Galway

As I write, I’m in a coffee bar in Galway. The wifi is perfect, much better than that at our Airbnb. It’s like the old days of being in an Internet Café, except there are no PCs here, just a few people with phones and one of us with a fullsize keyboard. And the coffee is great: so good, I had a second cup. No cake, though.

The medieval streets and old buildings are in stark contrast to the modern shops and brightly coloured murals. In fact, walking through the pedestrianised area, it had the same vibe as Camden with its markets and buskers.

Our mate Oscar

Need a wee?

Galway though: I am trying desperately to recall whether my Mum ever said that her father had come from Galway originally. It’s all part of the long-term project to track down the family history, eventually.

We thought about staying in town to catch some live music at one of the pubs – something a bit more official than the 12-year old lad playing the banjo in the street when he should be at school – but a late, large lunch meant that we were too full to face more drinks.

We also saw an Irish dancer: she was very good not least because she didn’t trip over her own feet on the cobbles.

Yesterday we went for a long drive to see the Cliffs of Moher. So did everyone else in Ireland, we hadn’t seen so many people in one place since Dublin airport. It was a gorgeous day for a cliff-top walk, but, no, on this occasion, we gave it a miss. We came here to get away from people, after all. We’ve been spoiled by the long, empty roads which are in great condition, on the whole.

Even on the narrow roads when we encounter someone driving towards us, we’ve had no problem, everyone is polite and waves ‘thank you’.

We stopped at Doolin for a while and looked out towards the Aran Islands while walking on the limestone rocks of the Burren. We saw the Cliffs in the distance too, so we can, sort of, tick them off.

When we picked up our rental car, it had only been driven 260km or so. While driving, I keep missing out on seeing various magic numbers on the mileometer: I missed 333, 666, 999, 1000, 1111, 1234 and now I’m just waiting to get to 2000 km. So come to think of it, we’re looking at a kilometreometer aren’t we?

We’re now staying at our second Airbnb place, run by Maura and her little ‘white’ dog, Charlie. It’s a lovely, big house, 5 bedrooms, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, just up the road from Loughrea.

And it’s the second booby-trapped Irish b&b place we’ve stayed at. In both places, the soap dispenser in the bathroom has been rigged so that when you press down, the soap misses your hands and heads straight for your torso.

On arrival at Loughrea a couple of days ago, we spent some time by the lough that gives the town its name. Close by where we parked, there is a children’s playground, there are tennis courts and there is a collection of outdoor gym equipment. I didn’t want to show the locals up by having a go, obviously.

But that’s not to say we’re not getting any exercise. We’re walking a lot and some of it is quite hilly. Not Spanish Point, though. That was another nice, flat, sandy beach, where we had a lot of fun: writing in the sand, juggling pebbles, standing in a cave out of the wind but in which, water was falling, rain that had spent millions of years draining through the earth. Probably.

We left our Airbnb in Milltown a little more hastily than planned. The heating had gone off, and the bungalow was suddenly uncomfortably cold. Plus, the cold water tap in the kitchen had run out of water. We stopped at Tralee for breakfast, at a place called Chopin’s, easy to find as it’s just along the road from Mozart’s.

We caught the ferry across the Shannon from Tarbert to Killmer and that was a smooth ride. We stayed in the car for the duration, and it was a total surprise when we docked as we had had no sensation that the boat was even moving.

The next place of interest was Ennis, mainly because on one of the roundabouts is a statue of a cow. We visited the local craft market to get out of the rain, and two handbags later, we were able to leave. Pretty handbags, it must be said: homemade.

I am now writing in the b&b, in the bedroom, on 3G (or maybe 4G), with the window open to let in the flies and the sound of cows lowing in a nearby field, along with some birdsong.

Ring of Kerry and Gap of Dunloe

Two very different days in terms of our experience, but equally rewarding in terms of natural beauty. Yesterday we drove a long way and walked a bit, and today we drove a much shorter distance and walked a lot further.

The Ring of Kerry is a circular route to the west of Killarney. The book says we should spend four days or more exploring the area, and the author, our friend Fionn, is right. We should have spent a lot more time here. At Ross Behy, there’s a small beach by the jetty, and some very brave little girls were swimming in the sea.

We drove through Kells but somehow missed the Priory: proof that we should have taken our time. But some of the roads, off the main road, were very narrow. Narrow and steep. Narrow, steep and right on the edge of a precipitous drop. I was driving and when Liesel advised me to change gear, I told her there was no way I was going to let go of the steering wheel just to change gear. That was a scary experience, palm-sweatingly so.

We took a ferry over to Valentia Island and visited the lighthouse at Cromwell Point. Cromwell Point as a place name intrigued me since Oliver Cromwell wasn’t much of a hero around these parts, I thought. Again, the views over the water were stunning: too many islands to visit, including one they named after me, Skellig Michael, even though I’m not much of a hero around here either.

We stopped at several viewpoints, but photos can’t do the view justice. Liesel suggested that painting a picture might be a better way of capturing the awesomeness of the landscape. Sadly, neither of us had the skills, time nor paints with us.

Too much about food here, I know but I’ll say just a couple of things. When you ask for a slice of cake in a café or restaurant, you’re offered or just given some cream to go with it, squirty cream from a can, mostly. And when you order a meal, the response is ‘perfect’. Like you’ve chosen the best possible meal on this occasion.

I remember hearing the name MacGillycuddy’s Reeks when I was very small, maybe my Mum mentioned it, or it was a lyric in a folk song. But how exciting to find that it’s a real place, a group of mountains within the Ring of Kerry.

We drove to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, parked up and then walked a further four miles through the Gap of Dunloe. We were offered a ride several times by drivers of ponies and traps, but we persevered by foot. There was one falter when it rained quite hard for a few minutes, but after that eased off, we continued our hike along the narrow road, mainly upwards.

MacGillycuddy’s Reeks are composed of 60% rocks, 25% water, 10% horse manure and the rest is sheep, people, grass and gorse. The waterfalls were too numerous to count, and if we’d tried to count the sheep, we would have been fast asleep at the top.

The wind was cold but when it stopped, the heat of the Sun on our backs was very welcome. Visitors are advised not to drive along this narrow road, but quite a few people thought they knew better.

The water in the streams was brown, possibly peat, possibly very dilute Guinness. The sound of rushing water meant that it was very hard to hear vehicles approaching from behind. The clip-clop of ponies’ hooves was much easier to hear.

Note: the photos need to be edited, yes, but that’ll need more practice on the phone. Also, I will upload many more pictures to Flickr (maybe) but I can’t now as I don’t have the password with me. All things to bear in mind when we go travelling much further afield.

Dingle Peninsula

A good night’s sleep and we woke up to rain. The bungalow is bigger than our own house, but much quieter. The only sounds from the outside world, other than the rain, are the Atlantic Ocean, some sheep and some lovely birdsong: heard but not seen.

In the kitchen/dining area, we found an extensive CD collection. Christy Moore and The Pogues. So we can at least drown out the sounds of nature.

Except the Christy Moore CD case is empty, and inside The Pogues’ 30:30 we found Now That’s What I Call Pop CD Three. How disappointing!

But the good news is, The Pogues’ CD was found in the CD player, and the CD player actually works.

But then again, this was the only one from the 2-CD set.

Yesterday in the car, I think it’s fair to say we were both disappointed with RTE Radios 1 and 2. Too much talk about Repealing The Eighth. It’s an important issue, yes, but we want to be entertained. And the music wasn’t to our taste, except on the Gaelic station, but the signal wasn’t as reliable

Also, the Vote Yes and Vote No posters on every lamppost don’t do much to enhance the beauty of what we’ve so far seen of The Emerald Isle, even the ones that aren’t blatant lies.

We took our time getting ready to go out, hoping the rain would ease, and that the Dingle Peninsula would live up to its reputation.

And it really did. Bright green fields, glacial valleys, mountains plus all that the Atlantic could throw at the coastline. We stopped at Inch and took a mile: in fact, we walked over three miles on the beach there, despite the wind. I think the word is ‘bracing’. But fortunately for us, the rain had stopped a long time ago.

Speaking of miles, we saw a poster for Ryan’s Daughter, the film, in the local café, and for teenage me, the big star of the film was Sarah Miles. It was filmed in the area, and they are very proud of that.

We had coffee and carrot cake at the café, part of our c-food diet, following the crisps and curry yesterday. As it’s not the full tourist season, the outside toilets were still locked up and there were no rubbish bins: recycling bins, yes, ordinary litter bins, no.

Inch Beach

This guy was the only one fishing on the beach, we have no idea if he caught anything but a few sea-birds looked hopeful. Lots of people had driven along the beach though and I made sure that if future archaeologists inspect the fossilised footprints, they’ll wonder just how 21st century walked.

After a cheese sandwich for lunch, we drove to and through Dingle itself and further west. We stopped several times to admire the views and there are not enough superlatives available, so just imagine us saying ‘wow’ on repeat.

At Dunmore Head, we joined the sheep and walked up and over the headland to within spitting distance of the furthest west point of mainland Ireland. It would be a terrific place to watch the Sun set, but that happens so much later than at home.

Dunmore Head
Dunmore Head

Tig Àine is probably the café with the best possible view anywhere. How anyone that works there does anything other than look through the window is beyond me. We had more coffee and cake while watching the waves crashing on the rocks, watching a group of five ducks amble by and admiring the pictures painted by local artists. Yes, we would have liked to buy one, but no, we didn’t, the overall plan is still to de-clutter.

After yesterday’s disappointment with the local radio offerings in the car, today I connected my phone via Bluetooth so we were able to listen to some old BBC radio programmes. Tony Blackburn’s Golden Hours is the fastest show in the world, apparently!

The drive back to base was gorgeous too and for supper we had a fry-up.

We could spent days here to be honest.

Ireland – Day 1

After a very early start today, we’re having a (for us) late night. We flew from a hot Gatwick to a colder, cloudy Dublin. The good news is that each of our backpacks weighs just 8kg, so with a small bag each as well, we really are travelling light.

Our rental car is a Dacia, slightly bigger than our Mazda at home, even though we requested a small car. And then the assistant warned us about the narrow roads.

For lunch of course, we had to go Irish. A bag of cheese and onion Taytos was OK, but we probably didn’t need to consume the whole bag in one go.

Taytos

Liesel drove from Dublin to about halfway to today’s final destination. We stopped at a place called Moneygall for a break and discovered that Barack Obama’s great-great-great grandfather had emigrated from here to the USA in 1850.

The Barack Obama Plaza had some food outlets and apart from the Taytos, we had coffee and a scone. They are very proud of their connection to the Obamas, there’s even an exhibition hall. It turns out that about half of all US presidents can claim an Irish ancestor.

Liesel with the O’bamas

I took over the driving for the last half of the trip. Narrow roads? We were on fantastic roads most of the way, motorways even. We didn’t even mind paying a toll on a couple of them. And as we went further and further south-west, the landscape became more and more green, verdant, lush, all those poetic words come to mind. And there are mountains in the distance too.

Although it wasn’t as warm here as it was at home when we left, the sky was blue, with a few clouds and the countryside really did look beautiful. This is what we came to see.

And then we found the narrow roads. The last few miles were mainly on single track roads, with the odd passing place. But, as on the big roads earlier on, there wasn’t much traffic.

Our Airbnb place is a bungalow in Milltown, near Killarney.

The view from our window
The view from our window

After a bit of a rest, we drove to Killorglin for a traditional Irish meal. In fact, we went to Sethu Curry House, as they had a lot of vegetarian dishes. An Indian restaurant, owned by a Malaysian and the waitress who served us is from Reading.

Eoghan, our host, came by for a chat and suggested some places that we should visit later in the week. An unusual name, but my Mum’s father was an Owen from Ireland, so I now wonder if his name was spelt the same way.

Disastrous Broadcasting Career

Liesel will tell you that what I wear most days is determined by what’s on top of the pile in the cupboard or in the drawer. But yesterday, I deliberately sought out a t-shirt that I’ve had for nearly twenty years, but have probably only worn a couple of times.

RIP BBC GLR, 1988-2000. A radio station that many people look back on with great affection. (Ed: Liesel rolls her eyes when I go on too much about GLR, so I won’t, on this occasion.)

We went to The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell last night to support a friend who’s going to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe in August for 27 nights. He’ll be talking about his Disastrous Career in Broadcasting. 27 years broadcasting, in fact, so plenty of disasters to choose from.

Let me introduce Jeremy Nicholas, writer, broadcaster, MC, after-dinner speaker and all-round good guy. We saw him at The Cav as he previewed the Edinburgh show for the first time. The material will be honed over the next few shows: some of the stories, all true, just work better than others.

And by coincidence, some of the stories came from his time at GLR where he presented the Breakfast Show in two stints and the afternoon show for a few years.

180506 me and jeremy nicholas

There were also stories from BBC World Service, BBC 5 Live, local Radio Nottingham, Channel 5, 2012 Paralympics and on the way, just like Don Black on Radio 2, there was plenty of name-dropping.

We’d like to see the show in Edinburgh but if all goes to plan, we’ll be in Alaska by then.

But we would definitely recommend going along: just don’t get drunk and heckle like someone did last night (not Liesel). The stories are true, you’ll have a good laugh at someone else’s minor disasters and we all like a bit of schadenfreude, don’t we!

Here’s another blogging experiment. If it works, you’ll be able to see the remaining dates in a box below…

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FJeremyNicholasSpeaker%2Fposts%2F168088033910637&width=500

How’s that?

 

Lead, Foam and Ice Cream

On Saturday, before returning home, we had breakfast with our family in Chorlton. The drive from our Airbnb took a long time as we’d been advised to avoid the M60 motorway.

But slowly, slowly, all these little places, towns, villages, suburbs around Manchester and Stockport are coming together in our mental map. I think today for the first time, I learnt for sure that Chorlton is the same place as Chorlton-cum-Hardy. And we realised that we weren’t all that far from Northenden where we will soon be living.

We’d planned to meet up at The Lead Station for a late breakfast, or brunch, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the food. We’ll definitely be back! It was a warm day and I regretted listening to my wife and not bringing my shorts: she’d said it was supposed to be cold all weekend. On the contrary, we might be having the warmest May Bank Holiday weekend, ever!

Liesel and I parked the car and as we were a bit early, we stopped off for a coffee just down the road at the Foam Coffee House. The coffee was lovely and I’m sure we’ll go back for cake or toast or something one day. We might even go along and play the board games. They had one that I’d never seen before: Subbuteo Table Rugby. I’m intrigued, how does that handle throwing the ball, drop-kicks, scrummages?

There’s a nice little park just down the road too. Very small, is Beech Road Park. Bijou.

Beech Road Park, Chorlton
Beech Road Park, Chorlton

The previous day, we’d taken the children to The Ice Cream Farm, a bit further afield, towards Chester. Martha had a whale of a time in the indoor water play area, Europe’s biggest, apparently.

And I had a whale of a time too, playing with my new Samsung phone, learning how to use the super slow-mo feature, which requires some dexterity with the aged fingers. It was a gorgeous day, and I wish I’d been wearing my shorts… have I said that already?

Here’s the first go:

It’s been edited for duration but the picture is too big for this page. Things can only get better.

That’s Impossible, Mummy

I went for a walk in Chessington a couple of days ago. During that time, I chatted with four former colleagues at Royal Mail.

Our own Postie, Michael, is very helpful and we’re happy to return the favour, to make his day-to-day duty a little bit easier.

Duncan, the Delivery Office Manager, had a hip replacement last year and says he hasn’t felt this good for a long time. Royal Mail senior management don’t get any better. Duncan has just been copied in to a long thread of emails discussing the sale of Chessington Delivery Office and moving the staff into the spare space the Epsom office. All the plans have been made, values estimated, timetables agreed. But there’s just one problem. Royal Mail sold this office ten years ago and have been paying rent ever since.

Paul usually works indoors, serving customers who come to collect items that couldn’t be delivered. He also prepares the up to seven, yes, seven, door-to-door leaflets (unaddressed junk mail, pizza menus mostly) that have to be delivered to each house. 99% of which go straight into the recycling box.

Steve had two knees replaced last year and is recovering well. In fact, he chose to retire a few weeks ago too and syas he’s loving it. Not having to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Not knowing what day of he week it is. He thinks he might get bored one day, in which case he’ll look for a very part-time job.

But he has grand-children too and I have a sneaky feeling he will be spending more time with them.

It’s a funny feeling spending time with our Martha and William, knowing it’s never going to be enough time, but also planning to leave them for a year while we go travelling.

William has just turned 5 months of age. He has a gorgeous, cheeky little smile and if he doesn’t become the number one joker in his class at school, I’ll be very surprised. He will be able to pick us out in an ID parade, no problem, given the amount of time he scrutinises our faces, while trying not to laugh.

And here we are now, boasting about Martha, just over 2 years old. She is incredibly bright. Not only can she count from 1 to 10, she knows when he has 2, 3, 4 or 5 balls in front of her. Proper counting.

Playing in the garden today, she slipped on the slide, and when her Mum asked if she was alright, she said, “I’m fine.” She usually refers to herself in the third person, as Moo-moo. So, pronouns too.

And when her Mum asked if she wanted to climb up the slide, for the second time in two days, and we just looked at each other the first time, she said, “That’s impossible, Mummy.” What a concept for a 2-year old.