I rarely enter enter Facebook competitions as I suppose I just think I'll never win, but about an hour after one click on the J-bird bakery Facebook page I was messaged to say that I had won 6 Christmas cupcakes! So off I trotted to their lovely premise on Bloomfield Avenue to collect my goods and took a few shots while I was there. You will have to visit yourself to appreciate the wonderfully sweet baking aroma that hits you when you enter the shop. When you do, you will not be able to resist tasting one of their delicious cupcakes. With amazing flavour combinations and decedent frosting, I couldn't help myself and had 2 that evening. Well, it is Christmas....
There is maybe nothing I can say about The Turner Prize exhibition being held in Derry~Londonderry until 5th January, that will change the already made up mind of one who has decided it's just 'not for them'. Neither will I go on at great length about the offerings and vision of each of the 4 nominees, as much has previously been written by those more qualified than me (I urge you to click here to read The Guardian review). What I can say, is that the significance of this prestigious annual exhibition and prize presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50, being held for the first time in it's history outside of England is not lost on me. In fact, I am tremendously glad to have experienced it.
Our City of Culture 2013 has done well here with the aesthetics. Ebrington Square and the former army barracks have been specially redesigned for the event and look fantastic. However, with this being such a coup for the city, I would have expected a glut of signage relating to the exhibition for drivers. When I eventually found the way in (on the same road as 'The Venue') even a friendly security guard remarked at my frustration, "I know, you'd think they would want people to find it". If on foot however, just walk over The Peace Bridge and you can't go wrong.
This is the art award never far from controversy and perhaps it is David Shrigley who has stirred up the brunt of criticism from the most conservative and perhaps religious commentators in this small land. His 7ft naked life model that occasionally pees into a bucket is what first confronts us on entry into the exhibition. We are also invited to sit at an easel and attempt to draw the misproportioned figure and display our efforts on the wall. I haven't attempted any life drawing in several years but took up the challenge to be part of the Turner Prize 2013 exhibition and in doing so, understood a little bit more of what Shrigley may have been trying to convey.
I know that the winner has already been announced, but I am speaking the truth when I say that Laure Prouvost's haunting film with accompanying installation was my favourite piece. I watched it 3 times through and was mesmerized.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's beautifully displayed paintings appeared at first glance to be the most conventional of the works, but on further appreciation have a much deeper narrative. I found her black skinned figures with burning white eyes to be almost arresting.
It was the offering of Tino Sehgal that left me scratching my head. No work on display, but a friendly exhibition volunteer, whose mission it was to commence a one-on-one discussion with me, 'the viewer' on the subject of 'The Market Economy'. Cue debate of 'is this art?'.
A few weeks after my visit I was listening to The Stephen Nolan show on the radio one morning and Pastor Mark Bradfield of Bethel Baptist Church Londonderry (a man who once described homosexuality as 'an abomination') was having a debate with one of Northern Ireland’s foremost artists, Rita Duffy (whose guidance I was once privileged to receive as an 'A' level Art student) about the Turner Prize 2013. Most of the discussion was centered around Shrigley's model 'peeing in a bucket' with the Pastor feeling that this was a 'most disgusting' thing for school children age visitors to see. Rita went on to say that 'Art is a reflection of everyday life and everything that we experience, and we all PISS Pastor, don't we?' I nearly spat out my morning coffee.....
I hope many school children see the exhibition and in turn may be inspired one day to inject some more life into the visual arts scene in Northern Ireland. This, can only be a good thing.
After a morning taking photos of 60 gorgeous nursery kids west of Dublin I needed some refueling so decided to visit the large Avoca store just off the N7 before heading north. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was streaming into the large windows in the restaurant where I proceeded to have the most delicious brunch of mushrooms on toast.
It was ironic that whilst sitting in the restaurant of this beautiful 'lifestyle' store that I was struck by an article in the Health & Living supplement of The Irish Independent about why women are leaving the workplace and going back into the kitchen. Are we all hankering back to the 1950s and trying to be domestic goddesses? I mean, who doesn't love a bit of Cath Kidson and a homemade cupcake? Here I was, in Avoca surrounded by the stuff. I own pastel coloured silicone baking trays thanks to The Great British Bake Off, a glue gun thanks to Kirsty's Homemade Home and George Clarke's Amazing Spaces has pushed me to search online for a vintage caravan on several occasions. I am also no stranger to stalking a good cooking and home decor blog (check out The Pioneer Woman & Freutcake) and don't even get me started on the spiders web that is Pinterest.
We are living in a world where pictures of beautiful lifestyles are bookmarked in Orla Kiely covered gadgets in our pockets and handbags. They are lovely to look at and to sometimes try to emulate. But, it's definitely still okay to buy a ready made dessert and turn it out onto that Cath Kidson cake stand.
After a couple of nights in Farnham Estate, we headed on down to Dublin (via Kildare Village, as I was able to convince Brian that this was a perfectly acceptable route to take and was practically 'on the way'). Post a quick dash around the shops, we headed into Temple Bar and knew exactly where we wanted to eat. We have been to The Port House Pintxo before and the relaxed dining atmosphere, great wine and fantastic selection of authentic tapas was going to finish off the weekend quite nicely. Like 'Jose' on Bermondsey Street in London where I had visited with Sarah, you can hear the Spanish accents from the staff, the wine glasses are huge and the lights are low.
And an extra bonus with The Port House - it is open late late late....
A previous overuse of the Facebook check in button resulted in Facebook being able to tell me that I had already visited Farnham Estate 5 times before this trip. I wouldn't have even realised this myself, but it meant that I could enjoy some lovely thoughts whilst trying to recount each of these trips.
I do love this place, whether with a group of girlfriends or the husband, I can't fault it. Nestled in the Cavan countryside the surroundings really shine in some beautiful autumn weather. I had some lovely spa time and Brian enjoyed some golf with me accompanying as the buggy chauffeur.
Normally when we arrive at Farnham, we park the car and it doesn't move until we leave. This time however we had a wee trip into Cavan town. We found a pub where Brian could watch sport and I could read the papers. As we were sitting watching & reading in our own little worlds and not saying one word to each other, the friendly landlord commented, without a hint of sarcasm, that we appeared to be an extremely happy looking couple. Perhaps pure contentment is having absolutely nothing to do, with the one that you love. 💙
Eateries which are serving dishes in beaten enamel cookware, cocktails in jam jars and providing rolls of kitchen towel to wipe your face seem to be popping up with increasing regularity in our little city. 'Bubbacue', 'Alley Cat', 'Meat in a Bap' and the very recently opened 'Yard Bird' spring to mind. Birdcage on Stranmillis Road has been around for a while, and whilst some critics may have been less than kind in terms of the food and originality of the concept, 5 of us (3 adults & 2 kids) decided to give it a try on a Halloween night, to fill our bellies before being scared witless at the Crumlin Road Gaol Fright Night.
Fill our bellies we did. We proceeded to order too much chicken, too many sides and a nacho starter that we clearly did not need. Add a jam jar for myself, of soda, fresh mint and lime with a (large) shot of gin added at the table and I could have rolled out of the place.
Our chicken was mainly in the form of wings. Soy & traditional buffalo. 2 buckets. Patatas Bravas seemed to be a bit of a random side dish on the menu, but as I love them, they were ordered. The buffalo wings were almost as tasty as any I have tried outside of America (the Hudson Bar still wins on this - theirs are GOOD). The soy were less my thing but the kids loved them after they had cooled down enough to handle.
Given the area most of the staff were most likely students and given the style of the place I wouldn't expect much more from the servers than a fair amount of efficiently and a bit of banter. On this, they delivered, and all seemed to be getting into the spirit of things in their fancy dress.
Birdcage is a great option for a relaxed dining experience in pleasant surroundings. With the outdoor area, I'm sure you could do a lot worse on a summer's day than sitting outside here with a bucket of chicken wings and a jam jar full of gin & juice. Only about 6 months to go until I can give that a try...
Jude Malone is a Photographer and Designer based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She loves having a trip to look forward to, live music, proper coffee and cluttering up her coffee tables with really nice festival programs.