During the past week (22nd – 29th May 2016), The annual An-Post cycle race took place.
The race covers 1,235 kilometres over eight stages with 25 categorised climbs, including three category one climbs, Conor Pass, Ballaghisheen Pass and Mount Leinster.
Stage 1, Sunday May 22: Dublin Castle to Multyfarnham, 144.6 km
Stage 2, Monday May 23: Mullingar to Charleville, 183.7 km
Stage 3, Tuesday May 24: Charleville to Dingle, 133.2 km
Stage 4, Wednesday May 25: Dingle to Sneem, 162.8 km
Stage 5, Thursday May 26: Sneem to Clonakilty, 148.3 km
Stage 6, Friday May 27: Clonakilty to Dungarvan, 159.1 km
Stage 7, Saturday May 28: Dungarvan to Baltinglass, 155 km
Stage 8, Sunday May 29: Kildare to Skerries, 148.4 km
The race was great fun to follow and great fun to go and take some pictures of, you get a great close up feeing when watching a race like this one.
Clemens Fankhauser in the end became the first rider since Chris Newton in 2003 and 2005 to be crowned a two-time winner of An Post Rás. The Austria Tirol Cycling rider put on a classy display on the final stage into a crowd thronged Skerries to finish in the main bunch, maintaining his lead on the General Classification (GC) and lifting the trophy for the second time in three years.
Images from the Irish coast.
Poem : When I look down toward the beach
When I look down toward the beach,
the distant pier seems to stride
forward from the shining sea.
I like to look beyond,
to the bands of turquoise and blue,
an ocean painted in bold,
Why are we drawn to the waves?
Those elemental rhythms,
sounds and colours
of a primary world,
where sparse pointillist spots
busy themselves on
Some days the morning
unfolds through mists,
groynes spacing out
the distances along the strand,
until a final fade-out,
well before the sea
can meet the sky.
Overhead, pterodactyl shapes
patrol against fresh patches
of blue. As I approach,
the blurred semblances
of buildings appear, rectangles
feathered violet or grey,
as if stepping off the cliff.
The Copper Mine
A mine spread out its vast machinery.
Her engines with their huts and smoky stacks,
Cranks, wheels, and rods, boilers and hissing steam,
Pressed up the water from the depths below.
Here fire-whims ran till almost out of breath,
And chains cried sharply, strained with fiery force.
Here blacksmiths hammered by the sooty forge,
And there a crusher crashed the copper ore.
Here girls were cobbing under roofs of straw,
And there were giggers at the oaken hutch.
Here a man-engine glided up and down,
A blessing and a boon to mining men:
And near the spot, where many years before,
Turned round and round the rude old water wheel,
A huge fire-stamps was working evermore,
And slimy boys were swarming at the trunks.
The noisy lander by the trap-door bawled
With pincers in his hand; and troops of maids
With heavy hammers brake the mineral stones.
The cart-man cried, and shook his broken whip;
And on the steps of the account-house stood
The active agent, with his eye on all.
Below were caverns grim with greedy gloom,
And levels drunk with darkness; chambers huge
Where Fear sat silent, and the mineral-sprite
For ever chanted his bewitching song;
Shafts deep and dreadful, looking darkest things
And seeming almost running down to doom;
Rock under foot, rock standing on each side;
Rock cold and gloomy, frowning overhead;
Before; behind, at every angle, rock.
Here blazed a vein of precious copper ore,
Where lean men laboured with a zeal for fame,
With face and hands and vesture black as night,
And down their sides the perspiration ran
In steaming eddies, sickening to behold.
But they complained not, digging day and night,
And morn and eve, with lays upon their lips.
Here yawned a tin-cell like a cliff of crags,
Here Danger lurked among the groaning rocks,
And oftimes moaned in darkness. All the air
Was black with sulphur and burning up the blood.
A nameless mystery seemed to fill the void,
And wings all pitchy flapped among the flints,
And eyes that saw not sparkled min the spars.
Yet here men worked, on stages hung in ropes,
With drills and hammers blasting the rude earth,
Which fell with such a crash that he who heard
Cried, “Jesu, save the miner!” Here were the ends
Cut through hard marble by the miners’ skill,
And winzes, stopes and rizes: pitches here,
Where worked the heroic, princely tributer,
This month for nothing, next for fifty pounds.
Here lodes ran wide, and there so very small
That scarce a pick-point could be pressed between;
Here making walls as smooth as polished steel,
And there as craggy as a rended hill.
And out of sparry vagues the water oozed,
Staining the rock with mineral, so that oft
It led the labourer to a house of gems.
Across the mine a hollow cross-course ran
From north to south, an omen of much good;
And tin lay heaped on stulls and level-plots;
And in each nook a tallow taper flared,
Where pale men wasted with exhaustion huge.
Here holes exploded, and there mallets rang,
And rocks fell crashing, lifting the stiff hair
From time-worn brows, and noisy buckets roared
In echoing shafts; and through this gulf of gloom
A hollow murmur rushed for evermore.
Oct 19, 2014
If you were on the road to nowhere,
where would you go?
If you were on the road to somewhere,
would you stay where you are?
If there was no road,
what would you do?
If the road was there,
would you carry on walking?
If the road you walked upon,
was somebody else’s,
would you leave?
If the road you took,
leads to the end of yours,
would you bother turning back?
What would YOU do,
if the feet that led you,
took you onto a road,
that you didn’t know about?
Poem by William Blake
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.
Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?
For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.
If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;
Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.
A few months back I visited Rome for a few days, I love this great city with its amazing history and people. My favourite place during this trip was the Pantheon, at some point very soon I want to post about this building in more detail, here however I want to strip this post down to the basic feelings I had on walking into this amazing space for the very first time in my life.
I am a big fan of word lists to describe personal experiences, so here goes !
The Pantheon in single words
Hight, awe, time, history, wonder, stone, granite, amazing, structure, art, architecture, human, achievement, skill, maths, space, understanding, power, time, mankind, Greek, Roman, temple, dome, circular, movement, light, time, space, years, moments, minutes, seconds, months, people, tourists, floor, roof, Walls, shapes, colour, openings, doors, markers, movement, sun, light, periods, soul, spirit, gods, existence,art, achievement, understanding, civilisation, Pantheon, Rome, Italy, life, death, memories, people, remembered, empires, lost, evolution, movement, time, love, life, people, seasons, legacy, alive, yesterday, today.
The Pantheon, Rome, a visit in space and time.
Poem by Michael Shepherd
The hover fly
that’s just demonstrated
that it’s one of the Creation’s greatest
and smallest, most compact miracles of lawful
imagination (imagine flying, then stopping
quite still in the air, no slowing down,
just, zap, like that, dead steady,
and it’s smaller (!) than a helicopter, wow)
right here in front of me in silhouette, but
illuminated on one wing by the PC screen,
and pausing for a freeze-frame moment of eternity
as if to tell me something
(illumination, too?) –
all this, and yet it
doesn’t know I’m writing about it.
At this time of the year our local woodlands here in county Kilkenny fill with new life and colours, one of the the wild flowers I love the most are the Violets.
They are a familiar little wildflower of the woodlands and grassy hedge-banks, this plant is quite similar to Early Dog-violet and is easily confused. The unscented, blue-violet flower is always solitary on the stem, and is open with five petals, the lower of which has a stout, blunt, pale, curved spur which is notched at the tip.
The mouth of the flower is absolutely wonderful to view through a hand-lens or magnifying glass. It has a pattern of deep purple lines which run into the throat over a paler violet patch, becoming white. The upper petals have a fringe which is over the opening. The dark-green, heart-shaped leaves are on long, slender stalks. This native plant which blooms from April until June is a larval foodplant of the Dark Green Fritillary. It belongs to the family Violaceae.
‘Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you’.
Edward Payson Roe 1838-1888
‘I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.’
William Shakespeare 1564 -1616
Last week we took sometime to visit my Family in a holiday home in South Wales, it was a great week together and very special as we have a new baby in the family 🙂
Before we left for Wales, spring was just staring but on our return it was in full flow with so much new life all around, the cycle of life continues in so many different ways 🙂
The old dead tree stood
gnarled weather torn;
its limbs were now brittle.
What stories could it tell
of the centuries it had lived,
the passing lives it had seen,
and the storms it had weathered
when it was young and strong.
When its foliage was green
and gave shelter from the rain.
Now it stands bare and broken,
a sorry sight to be seen.
It must have been beautiful
when it was young
with its canopy of green,
and a nesting place for little birds
among its evergreen.
Now they only used it
as a resting place whenever they pass by.
The old dead tree,
which had seen so much life.
Evening ghosts along the river
I could tell you how the river looks
sketched in evening light;
I know the smell of dew so fresh over the river,
and evening air that parts like tired curtains,
with wet heat that sighs
and slaps the grass when you move on;
I’ve felt what a violin says
to the heart of the river ghosts
over waters edge,
and how an old man’s voice sounds best after smoking,
but a woman’s is best talking.
There are ghosts on these paths,
but they don’t hunger anymore;
hunger is for the living
with morning light.
Crossing The Bar – Poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have cross the bar.
Gorse flowers in the Irish Landscape
Gorse is very common here in county Kilkenny but this does not make it any less loved by many, as it flowers in springtime. Many of the hills sides and woodland areas come to life with their yellow flowers.
Gorse, also known as furze, is a sweet scented, yellow flowered, spiny evergreen shrub that flowers all year round.
In fact, there are several species of gorse that flower at different times of the year making it a much-loved plant for the bees and giving it the appearance of being in bloom all year long. There is an old saying that goes, “When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season.”
Gorse is often associated with love and fertility. It was for this reason that a sprig of gorse was traditionally added to a bride’s bouquet and gorse torches were ritually burned around livestock to protect against sterility. However, one should never give gorse flowers to another as a gift for it is unlucky for both the giver and receiver.
Gorse wood was used as very effective tinder. It has a high oil content which means it burns at a similar high temperature to charcoal. The ashes of the burnt gorse were high in alkali and used to make soap when mixed with animal fat.
Onn, meaning gorse, is the 17th letter of the ogham alphabet. It equates to the English letter O.
In Celtic tradition, gorse was one of the sacred woods burned on the Beltane bonfires, probably the one that got them started. It was a shrub associated with the spring equinox and the Celtic god of light, Lugh, doubtlessly because of its ever blooming vibrant yellow flowers.
In Brittany, the Celtic summer festival of Lughnastdagh, named after the god, was known as the Festival of Golden Gorse.
Flowers used in wine and whiskey
The flowers have a distinct vanilla-coconut aroma and are edible with an almond-like taste. They can be eaten raw on salads or pickled like capers. They have also been used to make wine and to add colour and flavour to Irish whiskey. However, consuming the flowers in great numbers can cause an upset stomach due to the alkalis they contain.
The prickly nature of gorse gave it a protective reputation, specifically around livestock. As well as providing an effective hedgerow, gorse made an acceptable flea repellent and the plant was often milled to make animal fodder.
Gorse in Irish Culture
Gorse is the 15th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet, representing O. Its old Gaelic name was Onn, and in modern Gaelic it is conasg. It’s a prickly shrub, which can almost always be found in flower somewhere, all twelve months of the year, and this means it has many positive connotations in folklore.
Snippets of lore
Here are the titbits of fact and folklore about pine tweeted by @cybercrofter on 15 December 2011.
Gorse is the 14th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet, for O – in old Gaelic it was onn or oir (gold). In Modern Gaelic it’s conasg.
Conasg (Gaelic for gorse) means prickly or armed, appropriately enough as it’s the spiniest plant around.
As gorse’s branches, twigs and leaves are all spiny, which reduces water loss, it can survive extreme exposure to wind and salt.
Other regional names for gorse are whin or furze. In latin, it’s Ulex europaeus.
Here’s a lovely short Harry Rutherford poem about gorse. http://heracliteanfire.net/2009/01/26/poem/
Gorse bears yellow flowers all year round, and as they say, ‘When gorse is in bloom, kissing is in season.’
Gorse is a symbol of the sun god Lugh, as it carries a spark of sun all year.
Bees love gorse and it’s a good source of food for them on warm winter days and in early spring.
In late spring, gorse flowers smell of coconut and vanilla.
Here’s a poem from me, The Gorse is out behind Glencanisp. Audio too. http://www.pankmagazine.com/the-gorse-is-out-behind-glencanisp/
A decoction of gorse flowers counters jaundice.
Gorse seed pods explode in hot sun.
Gorse fixes nitrogen due to symbiosis with a bacterium in the roots.
Horses that eat gorse don’t catch colds (but presumably end up with perforated gums…)
The fierce fire of furze is ideal for baking.
Gorse boughs were used for creel-making. Ouch.
Gorse is a good windbreak and a gorse bush is the best place to dry washing – it naturally pins it in place.
A bundle of gorse is excellent for sweeping chimneys.
Here’s a recipe for gorse flower wine. http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/brewing/fetch-recipe.php?rid=gorse-flower-wine
Gorse flowers give yellow and green dyes.
Gorse bark gives a dark green dye. Add a bucket of urine and wait 3 hours.
Yellowed gorse, a poem by Fay Slimm http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/yellowed-gorse/
A missing home gorse poem, by Francis Duggan http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-d-love-to-see-the-gorse-in-bloom/
Gorse lifts the spirits of the downhearted, and restores faith.
Festival of the Golden Gorse is celebrated on 1 August (Lughnasa).
Gorse protects against witches.
Gorse’s magic is good for bringing a piece of work, a project, a relationship or a troublesome thing to a complete and final end.
Gorse symbolises joy.
Remember the nitrogen-fixing? Grow gorse for 7 years and the ground will be excellent for corn.
In 1778 a gorse crushing mill was set up in Perth. One acre of crushed gorse bushes will keep 6 horses in fodder for 4 months.
Bring gorse into the house in May to ‘bring in the summer’.
Giving someone gorse flowers is unlucky, for both giver and receiver. Best keep them for yourself!