Tag Archives: wine

Does it not hurt your eyes?

At a dinner party in Dublin last week  – silver,cut glass and sparkling conversation – I couldn’t help noticing that the central candle in one of the candelabras was leaning to one side. Should I  straighten it or ignore it?

“I wouldn’t risk it,” was the advice of the guest on my right. “it might cause offence.” As he was a racing man who could weigh up the odds, I took his advice and tried to ignore the Pisa-like candle.

But I couldn’t help glancing at it from time to time, just to see and guiltily explained to the racing man about conditioning: ” My mother had me trained to straighten out things – coverlets on the bed, cushions on the sofa, curtains drawn badly.

” Look,” she’d say, pointing at a  thread hanging down from a badly sewn seam or a pillow not lying square on the bed: ” Does that not hurt your eyes?”

And so I spent the evening trying not to let the  candle hurt my eyes and was glad that I did for our host made a short speech welcoming us and remarking that one of the joys of being a diplomat was being able to give these sort of what he called friendship dinners.

He went on to say that the two things he was warned about on becoming a diplomat were money and protocol.

Leaning forward to straighten the candle, possibly spilling a glass of red wine en route, would surely have offended the diplomat or his spouse and would  certainly have got one of the three waiters into trouble.

When in doubt, sit tight and don’t worry about what your mother might have said.

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What the irish ambassador had to say about 1916

Oxford. February 12 2016

Last night, the Irish ambassador to Great Britain, Daniel Mulhall, spoke at a gathering to mark the Bodleian’s exhibition entitled Easter Rising 1916.
It was an interesting speech in which he highlighted a few points:
The age of the leaders of the Rising tended to be much younger than people like Parnellite John Redmond of the Irish Parliamentary Party who was 62 in 1916 while people like Pearse were 37 and Eamonn Ceannt 25.
He felt the Rising could not have taken place were it not for the fact that WW1 was already happening. And following on from that, he quoted a German commentator (I missed the name) who was of the opinion that had Britain not been so distracted by Irish affairs in 1914, there was a chance that she and Germany might have entered into talks that could have averted the war. (I’m not convinced of that.)
He later touched on the legacy for Ireland of 1916 one of which was the stability that followed it all and gave as an example: William Cosgrave held the post of Taoiseach for 10 years. De Valera was President for 21 years.

( I relate this to the Good Friday Agreement which resulted in a form of power-sharing which is still in place eighteen years on, though Jonathan Powell makes the point, in his book Talking to Terrorists, that power sharing has it downsides: “You can’t get rid of the bastards,” as one person said.)

At the end of his very positive talk, the ambassador pressed the little red button on his desk and up came on the wall screen information on the Bodleian’s very new Easter Rising 1916 Web Archive. Try it: http://www.webarchive.org.uk/easter¬_rising/bodleian.html

There was a big crowd at this excellent event and the icing on the cherry was that the ambassador’s talk was followed by a glass or three of wine.

Congratulations to the Bodleian for continuing to be such a generous host and to its ongoing contribution to research into 1916.

You can read Daniel Mulhall’s speech when it goes up, in a few days, on the Irish Embassy website http://www.embassyofireland.co.uk

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Abu Nawas has memories of the village lass with the well-rounded ass

It’s Literature Night tonight in Dublin so here’s a little something from one of the Arab world’s greatest and most intriguing non-conformist poets – Abu Nawas.
Abu Nawas (756-814) lived in Baghdad during the reign of Haroun al Rashid. Born to a Persian mother and an Arab father who was absent, Abu Nawas was put in the care of a male relative in Basra who set about seducing him. Back in Baghdad, the young poet was charged with teaching the children of the Caliph but was run out of town when Haroun al Rashid took a dislike to the outspoken tutor who sometimes satirised the Caliph. Then Haroun died and his 22-year-old son, a bit of a libertine, found a place back in Baghdad for his old teacher.
Abu Nawas saw himself as an individualist, a one-man revolutionary.
“…the vanguard of depravity
The spearhead of debauchery
Arch-enemy of chastity
And all that smacks of sanctity.”
Like a lot of dreamers, he had the idea that were he to go out into the desert and live the good life – learning celestial navigation, riding camels, philosophising through the night by the camp fire etc – that inspiration would surely follow. But it didn’t and he hightailed it back to the hedonistic life of Baghad:
“For this is the life,
Not desert tents,
Not camel’s milk.”
Devoted to the joys of sex – with wine a close second – his big problem was deciding did he prefer boys to girls. Though the former won the day, in his poetry, he often expresses a certain regret for what he gave up:

“Now, a toast to those days which have long passed away
I can no longer enjoy the sweet fare
Of that bold village lass with the well-rounded ass
But the memory soothes my despair.”
Abu Nawas was a law unto himself and that included Islam which his poetry mocks for its rules and regulations. Nor had he much time for those religions that encouraged the worship of idols and strange gods.
His own view of religion was one that was open, generous and benign, preferring an Islam ruled by an Allah who was not judgemental but compassionate – especially of people like himself who so often fell by the wayside:
“Almost everything God, in his mercy, abhors
You may see in my person and possibly more.
But while I pay no heed to religious decree
You can never accuse me of idolatry.”

Nearly every Arab city worth its salt has an Abu Nawas Street. Damascus has one and the one in Baghdad runs alongside the Tigris. If you Google the name, you’ll find countless references to him. I like him because he was his own man…I raise my glass of red wine to him tonight. We want more writers like him.

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Join us for an evening celebrating Syrian culture, with delicious food, sufi music and Lebanese wine.

A Celebration of Syrian Culture

We are delighted to announce that on Saturday May 12th Mary Russell will give a reading from her recently published book My Home is Your HomeA Journey Round Syria. Travelling by bike, local bus and on foot she gained insights into a country which, alas, has been in the news in recent times for all the wrong reasons. This evening, however, will be a celebration of the finer points of Syria –  a country with a unique and varied history.

We will have some Syrian, Lebanese and Sufi music for your pleasure as well as a display of photographs illustrating everyday life in Syria.The photographs have been taken by Tommie Lehane on some of the many visits he and his wife made to Syria.

An Arabic vegetarian meal including such favourites as tabbouleh, humous and falafel will be cooked for us by Frank Armstrong who has studied at Damascus University. Frank is also a food historian.

The evening starts with a welcoming glass of wine or juice and guests are invited to bring a bottle of whatever they would like to drink themselves during the meal.

Dinner will be served from 7pm to 8.30pm followed by a reading from Mary’s book and an informal discussion about Syria which quite a few guests have visited. Copies of  My Home is Your Home will be on sale. Dessert will be served afterwards.

The event will take place in Clonskeagh Castle, 80 Whitebeam Road, Dublin 14. The closest Luas stop is Milltown and the No. 11 bus will take you from the city centre to the end of Whitebeam Road. Limited parking space is available outside but following Mary’s intrepid example we would encourage you to avoid driving!

Book early to avoid disappointment!

Subscription: €20

To book, please email Victoriawhite2005@yahoo.ie and cc to frank.clonskeagh@gmail.com

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