My Dad is Dead

20 Aug

In many ways I am still processing this fact. It still seems surreal, unbelievable even a week later. I suppose it is that way with sudden and unexpected deaths.

When my grandmother passed away back in January after a year-long battle with motor neurone disease, we were already mentally prepared for it. When she was taken into hospital, we all knew there was a good chance she would never return home.

It wasn’t like that with my Dad. You just don’t expect someone to die a week after their 53rd birthday (and 7 months to the day my grandmother passed away). I hadn’t seen much of him in the past few months, I had been stuck in work a fair bit, spending the little time I had off around my house with my own little girl and partner.

The evening he passed away, I had gotten out of work an hour early and bumped into him on the street as he was heading home after the Cork/Dublin Hurling match. I said goodbye to him in the lobby of his apartment block, declining an invite in for coffee. I was tired and planning a flying trip to Dublin the following afternoon when I got out of work.

As far as we know, I was the last person to see him alive. A little piece of luck I guess, as I could easily have spent another hour at work getting some of my work for the following day finished.

It is strange though, realising that you will never see someone again. I’m not sure it will ever seem otherwise. Watching the coffin being closed, it was hard to imagine it as anything other than empty. Like a bad joke or an ill-conceived dream. But then life goes on regardless, pulling you along with it.

At least I had a chance to say goodbye.

Changes…

4 Aug

Right, I’ve finally caught my breath.

Last Tuesday I sent a flurry of emails that left me emotionally and physically drained. I have never written a more difficult set of sentences, clicking the send button was even harder.

After three years, countless hours of work, and a rather exorbitant amount of money spent on books, in the space of six brief sentences, I officially withdrew from the School of Law & Government Ph.D. programme at Dublin City University.

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Coffee Experience: Roasted Brown, Templebar, Dublin

23 May

I like being surprised when I walk into a new coffee place. I still remember vividly the sense of uncertainty I had the first time I walked into Third Floor Espresso and awkwardly approached the counter. It didn’t look like a cafe. It wasn’t where I expected it to be, the ‘Third Floor’ moniker still unexplained. The coffee certainly wasn’t what I had expected to be. And, in all fairness, Colin wasn’t the most imposing or legendary looking fellow behind the counter. It was all of this uncertainty combined with the great experience that kept me coming back for more.

Fresh back from my trip to the Has Bean roastery in Stafford, still buzzing after a weekend of coffee, I was wandering around Templebar in need of some refreshment. Having previously passed by Roasted Brown without realising where it was (even when I had been looking for the place), I decided that a second attempt was necessary.

For me, the Filmbase building was a bit imposing, all glass fronted, industrial metal everywhere, volunteers from the film festival clustered just inside the door, chatting and doing some sort of unidentified work. Fearful of interrupting anyone I made my way to the reception desk and asked where the shop was. Just up the stairs apparently. I ascended the cold metal steps, feeling the same sense of uncertainty from my first days in 3fe.

Finally in the shop space, it is wonderfully contradictory in design. Floor to ceiling windows dominate one side of the shop, overlooking the picturesque streets of Templebar. Lighting equipment and various filmy stuff lie scattered in the corners and the tables arranged economically in the floor space have a wonderful communal feel about them. The floor is bare concrete and complements the bare metal supports, giving a raw unfinished look to a building focused on creativity. Roasted Brown inhabits the space that is available to it with confidence.

Approaching the bar, I was pleased to see filter offerings on the menu, and after a bunch of espresso already that morning, my palette was in the mood for something lighter. I requested a filter brew, a brief look of uncertainty passed between us. Give me a second, not sure I have anything left for filter, he starts to rummage under the counter for a bag of beans. Sorry we seem to be out, but if you really want I can make you up an aeropress of the espresso blend. I inquired as to what was in it, my ears perked up at hearing Finca Argentina from El Salvador, an unnamed Bolivian and a secret Sumatran. A fun combination, I order the filter and take a seat.

My filter arrived a few minutes later, my time spent spying on the efficient aeropressing going on at the bar. First sip, honeydew melon. Sweet, slightly sticky, clean acidity, bright. As it cooled, a red liquorice emerged from the initial brightness and the cup finished with a deliciously smooth dark chocolate. Hands down probably one of the best aeropresses I have had I quite awhile, and interestingly enough, the last great one that springs to mind was a blend as well, Has Bean’s Jabberwocky Mk.1.

I should mention that this was a stealth trip, not that my vague notoriety would have mattered anyway, but it was great to see such natural and honest service behind the bar. Second time in a a few days (way back in mid February) I had coffee in a completely unpretentious and natural shop. It was a great week for coffee for me.

If you are floating around Dublin looking for somewhere to caffinate, this is somewhere you should really check out.

Coffee Experience: North Tea Power, Manchester

23 May

So, this is something I have been thinking about doing for a while. I like promoting coffee and nice shops whenever the chance arises so this seems like a relatively good platform to do it on.

There are alot of quality places out there, doing some really good stuff and I think they deserve a bit of air time, as small as that provided by this blog is.

So I suppose a few ground rules/clarifications/disclaimers:

I am not going to go purposefully around the place, critically analysing and judging people’s coffee and establishments. I do not get to many different places, so it would not be very representative.

I am not writing “reviews”, I am trying to highlight places that I think are cool and are well worth a mention/visit. Personally I think calling it a review is probably a bit over the top so instead I shall be calling it a ‘coffee experience’, make of it what you will

While critique is a necessary part of improving business, being a customer, I feel any negative issues I have are between me and the shop, and not the public. Any post I make will be overwhelmingly positive. I like positivity.

I do not consider myself immensely qualified, or an authority that should be listened to raptly. These are my impressions of shops I think are doing great things for something I feel passionately about. I enjoyed the experience and think you should too.

So, the heavy stuff out of the way, first up is North Tea Power in Manchester. I had the opportunity to pass by here for a few coffees on my trip to the Has Bean roastery (see my previous blog post) last month. Disclaimer: I showed up at the shop with Stephen Leighton, their roaster and was introduced as the Brewers Cup Champion (this has only happened twice, I still feel rather bashful when people bring it up).

Long story short, I love this place.

Long story long:

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World Brewers Cup 2011 Scoresheets

23 May

Finally got my hands on these. Presented without comment.

World Brewers Cup 2011 – First Round – Keith O’Sullivan

World Brewers Cup 2011 – Final – Keith O’Sullivan

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