Monthly Archives: April 2012

Food Monday ~ Kidney Bean Dip

Kidney Bean Dip

This is a very quick dish to make using a food processor with a metal chopping blade.

1 x 425g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 slices of pancetta

Place the first four ingredients in the processor bowl and whizz until smooth, then transfer to a serving dish.
Grill the pancetta until crisp and golden, then cool and crumble over the top of the dip.

To serve: Crusty bread or julienne strips of carrots, cucumber and sweet peppers.


Did I tell you I met a fella for a nice innocent cuppa coffee the other day?

No. Not that fella.  He was last weeks flavour. I’m talking about this week… 😉

As I was saying…. I met a fella….. Tall, dark and handsome….

We had coffee, lovely coffee, sat on soft seats at a low table and the chat flowed as gently and freely as a country stream.

It was as I drained the second cup that he came up with the suggestion…. You know the kind of thing:-

Do you fancy coming to see xxx?

Well by now you know me. I am always intrigued by what my Toyboys get up to when they are not with me, so I gathered my bits and off we went.

It involved tables and not of the mathematical type, but I am sure there were more than a few sums involved in getting them to where they were.

We went to the newly opened MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) in Belfast, an arts venue in Saint Anne’s Square, behind St Anne’s Cathedral. Built at a cost of £18 million it contains:

120 seat theatre
350 seat theatre
3 art galleries
Rehearsal space
Dance studio
3 education & workshop rooms
Café & bar
Artist-in-residence studio

The three galleries are open and free to the public, we began on the ground floor in the Sunken Gallery.

I told you there were tables.

Somewhere But Here, Another Other Place is a display made up of a number of second-hand tables stacked to fill the gallery which visitors are invited to explore.  Dublin-based artist Maria McKinney’s unusual installation, invited us to take a fresh look at everyday objects and to examine notions of boredom and how to escape it!

Each of the stacked tables contained a completed jigsaw puzzle.

All puzzles no matter what size or shape, showed different views of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria.

We were invited to climb a set of steps to view the display from above.  Alas the angle of the steps, the lack of head space to the ceiling, and the need to hold on meant the photo from above was not an easy shot.

In what was called Substation on the ground floor was Sounds of the City a community  project and exhibition commissioned by the Mac and led by artists from Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) The project involved five sound installations. The group worked with two intergenerational groups in Belfast. At times the sound pieces ran into each other and this was rather distracting and for me, spoiled the overall effect of the piece.


A People Observed, an exhibition that brought together, for the first time, the work of artists L.S. Lowry and Belfast-born William Conor in the MAC’s climate controlled Tall Gallery on the 3rd floor. As you can understand we were not allowed to take photographs. It was wonderful to see the works and compare notes with my companion about those that had special appeal to each of us.

Nicholas Keogh’s film A Removal Job (also on the third floor) celebrates the camaraderie of a group of workers and the unspoken exchanges between them. The film follows the household clearance of a traditional two-up, two-down red brick terrace  in Belfast. Alas, the erratic and violent actions at the beginning were not to my taste.


In the Upper Gallery on the top, floor Robert Therrien’s first presentation in Ireland No Title (Table and Four Chairs) was amazing.

Under the table

That handsome guy on the left is six foot tall!  My five foot seven took me only to the level of the seat of the chair.

The table stands at almost ten feet and certainly brought back memories of playing under the dinner table at home when I was a child.  It was a great reminder that very young children see the world from that angle.

Nick and GM, do we look small

We were not allowed to touch the installation so you have to imagine me climbing up to sit on the chair.

The building also has two theatres. The larger, a 350 seater venue is tucked away on the bottom floor underneath the stairs beside a row of intimate snugs facing a very modern bar.

I fancied lounging here on the vast pale leather chesterfield that sat in a space near the lifts. Alas, it was time to head for home. Thank you Nick for the the coffee and the chance to chat and catch up. I do hope the Royal Visitors didn’t delay your journey home.

Openings ~34

Today I have no picture for you but I do have a little surprise.

I want to open your eyes to a new side of wonderful Nancy.

By now you are all familiar with Nancy who visits my blog and adds so much to the conversation through the comments. Alas, Nancy does not have her own blog despite my nudging over the years.

She HAS found a way to share some of her wonderful stories with a wider audience and you can read a real beauty that she posted yesterday at The Elder Storytelling Place

I will offer only one warning: Set the coffee cup down well out of the way before you begin. 😉

The day the bishop hit me

Speccy wrote a piece some months ago about preparing for her daughter’s Confirmation and it made me think about how things had changed since I was eleven years of age.

Confirmation has certainly changed since the bishop slapped me across the face tapped me on the cheek, waaaaaaaaaay back in 1958!

At the school I attended, boys and girls were together until age seven, then the boys moved over to the care of the Christian Brothers in another school close by. We girls remained in the building where we started, under the care of nuns until we reached 13 years of age and then moved on to secondary level education. In my world back then, secondary level education was provided in single sex schools run by Nuns for the girls, and either Priests or Brothers for the boys.

Back to the Confirmation.

The church was a large high building with a very long nave.

There were no parents or godparents allowed invited to the Confirmation ceremony.   So for confirmation you had about thirty boys on one side of the nave and thirty girls on the other.  Our side also had about six or eight girls from a private Prep school in the area.

Three or four teachers with each group swelled the ranks and they acted as sponsors – we candidates had no choice in the matter – a teacher stepped forward and sponsored five or maybe six children before handing over to the next colleague, it seemed to be a matter of form.  I don’t think I ever spoke before or since to the teacher who placed her hands on my shoulders. She did not teach me at any time of my journey through the school.

It was a Tuesday. I am sure if allowed, my mother would have come and my god-parents with her.  Daddy was busy – he was dying in hospital.

My abiding memory of the day was the loud echoing clank of the heavy main doors closing. We were locked in! It was unusual, since even during the celebration of Mass the outer doors remained open to allow stragglers or passers by to enter and join in.

The sound echoed round the high walls and was followed by an eerie silence. I felt tiny and trapped and it actually made me shiver. Even writing about it now, I shivered again. I think it was the first time in my life that I felt lonely. Really lonely and alone.

The service of Confirmation was presided over by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid the Primate of Ireland 1940-1972. Not one word from that ceremony touched or stayed with me. We walked out into the April sunshine, I was pushed in front of a photographer to have a picture taken (The nuns must have been getting a cut out of the photography), then off I walked to the bus stop and went home.

Mammy had the lunch ready. We eat quickly because she had been given special permission for me to visit daddy in hospital. Children under fourteen were not allowed in to visit in those days. Our family were to change all that!

The complex actually consisted of four small hospitals – The Whitworth, the Wentworth the Hardwicke (St. Laurences’s Hospital) & the Richmond.  By 1958 they might have still held their names but were all part of the one hospital ‘The Richmond‘. They are long gone now and the site cleared, but looking back over time, they could well have been houses for the gentry in days of yore. The building we were headed for looked like it might well have been a stable block or housing for staff.

Wards 4 & 5 were the fore runners to the modern accident & emergency wards. This hospital was where all the ‘Head’ injury cases were brought from all over the country. It was a long narrow grey stone, two story building.  Ward 4 (Men’s) was on the ground level and accessed from a door at one end.  Ward 5 above it (Women’s), was entered from an outside metal spiral staircase.

Visiting time was very strict. Monday to Saturday it was from 18:45 to 19:30, with one hour on a Wednesday afternoon from 14:00 to 15:00.  On a Sunday it was 14:00 to 16:00 and again from 18:45 to 19:30.  Two visitors at a time and no sitting on the bed!  A large hand-held school bell was wrung by the Sister in Charge at the beginning, and again when the time elapsed. Two minutes after the end of visiting time the ward was clear of all but the patients, there was no hanging on. The patients were in hospital to be healed and not entertained!

This was a Tuesday (I checked the date) and there were no other visitors when we entered this barn of a place. To my younger self, it was scary. Three beds lined the gable wall inside the door. On these beds were what I can only call three Plaster of Paris sculptures with only eyes, a nose and mouth to be seen. Legs and sometimes arms were held in the air by long ropes and traction pulleys.

We turned and walked between two long rows of beds with even more plastered figures. All heads (that could) turned to see us and fingers at the end of a plastered arm in traction, moved in greeting for me. The walk on a creaking wooden floor seemed endless, but eventually I saw daddy. He was in the very last bed, next to the window of the Sister’s office. They physically monitored him – there were no computers back then to do it for them.

Daddy was propped on pillows and lost in a mile of draining tubes and drips.  The tubes were not fine like they are today and neither were the surgery scars. I was almost scared to reach up and kiss him, I had been warned to be careful of the tubes so as not to pull them out.

My memories of the day end here, but the error made during emergency surgery for a perforated appendix some weeks earlier, meant that Ward 4 became a major part of our lives for a full year. Daddy came home several times, only to return a few weeks later. He did recover, but limped through poor health for the next twenty four years.

Confirmation Day 29-04-1958

I see dominion as ownership, and stewardship as caretaking.

Was the Catholic Church, in this instance the Archbishop, trying to dominate us? If so the whole service and how it was conducted showed very poor stewardship for our young lives. It was a purely automatic ritual and we were mere pawns.




The topic of Dominion and stewardship was chosen by Magpie11, I wonder how the other active members have dealt with the subject, why not join me in the rounds to read what they say? Delirious, Maria/Gaelikaa, Maria SilverFox OCD writer, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, The Old Fossil, Will Knott.

Thursday special ~ Children

A nursery school pupil told his teacher he’d found a cat, but it was dead.

‘How do you know that the cat was dead?’ she asked her pupil.

‘Because I pissed in its ear and it didn’t move,’ answered the child innocently.

‘You did WHAT?’ the teacher exclaimed in surprise.

‘You know,’ explained the boy, ‘I leaned over and went ‘Pssst’ and it didn’t move’


A small boy is sent to bed by his father.
Five minutes later…..’Da-ad….’


‘I’m thirsty. Can you bring a drink of water?’

‘No, You had your chance. Lights out.’

Five minutes later: ‘Da-aaaad…..’


‘I’m THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water??’

‘ I told you NO! If you ask again, I’ll have to smack you!!’

Five minutes later……’Daaaa-aaaad…..’


‘When you come in to smack me, can you bring a drink of water?’

Thanks Margaret for the little nuggets today

Blogging the alphabet ~ F

F ~ Footwear

I said at the beginning I might randomly pick a letter and that is exactly what I am doing this afternoon.

I was delving into the wonders of cyberspace looking for goodness knows what, when I landed up with a surprise that took me off on a feast of footwear. Steven Arpad (1904-1999) was American, not French as some people assume, and he studied engineering. He had gone to France before the war where he took up shoe design. His designs were inventive and date back to the 1930s.

Not really for me.


I could see myself in these for summer

All photos are from the link above and there are plenty more to drool over, but remember, I am first in the queue when they sell them off.

My point of view

A friend suggested the other day that I and a group of friends might like to listen to Point of View on BBC Radio 4 or read the transcript of the latest episode by Will Self.

In fact I did hear that programme more than once. On occasions I have heard an episode of Point of View three times as my radio is switched on almost 24/7 and the programme is aired on a Friday night, Sunday morning and repeated on the World Service over the weekend. BBC Radio 4 automatically switches to join the BBC World Service from 01:00 to 05:20 hours, to allow for the studio windows at Radio 4 to be opened and dissipate the hot air of the day! 😉

I had a problem with this particular episode. In fact I was rather cross by the end of it.

I don’t know Will Self personally, but he sounds like a very intelligent and highly educated person, and there is no sin in that. It is a gift that should be used to help and not condemn those less fortunate. Not everyone was born with a silver spoon dictionary in their mouth and the verbal diarrhoea to spout the contents at will. It is a gift and should be used wisely.

I would go as far as to say he actually shows little consideration (in my book) for those less educated or bright as he is. His talk gives the impression that those vocabularially challenged are lazy, not allowing for the effort it takes to read, never mind understand an article.

I am not alone in my struggle to read and understand the written word.  I have said so before, the words jump about on the page, unfamiliar words cause their own stress and I struggle to get to the end of a paragraph, never mind a chapter or book.

I read each line three times:

  • to discover the words
  • then to understand the sentence and finally
  • to reread the full paragraph.

It may sound clumsy but it works for me.

Hearing an unfamiliar multi-syllable word for the first time is a distraction that takes my attention from those that went before or follow.  Not being able to say it, never mind spell it prevents me from finding the meaning.

When I was growing up, food for the body and practical skills for everyday living were considered more important than food for my mind (books).

Will Self’s words for the week:


I wonder if knowing the meaning of these words will put more food on my table or heating oil in my tank?  Will they teach me the humility of washing the feet of my neighbour?

Words & books might distract from the pains and aches in life, but only distract – a little like morphine,  we still have to live through them.


There have been several articles recently in the blogosphere on a similar vein.  Some folk seem to  think that only intellectual offerings worthy of a Ph.D in English should be allowed web space.

I disagree.

There is room for everyone. Read if you wish, if it is not to your liking then move on and save your breath to cool your porridge!

Food Monday ~ Apple Cake

Apple Cake
Preheat the oven to 190°C
75g Margarine
75g Sugar
2 Eggs, beaten
100g Self-Raising Flour
1oz Ground Almonds
Zest of ½ Lemon
Few drops Vanilla essence
2 Dessert Apples, unpeeled, cored, washed and sliced in segments

To Glaze: apricot Jam

Place all the ingredients except the apples in a food processor and blend for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into a prepared 8inch cake tin. Place a layer of apples on top of cake.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Glaze with apricot Jam while the cake is still warm

Best Night Ever

Best Night Ever ~ Bronze
~Bob Quinn

This wonderful piece has rather haunted me for quite a long time. At home in the Irish National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, it has no indication as to the artist.  Eventually after months of searching and many visits through differing seasons I have finally discovered the secret.

Bob’s work is a celebration of the drama and the nobility of the most ordinary of human activity. One young lady carries her bag while the other carries her shoes.

Born in 1948 Bob Quinn had a long career as a commercial artist, designer and as the head of a successful design and production company. He now works full time as a sculptor in Blackrock Co Dublin where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

He has pursued his love of drawing and sculpture throughout his career and has illustrated several publications and has been a regular contributor of illustrations to Independent Newspapers. His sculptures appear in private collections and gardens throughout Ireland, Britain and Europe.

Although loosely described as figurative his art is expressionist and his deep  knowledge of  anatomy allows him to abstract the human form and make the simplest of observations. His lifelong influences have been Epstein, Marini and Giacometti and painters such as Millet and Degas.

Although no artist with a camera, this last photo gives me the feeling of the euphoria bubble that surrounds the girls as they leave the party.

Openings ~ 33 Botanic Gardens, Dublin

One of the many entrances to the Curvilinear Glasshouses, Irish National Botanic Gardens, Dublin.Begun in 1843 and opened in 1849, but not actually completed until 1869. The east wing was built by William Clancy, but the remaining sections were built by Richard Turner, and his son William. It is the most important building in the Gardens and another glimpse will be seen in the post tomorrow. The range was faithfully restored in 1995.

There are a great variety of glasshouses in the grounds and they come in many shapes and sizes, the first of which was built in 1800. The Palm house was erected in 1884, when the previous wooden building was damaged in a storm. This building and its accompanying Orchid House and Camellia house wings was restored in 2004.

During a visit in March this year my focus was on the Conservatory. The first building you see from the car park.

To mark National Tree Week an exhibition – ‘In celebration of trees’ – An exhibition of Bonsai, was in progress. A series of free re-potting demonstrations was held during the course of the exhibition.

I was not there at the time of the demonstrations, but was privileged to meet Andrew J Murray the owner of the specimens, who for the second year running had been invited to use the space to display his treasures.  He had 150 specimens on display all nurtured, carried and set out for the couple of weeks at his own expense.  It was a real labour of love.

Andrew Murray

Andrew told me that he liked to reproduce our own native trees in miniature form.