Monday, April 23, 2012


I love cathedrals, I really do. And I love living in a place with a plethora of them. This is Regensburg's Cathedral:

People built this with their bare hands a thousand years ago. Bare hands! A thousand years ago!

I want these in my living room. Is that so wrong?
Although this looks like a venerable saint being mugged for his cloak, it actually represents St Martin sharing his cape with a penniless beggar. I find the statues in Regensburg's cathedral charmingly ambiguous. See below:
Two figures, smooching saucily. Quite at odds with their surroundings, not least because - to my untrained eye - they look like two women. Very mysterious and very much ahead of its time.
The dirndl shop down the road. I want a dirndl. I want to be clad in the costume of a nation that celebrates the virtues of the well-stacked woman.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mustn't Grumble

I spent the weekend working with a group of people from the south of England. I must mention that it's the south of England, because my boss - who is from Hull, in the north of England, - says that the northerners are different. Different to the southerners, that is, who are also different to the Irish. Now, despite our centuries of political, um, disagreement, I - like most sane Irish people - quite like the English. I don't have anything against the Queen; on the contrary, I tend to think that she's a remarkable old dame and I must admit that I admire her greatly. I sincerely hope I'm as full of beans at 85 as she is. However, in a group of southern English, I notice how ... unEnglish I am, despite the fact that we island folk are often lumped together as one vaguely Britishy entity.

For starters, I simply have not mastered the delicate art of understatement. I actually find it quite difficult at times to figure out the degree of seriousness or severity being relayed to me by a stiff-upper-lipped person of gentle English persuasion: "Indeed, it was jolly inconvenient to have to call an ambulance at 4 o'clock in the morning but I dare say that my husband's chest pain was rather discomforting, given the fact that his lips had turned slightly blue and he was a tad comatose. But, after seven weeks intensive care, he pulled through, so mustn't grumble!" More alarmingly, information like this is often delivered with a bright smile and the cheerfully rallying voice employed by Mary Poppins during her nursery-cleaning extravaganzas. It takes me a couple of minutes to figure out that we are, in fact, discussing a near death experience with this person's nearest and dearest, and not the likelihood of MacVities discontinuing their range of chocolate Hobnob biscuits.

Irish people, on the other hand, tend to relish the drama. While some groups of English people prefer the curt, mustn't-grumble approach to life, Irish people often welcome the opportunity to embellish the circumstances and spin the story. While the English people of the stiff-upper-lip variety would sooner wrestle a komodo dragon than succumb to emotion, Irish people slather it on top, like butter on toast. Plus, we invoke our deity and a variety of minor religious figures for good measure - and if you are not keen on the Lord's name being taken in vain, I would ask you to (a) look away now and (b) never visit Ireland. For example,
"Jesus, Mary and holy Saint Joseph! I nearly ended up in the emergency room yesterday - the foot nearly fell off me with the pain! I very nearly took a hack-saw to it and amputated my own appendage! God above! I nearly died in agony!"
(In this case, the speaker probably stepped on a Lego brick by mistake and endured a sharp, short shot of pain, but with no lasting effects on foot or ability to walk.)

As you can imagine, putting people of these two very different persuasions in the same room results in some very interesting exchanges, probably because we expect to have so much in common: our history is so interlinked, we share so much culturally that the differences are all the more shocking. George Bernard Shaw, a fellow Irishperson, once said that Britain and the US were "two countries separated by a common language." I wonder, to what extent, this also applies to England and Ireland - if not language, then the way the language is used?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Back On Crafty Track

Let's intersperse my holiday snaps with some crafty projects.

As my Uterus Is Now A Temple, I have decided to try my hand at knitting baby things. This is possibly because, as an expecting mother, I have been bitten by the Provide For My Child bug: my offspring shall be clad in my wonky knitting attempts, because ... well, because I (sort of) can. This is a little piecework cardigan that is actually a double crime: (a) it's knit in acrylic (eeek!) and (b) in a shade of yarn known disparagingly as "clown burps" by people who knit with mermaid bumfluff. I have been told time and time again to knit pieces of clothing in one piece - I have been directed to patterns for top-down cardigans and one-piece raglan jackets - but I prefer to knit in small, manageable pieces that I can sew together. This is something I share with my mother; clearly, we have a short attention span.

But I decided to give the one-piece cardigans a whirl - hence the apple green piece on the needles - but rows of 100+ stitches are really quite odious to work through. As a crocheter, one likes to see a bit more action and, quite frankly, a little more progress after two or three hours of knitting. But I will persevere, 'cause I'm cranky like that.

And I'm crocheting - cream, cappuccino and sky blue yarns.This one is working up very quickly. I think it's going to be nice!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

AWOL in Regensburg

My brother and sister-in-law came to visit over Easter, during which time my laptop was re-assigned as the general entertainment centre. Now that the Irish whirlwind has swept back up to the Emerald Isle, I have time to post some pictures of our adventures over Easter.

First of all, I would like to mention Murphy's Law of Visitors and Weather. Before the Easter holidays, the weather was passable. Crisp and sunny, with evenings of weak sunlight and interesting skies:

This was a nobleman's residence, built next door to the archduke's castle (a clear case of brown-nosing if ever there was one.) Now it's used by the university and, as a former student there, I can confirm that one feels ever so much more erudite when one battles with the vagaries of German grammar in such an environment.
"Darling, the façade looks ever so dull. Columns are so last year."
"You're right, my angel. Let's throw up a few classical statues for kicks and laughs."
"Bravo, my sweet, bravo."
Now that I am With Child, I have taken to scoping out the local playgrounds and taking note of the level of danger the facilities pose. Swings, slides and monkey bars have never looked so threatening before - bear in mind, that this child will be the product of two extraordinarily clumsy and accident-prone people. I expect to get to know my paediatrician very well.  

As soon as my visitors arrived, the weather became cold, dark and wet. As it does. Not that we had planned to do very much with them, but it is nonetheless quite annoying when even the simplest outing turns into an extreme sport. This was the case when we visited Mr Gingerbread's hometown, Regensburg.

We were well-prepared: the plan was to have Easter brunch with the in-laws, so I baked lemon muffins, decorated eggs and knit a bunny hat for my two-month-old niece (because, frankly, why have children if not to dress them up in ridiculous festive outfits and take photos of them that will be later pulled out when new boy/girlfriends come to  visit). But the after-breakfast tour became a battle with the elements: I was cold. Coooooold. And Regensburg lies on the River Danube, so it's not the usual cold, it's the freezing, soggy, damp cold that seeps through layers of clothing and settles in your bones.

The Danube is a very scary river: it always looks angry, even in the middle of summer when the water level is low. I don't know how Strauss was inspired to write the Blue Danube waltz - this is not a civilised, gently-swaying body of water. It needs an Eminem song as its signature tune, or a piece of Death Metal:


So we sought refuge in various churches, like the Baroque St. Emmeram's Abbey. Now, I don't really like Baroque - I find it quite tacky. Gilded cherubs do not feature prominently in my décor. However, the Abbey has lots of interesting statues, like an almost-hidden wall panel of Queen Hemma (left) and several imposing panels featuring stout bishops or abbots (right).

Weirdest of all - for our modern eyes - were the relics of long-dead saints, laid out in saucily insouciant poses. I'm sure they were highly-treasured in their day, but nowadays they simply look quite creepy.

 And that's where we're going to stop for this evening, readers. Blogger is groaning under the weight of all these photos, so I'll post some more tomorrow, along with - yes, finally - some crafty projects.

P.S. Thank you to Tecrin for the blogging award! This deserves a post of its own - I'll have to put on my thinking cap, as it requires my doing some homework ...