Archive | November, 2010

Hats of Snow

28 Nov
Dutch bike and girl

Dutch bike and girl

 

A muffled sound of wings,
As from its branch a crow
Shakes down on me
A cloudy spray of snow.

The spider’s web a fishing line;
Floaters of white hang, stable
Waiting for sun to set them free,
Like birds perched on a cable.

Streets with icing sugar,
Bicycles and railings show,
How a city turns pretty,
When it dons a hat of snow.

- PDR -

 

Snow on spider thread

Snow on spider thread

 

Dutch bicycle with crate, fallen over

Dutch bicycle with crate, fallen over

 

Snow hats on fence, Dublin 8

Snow hats on fence, Dublin 8

 

Bicycle, snow, railing

Bicycle, snow, railing

 

Georgian doors in the snow

Georgian doors in the snow

 

Two bicycles, railings, snow

Two bicycles, railings, snow

 

ding dong bell

ding dong bell with hat of snow

 

Dutch bicycle

Dutch bicycle, railing, snow

 

Dutch bicycle Dublin

Dutch bike and girl, Synge Street

 

Morris in snow

Morris car, snow

 

black cat, snow

black cat in snow

 

Dutch bicycle at dolls boutique

Dolls boutique

 

 

 

A muffled sound of wings,

As from its branch a crow
Shakes down on me
A cloudy spray of snow
.

The spider’s web a fishing line;

Floaters of white hang, stable

Waiting for sun to set them free,

Like birds perched on a cable.

Streets with icing sugar,

Bicycles and railings show,
How a city turns pretty,

When it dons a hat of snow.

A Classy Commute – the Minister of Transport

21 Nov

Twenty five years ago, after briefly looking out on the Pacific Ocean, Ciarán Cuffe got on his bike, and started to cycle back to the Atlantic Ocean.

Neah Bay

The previous eight months, Ciarán had been working in an architect’s office in mid-town Manhattan . He had experienced the American city life seen on television. Now he was eager to experience American life not portrayed on tv. He had come out to Seattle and then travelled on to Neah Bay; the most north western point of the United States. Barely there, Ciaran turned around and started cycling back to where he had come from. Crossing the continent – over the Rockies and through the prairies – he heard the American life stories not told on television, and was inspired to get into politics.

Today, the Minister of State still cycles, but not from coast to coast. He now travels along the coast, from Dun Laoghaire to his office in the City Centre. His trip starts in Dun Laoghaire’s Patrick Street; passing multi coloured shop fronts of butchers, bakeries, barbers. Soon, cycling downhill to Monkstown, Dublin Bay comes into view. Ciarán has a picture of the Bay hanging over his desk. On it, you are out at sea, looking back at Dun Laoghaire. A swelling wave obscures the city. Two church towers are the only thing rising above the wave’s crescent, like sails on a ship, turned blue by dark clouds above.

Minister Ciaran Cuffe in reflection of the picture over his desk

photo of Dun Laoghaire, Ciaran Cuffe in reflection

From Monkstown, Ciarán cycles along the coastline until – just before Blackrock – he comes to a one-way street. It can be a nuisance on the return journey, which is why Ciaránis pushing for a contra-flow cycle lane in that spot. If it goes through, the lane will help create an uninterrupted cycle route all the way from Sutton to Sandycove.

Ciaran Cuffe

Ciaran Cuffe

Past the one-way street, Ciarán is in the heart of Blackrock, and soon in Blackrock Park, where swans and green fields are the last quiet interlude in his journey. For as soon as Ciarán leaves the park, he is on Merrion Road; the main road into the city centre. Its cycle lanes appear and disappear like fata morgana’s. There is work for cyclists to be done here too, once the contra flow cycle lane comes through.

Ciarán continues straight on, and as the coast recedes, the scenery becomes more city like. His trip leads to Lower Mount Street, past Merrion Square, and finally onto Clare Street. There, to obey the law, Ciarán gets off his bike, and walks the last meters before turning left on Kildare Street.

the old 'no bikes sign' - now an office trophy

At the Department of Transport, beside a spot where a sign ‘no bicycles allowed’ used to hang (Ciarán removed the sign on one of his first days of office), he locks his bike to one of six new bike stands. Then he rushes inside. All the impressions of his cycling trip have made him eager to get to work.

A Classy Commute – the Recently Retired Trinity College Biochemist

15 Nov

Mike McKillen’s love for cycling did not start with bicycles; it started with a motorbike.

In his younger years, before he became lecturer in Biochemistry at Trinity, Mike participated in motorbike trial riding. Trials is a sport where riders steer motorbikes through bogs, across streams, over boulders and up rocky hills. It’s not a race, but a game of skill – the goal is to stay on your motorbike and not put your feet down once. It was the thrill of riding his Bultaco 250cc through Wicklow’s countryside, which eventually got Mike cycling.

Mike discovered cycling shows him the world around him. And Mike, who is also a mountaineer and ocean sailor, likes to feel the elements. As a mountaineer, he heads to the Alps every summer, for a 12-day camping trip. Last summer, he camped near Grenoble, at the base of Mont Pelvoux. Each morning, he would get out of his tent to be greeted by a different setting – be it butterflies hovering over rusty-leaved Alpenroses or snow blowing in from the glacier. Mike feels at home in changing weather conditions. And the best place to appreciate the changing Irish weather, he feels, is on his bike. Also, it awakes him almost enough to confront the day ahead.

And so it is with anticipation Mike sets out to Trinity each morning – no matter if his breath clouds accompany him in the crispy cold, or if he can take off his jacket to let his arms be warmed by the sun. Mike starts his journey on Seaview Terrace and then shoots onto Angelsea Road, heading towards the traffic lights at Donnybrook Bridge. If the light is red, Mike watches the river Dodder from that bridge. It’s a spate river; he can tell by the height of the water level whether the Dublin Mountains to the south have been getting rain. Mostly, the grey heron is there as well; standing like a statue, looking for fish, oblivious to traffic above him.

Continuing his journey, Mike passes the American Embassy on Elgin Road. Its modern architecture commands his respect, but also instils a sense of loss for the Georgian house the building replaced. Further on, near the D4 Hotel, Mike waits for another traffic light. On the adjacent triangular traffic island – more a stopover for crossing two streets, really – sits an O’ Brien’s coffee kiosk. The smell of coffee makes Mike eager to press on to his first coffee of the day, awaiting him in Trinity’s canteen.

After crossing the Grand Canal and cycling through Lower Mount Street – a uniform modern streetscape similar to those seen in old socialist cities – Mike arrives at Trinity College. His office is his city centre oasis; where intellectual renewal and challenging students confront him every day.

But first, it’s time for coffee.

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –> And so it is with anticipation Mike sets out to Trinity each morning – no matter if his breath clouds accompany him in the crispy cold, or if he can take off his jacket to let his arms be warmed by the sun. Mike starts his journey on Seaview Terrace and then onto Angelsea Road, heading towards the traffic lights at Donnybrook Bridge. If the light is red, Mike watches the river Dodder from that bridge. It’s a spate river; he can tell by the height of the water level whether the Dublin Mountains to the south have been getting rain. Mostly, the grey heron is there as well; standing like a statue while looking for fish, oblivious to the traffic above him.

Stylish Budapest Biker

9 Nov

On August 18th, we wrote about a traffic sign in Belgium. That traffic sign showed how stylish Belgian cyclists are; they cycle in flared jeans, as if they’re heading for Woodstock. Looking at the traffic sign again, I can still see the cyclist’s long hair lock bobbing; hear him humming to The Who’s Pinball Wizard, almost.

There is romance in traffic signs.

Our reader Cian has known this ever since he interrailed through Europe in 2008.

On his trip, Cian rented bicycles in cycle friendly Copenhagen and Berlin, but it was while biking in Budapest he took the picture of the most stylish sign he’d seen. On it, a Hungarian gentleman cycles slow enough for his hat to not blow off. The gentleman’s straight back and languid pace give the impression he is accustomed to giving orders; not taking them. Probably, he holds a high position with a Budapest bank in the Lipótváros District. Eastern Europeans know their classical cycling.

So, first Belgium, then Budapest – we wonder what stylish signs we’ll find next.

Cycling in Phoenix Park

3 Nov

During our first week in Ireland, in September last year, we had been told Dublin gets long, sunny autumns, as recompense for summers seemingly skipped. And indeed: a protracted period of falling leaves and amber lit streets has lasted until, well, today. It seems Halloween has finally opened the door for winter to come in. On the streets, the smell of smoke from peat fire stoves pervades more than ever. We sit indoors as much as we can.

But because this weekend we have visitors from the Netherlands, we are forced to fight off the urge to huddle around the table for a game of ganzenbord or mens erger je niet. They can do that back home, where weather is worse, our visitors tell us. They want to experience the real Dublin, and they are not convinced by our argument it doesn’t get more local than a board game in a Portobello basement apartment.

And so we find ourselves cycling into Phoenix Park – where even Pat McQuaid’s bike rental is silent. We cycle up the deserted cycle path, soon turning left to wheel through the large green fields where on summer days we saw people play bicycle polo. The scattered showers have temporarily stopped, and the sun regains some of the strength it had lost. Past the Papal Cross, we stop, look back, and take these shots. We admit it: we’re happy our visitors persisted.

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