10 November 2005

The Castle & Cruise's

The fact that we got wrecked the night before the wedding came as no surprise to anyone. We've been partying for 11 years together and it had been awhile since the last time, so the rounds kept coming and coming. Beforehand was a meal at Ballyhinnon Castle(Luke P will no doubt inform me whether I got the name right), a self-catering palace that, sadly, was not my residence for the evening. It was where I discovered a trick with my camera that I wound up over-using the drunker I got. You'll see. Cruise's was a brilliant pub in Ennis. I mentioned it in my last post.This is the castle where a bunch of us were staying. I stole Adam's tripod for this and put my digital into "night" mode w/o flash. Night mode with flash comes up later.

Luke P squaring up against a suit of armour, with hubby-to-be looking quite smart. As he had actually just been legally married (but not humanistly). Weird vapour trails huh? This is night mode with the flash on... subjects still in focus but long exposure light trails? Kid-with-new-toy alert!

Meal - spag bol with me trying out new fun camera setting.

A metaphor for his married future?

Would you marry this man?

Giles is another old mate - he, Matt & I lived in Castlegate together. Total legend.

Unexpected bonus of the wedding weekend was catching up with these two cats. Huber (his shinty name; normal name Tim. Prefer Huber) on the left and Toad (real name: Adrian). Smoking cheap stogies out in the rain and talking nonsense. Huber (sporting a shiner from being smacked in the face with a lacrosse ball) is training to be a priest (!!) and Toad is a teacher on Jersey. It was awesome to catch up and drink lots together again.

It is a little known Irish tradition that one must be congratulated by a pirate in the pub the evening before your marriage, lest on a honeymoon cruise you fall victim to rampaging pirates who will show no mercy to newlyweds as they have not been congratulated beforehand. So it's quite lucky Matt bumped into this guy really. What? I'm serious, man; check it on the 'net if you don't believe me.

The wedding...

Here are the pics from my friend Matt's wedding, held in the fantastic Knappogue castle, former stronghold of the MacNamara clan. These are all from my SLR and not my digital. The reception stuff is all from my digital and that will be another post. I was pretty hungover from an epic night at Cruise's - brilliant pub in the town of Ennis.Matt awaits Emma... I really like this shot. There wasn't enough light for a zoom lense, sadly.It was a "humanist" service. Which was lovely, actually - more interesting than strictly legal-speak civil ceremonies that I've been to. And it was short. Bonus.This is Adam. He's a mate and was the official photographer. He had a tripod and everything. And probably didn't ruin the film with which he took most of the wedding photos. Anyway, I got this shot of him because I thought he wouldn't be in any otherwise.Matt and Emma in the gardens. I'm annoyed Emma's not as in focus as Matt. And that someone's shoulder is there on the left.Really chuffed with this one.Chuffed with this one as well, even though it could have been framed slightly better, because I'd never done a manual shutter speed night-shot before (Adam let me borrow his tripod). This is the castle where the wedding, reception and banquet were held. Cool huh? Castles... hmmm. Could use one of those.

09 November 2005

The laziest horse in the world.

Say hello to Ollie. Strange name for a mare, wouldn't you agree? Ollie was beyond a shadow of doubt the laziest, grumpiest horse I have been near, let alone ridden. But ride her I did. Almost got her up to a trot. Suman and Georgie got to ride big, lovely, active and energetic horses. I got the fat one and it made me as grumpy as the horse. Ollie was probably grumpy and lazy because she got the fat one too.

Proper rant...

So, I'm watching over the house and stumble upon a letter from British Gas. Now, thinking that this might be some sort of bill or something, I opened it. It informed me that my parents' electricity changeover had been processed and would be happening within the next 4 weeks. It went on to say that if they changed their minds about changing providers they have 7 days (not working days, mind) to inform British Gas. The letter was dated 18 October. It's 9 November.

My parents are pretty thorough about things, especially when it comes to their house and telling me what I need to do to take care of it. Instructions regarding pretty much everything are given and expected to be followed. I can understand that. Plants die if not watered etc. etc. So I figure that this letter, if everything were going according to plan, would have been preceded by a lengthy chat with the folks about the electricity changeover, going over the minute details such as phoning the previous supplier and confirming with the new supplier that we were indeed changing over. None of that happened. Suspicious, nes pas?

I phoned the 'rents.

I won't directly quote my mother, but what she said rhymed with "What the duck?!"

Dad's response at least gave some clue, saying that someone had tried to peddle it to him and he'd replied that he'd need some information on it before he agreed to anything, and had never said he wanted to switch.

I let my rage build inside before making the call to British Gas. I'm petrified of phoning strangers. Honest. So I start going through my routine, hoping to evoke in some way a merging of Jack Nicholson's "You Can't Handle The Truth" speech from A Few Good Men with Anthony Hopkins speech before the Supreme Court in Amistad. Rage tempered with wisdom and logic - that's the ticket. Phone them up and start off stern and if met with any but-contract-is-valid-unless-cancelled-before-7-days bullshit, then comes the increased volume, consumer rights issues, their-mistake-hence-their-responsibility, I'm gonna phone fuckin' Watchdog and have Ann Robinson crawl up your arse with a microscope and a camera crew. And if they dared to mentioned that Ann Robinson doesn't do Watchdog anymore, then watch the fuck out, because she's coming back just to drag British Gas's candy arse telesales crew through the mud and kick them in the teeth with her evil spiky ginger hair and weird S&M fashion choices. In my head I have the fire and brimstone going on, and so I dial.

And am put on hold. For an hour. At about halfway through I go and use the toilet, secretly hoping they'll answer while I'm flushing. I zen out, realising that screaming blue murder about Ann Robinson fuckin' dogs or some such nonsense will do no good.

Someone finally answers, and to my chagrin is polite. And helpful. I'm sure I felt myself deflate. I explained the situation, how my father simply wanted some information before he made his decision. This made sense. My dad, at 68, is old fashioned in wanting to find out about something before he signs anything. It turns out, however, that in this modern world of telesales, asking for the info signs you up. Can you believe that shit? And the guy on the phone did not tell my dad that. And I wish I could say how ballistic I went at the guy on the other end, how his headset melted to his skull with the force of my indignation, but he beat me to it, and said how awful it was, the way the system works. He said it would be all fixed without ever a bill from the wrong supplier arriving, and apologised. He sounded sincere.

I'm still not happy; not only did I not get to rant (hence this), but the policy itself is so unbelievably fucked and wrong that I despair for the world. How dare they take a simple enquiry and turn it into a purchase! Does that mean if I ask a Porsche dealer for specs on a Carrera S if I don't get back to him in 7 days I've bought the fucking thing? I don't think so. And I weep for the world if that is the path Western consumer capitalism is going. Any sort of belief in karma and reincarnation suggests that as this generation of telemarketers and telesales people die out (horribly) there will be a surge in the dung beetle and sewer rat population. And any of you care to target me, be warned: my dad was a sailor and my grandad a marine - I possess an arsenal of profanity and disgruntlement and will unleash it upon you with maniacal glee! Bring it on.

PS -
You may wonder why I censored my mother's comment and not my own bad language. Well, it's like this: you know I swear, but it's not my place to attribute the same ill manners to my mother.

Ireland words & pics 3

Just got my SLR photos developed and more turned out ok than I'd hoped. That said, I did lose three rolls due to... uhm... accidents. And there were some issues with dirty lenses and a beach. So, well, not perfect, but the ones that came out well, I'm very happy with. I'll put those on a different post. I'm still new to the photography thing, so bear with me. I have to keep telling myself to be patient. And the hour I just spent on hold with British Gas is good practice

These are still all digital and from our voyage around the Ring of Kerry. This voyage was a last minute decision that turned out for the best. Some of the most stunning scenery I've laid eyes on really. The photos don't do it justice.That last one was taken on Friday morning on Valentia Island. The two jagged islands on the right are called the Skelligs, and apparently some drunken religious cult used to get wrecked out there. Not much else to do on a rock I suppose. The night before was spent in Cahersiveen (sort of the capital of the north of the Ring) and we found a brilliant pub that recalled a bygone era, combining public house and hardware! Called Mike Murt's, you could purchase fishing reels from the shelf next to the optics and the atmosphere charged as the owner was getting married the following day. And to save on furniture, they put cardboard on top of old kegs. Genius.See? Kegs! If only all problems could be solved so easily.

08 November 2005

Holiday Numbers

Airlines flown over the course of my holiday. Only one was late.
Number of hours late my flight from Dublin to Gatwick was yesterday
Days spent in Ireland
Pounds gained due to Guinness, brown bread w/butter and various other heart-stopping meals
Pounds spent buying very healthy food to restock my fridge and reverse above
Rolls of film brought to the developers today
Digital photos taken
People for most of the journey
Pints of Guinness consumed, on average, per day
Cars at our disposal
Grumpy horse
Days that it rained
Days the sun came out
Major towns/cities passed through or visited
Times Andrew H offended guests at the wedding
Seconds before I realised I didn't even like Pitch & Putt, and as such golf will always be a waste of time for me.
Things I've forgotten to put on this list

Ireland words & pics 2

My own brain is a mystery to me. All morning, The Spice Girls' 2 Become 1 has bounced around in my head. I've never owned a Spice Girls song. I don't know how on earth I was exposed to this particular track for long enough to be able to run lyrics in my brain. And more importantly, I don't know what it means (the fact that it's in my head, I can work out what the lyrics mean, honest). Not that it has to mean anything, it could just be a couple of synapses on loop. But we're compelled to search for meaning in mystery and this, for me, is a bit of a mystery. The cure, however, is simple: decent music from a far removed genre. A little De La Soul should the trick.

Anyway, Ireland. The guys picked me up in Cork, late I may add - due to golfing, and we headed towards the town of Kinsale, heaving with the celebrations of the Cork Jazz Festival. This was Halloween. Kinsale's nestled in a small natural harbour on the South coast - beautiful but it was dark, so no pics unfortunately. It was the first time I'd seen James Wicken since he graduated in '98 - 7 years is far too long to be away from friends. He's lookin' well though and doing his bit to save the world by working for WaterAid.That's James in Lill's, the local local pub, where the old men looked upon our reunion revelries with humbug disapproval. We didn't mind too much as we still got the typical Irish lock-in. The dark curtains go down for when the cops drive by and we all just continue drinking. Very civilized.Life in the flat in Castletownsend was fantastic. Sort of like having a big flat at university but with more energy and less sleeping in. The days were spent golfing by some (not me) and sightseeing by others. The end of the day was spent chilling out in the living room. On the last night in Castletownsend myself and Luke cooked up a feast - the ultimate chicken & mushroom pie - we even made little pastry Guinness pints (see on the right side of the pie?).

We decided to shoot off north a day early, to take in the Ring of Kerry (well worth it, though requiring its own post). I like these last two shots: the first is a ruined cottage right next to the town house where we were staying. Ireland is full of beautiful, decaying cottages while hideous new builds go up everywhere. It's very sad. The last shot is the exit from behind our townhouse on to the one main road in Castletownsend. It really was an amazing wee town. I'll probably put up a few more pics of it later.

07 November 2005

On the subject of Guinness...

I love beer. In its myriad forms it refreshes, compliments food, relaxes and can break the ice better than any other beverage: "fancy a pint?" has a disarming directness that eludes suggestions like "glass of chardonnay?" or "G&T?".

There are beers for every occasion and meal. Lager for curry, English bitter for a ploughmans, Scottish ale for stews, Trappist beer for cheese and cured meats and, of course, stout & porter for oysters.

Guinness is a stout, and by far the most famous in the world. It has an incredible marketing machine behind it and as a brand in the beer world it manages to do what no other beer does in its advertising: exude sophistication. Oh, style beers abound and there's all sorts of bollocks kicking about; but Guinness advertising has risen to the level of an art form, with stark, bold images and films that would not be out of place in promotional pieces for Rolex, Chanel, Dom Perignon, Mercedes or Krug. A pint itself is iconic: black and white perfection.

I find this odd. Guinness for me is the beer equivilant of comfort food and, while not ubiquitous in my beer consumption, plays a very important role. I drink it mostly when I'm in Ireland and for very good reason. All the myths, rumours and hearsay are true: Guinness simply tastes better over here. In fact, it tastes incredible. I drank a lot of it this holiday. In fact, aside from a glass of water or oj in the morning it was pretty much the only liquid that passed my lips.

It's not just the taste though, it's the place. It's possible I've collapsed at the feet of a marketing giant and been caught in the ultimate of tourist traps. But sitting in a quiet pub in the country, wood beams barely keeping the roof above your head, the peat fire blazing while locals gossip and the seafood chowder steams and bubbles with thick-cut Irish brown bread on the side, coated in creamy butter and seeing your pint arrive with that extra-thick-double-cream of a head rising unsupported above the rim of the glass it is impossible not to feel content, comforted, cozy and happy. Especially as it's probably pissing with rain outside. I defy anyone not to buy into the image when faced with the reality.

I had a tradition when I left Ireland. I would have my final pint of Guinness in the departure lounge pub, usually with a dressed crab, as I didn't eat oysters back then. It was a mock-pub that specialised in seafood and it was really nice. It bookended the holiday and gave an opportunity to reflect. Sadly I'm at a different departure gate, one with a bar to be mocked, not a mock pub, the food is dreadful and I should have been in London 45 minutes ago, still having an hour-and-a-half to wait for my long-delayed flight. Still... there's time for a pint.

Sand, stone & sea...

I took these on the beach at Rosscarbery. It was a pretty amazing day.

Ireland in words & pics 1

I'm sitting in my sister's kitchen wondering how the last 10 days slipped by so quickly. My flight leaves Dublin in two hours. I didn't keep a diary this holiday, so words will be reflective rather than spur-of-the-moment. Well, hopefully they'll be reflective. Maybe I'll just let the photos do the talking.
Sadly, no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. In fact, I think it's a bungalow. This was taken from the 1st class carriage of the Dublin-Cork train. And when I say 1st class, it's only in the limited sense that it was separated from the rest of the car by a door. Here we are in one of the 3 locals in the remote village of Castletownsend on the South coast of Ireland. Luke P on the left, myself in the middle and the legendary Andrew Hendry on the right. Many pints had been consumed and we had started on the sambucas. I really like this pic.The morning light pours into the window of the amazing Georgian town house we were staying in. The weather was schizophrenic, bathing us in glorious sunshine and soaking us to the bone.

I am now in the airport, enjoying what I thought would be my last Guinness of the trip. But my flight's delayed. A lot. Like, 3 hours delayed. Bastards. So I think I may have a few more Guinness... but I'm running out of Euros! D'oh!!!Young Matthew Wicken chilling out on the harbour the morning after our first night in Castletownsend (he and I arrived on the Monday - everyone else got there Friday night or Saturday morning). He's the younger brother of James, who lives in Nepal and flew out with his wife for the wedding. Both are salt of the earth. And not your Tesco Value salt either, but hardcore Maldon Sea Salt. Does that make them salt of the sea? Anyway, Matt's about to emigrate to Australia to be with his woman.This is the house we stayed in Castletownsend - we had the entirety of the top two floors and it was huge! The original oak floors undulated giving the impression of one at sea. There were 8 of us: Luke P, Andrew H, James W, Suman W, Georgina W, James M & Matt W. It was cozy and provided a great base for exploring the hidden nooks of West Cork. It was €320 for the eight of us for 5 days. Ridiculously cheap. Unlike the rest of my holiday. Or life, in fact.

06 November 2005

One word of advice...

... Go to an Irish wedding at least once in your life.