In Plenary, Presentation on April 24, 2014 at 9:41 am
In Tangier, a body in a blanket: borne through the souk at shoulder height, a brisk pace and accompanied by boisterous call and response. Later, from our room, the sound of women’s chant in some adjacent house and of their ululating – whether in mourning or in celebration of come unconnected event I do not know.
We eat in the courtyard of the women’s charity and amble afterwards around now familiar shops. I buy incense and K lamps, and a wet, grey day opens up into sunshine. They call it the white city but there’s a good deal of clutter in the colour and a good dose of yellow and brown, as if the city were an ageing photo of itself, sunk into a geriatric tint and turned sepia.
It’s good to be back; we’ve been down the coast a little, in Asilah, a resort town with Portuguese and Spanish history and a beautifully maintained medina, although I suppose it could be accused of being a little sanitised – certainly so in comparison with its crumbling counterpart in Tangier. We’ve spent a pleasant couple of days there in what is essentially a typical seaside town but with added Moroccan intrigue.
Sitting outside the old walls with two tall mint teas, for instance, at around eight in the evening, the quintessential seaside promenade; it seemed the whole place was out. More
In Presentation on May 10, 2013 at 8:44 am
How exquisite to race along the country roads of Franconia in Spring, the sky finally clear after a dreadfully long winter, the curving, sinking fields around us dappled with wildflower. We have some sublime music on and it exhilarates – a perfect match for the serene scenery, this central European tableau of farmhouse, mill and die wälder, the abundant patches of old forest that characterise northern Bavaria. We ride the melodies through dorf and altstadt, through the rock formations of Fränkische Schweiz, the territory between Bamberg and Bayreuth they call their little Switzerland – pretty towns, dark-beamed buildings as only the Germans can build them and at almost every junction of the roads a little brewery and biergarten.
We stop in at a favourite, Kathi Bräu, for some quark and onion on heavy brown bread, then set off again along the winding rivers that snake their way from Schloss to Schloss, the imposing castles that number even more here than they do in Andalusia. Our eyes and ears are joined in pleasure as the ensemble, a quintet, race through their bright, 1979 recording of self-penned pieces. The title of the collection, “Highway To Hell”, belies the uplifting nature of the Australian musicians’ performance.
A few days later, we’re without any soundtrack at all, not even a breeze to rustle up the leaves as we walk through forest near the little town of Kulmbach. It’s the kind of country we don’t have in Ireland – there isn’t enough space between things there to fit in places like this, More
In Practice on December 4, 2012 at 9:47 am
The first sip.
O’Hara’s Red Ale is an expensive treat here in Spain but then it was never that cheap in Ireland. Not easy to find in either country but today I’m in my favourite Seville cervecería, in the Arenal neighbourhood that curves around the bullring, and it’s third time lucky; on my last couple of visits they had run out. I was beginning to think the entry on their beer list was a bare-faced lie.
I deserve this.
I may never have deserved a sip of beer the way I deserve this sip of beer. We had to cancel a previously planned visit to the city due to a bout of flu, so we’ve been looking forward to this occasion with particular enthusiasm and a degree of impatience.
Last night, while I popped out to the shop, K turned the oven on and the house blacked out. You turn your back for five minutes. She naturally concluded that the two events were connected but when I returned, opening the front door to find her lighting candles with her miner-style LED headband (bought for camping purposes)on, I checked the breakers inside the front door and everything looked tickety-boo. More
In Presentation, Production on October 3, 2012 at 9:23 am
This makes a change.
I’m sitting in front of a half litre of dark beer, brewed just a few feet away, bubbly and flavourful. Tucked into an alcove at a wooden bench, I’ve found a space for myself. It’s a beautiful room, actually – low ceilinged on the ground floor of an impressively proportioned brewery building. The wooden beams overhead are supported by heavy iron pillars in an industrial but elegant style – I’d call it Victorian but I can’t imagine they call it that here, in this elegant little town in a quiet corner of north east Bavaria, famous for its numerous beers, on this crisply cool, dark Autumn evening.
Yes, it certainly makes a change. On the other side of the room some kind of team gathering (an all-male line up along a long bench and all wearing the same blue polo shirt) provide a robust soundtrack, but their noisy hubbub – from yodeling (I shit you not) to beer songs – blends easily with the hum of the other patrons’ chat.
K has told me to get lost. Her oldest friend is getting married in the morning and they’re having a quiet little hen night, just three of them. She has decided I’m to be left to my own devices in her beautiful hometown with a pocketful of cash. More
In Practice, Production on December 14, 2011 at 10:48 am
The street light cuts out again.
I look up at the blinding, dotted flow of headlamps that sweep uphill from the city and pass me by; the majority of them attached to heavy goods vehicles fresh from the port. It’s noisy with their motors and hydraulics but across the street and just beyond the electrical plant a full moon – piss yellow and hanging low – illuminates the cloud above and below it; it is enormous and silent and very far from here.
On the embankment by the roundabout a whinny in the shadows. The horse is always there, tied to a stump and describing circles all day as it grazes. I feel sorry for it as I always do for horses in urban settings. Earlier though I saw its owner with it, giving it a run, and there was no bad feeling; they looked like an old couple – each knowing what the other was going to do next.
The light comes back on.
My eyes drop to the page. I’m reading novels again. This one is good even if the author has felt compelled to assign an adjective to each and every noun. It isn’t pocket sized so I need to carry it in my leather satchel; travel time is reading time these days since I spend so much of my day on the bus. I have also honed my skills at walking and reading as I saunter along between here and the school, dodging lizards and grasshoppers and the odd snail migration. More
In Practice, Production on December 8, 2011 at 9:50 am
Two bottles of St Georgen’s Bräu to start the season. A gift from friends who are visiting from Germany and who know my tastes. The beer was a discovery for me on a previous visit to Bavaria – Franconia to be more precise – and as well as evoking memories of Gasthof Schiller and juicy schäufele is probably, despite another brewery’s having nabbed the slogan, the best lager in the world.
Visitors, guests. We have them, we are them. The Schiller guesthouse in Wernsdorf where I first tasted St Georgen’s Bräu has been there in one form or another since 1348, but apparently only run as the guesthouse it is now since 1715. Still, they seem to be settling in. The biergarten there on a summer evening, a stein of beer on the wooden table, its surface dappled by spear tips of golden sunlight that pierce the leafed shade. A bone of slow roast pork next to it. The best hospitality makes you feel at home even when you know you aren’t, even when everything is new.
I don’t know how Georg Modscheidler did it, but sometime around 1624 he discovered how to brew my favourite beer. You always wonder, don’t you, about the sequence of events and decisions that lead to a great discovery. Read the rest of this entry »