Friday 28 May 2010

Hints for Blending In

Yesterday I went out into the world in what I thought was my Work From Home uniform. I’ve been wearing some variation of the following almost every day since February: jeans (dark rinse, skinny – I was a late convert to these, now I love ‘em), gold shoes of the ballet flat variety (I always have a pair of gold shoes on the go) and a long-sleeved top. Yesterday’s was pink, filched from my little sister (hi LTLS!) ANYWAY, it turns out I was in disguise as a – wait for it – yummy mummy!

Gregory and I went to Imaginosity, the Children’s Museum in Dublin. We blended right in. Obviously the most important accessory was a small child (pictured above), but we were surrounded by women wearing skinny jeans, ballet shoes (several metallic pairs spotted) and long-sleeved tops. The only thing I was missing was a socking great diamond ring.

Gregory and I will submit a full review of the Museum next week. Until then, have a great weekend! I will be at a wedding in darkest Somerset where, I hope, the sun will be shining on the lovely Jess and Matt, the bride-and-groom-to-be. xxx

PS this is my 200th post! Whee!!

Thursday 27 May 2010

Please PLEASE Don’t Eat the Daisies

Oh, it’s more singalong with Eithne’s life, the soundtrack to which is strange and varied. I love the film of the same name Doris Day made with David Niven about life in the suburbs (David Niven is the husband who only comes back to the suburbs in the evenings for his martini.) I honestly can’t remember whether one of their children attempts to eat the daisies, but there is a scene where Day, playing a teeny-weeny guitar, leads a gang of kids skipping through the yard and singing the song.

Now, with the song planted in your brain, I’d like to share some photographs with you.

Gregory discovered the daisies on Sunday. (He was so excited he lost his pyjama bottoms.)

Róisin rediscovered the art of making daisy chains.

Do you love me? Love me a lot? You’ll prove it by lettin’ the daisies grow.

Someone must love us a lot.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

From our Correspondent in Morocco

Lady Traveller's Little Sister is currently spending her nights in a tent on the roof of a house in Rabat,

and spending her days digging for Neanderthals.

She had kindly furnished us with an account of her adventures.

LTLS is back. As an itinerant archaeologist, I often get to go to cool places (last year in Lesotho, ‘cool’ was the operative word). This year I’m in Morocco for four weeks, digging a Middle Palaeolithic cave site (called Grotte des Contrabandiers, or Smugglers’ Cove near Rabat.

The site is particularly cool, because although the technology is similar to that used by Neanderthals, it seems to be associated with modern humans (i.e. Homo sapiens, i.e. us), but with some interesting differences: we have perforated marine shells (used as ornaments) and pigment (like ochre and haematite) at our site. Archaeologists call this ‘symbolic behaviour’, the onset of which (probably about 200,000 years ago) makes every thing we manufacture and produce today (like hairbrushes, hammers, and email) possible. It’s all pretty cool, really.

Anyway, our site is in a beautiful location, but unfortunately I can’t show you any pictures of it because my pictures and I are now the property of National Geographic. Last year, some pieces of modern human bone (some finger bones) were found, and have been called ‘Bouchra’. Most early skeletons found by archaeologists get nicknames (as well as a lab code), and ours is called Bouchra for two reasons: a) it means ‘good news’ in Arabic, and b) Bouchra is the name of one of the crew members, and it was her birthday the day the bones were found. Anyway, last week, we found another foot bone, which is probably another part of Bouchra, and because of all this, a crew from National Geographic are coming out to film a documentary about the site.

The National Geographic Society have also part-funded the dig, which means that no pictures of the site can be published (even those taken by the excavators) without their consent. Which I don’t have. But this one’s in the public domain. Also, here’s a picture of the tool I found last week, called an ‘Aterian Point’, or a ‘pedonculate’. Basically, it’s an arrow- or spear-head, but about 70,000 years old! Isn’t it pretty?

They took a picture of me and it with the site camera last week, which apparently means I’m the property of National Geographic too. Goodie.

The site crew consist of eight Americans, two Australians, a New Zealander, two French, a Romanian, a Canadian, a Portuguese, a Moroccan, a Dane, and me. We work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., digging, analysing finds, wet-screening artefacts, labelling artefacts, and, of course, drinking the mint tea and donuts that the Moroccan workers (all of whom are called Mohammed) bring us. It’s a hard life.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Botanic Gardens

Last week, summer arrived all of a sudden. My adorable nephew GK and his mother also arrived. Happy times!

On Saturday we went to the Botanic Gardens which, aside from the Cemetery, are the big attraction in Glasnevin, where my parents live. As well as being beautiful, the gardens are free. (I mention this because I’ve never quite recovered from visiting Kew Gardens in London and having to pay £17 to get in – and I didn’t even want to visit the gardens, I wanted to go to Kew Palace.)

So here are Scenes From the Botanic Gardens on a Sunny Day, starring GK, Róisín, The Old Man in The Hat, The Crane and The Pretty Flowers.

And proof that Dublin Bikes should heed my request to put a bike stand outside the Botanic Gardens:

Monday 24 May 2010

Portrait of the Artist as a Farmer's Daughter

With apologies for neglecting to post a hint on Official Hints Day, here is a picture of me (or my reflection) dressed to work in the fields:

And here is the hint: when working in the potato fields, it is ALWAYS a good idea to wear gloves because the blisters you think are nothing on Thursday, really start to hurt on Friday.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Lying Low

If I’ve finally figured out the mechanics of blogger, this post will appear on Thursday morning, EVEN THOUGH I will be in wifi blackout seclusion in Co. Westmeath.

I’m looking after my father’s potatoes (and beans and peas) for a few days and taking the opportunity to catch up on my work in the quietness of a place without internet, tv or radio.

In fact I’ll be doing my best to blend in with my surroundings, just like this butterfly I saw in the apple tree on Saturday:

If I pretend to be an apple blossom, will she go away?

Obviously not.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Nóiníní Bána

These daisies are so small but so much a part of their surroundings. When I saw them, all I could think of was this song that I learned when I was very small:

Nóininí bána ar imeall na habhainn,

Rachaidh mé síos agus piocfaidh mé ceann.

Ceann beag do mo mhamaí, is ceann beag dom féin.

Ceann beag do mo chairde ar oileán i gcéin.

Little white daisies on the bank of the river,

I’ll go down and pick one.

A little one for my mammy, and a little one for myself.

A little one for my friends on an island far away.

So to all my friends far away: these daisies from Co. Offaly are for you.

Tuesday 18 May 2010


From one medieval monastic establishment, to another. We went to Clonmacnoise for evensong on Sunday. During the summer (or perhaps the ‘not-winter’ would be more accurate) a service takes place in Temple Connor every Sunday. Parts of the church date back to the 8th century and it is beautiful, though cold. Much colder inside than it is outside.

We were early so we walked around outside for a few minutes before the service. I’m afraid to say that at the time I was less absorbed by the place and more by the strange man with a huge cross round his neck who kept spitting at things. (Why? Why?)

But looking back at the photographs I’m reminded how tranquil a place it is, and wonder which came first. Was the meadow where St Ciarán founded his monastery in the 6th century so peaceful and calm (and that view of the river!) that he knew it was the perfect spot; or is it the perfect spot because 1500 years of meditation and dedication have smoothed away all the rough edges? It is a truly still place.

Monday 17 May 2010

Mont St Michel ***

While we were in France, we amused ourselves by noting on the atlas the star system Michelin employs – not just for restaurants, but for towns and places of interest. The places Michelin gives three stars to are sometimes surprising: I mean, Paris – sure. But Caen, really? And some times they’ll give three stars to a whole city and sometimes to one historic monument. Although, in the case of the three stars they give Mont St Michel, I can’t argue. The place is really and truly Worth The Detour.

The guide book says Mont St Michel has the second most-recognised silhouette in France, after the Eiffel Tower. Who decides these things? But it’s true the excitement builds from the first glimpse of the island’s outline:

As you get closer, it starts to take shape and you see that what looks like one structure is actually several: the church and then the village winding around it, like lights on a Christmas tree.

Our hotel was on the mainland, just where the causeway to the island starts. Although Mont St Michel was once cut off from the mainland at high tide, the causeway is clear all day so now you can access the island any time. We walked across, and arrived on the Mont just as the sun was beginning to set. Luckily for us, this meant that most of the visitors were leaving. I don’t know why more people don’t stay (maybe they have tour buses to catch) because twilight is a magical time on the island. We walked up the main street and up the steps of the Abbey, then we doubled back around the ramparts.

The restaurant we picked had a wonderful view of the sea, and we were sitting right at the big picture window. Beside a candelabra. All very romantic except, y’know, I was with my brother. So we concentrated on the food: the local speciality is ‘pre-salted lamb’ … supposedly the meat picks up a special flavour because the sheep graze on salty ground. I’ll admit it did taste slightly saltier, but whether that’s the lamb or that the chef had a heavy hand with the seasoning, I couldn’t tell you.

After dinner, we did another tour of the village – there was just a little bit of light left in the Western sky but by then they had switched on the lights that illuminate the abbey.

As we started to head back across the causeway, we noticed flickering lights. Cormac deduced it was camera flashes – but it wasn’t, or not only. There was a group of schoolkids preparing to walk across the causeway, and they’d evidently been issued with high-viz jackets. Every time someone took a photo (with flash), the jackets lit up:

The next morning, we got takeaway coffee and pastries and took them back to the beach at the foot of the Mont.

The car park was beginning to fill up, with motor homes, coaches, cars and … these:

The tide was far out enough that we could walk around the base of the island. We had to jump a few miniature rivers, but it was worth it for the view of the hidden side of Mont St Michel.

We both agreed that it was a magical place, one to visit again. Another time, I’d try to get a hotel room on the island, just to be there when the sun rose, but as Cormac pointed out – if we’d been staying on the island, we wouldn’t have had the wonderful walk along the causeway.

[Photos by LTBB, my camera battery being dead.]

Friday 14 May 2010


Here’s a hint: get a skip. Fill it up. Bathe in the glow of righteousness.

You’re asking what this has to do with Lady Travellers, but actually there is a connection. Did you ever wonder what Lady Travellers do with all their things when they go travelling? If they’re lucky, their parents will let them store stuff in the attic.

But this Lady Traveller has a fear of being a thankless child (sharper than a serpent’s tooth), a KIPPER (kid in parents’ pockets, eroding retirement savings) or even a Salt Cod (Supposedly A Lady Traveller, Currently Only Daughterlivingathometakingupvaluablespace) so in return for storing my belongings, I promised my mother that I would arrange to have an attic clear out while I was here.

This could not have been achieved without the sterling assistance of my brother, who spent the day with me and the skip. Oh that skip: full of dollies with no arms, old school text books, broken suitcases, bits of old furniture. (We’re a very keeping family.)

And now, Mama, Cormac and I are still on a skip high. We feel cleansed. We feel lighter. We feel good, da nah nah nah nah nah nah. We feel - what's the word? Skippy. Take it away:

Thursday 13 May 2010


Giverny, on the Seine, is where Monet painted these:

And these:

Monet lived there in the last part of his life and the gardens, as much as his paintings, reflect his interest in light, his passion for sweeps and shades of colour. The gardens are glorious and almost exactly as they were when he died, with the exception of the hordes of schoolchildren and coachloads of group tours.

What you can't see in these photos (almost all taken by Cormac - my camera battery died) are all the other photographers trying to create their own impression of Monet's impression of the gardens. It's all very post-modern. And yet, when I look at these lovely photos, I think how much of Monet's skill was in creating the subject for his paintings - as well as the paintings themselves. My brother's photographic skill notwithstanding, I suspect it would be almost impossible to take a bad photo in this place.

(Le photographe lui-meme:)

You can visit the house as well, but we only spent a few minutes inside. The gardens are where it’s at. If you’ve ever seen one of the Giverny paintings, then visiting the garden is like … like that bit in Mary Poppins where they step through the chalk paintings into another world. Except without the penguins and the singing. (I tried to find a more poetic analogy, but can’t think of one just at the moment.)

Go: in the summer, early morning or late afternoon. But go, and see for yourself. It's an uncanny and amazing experience.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Le Road Trip

I won’t bother you with accounts of how I got from Dublin to Birmingham (to collect Lady Traveller’s Big Brother – LTBB), or how we got from Birmingham to Calais. First of all, the A55/M6/M1 route is really quite boring. Second of all, while I have carried out other activies (cooking, pushing a pram) while also attempting to take pictures, driving is not among them.

Anyway, from Calais we drove to Paris via Boulogne and Agincourt (see yesterday’s post), where I took this photo:

In Paris, LTBB packed and I cleaned the kitchen then took pictures of the car (in full glory, with Roscommon licence plate) on Rue Montorgueil:

Driving in big cities is a strange thrill. I suppose it’s because mostly I take public transport when I’m visiting a new city. But even in London, I always liked driving through the centre, past famous landmarks. Look! There's Buckingham Palace! The Empire State Building! (You really have to crane your neck for that one.) The Eiffel Tower! So Cormac drove and I took pictures.

Hotel de Ville:

At the Place d’Etoile:

The Arc de Triomphe:

Next stop, Giverny!