Tom Baxter @ The Academy

Last night, the lovely Lynne asked me to join her at the Academy to see Tom Baxter.

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We arrived partway through the acoustic set and were surprised to hear him proclaim that this song was his last after we had only been there a few minutes! However, we needn’t have worried as he was back after a short break with his full band, consisting of violin, double bass, percussion (including at one point a box!), keyboard and backing vocals (provided by Tom’s sister).

Often described as “folk” his music was deceptively rockier than I had expected. Even though I didn’t know many of the songs, I enjoyed myself immensely and the songs that I did know were fantastic to hear live.

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The aforementioned “box” and an intro consisting of handbells provided an interesting change of pace with the culminating rock finale of many songs ensuring that the majority of the audience couldn’t keep their feet still.

I would definately make the effort to see him again and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to friends. Tom is only partway through his residency at the Academy and tickets are still available for the performances tonight and tomorrow. Head here for tickets.

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Top Gear comes to Dublin

Top Gear Live started its four day run at the RDS last night. Earlier in the day, the presenters appeared at Brown Thomas for a press conference and brief book signing.

Although the book signing started as a rather civilised affair, as soon as the presenters were seated there was a large scrum of people jostling for position, both in the queue and at the barrier to take photos. Being of rather short stature, I only caught the odd glimpse of Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow and after 10 minutes of going nowhere, I retreated in order to find myself a position to take photos of them leaving.

They were only there for an amazingly short 15 minutes and its a shame I didn’t get to have a quick word with them but they are extremely busy and they definately made more than a few peoples days – every single person who was lucky enough to get something signed exited with a huge grin on their face.

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Whoops!

…I seem to have accidentally just purchased a camera!

I’ve been after a cheap-ish point and shoot for a long time now, ever since I accidentally dropped my beloved Sony Cybershot into a foot of water at the Hyde Park Calling festival a couple of years ago. It was a very sad day!

Having owned a Fuji previously I was determined to buy a Canon or Sony as I found that the Fuji had produced really grainy pictures at high ISOs. That said, I had been really pleased with the general picture quality of the Fuji, especially for outdoor portraits. So, when I was pointed in the direction of the Fuji Finepix F40, I was very tempted as the quality of high ISO pictures had apparently been much increased. The price was right and when I discovered that a camera case and 2GB card were included, I was sold!

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I’m off to see Tom Baxter tonight so I will give it a thorough and rigourous test to see how it performs with high ISOs and low light.

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Wine and Cheese

Last night we had a wine and cheese party – well, to be exact, a mulled wine and cheese fondue party!

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It does seem to be a little early for Christmassy events but one of my housemates is off to Kenya and Uganda on Friday so this was the last chance for us to do something before she left.

It seemed to be quite a success. The mulled wine was a definate hit – I have to admit that we cheated slightly by using the amazing mulled wine from Marks and Spencer as a base to which we added further red wine and spices as required.

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We had HUGE amounts of food and my acheivement of the night was making my first ever cheese fondue! It was really tasty and so simple to make. It basically involved warming up some white wine, throwing in some roughly chopped garlic and melting some tasty cheese into it (oh, and then adding a bit of cornflour to thicken!). Now I know how simple it is, I will definately try it again.

We also had an amazing hot cider which Joanne decided to whip up for us during the party! I can’t quite remember all of the ingredients but cider, apple juice, cranberry juice, chopped oranges, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamon pods and sugar were all involved. It really was very tasty.

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Skull-king in the luggage!

A while back, a friend came to visit me for the weekend. It was great to see her but I did panic slightly when she opened her suitcase and I caught a glimpse of a skull inside!

She later explained that it was fake and that she had just brought it along to study for an anatomy exam! I still made her ensure the suitcase was closed at night though!

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Bull Island

As you may or may not be aware, I am currently studying for my PhD at Trinity College in Dublin.

My research basically involves collecting mud, looking at it under the microscope and counting bugs! Obviously its a little more complicated than that but essentially thats what it boils down to!

My study site is Bull Island, an island in Dublin Bay. Its really nice to escape from the madness of town every once in a while and get some peace and quiet. In fact, I’m heading out there again this weekend and hopefully I’ll have lots of photos to share when I get back. In the meantime, here are a couple which I took along the Bull Wall last week.

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I should really write a longer post about my research, but I’ll leave that for another time.

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Seth Lakeman @ The Academy

Seth Lakeman was fantastic last night. I haven’t danced so much in a loooong time!

The support act was Dan Donnelly, a guy originally from Belfast with tunes sounding very Beatle-esque. Despite breaking a string and having to borrow Sean’s guitar, he kept us entertained for a good half hour, finishing with a fun comedic song about being arrested!

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By the time Seth took to the stage, the audience had swelled, although there was still enough room down the front to dance. In fact, I probably danced a little too much (if thats possible!). It was great fun though.

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Cuisine de France – Review #2

Time for another almond croissant review. Or, to be precise, a cherry and almond croquante made by Cuisine de France.

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I picked mine up from a Centra in central Dublin for €1.89. The cherry and almond tastes were very complimentary and I was glad to find that the pastry included a very nice mazipany paste inside. The pastry was nice and flaky but, unfortunately, the almonds on top were a little overdone and had a bitter and slightly burnt taste to them.

It stands to reason that any pastry from a convenience store is going to be touch and go, especially later in the day after they have been sat around for a few hours – buy them early and you should have no problem. If you do find they are a little on the stale side, I have always found that heating them in a microwave for 10-20 seconds makes them a lot more palatable – of course, that way you lose any semblance of flakiness from the pastry!

Overall, it was good but nothing great. The burnt almonds spolit the overall taste even though they didn’t look particularly burnt when I picked it up!

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Musical Musings

Good Old War are the free download on itunes this week. Their last.fm profile also has most of their album tracks available to stream for free.

Last.fm is a pretty good place for stumbling across new music. All you have to do is type in the name of a band and it will play full tracks of artists deemed to be similar in style.

This is how I came across Juno Falls, an Irish band who also have a number of free tracks (and downloads) available.

While we’re on the subject of music, on Saturday I am off to see Seth Lakeman. I am rather excited as I haven’t seen this guy live for more than a year.

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Sometimes I really miss living in England as I would often shoot off for gigs in Bristol, Bath, Oxford or even London at the drop of a hat as acts play a lot more shows over there. Ticket prices were so much cheaper over there aswell. For example, Seth is costing me €30. Not bad I suppose for concerts here, but in the UK, tickets for the same tour cost £16, thats less than €20! Being a poor student over in Dublin does have its drawbacks and this is one of the major ones for me – I feel stiffled by the high ticket prices and my gig attendance has basically been reduced by 90% since I moved here.

Looking upon it positively, I do feel that it has broadened my musical education as I am more likely to go and see an unknown band for a few euros than fork out handfuls of dosh for someone well-known. I also have to admit that I was rather spoilt before – now I consider it a treat when I do go and see someone perform and, therefore, I cherish it all the more.

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Bear with me a moment…

…I have a few blog posts in the pipeline, including the second almond croissant review, but unfortunately real life has caught up with me! I have had a few stressful days worrying about my PhD. This is nothing strange, it happens to everyone who undertakes such a large project, its just darn frustrating. The stress will pass soon enough I’m sure.

However, in the meantime, I am finding it hard to justify spending time taking photos, and even harder to justify any post-processing! This means that todays photos are a few weeks old but they are quite exciting – to me anyway!

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Both photos are colour accented, although the first one less obviously so. The first one was taken in an alleyway in Temple Bar. The second was a quick shot grabbed outside of Dublin Castle. I really like photos like this and have managed to be quite creative over the years. Most techniques that I use result from a combination of trial and error and google-ing for tips online. I also tend to devour photography mags for inspiration and pointers. But even though I should RTFM (as Daniel keeps telling me!) I often just have a stab at it on my own and come up with some interesting results. I have been asked a few times on flickr about some of the techniques I use and I decided that instead of replying each time with the step by step instructions I will write them here, as much for my own reference as for anyone else who may want to give them a go.

I am currently sketching the outline for the first of these posts and, hopefully, it will be up within the next few days, PhD stress permitting!

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