Thursday, 28 February 2013

Visit Our Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum
The wow factor begins the second you step into the ground floor of the Natural History Museum  in Dublin’s Merrion Street and see the impressive skeletons of the extinct giant Irish deer. But this fascinating place is not all about the big animals. It is very much about the small as well and you can see the tiniest insects.

All the ground floor is given over to Irish Fauna, much of it dedicated to marine animals, including invertebrate (such as jellyfish) to river and sea fish. Lots of mammals also (such as badgers and foxes) while there is also a big display of birds (some now rare, some extinct).

The museum, also known as the “Dead Zoo”, uses the second level to display its collection of the Mammals of the World. Some big ones here such as giraffes and elephants (bottom) and hanging from the ceiling is a fin whale, some 20 metres long, suspended above the smaller humpback.
Giant Irish Deer

On the north wall, there is the Barrington bird collection, mainly Irish birds along with some that migrate here. I was puzzled that many had been obtained by “striking” until I read in the leaflet that many crashed into Irish lighthouses.
 All in all, a fascinating collection for the child with you or the child in you. Admission is free but don’t forget the donation jar – help is badly needed here. The museum is part of the National Museum which has two other locations in Dublin (Archaeology in Kildare Street and Decorative Arts and History in Benburb Street); a fourth location is in Castlebar where Country Life is the theme.


The Good Doctor

Cobh Food & Heritage Day by CorkBilly
Luke Barry, one of the fab five in The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor

The talent of the CAT Repertory Company was once again illustrated last night with an engaging performance of Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor. Based on stories by Chekov, stories that strongly hint that the world, his world, has gone mad. We all know it is still mad. After all Italy has elected a comic. Then again, haven't we all. 

The Good Doctor helps you see the humour in the disarray. The cure is laughter and is available in the Cork Arts Theatre until March 16th. Prescription cost is a tenner this week, goes up to fifteen for the rest of the run.

You know you are on shaky ground when the Good Doctor admits his self-built house slides down the hill every now and then, with the neighbours waving goodbye or maybe good riddance. The play, a series of playlets really, is just as surreal, and there is laughter galore as one crazy scene follows another.

"The Writer," obviously Chekhov, who himself was a "good doctor," acts as narrator and serves to connect the various scenes. The playlets include "The Sneezer," who cannot apologize enough to a general for splattering a sneeze on his head; "The Seduction" shows a man-about-town using a husband as the conduit for his attempted seduction of the man's new bride. "The Drowned Man" claims to be in the "maritime entertainment business" and will drown himself for a small fee. 

"The Defenceless Creature," a particularly hilarious scene, features a clever wife suffering from a "nervous disorder," who tries to extort money from a banker. In "The Arrangement" a father takes his shy, 19-year-old son to a house of ill repute and then you have “The Audition" where an actress with a temperature of 103 insists on doing the audition for the writer. 

Quite a challenge for the five actors here but all, separately and together, rose to the occasion. Fionula Linehan’s highlight was as the far from Defenceless Creature while Kieran O’Leary was brilliant as her target the banker and was also suitably nervous as a patient to a novice dentist in yet another playlet “The Surgery”.

Rachel O’Connell got everything spot-on, particularly in her audition. Luke Barry made some telling contributions, his playing of the absurd “drowner” perhaps the most hilarious. The Good Doctor himself Dominic McHale held it all together as the narrator and entered a few of the scenes to telling effect, especially as the wily seducer.

The Good Doctor scenes had alternate endings, the writer’s prerogative. It was a kind of pass go and collect five million roubles thing. But that ending, though regularly mentioned, was never applied. Things were mad enough.

Directed by Dolores Mannion 
Starring Fionula Linehan, Kieran O'Leary, Rachel O'Connell, 
Dominic MacHale and Luke Barry.

Tickets: Opening Week - Wed. 27th Feb - Sat. 2nd March - Special Offer price of €10; Tuesday 5th - Saturday 16th March - €15 / €12 Group Rates available

Note: No performances on Sundays or Mondays. No performance on Friday 8th March.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Ring of Beara

The Ring of Beara
The weather may not have been at its best but it never closed in completely and I enjoyed my recent trip around the spectacular Ring of Beara, including a highlight visit to the fascinating Copper Mine Museum in Allihies. Came over the spectcular Healy Pass and down from Adrigole and the first stop was the main town, the fishing port of Castletownbeare. It was busy at the quayside with the catch being loaded onto the lorries. There was a little market in progress on the square with vegetables and plants on sale and also some buffalo meat.

 Next, I made a detour to Dursey. Well, not quite. Got as far as the cable car. There was a large gap in the schedule (no crossing between 11.00am and 2.30 on weekdays), so I had to make do with a look across to the island where nowadays just six people live.
On then to Allihies and its colourful houses and a colourful fence also! The drive up along the West Coast of the peninsula is a very scenic one - I even heard one Kerry person say it is better than the Ring of Kerry - and keeps you close to the sea for long stretches.

Broadhaven Bay, close to Allihies.
 The Copper Mine Museum in Allihies is well worth a visit. Not the biggest but there is a lot of info there and some interesting artefacts from those very tough times where the young weren't spared as you can see from the list of fatalities above. A bit of an eyeopener to say the least.
Copper ignots

There are many connections between the mines in Cornwall and Allhies and, surprisingly, between the little village and Butte (Montana). Check it all out here. Better still, go and visit. And while you are there, why not sample the food at the Copper Cafe (re-opening at Easter) and then follow the Copper Mine Trail, a terrific walk with great views.
With the cafe closed at the time of my visit, I had to do without my cuppa. But not for long. Got a warming cup of hot chocolate at the post office in Eyeries, another colourful village. Here too there is a well maintained public toilet on the main  street.

An isolated house on the drive.

Now I was still heading back into Kerry, though still on the peninsula. Next stop was at Cloonee Lakes (above) and then it was on to Kenmare via the coast road through Kilmackillogue and Tousist.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Family Fun Day at Lifetime Lab

“Meet the Engineers” Family Fun Day at Lifetime Lab

Lifetime Lab at the Old Waterworks will host a family fun Engineering Open Day on Saturday 2nd March from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free and children and adults can enjoy a series of stands and activities which will help discover more about the many different types of engineering.

Activities will include programming VEX robots, LEGO construction challenges, snap circuits, engineering trails, Roman re-enactments, face painting and lots more with all activities staffed by volunteer engineers.

Lifetime Lab manager Mervyn Horgan said “The theme of Engineers Week 2013 is bringing dreams to life and what better way to connect than a free open day with engineers running family friendly activities” adding “We have had a great response from companies in Cork and will have activities from environmental to electrical and structural to civil engineering with plenty of hands on fun”

Eamon Connolly from Cork Electronics Industry Association (CEIA) which showcases high-tech careers in electrical and electronic engineering commented “The reality today is that most projects involve many different types of engineers working together to create an exciting new future for us all. The skills of electronic, software and mechanical engineers all need to be combined to make robots work; electrical and civil engineers work closely together on energy projects and electronic and mechanical engineers are very important in the biomedical industry”

When asked about the weather spoiling the day Mervyn replied “The fun will happen inside as well as outdoors and we are fortunate to have our own marquee, so we are well prepared”

Lifetime Lab is located in the old Cork City Waterworks buildings on the Lee Road. The site now contains a Visitor Centre with interactive environmental exhibits, a steam centre with the original boilers and huge steam engines, a schools resource centre, a coffee dock, a picnic area and children’s playground and is fully wheelchair accessible.

“Meet the Engineers” Open Day run as part of Engineers Week 2013 and sees a whole range of engineering activities available to schools and to the public from February 25th-March 3rd. For further information, please contact Lifetime Lab at:             021-4941500       or view the website

Saturday, 23 February 2013

National Gallery. Under-rated!

National Gallery. Under-rated!
John McCormack by William Orpen
Men of Destiny by Yeats

Jack B. Yeats Show at National Gallery

The collection of Jack B. Yeats personal sketchbooks was the highlight of a recent visit to the National Gallery in Dublin. And a look at some of his paintings in another room was an even bigger highlight.

This is a significant selection of the sketchbooks which became an integral part of his artistic practice and he drew regularly upon them for inspiration for both the subject matter and composition of his more formal oil paintings. The exhibition is complemented by a digital presentation that allows visitors to browse through four complete sketchbooks in addition to letters and photographs selected from the Yeats Archive.

by Van Honthorst
 It is fascinating for an amateur like myself to go through the books, to be introduced to his wife Cottie and his dog Hooligan (what a great name), and then to go and see the big paintings nearby.

The sketchbooks are upstairs in the Beit Wing (Room 13) and the display continues until 5 May 2013. Admission free.

The full size works are currently on display in the Millennium Wing as part of the presentation, Masterpieces from the Collection. These include familiar works such as The Liffey Swim (1923), The Singing Horseman (1949), Men of Destiny (1946), A Lake Regatta (1923) and Above the Fair (1946).

There are many other works by Irish artists here including some by Paul Henry and this magnificent portrait of the singer John McCormack by William Orpen (top).

And that is not all. There is also a huge selection of European works. I thought all the Brueghel paintings were in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna but no, Dublin has a few. Goya, Pissarro, Picasso, even Van Gogh, are all represented.

The gallery, in Merrion Square West, is well worth a visit and there is no admission charge at all.

a Goya

Pieter Bruegel 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Welcome to Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Chapel Royal

13th century Norman tower

In continuous occupation since its establishment in 1204 AD, Dublin Castle has played a prominent role in Ireland's history. And not just Irish history.

For a six month period, ending in June, Ireland holds the rotating presidency of the EU. The Castle will host many of the meetings relating to the presidency, and as a result the State Apartments and Upper Courtyard of the Castle will remain closed to the public until June 30th.

There is still quite a lot to see and do as the complex also contains the Chapel Royal, The Garda Museum, The Chester Beatty Library (and the Silk Road Restaurant), the Revenue Museum, along with a gift shop and restaurants.

To see all the various parts before you go, why not check out this excellent inter-active model on the website here.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

5000 steps at Tramore Valley Park

5000 steps at Tramore Valley Park

Tramore Valley Park will host a 5km walk to support local charities and good causes which will be started by Lord Mayor Cllr. John Buttimer on Saturday 23rd February at 2.30pm.

The walk will consist of the 2 circuits of Tramore Valley Park formerly the Kinsale Road Landfill which is in the process of being developed into a major amenity park for the benefit of the greater Cork area by Cork City Council.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. John Buttimer is calling on all to participate and support your favorite cause saying “The aim of the event is to allow local charities, community groups and volunteer associations come together for one large fund raising event.   All proceeds will be redistributed to the nominated/affiliated causes  co-ordinated through Bishopstown and District Lions Club”

Michael O’ Brien, Senior Engineer, Cork City Council mentioned “The walk will allow members of the public the opportunity to explore and enjoy an area of over 160 acres which in the future will be transformed into a large, flexible park to cater for wide range of events, attractions and programs unique to Cork.”

5000 steps for my favourite cause takes place on Saturday 23rd February at 2.30pm at Tramore Valley Park. Tickets are €5 per participant and available at the event on  the  day.  Ample on-site parking is available.
For further information, please contact Cork City Council at 4924731, 4924729 and 4924662.

Tramore Valley Park is located at the site of the former Kinsale Road Landfill
The event commences at 2.30pm on Saturday February 23rd
Lord Mayor Cllr. John Buttimer will officially start the walk at 2.30pm
Proceeds will be distributed to Marymount Hospice, Arc, Cork Penny Dinners, Brú Columbanus as well as a number of other good causes including Douglas Meals on Wheels.
Community groups and resident associations from Douglas, Grange, Frankfield and Turners Cross have volunteered to steward the activities.
Tickets are available from above  or  Cork City  Council  or  at  the  Event on  the  day  from  1  pm  onwards…….

The Spectacular Healy Pass

The Healy Pass
 Drove over the spectacular Healy Pass the other day, en route from Cork to Kenmare. But first, a stop for sustenance in Manning’s Emporium in Ballylickey during an arranged foodie meet-up, a tweet-up I suppose, with @karencoakley and @Jaq_Stedman. Had quite a chat with Karen and Jacqueline and great too to renew acquaintance with Andrew and Laura of Manning’s (who have great plans for their summer festival).
 The sustenance came in the irresistible form of a meat and cheese platter and soon, well not that soon,  we were on our way down the Beara peninsula to Adrigole. Here one takes a sharp turn, right, towards the hills and the pass.
Met a crew working on the road and quite a lot of sheep as we drove up the twists and turns on the Cork side, past some isolated houses in the distance, before reaching the 300 metre summit that gives great views, particularly over Kerry and the Kenmare river to the west. 
 Then it was downhill all the way, past a group of Kerry road workers, to the turn off towards Lauragh where I spotted that petrol pump which had the Murphy’s Stout sign on top.