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I took the opportunity of being in Dublin for Roger Waters’s concert to visit one of my favourite bookshops.  I was a bit worried as someone had recently told me that he had seen that shop across from Trinity College (on College Green), but that it had closed down.  To my relief, I found out that the shop was still there and open, and I could leave my feelings of mourning behind.  I consequently felt it was my duty to buy a couple of books and did not feel too guilty about spending.

 

What is it that I like so much about Books Upstairs?  Hard to say…  The shop in itself is not that extraordinary, although I really like that little mezzanine. 

I feel comfortable in this small cosy shop and love browsing books there.  They have an excellent selection of books and a good choice of fiction that entice to discovery.  I have often bought books there that I was not looking for and have enjoyed them.  This is where I bought my first Carver!  Before the few shelves dedicated to fiction, you will find two whole shelves of discounted new books.  The prices of those books are more than decent and you will thus be less reluctant about buying a book you have never heard of.

I also really like their non-fiction selection, especially in literary criticism.  I guess this is due to the fact that they are located near Trinity College.  You won’t find the usual Oxford Very Short Introduction series, which you can find in any major bookstore, but you will find books from Routledge and others at affordable prices.  For someone like me, who buys a lot of literary criticism books, it can become expensive and I tend to buy them second-hand on the internet.  However, here, I have the pleasure of flicking the pages before buying, and they always have a few on sale.

You will find books that you don’t find everywhere, and I guess that’s what I like.  Of course, they have some bestsellers and main stream new titles, but you might come across a gem you weren’t aware of.  They also have some chapbooks and various journals, which is something you don’t see everywhere.  If you’re ever in Dublin, I highly recommend you pop in and spend a few euros.

I was chatting to the lady working there and actually discovered that they also sell online.  Their website is down at the minute, but you can find them on Amazon.

As I said, their choice of discounted books is amazing and you will be more willing to buy a book you do not know of.  I treated myself with three books.  The first is just a German phrasebook for my forthcoming trip; I was grateful to finally find one that costs less than a fiver.  The second is by an author I have never heard of before: Denis Hamill.  The title of his novel, Fork in the Road, caught my attention.  After a quick look at the synopsis and reading the first page, I was convinced. 

 

I also bought Amulet by Roberto Bolano.  He is not an unknown author as his novel 2066 is much talked about, but I have not read anything by him.  I was glad to find this book which is less intimidating than 2066 and tickled my curiosity.

I’m delighted with my findings and look forward to reading them!

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This is the country road that goes to the village where I live.  Since I have lived here, I have always loved driving along this part of the road, which is like a tunnel of trees.  Every beginning of each month I will take a picture from the same spot and post it here.

I think this photo does not really reflect the season; it would have been better if there had been some frost on the trees.  But this is Ireland and it seems that the weather on this first day of the month of February decided to agree with the fact that it is officially Spring.

Spring?  The first year I was in Ireland, I had a laugh when I was told on the 1st of February that it was the beginning of spring.  I thought this person did not know what she was talking about or that people had been taught strange things at school.  Surely, spring starts on the 21st of March, the day of the equinox?

I have since discovered that Ireland has its own seasonal calendar.  When most countries in the North hemisphere would follow an astrological calendar, based on the dates of the solstices and equinoxes, or a meteorological one, Ireland has a calendar based on pagan traditions.  Thus, spring starts on the 1st of February, summer on the 1st of May, autumn on the 1st of August and winter on the 1st of November.

Spring, you say?  It might be time to plant the seeds I have bought for my summer veg then….

Here is an extract from Margaret Atwood’s poem “February” (how appropriate?).  You can read the whole poem here.

Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

This is a new feature on my blog: I will be posting on the various bookstores I visit.

Yesterday, I went to do my Christmas shopping and visited my favourite bookstore in Cork: Vibes & Scribes.  They actually have three stores in the city.  The first two, on Lavitt’s Quay, are adjacent.  One is dedicated to crafts and the other to art and photography books. 

Craft store sign

Art book store sign

 

The art book store

There is a huge choice of books on various topics such as cooking, travel, Irish interest, etc, and many gift ideas, which are presented on display tables.  They also have a section for children’s books and fiction/classics, although it is much smaller than in their other store.  It is a nice store but I find its layout a little too open for my liking.  I think it is too bright and modern, but the selection there is fantastic.

Bridge Street store

Bridge Street store: entrance to another world

The store on Bridge Street is my favourite.  The door itself is inviting.  It is an old building with floors made of wood and apparent beams on the ceiling of the top floor.  There is a nice atmosphere and customers tend to take their time and be absorbed browsing. 

The ground floor has an interesting choice of fiction, classics and children’s books, as well as a sample of art books and the likes.  The first floor is the domain of second-hand books.  They are categorised and alphabetically ordered, which is rare for second-hand bookshops.  I could spend hours there, I love browsing the shelves and the music they play is always great, although maybe not to everybody’s taste (it was brilliant as a relief from Christmas music).  I also appreciate the fact that they have separated chick lit from fiction.  They also have a section for classics, drama/poetry/short stories and foreign books.  However, I was disappointed not to see their section for literary criticism yesterday.

Ground floor: new books

First floor: second-hand books

Their prices are reasonable and they usually have many special offers.  Yesterday, you could get 3 new books for €12 and the choice was great.  I had to refrain myself from buying everything.  I also spotted the paperback edition of The Year of the Flood for €6.99; I was impressed!  One of the books you can always find at the counter is The Little Prince by St Exupery; it’s the Wordsworth edition and is therefore cheap (they also have an Irish version of it).  I always add a copy of it to my shopping as I love offering this book.  However, I found their prices for second-hand books a bit dear: they were mostly at €4.99 or €5.99.  That’s more than the new ones on special offer.  I tend to buy second-hand because it allows me to get more books and books I would not necessarily have bought otherwise, but as I did not find any that were at the top of my list, I resisted the impulse.

At the minute, books that are at the top of my list are written by Canadians and I did not see that many.  Of course, Atwood, Munro, Martell and Shields were there, and there might have been others I did not see, but the choice was quite limited.  I suppose it is normal; after all, it is a bookshop in Ireland and it should promote its own national literature, which it does.  You could therefore find Room by Emma Donoghue on one of the tables suggesting gift ideas (I’m just teasing).

This winter in Ireland has been relatively extreme.  After the heavy rains of November, which caused much of the country to be flooded; the icy weather at Christmas, causing many falls and car crashes; we were treated by some snowfalls.  It is a rare occurence in Ireland and it was amusing to see the whole country stop for a couple of days.

Unfortunately, I was sick and unable to go for nice walk in the countryside but here are a few pictures I managed to take near my house.

I’ve always found the Irish sky amazing! Unfortunately, I can’t find the words to describe it, so instead I’ve been going around with my camera to try to capture its beauty. I’m not sure my pictures are faithful enough, but there you go!

And to accompany these photos, what better song than Kate Bush’s ‘The Big Sky’?

 

 

 

 

By the way, this is my first slideshow and I’m very proud!

Last night, a friend took me out for dinner to celebrate the end of my degree. I hadn’t been to a restaurant for ages (work excluded!), and I had been looking forward to do my first mini-review on this blog. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me! Anyway, I decided to go ahead, but there won’t be any photos for you, sorry!

As it wasn’t planned, we decided to go somewhere close, there are only three restaurants, which include a Chinese, in Cloyne. We picked up Harty’s for its choice of fish: gratin of cod, poached monkfish, pan-fried plaice, pan-fried black sole, and raywing. Cloyne being only a few kilometers from the fishing village of Ballycotton, the chances are the fish is fresh!

The restaurant itself is quite big. It is a long and wide room with a few windows on the side. A couch is sitting at the entrance across from the desk and there’s a fire (fake) at the end of the room. The room is quite rural, unfortunately it looks empty. The walls, painted white and dark red, are bare except for a couple of paintings and some mirrors – too many; the room is big enough as it is! There are a few nice pieces of furniture, but there are empty, why not put some books on the shelves for instance? As a result, the room lacks atmosphere and intimacy, it could be much more cosy with only a few changes. And why, oh why, those white table cloths? I hate them, and they seem to be everywhere around here! It seems to be saying: ‘Look! we have table cloths, we are a high standard restaurant’!

Foodwise, it was good, nothing too fancy, and the prices were reasonable-ish. For starter, I had Shanagarry smoked salmon served with a salad (green leaves, tomatoes, and the usual pickle cucumbers, they seem quite popular around here also!) and a chive crème fraiche. I must say, as smoked salmon goes, it was very tasty. For main course, my friend ordered the poached monkfish with a red pepper sauce, and I ordered the pan-fried black sole with a herb butter sauce. We were both a bit disappointed. His sauce was actually the same as mine with a couple of red pepper dice, and my sole was breaded and a tiny bit over-cooked. However, it was still tasty. Both were served with a selection of veg: carrots, broccoli, and mash. I skipped on the dessert, but my friend had a warm apple sponge cake, which was quite nice.

The wine list was extensive enough for a village restaurant, and there was a bit of variety. I only had a glass of the house wine, French, and it was quite decent for a house wine, fresh and crispy.

The restaurant was quiet enough, and there was only one waitress, but she gave us an excellent service. The only major irritation was that we were under the speakers that churned out the same album three times in a row, and it wasn’t the best choice of music for us, it was like a wedding gig rather than restaurant music…

Overall, it was good but not impressive. I would go back because I live close, but wouldn’t go out of my way for it. It wasn’t that cheap that you could say ‘let’s go for some good value grub at Harty’s!’.

 

Welcome here! and thank you for taking the time to have a look at this blog!

Sheep at TaraSheep at TaraSheep at Tara

Sheep at TaraSheep at Tara

I’m sorry, but I will have to start with a big scream for my country of adoption, Ireland. ‘Stop building the motorway through Tara!’.

For those of you who do not know Ireland, the Hill of Tara was the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland. It is one of the most significant heritage site in Ireland. A motorway is at this moment being built, which is supposed to go through the Tara-Skryne valley. I invite you to have a look at this BBC article to have an idea of what’s going on.

Basically, the debate goes between those who want to preserve the national heritage and those who wish for a motorway so that they can get to work faster. I do support the improvement of roads in Ireland, but I think it shouldn’t be to the detriment of the national heritage.

Since the economic boom, the Celtic tiger as it is called, the country has been ravaged by new buildings. Housing estates are sprouting everywhere and deteriorating the beauty of the Irish landscape. There doesn’t seem to be any laws to protect the national heritage, or if there are, there are not obvious to the common eye. The infrastructure of the country does need to be improved, but it should also be planned and thought through, which I think is not the case.

In my opinion, if the motorway goes through the valley, it means that there are no limits, anything can be done to the country!

If you wish to learn more about the situation at Tara, visit the Hill of Tara blog or the activists site. If you feel concerned, you can sign the petition here. Help to preserve one of the most beautiful countries in the world!

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