Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Party 2K6

Last night was our Christmas party at work. Some look forward to it, others fear it with last year's hazy memories in mind. K+K, and other firms in the Friary packed it in around 2pm and headed to the Winding Stair Restaurant, a shmancy watering hole along the Liffy River. The food was phenomenal and we topped it off with a Kris Kringle. Someone must have known I had a fever, cuz the only cure for a more cowbell. I'm now the proud owner of a Swiss cowbell. Thank you, Mr. Kearney. After we were watered, fed and merry, everyone headed to the Octagon Bar, official hotel of [drumroll] Bono. The Dubliners thought it was a little taboo to be drinking from the tap of Pope Bono, but since about 80% of the office is non-Irish, nobody cared. Overall: a fantastic night - had a great time and happy we all collectively made outrageously good fools of ourselves (see below).

Tomorrow I'm off to meet up with Uncle Mark and Aunt Shashi in Gloucester where I'll be staying with them till Boxing Day. Really excited to see them.

I'm very thankful to be staying with family over Christmas this year. Sadly I won't be able to see the usual faces over the holidays, but nonetheless I hope everyone back home has a wonderful Christmas with family this year. 2006 has flown by for me. Between school, traveling, it's all one huge blur, but one of the best years of my life. I want to wish everyone the best for the new year and a hearty Gaelic Sláinte (good health!). Miss you all, and sending the best of wishes.

Paul and his new Jazzman Sax

Carsten frowns on Xmas. 'Bah Humbug!'. Carsten is a German landscape architect from Bernard Seymour's office (our host tonight)

Davide, now hooked up with new 'Desktop Girfriend'. Davide is from Sardinia and works with an architect sharing Bernard's office.

Janice (?), probably the least shy person I've met in my life firing her 'Nun Chuck'... yes, it actually catapults miniature nuns. I bought one for myself today.

The Liffy on the way to the Octagon.

The Octogon. Well-named. No argument here.

Ofcourse, a huge thanks to our mastermind host, Bernard.

There's just not enough cowbell in this picture. I think we need more cowbell.

Here's most of the gang from Bernard's Landscape Office. Left-right, as usual: Toni from Germany, Ed from Wexford (south Ireland), Mark next to his mother, from England I think, and Meat aka Allen from County Cork.

With a name like Meat, you can always get away with drinking a fruity Majito.

Dermott on the left, Paul and Maria drifting to starboard.

Good times.

Tickets to the 'Meat Gun-Show' sold here.

Collars up, bottoms up.

Last sight of the Octagon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Around Dubby

Right down to the end of November has been especially busy at the Friary because my one-month work 'trial' period came to a close. As it turns out, the late nights and early mornings payed off and I'll be staying with K+K for the year [stands and performs happy-dance]. But a helluva lot has happened since then, so here's a glimpse!

Possibly one of the greatest things to encourage my dream to ditch architecture to become a face-melting legendary guitarist happened recently. I caught a show called 'Rock Chic' at the Irish National Gallery which had a collection of legendary (or just really famous) Rickenbacker and Stratocaster guitars, from the very first (which is basically a banjo with a honkin tonkin built-in amplifier, left) to recent ones by Pink Floyd, Van Morrisson, Franz Ferdinand, Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, The Killers, Zeppelin, Bryan Adams (which has a beautiful print of Kate Moss on it) and somehow Lord Richard Rogers (the architect) snuck in there. By far, the best guitar displayed was Rory Gallagher's, an Irishman brought up in Cork. His guitar was just so worn down with a hint of paint on the body. At that moment, I pictured myself standing alone on a smoke-filled stage with foot-long hair and a crowd of ten-thousand with only a single beam of high-voltage light peering down on me and my moody axe.

left-right: Van Morrisson, Pink Floyd, Richard Rogers, The Dubliners...?

I've peeked around a couple galleries since then, but nothing quite as umm, 'chic' as this. However, I made an unexpectedly delightful visit to the Kilmainham Jail (on my own free will). People at work were in praise of the tour, to a bit of self-reluctance, as I've spent enough time in jails on the weekend...[somewhere mum faints]. However, the visit was really good because they dished out all the juicy bits on the 1916 Easter Uprising and...basically the entire history of Ireland with a blatant splash of anti-Brit winging. As the guide was going on about oppression after opression, recession after recession, it all suddenly came together for me as to why I was touring a jail on a beautiful saturday afternoon. The Irish just simply have a really dreary history and the Kilmainham 'Gaol' appropriately happens to be the hub of it all. In fact most Irish tourist spots include crypts, forts, execution sites etc. Throughout the Famine, children and adults were so destitute they were willingly stealing food in order to be better fed in jail than they would at home. The culmination of the Easter Uprising was what really gave the Jail its fame, as the main seven Irish Rebel leaders as well as other famous Irish figures were all rubbed out here. When the tour finished and I left the old Ireland behind me I got a much better understanding of why people are so optimistic these days.

On that note, I've been trying to describe to people the buzz in the city, but it's hard to compare with anything else. I guess the main thing is Dublin is making so much cash everyone is just really giddy. But also, Ireland has such a long tradition of emigration that for the first time in a while, there's excitement about the success of Dublin. Just recently, the European Union has opened their doors to a couple Eastern European countries and the general estimate is that about 200,000 Poles, and 150,000 Lithuanians have immigrated to Dublin within only five years! This is crazy considering the area of Dublin is only 1.1 million people. So as the population is booming, so is the economy. A lot of Dubliners have even said that they don't feel an inferiority complex to Britain anymore because they argue that Dublin is making more money than London! (not quite, but positive thinking). It's also at the point where it's competing on the charts for most expensive cities to live in. In so little time, there has been so much change happening in the city and I guess all this excitement is just in the air.

My favourite pub Cobblestones is in Smithfield, spitting distance from work. The neighbourhood used to be a borderline ghetto but now a lot of businesses are moving in as well as a lot of cultural events. Right now a huge skating rink is set up in the square. The pub's about to fall to the ground, as you can see, but until recently it now opens onto the only public square in Dublin which was recently built. A couple weeks ago at Cobblestones I witnessed possibly the greatest Irish experience when a random bloke just started singing an old Irish hymn between fiddling acts. Everyone in the pub just froze. He had to have been only 23 or so. When he was finished people cheered and tipped their Guinness pints in his direction and the fiddler's started again. It was brilliant!

Somewhere in this random timeline, I hit the International Comedy Club with the James, Melissa, and James' brother Steven. This club had to be the tiniest venue/pub I've ever seen, with desk lamps screwed into the ceiling and a ghetto-blaster plugged in behind the stage with about 80 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder. The whole show was pure hilarity, and I'll be sure to go back making sure to sit as far back from the front row as possible. An English couple got roasted reeeeal bad yet everyone laughed uncontrollably at their misfortune.

Yesterday, for the first time in a while it was a beautiful sunny day. It tends to rain every morning of the week, clears up in the afternoon and then has a 'soft rain' as they say, at night. So to take full advantage of the day, I cycled to Phoenix Park, just west of my office, past where I was up for the Rock Chic exhibit. The lighting was really nice this day and it picked up all the shades of green - quite a shock after being used to all the grey within the city. The park itself is apparently the biggest 'contained' European park - twice as big as Central Park in New York. There's a whole bunch of random monuments such as the Wellington Monument, as well as the oldest 'European Zoo', and the Irish Embassy at the opposite corner of the American Embassy. It was a whole morning spent cycling aimlessly and just enjoying ... green.

So the countdown to Christmas and the arrival of Jessie, Morgan, Nico and Renee to Dublin has long since been in effect! It's down to 9 nine days till Jessie arrives en-route to Finland where she'll be studying in Helsinki for about a year, and then 10 days till Morgan, Nico, and Renee arrive on their way through to Switzerland/Germany/Italy for the biggest school field trip ever. I await anxiously for our band of Canadian rogues to assemble and collectively sully the city while ringing in the New Year.

Bye for now.