Saturday, December 31, 2011

Picturing 2011

2011 was a year mainly untold in photos. It was a year of private pain, of hopes and dreams and plans not realised, of moments of joy, of unexpected optimism and active intoxication, of elections and real political engagement (little related), of few but breathtakingly beautiful travels, of taking things a day at a time to slowly recreate hope for the future. Few photos yet a year of cameras, the pleasure and security of using one, its inexplicable disappearance, the occasional frustrations of another, and an eventual and very recent replacement, beginning a slow repairing of a formerly reliable satisfaction. The photos do not tell the story of this year, and nor do the words, on this blog at least; this year is embodied in The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend and in me, in who we now are, and in who we'll gradually manage to be, perhaps, next year. Here are some moments from 2011.

A January stroll along the River Liffey:


Followed that afternoon by a first visit to a then-unknown restaurant called the Rustic Stone, which quickly became our favourite place to eat in Dublin and was frequently frequented over the coming year, illness be damned.

My leg injury and its impressive scar, acquired in December 2010, continued to slowly heal over the first four months of 2011 but I won't subject you to its contours now. I still plan to
make a gruesome photographic journey of its progress, beginning with the doctor's fingers inside my numb leg and perhaps ending with a Forty Foot swim, but that's just one of many photo projects that didn't get realised this year. Look forward to its appearance some other time, I will provide warning for those of a squeamish nature.

I finished work and thoroughly enjoyed the next month off, including jaunts around the country to see friends, chasing the aurora borealis in the Dublin Mountains and a stroll in Devil's Glen. Photos taken but also not yet uploaded. The year seemed to be cementing its brilliant beginnings when the Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl on February 6th:


One of the breathtakingly beautiful trips also took place in February, a week's travel to Connemara, in Galway on the west coast of Ireland.

As the Irish general election approached, Upstart adorned the city with art alternatives to election posters, leading to much enjoyment for The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend in photographing them and in taking a couple down afterwards. The election itself was won by Fine Gael and Labour, I believe - hard to tell with the amount that hasn't changed since, but at least formerly all-powerful Fianna Fail were defeated.

Then it was March. Then the pancreatitis appeared out of nowhere for The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend; then the hospital stays began; then we thought it would be ok; then it wasn't. March
was when everything changed. You can read my lengthy reflections on our great pancreatitis adventure; the experience that first month did not lend itself too well to photography.

On my way to the hospital one day I did dash in to the last day of the wonderful Crafted Creatures exhibition at the Ark.


It was a delight, with its touchable exhibits of felt chickens, a wicker bull, a soft wallaby and a giant wooden turtle, as well as less-touchable but no less delightful ceramic fish
plates, boats tusked like the animals they carried, fantastical insects made of bibles and clockwork cogs, plastic jellyfish and coral reminiscent of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, and a high wall covered in delicately pierced white marine shapes, bubbling towards the ceiling.

April rolled around with the hospital visits longer and the situation worse; yet alongside the pain and the grind of prognoses and pathologies that shifted almost daily there was beauty to be found, like this butterfly alighting in the grounds of the hospital alongside the altogether fake plastic grass:


The Dalai Lama came on a rare visit to Ireland, and I took advantage of my jobless status and flexible hospital visiting hours to drive to Kildare to see his orange-robed self:


Nothing like the amazing experience of seeing him in Dharamshala 13 years ago, but worthwhile indeed.

April was also good friends getting married, but those photos (even the flamingoes) will remain strictly private.

May was thinking things were getting better as The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend was out of hospital, but instead he was told he'd need major surgery at the end of the month. As we waited for his readmission we didn't walk 15 minutes into town to see O'Bama, ahem, Obama, address the crowds at College Green, despite having travelled to Washington DC in 2009 to see him inaugurated as the first black president of the United States of America.

There might have been a horse outside:


And beauty still struggled out of the rooftops of Camden Street:


The surgery went well, the hospital was left, hopefully permanently, and there was much rejoicing. And slow recovery. I cycled with hundreds of other people around the city as part of Bike Week:


And there was the all-important discovery of Wall & Keogh tea shop in Portobello.


July was an eventful month. Fantastically we saw dolphins swimming near Whiterock Beach at Vico Road in Killiney:


Then there was the skating, BMXing and graffiti of the Kings of Concrete festival at Dublin's Civic Office. The kids these days, what are they like.


To be clear, the lad on the bike has just gone up the ramp and jumped over the four other people sitting calmly at the top.

Alas also in July the pancreatitis came back. And now it'll be there in some form for life. So that wasn't great. But it's so far been mild. And no matter what we'll manage it. There isn't a photo for that, so you'll have to imagine one.

August played out well. My brother played piano, in Dun Laoighaire the Ukulele festival organised by a friend featured the West Cork Ukulele band playing Take On Me, and many good folks played at the Lunasa Games in Leitrim. The Irish Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef went on display at the Green House:


September brought with it the second trip to a place of breathtaking beauty - Venice for the wedding of two of my closest friends. There are hundreds of photos still to be sorted and uploaded from that trip, so this will have to suffice to provide a taste for now:


The city's beauty surpassed by far my assumptions that it might be too crowded, too superficial, too ostentatious, a caricature of its romantic reputation; instead it was a lovely, quiet, working, breathingly beautiful place in which to spend a week. Made much better by the milestone passed in health because The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend and I were able to be there together.

October, well October saw the start of Occupy Dame Street. And that was pretty much October done with. And a good October it was too.




I've taken at least 500 photos of this little protest, none can really sum up its importance for or effect on me; perhaps Ill work that out in 2012.

In November Dame Street was just as occupied but was occupying me a little less. What has stayed with me are the good people I've met and worked with there. It's a rare thing to meet a selection of strangers and want to spend so much time with them, and have such a good time doing it.


There was also another wedding of friends, this time in Cork, which meant a mere three visits in 24 hours to Occupy Cork:


December began with World AIDS Day, no photos, but it did motivate me to post some HIV-related photos from years ago. This was closely followed by the Spectacle of Defiance and Hope, an event created by dozens of community and youth groups, which was an energising and inspiring carnival from Dublin Castle to the GPO. And another opportunity to bounce my inflatable globe with hundreds of other people as we danced down O'Connell Street.


Despite a short and not too serious visit to hospital by The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend during December, the future looked brighter somehow because I continued one tradition:


Christmas cheese!

And returned to another after an enforced absence last year - the Xmas Swim:


No doubt next year will bring more changes, and some things remaining the same. And hey, perhaps the world will end, in which case no effort will be required on a photographic review of the year next December, or it won't, which will be such a cause for celebration it won't matter too much anyhow. This year any day we were both still alive at the end was counted a success, that's a reasonable metric to be going on with. In photographic and other ways, here's to a light-filled new year.


Blogger Alex Leonard said...

Lovely post, nice way to wind up the year. Love the Connemara shot, and that one of Occupy Cork is very cool.

Sunday, 1 January 2012 at 11:04:00 GMT  
Blogger Snag Breac said...

Now, THAT is christmas cheese.

Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 12:13:00 GMT  

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