Saturday, 18 September 2021

Holiday - photo heavy

Well, in fact as far as holidays go, it's photo-light due to various circumstances, but for a blog post it's photo-heavy as it doesn't seem worth splitting into two. Back in March we decided that it was highly unlikely that we would be able to get to France on the dates we had booked the ferry for, so we decided that a Shannon cruise would be the safest holiday bet for this summer. It's not a cheap option - it probably cost about the same for a week as three weeks camping in France all told, but it was pretty Covid-proof unless we had another major lockdown and couldn't leave our county, and I went for the only company that offered a full refund rather than credit if you had to cancel for Covid-related reasons. It's twenty-five years since we last did this, but not a lot has changed on the river. Navigation is easy - going upstream, you keep red markers and buoys on the left, green on the right, and the reverse coming downstream. Not a lot of photos because of being on the go (although in fact we only logged just under 25 engine miles over the week, I still haven't figured out a mileage), and because of the highly contrasty conditions with water, reflections and wide-open skies. We were blessed with pretty good weather on the whole, and a wonderful downpour when we tied up for one night in a small town and a group of teens were playing very loud rap on the quayside.

Our first night was spent in Cootehall, we were the only boat there. As we were late leaving the cruiser base that afternoon, this was as far as we could come before the locks were open again the next morning. 
I don't think I've ever seen so many cormorants in one place before - on a very rocky strip in the middle of a lake. 
An old folly, in Lough Key, where we spent our first full day and second night. C rowed around several of the islands in our little dinghy. 
The castle is in fact just a folly, although the island had been previously occupied. 
This tall viewing tower dates from the seventies. Despite my poor head for heights, I managed to make it to the top, and enjoyed the views. 
I don't know how many swans and cygnets we saw during the course of the week - hundreds....
A common sight on many of the navigation markers - gulls and cormorants finding a handy perch. 
A bonus when we were unable to moor where we had planned one evening, and had to go further downriver to the next town. 
Carnadoe - we spent two nights here - it was lovely and peaceful, so after spending a day going down the two lakes beyond it, we were quite happy to moor up early and spend a second night there. 
On Kilglass Lough and Grange Lough we saw more crested grebes than we have seen for years. There were some youngsters too, more stripy looking. We even saw two Little Grebes, which I haven't seen for many years.  When we were tied up for our coffee break on Grange Lough, C was thrilled to see a kingfisher. 
I can't remember if this was our second evening in Carnadoe, or in the morning before we pulled out. Very peaceful just sitting there listening to the cows munching away, and the birds singing.

We covered parts of counties Leitrim, Longford and Roscommon. In some places the county boundary runs down the river, so a town might be in Longford on one side of the river and Roscommon the other side. We self-catered, apart from the very last day, No photos of any of the locks, because with only two of us, we were always both busy holding ropes. I don't remember that any of them had red/green traffic lights on the approaches when we did this before - it was certainly helpful to see that as one approached. Almost all of the ones we went through now seemed to be automated, but we took a side trip down the Camlin River, as our boat was small enough to do so, and the lock keeper at the end of it where we rejoined the Shannon was just using old-fashioned manpower to push the gates open and closed. I imagine it gets a lot less traffic than the locks on the main river - on our way upstream at Albert Lock, we had to wait for 4 boats to come through before we could go up, and there were another 9 queued up waiting to come down. The lock is only large enough to hold 4 at a time, so it would have been a bit of a wait for some of those. I was glad the upstream traffic wasn't so busy. 

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Hot off, warm off and on the needles

 I tried taking photos of the jacket (DROPS Medieval, from Ravelry) on the ground, but I had to resort to using the tripod and myself as a model. It's great being able to use the phone as a remote - it's several cameras back since I actually had such a thing as an old-fashioned cable remote.

It was meant to have three buttons, and I had three lovely antique silver ones. But when I ripped part of the front, I forgot the middle buttonhole when I knitted it back up again - and since I had two antique brass ones, I settled for that. It looks better in motion, because the draped panels have a lovely swing to them.

Once that was finished, I picked up a cowl kit I bought before Christmas last year. It's an Irish yarn, and called for an 8mm circular needle which wasn't something I possessed, so I had to order one before I could start. It's going to be lovely and cosy in the colder weather. 

After that, I started a scarf for C, in a lovely grey alpaca which I was tempted to keep for myself. I think there are going to be two balls left, so I might get gloves out of it, anyway.

Being DK, it was a nice step-down from the Aran/worsted of the previous two projects - getting me ready for some socks which are my next project. I've already knitted 6 tension samples, as the suggested needle size was 2.5 mm, but with instructions to knit to gauge. Well, despite the fact that, a very rare event, I had actually bought the yarn the pattern was written for, I had to knit samples on 2.5mm  2.75mm, 3 mm, 3.25 mm and finally 3.5mm gave me the right tension. Possibly because it's an intarsia design of leaves me feeling slightly anxious that I will have put a lot of work into the socks and they won't fit. Fingers crossed - maybe that should be toes. Again, I had to go out and buy needles because I didn't have double-pointed ones in either 3.25 or 3.5. Plenty of smaller ones, thanks to the lovely knitted bird book from Lorraine :D. 

Wednesday, 1 September 2021


 Here are a few photos from Saturday. I didn't want to include sculptures, because I hope to be back to see the full exhibition, but I've added a couple of close-ups of the steampunk dragonfly, and one of someone resting mid-installation. There was the most horrendous squeaking and creaking sound, which turned out to be two people pulling this up the hill on a little trolley. 

It was actually quite interesting being there on a set-up day. I had seen one sculpture, and then when we went to the grass garden at the end, there was one very similar. In fact, it turned out to be the same one - when I asked, the artist said he had been asked to move it because it had a couple of spikes, so it was being relocated to a position where children would be less likely to hurt themselves. We met another couple installing "Butterfly Tree" at the foot of the herbaceous border - he was painstakingly rubbing gilding into the rim of a circle.

The flower beds were all full of bees and insects of all sorts. Not on this first one, which C said looked like an origami flower, and I take his point. I have some pink California poppies this year myself: I'd been disappointed that they were so much smaller than the traditional yellow ones, but then I saw that these ones were also much smaller. And not nearly as vivid a pink as in the seed catalogue. We have some good sunflowers ourselves this year - also attracting the bees. 

No photos because I was in the middle of cooking at the time, but on Sunday we took all the compost out of the compost bin so that we could dismantle it and put it together again - over the years it has started to come apart a bit at the corners. The birds like it like that, I quite often see blackbirds perched near it and reaching in for some insects on tap, as it were. The compost, as usual, was a lovely rich loam and absolutely full of worms. A robin thought it was Christmas, his birthday and every other holiday rolled into one and helped himself several times, a bit like an all-you-can-eat buffet. We now have the two more damaged sides turned to the two walls, and it looks almost as good as new again, and I have several containers of compost kept out to mulch the beds with. 

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

August Favourites

 August was a moderately productive month, I had a couple of Christmas card designs I particularly liked, but I don't normally post those this early. Apart from that - not so much. I had been working full-time for a while and there wasn't much time or energy left for creating.

I do have a couple of knitting projects, I just need to take photos. A cowl and a winter jacket, ready for the colder weather coming in. And something else, but that was a gift so it will have to wait.

Saturday morning was beautiful and I dragged C out of bed and to the Botanic Gardens. It was set-up week for the Sculpture in Context exhibition, so we will be going back. I hope to get some of my photos uploaded during the week - here are two of my favourites along with my three favourite cards.

The steampunk dragonfly was very cool, I'll add some close-up shots when I get back with some of the florals. His eyes are headlamp reflectors, and there's all sorts of other stuff there. I look forward to finding out what it is actually titled. And the jellyfish was beautiful, but the reflective umbrella was very hard to photograph. Maybe I'll do better next time. We were also trying to get to the car park before our parking went up another euro. 

Saturday, 31 July 2021

July Favourites

 Not so many, though I made a couple of fours and fives of Christmas cards which I was very happy with.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

The Towers

 Our last trip, on Sunday morning while we waited for the tent to dry, was to The Towers, near Lismore. 

According to "Discover Ireland", Ballysaggartmore Towers are imposing gothic style buildings situated near Lismore in pleasant woodland walking and picnic areas. The magical towers provide a fairy tale setting which does not reflect the sad period in Irish History where extravagance and starvation lived side by side.

They were constructed for an Anglo Irish Landlord, Arthur Keily-Ussher no later than 1834. He held an estate of approximately 8000 acres, the majority of which was rented to tenant farmers but he retained approximately 1000 acres as a personal demesne.

The Towers: Built in 1850 by Arthur Kiely-Ussher for his wife, the extravagant gates were the only part of the castle to be built as money ran out soon after their completion. The Kiely-Ussher family then resided in a modest house on the grounds - since demolished the small castle is not open to the public.

We had been here before with my brother; admittedly a good number of years ago, as R finished school this year, and on that occasion she was still young enough to go in one of those back carriers. But I find it hard to understand how C could remember the fact of the walk, but have zero memory of the towers! I'd have thought they were pretty unforgettable. There was a sign saying that woodpeckers had been recorded earlier this year, and to report any sightings to the biodiversity watch as they are not common here. But we weren't lucky. We did see several of the silver-washed fritillary butterflies, which we had also seen in Glenshelane the day before. 

We stopped at the little farmers' market in Lismore on the way back, where I got a Shasta daisy and some lemon balm to go with my purchases from Fota. 

Monday, 26 July 2021

Glenshelane Woods

 Our third trip was to Glenshelane Woods, near Cappoquin. When the kids were smaller, they used to go there for picnics after riding on Saturday mornings - they could paddle and cool down. I paddled too when we got back from our walk - with the sun right behind the bridge, getting on the other side of it was the only way I could take any photos showing it clearly. It had three arches, in diminishing sizes. There were some tiny little fish swimming in there, too. As the river seemed to divide in two after I got to the other side, it still wasn't possible to take a picture showing all three arches. 

We followed the long trail, though I'm not sure I agree with their 3 1/2 hours time allowed, as we did it in two and I wouldn't have said we were walking that fast. Luckily I had downloaded a pdf with the map, because there was no phone coverage, and as we had only been walking just over an hour at that stage, it was hard to believe that we had reached the end of the trail even though the arrows clearly indicated that we had.  As we got higher up, there was a lot more dew still remaining even at midday, and our feet got quite wet. After returning to the carpark we retrieved our picnic and refreshed ourselves beside the river. It was mostly deciduous woodland, skirted by some coniferous planting. 

As usual the photos aren't in order -the ones that show first are actually the last ones I took.