Category Archives: Waterford

An evening with Claire Keegan, author of ‘Foster’


Last night, I attended a reading and Q&A with Irish author Claire Keegan. This event was part of the Well Festival of Arts and Wellbeing, which is in its fifth year here in Waterford city and county.

Claire Keegan

Author Claire Keegan

Claire is the author of two books of short stories and a novella called ‘Foster’. All her books have received prestigious awards, too numerous to mention, and ‘Foster’ is on the syllabus for Leaving Certificate English.

With only three books, she has become a giant in the world of literature in English, and deservedly so.

I last saw Claire at a seminar in Cork city in 2010. That was an event I have remembered ever since. She spoke then for hours, almost without a break, weaving a spell with her words, both spoken and read. I couldn’t help but take lots of notes as everything she said rang so true with me. I refer back to those notes to this day.

Last night, we were treated to a reading from ‘Foster’ – an extract in which the central character, a child, describes her first day with her new, ‘foster’ parents. The author’s musical voice and expressive face enhanced the reading. I didn’t want her to stop.

Then for the audience Q&A. Unmoderated Q&A sessions can veer dangerously into time-wasting territory. By that I mean both the other audience members’ and the author’s time. Claire handled questions on all stages of the spectrum with grace and calm. She is (in?)famous for not taking any shit and it is a deserved reputation. For this we, the audience, have to thank her because an author who can deal respectfully with time-wasters and move on quickly is creating time for useful discussion, which benefits us all.

Remarks by Claire that have stuck with me are as follows (this is based on memory – if there are inaccuracies or omissions, please post a comment below):

  • Claire writes slowly, going back to the start of the previous day’s work, dredging out extraneous material until she has a work she is happy with.
  • Characters are defined by how they spend their time. Claire reminded us that we  have limited, precious time on earth. What each of us does with that time says everything about who we are.
  • “A good middle” is the hardest and most crucial part of a work. Once you have a good middle, your ending will emerge.
  • Desire is another key driving force behind each character. What does he or she desire? Find out.
  • Echoing Tolstoy’s remark that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, Claire pointed out that happiness does not usually make for great fiction (this is my interpretation – Claire did not use this quote). She highlighted loss as a driving force in fiction.

The event ran to just over an hour, which gave the audience a short and very sweet distillation of Claire’s writing wisdom and a beautiful reading.

My thanks go to the organisers of the Well Festival of Arts and Wellbeing, and the staff of Tramore Library for the welcoming, professional manner in which they hosted the event.

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Radio: Oliver Sacks, Ronan O’Gara and the perfect cuppa


Yesterday I was a guest on WLR FM with radio veteran Billy McCarthy. Here’s the audio.

We discussed Oliver Sacks’ wonderful New York Times article on his diagnosis with terminal cancer, Irish rugby star Ronan O’Gara’s recent Late Late Show gaffe, and how to make the perfect cup of tea (according to the British Standards Institute, and they should know, right?).

A young Frank Sinatra (left) does an interview for one of the many programs produced by the Armed Forces Radio Service for broadcast to the troops overseas during World War II with Alida Valli, an Italian actress. Unidentified date, presumably 1941 - 1945. Unidentified place.

A young Frank Sinatra (left) does an interview for one of the many programs produced by the Armed Forces Radio Service for broadcast to the troops overseas during World War II with Alida Valli, an Italian actress. Unidentified date, presumably 1941 – 1945. Unidentified place.

Live radio has a magic you don’t get in other media. I had a great time chatting with Billy and my co-panellist Esther Doyle.

The personal side of technology


Hi everyone and thanks for coming back after the Wait Til I Tell You extended summer break! 🙂

After several weeks of sun and (occasional) relaxation, I’m happy to report that all four children are safely back in school / preschool / childminder and Mom and Dad are back to work with loads of new ideas and plans.

I have been busy on the writing front since we last met. First up early in the summer: I applied for the Ted and Mary O’Regan Bursary. This bursary is awarded every year in my home city, Waterford. It commemorates a former drama teacher of mine, Ted O’Regan, and his wife Mary, who were great patrons and practitioners of the arts in Waterford. Sadly my application was not successful. Onwards and upwards!

While on holiday in August, I managed to escape the family fold for a few precious hours (thanks, dear husband) to make the deadline for the Irish Times short story competition. In keeping with this year’s centenary of the beginning of World War I, the theme of the competition was “This means war”. I interpreted the theme very widely, with a story about a young family struggling to cope with economic reality and how that echoes back to previous generations of their family. I haven’t heard anything from the good folk at the Irish Times, so I’m guessing my entry has gone to the great filing cabinet in the sky. Still, it was great to get a story out and makes me feel like the summer was a productive one.

ticket_graphicNow for the substance of today’s post. Starting today, Waterford is host to one of Europe’s biggest new technology conferences, nodeconf.eu. Around 200 of the world’s biggest tech brains are gathered on an island just a stone’s throw from my house. Awesome!

One of the main people behind the organisation and inception of the conference is Cian Ó Maidín. In his latest blog post, which I’m re-blogging below, Cian gives an insight into the personal and family aspects of running a cutting-edge start-up in a small city on the edge of Europe. He dedicates his post to his son, Liam, who died in 2012. We all carry our private griefs and dreams, and Cian writes about his with eloquence and dignity.

What nodeconf.eu and Waterford mean to me

Author: Cian Ó Maidín

Node.js is the fastest growing web technology in history, and major technology companies like WalMart, PayPal, Groupon and Netflix utilizing Node.js to be more competitive. Waterford is one of centers of Node.js in Europe, and Waterford is now home to Node Conf Europe, the world’s headline conference on Node.js.

nearForm was founded by two Waterford natives, Cian Ó Maidín and Richard Rodger in 2011, they founded nearForm because they were excited about a new technology called Node.js and wanted to commercialse it. “Having started-up the company we were asked a number of times, how we were going to play a part in the growth of Node.js if we were based in Waterford? All the activity around Node.js was happening in San Francisco and Waterford wasn’t exactly the center of the technology world.  We both considered moving out of Waterford to start nearForm, but we decided not to, we have families, wives and good lives here. We were going to stay and make this work” – Cian Ó Maidín baloonman1

In June of 2012, shortly after we started Ireland’s first meet-up group on Node.js, ironically called NodeJSDublin (www.nodejsdublin.com) (as it’s run in Dublin). Cian Ó Maidín was booking a ticket to go to NodeConf USA which at the time was in Portland Oregon. This was the main conference in the world at the time on Node.js. In a conversation with a colleague one morning: “It’s a bloody long flight to Portland, about 17 hours, it takes major dedication to travel that far for a 2 day conference, Isn’t there a conference in Europe?”

There wasn’t one. I looked at my colleague, his eyes widened.

“We’ve got to do this!!!” I called up Mikeal Rogers, the guy that curates NodeConf USA and asked him if I could do NodeConf in Europe. Mikeal hadn’t met me in person before and said he’d rather I do a localized event, so we settled on NodeDublin(www.nodedublin.com)  which we ran in the Guinness Storehouse. We had 12 weeks from idea to conference and managed to get 180 people about from all-over the world to come to Dublin to the event. It was a huge success! We had big names from major technology companies all over the world in Dublin having a great time and enthusiastic to come back again. We didn’t ask for permission, grants or anything to make this happen, we just decided to do it and it was awesome.

During 2012 I had many discussions with my wife Amelia about moving out of Waterford to Dublin or further afield, which would have given me an easier career path. We had many many conversations about this. At the time we were expecting and we also had a one-and-a-half-year-old amazing girl Rita, a nice house and a good life. Tragedy struck about 7 weeks before NodeDublin (www.nodedublin.com) . We were pregnant and found that our child (Liam) was very sick. Liam was born asleep on the 1st of October 2012 about 3 weeks before the conference.  We buried him in Ferrybank, Waterford in early October. We were devastated.

During our many conversations about leaving Waterford, Amelia had encouraged me to give Waterford a chance and not to move away, not to beat the place up, to be one of the people that stayed around and built something to stay for. I decided to bring Mikeal Rogers down to Waterford for a visit to Waterford castle a couple of days before the NodeDublin conference. “Let’s look at this place for next year’s conference.” Mikeal was blown away by the venue and massively excited about its’ potential.

In January 2013, Mikeal called me up and asked me if I would take NodeConf Europe and run it. He said that the standard of the conference in Dublin had been so high that he wanted me to take it on. He had asked me to look at various locations in Europe including Madrid, Berlin and London. I said I wasn’t interested; the only place I’d run this conference in was Waterford.

We ran the Europe’s first NodeConf in September 2013, it was amazing. We actually made it into a mystery conference, yes folks didn’t know the conference location, only that it was on an island and there was a castle. Attendees bought a ticket to NodeLand and had to meet us at a hotel in Dublin where we collected them and mystery bussed them to Waterford Castle.  A ticket included everything, food, transport, parties, accommodation, drinks, conference talks etc, we even sent them back on buses with packed lunches after the conference. We totally booked out Waterford castle and all the accommodation on the island to create a gated community for 4 days. In each house on the island we assigned attendees to rooms, then we left a selection of locally produced foods (like Blaa’s from M&D Bakery, local cheeses, meats, rashers and sausages, Down’s no.9 whiskey, and Flahavan’s Porridge). This is our chance to show these folks what good hosts we are and the great things Waterford has to offer. www.nodeconf.eu/2013.html

We literally had big-names from the technology world as Island natives for a few days, the folks at PayPal and WalMart know what a Blaa is. The conference talks were amongst the most important in the Node.js world for 2013, and as it turned out NodeConf USA has now evolved into a workshop event so the keynote focus is on Waterford.

NodeConf Europe is now the world’s premier Node.js conference, this is where the major announcements and news in the Node.js world will be happening. For the 2014 conference, we’ve dispensed with the mystery location as the secret is out. Waterford is awesome and the home of Node.js in Europe. We intend to keep it that way. Our Ambition is to cement Waterford onto the technology map of the world.

NodeConf Europe 2014 is happening in Waterford Castle on the 7th – 11th September.

We have big names from PayPal, Netflix, Fidelity, Groupon, IBM, Citi Bank, Condé Nast and many others attending. They will all be going home able to paly hurling by the end of the conference.

nearForm is a growing technology company based in Waterford. nearForm was founded by Cian Ó Maidín and Richard Rodger. The company now has almost 30 staff working across Ireland, Europe and America. To date the company has grown organically and without funding, nearForm has been built through the graft and hard work of Cian and Richard and the special founding team at the company. nearForm are recognized internationally as one of a small number of Node.js experts in the world. nearForm provide training, professional services and products to enterprises using Node.js to build their products.

NodeConf Europe is dedicated to my son Liam, and an event that I hope brings some fortune and notoriety back to Waterford. This is the place I’ll be calling home for as long as I’m around.

– Cian Ó Maidín

For more information on nearForm go to www.nearform.com

For more information on NodeConf Europe go to www.nodeconf.eu

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 – a look back


www13 logo

Phew! Another Waterford Writers’ Weekend has been and gone.

I was delighted to make it to five events over the weekend. Here’s an overview in pictures.

soc media panel

Event: Making Social Media Work for You

Speakers (l-r): Orla Shanaghy, Catherine Ryan-Howard, Derbhile Graham (chair), Derek Flynn

Venue: Greyfriars Gallery

self pub panel

Event: Self-Publishing

Speakers (l-r): Hazel Gaynor, Catherine Ryan-Howard (chair), Sheena Lambert

Venue: Sabai restaurant

blogging panel

Event: To Blog or Not to Blog

Speakers (l-r): Hazel Gaynor, Mark Graham, Anna Carey, Mona Wise

Venue: Waterford Medieval Museum

short stories panel

Event: Writing Winning Short Stories

Speakers (l-r): Vanessa O’Loughlin (chair and festival curator), Declan Meade, Clem Cairns

Venue: Greyfriars Gallery

m grehan launch

Event: “Love is the Easy Bit” by Mary Grehan book launch

Speakers (l-r): Caroline Senior, Managing Director of Garter Lane Arts Centre, author Mary Grehan

Venue: Garter Lane Arts Centre

The festival organisers really hit it out of the park this year. One of them told me that their aim with the programme was to focus on the writers. They certainly achieved this aim with a line-up of events that covered a huge range of the skills that today’s writers need, or at least need to be aware of: social media, self-publishing, blogging, how to approach writing competitions, breaking into journalism, and more.

The panel discussion format was used for most of the events I attended. This worked very well. With the best intentions in the world, the audience can start to get a bit glassy-eyed at events where a single person speaks for an hour or more. With panel discussions, on the other hand, there is a variety of faces and voices to sustain your attention, the discussion is naturally more varied and dynamic, and there is a chairperson to keep it all together, move things along when required, field audience questions, and make sure everyone gets their say.

A highlight for me was the final event of the weekend, which was held last night in Garter Lane Arts Centre. It was the launch of Mary Grehan‘s novel, Love is the Easy Bit. Mary is a huge success story: she is the only new author to be signed by Penguin Ireland in the last 18 months. We are very proud of her here in Waterford and delighted to bask in her reflected glory.

The format of the launch was interesting. We all took our seats in the theatre auditorium and Mary gave an excellent reading. She was then interviewed on stage, which was highly entertaining and interesting. Lastly, there were questions from the audience by means of a roving microphone.

The organisers of Waterford Writers’ Weekend have set the bar very high for themselves if they are to make next year’s festival as good as or better than this one. But they are a bunch of highly motivated, organised and ambitious folk. I’m looking forward to WWW14 already!

PS. Needless to say, there were lots of other events over the weekend that I didn’t make it to. If anyone out there wants to contribute something about any of those other events, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #4: Café Royal


The event that I’m involved in for Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 is on the day after tomorrow. It’s a panel discussion on the topic of Making Social Media Work for You and it’s on Friday March 22nd, 1 -2 PM, Greyfriars, Waterford. One of my fellow panelists is Catherine Ryan Howard, Ireland’s most successful self-published author and a master of using social media for promotion. The event is relevant to anyone who uses social media in their work – small business owners, employees, and arts professionals of all hues. You can book your place here.

OK, shameless plug over. Time for the latest of my reviews of venues to visit in Waterford over the festival weekend.

Café Royal, Theatre Royal, The Mall, Waterford

Google Maps location

Website

cafe royal waterford

Food and drink: A fairly standard menu of sandwiches, panini, salads, breakfasts and desserts. The quality of the food is good, most items are home made and there are gluten-free and dairy-free options. Salads are imaginative and change daily. The coffee is very good. The breakfasts are ideal if you’re in town first thing in the morning – I like the two-egg omelette breakfast with two rashers, two sausages and two slices of toast. There are child-friendly options in the form of cartons of juice (as all parents know, the least messy child’s drink when you are out) and cookies, though the cookies are over-priced, as they are everywhere (they’re only big biscuits!).

Service: Table service. The staff are very friendly and helpful. On festival weekends, the cafe people set up a stall by the main door of the theatre (which is at the side, a little confusingly if you’re new to Waterford) selling sweet treats and coffee, to save you climbing the stairs.

Layout and accessibility: This cafe is all location, location, location, and in more ways than one.

Firstly, it’s on the first floor of the Theatre Royal, the former Georgian playhouse that today houses Waterford’s beautiful, best-known theatre and is one of the main venues for Waterford Writers’ Weekend. There’s a treat in store for art lovers on the way up the stairs: the walls are lined with a selection of pieces from the Waterford Municipal Art Collection. Among them is an all-time favourite of mine, the wonderful Curiosity by William Conor.

Secondly, grab a window seat if you can, because this cafe has the most historic view in Waterford city. Right across the street you will see the Irish tricolour fluttering in the breeze. The building from which the flag hangs marks the spot where the tricolour was first unveiled by Irish revolutionary Thomas Frances Meagher in March 1848. This event is now celebrated every year in Waterford by the 1848 Tricolour Festival.

Thirdly, stay in that window seat, especially if you have an interest in architecture, or just like looking at beautiful buildings. The cafe overlooks part of Waterford’s Viking Triangle, including the Bishop’s Palace, home to the Georgian collection of the Waterford Museum of Treasures – a fantastic place to visit, whether you’re local or a visitor – the House of Waterford Crystal with its eye-popping window displays and, if you crane your neck, the Waterford Medieval Museum, a recently added architectural delight. The Mall, an elegant, tree-lined Georgian street, also lies stretched out below.

As for accessibility, the cafe can be reached by lift. There is just about enough space between tables for a buggy or wheelchair. The tables are set back a little from the door so you have space to stop and look around when you go in.

Toilet facilities: The toilets are handily located just off the main cafe. Toilets are functional and clean though a little cramped. There is no changing table, a strange omission in a cafe that has high chairs; children who need high chairs are going to need changing too. On the plus side, there is a hook on the back of the toilet door. (This may seem like a trivial point, but us lay-dees really don’t like having to leave our bags on the toilet floor …)

Free wi-fi: Yes.

Parking: There are a few on-street parking spaces on The Mall, directly outside the theatre, but they are almost always full. Instead, head to Catherine Street, a two-minute walk, or Waterside, a four-minute walk, where on-street parking is more plentiful. Alternatively, park in the Bolton Street car park, a two-minute walk. This car park has no daily limit, so you can leave your car there as long as you like. Charges: €1.80 per hour.

As I mentioned in my last review, if you’re planning to head to several festival events over the day, park in the private car park just off Thomas Hill (head up the hill, follow the street around to the right, entrance is on the right) for €5.00 a day flat rate.

Accessibility to festival venues: The Theatre Royal is one of the main venues at Waterford Writers’ Weekend. Other festival venues are a maximum of five minutes’ walk away.

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Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #3: The Granary café


Tempus is fugiting! Saint Patrick’s Day is now behind us and Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013  is right in front of us. So here’s the third in my series of reviews of alternative venues to visit over the festival weekend.

The Granary café, Hanover Street, Waterford

granary cafe

Google Maps location

Website

Food and drink: Above average prices with standards to match. On offer are quiches, pies, salads, panini and daily specials. Everything is of exceptional quality. The salads in particular are among the best I have had anywhere; the beetroot and carrot salad takes the two humble roots to new heights. The main dishes change daily; a recent example is pan-fried hake with lemon and tarragon cream. The coffee is very good, though not the best in Waterford (for that, see my previous venue review). If you are booked in to any of the early morning events at Waterford Writers’ Weekend, the mushroom omelette breakfast (two-egg omelette with mushrooms, sausage, rasher and wholemeal toast) comes highly recommended.

Service: Self-service. The counter staff are highly efficient, though some are not given to smiling. An exception is manager Artur, who is equally efficient and very friendly.

Layout and accessibility: The cafe is located in a high-ceilinged, glass-walled extension to the beautiful old granary building. These days, the former granary is home to the Waterford Institute of Technology School of Architecture.

The cafe itself, located on the ground floor, is one of the best in Waterford in terms of accessibility and family-friendliness. The main doors have no steps or door-sills. Inside, there is plenty of space to manoeuvre wheelchairs and buggies. The seating area is large, and there are leather sofas and good-sized coffee tables at the back by the lift. This area is also good for quiet conversation, and local movers and shakers of the arts and commerce are often to be seen holding meetings here.

Toilet facilities: Upstairs, accessible by lift only. The lift itself is well located. The toilets have baby changing facilities.

Free wi-fi: Yes.

Parking: There is no parking directly outside as Hanover Street is pedestrianised. The nearest on-street parking is on Thomas Hill, across O’Connell Street. A little farther away, there is the car park on Little Patrick Street behind The Book Centre. Charges: €1.80 per hour.

If you’re planning to head to several events over the day, park in the private car park just off Thomas Hill (head up the hill, follow the street around to the right, entrance is on the right) for €5.00 a day flat rate.

Accessibility to festival venues: The Granary is a 60-second walk from Garter Lane theatre, one of the main venues at Waterford Writers’ Weekend. Other festival venues are a maximum of five minutes’ walk away.

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Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #2: Café Libro


In my last post I introduced my series of reviews of alternative venues to visit during Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013. Here’s review number two!

Café Libro, The Book Centre, 25 John Roberts Square

cafe libro logo

Google Maps location

Website

Food and drink: the menu looks ordinary enough at first glance – pre-packed sandwiches, pizza, cakes and pastries, coffee – but the quality and freshness of the ingredients elevate the fare here well above the ordinary. The made-to-order pizzas have fabulously thin bases and the sandwiches are delicious. The cakes and pastries are home-made by local artisan bakers, which is particularly commendable for a chain. The cinnamon rolls are worth the visit alone. And the coffee is – drum roll – the best in the city.

Service: Very good. Friendly and efficient. Order at the counter and staff bring your goodies to your table.

Layout and accessibility: Now we come to the real USP of Cafe Libro. Like the other cafes in the chain, it is situated in a book store. But this one is special, because it is in The Book Centre. This book store is notable on two fronts: it is one of Ireland’s few remaining independent book stores; and it is housed in a former cinema. The cafe is located on the mezzanine, overlooking the ground floor and main entrance – ideal for people-watching. The atrium construction preserves the cinema feel.

Appropriately, the cafe serves as an informal meeting place for writers, and many can be spotted here on weekdays mornings, tapping feverishly on their MacBooks. The tables are quite close together, but not unreasonably so. There are leather sofas and a low coffee table near the counter. The walls are lined with books on sale just like the rest of the store, and the ceiling is decorated with an impressive newspaper collage made from real newspapers (I checked with the manager!).

Accessibility is fine for the non-mobility-impaired, but if you use a wheelchair, or have a buggy or pram, this is where things get tricky (despite the sign outside proclaiming the cafe to be “child-friendly”). There is a lift in the building, but it only goes to the higher floor, not the mezzanine. Buggy users have two options: fold up your buggy and carry it up the stairs (hopefully you will have someone with you to carry the child), or leave the buggy downstairs. Wheelchair users have no means of access that I have been able to make out.

Toilet facilities: up a flight of stairs, basic, clean, very cramped, no baby changing facilities.

Free wi-fi: yes.

Parking: behind The Book Centre on Little Patrick Street. Charges: up to €1.80 per hour.

Accessibility to festival venues: this cafe is bang in the city centre, within two or three minutes’ walking distance of all festival venues.

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Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 venue review #1: Harlequin cafe-bar


Waterford Writers' Weekend

Waterford Writers’ Weekend 2013 is fast approaching. This is one of the smaller of Waterford’s many festivals throughout the year, but that doesn’t stop it from being a vital, vibrant weekend.

One of the challenges faced by festival organisers the world over is to vary the content of their festival programmes from year to year. The Waterford Writers’ Weekend organisers, Waterford City Library, Galanta Events and Vanessa O’ Loughlin of writing.ie, certainly seem to have achieved that this year. The focus  of the programme is on emerging writers, self-publishing, independent publishing and social media.

The Weekend has a selection of official venues and partners, all of which are great and worth visiting. I thought it might be useful in the run-up to the festival to attempt to complement the official list by posting reviews and information on additional venues from the viewpoint of a local person.

These venues are perhaps lesser known for whatever reason, but offer people something different and a good reason to venture off Waterford’s main thoroughfares and do some exploring.

I’ll make my reviews as practical as possible by including information on parking, toilet facilities, accessibility, child-friendliness, availability of wi-fi and any other useful tips.

Here’s my first venue review!

Harlequin cafe-bar, Stephen Street

Google maps location

Website

Food and drink: Authentic home-made Italian food – such as gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce – great coffee, good selection of Italian wine. The staff don’t mind you popping in for just a coffee and pastry or a glass of wine.

Service: Excellent. Beautiful native Italian coming from the staff as they work. Some of the best-looking male staff in the city (sorry, men of Waterford!).

Layout and accessibility: compact, tables close together. Buggies have to be folded up and even at that there is not much space to stow them. Having said that, the staff are very welcoming of families with small children. Wheelchair users should be able to get in the door easily as there is no step.

Toilet facilities: on same level, basic, clean, slightly cramped, no baby changing facilities.

Free wi-fi: yes.

Parking: on-street outside the cafe or nearby Mayor’s Walk. Charges: up to €1.80 per hour.

Accessibility to festival venues: maximum 10-minute walk (if you’re a slow walker – five minutes power-walking!).

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Don’t put the kettle on…


Events intervened since I last posted on the progress of my latest short story. It has progressed –  just not enough to write anything meaningful about yet. There should be a new report early next week. In the meantime, something a little lighter for a Friday evening…

An hour ago I had never heard of a kettle bell. If asked, I probably would have hazarded a guess that it was something our ancestors might have used to alert them when the kettle had boiled – possibly a more soothing, rural version of a kettle with a whistle… No?

Sadly, not this.

No. A kettle bell is a recent phenomenon that has nothing to do with hot beverages (NOTHING, sadly) and looks like this:

Yes, this.

Bit scary eh?

You may be wondering how I discovered what a kettle bell is. There I was this evening, innocently wandering into my local gym here in Waterford, nice and relaxed and feeling very pleased with myself for being there instead of tucking into a glass of red wine on the sofa in preparation for The Late Late Show (and let’s face it, some chemical assistance is needed to sit through The Late Late Show these days).

In the gym, I noticed that instead of working the machines, the members already present were standing in a circle, stretching and bearing distinctly tense facial expressions, with the aforementioned bizarre-looking objects lying in the middle of the floor.

I had inadvertently wandered into the Kettle Bell Class and it was just about to start.

Despite the cuddly-sounding name, I had a strong feeling that the kettle bell was not about to add to my happiness levels.

What could I do? I had got changed, got myself down there, and everyone was ready to go, eyeing me balefully. I manned up, picked up a kettle bell and found myself doing my first class.

It is not for the faint-hearted (me).

The tattooed, muscle-bound instructor swung his kettle bell around like it was an empty handbag for the duration of the one-hour class. We did everything with them: lifted them above our heads, down to our legs and back up again, clasped them to our chests while rotating our torsos from side to side, and lots of other things that I have blanked from my memory (no doubt to resurface again in a disturbing dream).

And this, please.

Now, safely ensconced at home again, I have that great post-exercise buzz and incredibly, am considering – in a very measured, considered way – going again next week.

Now for that kettle – I mean glass – of wine.

Tall Ships Festival 2011 in Waterford, part 2


Yesterday I wondered if the spirit of discovery I felt on day one of the
Tall Ships Festival might be just a product of the excitement of a much-anticipated event finally getting under way. Now as day two draws to a close, I’m delighted to report that the spirit is still very much alive and well.

Here are the ways the Tall Ships Festival took me out of the ordinary today:

– Cycling into town dressed as a pirate first thing in the morning – definitely a first (and possibly a last).

– Strolling up the middle of the Quay mid-morning with hundreds of other “pirates”. We were supposed to be marauding, though I’m not sure we did a great job – do pirates normally chat, bask in the sunshine and carry small children on their shoulders as they maraud?

– Realising that men in their fifties and sixties have a hugely unfair advantage in the piracy imitation game – stick a bandana, an eyepatch and a billowy white shirt on them and they look so much the part, they blow everyone else out of the water (sorry, couldn’t resist…).

– Leaving a city-centre cafe without ordering when the daughter and I noticed to our total shock that the prices on the “Tall Ships Special” menu were double the normal prices. We were shocked, A – because of the bare-faced cheek of it, and B – because the city authorities had specifically requested local businesses not to put up their prices during the Festival (and most have taken heed).

– Sitting at one of the rows of trestle tables on the Quay, admiring the TS Royalist docked alongside, helping the daughter handle her foot-long hot dog while I tucked into Thai noodles, chatting to friends and neighbours passing by.

Now, like yesterday evening, the sounds of the Tall Ships Festival are resounding out across the City – tonight it’s fireworks, their banging and whizzing oddly dulled at this distance. These evening sounds are wonderful, reminding those of us tucked up at home on the outskirts of the City that the Festival is in full swing.

Now to get some sleep for (hopefully) more marauding tomorrow.

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