Chinese food -- YUM, and documentaries - ahA!

Wow, last night I dined under the stars.

They weren't actually real stars, but a very clever lighting sort of system in the ceiling of the Chinese restaurant where I went for dinner with a new friend. It was a "romance" sort of thing but I won't say anything because I've tended not to be that circumspect on here in the past and I won't be making that mistake again. Anyway, the lights looked like little twinkling stars, and it was all very pretty.

The meal was good too. There are lots of simple Chinese diner type places in the whole area around Parnell Street, and they are nice. But once in a while it's also good to go somewhere a bit fancier, and this place was great. It's rather enigmatically called "Abacus" and the food there is quite different to the standard Chinese stuff. I had duck stuffed with prawns with a crab sauce!! And smoked chicken pieces! And a sort of sweet and sour soup! I really didn't feel like going home when we'd finished eating; it would've been nice to have had more room so as to try more but, well, maybe another time. There's always a small "European food" section on the menu in Chinese restaurants, offering an omelette, or steak and chips and really, you've got to wonder -- why would anyone go somewhere like that and have an omelette? When there's so much to try? Well, there's no accounting for tastes! If anyone wants to take me out for a meal, anyway, I know the place.

This weekend there's a GREAT festival on in Dublin: it's the "Stranger than Fiction" documentary festival in the Irish Film Institute. Barring a little studying, that's where I am planning to spend most of the weekend, even if the weather is great, as it's supposed to be. There's a mix of Irish and foreign-made documentaries, and I'm really looking forward to one called "Pyjama girls" that's on tomorrow.

So, tomorrow, that's where you'll find me.

Have a great weekend.

Chinese cravings

I wonder when it was that Chinese food became the world's comfort eating? I love Chinese food, but because I'm not a great cook and don't eat out that often, I don't get as much as I would like.

But tonight is gonna be an exception. Tonight, I will be eating out. Hoooray! Because the Irish, like most people, know a good thing when they see one and there are plenty of Chinese restaurants in Dublin. I will write here tomorrow and let you know how I got on!

Summer is coming and that means that a host of the smaller museums and places to visit open for their season. Because I'm studying 19th century lit. I've been keeping my eye on the George Bernard Shaw birthplace, which is located in the very cute neighbourhood of Portobello. I think it opens in May and I'll be taking a break from my studies to go, cause it's basically part of my studies, so it doesn't count!

Handel: Ireland's greatest composer!!

Did you know that Handel was actually an Irishman?

What's that? You didn't realise? You thought he was a German or something! Pfffff. Call yourself educated (or, as my greengrocer here in Dublin likes to say in reference to his much-qualified kids, "edjumacated")

Well, neither did I realise he was Irish, and, strictly speaking, he wasn't, of course, but thanks to the fact that his opus magnus, Handel's Messiah was first aired right here in Dublin, he's kinda, sorta, become an honorary Dubliner, posthumously anyway. Every year, the city hosts a big Handel festival. It was on this very week! I didn't get to anything because I'm so busy at college right now, but I know a couple of musical types who did and they said it was fabulous. So bear it in mind if you're thinking of coming to Dublin next year. I'm just saying. Also, prepare yourself for yet more surprising revelations from the world of classical music. Luciano Pavarotti? Irish! Of course! And then there was Liam O'Beethoven and Peadar McMozart.

I'm just joking of course but, really, this love of all different types of music and the sense of urgency Dubliners seem to feel to make it theirs is really quite special. Did you know, for example, that there's a whole sub-genre of Country Music known as "Irish and Country"? Now, Country Music is not my pint of stout, but I just love the idea of these Irish girls and boys getting up and singing plaintively about life on the prairie and making it really all about them when they've likely never even been to a prairie!

Well, that's really my contribution for the day. I'm off home to make some soup (I had stopped with the soup-making, but then I found my soup recipe book under the sofa and I've started again). It's dreadful in the apartment, really, because my flatmate Bepe has been training for a marathon-type event this weekend, so the whole place is FESTOONED with hurriedly rinsed sports socks (and last night he made me look at the plasters he wears on his nipples when running; apparently men runners suffer from "athletes' nipple" -- who knew?). If it's a nice day, I might go along to the race to cheer him on, if only to celebrate the impending reduction in sports socks dangling from our little balcony!

Thirty shades of green

You know, that old cliche of Ireland as a green land is actually true. It's easy to see it in the countryside where, when the sun comes out (as it does more often than most people seem to think) everything is suddenly amazingly, dazzlingly green, but even here in the city, with spring well underway, nature is everywhere. Ireland does seem to be an astonishingly fertile place. I've noticed what look like trees growing from the chimneypots (the chimneys!) of old houses here and there, and in my apartment block, some ambitious types are managing to grow herb gardens and even small fruit bushes on their tiny balconies! I've been inspired by this to the extent that I've actually bought some seeds from Lidl. Haven't gotten so far as actually planting them, but no doubt that will come :-)

I have made an important decision. I'm not going to leave Dublin. Not yet. I've been studying since I was 18 and when this MA is finished, I think I need some time out before deciding whether or not a PhD is a route I want to take. It's time for the real world. Now, I do know that the real world is quite tough at the moment and all, but I have one part time job already that can expand to two or three days and I am prepared to do, well, almost anything to make ends meet for another year or so. There's just something about this place. Like anywhere, it has its flaws, but I kinda like those flaws or a lot of them, at least. I think that the chaos that seems to underlie some aspects of Irish life is really just the flipside of the spontaneity and openness of Irish culture. And often, that chaos gels into something wonderful, like when a rock guitarist and a trad fiddler and an electric keyboardist all end up in the same pub and, despite the fact that they don't even know each other, end up playing for hours while the crowd goes wild...

When I think about leaving, well, it's a wrenching prospect [sniff]. So I've decided to stay. I just haven't told the folks back home yet.