Friday, September 27, 2013

Yarn bombing in Portumna

So do you like the moody photo of Portumna Bridge? And what's that coloured stuff clinging to it? Can you see it. Because it's only now I've uploaded it to this blog that it's appeared. The light was all wrong so I thought I'd only captured a dark bridge. Mmm. What's the next one going to be like? Here we go.

Oh now not bad at all. This is the upriver section of the bridge where we were lurking on Winter Solstice waiting for the 5.30 opening. We'd put her in Connacht Harbour the Sunday before after I launched what you can see on the bridge. So hang on. One more pic after we went through.

And there we are. This is the result of a yarn bombing art project by textile artist Kate O'Brien, who worked with local people - net workers - to make all the separate squares of knitting and crochet that became these nets that you can just see reflected in the water. Kate's aim was to reproduce Monet's painting of pond and water lilies with all these wonderful vibrant colours. It was the beginning of the local Shorelines Arts Festival.

So I, in my new role as author, was asked to launch this exhibition. There was also to be a flotilla of boats going through the bridge as it opened at 3 pm on the Sunday, plus an aerial photo of the whole thing. Joe and I had arrived in Portumna in the camper van on Saturday after a tour of the country (it seemed) on Skipper & Her Mate business. It was warm, sunny and calm. I had a text from Margaret, one of the organisers. The forecast was atrocious for Sunday.

We went over to Terryglass where much of the flotilla was gathered. The forecast was not only for rain but for high winds. Oh no! They were to arrive in the early hours. It was still balmy and summer-like at midnight. I woke at 2. No wind or rain. Perhaps the forecast was wrong again.

Sadly not. We woke to storm. Waves raged in from the west. Not the weather for barges or other big boats. Didn't look like we'd be bringing Winter Solstice round from Castle Harbour to the bridge as planned either. And definitely no aerial photography. The venue was on the verge of being changed to indoors. What a shame.

But the weather gods were partly good to us. The sky cleared, it was mild enough, but the wind still stormed away. However, it was on the other side of the bay. We made a last-minute decision to bring the boat around the corner and tied her up below the bridge. A crowd gathered. There were musicians. Speeches - me among them. I'm getting the hang of this. It's more fun than I thought it would be. Just as well as I'm doing it again on Sunday - not opening an exhibition, but doing a reading and introduction of Skipper in Mountshannon at 12 noon in The Snug on the Main Street. It's part of the Mountshannon Trad Festival. We'll be playing a few tunes there too on Friday and Saturday.

When I went to put my coffee on the table before writing this blog there was something not quite right.

Yes yes of course you can see it straight away, but from above it wasn't so obvious. Books under the legs means Joe's been busy at the paté again. Or it might be a terrine if you're being particular. The tins of whatever-it-is have fitted timber shapes placed on top before they go under the table legs. Heavy objects on the table weigh everything down. I've written about this before, but I'm always so impressed by it that I have to tell you about it again. 

Here's the result.

Mmm yum. Nice one Joe.

And finally.

It's not only cats who have to sit on things you put down to air or dry.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cucumbers and steam trains

This is what happens when you go away for two weeks to help your parents move house:

The cucumbers take over. And the courgettes. Runner beans. French beans. Beans are easier - you can freeze them - but what do you do with an excess of cukes? I think I'll put them into soup along with the courgettes and a few carrots and onions.

Tomatoes weren't great - poor pollination probably due to the very hot weather. But I did have some big and some very small:

It was a mad time in Nantwich, my home town, moving my parents from the four-bedroom family home they've lived in for forty odd years into a two-bedroom cottage in a retirement village. Even though they'd got rid of loads of stuff, on the day of the move I was packing boxes and chucking stuff/putting it aside for the charity shop in equal measure. I know moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do. Add to that moving someone else.

While we were there we took a trip to Llangollen just over the Welsh border from where my brother lives. It's a beautiful part of the world - somewhere we used to go to as a family when I was small. Probably more suited to adults who like walking really, although there was the thrill of the steam train:

Llangollen Railway is a heritage line which runs alongside the River Dee to Carrog 7.5 miles upstream. A wedding party had just been dropped on the platform (smuts on the bride's dress!) and the engine was reversing down the track. It was what they call a Wedding Experience, which makes it sound like some kind of trial run to see if you want to embark on the real thing. They're licensed for weddings and civil ceremonies, and you can do the whole caboodle on board. You can also do the Driver Experience. Gift vouchers are available, so I imagine it's a popular choice for adult children wanting to buy a birthday present for the dad who monopolised their childhood train set.

A canal also runs through Llangollen called, you guessed it, the Llangollen Canal. There are remains of lock gates, or more probably sluice gates, down by the river too, but I'm not sure what they were for.

The canal itself begins in Hurleston just outside Nantwich, and used to be called the Ellesmere Canal because it went via Ellesmere in Shropshire. There was a Grand Plan, as with many canals, to join one place to another for commercial traffic. This one was going to connect Liverpool with the West Midlands, and the industrial town of Ellesmere Port on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal was given its name because of this. The scheme was never completed, and the intended water source at Wrexham was never reached. Instead a feeder channel was built through Llangollen, and this is what we were looking at.

These narrowboats are horse drawn for the tourist trade. Here's the lasses or lads who pull them, finished for the day:

I'd love to hire a boat on this section of canal. The scenery is stunning. Only trouble is you'd have to go over the Pontcysylte Aqueduct, towpath on one side and nothing on the other. And then you'd have to come back.

While we were in England a member of our canine crew died suddenly from a heart attack. She was fourteen. RIP Frankie. We miss her terribly.