Some Positive aspects of Living in Ireland – A Day in the Life of a music-loving Foodie

Some Positive Aspects of Living in Ireland

Day Diary of a Music-loving Foodie

It may appear that I doth protest too much, am negative and inclined to rant.   Maybe, maybe not, but I am passionate about how we hand power to others to govern or misgovern on our behalf.

So here I’ve decided to write up a day in the life of a music-loving foodie highlighting the extremely positive aspects of living in Dublin, Ireland.

I awake at 6.00 am, Saturday morning (24 July 2010) to the sound of birdsong with the sweet smell of honeysuckle wafting in the bedroom window with our dog nestled toastily across the duvet.   I’m really looking forward to the Festival of World Cultures later in the day when the Algerian singer, Khaled, a superstar across Europe and the Arab world, is due onstage at 6.00 pm in a free open air concert in Dun Laoghaire on the other side of the bay.

If I wake early on Saturday I like to listen to my old school classmate Dónall Broughan (RTE 1 6.00 – 8.00 am ) who plays an eclectic music mix and often unearths some real gems.  I tend to keep a pen and paper handy noting particular tracks I fancy for future reference.

I’ve just finished Joseph O’Connor’s Redemption Falls and am now dipping into two books:  Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States and a re-read of  Tomás Graves cultural, political and musical memoir of growing up in Mallorca titled ‘Tuning up at Dawn’.  Tomás is a musician and writer and is the son of renowned poet Robert Graves.

They’re both great bedside books  –  you can dip into any chapter at random.    After a chapter of each I shower, down a mug of hot tea and as its dog-walking time,  7.15 am,  I  head to nearby St. Anne’s Park,  the second biggest park in Dublin, a mere 5 minute walk away.

We  head for the arboretum across dew-covered playing fields.  It’s humid, overcast and eerily quiet but the early morning moist scent is intoxicating.  I reminisce and recall being here nearly twenty years ago when the then Lord Mayor Carmencita Hederman officially opened the impressive collection of young saplings.  You should see ‘em now – wow, this place is impressive.  It’s a real credit to the trojan and creative work that all the crew in the Parks Department of Dublin City Council are engaged in.

An hour’s walk later, I stop off to buy newspapers before heading for breakfast in the Kilkenny Design restaurant overlooking Trinity College in the city centre.   Agnieszka,  the Polish café assistant greets me with her familiar friendly smile as the steam hisses from the espresso machine. I note the usual familiar faces as I settle down for breakfast.  I scour the papers over a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, hot tea and toast, picking out an interesting article by Noel Whelan on politician’s long-fingering of political reform,  another in the Guardian by Simon Jenkins on ending the pretence of Britain’s disastrous support for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet another interesting piece by Johann Hari on Oil, Blood Money and Blair’s last scandal. What a shocking revelation? Who’d ever a guessed? I muse.

There is no doubt that there are some fine journalists out there prepared to tell it like it is.  Unfortunately for us, here in Ireland, far too many of our fourth estate tend to be ‘embedded journalists’ save for a rare plucky few.  But there I go again….oooops, I promised.  This is all positive.

Next port of call is the Dublin Food Coop in Newmarket where I mingle and chat with stallholders while buying organic eggs, tomatoes, basil (what an invigorating smell), wild salad leaves and my favourite Blazing Salads sour dough multigrain bread (great toasted) from the Fitzmaurice stall.   I chat with Lorraine Fitzmaurice, telling her I’m going to attempt the sourdough starter as outlined in their recipe  book and catch up with Sophie Rieu, an Irish based French clothes designer, whose eco clothes , despite the downturn are doing well.

These fine producers and growers, many of whom rise at 3 am on Saturday mornings to pick fresh produce to bring to market are the true heroes of a new Irish economy bringing top quality Irish produce from field to fork.   We have a fine tradition of growers, of artists, of musicians, of creative business people who badly need our support.

From there I nip over to the Asian Market on Drury Street to buy palm sugar and rice noodles for a Thai Crab Noodle salad I’ll put together later this evening.   Having travelled extensively across East Asia, I cook a lot of Thai Food and the Asian Market is a gem of a shop for picking up scarce items like Holy Basil, Galangal etc..

I finish my town shopping with a quick hop across to nearby Walton’s music shop to enquire about a digital tuner.

Next up is a trip across town to Sandymount for swimming where the Westwood gym has a saltwater pool. A sauna, steam room and swimming eight lengths clears out the sinuses and sets me up for the day.   Although this must be a media workout day as I greet  RTE’s news anchor,  Sean O’Rourke as Ivan Yates, former Minister and current Newstalk breakfast show anchor,  swims the pool.

Back over northside to Killester with the fresh market foods.  I note guitarist Anto Drennan’s post of the Thin Lizzy gem Slow Blues from the Vagabonds of the Western World album.  Fellow guitarist Dick Farrelly, who now lives in the South of France, posts a comment recalling that he first saw Lizzy play at an open air concert in Milltown Park in 1973.

I  can’t resist informing Dick that Thin Lizzy were a well-toured outfit at that stage, that I first saw them perform at a school hop in CUS in Leeson Street where they were still doing covers like Get Back but then made up for it with a brilliant version of Hendrix’s ‘If Six was Nine’. I log on to YouTube and play the opening track of the same album, the environmentally-themed ‘Mama Nature Said’ at high volume.  There’s no doubt that that record was a great coming together of the band as a mature songwriting and musical force.  Many of the songs way surpass a lot of the later material.  And Jim Fitzpartick’s artwork was outstanding.  I have always been proud of our Irish rock musical tradition, those musicians who plied their trade, done their apprenticeships, tread the boards and made hugely significant creative contributions to the rock genre.  Lizzy, their management and crew and Fitzpatrick are right up there and helped paved the way (as did Rory Gallagher, ) for many of today’s fine artists.

Studio work done,  it’s time for the highlight of the day – the Festival of World Cultures, I pack my haversack with essentials, beer, sunglasses, camera and newspaper/s.  The sun is coming right up now to turn the day into a hot sunny warm and humid one.  A two minute walk to the DART railway station and a half hour trip across the bay in glorious sunshine.   The train is a mix of ethnic groups smiling, laughing, the air if full of incessant good time banter.  The festival itself is a mix of music, ethnic groups, ideas, dialogue, art, food and colour.

I bump into a seasoned group of aging musos who, like myself  have also travelled across town.  At this stage we are all a part of an unnamed live music attendees club and regularly meet at gigs.

Khaled takes the stage slightly later than scheduled but it is his seven piece band – drums, percussionist, bass, guitar, oud and two keyboards players flanking each side of the stage, which really impresses me.  He played an hour and a quarter set,  finishing with his most famous hit Aicha, waved, smiled his famous  banana smile and was gone.  No encore and for some reason the atmosphere for one was not there. Despite an impressive set, somehow the mood was not captured.

Rokia Traoré, the following day, offered so much more in a set that moved from sadness to celebration, from cerebral to sheer joy – this band and this woman really rocked.  She opened with Dounia, a haunting slow, initially eerie tune which weaves a hypnotic spell before building into a strong powerful force.  It was an unexpected initiation but a welcome one and it seemed to calm the good-natured concert-goers and connect them with Rokia.   This was a powerful set led by Rokia but engined by one of the most impressive rhythm sections I have had the pleasure to experience.

It was fitting then, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of this most successful festival, that the brainchild and festival director,  Jody Ackland be called onstage just before Rokia opened her set, to accept a bouquet of flowers to the gracious and hearty applause of a sun-drenched but multi-cultural mix of appreciative Dubliners of all ages.

Back home for cold beer, Thai Crab Salad and a Green Chicken curry with my partner Bronwen and the dog sitting out in the garden amidst the humid earthy smell of summer flower, the hum of bees and the gentle trickling of water from the frog pond.

Thank you Dublin, its been a damn fine day.

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