heard somewhere that goes like this, “Southerners like to think that God invented fish just so there’d be a vehicle to eat tartar sauce.” Can anybody help me out with the proper quote and the origin? It sounds like something Paula Dean would say.

You can see the musicians in the distance by the windows. They provided a perfect accompaniment to the fun we had and I was well pleased with the whole experience especially the one in the photo below.

You must know by now that I like to document a lot of my expat experiences and having a taste of Guinness in Ireland is worth a snap or two. I’d heard a great deal about the taste and what to expect and I was prepared to find it too strong based on its consistency and color, but I thought tasted a bit like coffee in a way only sweeter than the black coffee I drink. It was heavier than a regular beer and felt richer like a milk smoothy in a health food bar.

While I photographed a pint, I only drank a half. That’s me as you can see having my first taste. I look a little apprehensive, but I was all smiles later. Remember … I barely drink so a few sips in and I was feeling it.

There’s one last thing I wanted to share about Gogarty and it was one I would not have expected. When his return to Ireland was delayed by WWII after completing a lecture tour in the United States, Gogarty applied for and was granted American citizenship and spent most of the rest of his life in New York where he wrote for a living after giving up medicine.

So while we skipped the literary pub crawl and our consumption of Guinness was pretty limited, we still managed to choose the one pub with something for all three of us. Without knowing the history of the man that Gogarty’s was named for, it seems a happy coincidence that a doctor (David), a published author (Michael), and a (now) Guinness loving expat (me), chose this pub to round out our Dublin experience.

Until next time … Cheers!

Photowalking Through Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green

Photowalking - spellcheck is screaming red warnings that this is not one word, but two that I’m squeezing together to suit myself. A quick Google check reveals that there are groups of people who write it this way all the time so lets ditch the classroom now and move onto the green.

St Stephen’s Green is right across the street from the Fitzwilliam Hotel where we stayed a few weeks ago during our visit to Dublin. The main entrance can be seen in the photo above. The world outside the gates is a busy one with shoppers, cars, and buses all rushing past the edges of St Stephen’s. Inside the park, there are 22 acres to explore, use for exercise, or just rest a while.

David and I did a bit of all three during our Sunday photowalk and it was interesting to see the different things that caught our eye. Obvious to us both when we began was the man who was hand feeding the swans and ducks. After snapping more than a few photos from across the lake, I tried to creep up undetected so I could get close enough to grab a tight image of his hands near the swans.

These are still a bit fuzzy for me, but interestingly I discovered he was talking to the birds as he fed them and when he spotted me hanging around he had a few words for me too.

You can see him waving his hands while telling them what I think was something like, ‘That’s it, no more for today!’ I could hear him saying a few words I recognized, like Mr. and Mrs., but the rest of it was in another language.

After telling the birds goodbye, he turned to me and began to try to explain how he came here everyday to feed the birds. He had very limited English skills, but managed to communicate by way of the months of the year touching his fingers in the same way you might list numbers, that he came very day to feed the birds. I also picked up the word Hungary making me think he was speaking mostly Hungarian which explained our strained verbal exchange.

While I was having a chat of sorts with the very nice bird man, David was taking pictures of me. This was one of my favorites. My friend Patrice said it captures my spirit, but it also shows me wearing my glasses. It’s the rare photo that slips through where I’m actually wearing them as my vain self tends to snatch them off now if I see a camera pointed at me. This never used to be an issue for me as I’ve worn them to see distance since my mid 30s. (There’s a funny story in that which I may share later)

David snapped this one of me hanging over the fencing with my camera around the monument below.

This is the photo I took from my draped fence position. I love to remember that changing the perspective can affect the whole look of something. In this case, I was more interested in the signs of season change coming and the flowers beginning to bloom than I was with the monument of Sir Authur Guinness.

The wild branches of this tree drew me into to this shot just as I imagine it did for the couple sitting on the bench together.

There’s a center part of this park with fountains and wide open places for sitting and watching children while they play or pushing them in strollers (pushchairs) while talking with friends. At least that’s where my imagination went when we walked into this space. I noticed the plaque on the park bench almost immediately and went over to discover another connection to mothers and babies.

Not too long ago I read a book about horror of being put in and left a place created with an idea towards helping girls and women in need who were usually, but not always, unmarried and pregnant. It evolved to the point that a teenage girl might be locked up in a Magdalen institution for being too flirtatious or for having a contrary opinion with a church or family member. It’s a very sad story.

 David took this shot of me trying to get a different view of a bust of Irish novelist and poet, James Joyce.

I think I like him better in black and white. I was particularly interested in his rings and how he wore them on his first and second fingers.

This was my favorite view of his bust and I was glad I was able to capture the couple under his chin.

Around a corner on our way to one of the park exits, we came upon a little cottage that looked as if it belonged in a children’s fairy tale. Ardilaun Lodge was built as a home for the park superintendent by Sir Arthur Guinness who bought St Stephen’s Green from the city in a dilapidated state and re-landscaped it for public use before gifting it back to the city of Dublin.

 

I thought this tree was gorgeous and took three shots of it quickly hoping to catch the man walking towards me before he noticed what I was doing.

As you can see in the close-up of him taken from the photo above … he noticed.

What Do You See … How Images Speak Differently To Each Of Us

It’s funny how two people can look at the same photograph and be drawn to different parts of it. This morning I filled my computer screen with the photograph above and asked my husband John what he saw when he looked at it.

His immediate response was, ‘The church.’ I can see why his eye might follow the leading lines of the road straight to the church, but that’s not what I was seeing when I took it. I was certainly aware that it was there, but it wasn’t foremost in my mind at the time.

It was the three figures dressed all in black that made me turn my camera in their direction. They looked so alike in their dark clothing walking down the very center of the street that I quickly snapped three photographs of them in motion and immediately began to imagine all kinds of good versus evil scenarios … a sort of ‘Holy High Noon‘ Dublin style, only there’s no Gary Cooper or Grace Kelly, it’s just the Catholic church on one side and three unidentified strangers striding towards it armed with briefcases instead of six shooters.

How about you … what do you see?

My Dublin Inspired Irish History Lesson

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

It was the angels that made me want to cross the street for a closer look. All four of them seemed almost identical with the rough surface of the sculpture looking almost like someone had made it of papier-mâché before casting it in metal.

It took me ages to discover any information about the angels even though there was a clue in the words, A Nation Once Again written in the stone wall surrounding them. The statue of the man in the background is Thomas Davis, a revolutionary Irish writer who died at 30 in 1845. There’s a snippet of information about him in the Wikipedia quote below.

“He himself was a Protestant, but preached unity between Catholics and Protestants. To Davis, it was not blood that made a person Irish, but the willingness to be part of the Irish nation. Although the Saxon and Dane were, Davis asserted, objects of unpopularity, their descendants would be Irish if they simply allowed themselves to be. “

Irish Independence 

He wrote the famous Irish rebel song, A Nation Once Again. ” The song is a prime example of the “Irish rebel music” sub-genre. The song’s narrator dreams of a time when Ireland will be, as the title suggests, a free land, with “our fetters rent in twain.” The lyrics exhort Irishmen to stand up and fight for their land: “And righteous men must make our land a nation once again.”

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

In searching for information on the angels almost at his feet, I found little except they’re considered to represent the four provinces of Ireland: Leinster, Ulster, Munster, and Connacht. I’m hoping for a little help from my Irish friends, Maria and Gina to fill in more details about the angels and the fountain and I’d be interested to know the name of the artist as well.

Photo Credit - Elizabeth Harper - Dublin 2012

I found two other photographs online to add to mine above. One gives you a visual of how the angel fountain and the statue of Thomas Davis look in the middle of College Green and the other shows you a larger view with people filling the street around both while they wait for a visit from Barack Obama in 2011.

Internet Photo

Photo Credit - Lawrence Jackson

I have to admit that I was a bit embarrassed to discover during my Dublin trip how little I actually knew about Irish history and how much of that has been influenced by movies I’ve seen rather than books that were historically accurate.

For instance, I had no idea that Ireland was neutral during WWII. Did I just sleep though that part of class?

Bookend Love – Walton & Wylly

Wylly and Walton were brother and sister, they were also my great-aunt and my maternal grandfather. Wylly, christened William Michael, was two years older than her brother Walton. Linked by more than blood they shared a love of books and the written word. Wylly grew up to be a writer and journalist and Walton owned a book business, selling rare books and civil war reprints.

I have copies of the books my aunt wrote and the gifts she gave me over the years, but I have nothing except a few photographs of my grandfather who died when I was two. That changed the other day when my cousin, McKenzie surprised me by sending a set of bookends my grandfather, Walton made for his sister, Wylly.

They arrived in a small box that had a familiar smell even before I had it opened.

You may remember this post where I wrote about gifts from Aunt Wylly over the years and how much my sister Margaret and I loved the smell when we would open our presents at birthdays and Christmas. Seeing the package of mothballs and thinking about why McKenzie had gone to the trouble to put some into my package made me smile.

Here are the bookends my grandfather made for his sister, Wylly Folk St. John. It feels right that they should be tucked in tight around the books she wrote. I’m not sure how old he was when he built them for her, but I have a feeling it may have been a task for one of his boy scout merit badges. I’ve placed them in a slightly different way than they were intended, but I can see them more clearly from where I sit and write.

I moved this particular book to the side so you could see a bookend next to one of my favorite books my aunt wrote called, ‘The Ghost Next Door.’ It’s the book I took my daughter Miranda’s name from to honor my aunt. Her parents named her William Michael even though she surprised them when she was born by being a girl. Everyone called her Willie growing up which she later changed to Wylly and I never heard her complain about her unusual name. She was like a dear grandmother to me, but I couldn’t bring myself to give my daughter a boy’s name and Miranda seemed like both a perfect fit for baby girl and a sweet way to honor my connection to my great-aunt.

I like how the initials ‘WF’ could be Walton or Willie ‘Wylly’ Folk. The style of the initials makes me think of the Art deco period in the 1920s. My grandfather was born in 1910 and would have been in his teen years as the style was becoming popular. I don’t remember ever hearing stories about him being handy with tools or doing any woodcarving as an adult so I think I may be right in assuming these were made by a young Walton.

The University of Georgia has all of my aunt’s letters, manuscripts, and personal correspondence in its rare books and special collections library and I’m hoping a bit of research the next time I’m home will give me more details about the history of the bookends.

Lacking the real story, the writer in me has already created several versions of when and how my grandfather made them which will have to do until I can discover more. I feel sure both my aunt and grandfather would be pleased to know how valued and well-loved they still are and I’m terribly grateful to my cousin McKenzie for giving them to me. They’ve had a special place on her bookshelf for many years and it’s a sweet gift of family connection that she has shared with me by passing them on.

When Friends Win The Lottery!

On my recent trip to Dublin to spend a few days with my dear friend David Morris, I had the fun experience of seeing David and a new friend to me now, Michael Bang win a substantial amount of money through EuroMillions.

Here’s what it looked like to the photographer (me) watching as they realized they’d won and then began the process of collecting their winnings.

EuroMillions - A winning Ticket

I was with them on Friday when they bought the ticket and agreed to split the results 50/50 if they won. I was also with David when he checked the results a few days later online and decided they had not won, but saved the tickets anyway to give to Michael.

Michael then went in the store in the photo above to scan the tickets and thought the scanner was broken when it kept saying he was holding a winning ticket. He did this three times before confirming with the cashier that they had indeed won.

Then they were off on a hunt to see how they could collect.

This woman was not very helpful as she did not seem to know the answers to their questions on how to collect.

So they had to work it out themselves eventually learning that it would have to be picked up by check as it was too big for a cash payout and they could not get it until Monday, the day they were both scheduled to fly back to Atlanta.

EuroMillions Lottery Check - Photo by Michael Bang

Michael changed his flight and stayed an extra day to pickup their winning check. They agreed to keep the amount to themselves so he fuzzed it out before posting it on Facebook where I lifted the image that you see here.

Having been sworn to secrecy, I won’t reveal the amount either except to say that it was a sizable number and great fun for me to share the excitement.

Spending time with David is always sweet and I have more Dublin stories and photos to share over the next few days.