Your Palace or Mine?

Your Palace or Mine?

You know that bit in Braveheart where Mel Gibson goes, ‘Hold, hold, hold…’ and the other army is charging towards them? The tension is building. You hardly bear it until eventually, Mel roars, ‘Now’?

Well, that’s where we’re at in this pandemic malarkey – still at the ‘Hold’ but knowing the ‘Now’ is coming soon.

It feels like we will never get to the ‘Now’ though doesn’t it?

Like in the way that you have that last big push before the exams and you just can’t imagine them being over, the pressure released and that – oh my God – that post-exam freedom.

It feels like those weeks coming up to a holiday when everything seems to be harder and take longer in work. You know that if it can go wrong, this is when it will go wrong.

Or like when you’re doing up your house and your living arrangements are topsy-turvey. There’s dust in everything you own, even your pyjamas, and the contractor keeps extending the finish date, and you can’t imagine life without grit in your cornflakes.

Isn’t it like that right now?

Except there’s more at stake, so many lives on the brink, not to mention those that have been lost, and if, so far, you’ve managed to avoid the virus, you wonder how much longer can you hold out. 

During January I’ve posted a dawn photo every day (Monday to Friday – but sometimes at weekends too) on Instagram. ‘Dawn’ evolved into a theme by accident in an attempt to keep me hopeful and to perhaps even inspire hope in others. It’s a small thing, but one I hope lifted spirits. Indeed, I was delighted to get lots of positive feedback. If it brightens just one person’s day, then I feel it’s worth doing. I don’t post pictures of people, (and certainly none of me pouting – perish the thought!) and very few posts about books (I need a break from that!) I just post my view of the world through the camera lenses available to me. The photos are eye-catching (perhaps not the best technical quality), and I treat it like a gallery of my ‘artsy’ shots. I shared some of the photos across to Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is my main photo ‘gallery’.

In February, I plan to follow the theme of ‘spring’ so if you fancy following me on Instagram you are very welcome to –

Photography helps me escape, to see the familiar from a different perspective. What if we could step through an imaginary portal and look at home at though we were tourists?

During my dawns walks one snowy morning, I was wandering through the Palace Demesne in Armagh. I took a little path I don’t often take because it’s usually a bit too muddy, but with the ground being frozen, I could explore further.

I emerged into an area that I could have sworn I’d never before been in it was so changed by the snow – a Stray Sod moment to be sure. The landscape slowly morphed back into the place I recognized, but before that happened, there was a lovely moment of being able to pretend that I was away somewhere visiting another place.

Where would you go – within 10 miles of your home – and pretend to be a tourist?

I choose the Palace Demesne in Armagh. (Quick FYI – ‘Demesne’ is pronounced the same way as the word ‘domain.’)

The Palace was built by Archbishop Robinson around the 1770s (I couldn’t find an exact date but there was a reference to archbishops living there from 1770 to 1975.) I’ve been lucky to have book launches here for March to November and The Bramley hosted by the wonderful Lord Mayors at the time Cathy Rafferty and Julie Flaherty respectively.

In recent years the grounds have been opened to the public.

You can even take a stroll through the herb gardens at the back of the Palace. It’s a little empty right now with only the hardest of flowers blossoming like this little heather.

It is a beautiful place for walking, especially now with lockdown. A word of caution, though, it can be a bit crowded, but it was empty at dawn.

I took the one above and below back in October 2017 the morning before Hurricane Ophelia arrived hence the broody sky!

Within the grounds of the Palace Demesne are the ruins of a Franciscan Friary which dates back to 1263AD. The Franciscans played an important part in the city’s religious life for nearly three hundred years until 1542 when Henry VIII closed them all down without furlough!

The buildings fell into ruin but are still very beautiful and are a great subject for photographs. You can get very creative!

The public can wander through the gardens and grounds now, and it’s lovely that it is available to the people especially at this time. In the same way that the Parisians may promenade around the Palace and grounds in Versailles, we in Armagh have a mini version of our own Palace and grounds!

Byddi Lee