Two Boys in a Boat
August 19, 2014
Two Boys in a Boat
Auntie Dee with Fionn and Ruadhan in the pool in St. Hippolyte.
Daly's Cleve Hill
August 07, 2014
Daly's Cleve Hill
This is my mother's Granfather and Grandmother photographed in their house in Cleve Hill in Blackrock in Cork sometime around the turn of the last century. I always had a notion that some of them fought in the Great War and so, given the week that is in it, went looking for some information about this family.
The photo shows my Great Grandfather and his wife surrounded by their eleven children, ten sons and one daughter.
My brother David was able to send me some notes which my Mother had given him and the rest is just bits and pieces from my unreliable memory.
The picture always hung in the family home and I would frequently ask my Mother about the people in it.None, as it turned out actually died in the Great war but neither did they all come out unscathed.
First man on the left, holding a bicycle is my Grandfather Frank Daly,my mother's Dad, who died shortly before I was born and had spent his life working in his father's firm; M.D. Daly- Tea Importers in Cork.
Next one on in the sailor suit is Harry, Harry was (like his brother Gussie) captured by the Japanese in Singapore. He was apparently a great humourist and famous for keeping the morale high in the camp, where he lost 7 stone before his rescue.
Next sitting, is Mossie, the eldest I imagine as he carries the Father's name, Maurice, and presumably continued to run the family firm after his demise.
Next along, also in a sailor suit is Gussie , who was also captured by the Japenese when working in a bank in Signapore during WW2 and died in the campof malnutrition.
Next one is Jim, complete with ringlets, the youngest who was dressed as a girl as was the custom of the day (my mother used to tell me it was to stop him being abducted by fairies) Now Jim did go and fight in WW1 but obviously survived, married a lady called Jennie Twohig became an excellent tennis player and was just maybe a little flighty- the only cryptic note about him from my mother was that he "had several jobs" !
Next along, sitting in a light jacket is Louis, who when on his honymoon during WW1, was in a ship torpedoed by a German submarine. While in the water, my mother told me, he was able to open his gold watch, a present from his older brother Mossie for his 21st, and use the reflect rays of the sun to show a life boat his position. he went on to become a General in the British army and died in his bed.
Next sitting is my Great Grandmother and behind her Michael who must have been the second born.With her arm around her mother is the second youngest Mary, the only girl, who was a great disappointment to all as she meant the boys could not form a cricket team, having only 10 boys instead of 11.( She is the only one I remember and must have visited us when I was a child)
Behind her is Neil who did go and fight and die but in the Boer war where he died in 1903, it must have been very shortly after this picture was taken.
In front of him is Maurice the patrician Pater Familias and after him another two of her uncles Joe and Jack about whom my mother could remember nothing.
The house, which looks very grand in the picture was afterwards demolished and Cleve Hill in Cork is now a housing estate.
So as I said, no great WW1 martyrs but a great history of brave men , two at least of whom died for their cause and 5 of whom fought for it in different ways.
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August 05, 2014
Pesto is on my mind at the moment. A local friend who had a good crop of sweet scented Basil was off to England and gave me a huge bouquet of the stuff "rather than let it go to seed" So, the obvious solution was to make some Pesto.
Now I have made a fair few Pesto Type sauces before, from Sorrel, from Watercress and even Parsley, anytime I had a surplus of any of these in the garden, but strangely never have I had a sufficient surplus of Basil to make up the real thing. But then, before I lost the run of myself, I notice that the good Rory O Connell in his new cookbook claims that any of these other, non basil, substitutes, actually make a better "Pesto" than Basil and he says "I strongly believe that most people's experience of the classic basil pesto is an unpleasant one,"
But seeing as how it was Basil I had I headed off to make it anyway.
Next problem was to get someone with some sort of accurate idea of the proportions needed- a whole lot of people I noticed shirked it with words like "handfulls" and "To taste" all cheaty recipe writer words for "I am too lazy to weigh it". (I speak here from personal experience).
To my amazement the only person who went to the trouble of weighing was La Grande Dame herself , Elizabeth David, in "Italian Food" and here are her proportions.
For 150g of fresh Basil Leaves use 2 Medium cloves garlic peeled and sliced. 75 g of Pine Nuts, 75 g Parmesan (sliced) pinch salt and ground black pepper.
Put these into a food processor (she advises a pestle and mortar) and work into a paste. She then adds 75 ml of Olive oil and continues to work to get a smooth(ish) paste (I added twice that amount)
Pour into a jar and then cover and seal the paste with more olive oil and keep in the fridge. It will last, they tell me, for several weeks.
Now whether it is the quality of the sweet Languedoc Basil, or my less refined taste buds I found the result a long way from unpleasant, in fact it was superb. I have already used it with great success, mixed with butter and spread over opened mussels in the half shell, baked for about 10 mts in a hot oven before being sprinkled with coarse crisp roasted baguette crumbs and tonight it will be dribbled over a crustade of crunchy olive oil baked slices of pain de campagne, spread with melted onions and then topped with local delicious black skinned tomatoes and soft fresh goats cheese before a short sojourn in the hot oven. I am fairly sure it'll go down a treat.
Re-Entry from September 2006
July 31, 2014
Re-Entry from September 2006
This was written in September 2006 and I called it a Second Epiphany.
Incredible to think it is close to eight years ago now!
It was in November 2003, just three years ago when I had a second epiphany.
By this I mean a moment when my thoughts clarified, and I found a way out of my problems of the time.
James Joyce defines an epiphany as "A sudden spiritual manifestation", the OED gives as it 's meaning, after the religious definitions, : “a sudden and important realisation”, and that description will do me fine.
My previous mention of an epiphany was in my very second blog, in February of 2004, when I realised that I wasn’t going to be a teacher and decided, a decision I have never regretted, that I would do what I enjoyed most and become a cook.
That was in 1972, thirty one years prior to 2003.
In 2003 I had been chef and proprietor of my restaurant, “Dwyers”, in Waterford for fourteen years. It was a successful restaurant but as time went on running it was becoming more and more stressful..
Running a restaurant takes an enormous amount of time.
Not only does one have to be an expert chef (or at least employ one) but also a skilful bookkeeper, be well versed in employee relations, have an ability to charm customers, be a skilled self publicist, and an expert hygienist. One must have an ability to do all the jobs in the restaurant at a moments notice and must always realise that every night off and every holiday has to be paid for from ones own pocket.
Of course it has its rewards, it is creative, lively and stimulating and it is always satisfying to be ones own employer.
That last factor is of course also the most dangerous.
Having been ones own employer it is extremely difficult to imagine working for someone else.
I once read a restaurant critic state that restaurants were such a transient business that he thought that ,like cats, restaurants should be given credit for seven years existence for every year they managed to survive.
At that reckoning Dwyers was 91 years old, a respectable age to retire.
More importantly I was 54 years old myself and I was beginning to feel that running restaurants was a young mans game.
I can’t say I reached this decision lightly.
Running ones own business becomes a bit like rearing a child.
It can become very difficult to let go at the appropriate time.
In November of 2003 Sile and I had just come back from a few days in St. David’s in Wales.
During most of my time there I had been worried and phoning the restaurant because we were having problems with blocked sewage pipes
(not a pleasant thing for a restaurant)
The thought was striking me that the business was running my life even when I was away.
It was also dawning on me (it had dawned on my wife some time previously) that the moment to sell the restaurant was at hand.
I was still being faced with the problem with what to do with my life afterwards.
This was the moment of the epiphany.
I decided that I should ask myself the same question I had asked myself thirty one years before.
What would I really enjoy doing?
Since the early years of our marriage we had been going to France on our annual summer holidays.
Initially we had gone with Sile’s sister Una and her family, four adults and six children, latterly we had also gone with a group of contemporaries, relations and friends.
On all of these holidays, and by my own personal choice, I was the designated chef. I discovered that to cook for a mere eight to ten people was a pleasure and relaxation from the stresses of cooking and running a restaurant. It was a reminder of why I took up cooking in the first place.
Couple that with the delights of shopping in the markets, shops and even supermarkets of France and I was in my element for the holiday.
It was from this that I found the answer to my question.
This was the moment when I suddenly saw the future.
Instead of going into a sudden boring retirement, or facing employment by someone else (on the unlikely event of it being offered to a man in his middle fifties) I could do what I loved.
Cook for small numbers of people in France.
We could buy and operate a Chambres d’Hote in France.
There is a difference between the Irish concept of B&B and the French Chambres d’Hote.
The French concept is very much more that of visiting the home of the host and to this end the proprietor usually eats with the guests at the same table.
We had used the French lodgings on our travels and enjoyed the experience very much.
This I suddenly saw would be a way to live my life in the future.
That was in November in 2003, amazingly by June of 2004 we had cooked the last meal in the restaurant and we had successfully sold it on.
By late September the deal was signed sealed and delivered and we were living in our present house in Griffith Place here in Waterford.
Since the restaurant life hasn’t exactly comprised of lolling around in boredom. I do have certain jobs which I have maintained, as consultant chef and even doing some local culinary journalism. Not to mention flying about the country and the continent of behalf of Euro-Toques.
We have however found time to start looking for a place to set up our Chambres d’Hote.
This was at last realised in August of this year.
We found our ideal house.
As we looked we began to realise the various essentials we needed for our house in France.
It had to be:
Big enough to have four bedrooms each with its own bathroom.
This would give us three to let (or give to visiting daughters) and one for ourselves.
It had to be within a very limited budget.
It must be far enough South to have a noticeably better climate than Ireland.
The sun was certainly going to be a factor.
We were sure that it had to be in a village.
We had stayed in too many houses in the country, owned by non residents, which had Fort Knox type fortifications against robbery. We knew that in villages neighbours looked after each other.
And we also wanted to be able to nip down the village for the morning croissants and even for a pichet in the café.
It had to have a small garden, (rare this in the centre of a village) but this had to be big enough to take a swimming pool.
It must have a certain age and character, we found that modern French villas were as soulless as the their Irish equivalents.
Lastly, we both had to fall for it.
La Presbytere in Thezan les Beziers has pressed all the buttons.
For me it was love at first sight, for Sile it had to wait until the second viewing.
You can see some pictures of the presbytery in its full tattiness here.
As I write the contracts for sale are before me and we are going out to the house next week , with designer and friend Clive Nunn, to put together our plans for its eventual restoration.
God knows what hoops we will have to jump through with French builders and French Mairies, with new neighbours and the constant problems of translation but now we have certainly opened a door in to another phase of our life, the final phase of the epiphany in November of three years ago.
It shows all the signs of being as much fun and as scary as our previous existences.
Sile walks towards the Presbytery in Thezan.
Le Quatuour Debussy
July 28, 2014
Le Quatuour Debussy
Just as Le Quatuour Debussy were playing the last notes of their concert which opened the festival Les Nuits des Terasses et del Catet last week the heavens opened.
Luckily someone was on hand to hold a borrowed umbrella over their head. It is from City Life, my brother Ted's business in Cork.