Dublin is in Black and White


I have been busy, for want of a better word, over the past few months trying to give my Instagram account a bit of content and identity. I suppose it’s more for the likes and followers than for any greater good to society, so don’t expect me to reveal something worldly there.

Some time back when I was still in Korea I thought it would be a neat gimmick to just post photos in black and white, or monochrome. It was a thing, and I’ve kept at it. Of late I’ve been focusing a lot on Dublin’s streets, and have been trying to get some shots which could be recognised as street photography, but with my phone and not my Nikon. It is not as easy as you’d think, because regardless of the quality of the image your phone takes it will never replace the speed and accuracy of a SLR.

But it is doable. All you need to do is:

  1. Be patient – find the shot, frame and wait a moment or two until you have the right level of human activity. Don’t stand around being creepy holding your phone up waiting for people to arrive or react to something. If the shot you want doesn’t come, move on and try and find another elsewhere.
  2. Be different – look for a way that you can make your shots stand out from others. Tilt your lens, shoot from the ground up, find a perspective which most people are unfamiliar with, or just find your own way of standing apart from other instagrammers – which is harder than it sounds.
  3. Be curious – I walk around just taking random shots with my phone around the city, and every so often a shot comes good. You can’t win them all, and there’s a chance you’ll take some pretty awful shots but as you take more shots and take more chances you will be surprised at what comes out.
  4. Crop Cleverly – When you take your shot use your regular phone camera and don’t shoot inside the Instagram app, as this automatically takes you to the edit and post menu. Shoot away with your normal camera, then when it comes to editing you can use the 1:1 frame to both crop your image in the desired area, and also to move around, zoom in, and even rotate the frame until you are happy with the shot you’re about to post. This might seem like a no-brainer but I personally feel this step is vital to the image and could be overlooked (or maybe most people just take it as a given).
  5. Ignore advice – whatever anyone tells you about doing street photography, just ignore them and do your thing. You shouldn’t really be listening to advice anyway, you should be walking around taking photographs, or at the very least looking at other people’s photos.

Of course these tips are purely my own opinion, and what do I know – I’ve only got 298 followers on Instagram.

Anyway, here are some of my favourites from the past few months, all tagged with the very cool #dublinisinblackandwhite hashtag.

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Find your own moment #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite

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Procession #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite #inthecity

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Typical

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The specials

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Take a good taste there now

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If you do find it within your heart, you can follow me here. Or not.

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Much About 2014


The end of the year is all about looking back on what happened, what was said, who did this, and other stuff. As a blogger I like to look back at what I wrote, but also what was read. It certainly hasn’t been my most productive year, with a few long gaps in between writing, and while of course it has been a memorable year, it has equally been a notable year.

A few bloggins milestones for me to brag about:

  • I had the single highest monthly visits to this blog in April with 3065 hits.
  • The same can be said for the average daily visits, with 102 being the average for April also.
  • There were 63 posts in 2014
  • As of 3.30pm on December 31, 2014 there have 28,231 visits this year – I know some blogs get that in a day, but this is my blog and this figure is an improvement of 4,000 visits on last year.

Here are some of the moments which mattered for me in 2014.

  • We moved back to Ireland in July.
  • We left Korea after four and half fantastic years.
  • I got paid for writing a poem (still haven’t cashed the cheque).
  • We spent two and bit great, warm months in Thailand, and learned a valuable lesson in the importance of travel insurance.
  • Myself and Herself found out we’d be having another baby in the middle of next year.
  • I got an commendation from the Irish Association of Korea and from the Embassy of Ireland in Korea for my services promoting Irish culture in Korea.
  • I signed on the dole a few months after coming back to Ireland.
  • I lost my camera somewhere just before Christmas.
  • I got accepted into an EdD course in the University of Glasgow.
  • I read a couple of poems at an official PEN Korea event
  • and other stuff…

Here are a few photographs which mattered to me in 2014

Christmas is brewing Dublin

Early morning prayer

I'm not scared

East Sea Rising

Port Corners

April Highrise

Spring, Korea

Decisions

Teaching

This is Chiang Mai

Lost in the Night Bazaar

Sunday Market, Chiang Mai

Moving country left me without my (good) computer for over four months so I was without a satisfactory way of editing and uploading shots from July through to almost late November, so there’s a bit of a gap in the timeline. I did get a new phone however, and that seems to be doing a really nice job of taking and sharing photos online.

And of course before I forget, this is a blog, and it is one on which I write on. So without getting bogged down in too much fanfare here are the five most read posts written and shared in 2014:

  1. I Just Want to Scream 
  2. Nimmanhaemin
  3. Saint Patrick’s Day in Seoul, 2014
  4. 10 Things About Korea
  5. People Have Their Own Problems To Worry About. You Don’t Need to Hear About Mine

So that’s it. The end of 2014, and next up we have 2015. I hope to keep battling away here at the keys for the forseeable future. Thanks for your comments, contributions, and readership. Oh, and happy new year to you and all those special to you!

 

 

 

 

Advice I’d Give to Me


The likes of everyone is an expert at handing out wonderful advice they don’t abide by themselves. I’d be in that category. I am even adept at advising myself on things I should and shouldn’t do, and to my detriment I continue to fail to acknowledge and follow such sterling quality advice.

Another human ailment I suffer from is an over abudance of regrets on times and actions long gone by. I’m particularly prone to it now, as I have lamented somewhat in the past few posts. Even when we are at our best it’s mistakes and poor judgement from some action fifteen years before that we look to when we’re looking for something to find fault with ourselves.

So what’s better than both of these on their own? Well it’s the two combined of course.

On my twitter feed the other day and image emerged from Vanity Fair.

And it got me thinking. Because, first and foremost, I’m not that old. Secondly, I don’t really believe that advice would have changed much of how I acted. I don’t think I ever went about looking for advice, at least not from people who would have been in a good position to offer it. I think that I must have been always bullheaded in my own determination to become what I wanted to be. I can’t say whether any of my so-called determination ever came to fruition, because as independent as I like to think of myself, I’m also pretty feckless and absent minded.

And it got me thinking. Because there is plenty of good advice been shared by people in a good position to offer good advice. The fantastic Brain Pickings is an endless source of this advice, and if you’ve never visited that website you really should. You can read all the advice the written word has to offer, but how much do you take to heart? Is a lot of it not just idea juice that will inspire you somehow to focus in a particular way? Our conscious actions are influenced by our past experiences or by the experiences of people we know. What I mean is that if you want to make the most of advice it’s imperative that you seek from someone who you love or respect, or indeed both if you’re lucky enough to have a person that fits both of these categories.

I know that when I write something I’m particularly proud of there first opinion I seek is Herself’s. I can’t say that it’s because she’s an expert on anything that I write, but because it’s her view on life I look to first. I see her as a very balanced and logical thinker and a person with a particularly insightful view on the rest of the world. I look for the opinions of others too, of course, for different reasons and when seeking different results.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s advice to his daughter Frances in a 1933 letter is something worth reading now. The infamous writer, fond of a drink, a psychologically troubled spouse, and for penning some of the finest novels of the twentieth century was, in several respects, aptly positioned to offer advice to his daughter. There’s the love angle covered, and because of the work he produced the respect angle is arguably covered too. Enough of my waffle. Here’s the letter:

DEAR PIE:

I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy– but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed page, they never really happen to you in life.

All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds…

I think of you, and always pleasantly, but I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?…

Half-wit, I will conclude. Things to worry about:

Worry about courage

Worry about cleanliness

Worry about efficiency

Worry about horsemanship…

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion

Don’t worry about dolls

Don’t worry about the past

Don’t worry about the future

Don’t worry about growing up

Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you

Don’t worry about triumph

Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault

Don’t worry about mosquitoes

Don’t worry about flies

Don’t worry about insects in general

Don’t worry about parents

Don’t worry about boys

Don’t worry about disappointments

Don’t worry about pleasures

Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship

(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?

(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful intrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Courtesy of openculture.com (another website worth checking regularly)

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I like to think that I am not someone who dwells seriously on regrets. I take some into account, like when I was in UCD I should have volunteered for one of the University newspapers, and perhaps I should not have chickened out of taking English as a degree subject – all that confounded olde English… Sometimes I regret not trying harder, or for not standing up and asking for something. Nowadays I have a silly regret that I didn’t prepare myself more for being more employable (at least on paper). And other crap which will struggle to bear much significance in the future.

When I think about it seriously, there is nothing here that I actually regret. If I could stop regretting one thing it would be to stop regretting things. But If I could go back in time and give myself some advice I would. If I could offer advice I would probably say things like don’t worry, everything works out in the end, and those things you wanted to do don’t matter in the long run, and that yes, life is not fair, and live it up. Similar to the majority of respondents, wherever they came from, on that Vanity Fair tweet, I am a normal, worried person.

But. But. But this got me thinking. Because the way we give advice depends as much on how we receive it, as I discussed above, as it does to how we share it. If we throw advice about carelessly it has no value. If we share it sparingly then each piece of advice is worth something more than simple words that pass from mouth to ear.

I will offer my advice to a younger me, advice that I still need to follow and advice I think I will need to adhere to until I die. It’s pretty simple advice but it’s something that I think would save me as it could have saved me in the past had I known the necessity for it.

I could say question everything.

I could say love yourself.

I could say don’t let negativity spoil you.

I could say there is beauty in everything.

I could say that everything takes time to grow.

But what I will say is this. Always, always, look for advice. Seek it out. Listen to it. Judge it. Question it. Consume it. Love it. Manipulate it and use it as your own. Without it you will be on your own. With it you will have someone else’s world and someone else’s to make the most of. Bring all this advice together and ball it up and hold it tight to you because one day it will be useful even if it seems like a waste of time right now. Advice from loved ones, family, friends, peers, everyone has something to share. The more advice you get, the better suited you are to make the right decisions in life and less alone you will feel when these decisions are part of your future.

I just hope that it’s good advice.

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The whole way through writing this post all I could think of was this song.

 

Fifty Things You May Not Know About Me


In no particular order of importance…

  1. I’m a Scorpio born in the Year of the Sheep.
  2. I’ve been married for about six and a half glorious years
  3. +1 will be two in a few weeks, and she’ll be a big sister by May of next year.
  4. I have four brothers, one brother in law, and two sisters in law.
  5. Despite what I like to think and how I like to pretend, I’m from Dunboyne, Co. Meath.
  6. I went to UCD where I did a BA in History and Greek & Roman Civilisation.
  7. Previous jobs include selling runners and sports gear, stickering and tagging CDs and DVDs in a stockroom for the Christmas season, timeshare telesales, market researching, and door-to-door “advertising”.
  8. I have a mild but insatiable addiction to cured pork products.
  9. I first arrived in Korea on March 16, 2005.
  10. I first started writing while sitting on a big rock on the side of a mountain in my first neighbourhood in Korea, Sinnae-dong.
  11. My nickname is Conzie but I won’t tell you how I got it (you could buy me a few drinks to encourage me otherwise).
  12. For all my complaints about people and what they do, I think I’m a bit of hypocrite.
  13. While there are many things that bother me, people who stop in busy doorways or at the bottom of escalators really do deserve the kick I am going to eventually give them.
  14. I got a D2 in English in the Leaving Cert.
  15. I have a Masters in 20th and 21st Century Literature from the University of Southampton, and next year I’ll be starting a Doctor of Education in the University of Glasgow.
  16. I should really be applying for a job right now and not writing blog posts.
  17. I started writing a memoir about my life in Korea back in August, but I’ve struggled to get by the third chapter.
  18. Of all the people I’ve met in my life there is only one person in the world I hope that I never ever see or speak to again. I honestly think that is one too many.
  19. I’m prone to feeling sorry for myself despite my life and decisions always being in my own hands.
  20. In theory myself and herself have three wedding anniversaries.
  21. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything based on my own ability.
  22. I like to be alone just as much as I enjoy company.
  23. I think I found out more about myself in my first six months of living in Korea than I had from my life before.
  24. I am addicted to looking at my smartphone.
  25. Jealousy is something I struggle to manage.
  26. Writing and photography are so bloody subjective it drives me crazy, but I still can’t get enough of them.
  27. As creepy as the idea of internet friends might sound, I have established some very good relationships and connections through the internet.
  28. When I was younger, I never ever saw myself as a teacher.
  29. When I was starting out in university I wanted to be a writer, or a journalist, without ever having written anything.
  30. My favourite thing about teaching is meeting mew people and hearing their story.
  31. I really can’t for the life of me comprehend why English is the most important language in the world.
  32. Racism appalls me.
  33. Despite any regrets I may hold over decisions I made or failed to make, I couldn’t be happier with my life right now. A lot of this has to do with Herself and +1.
  34. I miss Korea a lot.
  35. Dublin is a city I never knew until now.
  36. I find idealism and negativity serious turn offs.
  37. With the right attitude a lot in life can be achieved.
  38. Setting myself realisable goals has made me so much more productive.
  39. For someone as disorganised and messy as me my obsession with order and aesthetic is a serious eyebrow raiser.
  40. The first poem I had published was in Wordlegs, and I wrote it while on our honeymoon in Turkey.
  41. I got paid for a poem I had published in Southword and I still have to cash the cheque. I might never actually do this.
  42. I promised Herself I’d win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  43. I really want to be recognised for who I am and what I’ve done. The answer to this, I know, is “well then, do more, and do it better”.
  44. I used to play and take an interest in a lot of sport, but now I have little to no interest.
  45. I bit my nails, often down to the nub.
  46. I am often dishonest with people close to me, but quite up front to strangers.
  47. There is no greater feeling than getting a big, meaningful hung from my wife and daughter.
  48. I’m quite lazy and forgetful and this is the one single characteristic I would change about myself.
  49. I can’t understand the people who spell my first name wrong, even though it is spelled correctly right in front of them – like in an email or on Facebook or whatever.
  50. My number one priority, despite everything I’ve said here, is providing unconditionally for my family.

This was a pretty difficult list to come up with, but despite the challenge I found it quite therapuetic as it gave me a chance to understand myself a little better – or at least to put my understanding of myself onto paper.

I should add that I got this idea from the Irish Blogger’s Facebook Group, and specifically from the blog A Modnern Mommy’s World, a blog I probably never would have found myself wandering on to, but such is the beauty of such blogger groups on the Buke of Faces. If you’re a blogger from Ireland I’d recommend joining this group.

So, now it’s your turn. What are your fifty things?

Inside Georgian Dublin


Over the past few months I have been somewhat of an English language teaching journeyman. I have navigated my way up and down much trodden streets of old in search of language schools of varying acronymic titles. Often starting with an I or and E, and somewhere else having an E or an I inside them, their meaning is often wrapped within some other flurry of adjectives represented by consonants. But despite this conundrum what I’ve enjoyed most of all is that many of the schools are housed in old Georgian houses.

Georgian Dublin represents a golden age for the city in terms of development. More so that any other period in Dublin’s history, the Georgian period has single handedly defined much of the modern shape, character, and charm of the inner city. This period stretched from the early 18th to the early 19th century, and the prosperity witnessed by the city at the time had a lot to do with the sitting of the Irish Houses of Parliament at College Green (now the Bank of Ireland), whose parliamentarians needed townhouses. The attention of the rest of the wealthy Irish was not lost and it become the norm to own a red-bricked terraced house, hundreds of which are still standing in Dublin today. Today post cards of Georgian Dublin doors and houses can be found around town. Equally, buildings like the Four Courts, Customs House, and the Bank of Ireland are some of the most monumental.

Powerscourt House, South William Street.

These red-bricked houses were designed within the constraints of a public body set up to ensure that the city was redeveloped to a habitable standard. Much of the city was still medieval in shape, and vast tracts of farmland and marsh still lay within walking distance of the pillars of power. The Wide Streets Commission when established saw about ensuring uniformity, order, and perhaps most significantly, fire precautions.

Unfortunately, during the 19th century many of these houses were converted into tenements to house Dublin’s poor, and with this so many fell into disrepair and eventually ruin. Even in areas as picturesque and typically Georgian such as St Stephen’s green, we are only left with remnants of great houses. The story is more stark on once fashionable Gardiner Street and Dominick Street on the north side of the city where some of the poorest slums where to be located. Many houses were torn down, and many now hold offices, flats, or are empty. Now they are tall and hovering over the footpaths, so far removed from the original uses.

Fitzwilliam Street Upper

All is not lost however. These buildings are finding new uses as office space, and several are used as English language schools. For whatever reasons, perhaps their size or number of rooms, but I suppose what is also important is that they are all in city centre locations. There might be other factors at play but I don’t really think that is of any significance, what matters here is that I actually finally got to walk into some of these buildings and have a look around.

I recall first finding out about this part of Dublin while I was doing my Leaving Certificate back in 2000. I studied art, which meant I had to do history of art. There was a particular part of the course which discussed the Georgian period of Dublin. I don’t remember if we had a choice on particular aspects of Irish art, but I do know that I took an instant liking to it. Maybe because it was something that we could see any time we went into town, and it had so much history too, not only in its construction but also in its faded glory and the destitute state it had come to exist in.

I’ve always been interested in these aspects of history. It could be part of my more crude nature, or perhaps some kind of romantic notion which sees the character only in that which has experienced more than others. I’ve always found old photographs interesting, but mostly I prefer photographs or images which show us how far we have come along from when the photograph was taken.

It was probably this interest in seeing how things have and do exist now that drew me towards these buildings so much more than I felt others were being drawn. I couldn’t help walking around the streets which chop through Baggot Street, up towards Herbert Road and around Fitzwilliam Square and Pembroke Street. I have driven up and down here countless times but I had never really earned the chance to simply explore.

Baggot Street

Fitzwilliam Square

I took particular pleasure when given the chance to explore around Parnell Square and Dominick Street. I had thought that all of Dominick Street’s Georgian houses had been demolished and replaced by flats, which themselves were later demolished, the scrub remaining being left for some other fate.

This particular area is where Dublin’s oldest Georgian houses sit. The top of Dominick Street has some fine examples, one of which I will talk about more shortly. But just across the street is a short street which runs up to the King’s Inns. This is Henrietta Street. When I visited, the street was quiet with the morning and damp with the condensation of the night’s clouds. The houses were bold and broad. Some had been restored to offices, but others looked they had been boarded up for a long time. They were scarred with the ignominy of rejection, but they stood with a little bit of humble pride showing that despite many years of neglect they still owned their place in Dublin’s history.

Henrietta Street, all in faded grace, removed from all its glory.

Henrietta Street; so many stories from only one doorway.

Inside many of these buildings all over Dublin is a secret treat, their interiors. The ceilings are high, like really high. The walls are thick, so thick I don’t think you needed to insulate them, and the steps and floors all creak with age. I could be wrong in saying that I would be surprised if many still had the same floors from when they were first built. Indeed, many buildings still maintain the artistic features of their original design.

In some respects there is not much to see in these big houses. The walls as I said are tall, and the floors a bit creaky and old. Because they’re old buildings it is hard to have light fittings and plugs and stuff to make them more modern. Adding to this is that in each ceiling you can’t really drill a hole into the beautifully crafted stucco work which is typical of every house. Of yeah, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I?

At the centre of each room where perhaps a candle chandelier would have hung the most beautiful stucco work is the norm in many of these houses. Even in smaller, clearly less influential homes, having a elaborate floral motif emanating from the ceiling was common practice. Often there are fantastic animal or floral patterns addornig other parts of the ceiling, but the main focus is at the very centre. The level of detail and size depends on the owners wealth, and I suppose also on the owners taste.

Inside a house on Fitzwilliam Street Upper

Inside a house on Fitzwilliam Street Upper

While I was mesmerised by actually being inside just a few fairly standard Georgian houses, I was lucky to have to teach in an overflow classroom for a week in one of Georgian Dublin’s most prized possessions. These overflow classrooms are often temporary solutions to busy periods. This particular acronymic school based on Dominick Street was in need of some room, and the Youth Work Ireland building nearby was in the position to offer space.

I had little idea of what to expect as I stepped in, but I instantly recognised the work on the walls from my Leaving Cert history of art classes. The owner of this house originally was a man named Robert West, and he was known as one of the foremost stuccodores in Dublin at the time. This particular interior is so elaborate that it is near impossible to describe with enough words, and I for one can merely leave some photographs of the beautiful walls and ceilings.

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Street Lower

Inside 20 Dominick Lower

In time I hope that I can again visit some of these properties, although not as a journeyman, more as an enthusiast for the magnificent tribute left to a time when Dublin was finally becoming a city of Europe, one with its own shape and its own character. I think Georgian Dublin is something which many of us take for granted, although it is not so serious that we do take it seriously, but we should offer it the respect it deserves. I think that Dublin will grow always around these magnificent monuments, but at the same time I hope that they do not allow for a stagnation of the progress which they themselves were the product of some two hundred years before.

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Do you have a particular building or era from historical Dublin which you like or have an interest in?

Should we seek to restore all these buildings to their original state, or should we allow progress to change these for the better?

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I took all these photos with my camera phone (HTC One M8 if you’re asking). For some reason I never had the sense to bring my Nikon in with me.

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The Robert West house is 20 Lower Dominick Street, Dublin 1. You can read a little more about the building and its history and the restoration project which was carried out on it here.

If you are interested in Georgian Dublin take a look at the Irish Georgian Society’s website.

Here is a detailed post on the history of Lower Dominick Street in Dublin.