Sunday 28 February 2010

Hints to Would-be Commenters

Or A Step-by-step Guide to Being Pass-Remarkable.

Several people have mentioned to me that they’d like to comment on Hints to Lady Travellers, but find the commenting process confusing. Also, there’ve been several different people commenting as Anonymous which I find confusing. (How will I know who to get back at?) So here is a cut out and keep guide to commenting.

1. At the bottom of each post you’ll see a comments link that says how many comments there are:

Click on this link.

2. This will take you to a page showing any existing comments and a box that says 'Post a Comment.' Underneath this box it says 'Comment as' beside a drop-down menu.

3. Select the drop-down menu by clicking on the arrows. It will list six account types and then the choice of Name/URL or Anonymous:

4. From the menu (assuming you don't have an account with Google, Livejournal, WordPress, Typepad, AIM or OpenID) select 'Name/URL':

5. A box will pop up inviting you to edit your profile. In the 'name' box put your name or a pseudonym/nom de blog of your choosing:

6. If you have a blog or website, you can enter it in the URL box:

If you DON'T have a URL, just leave this box blank.

7. The pop up box will close, and you'll be able to write in the 'Post a Comment' box. You'll see your name and URL underneath.

If you haven't put in a URL, you'll see your name and closed brackets instead:

8. You can then press 'Post Comment' or 'Preview'. (Preview is just a precaution allowing you to read your post before it becomes immortalised.) EITHER way, you'll have to go through the word verification step. This is to make sure you're not a robot trying to flood Hints to Lady Travellers with spam. Type the letters you see in the box:

9. Ta-DAH! Your comment will appear and at the bottom will be a note to say 'your comment was published'.

10. Now you have no excuse not to comment, please do. I likes comments.

Friday 26 February 2010

London, Nostalgia & Mrs Delany

Saturday, before the rain and sleet and snow came down, was a lovely sunny day. Perfect for being a tourist in London.

Alma, James and I took the 19 bus (a very superior bus) from the King’s Rd to Regent St.

We ducked into Anthropologie to see its first European outpost. Full of very pretty, though not altogether necessary things – it’s just as well I’ve given up shopping for Lent. Lunch at Leon where I had the sweet potato falafel wrap (with aioli and chilli).

Oh Leon, I’ve missed you and your Leon-made Lemonade.

Then we walked through Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury, pausing to get takeaway coffee from Café Nero in the Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road (Nero’s, Paperchase, I miss you AS WELL.)

We had to fight our way through London Fashion Week attendees, wearing leather shorts and crazy shoes, but stopped to take in the wonder that is the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Look at the gold mosquito relief!

Finally we got to Lincoln’s Inns Fields and our ultimate destination: Sir John Soane’s Museum and the exhibition Mrs Delany and her Circle.

She was a formidable specimen of 18th century womanhood and following an unhappy first marriage, met and married the Reverend Mr Delany and came to live in Glasnevin, five minutes down the road from my own childhood home. Like many a well-bred lady before her, Mrs Delany dabbled in sketching and watercolours, but in her seventies started to create ‘paper mosaiks’. She cut out shapes from paper and tissue paper and carefully assembled beautifully-detailed, botanically accurate flowers.

Seen up close the flowers are amazing. They could pass for pressed flowers and it's hard to imagine how Mrs Delany wielded her tools to create such painstaking replicas. Set against a black ground they glow.

(Pancratium maritinum © Trustees of the British Museum)

The other thing that interested me was the contrast between her sketches, which were fairly amateur, and her paper collages and needlework. She seems to have had an eye for creating detail by layering shapes and colour, rather than line and shadow – reminded me of Matisse, in a way.

Mrs Delany was a grand old dame – and put me in mind of another: my grandmother, who introduced Mrs Delany to me. I wish she could have seen the flowers for herself.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Dukes' Special

Tucked into a side street running off St James is Dukes Hotel, home of The Best Martini in the World (they have the testimonials to prove it).

For a perfect London experience, I recommend you take yourself to the bar at Dukes. A charming Italian silver fox of a head waiter will find you a table in the wood-panelled, low-lit room. A second, younger (but no less handsome) waiter will bring you a bowl of olives, another of crackers and a third of nuts. He will request your order. You will order a martini.

There are many possible variations. You can select from a wide range of gins and vodkas. I once had a rose petal martini. Compulsive Cook is a fan of the truffle martini (an acquired taste, to be sure). Being a purist, I always order a gin martini, Tanqueray for preference.

Your waiter will bring a trolley to the table with frosted glasses, lemon, vermouth and gin. With an expert twist of his wrist he will assemble your martini and present it to you.

You will sip your martini and eat an olive. Another sip and a salted macadamia. Two more sips and you realise you can’t feel anything below the waist – but you’re in a state of bliss and you don’t care.

One martini is usually enough to set you up for the evening. If you’re feeling particularly strong, two martinis will set you up for the night. Dukes has a two-martini limit, incidentally, owing to their ferocity (martinis’ not hotel’s). I wouldn’t care to speculate what might happen if a person had more than two martinis, but I heard about a girl who had four (she was very sad that evening) and saw a mouse. This was just before the two-martini rule was instigated. I wonder what happened to that girl.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

A Figurative Fig

This is a fig. (Fig. A,

you might say.)

The fig is made, not of fig, but of green marchpane with chocolate filling,

white sugar frosting and one syrup dewdrop. Perfectly killing.

The fig keeps company with a shortbread jam sandwich and a quiche.

Tucked into a niche,

In Maison Bertaux.

(Soho, you know.)

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Chelsea Afternoon

On Friday afternoon, not long after I arrived in London, I went for a walk.

I walked through the back streets of Chelsea (does Chelsea have back streets, really?) to Cheyne Walk and over Albert Bridge, which was looking very pink in the afternoon sunlight.

From Battersea Park, Chelsea Embankment looks Dutch – something about the gables and the barges.

I walked through the park, past the pagoda,

then back over Chelsea Bridge.

Along Chelsea Embankment then up Swan Walk to see the Chelsea Physic Garden. Closed for the winter, it looks very Secret Garden-ish.

Almost at my final destination, I saw this hoarding on Alpha Place – using cut-out paper, a class full of nine- and ten-year-olds had created fabulous pictures based on some of Matisse’s paintings. More hoardings should look like this.

Friday 19 February 2010

London Town

Looking for fresh material, Hints to Lady Travellers is returning to her old hunting grounds for a few days. Yes, I’m off to London, not to see the Queen, but to see many people whom, (no disrespect to the Queen), I like EVEN more.

I will be back next week with lots of photos and tales of my adventures. Quite possibly touched with nostalgia depending on how much I start to miss my old life in London.

If I can, I’ll post on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, but it will depend on accessibility of wifi.

Happy Saturday-to-Monday! (I didn’t learn everything in life from Nancy Mitford, but I learned a LOT – including the fact that the term ‘weekend’ was considered very nouveau well into the 1930s.)

PS When I took these photos, I think I was pretending to be Whistler. Or I hadn’t worked out how to focus my camera. One or the other.

Thursday 18 February 2010

In Praise of Social Workers

This week’s film of the week is Precious. (Before we saw it, I kept wanting to call it Precioussssss, Gollum-style.)

The film is about a young girl called Precious growing up in Harlem. She’s suffered horrific abuse from both parents and, when the film opens, is pregnant with her second child by her father. She barely communicates with other people, but in her head escapes into stories where she’s a star – a thinner, blonder, happier, loved version of herself. The film describes what happens after she enrolls in an alternative education programme and learns to read and write.

When the film started, I whispered to my partner in crime, ‘at least it’ll be better than Avatar.’ It was in a totally different league. The acting is superb. Even Mariah Carey looks like a normal human being and is good as a sympathetic social worker who can’t quite grasp the realities of Precious’s life.

The film doesn’t exactly laud social workers. One is shown having the wool pulled completely over her eyes by Precious’s abusive mother, the other as being out of her depth. But, thinking about it in the car on the way home (in the company of two social workers), it made me want to celebrate them. I don’t know how you listen to these kinds of stories and know that there is a responsibility on you to try to help. I don’t know how you do your job every day. But I’m glad you do.

Isn’t there some way we can show our appreciation? The best I can come up with is that there should be a special check-out lane in the supermarket for social workers. Like the express lane, but for public workers. It seems to me that there should be some perks for people who do this kind of work day in and day out.

What do you think? Who should be eligible? How would it work? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Inch/Mile etc.

This isn't today's official post (see below) but a rare example of bringing you the news AS IT HAPPENS! It's also a warning.

The Jehovah's Witnesses, clearly delighted to find someone at home last week, were just back. This time the lady wanted to give me all manner of pamphlety stuff and also to read me scriptures.

I've been brought up to believe that politeness is next to godliness: well, here we were - polite next to godly. She declaimed, I listened. She proffered, I declined. 'I'm so disappointed,' she said. But in the interests of the environment I knew I couldn't accept. All of her pamphlets would just have gone into the recycling bin - even politeness has its limits. What about the TREES the poor TREES??

The immunisation -by-Mormon has clearly worn off.

Winter Olympics

I’m clearly in a loving mood this week – well, I guess Sunday was Valentine’s Day. Anyway, along with Dublin bikes and Winter light, something else I love is (are?) the Olympics.

I will watch any sport, provided there’s a promise of a podium, a national anthem and some crying at the end of it. It's the mystique of the Olympics, I suppose; the fact that the Olympic gold is the one everybody wants to win.

My new-found favourite sport is snowboard cross. Four riders (see, I'm picking up the lingo) at a time shoot down a course, ducking and jumping over obstacles (and each other). The first two across the line proceed to the next round until only four are left in the final. This is a sport for insane people, but when you see them whooping and bouncing along the bumps you start to think, ‘hey, maybe I should take up snowboard cross.’

I’ve also been picking up skiing tips from the men’s downhill … I need to jump up in the air more, I think.

I’m watching coverage even as I type. Coming up: curling (meh), luge (more exciting), pairs figure skating (love it when they’re really good, love it when they fall – can’t lose!) and women’s snowboard cross. Good times.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

I Love to Ride [Dublin’s] Bicycle

Civic bike schemes – what an excellent idea.
I loved the day Ro and I got on our municipal bikes in Marseille, and on Saturday Maire Aine and I went on a civic cycling adventure in Dublin.

We met at Mountjoy Square, but then ended up walking over to Parnell Square because I couldn’t register for a three day pass at the first location. But this is a small quibble. We got our bikes, and the first photographs (I managed to drop my bike when I took this one, but luckily not the camera.)

We cycled along Bolton St, crossed Church St and passed Smithfield. A bit of a dog leg by Collins Barracks and back along the quays to cross over the river at Usher’s Island.

Then along by Guinness and Heuston Station and up Military Rd. A good workout for the leg muscles up the hill into the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

We parked our bikes, then sought refreshment (the bike sheds were FAR from the museum entrance).

Excellent cake at the Itsa café (1 x cupcake, 1 x flourless almond and orange cake). Then we crossed to the new galleries and the exhibition from MOMA New York – Picturing New York.

The exhibition contained a fabulous selection of images of the city. One of the most stunning was a kind of time lapse piece, wherein the photographer had taken a picture of MOMA from a building across the street by opening the camera’s shutter in one year, and closing it two years later. Streaks of light appear on the photo, traces of the sun’s progress across the sky over the year.

(Sadly, dogs and bicycles were banned from the Museum.)

We cycled back as far as Princes St and parked the bikes there. We then walked to Fairview (having been accosted briefly by a Garda – but it’s ok, he turned out to be married to Máire Áine) agreeing two things on the way. First, that we had walked and cycled at least 20km over the course of the day. Second, that the two of us should be put in charge of the Dublin bike scheme. We would do a great job – just because we love it so.

Monday 15 February 2010

Tourist Friday

Quel busy weekend! On Friday, I abandoned my current work project to be a tourist for the day with my friend, Donald. (Incidentally, he requested a pseudonym and after some deliberation, this is what I picked. Donald, you have only yourself to blame.)

We started off at the north edge of the city and worked our way south. We walked past the Chinese shops on Parnell St, stopping briefly so I could record these for posterity:

Following my trip last week to Arbour Hill, we concluded we should pay our respects in the Garden of Remembrance, mostly notable for its peculiar line in Republican symbolism. Crosses, horns, shields and whatever you’re having yourself.

(And Coco Pops.)

Then into the Hugh Lane Gallery – aka Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

No photographs allowed, I’m afraid. But we ambled through the permanent collection, stopping first in the Harry Clarke room. Some of the pictures have a nostalgia almost like photographs in a family album since they’re part of my childhood memories, familiar to me from Sunday-morning visits to the gallery. A quick tour of the Francis Bacon exhibition and then we left to find coffee.

We went to 3rd Floor Espresso on Middle Abbey St. It’s not on a third floor and the sign above the door reads ‘The Twisted Pepper’ but, those confusions aside, it’s well worth the visit. The coffee is excellent and they make their filter coffee with individual filters, which I love. There was a sharp intake of breath from the barista when I requested milk – but though this usually annoys me, I will concede that the coffee didn’t need it.

Lunch from Wok in a Box (wouldn’t recommend it, really), eaten in Merrion Square, to the sounds of a lone trumpeter practising the National Anthem. Quite surreal. A tame robin came to see us and I fed him some rice.

After lunch (it was a busy schedule) we went to the Science Gallery in Trinity. A triumph of style over substance. It looks slick, with nice graphics, and the idea of participative experiments is good, but there’s nothing to hold it all together.

We finished up in Temple Bar (it wouldn’t be a true tourist day otherwise) at the Palace Bar, one of my favourite pubs in Dublin. Donald had a pint, but I stuck to coffee because I had to drive afterwards.

Obviously being a tourist is more about attitude than knowledge, because we were asked several times if we needed help or directions. I recommend to anyone to take a day off to be a tourist in your own city.