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A chance encounter on Grafton Street

1 Dec

It was dusk on Grafton Street. The Christmas decorations had begun to glow in the fading light.Her reflection could be seen in the window of Brown Thomas, the upmarket department store. Its contents had grabbed her attention and commanded her to stop and look. However, she was not in the mood to pursue a mild interest in the garment on display and, after a few moments, continued her journey along Grafton Street towards St. Stephen’s Green. At the junction with Harry Street, from behind a flower seller’s stall, Harry suddenly appeared in front of her.

She surprised herself by readily accepting Harry’s offer of a drink in nearby McDaid’s but she was not uncomfortable with the situation. During and after her separation she was taught to live in and accept the “now”.

Harry ordered the drinks and then found a discreetly located table. There was a lot of coming and going in this establishment. Seating as far from the entrance as possible was preferable.

‘Samantha, I am really, really pleased to have met you today. How have you been keeping? I haven’t seen you at the tennis club in recent times?’

‘I had a slight problem with my Achilles tendon which required rest and physiotherapy. It’s getting much better and I am just about to make a comeback – when the evenings get longer.’

“Well I am delighted to hear that. The Achilles can be very troublesome, you know. Sometimes they can only be repaired by surgery. They just snap for no apparent reason. I recall the case of a football hooligan crossing Chelsea Bridge on his way to a match. Without warning his Achilles snapped, causing searing pain. A policeman was walking behind him and the hooligan thought he must have been hit on the Achilles by the policeman’s truncheon. So he punched the policeman in the mouth – could have gone to jail. I assume his immediate transfer to the nearest hospital and subsequent diagnosis saved him.’

“Yes, I know, I heard about that case.’

She felt surprisingly relaxed about him telling her things that she already knew. Normally this would irritate her.

Harry was light-headed by just being in her company. He was besotted. He would settle for a platonic friendship but, dare he dream of more? She was less enthusiastic, being frequently admired. However, compared to most men, she felt he was on her wavelength. Harry was an ambitious courtier and she was a high-born eighteenth-century aristocrat. He was speaking too much, like a giddy gurgling brook, but he soothed her and she was happy to let him babble on.

He would have preferred to offer a more salubrious setting but he had to seize the moment. A proposal of a longer walk, only as far as the Westbury, may have caused her to change her mind, either immediately or en route. Besides, the quirky nature of McDaid’s provided a certain anonymity.

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can download it or get a printed copy from Amazon. If you’re in Dublin over Christmas you can buy it in Sweny’s Chemist Shop (Joycean Museum) in Lincoln Place, near Trinity College.

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What’s so funny?

4 Sep

I believe the answer to this question is “people” – human beings. People can often be at their funniest when they’re not trying to be funny at all. Most people believe they are unique. There’s some truth in that thought but others go much further and believe that they are the only sane person on the planet.

“All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer.” Robert Owen (Welsh philosopher and philanthropist 1771-1858)

Some people think that the world revolves around only them. The British nation used to feel like that. Back then, in days gone by, they described mainland Europe as the “the continent”. On a dark and damp morning in the 1950’s the headline of the London Times proclaimed “Fog in channel – Continent cut off.”

Speaking of the continent, I am reminded of a witty one-liner about a place called Frinton-on-Sea. This is a resort on the east coast of England in the county of Essex. It is a quiet place, populated by retired geriatrics – the last resort? This part of the Essex coast is one of the nearest points to “the continent”. A few miles north of Frinton-on-Sea is the port of Harwich. It used to be a popular starting point for English holiday makers who were brave enough to travel to mainland Europe. The ferry’s advertising slogan was:-

“Harwich for the Continent! “

How exciting! Not to be outdone, a wag from Frinton extrapolated this slogan:-

Harwich for the Continent!

Frinton-on-Sea for the incontinent!

Let’s move on…

“Oh, what a great gift we would have if we could only see ourselves as others see us.” Robert Burns (Scottish poet 1759-1796) said that. He knew, of course, that we cannot view ourselves with complete, detached objectivity and wouldn’t life be boring if we could? We would lose all the humour to be found in observing how people perceive their place in the world and how they prevent reality from interfering with that perception.

I am not suggesting that I want to laugh at people but rather with them. Pathos and empathy are essential ingredients of humour. Watching people skilfully reconcile their perception of self with the real world is like watching a tightrope walker or a trapeze artist.  We marvel at their ability to defy gravity, as we fear for their safety. We also laugh, nervously, from the relief of knowing that we are not a risk of harm from what we are watching.

Some people work hard to present themselves in the most favourable light. Is this selling or acting?

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Take me, for example. Most people I know call me Danny but that wouldn’t be good enough for an author – so I became Daniel. It’s commonly acknowledged that your name sounds more intellectual if you stick a middle initial into it. So I have moved from plain old Danny Boy to Daniel M. Doyle – author, wit and raconteur.

In Ireland, where I live, our president is Michael D Higgins. He’s a Michael Daniel and I’m a Daniel Michael. So who knows? Today I am talking to you and tomorrow – maybe the presidency of Ireland? Am I losing the run of myself perchance?
Lots of people in Ireland like to answer a question with a question. For example:-

“Excuse me. Can you tell me where is the nearest Post Office?”

“Is it stamps you’re after?”

Some people might find this to be a funny reply but it is merely good selling. The respondent is looking for more information so that he can accurately determine the requirements of the inquirer. There might be a sweet shop around the corner which sells stamps – so the inquirer actually has no need to visit a Post Office at all.

What is logical to one person might seem perfectly illogical to another. For example, a visitor takes a taxi to a remote house in rural Ireland. Eventually the taxi turns off the road and proceeds along a narrow boreen. After a few miles the passenger says:-

“This boreen is very long?”

The driver replies, logically:-

“Well sir, if it was any shorter it wouldn’t reach.”

Humor must not only make us laugh – it must also make us cry. I don’t cry about sad things or the terrible misfortunes of others but I do get a bit bleary-eyed when I see the best of human nature displayed in people. When I see qualities such as unconditional generosity and bravery I know that these people are not aware of how great they are. As with the funny side of humor, they are just being themselves. The tears flow from the sensation of experiencing beauty – as in a painting or a piece of music. We are momentarily lifted out of our day-to-day lives and reminded that life can be wonderful!

Sometimes I get it wrong. I make an inappropriate or flippant comment about a subject which I should have left well alone. My standard technique to recover this situation is to quote from Lord Byron’s Don Juan:-

“And if I laugh at any mortal thing ‘tis that I may not weep.”

I have achieved mixed results from this manoeuvre.

Computers are like cars – right?

7 Jul

A meeting with Phil – the procurement manager

“The residual values in your computer leases are pathetic. It’s an awful indictment of your lack of faith in your own products when you’re prepared to put no more than a 10 per cent residual value into a three-year lease. In the motor trade you’d get at least double that.’

The salesman replied:-

‘Phil, the similarities between mass-produced cars and computers only go so far. The speed of technical innovation in computer manufacturing is far quicker. For example, a newly launched computer may not be fit for purpose within four or five years of its first shipment. After this time it is still reliable and it still performs at its design speed but the IT environment will have moved on. New software and applications require ever more powerful processors and the original computer has to be replaced. It will have minimal second-hand value because no one will want to buy it. However, a five-year-old family saloon can still do the job at acceptable levels of speed, comfort, reliability and safety. A Formula 1 racing car provides a better comparison to the IT environment. A five-year-old racing car may still achieve the speed it was designed to do but it won’t win any races because more recently built cars go faster.’

‘Listen. I’ve been around the track so many times that it makes me dizzy just to think of it. There’s nothing you can tell me about racing cars. Anyway, there’s still a good market value in old Formula 1 racing cars.’

‘But it’s nothing compared to the cost of the original build. Formula 1’s are not mass produced. They are collectors’ items. You won’t find many vintage enthusiasts polishing a 20 year-old computer every Sunday morning in their garage before they take it for a sentimental batch run.’

This is an edited extract from the book – London Irish Dublin English, available on Amazon. Photo0108 (1)

Edwardian Bloomsday banter in Neary’s

16 Jun

There is something reassuring about a visit to Neary’s. Things don’t change. You are greeted at the entrance by two strong metal arms, each of which holds a big conical lamp to guide you in. Inside, spherical glass lampshades, the size of footballs, sit on great brass stands which grow from the bar. Due to its familiarity, all this seems quite normal but it is far more special than that. A friendly but reserved greeting can be expected from the barmen, smartly adorned in their famous livery of black bow tie and white shirt.

A line of small round tables accompany a continuous couch along the wall which faces the bar of this beautifully appointed rectangular room. I was fortunate to find a vacant table and was relaxed the moment I took my place on the couch. To my left were a group of retail workers resting after a hard day’s selling. To my right were three intellectual types. The looked like real or aspiring Trinity College professors, much like Michael Caine in the film Educating Rita. Perhaps Rita was sitting to my left? This I shall never know.

The professors were aged between 30 and 45 years. One had a beard, a heavy tweed jacket and green corduroy trousers. The second wore thick, black-rimmed glasses and a white, woolly Aran jumper, whereas the third was quite bald and smoked a pipe. They engaged in a giddy Edwardian-style conversation which became more pronounced during the process of procuring each round of drinks. The general banter went as follows:-

(1)The offer:-

‘Could I interest you in a further libation?’

‘Could you make a hole in another pint?’

The acceptance:-

‘Can a duck swim?’

‘Can a bird fly on one wing?’

(2)The order:-

‘James, give us another dose of that.’

‘Whatever he’s having and none for yourself.’

(3)The delivery:-

‘Now take this in your right hand and say after me.’

‘Imbibe one of these every 30 minutes and the itching should subside.’

(4)The acknowledgement:-

‘The blessing of God, Mary and Patrick on you.’

‘Tanks awfully muchly.’

‘To those like us.’

‘That one’s mine, as the devil said to the dead policeman.’

‘More power to your elbow.’

(5) Followed by general small talk:-

‘It’s the greatest country in Ireland.’

‘Who made those allegations?’

‘I am the alligator.’

‘The oldest woman in Dublin is still alive!’

‘I beg your parsnips.’

‘And there was him and him gone.’

(This is an edited extract from my book – London Irish Dublin English)    

Amazon Marketing Services for Self-Publishing: An effective selling tool or a conspiracy theory?

11 Apr

In order to keep this article short, I am assuming that the reader is familiar with the mechanics of AMS. Here are my results. During the six month period from June to December 2015 AMS generated 100,000 impressions (small Adverts) for my book. From these Ads my book page received 600 clicks from potential buyers. From the 600 clicks there were 16 sales of my book. This generated royalties of $33 (price $2.99 @ 70%).The total cost of the 600 clicks was $40 (Ave cost per click 6.67c). Although royalties fell $7 short of the cost of the clicks, AMS only counts a sale if the book is bought in the same visit as the initial click. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to assume that the remaining 584 clicks (600 less 16) would have generated a further 3-4 sales on subsequent visits to my book page. Hence, this investment in AMS achieved the breakeven point. As an unknown author with one book I am happy to achieve breakeven in that I managed to reach a wider audience at no cost.

So why do I think AMS might be a conspiracy? It’s the same old issue – lack of transparency. It’s like standing in the street outside of the casino. The croupier comes out and takes your bet and then comes back a few minutes later to tell you if you won or lost. How do I know if the sales I achieved during the six month period had any connection to AMS? The weekly total of impressions (Ads) peaked in mid-August 2015 at 18,000, which produced 135 clicks, resulting in 5 sales. Then it quickly fell back to a weekly average of about 3,000 with no further sales until November. Why? It must be something to do with the mysterious Amazon Algorithm. Did it decide to throw me a morsel of sales in order to keep me dreaming of impossible future greatness? Am I paranoid? If I am that doesn’t mean that the Algorithm isn’t having a bit of fun at my expense.

PS: I’m still hanging in with AMS but I had to endure an enforced break from it earlier this year. The mighty giant which is Amazon tripped on an acorn and knocked itself out for six weeks. The acorn came in the form of my credit card expiring in December 2015.  My AMS account had been set up wrongly so that I had no access to the Edit/Update function. I loaded my new credit card promptly but it took five weeks and many emails before I could explain the situation directly to a human being.

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

26 Mar

 

Donal did not think that he was in anyway different from born and bred Dubliners. Although his accent was London, he believed his Irish DNA would keep him one hundred per cent in tune with all around him.

In fact he definitely did not want to acquire an Irish accent – either by intention or osmosis. He had met a number of Irish people in London who had tried too hard to achieve a local accent. The result was a hilarious mixture of sounds. Whilst he was very amused by this Donal did not want to become a similar source of mirth in reverse.

When he joined London Irish Rugby Club, in the late 1970’s, he was desperate to fit in. After training and a drink, the players helped to clear up the bar. Donal leapt enthusiastically to the task. Then, in a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent, he found himself saying “Are these glasses for the washing” – not even Tom Cruise could have delivered a worse sound and word order. Donal felt guilty, ashamed and naff. He vowed never to do it again.

Besides all that he quite liked his English accent. On a few occasions people remarked that he sounded like Michael Caine. Donal liked this – he thought Michael was a brilliant actor.

In response Donal would offer a more contrived impersonation in which he combined Michael’s “did you know  … not a lot of people know that” technique with a standard music hall joke :-

“Did you know, did you know that every day a man gets knocked over by a London bus? – and he’s getting bloody annoyed at it!”

Donal thought this was a sure-fire winner – the feedback he received was mixed.

When shouting his Michael Caine head off in support of Ireland at a match in the Lansdowne Road stadium, a polite Irishman, sitting next to him, gently inquired as to what part of Ireland he was from and observed that he must have spent a lot of time in England – he was correct.

It was several years later, with the coming of voicemail messages, that he realised just how very English his accent was. In the early days of his time in Dublin this revelation might have shaken his belief that he would totally integrate with the Dubliners but by the time he became aware of it he was already fully settled.

This is an edited extract from “London Irish Dublin Irish”. You can download the eBook or order a printed copy from Amazon.

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

26 Mar

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

Donal did not think that he was in anyway different from born and bred Dubliners. Although his accent was London, he believed his Irish DNA would keep him one hundred per cent in tune with all around him.

In fact he definitely did not want to acquire an Irish accent – either by intention or osmosis. He had met a number of Irish people in London who had tried too hard to achieve a local accent. The result was a hilarious mixture of sounds. Whilst he was very amused by this Donal did not want to become a similar source of mirth in reverse.

When he joined London Irish Rugby Club, in the late 1970’s, he was desperate to fit in. After training and a drink, the players helped to clear up the bar. Donal leapt enthusiastically to the task. Then, in a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent, he found himself saying “Are these glasses for the washing” – not even Tom Cruise could have delivered a worse sound and word order. Donal felt guilty, ashamed and naff. He vowed never to do it again.

Besides all that he quite liked his English accent. On a few occasions people remarked that he sounded like Michael Caine. Donal liked this – he thought Michael was a brilliant actor.

In response Donal would offer a more contrived impersonation in which he combined Michael’s “did you know  … not a lot of people know that” technique with a standard music hall joke :-

“Did you know, did you know that every day a man gets knocked over by a London bus? – and he’s getting bloody annoyed at it!”

Donal thought this was a sure-fire winner – the feedback he received was mixed.

When shouting his Michael Caine head off in support of Ireland at a match in the Lansdowne Road stadium, a polite Irishman, sitting next to him, gently inquired as to what part of Ireland he was from and observed that he must have spent a lot of time in England – he was correct.

It was several years later, with the coming of voicemail messages, that he realised just how very English his accent was. In the early days of his time in Dublin this revelation might have shaken his belief that he would totally integrate with the Dubliners but by the time he became aware of it he was already fully settled.

This is an edited extract from “London Irish Dublin Irish”. You can download the eBook or order a printed copy from Amazon.

After the match in a Dublin pub

16 Mar

After the match in a Dublin pub: The curious case of the smouldering Scotsman and the flying tea caddy.

 

 In Kehoe’s, four rugger-types stood at the bar next to Nicky and her two escorts, Terry and Donal. Three of the rugger boys were Dubliners and one was a Scotsman. This was evident aurally, from his accent, and visually by his apparel of kilt, sporran, off-white woolly socks and footwear which was a hybrid of Doc Martin’s and black ballet shoes. They were clearly in an advanced state of enjoyment and could not but notice Nicky sitting pertly on her bar stool.

With enthusiasm, they engaged her in conversation. As expected, Nicky was well able to handle them in a ladette but controlled manner, which only encouraged them more. Any attempts by Donal or Terry to prevent this were futile. Donal passed a few sporadic words with one of the Dubliners. After a few minutes, the Scottish citizen moved around the extended group and asked Donal a question.

‘Are you English?’

This would normally be a cue for Donal to give the whole Cork roots story but he knew that the question was not asked in a friendly manner. He felt he owed this person no explanations so, in order to keep the conversation short, he replied:

‘Yes’.

‘That’s interesting because, where I come from, we f***ing hate the English.’

Donal did not reply to this challenge. He feigned not to hear it and casually turned his body through 45 degrees so that he could join a conversation between Nicky and another of the rugger boys. The Scotsman moved away and spoke to Terry in order to further research Donal. After a few minutes he returned.

‘And you live here, do you?’ said the Scotsman to Donal.

‘Yes.’

‘And the Irish – don’t they hate you?’

‘No.’

‘That’s interesting because, where I come from, we f***ing hate the English.’

The Scotsman was well dressed in his traditional attire. He did not look rough so Donal felt pretty sure that he would not extend the traditional Scottish greeting ‘Do you like embroidery?’ followed by a head-butt and the exclamation ‘Well stitch that!’. Therefore, Donal chose to respond to, rather than ignore, this repeated act of aggression.

In the most nauseating, smug English accent that he could muster, he replied.

‘No, no, no old chap. There are tens of thousands of English people living in Dublin in perfect harmony with their Irish hosts. And you know why that is don’t you?’

‘No.’

‘You see, about 70 years ago, the Irish f***ed the English out of Ireland. They own this land and they are masters of their own destiny. So they have no hang-ups about the English. Whereas you chappies – you’re still under the thumb aren’t you?’

“No, no, no – we could have f***ed the English out of Scotland but we were bribed.’

‘What a sad, sad lot you are. To think that you traded your sovereignty for the King’s shilling’.

‘I will be not lectured on Scottish history by a miserable, yellow-livered Sassenach . . . ‘

Fortunately, Nicky intervened at this point. ’Now boys, boys, boys – please pick up your toys and calm down.’

An uneasy calm was restored. However, the Scotsman was still smouldering and likely to erupt at any time. The trio finished their drinks, trying not to be seen to rush them, and headed for the exit.

As they opened the door, the Scotsman could restrain himself no longer. On a high shelf above his head various items of pub paraphernalia were on display. He grabbed a rusty tea caddy and threw it in their direction.

‘Stick that up your jumper, perfidious Albion,’ he roared defiantly.

The artefact, made of tin, spun slowly as it glided above the heads of the crowd. It left a trail of rust and dust in its wake like an aging jet liner struggling to gain height after take-off. However, it was not aerodynamically designed and, being light and empty, its height and speed soon diminished. Limply, it glanced off the entrance door’s lintel with a disappointing ‘pop’ before landing on the threshold with an equally unimpressive ‘boing’ sound. The door then closed and pushed the caddy out onto the pavement.

The Scotsman had crossed the line. He had become a health and safety issue and had endangered the quiet enjoyment of the pub’s clientele. Within seconds he found that two small, but wiry, barmen had linked their arms around each of his. They marched him to the door. He protested but he could not break their vice-like grip.

‘Let me go. Do ya no ken ? I’m trying to help you rid this land of Sassenachs.’

A pedal driven rickshaw taxi was passing as the three stood on the pavement outside. Inexplicably, Donal hailed it, thinking this would provide a fast getaway. As the trio mounted the rickshaw the pub door opened. The Scotsman, with arms still locked, kicked the caddy in frustration. It flew forward loudly and lodged under the back wheel of the rickshaw. The two barmen released their grip while skilfully propelling the Scotsman away from the pub and towards the rickshaw.

‘Quickly man – go! Haste post haste! And don’t spare the horses,’ implored Donal.

The emaciated cyclist upfront turned his head sideways and looked back at Donal with a doleful left eye, very much like an exhausted horse might do. His legs did not possess the explosive power required for a quick getaway and with the caddy jammed against his back wheel he was going nowhere.

With menace, the Scotsman walked slowly up to the rickshaw. He was on eye level with the seated Donal, who chose not to look at him but straight ahead at the cyclist, whom he silently implored to action. Into Donal’s left ear was roared:

‘We hate you f***ing English!’

Then he gave the rickshaw a dismissive push which, fortunately, caused the wheel to roll over the caddy and, with this added momentum, it moved slowly forward. Behind them he could be heard extolling the virtues of his native land.

‘And another thing pal – oil, mountains, skiing, Sean Connery, Bill Shankly, Denis Law, Archie Gemmel, Jock Stein, Billy Bremner, Bill McLaren, Jim Telfer, Mighty Mouse McLaughlin, Sandy Carmichael,  Rod Stewart, Lulu, Kenneth McKellar, Andy Stewart, Moira Anderson – you’ve got nothing like that.’

This is an edited extract from the book ‘London Irish Dublin English’. You can download it now at the special St Patrick’s week price of 99c/99p for the next couple of days.

 

Self-published, self-absorbed and self-obsessed? – Listen – it’s not all about me you know…

27 Aug

It was hard work but you got there. You created a piece of literary art and you finally got to press the “publish” button on Amazon. You built it and now they will come…but they didn’t. Hopefully, the reason why they did not come is not because it is rubbish but because they don’t know about it.

It comes as a shock to many self-publishers that, having written a book, they then have to sell it. Most people are uncomfortable with the idea of selling. It’s a bit grubby and demeaning. You can tell a battle hardened salesman by his flat nose and bruised toes, both injuries having been caused by slamming doors.

I, myself, personally have learnt to accept the literal meaning of “self-published”. There are thousands of guide books on this subject. They should all be categorised on the D.I.Y. shelf.

The broad thrust of the advice given in these “how to” books is that the self-publisher must harness the power of social media. A strategy must be devised to create awareness of your great work using the power of Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, your own website and whatever else you choose. All your efforts must be focussed on driving traffic to the “buy” button – either on your website or directly to Amazon etc.

These efforts must be subtle and must not be seen as a disguised version of “please buy my book”. The big reader/author websites, like Goodreads, urge wannabe best-selling authors to be nice, polite, helpful and giving. They must participate energetically in discussions. Useful information and advice must be given. Detailed and professional books reviews must be offered. That seems like way too much work for a dubious return. Authors selling to authors is not an efficient use of one’s time.

Potential customers also try to be nice. For example, they place your book on their virtual “to read” shelf. That’s cruel. You high five when you see you have another “to read” customer. Then you dig a little deeper and find that your book is 547th on their list. Your only hope is that these keeno readers have bionic eyes which can speed read 100 books each simultaneously.

Self- publishing does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s DIY. That’s the deal and if you get a great buzz (like I do ) each and every time the Amazon sales graph stops dragging along the bottom and shoots skyward – then just keep doing what you’re doing.

P.S. The ebook version of my book is available at a promotional price of 99c in the USA from today, Thursday 27th August, for a few days.

P.P.S. Please note the P.S. above is not a plea to buy my book. It is merely the dissemination of useful information which may help you to improve the general quality of your life.

Kilkenny City: the Arts Festival, its wonderful castle and … Oliver Cromwell.

17 Aug

Kilkenny City is perfectly appointed for tourism and especially its Arts Festival.  It would be hard to beat the breadth and depth of events available during this festival week in mid-August each year. There is classical music, performed in the ancient cathedral of St Canice, Jazz, Blues and, of course Traditional Irish is played on every corner of the winding streets of this historic city. Drama includes a daily open-air performance of the work of Shakespeare in the Castle yard and there are many, many art exhibitions and street performers around the City.

The medieval streets lead to a magnificent castle located on the banks of the river Nore. Although built in 1195, this castle is not an ancient ruin through which you must try to imagine what it must have been like in its glory days. No, it is a grand, habitable and lively building which has been beautifully restored and maintained. Please make sure you take a guided tour of it.

Oliver Cromwell is not held dear in Irish history. However, one unintended consequence of his pillage is the view of Kilkenny castle from its adjoining park. The castle was originally built around an enclosed, rectangular courtyard but in 1650 Cromwell destroyed the east wall with his cannons – thus providing the view you can now see in the picture below.

photo0208_001KkyArtFest2915