The Platinum Weekend

In my previous post I declared that “Nobody does pomp like the British!”
And the Platinum Jubilee weekend was certainly no exception. Even a non-royalist would have to be impressed with the splendour and magic.

On 6th February 2022 Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth. I think she won many hearts in Ireland during her visit in 2011, with her words (a few as Gaeilge), her interactions (remember the English Market in Cork) and her respectful silences (the Garden of Remembrance).

Now she has reached her platinum jubilee. A range of events and initiatives were planned with the culmination being this four day UK June bank holiday.

The four days of celebrations included public events and community activities, as well as national moments of reflection on The Queen’s 70 years of service.

Thursday 2nd June

Trooping the Colour is an annual event that marks the official birthday of the British Sovereign. It has been happening for over 260 years but this year will be spectacular. The Queen’s Birthday Parade this year saw the colour trooped by the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, and more than 1200 officers and soldiers from the Household Division putting on a display of military pageantry on Horse Guards Parade, together with hundreds of Army musicians and around 240 horses. During the birthday parade a Royal gun salute was fired.

Once the parade ended and the Royal Procession returned to Buckingham Palace for the Royal Family’s balcony appearance.
There was an impressive Flypast to coincide with the Royal Family’s balcony appearance and the younger royals stole the show with their excited reactions.

Platinum Jubilee Beacons: The United Kingdom’s long tradition of celebrating Royal Jubilees, Weddings and Coronations with the lighting of beacons was of course bigger and bolder for this Platinum Jubilee.
A beacon chain, once used as a tool for communication, has now become a symbol of unity across towns, borders, countries and continents and is often the central point of focus for any outdoor gathering or celebration. In 1897, beacons were lit to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. In 1977, 2002 and 2012, beacons commemorated the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of The Queen, and in 2016 Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. Over 1,500 beacons were lit throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories.

The Principal beacon, involving The Tree of Trees (a 21m high ‘tree’ constructed of 350 smaller trees), was lit by the Queen in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Friday 3rd June

The entire royal family attended a Service of Thanksgiving for The Queen’s reign in St Paul’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, the Queen herself was unable to attend. Harry and Meghan made their first public appearance since they absconded to USA, to quite a varied response. Great Paul, the largest church bell in the country, was rung for the Service. It was made in 1882, but fell silent in the 1970s due to a broken mechanism. It was restored in 2021 and has been rung on 8 occasions since.

Saturday 4th June

The Derby at Epsom Downs: This was probably one of her Her Majesty’s favourite events and usually she would have a horse running. Not this year. Again this was another event she could not attend.

The Platinum Party at the Palace in the evening saw famous faces from the world of entertainment brought together to perform for a night of musical tributes to celebrate the Jubilee. An array of Royals, young and old attended.

A special video tribute of the Queen and Paddington Bear thrilled the nation, even the world.

Sunday 5th June

The Big Jubilee Lunch: Over 60k people registered to host lunches, with events ranging from world record attempts for the longest street party to back garden BBQ’s and everything in between. Over ten million people across the UK joined the celebrations.

The Platinum Jubilee Pageant: The Gold State Carriage, guided by The Sovereign’s Escort, led the Platinum Jubilee Pageant. The pageant embraced the latest in digital technology to evoke the excitement and majesty of her journey to be crowned 70 years ago.
The Pageant brought to life iconic moments from The Queen’s reign as well as showcasing the changing society over the past 70 years.
National treasures and iconic figures from music, film, sport and the arts sent their good wishes to the Queen.

No I’m not a royalist, but I love the pageantry and grandeur and drama attached to royalty!!!!

 

Poet Laureate celebrates the occasion in poetry

Nobody does pomp like the British! Be it a royal wedding, a state funeral or an anniversary they know just how to roll out the celebrations.
They even have a Poet Laureate who may or may not commemorate the occasion poetically!

William Wordsworth became Laureate in later life and exercised the poet laureate’s prerogative and wrote not a single line of official verse.

Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion’s poems, one a rap and the other a sonnet to celebrate Prince William’s 21st birthday was called On The Record. The rap was the A side, the sonnet the B side reflecting vinyl LP and 45s records.
From the A side:
Better stand back
Here’s an age attack,
But the second in line
Is dealing with it fine.
From the B side:
That’s what our ‘happy birthday’ means today:
A wish that you’ll be free to claim your life
While destiny connects with who you are –
A Prince and yet familiar common clay;
Your father’s heir but true to your own faith;
A mother’s son and silvered by her star.
******************************
John Betjeman was Laureate when Princess Anne got married and his poem was like a hymn of praise:

“Hundreds of birds in the air/ and millions of leaves on the pavement”.
******************************
It was always thought to be a good idea to have the poet Laureate on your side or quite uncomplimentary or nondescript verse could be written. In 1901 Alfred Austin reported
“Across the wires the electric message came:
He is no better, he is much the same”
when the Prince of Wales, future Edward VII fell ill in 1901.
*********************************
Simon Armitage, the current Poet Laureate, claims to address current affairs in his role. His tribute to the Queen on her platinum jubilee is called Queenhood.

Four Days in Iceland

This trip has been on the bucket list since 2010 when the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull deferred not only my plans but the travel plans of millions of Europeans.

So it was great to set off at last for Reykjavik. Current crisis of staffing in Dublin airport and the ensuing queues at Departure however almost scuppered the plan again!!!!!!

The famous Blue Lagoon was our first port of call. The bright blue milky waters appear a bit surreal set in a wasteland of lava. But the magic of lazing for 2 hours in the steaming waters, treating ourselves to a silica facial mask and followed by  Icelandic beer would have to be experienced. We emerged feeling (if not looking) 10 years younger.

Feeling good after an hour in Blue Lagoon

Day 2 started with a bus tour of Reykjavic. Lena our guide was a softspoken lady who gave us “just the right amount” of information. Reykjavic is not a big city and initially looks so modern (like our financial centre). Many of the older buildings are hidden between the large glass structures of today. The Perlan, on a hill just outside the city centre provided a panoramic view of the city and also showed us the importance of outdoor activitiy is to the residents. There are walking and cycling tracks all round the hill.

From there we hit down to the bay to see another important aspect of life here- the sea. The Solfár or Sun Voyager is a large steel sculpture which although somewhat similar to a Viking ship has no connection at all. Jón Gunner Árnason vision for this work was to represent “a dream of hope, progress and freedom”.

Nearby, is a another tribute to freedom, Hofoi House, where Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed the treaty in 1986 that ended the Cold War.

The Harpa, Reykjavik’s Concert Hall is also situated on the bay. It is a massive glass structure that reflects life around it. It’s lit up at night in a rainbow of colours. (Electricity and hot water are very cheap commodities here.)

Our last port of call was the Tjornin, or ‘pond’ as Lena called it – maybe meaning it as ‘lake’. We walked through City Hall, passing some statues of ladies who featured strongly in Iceland’s history.

The Unknown Bureaucrat

Free to roam for the afternoon, we feasted on FRESH fish and chips (delicious) visited the Flea Market and finished up in FlyOver Iceland Experience – a fantastic experience: a digital story about trolls and the geological history of Iceland before the wildest simulated ride over the stunning Icelandic landscape – I could certainly repeat it, keeping eyes open more often, second time around!!!

DAY 3

Geysir Hot Springs – the original Geysir which gave the name to all hot springs around the world, is now inactive but is well represented by a newer blow hole, Strokkur, which treats visitors to an eruption  every 7 minutes or so. We were treated to three quick eruptions (“wow” factor especially after some travelling companions’ criticisms). We almost missed Littl Geysir. a slushy, bubbling mud pool by the path.

Litli Geysir

Gullfoss Waterfall- this water fall is supposed to be spectacular at any time of the year but especially during the Spring melt. And it certainly was. A Dam had been planned for this river but a feisty lady, Sigridur Tómasdottir, campaigned very successfully to prevent it.

Gullfoss Falls

Last stop of the day was in Pingvellir National Park. If we’d been here a week earlier some of the roads would have been closed.

DAY 4

We were left to our own devices today. Some of the group took bus tours but we decided to stroll around the city. We visited the amazing Settlement Exhibition which comprised of the in-situ remains of a large Viking-age longhouse – I’m still in mourning for Wood Quay.

We found an amazing crafty shop and watched the proprietor needle felting.

We did a return visit to the Hallgrimskirkja. We aborted the plan to climb to the tower in favour of listening to the organist rehearsing for a concert. Such a treat.

Our trip to see the Northern Lights had been deferred till the last night. However, despite hours watching the northern sky, the clouds never cleared. I guess that means I’ll have to take another trip towards the Arctic circle or else just look at the Tromso photos!

After 2 hours sleep, we hit to the airport for the homeward journey.

 

Christmas in Russborough

Took a trip to Russburough today to take in the christmassy atmosphere of a Palladian house.

A wonderful tour guide brought us through the unique Russborough – designed and built to an unrivalled standard, and surviving almost unaltered since the 18th century to today because of the extraordinary love of 3 families who owned it.

The Leeson family who organised the building and started the acquisition of an impressive collection of paintings, sculpture and furnishings.

In 1931, the house was bought by Captain Denis Daly and his wife Maeb, for €9000.  Their two daughters Anne and Avia were the last children to call Russborough home.

In 1952, the house and estate were sold to the Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit, owners of a world-class European fine and decorative arts collection. They installed the Beit Collection (world-renowned works by leading Dutch, British and Spanish artists including Jan Vermeer, Henry Raeburn, and Francisco de Goya) into their new home.

The house opened to the public in 1976.

I hope my photos give you a feeling for being in Russborough today.

Finn McCool and Punchestown

Finn McCool The Winner at Punchestown, (Author unknown)

This poem was a great favourite of one of my colleagues in Scoil Choca Naofa, Kilcock. There were many rousing deliveries for school concerts, fleadhs, etc. Interestingly when I found it on the web, it turns out it was also the party piece of Kevin Burke, Captain of the successful 1953 Ballymore Eustace Senior GAA Football Team

‘Twas Martin McDonagh who bought him, from a man at the Fair in Naas
And never an uglier object, was seen in a farmer’s place.

He was long and lanky and bony, with a head like a tinker’s mule
Yet he had such a style of stepping, that we called him Finn McCool.

But never a word said Martin, for he was the knowing one,
He foddered his colt all winter, and he cantered him here and yon.
A feather would knocked me over, when I heard one day in the town
That Finn McCool had been entered, for the Races at Punchestown.

Taking a drop to brace me up, I started into Maynooth,
There was twenty there before me, all anxious to know the truth.
And there sat deluded Martin, joking and playing the fool,
Telling stories about this and that, but nothing of Finn McCool.

Tipping a wink for myself to stay, he soon got rid of the lot,
And the missus came calling him to “come while the tay is hot.”
A cup was there for myself of course, and a plate of pancakes brown,
But what cared I for pancakes, when my thoughts were on Punchestown.

Martin went on to tell me, the pedigree of both grand sires of Finn
He was a bay descendant of all his famous kin
“The horse has his point” says Martin, “though his runs like a circus clown
But he stands to make me or break me at the Races of Punchestown.”

O Lord, it’s a terrible feeling, when every shilling you own,
Is bet on an ordinary animal that’s skin where he isn’t bone.
I couldn’t sleep a wink at night and the wife says “Felim O’Toole,
It’s below in the Carlow Asylum, you’ll finish with Finn McCool.

The day of the Races came, and Martin, meself and the horse
And Davy Lacy to ride him, were early upon the course.
“How much against Finn McCool” says I, and the bookie says with a grin
“Arrah 50 to 1 and the fun you’ll have, watching another one win.”

The horses came from the paddock, went down and got into a line
And burst like shots from a rifle, when the starter gave the sign
And lagging along behind them, came Finn McCool at a pace
That would shame any dacent donkey, for sale at the Fair in Naas.

“Go on ye devil ” I yelled at him, “go on and lift your feet
For all the horses that ever were born, I’ll shoot you this day if you’re beat.”
And Martin himself was yelling, and cursing him dead and blind
And the crowd were roaring and shouting “look at the one behind”

He heard us, by all the Gods above, for he shot like a frightened deer
When Davy Lacy the jockey digged him, from tail to ear.
Rearing and snorting and kicking, he clattered past horse by horse
You’d think the end of the world had come, with the roaring on the course.

With his big feet trashing like paddle wheels and his tail like a dory mast
He leapt over the wall and the double ditch till first in the field was past.
“He’s winning” I heard someone saying, the crowd all going wild
And Martin McDermott beside me, was crying like a child.

“Winning, of course he’s winning” says I and “there take that from O’Toole”
As I threw my hat in the bookies face that had laughed at Finn McCool.
“Faith Finn doesn’t know when to stop” says Kelly the vet from Clane
For having near jumped the judges box, Finn made for the hill again.

We followed him into the paddock, where the horses were weighing in
The devil the hair was turned, on the hide of the warrior Finn
As cool as his mighty name sake, who had never known defeat
He seemed to be winking “that Fenian lad is a mighty hard thing to beat”

The bookies paid us our money and the crowning joy of the race
Was counting my bag of money from the lad I hit in the face.
“Be careful” says I “me bucko, whenever your money is down
A lesson from Finn McCool you have, the winner at Punchestown”

Johnstown Castle

A postcard of Johnstown Castle “wishing you were here” was probably sent annually, in the days that sending postcards was in vogue, when we holidayed in Cahore as kids. It was a kind of iconic pic. But I had never been there. So during my sojourn in Wexford this year I decided to remedy that. The museum of life in Wexford in the 1700s and 1800s was fascinating, the famine, the workhouses, forced emigration of women to South Africa, and also the models of houses within my ‘historical’ era showing twin tubs, prams and go-cars, statues on mantlepiece, etc.

Best of all was being able to walk the 5km around the lakes and see a different aspect of the iconic castle.

The Doll’s House, Rathaspeck

Actually thought I had posted this and then realised it was on another platforms!!!!! Would you call that a broadening of media knowledge or just confusion!


Any way, at long last I got to stay in the Doll’s House, Rathaspeck where the Lamberts spent some time between their return from Australia and move to Fairfield House in Dublin.
Every visit to Wexford town as children entailed a trip out to Rathaspeck and stories of the Lamberts life there- dreams of fairy princesses, adventures to the manor House, naughty children, games, neighbours,…all conjuring up wonderful images of a life long ago.
And so a stay there was on my bucket list, and ticking it off was everything I thought it would be and more. My words would be inadequate to describe the wonder, the joy, the nostalgia. Even the dozens of photos cannot recreate the aura of the house.