Tuesday, 10 January 2012

PORTARLINGTON -The French Quarter Café

Portarlington is a small town of about 6,000 people divided by two counties Laois and Offaly. The division is provided by the River Barrow, the same river that flows near our home. According to my researches, Portarlington is a relatively new town founded in 1666 by Sir Henry Bennett and has experienced, like a lot of communities, various vagaries; one in particular being an influx of fifteen or more Huguenot families driven from France as religious refugees. One of the main thoroughfares in Portarlington is still named French Church Street complete with it's French Church built in 1694 and situated adjacent to the market square.

It was to the above street and to an aptly named restaurant called "The French" that we made our way for my birthday celebration lunch.

I would not consider myself to be a gourmet by any means, though to be honest in my earlier life

when I dining out on a regular basis the best of restaurants were chosen. In those far off days both the Michelin & Routier were the guides that soothed the trencherman within.

Today, life is far more modest and a pension is not an alternative to an expense account however

when a good friend asks "have you tried such & such a place?" Then my mouth waters, my taste buds jangle at an alarming rate and a mental note is made of the location.

Thus I am very appreciative of the standards of 'The French' where good wholesome food is served by the courteous staff in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

The Proprietors

The proprietors Eamon & Richard have a set menu and a specials board of wonderful meals, I confess that it is my fault that I cannot relate to you all that they serve. I am though hooked on one of the breakfast meals consisting of pancakes, rashers and bananas with a goodly topping of maple syrup - Delicious.

This time I broke the mould to dine on fish and chips. My meal was two fillets of cod cooked in a soft batter with hand cut chips, a ramekin of chopped mixed salad and a serving of herbs in a tartar sauce. The dessert that I chose was banoffee pie with cream, lightly dusted with cocoa.

In all sincerity this was the best banoffee pie that I have ever had the pleasure to eat and I have sampled several in my time.

Just as this was not my first visit to "The French" it will not be the last and I am happy to recommend it to my friends. I left the café filled with delicious food and the warmth that comes from spending time with good people in a convivial atmosphere.

A sample of the decor

Mrs H makes them laugh

Monday, 9 January 2012

January the 9th

Photo taken night of 8th after having be shorn !

I am 69 years young today and was born in Loveday Street Children's Hospital, Birmingham on January 9th at 5.20 a.m. in1943. Memories of that achievement no longer remain - that's if they ever existed.

My earliest memory is of sitting in my pram and a young girl asking my mother if she could push it, my mother said "no" but she could assist her by holding on to the side.

A very distinct and perhaps dark memory is of being carried past the walls of a bombed out building, which I believe was the Prince of Wales Theatre which was destroyed in April 1941. Another is of seeing a tin helmet with a khaki gas mask bag hanging on the newel post at the foot of my parents stairs, on the floor adjacent to the post was a large canvas bag full of rosy red apples and next to them stood an army rifle. I also remember sitting on my mother's lap at the children's street party that celebrated the end of the war.

Strangely, after all those years, there is one noise at night that wakens me in seconds: that of a propeller driven aircraft flying overhead.

As a child the bomb sites were one of our favourite places to play as long as they were out of our parents' sight . Each and every site seemed to be covered in Buddleia, so much so that the plant & place became associated; in my mind and I thought that the authorities had deliberately planted them there. A great surprise awaited me some years later, to find the plant growing profusely on the banks of a river in a country that had not been in the war.

We departed from the Birmingham area in 1946 and moved to live in Somerset. That move heralded a whole host of further moves in which we lived in different places and many houses, some only for a few weeks and some for a few years; I did a count up and found I had lived in 14 houses and six places between the time I was born and fourteen years of age, I often wonder if one of my parents had gypsy blood.

It was hardly any wonder therefore that roaming became a way of life for me too later in life. Even today I get the urge to go off in the car and travel to somewhere different, the journey itself is as much part of the cure as arriving at a destination.

Today I shall celebrate this special occasion by having lunch with Mrs H and a friend, in one of our favourite restaurants by driving across the countryside to a near by town.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Sparrow Hawk

After writing the last blog I became rather caught up in various other aspects of my life and as a consequence needed some R & R to collect my thoughts. I am pleased to say that I have recharged and am back into blogging again.

I wish all of my readers A Very Happy & Peaceful New Year for 2012.

A Sparrow Hawk

This morning, 1st January, I looked out of the front window at the clear blue sky and noted that none of the small birds were at the feeders. On looking around the garden I saw a brown bird sitting on one of the shrubs, I did not recognise it at first and then realised that it was a sparrow-hawk and before I could reach for the camera it spied me and flew off in a westerly direction.

This then gave me inspiration, it being the day that was in it, that perhaps we need to take a feather of an idea and journey in the same direction as the hawk - to the West of Ireland!

The harbour at Kinvara

One of our favourite & closest places is Kinvara (Irish Gaelic : Cinn Mhara meaning "head of the sea") in Co. Galway. It is roughly a two and half hour drive through some very scenic countryside crossing the River Shannon at Portumna and onwards, across the high points of the Slieve Aughty mountains then dropping down to the small town of Gort, which I by-pass by using a narrow country road, twisting and undulating to our destination.

I could write a blog on each of the places that we pass through.

I have had a romance with Kinvara ever since my first visit in 1987 and she is like a lot of beautiful women, in that I am not certain I could live with her permanently. I choose instead to make several enjoyable visits a year. I believe that I am right for on some occasions in the summer the place is over flowing with visitors and I'm not a lover of crowds.

After having taken a few photos and gazed at the seascape for sufficient time, a cup of freshly made coffee was called for and as our usual cafe was closed, we tried another. We chose a table by the window that looked out across the harbour. Mrs H started up a conversation with the proprietor having both lived in northern English cities; as they chatted I peered out of the window with my back to the other customers, then a couple stepped out of the cafe and passed the window in front of me. Lo and behold I recognised them as a pair of ancient associates of mine, G & N, who own a B&B a few miles south of Kinvara. I rushed out to intercept them hotly followed by Mrs H and they like me were also pleasantly surprised.

Evidently G had kept looking at Mrs H while in the cafe thinking that there was something familiar about her and then inwardly saying "no"; G has to be forgiven for Mrs H used to be a red head and several pounds heavier.

After saying goodbye to our friends, with promises to visit, we made our journey home to light the fire and sip tea in its' warmth.

For this wonderful day, of which most was spent in sunshine, we can thank the Sparrow Hawk.