The Roof Needs Mowing

Liesel visited the physiotherapist again today in Earlsfield so we took advantage of what might be the last decent day for a while and spent the rest of it in London.

It might be one of the last chances to do that in any case, as we’re suddenly making progress on the house-moving front. But more of that later.

Today involved using nine forms of transport which is always a joy: we hope moving around Manchester is just as easy once we’re there.

  • Walked from home to Chessington North station, caught a SWR train to Earlsfield, then
  • Caught a Southern train to Clapham Junction, then
  • Caught an Overground train to Denmark Hill, then
  • Caught a 185 bus to the Horniman Museum, then
  • Caught another 185 bus to Lewisham Station, then
  • Caught a DLR train to Greenwich Cutty Sark, then
  • Caught a Clipper boat to Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank, then
  • Walked to Waterloo Station and caught a SWR train to Berrylands station, then
  • Walked up the hill and caught a K2 bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • Walked home!

But what exciting things did we do in between? Liesel had physio, I left a bit later and met her in a coffee bar in Earlsfield. Chocolate and Coffee, it’s called, and it has very nice coffee and plenty of chocolate based confectionery, as the name suggests. Come out of Earlsfield Station, cross the road, turn left and it’s past the first turning on the right.

We’ve wanted to visit the Horniman Museum for a long time. I’ve only been once before, when Sarah, Jenny, Helen and I went, about 20+ years ago, to see live video footage of  a volcano erupting in Hawaii. This was exciting technology for the time and very interesting, well worth the tortuous drive there around the South Circular Road.

Anyway, today, Liesel and I went by public transport and as you can see, it’s not a straightforward journey. We debated whether to go via Penge (note 1) but in the end, catching a bus from Denmark Hill made more sense as it stopped right outside the museum.

The gardens were fantastic. There’s a Sundial walk although we only managed to find a few dials, numbers 2, 6, 7 and 8, all different models.

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20180606_1405589085956331979416553.jpgBeing on top of hill, we shouldn’t really have been surprised to see the London skyline, even the arch at Wembley Stadium. Planes flew over from London City Airport at regular intervals slightly spoiling what should have been a quiet, peaceful experience.

There were some animals there too, rabbits, sheep, goats, alpacas. Lots of plants from which we get different coloured dyes as well as other flowers. The Sun was out and so it was a beautiful day for a long walk outside.

The library building was interesting: the roof has wild grass growing on it. I wondered whether the weight would be too much, but I wasn’t going to volunteer to mow the roof.

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Thatched roof but the grass is still living

In the museum itself, which is free apart from the special exhibitions, we were stunned by the range of stuffed animals. There was even a walrus which breathed its last in 1890 or something. The dodo (note 2) was magnificent, bigger than I thought. As was the porcupine (note 3).

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Dodo
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Porcupine

OK, notes explained:

  1. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Did you ever have a Dream?’
  2. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Dodo’.
  3. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Cracked Actor’.

The mastodon tusk was a million years old. It’s funny how your sense of time changes: only a million years old, we just missed it. That’s a short period of time compared with the extinction of dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

We thought it would be nice to get a boat back to Waterloo, unless of course we could find one that went all the way back to Kingston. (There wasn’t one.) We sat at the back of the boat where we enjoyed the stench of diesel fumes.

But it always a joy to spend time on the Thames.

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We disembarked by the Globe Theatre and walked along the South Bank back to Waterloo, slowly, admiring the sand sculptures as usual and again thinking how wonderful it is that the Garden Bridge idea has been hit on the head.

The other day, I was walking around Chessington and I came across a nice, friendly wall. Well, friendly, optimistic graffiti, really:

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Opportunities for walking around Chessington, 10,000 steps or not, are becoming limited. After a few phone calls and a visit from Liesel to the estate agent, we feel that progress is being made on our house move.

I’ve signed (but not dated) both contracts, one for our sale and one for our purchase.

We have received all (or at least, a lot) of the reports on our flat, in which we learnt about the risk of flooding (small), the affect of the next phase of the high-speed railway, HS2 (at least 300 metres away and not scheduled for construction for a long, long time) and more. Nothing to worry about.

We have lots of rules imposed by the landlord, the leaseholder, but again, nothing too onerous, unexpected or unreasonable. Storage in the attic and storage of our bikes might be difficult, but we’ll try the informal approach.

It seems that our buyer’s solicitor is no good. He’s been sitting on paperwork that he should have passed on. Now that we’ve got our estate agent on the case, we have, at last, receieved from our buyer the list of furniture that she wants to keep. We’re happy to leave all those items for her but more importantly, we now know what we need to dispose of or to take with us when we move.

The agent spoke to her yesterday and today: she wants to move fast and is just as dismayed at the performance of her solicitor as we all are.

We can start packing things up, now: we have several crates but we’ll need lots of packing boxes too. Progress at last!

On this day 45 years ago, as I described here, I said goodbye to my appendix.

I also remember 6/6/66. Mr Price, my final and only male primary school teacher was great. He tried to explain the news to us 11-year olds, mostly about Nigeria, Biafra and Rhodesia I seem to remember. And of course, we were looking forward to the World Cup.

This day in 1945 was D-Day, the Normandy Landings. General Eisenhower planned the invasion from his headquarters in Bushy Park, a frequent destination for our walks and bike rides.

My worst ever June 6 experience, even worse than an emergency appendectomy, was in 2005. I took my Dad to the Royal County Hospital in Guildford for a series of tests. He was frail, weak, in a wheelchair and I pushed him from one department to another, follow the blue line, follow the green line, X-rays and other examinations. After taking him home, I really should have paused before driving up the A3 to my own home. It was a hard, very emotional day for me, and I was just the helper. Dad had many medical issues and he still thought he’d be able to look after himself.

It’s funny how certain days have a theme. My appendectomy, Dad’s long day having hospital tests, Liesel visiting the physio today. And last year, this was the day I had stitches out following surgery on my gum by my periodontist.

On the other hand, on this day in 1992, David Bowie, who I mentioned earlier, married Iman, so that’s lovely!

And today’s June 6 adventure in London was lovely too, thanks Liesel xx.

When I Live My Dream

On this day, June 1st, 51 years ago, David Bowie released his first eponymous album. Obviously, we were oblivious to this at the time. The BBC Light Programme would never play it, maybe one of the pirate stations did, and David Bowie never really came to prominence until Space Oddity in 1969, two years later.

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Nobody could have predicted that the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on exactly the same day, would have achieved so much more publicity and airplay!

I first heard the David Bowie album in 1973 and thought it was OK, actually. The songs are simple, cute and sometimes very funny.

Once when I went home for the weekend from university, a singer in a local pub covered Uncle Arthur, and I’m sure my Mum and Dad didn’t believe that this was an early David Bowie song.

I think my favourite song is ‘When I Live My Dream’. I used parts of it when I was courting Sarah. And I emailed the lyrics to Liesel when I was wooing her. When we watched the film A Life Aquatic, I was delighted to hear Seu Jorge’s Portuguese version. That was great. I was, however, miffed when, a few years ago, London Heathrow Airport used it in an advert to celebrate its 50th anniversary. No! Sacrilege!

Today is the 68th birthday of top singer/songwriter Tom Robinson. On this day, eight years ago, Liesel and I saw him and his band in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire. The gig, celebrating his 60th birthday, was titled ‘Glad to be Grey’, a fantastic pun on one of his best-known songs, ‘Glad to be Gay’.

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Tom Robinson

He sang a medley of his greatest hit, ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ as he had done when he performed at my 50th birthday party, some years earlier. Yes, my very good friend Tom was good enough to visit Chessington and entertain us for an evening. Top bloke! I’d first met him at a writing retreat in 2002. This was less than a year after Sarah had died and I was still feeling very fragile. He was incredibly helpful and supportive and the group from that weekend kept in touch for many years afterwards. In fact, we met up with Marko beforehand for a quick drink. Cheers!
(I know what you’re thinking. ‘Hey Mick, you’re writing this nonsense 16 years after attending a writing workshop? You should ask for your money back, mate!’)

The gig took place during a campaign to save BBC 6 Music, our favourite music radio station, from being closed down. Tom was and is a presenter and several other presenters turned up to wish him a happy birthday with a cake designed to look like the 6 Music logo, which itself resembles a record player.

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Other guest musicians include Toumani Diabaté on the kora (don’t tell Tom, but I could have listened to Toumani’s kora all night) and Nitin Sawhney.

Overall, a fabulous night. And happy 68th, Tom, possibly greyer and gladder.

So, to summarise: David Bowie, the Beatles and Tom Robinson are amongst my favourite artistes of all time. And BBC 6 Music is still a favourite radio station.

A Pain in the Abdomen and a Pain in the Bum

This time 45 years ago, I was in the middle of my A-level exams. I took Pure Maths, Physics and Chemistry. In the middle of one of the papers, I had to be accompanied to the toilets as I felt sick. I was sick. I couldn’t continue and went home in agony. I’d been to the GP a couple of times already and he’d diagnosed my abdomenal pains as ‘exam nerves’.

Later on this Wednesday afternoon, I returned to the GP, saw a different one who, after a more thorough, intimate examination, diagnosed appendicitis and told me I had to get into hospital straightaway.

This was my first ride in an ambulance but I was in too much pain to really appreciate it. Mum was with me but I have no idea who was looking after my sister Pauline. Dad was at the Epsom Derby and didn’t get back until much later.

In hospital, I don’t remember the anaesthetic but I do remember the dreams of a golden staircase that went on and on. I woke up without an appendix, which someone described as a blackened gherkin, and I’m sure they asked if I wanted to keep it. Nope.

While in hospital, I missed one paper but took a Chemistry exam in the presence of one of my teachers, Jenny Nelson.

That was the end of school for me, and I missed out on all the end-of-term activities.

Even while I was at school and at university, I never had anxiety dreams about exams. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning from an exam-related dream. Weird.

I was due to take a Chemistry exam but I couldn’t be bothered. I’d had enough. So I went to a coffee bar instead and ordered my default, latte and carrot cake. After a few minutes, I had a pang of guilt. Mum and Dad and teachers and everyone had such high expectations of me. I knew that if I ran fast, I would make it in time to take the exam: I knew they let people in up to half an hour late and I also knew that until now, I’d finished all my exams well before time was up. This also wasn’t an anxiety dream, just an alternative train of events that never really happened. In 1973, I’d never even heard of latte or carrot cake.

Appendicitis was my medical complaint from a long time ago. Liesel is currently suffering from a painful piriformis muscle which is literally a pain in the arse that sometimes radiates down her leg. Yesterday, in the torrential rain, we visited a physiotherapist in Earlsfield who examined Liesel, poked and prodded a bit and suggested some exercises that will hopefully alleviate the problem.

Did I say it was torrential? We’ve had thunderstorms on and off for a few days now, and thank goodness, we’ve mostly been able to sleep through them. There have been some pretty spectacular photos of the storms on Twitter.

A Castle and a Common

Liesel asked if I’d like to go to heave a castle. This was a euphemism that I was not familiar with so naturally, I agreed, out of curiosity.

On Saturday we met up with our friend Rosie and we visited Hever Castle in Kent. Aha!

It was a beautifully warm, sunny day and we had a good wander waround the well-kept gardens. The castle itself has a long and interesting history and there are plenty of artefacts to look at. But not many that you’re allowed to touch.

Then we went to the Anchor by Pyrford Lock for a late afternoon meal. I opted for a so-called falafel vegan burger and chips. It was very nice, with a pint of IPA!

Sunday was a day to catch up on some gardening and in the process, I was reminded that the back of the garage needs a good sort-out before we move. Lots of stuff to get rid of, we even thought about having a Freecycle or Freegle day, leave it on the back lawn and hope people help themselves. The fewer trips we make to the tip, the better!

Bank Holiday Monday, we visited family for breakfast. Helen’s other half, Adam, had flown over from Sydney to watch his team, Fulham FC play at Wembley on Saturday. They won this play-offs final and next season will play in the Premier League. Which is good news for a lifelong Fulham supporter even if, as Adam thinks, the quality of the football is not as good in the Premier League compared with the Championship.

He invited us over to his Mum’s for breakfast this morning and it was good to see some of his family again. He’s had 10 hours sleep in the last three days, really needs a nap but he is flying home later today so I’m sure he’ll sleep well on the plane.

After that, Liesel and I went for a walk in the woods in Epsom, around Stew Ponds and Ashtead Common. We walked to The Star pub, on Leatherhead Road, but no, on this occasion, I did not have burger and chips. Two days in a row is OK, but three times in four days would be a bit OTT! Also, as it was so warm, I had no beer, just lemonade and lime. Liesel had soda water and lime. just so you know what to ask for when you see us in a pub, on a hot day…

On this day in 1983, Jenny was born, the most exciting day of my (Mick’s) life at the time. After leaving Sarah and the baby in hospital, I went around all the local shops and told everyone. Hppy birthday, Jenny!

This was 15 years to the day after Kylie Minogue was born. For a short while when she was small, Jenny was quite pleased to share her special day. Happy 50th birthday, Kylie!

On this day in 1988, Sarah, Jenny, helen and I attended the wedding betwieen Sandra and Nick. They’d known each other as long as Sarah and I knew each other but waited 9 years longer before tying the knot. We stopped in a country lane on the ay so that Jenny and Helen could put on the lovely dresses that their Mum had made.

On this day in 2009, Liesel and Mick attended a recording of Have I Got News for You at the London Studios on the South Bank. David Mitchell on the host. It was a full house of course, and a very funny show.

Ireland PS

Liesel’s Ireland post-script:

It has been two months now since I stopped working.  I am amazed at how different I feel. I am:  sleeping through the night, awake on the weekends, eating less (not anxiety eating), losing weight, more energy, concentrating and reading ‘new’ books, and, my hair is growing back.  Bottom line, work really was harming me mentally and physically.   I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to figure out how to have a better work-life balance, spending time and seeing the world with my best friend, Mick.

So, if you’ve been reading our blog, you’ll know that Mick and I have completed our trip to Ireland.  What a spectacular country.  Highlights were: stunning scenery, walking empty beaches, great weather, and catching up with my friend Catherine and her family.

I’ve been rehashing our trip to Ireland for the last couple of days and thinking about what worked and what could have made our trip better.  Our intention had been to slow down really enjoy our surroundings, no to do list of places we had to see and things we had to do.  We did this but there were a couple of days when we didn’t get back until late and we’re really tired.  I think we can do better!

If I intend to keep up with Mick and my Alaska friends, I must remember to pack a tennis ball and stretch at the end of every day in order keep my piriformis muscle happy.  I had a really painful 8 mile hike up the Gap of Dunloe and paid for my pain the next day as well.

We now know that we can get by on a week’s worth of clothes (or less, in Mick’s case) and can successfully carry our packs for a comfortable 5 miles.

As you may have guessed, I cannot part with my hairdryer but wearing no makeup is working for me. Solid shampoo can work for us but we need to find a solution to getting it out of the tin.

We enjoyed a road trip holiday but need to scale back the miles of travel given the amount of time we have.  2000 km in 2 weeks was too much.

We must exercise every day we can.  We both feel better, sleep better and can eat without guilt.

We don’t have to do everything together, I need the occasional quiet day to read, cook and relax. Likewise, Mick enjoys a the occasional faster-paced, extra-long walk.

I now appreciate that big towns and cities are less interesting when you cannot shop due to space limitations in my luggage and our restrictive budget.   I have to prioritise what museum(s) I want to see the most and I won’t be able to afford all of them.

Can we stick to £100 a day including accommodation?  We can but there are compromises.  We ate big breakfasts (included with our accommodation price) and had a main meal at 4 or 5 p.m. and nothing else.  Now, I love my food, but not every meal has to be gourmet.  Mick needs at least one latte a day.   If we have to compromise on accommodation, we’d rather be in the countryside and have a bathroom to ourselves.

Ozymandias

We were both, like, entertained by the year 11 lads on the bus who, like, were talking about the morning’s GCSE exam. They discussed Ozymandias and, like, all I could think of was Ozzy Osbourne. Then they briefly, like, talked about rhyming patterns, ABAB and AB whatever, and all I could think of was ABBA and how, like, I was looking forward to hearing their new songs later in the year. I bit my cheek so I didn’t laugh at their over-use of the word ‘like’, like.

But most of all, how glad we are not to be revising for, nor taking, exams and then discussing them afterwards and realising we’d missed out something vital and knowing we’d definitely failed? Very glad indeed.

And we’ll probably never know whether it was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias or Horace Smith’s they’d studied.

We were on the bus going back home having walked 5 miles to Kingston Hospital for an early morning appointment. A very nice walk, perfect temperature!

Later in the day, we met up with Helen and Steve and visited Helen’s Dad, Nigel, in hospital.

Two hospitals in one day.

Then we went to the Beefeater on Epsom Downs for a late meal. I opted for a so-called vegan burger and chips. It was very nice, with a pint of Guinness!

Back Home

Returning home after a holiday is always an anticlimax. It’s nice to be home, but we’d still prefer to be doing something different, somewhere else. Best of all though, is not having to go back to work the next day! Neither of us! The journey home was uneventful, but bitty.

After breakfast and a chat with our host, Noreen, then

  • We walked to the tram stop and caught a tram into Dublin city centre, then
  • We walked around the corner and caught a bus to the airport, then
  • We walked to the gate, via the shops, then caught an airport bus, then
  • We walked to the aeroplane and up the stairs and flew to Gatwick, then
  • We walked off the plane and caught a bus to the terminal, then
  • We walked to the station and caught a train to Clapham Junction, then
  • We walked to a different platform and caught a train to Tolworth, then
  • We walked across the road and caught a bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • We walked around the corner, home, sweet home.

Interestingly, we walked straight out of Gatwick airport, nobody and no machine checked our passports. It was a bit of a shock to be out on the concourse with hundreds of members of the actual public.

Liesel declined my invitation to come for a walk the following day, despite it being sunny rather than the predicted wet. And walking around the streets of Chessington, I was reminded why I usually take out my phone and play music or radio programmes. The sound of traffic is inescapable, even away from what might be described as main roads. The birds around here have to squawk really loudly to compete with the traffic. Walking in the forest last week was so peaceful, hearing the birds singing without having to shout. And the silence in between was only disturbed by the susurration of the wind in the leaves.

Today was the day we caught up on all of our admin, not very interesting really, having to pay bills and check bank accounts and process all the mail, throwing a good 75% of the paperwork straight into the recycling bin.

As far as the house-move is concerned, some progress has been made. We responded to our vendor’s enquiries and our seller’s solicitor has answered some of ours. One thing that is a little disconcerting, that we hadn’t previously even contemplated, is the question: Is our new flat likely to be affected by the impact of the High Speed Railway (HS2) from Birmingham to Manchester?

While away, we tried to follow the Giro d’Italia but now we’re home, we can watch it on TV, or at least, the highlights. Simon Yates has been leading for most of the race but today, he cracked on the final climb, so, excitingly, it’s all to play for! (As they say.)

Today is the final day of the service provided by Which.net, the site of my first websites and our first email addresses. Over the years, I’ve said farewell to a number of different email addresses but I still have a soft spot for some of them:

  • delphinus
  • more-chocolate
  • dark_horse
  • mickeydoodah
  • mick_the_wonder_horse
  • mickey_moose
  • mickeydoooodah
  • mickeydoodledoo
  • mick.freed (yes, one of those had to go because it clashed with an American who shares my name)
  • cc_s435 (my very first one, at Kingston University)

Dublin again

Two days in Dublin’s fair city and yes, the girls are pretty. The city itself though will look a lot prettier once the referendum is over and the big ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ posters are taken down. At Heuston Station, we apologised for not being able to vote as we were just visiting, but we assured the ‘Yes’ campaigners that we were on their side, for what it’s worth.

When we first went to buy tickets for Kilmainham Gaol Museum, the only timeslot available was for 5pm, so we decided to buy tickets for the next day instead. Managing the queues to get inside to join the queue to buy tickets was a tough job. Dave coped quite well, though, even turning a group of six away who would not get in this day.

It would be easier to get into this gaol by committing a criminal offence, I thought.

No? Dave the queue handler wasn’t too impressed by this throwaway line either.

Today we retuned and after a quick coffee (but no cake) in the café, we joined a group of about 40 in the holding cells. Pat was the guide’s name. He showed us around the old gaol, telling us about its history and indeed the struggle for Irish independence. There was a lot of history here that I certainly didn’t learn at school. Sometime it’s hard to be English when you learn how we treated peoples from pretty much everywhere else on the planet. Plenty of tragic stories to be told, here.

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The museum, as is often the case, had too much to digest in one visit. Lots of documents and photos.

Just down the road and through the park is the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Its design is based on Les Invalides in Paris. I noticed a sundial and the following dialogue took place:

Mick: Looking at the sundial, I reckon it’s about ten past twelve.

Liesel: But the Sun’s not even out.

Mick: So? Not bad, though, my Fitbit says is 12:02.

Sundial at IMMA

Temple Bar is a famous name and we spent some time in this pub two days running. On the first occasion, there was a small band playing Irish folk songs and other songs. Today, there was a solo performer, also singing Irish folk songs as well as songs by Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash and George Harrison. On both occasions, we heard about Molly Malone and about The Belle of Belfast City.

Cornucopia was a good find, a veggie restaurant on Wicklow Street. So good, we went there twice, too. The weather was OK both days, not a lot of sunshine, not much of the predicted rain either, but today was very close, very humid, and we were flagging by mid-afternoon.

Our main mode of transport has been the Luas Tram network. The signs and announcements are all in two languages, and after a while, you get a feel for the Irish words. Some are similar to English, some are similar to French and other langauges, but nearly always, by English standards, there are far too many letters in Irish Gaelic words! It’s easy to love the Luas Tram Rad Line with colourful station/stop names such as Blackhorse, Goldenbridge, Bluebell and Red Cow.

It’s usually taken us to and from our b&b in Tallaght, to the south of Dublin, but I don’t know if we would have chosen to stay here if we’d known its etymology: plague pit.

But today, after our meal at Cornucopia, we caught a 49 bus, knowing it would cross a tram line at some point, where we could change. But, fortuitously, it took us all the way to Tallaght, and a ten-minute walk later found us back in our room, preparing for our early departure tomorrow, listening to the radio and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Emerald from the bus
Emerald from the bus

Dublin

In Dublin’s fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through the streets broad and narrow
Crying “cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”
Molly Malone Statue
Molly Malone Statue – we did not stroke her boobs, although it seems many people have done so

Well, Molly Malone wasn’t the first person we saw in Dublin. Not the tenth, not the hundredth. There are thousands of people in Dublin, more than we’ve seen in the last 10 days or so. We’ll get used to the crowds soon enough, but it’s a bit of a shock to the system after having the Irish countryside and the roads pretty much to ourselves for so long.

Sadly we missed the great event of the day, but as we drove through Foxford on our way to Dublin, we noticed that they were setting up the world-famous Goat Fair. By the side of the road, we saw goats, chickens, rabbits and other food waiting to entertain the people.

The drive to Dublin was far easier than we’d expected: we dropped our bags off at the new b&b, returned the hire car, and spent the afternoon walking around the capital city. It was a beautiful day, we’ve been so lucky with the weather, on the whole.

We found St Stephen’s Green and had a lie down under an oak tree for a while, watching people, trying not to rest our eyes too much.

We read about the royal wedding, Harry and Megham, the American preacher, the dress, the choir, the crowds, but we were very happy where we were, thank you. Mrs Beckham (see previous post) was there, not really enjoying the ceremony, apparently.

Thanks again to Catherine and her beautiful family for putting up with us over there in Ballina for the last few days. That’s Bally-nah, not Balleener, like something you’d get out of whales. She and her husband, Fionn, whom we first met last night, ran a half-marathon this morning and it’s a shame we couldn’t stay to cheer them on. Or join in.

We’re now in Tallacht, south-west of the city, and it’s quiet here (apart from the motor bike) and the view to the south is pretty good considering we are so close to the city.

The good news is, we found the missing binoculars, in exactly the same place that we’d found a wallet that went missing for a couple of days. There is some kind of gravitational anomaly under that driver’s seat: someone else’s problem, now!

Downpatrick Head

Maybe it was too much fresh air yesterday, maybe it was the beer I drank in the evening (not Guinness), but whatever it was, I am very grateful. For I won a radio competition to help Pink Floyd finish off their latest album, Dark Side of the Moon.

I went to the studio and was told to go into the recording booth with Roger Waters and Roger Dean. The three of us were to sing “That was the news”, one after the other, and this would become the refrain for one of the songs, Our Beauty. In fact, so that I knew what to do, Roger Waters played me the track from the CD.

Meanwhile, in the corner, sat a young girl reading the news. In the opposite corner sat (Jimmy S)a vile man blowing vile cigar smoke into the room.

As the news finished, I heard my own voice singing “That was the news”. Then everyone started laughing! The joke was on me: the radio station just wanted a post-news jingle and I’d unwittingly provided it.

Even within the drean, I then realised that (1) CDs weren’t around when Dark Side of the Moon was recorded (2) There is no such track as Our Beauty on it (3) Roger Dean wasn’t a member of Pink Floyd and (4) The Roger Waters I’d met was an imposter.

Dreams are strange phenomena: you make them up in your own mind and yet you can still be surprised by the things that happen or by what people say. They might come up with a perfectly reasonable answer to a question that you hadn’t thought about.

For example, there was the time I met Victoria Beckham.

“Oh, hello, Vicky”, I said.

“I hate being called Vicky”.

“Oh, sorry. What about Victoria?”

“Oh no, you don’t know me and I don’t know you.”

“Well, what should I call you, then?”

“What’s wrong with Mrs Beckham?”

That was me put in my place.

Today was our last full day in the west of Ireland and I think it’s fair to say: we’ll be back. We’ve enjoyed it immensely, but there is so much more to see. Even apart from that, we just enjoy being here, appreciate all that nature offers and love the friendliness of the people.

We went with Catherine to her favourite place, Downpatrick Head, on the north coast. In fact, this was the furthest north we’d visit on this trip.

It’s a cliff-top, windy place for a walk, and on a stormy day, the sea has been known to wash over the cliffs. Lots of birds, such as guillemots, are nesting on the cliffs and if I were a rock-climber, I’m sure I would want to climb the sea-stack.

Downpatrick Head Sea-stack
Downpatrick Head Sea-stack

The geology of the place is fascinating, some of the rock has cracked into squares, different from the hexagons at Giant’s Causeway. Who knows, maybe one day I will go back and do the Open University Geology course, which I once considered, but I chose another Maths course instead.

There are a couple of blowholes too which I’m sure are exciting to see on a good day, but for now, we were just happy to admire the views.

Liesel and Catherine
Liesel and Catherine adding to the natural beauty of Downpatrick Head

Back in Ballycastle, we enjoyed coffee and scones at Mary’s Kitchen, a really cute little place. According to the menu, Mary has turned grey over the ten years since she arrived, but her husband hasn’t, yet!

We had a quick look in the local gallery, Ballinglen, which had a display downstairs and a library upstairs where I could have spent a long time browsing through the books.

Catherine had to return to work, so Liesel and I set off towards Sligo but in the end, Easky was as far as we went. Knowing we have a long drive, back to Dublin, tomorrow, I think we were both happy to stop here, coffee, millionaire shortbread for me and a sandwich for Liesel, and a walk to the beach where we explored a 811-year old castle and watched a surfer fail to really get going.

Easky Castle
Easky Castle, built in 1207, now incomplete