Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Well, it was Friday night last week. It'll be Friday night next week and every week until we're dead. And even then, the whole rotten business will go on and on and on.

Hello again! I'm getting slowly back into the habit of blogging semi-frequently, leaving it only months at a time between posts rather than actual years. Progress, eh? I keep hearing that blogging is dead and perhaps it is. I certainly don't think that there are more than about five people still reading here (although hello to the five of you: I am grateful you're still here!) but sure, instagram has become unusable and I won't make reels so it's nice to have a place where I can just write down what I'm thinking, even if it is mostly nonsense.

Anyway, I've been having good craic here since my last post. We had a beautiful spring and although summer has been tentative to get going, I've been enjoying it immensely. For me there is something incredibly nostalgic about the smells of spring and summer here that I think are quite distinct to Ireland: the mix in the air of turf smoke (I do feel quite guilty about enjoying this smell because burning turf is SO bad for the environment) and the green smells of the trees and the grass and the summer wildflowers brings me right back to my childhood summers and even more to my teenage summers in Donegal. Although Dublin is a city, in our leafy corner of the southside it feels quite village-like with the sea and the countryside on our doorstep. It's very lovely.

The Cherry Tree path in Herbert Park. When we arrived last year we had missed it, so I really enjoyed the few weeks of blossom this year. My phone is mainly photos of cherry blossom now.

Anyway I've been having a grand time since my last post. We spent Easter weekend with my family in the north, which was great. Even after a year here, I feel very lucky to be able to just take a train home whenever I feel like it! I also took the train north more recently to spend the day in Belfast with my best friend, who lives there. It was such a good day and a lovely reminder of what it feels like to be able to semi-spontaneously make a plan for a day out, which is something I used to do all the time before the pandemic and the move.

A sunny day in Belfast

We've had a few really nice days out and short trips over the last couple of months. We visited the National Botanic Gardens up in Glasnevin in the autumn, but the greenhouses were still closed to the public at that stage, but on a return visit a couple of weeks ago we were able to go in around the greenhouses. They are spectacular! The only ones I'd been into before were the glasshouses in the botanic gardens in both Belfast (small but lovely) and Oxford (bigger, lovely, but somewhere you have to pay to get into) so the scale of these was a little surprising: they're massive! 

This monstera is only slightly bigger than the one in my living room, which is putting out new leaves at the rate of about three a week at the moment.

I'm pretty terrible at remembering to take photos on a day out now, but a couple of Saturdays ago we enjoyed a beautifully sunny afternoon by the sea, walking from Seapoint along to Dun Laoghaire. It was the second half of a walk we had first attempted to do on St. Patrick's Day - from Sandymount Strand along the coast to Dun Laoghaire but that day we got the DART home from Seapoint because it started to rain. It's a lovely walk, most of which you can do right along the sea itself. Once we got to Dun Laoghaire, we had a little potter around the town and had a few drinks in the sunshine before heading home on the train. 

Sea swimmers at Seapoint

I've heard this summer being referred to as the summer of 'revenge travel', which is to say, people taking all the trips and holidays that they were unable to during the last two years. I feel this urge in myself and we have ended up having a trip of some sort planned for almost every month of the year so far. In May, our trip was down to Galway for a long weekend in the city. I had only been to Galway once before, when we had a family holiday there when I was a teenager, but it had really made an impression on me as somewhere I wanted to visit again. Nic's work took him on a day-trip to Connemara, so I joined him for that and we spent the rest of the weekend in Galway city.

Nic was visiting the Telegael studios in Connemara, just outside An Spidéal, which was very cool. We spent an afternoon there with some model-making students in studios that had formerly been occupied by Roger Corman! We only had a few hours there but thankfully it included a walk through the countryside down to the beach where we could watch the tiny planes taking off to head to the Aran Islands.

Beautiful white sand in Connemara

Galway is gorgeous. It's pretty small, but very popular as there seems to be some sort of festival on for each weekend of the year. The weekend we visited, there was a ukulele festival on! We stayed in the Connacht Hotel, which is just outside of the city centre, and it was also very popular, although it seemed to mainly be popular with stag and hen parties - when we arrived to check in, there were a group of women in towels wearing penis-shaped hats pushing themselves around the lobby on one of those luggage trollies - but thankfully the hotel is so big that we weren't disturbed by them at all in our room.

We didn't do anything very exciting over the course of the weekend apart from explore the city. Nic got his first experience of live traditional Irish music at the Crane Bar in the west end of the city, which was great. We spent hours in both Kenny's bookshop and Charlie Byrne's bookshop. Kenny's is quite simply the biggest bookshop I've ever been in - it's essentially a giant warehouse of books with an art gallery attached to it and it was a great place to spend a couple of hours on a rainy Saturday morning. I remembered Charlie Byrne's bookshop from my teenage visit to Galway as it was there that I spent my holiday money on secondhand copies of Terry Pratchett novels, which I read on the grass in Eyre Square drinking my first ever takeaway coffee.

One of many stacks of books in Kenny's bookshop

Charlie Byrne's bookshop

One of my favourite things that we did was walking from the Spanish Arch out along the coast to Salthill, including walking out the causeway to Mutton Island. You can't get onto the island itself, which is mainly just home to a water treatment plant (although according to wikipedia it is a popular place for marriage proposals, which... ?????) but walking out the causeway is still pretty interesting! Salthill isn't super exciting but I'm glad we went because it meant that we could go to Curry's Amusements - basically, I wanted to go on the ferris wheel and on the waltzers. Both were BRILLIANT. The ferris wheel was great because of the views over Galway Bay, of course. The waltzers were brilliant because they are by far my favourite fairground attraction and I hadn't been on the waltzers since maybe the summer of 2019. We also went on the chair-o-plane, because why not. 

From the ferris wheel at Salthill. The Galway weather was ... not great... for my hair!

Claddagh Quay, Galway

We were only away for a couple of days but it felt like a proper holiday - very unhurried and relaxing, and we were very lucky with the weather. It's extremely changeable, being on the Atlantic, but it was more sunny than not over the course of the weekend and we only got caught in the rain once. I hope we'll make it back down there at some point later this year so we can do the boat tour that I saw advertised that takes you to Aran Mór via the Cliffs of Moher.

Next week we are heading back to Paris for a few days and we have plans for London in August, the south of France in September and Kerry in November... I guess revenge travel really is a thing!

In between all the flitting about, I've managed a little bit of sewing. I decided not to make a full 'Me Made May' pledge this year but to take part by remembering to get photos when I was wearing handmade clothes. Although we have more space overall in our house in Dublin than we had in our flat in Leamington, my wardrobe is much smaller. Between that and the fact that since the pandemic and the move my style has changed, I have been gradually working my way through my clothes and saying goodbye to the clothes I don't want to wear any more. Keeping track of what I did and didn't want to wear in May - and what shop-bought clothes I wore - was very helpful in doing another bit of a wardrobe cull and in sewing a few bits in a slightly different style.

I've been gravitating towards wearing - and therefore making - big clothes with a lot of fabric. I've found myself wearing the Justine Tabak dress I bought secondhand and altered earlier this year pretty much every week, and that's definitely inspired me to make a few more dresses that fit the description of being big, colourful and comfortable.

Justine Tabak dress with Be Thankful cardigan, worn during May

With that in mind, pretty much everything I've sewed for myself in the last couple of months has met that brief. I wanted to riff on the style of the Justine Tabak dress using a pattern I already had, so I took the Nina Lee Bakerloo dress and used it as a base for making a loose-fitting dress with puffed sleeves and a tiered skirt. I had the idea in my head and wanted to test it out on fabric I wasn't overly attached to, so I used some Orla Kiely bed linen that I had been given but which was too big for my bed:

Hydrangea dress on a windy day (every day is a windy day in Dublin)

The fabric is absolutely beautiful quality and because I was working from a king-sized set, I had loads to work with! I omitted the collar from the Bakerloo pattern and put a zip in the back rather than using the button fastening. I don't really like having to pull clothes on over my head and would rather have to do up a zip than have my hair all rumpled by my clothes. Instead of using narrow elastic in the sleeve hem to create a ruffle, I used wider elastic and finished the sleeves in a similar way to how the Assembly Line cuff dress sleeves are finished and I like it a lot. The dress ended up being a little bigger overall than I was planning but I'm happy with it and have worn it a reasonable number of times since then. I don't think it looks extremely like it was made out of bedclothes - I hope it doesn't, anyway!!

As I was so happy with how this worked out, I had a go again using some Ankara fabric that I bought when we were in Paris in March. I cut the bodice a size smaller but that was the only change I made from the Orla Kiely version. I've worn this dress pretty much every week since I made it at the beginning of May - the print has some stylised birds on it... geese, or swans? As with lots of wax cottons, the print design runs parallel to the selvedge which can make it a little tricky if you don't want to work on the cross grain. But I think it looks good here - even though the birds are flying weirdly sideways, I think it's abstract enough to work. 

Ankara Bakerloo dress - the first time I wore it was out for drinks with Nic, a book launch at the Museum of Literature, dinner and drinks on the walk home. Fabulous!

Drinks in the sunshine at Le Perroquet

The combination of the wax cotton and the tiered skirt put me in mind of Kemi Telford's fabulous maxi dresses, so I decided to use this combination with the other piece of wax cotton that I bought in Paris, but this time add another tier and go maxi. I made this dress at the weekend there and wore it out for drinks on Saturday evening:

it is literally ALWAYS windy in Dublin!

I used almost all of the 5 and a half metres of this fabric on the dress and it really does feel like a LOT of fabric on. It's intense. I might go back and lower the neckline slightly because as it stands it is very full coverage, but it is pleasingly very swishy to walk around in! When I came down the stairs in it to show it to Nic he told me I looked like Omega from The Three Doctors and... I have to admit, I can see it! I would wear Omega's outfit. Hat and everything.

It's been a little strange to find myself not wanting to wear clothes that I really loved wearing pre-pandemic. For example, during May I wore what had been one of my very favourite dresses - the Honoria dress, made with beautiful Ralph Lauren linen - and just wasn't that bothered about it at all. I'm keeping it for the time being and have packed it away, but there were several other dresses that I just had no interest in any more. While it's very normal and usual for your tastes to change over time, I think I find this strange because it has happened largely as a result of the last few years. Sometimes I look back on 2020 in particular and wonder how we did it. It seems like such a strange time to look back on. I had a far easier year than a lot of people but with a little distance, thinking about it makes me want to be sick with sadness and grief. 

Increasingly, I think I'm experiencing prolonged mental health repercussions from that year (and the year that preceded it, which was personally very difficult) I don't mean that I am unhappy, and it's not even that I'm anxious... it's hard to put into words, but living through the last few years has been traumatic and I feel the impact of that in all sorts of ways all the time. Maybe that's why I'm so keen to surround myself in large amounts of soft fabric. Maybe it's the clothing equivalent of Linus carrying his blanket around with him, I don't know.

I made this McCall's patterns tiered dress a couple of weeks ago. It is intensely unflattering because it looks like I'm wearing a shower curtain but I do like it a lot. It's very comforting to wear.

It does feel a little strange to write that because my life is very happy, and in the last few months especially my ability to get out and do things has increased a lot. But we're all made up of the experiences we've had, and as experiences go the last few years have been intense. I think we'll continue to feel the impact of it for a long time to come. I'm sure I will anyway.

And on that cheery note, I'm going to wrap up because I have gone on for absolutely ages... until next time, mes amies!