Frontlines

 

A round-up of today's other stories in brief

Woolly welcome in Kilkenny

Wielding nothing more than a Black and Decker sander, soap and a garden hose, Thomas Horst turns tufts of wool into felt, and felt into fashion. The former US military man, art teacher and rock musician will showcase his colourful creations for the first time in Europe at the Sheep and Wool Festival in Kilkenny’s Cillín Hill exhibition centre this weekend, June 4th-5th.

Irish felter and teacher Nicola Brown spent a week last year at Horst’s studio in Ohio. During the festival she will run morning and afternoon felting workshops for enthusiasts, as part of a focus on Irish craft and design.

The festival will also include an international sheep-shearing and wool-handling championship drawing competitors from Australia, New Zealand and Europe; a young sheep farmer competition; a barn dance and trade stands. And there’s the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, too. Kilkenny is the place to be this weekend.

Deirdre McQuillan

Reader Competition: Win a weekend at the Irish Derby

Embrace more than the race at the 2011 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival. The home of Irish racing plays host to the three-day festival, which sees the world’s finest thoroughbreds compete for one of the ultimate prizes in Irish sport. The festival, featuring the Good Food Ireland Village, takes place at The Curragh Racecourse from Friday, June 24th, to Sunday, June 26th.

The Irish Timeshas teamed up with the Curragh and the K Club, AA Hotel of the Year, to offer one lucky winner a VIP Derby experience for two people with an overnight stay and breakfast in a luxurious room and tickets to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby day, on Sunday, June 26th. There are also 10 pairs of runner-up tickets to the Irish Derby.

To be in with a chance of winning, go online to irishtimes.com/competitions.

Bernard Dunne Soccer Classic

Next Saturday, June 11th, is the date for Bernard Dunne’s annual Celebrity Soccer Classic. Packie Bonner, Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, Ian Rush, Liam O’Brien, Ken Doherty, Jason Sherlock, Shane Byrne, Dunne, The Coronas and Brian Ormond are among the stellar players. It’s a brilliant day out for families, starts at 2pm, and costs only €5 per ticket or €12 per family, with bags of on-site entertainment for all. The real fund-raising, however, continues in the evening at the City West Hotel, with a five-course dinner, a QA with Jimmy Magee, great raffle prizes and lots more for €65 (or tables for €600). You’ll find yourself in very good company and be supporting Pieta House, the centre for the prevention of suicide and self-harm. We love Bernard Dunne. See mycharity.ie/event/bernard_dunne_ charity_soccer_classic/

Index

Whats hot

English Market, CorkPuts most other markets on this island to shame, most especially those in Dublin. Wake up, Dublin City Council, and make something enduring of Smithfield, for example

Toby SimmondsHe of the Real Olive Company, who is now making mozzarella from Irish buffalo milk. Seek it out

SherryBanish old prejudices and give Spain’s special wines a thirsty try, from Fino to, say, an Oloroso Dulce Viejo poured over ice cream

Gearoid HayesWinner of the Adams Prize at the RHA annual show for his Florentine-style self-portrait. The real thing

Chester Beatty LibraryWe love this place any day of the week, but if you are in Dublin this weekend, take yourself to see the Matisse illustrations and visit the cafe. A perfect city outing

Choc-a-bloc weekendFlaming Lips at Imma, Patti Smith in Liss Ard and Pat McCabe antics at Flat Lake. Where’s the helicopter when you need it?

Crémant de LoireFrance’s answer to prosecco, and rather better it is, too

Whats not

Phone muggingsWe’ve heard several stories about people having their mobiles snatched on the street in broad daylight. As they speak. A nasty trend

That garden price tagDiarmuid Gavin’s garden for Chelsea, no Cork . . .

Thumping music at Pier DOn a Tuesday morning? No thanks. Airports are stressful enough. Please turn it off

MothsApparently they’re back in large numbers. Take precautions and mind your woollies

Money for nothing? Patrick Combs

ON A HOT summer’s day in 1995, a 29-year-old man walked into the San Francisco headquarters of the First Interstate Bank, dressed in scruffy jeans and a T-shirt. He was an unsuccessful motivational speaker and failed stand-up comedian, with no income, and $45,000 in debt. But Patrick Combs was about to pull off the financial coup of a lifetime.

At the marble countertop, he passed a note to the teller saying he wished to make a withdrawal from his account. Because of the amount involved, he was told, the transaction would have to be approved by the branch manager. “I could hear my heart beating,” Combs recalls. “Boom, boom, boom, boom.”

A few phone calls later, the branch manager emerged from her office holding a cashier’s cheque for $95,000. She pushed it across the counter. “I tried to take it. But it wouldn’t come. She was still holding it. My heart was really pounding now. Boom, boom, boom, boom.

“She said, ‘What do you intend to do with this money once you leave the bank?’” Combs thought he’d been rumbled. But he was in luck. “She said, ‘We have some excellent investment counselors who could help you decide.’”

Moments later he was out on the street with the cheque in his back pocket.

This bizarre true story is the subject of Comb’s one-man stage show, Man 1 Bank 0, which tours Ireland next month. The fallout from that transaction would continue for years, with the bank employing ever more heavy-handed tactics to recover the money. Yet the whole thing was intended as a practical joke.

“I’d been seeking a stage my whole life,” admits Combs, who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. In 1988, he delivered a baby on a San Francisco footpath after going to the aid of a distressed homeless woman. (“You know what flashed through my mind? Television. Except on television they don’t show a baby being born. You just see a doctor working under a blanket.”) His heroics were awarded with an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. But lasting success eluded him. He constantly rotated credit cards to avoid paying crippling interest rates, but fell further and further into debt. He tried his hand as a motivational speaker, meeting with only mixed success.

One day Combs received a dummy cheque for $95,000 in the mail. The recipient was invited to send a money order for $147 to an address in Cleveland, Ohio. “It said, ‘This is a sample of the kind of money you could soon be making.’ The guy used exclamation points like they were going out of style.”

On a whim, Combs decided to lodge the cheque to his bank account. “In my small, tiny, boring life, I just thought it would be funny. I fully expected to get a call saying, nice try Mr Combs, but we’re sending it back to you.” To his amazement, the bank credited his account. When it failed to notify him of the error within 10 working days, the money became legally his. But when the bank belatedly realised what had happened, it quickly made its displeasure known. “Their motto was, We Mean Business. And, boy, did they. They began assembling lawyers, circling the wagons. They were very, very good at being terrifying.”

Did he ever come close to losing his nerve and giving the money back? “A million times. It was a rollercoaster ride, hysterically funny one moment, abysmally frightening the next.” For years afterwards, Combs rarely talked about the experience. Then in 2003, he hit upon the idea of a stage show. Man 1 Bank 0 has been touring for eight years. But its creator could not have chosen a more appropriate time to bring it to Dublin. In the current economic climate, the story of an underdog who gets one over on the banks is bound to find a receptive audience. “Even the driver who took me to the airport in San Diego, when I told him I was going to Ireland, said, ‘Man, they got some banking problems over there’.”

He adds one final caveat. “Don’t presume to know how this story ends though,” he says. “I know the title suggests a certain outcome. But I might have given the money to charity. I might have taken it to Vegas, doubled it on the roulette wheel and given half back to the bank. I’m not going to give the surprise away. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty spectacular ending to an amazing story.” Even if he does say so himself.

Man 1 Bank 0 tours Ireland until June 29th. See man1bank0.com

Eoin Butler

Word on the street: Shifting pages

What it means: Oh dear, what are those naughty students up to now? Oh, look, they’re taking pictures of each other snogging and putting them up on Facebook. That’ll look good on their CVs. A shifting page is a page dedicated to the art of kissing, but there’s no discussion here: students simply snap their mates drunkenly wearing the Facebook off someone and post it on the shifting page for the entertainment and edification of all.

Where it comes from: Shifting pages were created by students at UCC, UCD, NUI Maynooth and NUI Galway, and pretty soon students at colleges around the country were racing to set up their own shifting pages. But although the most popular shifting pages have more than 6,000 “likes”, not everyone is so enamoured. The Irish Examiner called it a “worrying trend”, pointing out that some of the pictures stray into foreplay territory, and expressing concern that students are damaging their future job prospects by such flagrant public carry-on. But even more worrying is the danger of spotting your boyfriend or girlfriend on the shifting page, enjoying some face-time with somebody else.

How to say it:“Great party at your house last night, dude, er . . . is that your mom on the shifting page?”

Midsummer Night's Feast

Hold on to some of your festival spirit for the Body and Soul Festival at Ballinlough Castle in Navan, Co Meath, on June 18th-19th. Colleagues returned from last year’s festivities with big fat grins on their faces and this one sounds even more alluring: in addition to the music, poetry, art and general feel-good stuff, there will be five-course feasts, served beneath the stars (most hopefully). In addition to the annual Masquerade Ball, Ted Berner of Wildside Catering, that most handsome Swede with a Cork accent, will serve wild Irish foods in a woodland setting, with crisp linen, porcelain, candlesticks, the lot. There will be two sittings each night, each about an hour and a half long. It’s sure to be a delight. Book on the Body and Soul website; tickets for the dinner only are €55, including bubbly and wine.

Patsey Murphy

Detox Cloona style

Now that a measuring tape is the season’s key accessory, thanks to the free tape measures available at pharmacies, those with waistbands wider than wanted could consider a spell at the Cloona Health Centre in Westport, Co Mayo.
Newly added to their standard five-day residential detox is a six-day weight loss programme guaranteed to reduce the inches in a healthy way. The centre, which was established nearly 50 years ago, offers a structured day of yoga, massage and walks, a different hour-long walk in the wild each day, along with a diet of fruit, salads and soups. They’ve also introduced facials, along with massage, reflexology and shiatsu. See cloona.ie

Deirdre McQuillan

New tastes of Dublin

Atul Kochhar, Gino D’Acampo and Antony Worrell Thompson are the UK visitors joining a stellar line-up of Irish chefs for the Philadelphia Chefs’ Theatre at the Taste of Dublin food festival in Iveagh Gardens next Thursday to Sunday.

The Superquinn-sponsored event boasts several new features this year, including an O’Briens Wines Chef’s Table, hosted by Gloss magazine restaurant reviewer Katy McGuinness, at which visitors can ask any question they wish of
participating chefs. The liveliest session could well be the final one on Sunday evening, when the line-up will include Joe Macken of Jo’burger, Rachel Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School, Paul Flynn of The Tannery and RAI chef of the
year Mickael Viljanen of Gregan’s Castle. Places at the table are allocated on a first come, first served basis. New additions to the ranks of restaurants competing to relieve you of your stash of florins – the Taste currency – include Mulberry Garden, Pearl Brasserie, Locks Brasserie, Bang and Cliff Town House. You can check out what signature dishes each of the participating restaurants will be serving at tasteofdublin.ie. Tickets start at €15, excluding booking fee. Now all that’s needed is some sunshine – and a good exchange rate on the florins – because an outing to Taste of Dublin is very enjoyable, but the cost of those mini dishes can really mount up.

Marie-Claire Digby

Make some hedgerow bubbly

Elderflowers are one of the joys of early summer, and homemade elderflower champagne is easy to make (and yes, we know we are being a bit liberal with the use of the word champagne). Creating a sparkling drink with nothing but water, sugar, lemon, and a few flowers is magic. It’s also a great excuse for a foraging walk. Made into a sorbet, elderflower champagne is a dessert gourmet enough to wow any foodie friends. Its taste also seems to evoke an emotional response of nostalgia, of foods once tasted and of carefree summers past. Gather friends together over a dish, and the conversation is likely to turn to forgotten memories and sunny days ahead. The elderflowers need to be free of pesticides and other contaminants. I find the best containers for fermenting the champagne are one-litre plastic sparkling mineral bottles. They are well able for the pressure, but they need to be clean.

Kieran Murphy

Elderflower ‘champagne’

2.5 litre bucketful of elderflowers
1 lemon
1kg sugar
4.5 litres water
Heat the sugar and a litre of water,
stirring until the sugar dissolves. Allow to
cool.
As soon as possible after picking them, carefully rinse the elderflower heads and place in a clean, six-litre bucket or pot.
Pour in the rest of the water. Stir in the cooled sugar syrup. Cut the lemon, squeeze in the juice, then put in the lemon as well. Cover with a clean cloth, and leave for two days, stirring occasionally.

After two days, strain away the flowers and lemon and pour into clean, empty mineral bottles. Cap them tightly. Leave
the bottles for two weeks. If there is any sign of bulging, open the cap to release the pressure; then reseal.

Murphys Elderflower
‘champagne’ sorbet (serves six)
330g sugar
250ml spring water
500ml elderflower ‘champagne’
75-100ml lemon juice (to taste)

Boil the water and stir in the sugar, until it is completely dissolved. Cool completely. Stir in the champagne and lemon. Freeze using a domestic ice-cream machine, or cover and place in the freezer, stirring at one-hour intervals to break up the ice. You can taste elderflower sorbet at the Murphys Ice Cream stand at Bloom in the Park this weekend.