Category Archives: Ireland

Catch-up Time

Many things have happened over the past 5 days. In fact, many things I would like to delve into more deeply. However, I also have no time to do so. I have a preview next Friday night in London (please come please please please please come) and my most pressing matter at the moment is learning all my lines. I mean, I know most of my lines. But ‘most’ is not ‘all.

So, without further ado.

THURSDAY
Walked from Goodge St to Angel. Here:

Jenny's walk 27th June

Jenny’s walk 27th June

It was nice. Highlights included: Russel Square, where I saw the final rehearsal for an open-air Shakespeare play (which I was unfortunately unable to attend); Corams Fields, which included some kind of community garden that had a GOAT (a freakin’ GOAT in the middle of the city!); and, my personal favourite, the ‘Goodenough College’. I mean, that’s just inspiring isn’t it? ‘Where are you sending him?’ ‘To the Goodenough College. Because we don’t want him to get too smart.’ I just googled and apparently it is a residential college. Which makes it slightly less funny. But, still!

FRIDAY
I was given a free sample of this:

 

Verdict: AWESOME. I will buy it! I will search if out in pubs! Excellent work with the free samples Jack Dainel’s, because there is no way I would have bought it on my own!

(NB I have heard that the bees are dying at alarming rates. And that if they die we will follow pretty quickly after. Can someone fill me in? The Jack Daniel’s lady didn’t address these particular concerns. And I know not drinking Jack Daniel’s honey most likely won’t stop the bees from going into extinction, but I still feel like making this my drink of choice would be like buying your first 4WD just as peak oil is discovered. Just a bit dumb, you know?) 

SATURDAY

I went to Ireland! I was flown out by my Creative Connections ladies to come and perform at the Cork Midsummer Festival. I don’t know how I’ve been so lucky to have been so welcomed into this group and to be so connected with this festival (I have now performed at the Cork Midsummer Festival three times), but I don’t want to talk about it too much just in case someone realises that they’ve given me too much already and they should stop now and include some other artists.

No! Keep bringing back the random Australian girl who used to live in Cork for 12 months! We want her again! (I have plans to go back again next year when my UK visa is up. We’ll just see).

SUNDAY

The day I actually performed with the Creative Connections ladies at Cork Midsummer. This was what I wanted to talk about a little more in detail. The ladies had created a live art durational performance piece. So, on Friday, they stood on the quays as people went to work and help up giant logs which had ‘The Family Name’ burned into them. They did it for 4 hours as people drove to work. The next day, they sat in a graveyard and chipped away at the blocks in a graveyard for 4 hours. The final day, it was meant to be all the secrets pouring out. They were back in the graveyard, all doing different things. One woman was wrapped in cling film and attempting to bandage a broken vase back together. One was dressed in white with a plastic bag over the top of her and standing on a pristine white tile. I was the only one coming in and out of the graveyard and in the end, I would sing to them and draw them ‘out’. In the meantime, I came in at 15 minute intervals and cut off my friend’s hair and then attempted to shave her head.

It was a pretty intense experience. As the performance went on, I got more and more involved in the process. It was a strange feeling. We had spoken before about the fact that shaving a woman’s head in public is a very ‘heavy’ act. It has echos of witch trials and religious persecution and the treatment of women who slept with Nazis during WWII and mental patients. Even though I was doing it for my friend, we didn’t speak. Those images came up inside me and I felt very cruel. To make myself feel better and to communicate to my friend that I didn’t want to hurt her. I would brush the hair off her shoulders and her head and face. It certainly made me feel better, I don’t know how it felt for her. In the end, I wasn’t able to do such a great job because the tools we had weren’t particularly good.

The thing that was interesting from a production point of view, or no, not ‘interesting’, bloody irritating, was that Cork City Council, despite knowing that this performance was going on, decided to lock the gates of the park early. At 8:30pm. Which was a good hour and a half before we had been told they would lock the gates. Which meant we lost our audience. And we suddenly had to change our performance. It meant the ending was not as strong or as definite as it could have been, which was a real shame, because I could feel that we were building up to something amazing as the hours went by in the graveyard. Still, you live, you learn, I suppose. And it makes it clear you really need someone outside of the performance to be ‘caretaker’ or ‘producer’. We were lucky, we had Mark Storor with us again who managed to sort out a compromise, but it really shouldn’t have happened.

MONDAY

We were all kind of exhausted by Sunday night. Me not so much as the other ladies, as they had been working for months and I just swanned in at the last minute and cut some hair and sang some songs, but we were still all tired. The alcohol and the staying awake until 4am of course didn’t help matters. So, Monday we spent the day in bed pretty much. There were about 4 of us who climbed in and out of the same bed for several hours, plus one of the women’s children. So, actually 6 in total. It was very oddly comforting. Like a sleepover, but different. I realised one of the saddest things about London is that my group of friends (whilst lovely) is pretty much exactly like me. Most of them are Australian, many of them are on a two-year work visa, they are young, travelling, having adventures. What was nice about my social group in Cork was that it did include women who were at different stages of their lives, who had families of their own and it was wonderful to feel a part of that. You felt a part of a wider community than in London. For all its diverse people, you can live in a very homogenous little bubble in London very easily.

It means I have no opportunities to do this:

Storytime

Storytime

And that’s a real shame.  Because my friend’s kids are gorgeous and fun and happy. And they have soft little bellies and arms that are probably  the best things in the world.

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Filed under 29, Cork Midsummer, Creative Connections, Ireland, London

Ireland: The Return

Two posts in one day! I think this actually gets me up to 6 posts for November and its not even the end of the month, which must be some kind of record for the London blog. Poor ol’ London blog, suffering from a general blog-tiredness on my behalf. Its not because I love you less than the Ireland blog, I swear.

Ironically, however, this is a post about returning to Ireland and not actually about London. But, don’t read too much into that fact, London blog. I love both places equally. Really. Truly. In fact, I unthinkingly called London ‘home’ when I was in Ireland, insulting my very good Irish friend who was insisting that I was actually in the process of ‘returning home’ to Ireland and not taking a holiday from my home, as I had suggested.

Anywho, back to Ireland. I had two days off in a row last week from work and I thought I would take the opportunity to flit back over the Irish Sea to visit some friends and also pick up a few last bags that various friends had been storing for me. It has actually been 4 – 5 months that I have been abusing their kindness in this way, so I thought it was fair enough that I come back for my things.

I left fairly early on Thursday morning from Stansted Airport. It was fairly foggy on the ground, but we were soon up above the clouds and despite my usual moments of complete and utter panic when the plane would lurch or seemingly free-fall for a few seconds, or when I convinced myself the engines of my particular plane actually sounded like a lawnmower (I mean, that’s not good, is it? Surely you need an engine bigger than the ones you find on a lawnmower to keep you up in the air? Yes?) I thought I would be landing at 10:20am as scheduled.

But, Cork Airport had other plans.

See, the airport is actually built in a bit of a valley, which, according to my first Irish host father, is kind of like a fly-trap but for fog. If there is fog anywhere in Cork, its going to be hundred times worse where the airport is. And, even if its sunny everywhere else in Cork, the airport may still be cloaked in the thickest of pea soups, as if it was actually generating the fog itself. A week or so after I arrived in Bandon last year, an airplane crashed at Cork airport because of fog. And the very first time I even went to the airport, it was so surrounded by fog that I couldn’t even see the building until we actually pulled up next to it.

So, though it was lovely and sunny up in the sky where the plane was last Thursday morning, Cork Airport was completely hidden by the thickest and greyest of fogs. We ended up circling the airport for an hour and twenty minutes, during which time we weren’t allowed to use the toilet or any electronic goods in case the fog suddenly cleared and we had to make an immediate landing (that didn’t stop the woman next to me texting people on her mobile, however. She seemed to think that if she kept the phone up her sleeve, no-one would know what she was doing. She was also praying under her breath and I couldn’t help wanting to point out that if she was so worried about dying in a horrible, fiery crash, she should possibly take all recommended precautions and SWITCH OFF THE BLOODY PHONE). Of course, I was in a complicated twist of emotions, going out of my mind with boredom and frustration whilst we circled above the clouds, and then every time we dived down into the fog and I saw how thick it was, I’d panic and attempt to psychically contact the drivers with messages of caution and questions of whether or not they were absolutely certain they could really land the plane in such conditions and to please think of all the people in the plane who would really like to live just a little bit longer, thanks ever so much. We finally got down, just as I was thinking that they might end up diverting the flight to another airport, effectively turning my flying visit to Ireland into two days of constant travel and no friends.

As soon as I was on the ground, things picked up. My good friend was there to meet me at the airport, which I hadn’t expected, as I’d missed her message before I’d gotten on the plane. We headed into Cork had a much needed sandwich (egg mayo and cheese at O’Briens – so many Irish memories) before heading to the FAS building, where my friend was running art workshops with some of the Creative Connections crew for the afternoon. I tagged along and ended up helping with the workshops, which was so lovely and so weird all at once. It was so strangely familiar and comfortable and I felt like I slotted right back in to the group and the work, even though I’d been away for four months and had been in a completely different country only that morning. I helped to make many giant ’80’s themed props (giant Rubix Cube, giant Pacmen, giant cassette tape), which looked unbelievably cool at the end of the afternoon and was such a pleasant (and random) thing to spend a few hours doing. When practical, crafty things like that work well, I don’t think there’s anything more therapeutic or calming. Certainly beats the TV.

It was a full ‘Creative Connections’ day with workshops in the afternoon, a meeting in the evening, dinner and then drinks that night with some (or all) of the crew. I’m not the only one who has moved on. We’ve lost one of the women back to her home of South Africa a few weeks after I left and one of the other women is now in France on her next project. Still, some of the women are still trying to keep things going in Cork (in whatever form that takes) and I’m hoping to stay involved as much as I can (in whatever form that takes). Its really sad and also odd to think that in all likelihood I’ll never be able to go back and settle there again, despite feeling so comfortable and at home there. It did also make me realise that whilst things have been easier in London, I’m still not established here in the way that I was by the time I left Ireland. Its not surprising, of course, feeling at home in a place takes time and I’ve only been in London 4 months so far. But, it was interesting contrasting the feelings I have in the two places. I’m hoping to head back again soon and some of the women might come and visit me in London. The most exciting thing that we’ve decided, however, is that we’re all going to go to Amsterdam in April (look at those lovely capital A’s, you can tell its meant to be), which is probably going to be the best thing ever ever ever. Because I love Amsterdam and I love these women and it is going to be SO MUCH FUN. We are going to hire bicycles and buy materials at the awesome Amsterdam material market and eat amazing cakes and shop in the incredible vintage stores and I cannot cannot wait.

Friday was another busy day of appointments with various friends, until I left on the bus for Dublin that afternoon. That evening was a lovely (and boozy) dinner with my old housemate and her friend, during which we planned many road trips to Cornwall and maybe even the USA (where I am I going to get the money or the time off work for all these amazing sounding trips??? A fair question that I choose not to answer at this particular time). The next morning it was another early (but not as early start) in order to get back to London for work that afternoon. After many stresses involving fitting bags into each other and some last minute throwing out of clothes and junk (how did I get so much STUFF??) a taxi ride to the airport that I wasn’t sure I had enough euros for and a grumpy Dublin Airport lady who made me wait many a minute to check-in even though it was almost at the point when they were going to close check-in for my flight, I made it home with enough time to even have some lunch and TV time before heading off to work.

All in all, it was quite the lovely, delightful and easy jaunt, so I’m hopeful there will be more visits in the new year when work allows.

 

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Filed under Creative Connections, Ireland, London

Transient Nights

A good friend once told me that the trick to living happily in a place is to always look at it through a haze of nostalgia, pretending that you’re always on the brink of leaving. Its a neat trick and it certainly makes you aware of what parts of your life you are grateful for. The benefit of it is that you can have the all the good, grateful, happy feelings without the sadness that would be associated with the nostalgia if you were actually leaving.
However, over the last week I’ve been getting the full nostalgic experience because, of course, I don’t have to pretend anymore. I am actually leaving Dublin tomorrow morning for Alaska. After two weeks in the USA, I’ll be back in Cork for two weeks and then its on to London. I know a week or two ago I was saying I was disappointed to be back in Dublin, but, well, I’m just that ridiculously fickle and irrational. So, now, I’m on a totally different emotional roller-coaster and whilst I am excited about moving to London (wheee!) I have been feeling the impending loss of Ireland. Of course, when you get into that sort of headspace, you inevitably find yourself gravitating towards rainy windows so you can stare out of them significantly, making daft comments about flowers being so much more beautiful because they don’t last and stroking your chin and murmuring wanky words like ‘transient’.
So, at the risk of sounding like a wanker, I had a beautiful transient evening last Friday night in Dublin, which seemed like a remarkably wonderful way to send off Dublin.
A little bit of background. I’ve been signed up to a group called Sofar Sounds since sometime last year. I’m not even sure how I got into it in the end, but in it I am. Sofar Sounds was set up by music lovers who were sick of going to concerts and finding that many audiences at many concerts were highly disrespectful of the bands, particularly of support acts, who mainly happened to be emerging artists. So, they decided to create pop-up events in people’s living rooms. They would be limited capacity, so only the people who really cared would be attending and the organisers would impose several rules in order to give the artists the best possible chance of performing. The rules are thus: 1) No talking or mobiles 2) If you come to the event, you stay for the whole thing, no ducking out if you decide you don’t like one artist. The people from Sofar then set about finding the best and most interesting artists they could and putting on a hugely decent (free) gig for those dedicated music lovers. Its happening all over the world, New York, London, Paris, Australia and its great music. You can find out more about the group as well as sign up for the mailing list (which is the only way to get to the gigs) here: http://www.sofarsounds.com/
I’ve been trying to go to some of the gigs in London, but either the dates didn’t work out, or I wasn’t able to get to the gig because so many people wanted to go. But, last Thursday, I was given an invitation to the first Dublin gig. They emailed an address and off I trotted to Merrion Square on Friday evening searching for a yellow door. It was a beautiful evening, balmy, not too overcast and with a soft pastel sunset growing over the horizon. I found the address fairly easily, I just followed the very attractive, impossibly trendy people who were spilling out of the living room onto the street, drinking and getting to know each other before the music started. I chatted briefly to the woman whose apartment it was and then got myself a sofa seat and waited for the music. It was slightly awkward as I didn’t know anyone and some people seemed to know each other at least a little bit. So, I nursed my cider and pretended to text, the last resort of the single, awkward person at an even where they know no-one. I’m certain everyone knew I wasn’t actually texting, but it at least meant they didn’t have me looking at them, smiling awkwardly and attempting to strike up conversation. And I got to pretend that I wasn’t in anyway awkward or lonely. Win-win, really. Status-quo maintained.
Once the music got started, I relaxed completely and felt totally blessed that I had been given the opportunity to hear all these bands. We started with the folkie, accoustic sounds of Dublin band Slow Skies. The lead singer had a gorgeous, whimsical voice that reminded me of a mix of Lisa Mitchell and the Cranberries. The music, itself, however was more ethereal than the both of them. It was absolutely beautiful and from the first notes there was a magic feeling in the air. Everyone listened so attentively and the focus on the musicians only added to the magic that was being created by the musicians themselves.
Second up was a girl who happened to be from Adelaide but who had been living in Dublin for the past 4 years. She used a loop-machine to build and create songs all on her own. She played the violin, sang and used a variety of other instruments I don’t know the name of to create really unique sounding music. Its not normally my style and I don’t have the requisite language or labels to describe it, but her performance totally blew my mind. Unfortunately she doesn’t really have anything online that you can check out, but her name is Margey Lewis and you should keep your eyes/ears peeled for her because I think she’ll be going places. In a good, musical way.
We had a late addition to the line-up with a girl who played one song. It was a very sweet song about youth and summer and nostalgia so suited my mood.
The gig finished up with The Raglans, another Dublin band who were kind of a rockier Irish Mumford and Sons (I am wary of making comparisons between new favourite bands and old favourite bands after my comment to one singer that she sounded like Joan Baez and they didn’t look too pleased. I had meant it as a compliment and I mean this comparison as a compliment as well, so I hope it would be taken as such). The energy and charisma these guys had was amazing and by the end of their fourth song, no-one was ready to go. They played us an encore, but I would have happily stayed and listened all evening. Of course, that wasn’t an opportunity, so I satisfied myself with by going up to them and gushing along with one of the other audience members. Luckily, the Raglans were very appreciative of my gushing and didn’t find it in anyway embarrassing. They even tweeted back at me when I gushed more over twitter late that evening. It was probably my most successful and satisfying musician/gushing fan interaction apart from say the weekend with the Unthanks back in January. Anyway, they are on iTunes and I, for one, will be investing in their EP, once I have gotten over the little heart attack I had over last month’s credit card bill. I suggest you do the same:

The transience of the evening came from the pop-up nature of the venue, of course, but even more so from the people I met. Now, of course, when you’re traveling, you meet people all the time who you are never going to see again. One need only look over my last two blog posts and we meet three unnamed men who I very much enjoyed talking to – the Georgian, the American kayaker and the singing Irish cab driver. But, I suppose you expect this when you are traveling. My obsession has always been living in a country and I collect ‘countries-I’ve-lived-in’ the same way other people collect stamps, or coins or, I don’t know, antique sewing machines. Living in a country for a short period gives you a false feeling of permanence and you forget that you are still ‘traveling’ and that the existence you’re creating in this new country is far more transient than one you may have lived previously (is it possible to be ‘more transient’? ‘I think you can in Europe?’)
ANYWAY, the point I’m making, or heading towards making or trying to make is that the evening turned into this beautifully strange, bizarrely intimate and yet completely momentary occurrence. Because of the slightly odd and thrilling nature of the pop-up gig, because it was held in someone’s house (that before that evening you had never met) and because there were only 20 – 25 people there, I ended up having very interesting and lovely conversations with everyone I chatted with. Of course, they were all very enthusiastic about music but they also all had very interesting lives that had led them to being in that room on that particular night at that particular time. One girl in particular happened to be gushing to the musicians around the same time as I was gushing to the musicians and we decided to form a gushing strike force, going up to everyone and telling them how wonderful they were. It then turned out that we were both walking in the same direction, so we walked together and talked together on that beautiful, balmy night. She told me about her Wwoofing experience in the French Pyrenees and I told her about my plans for London and then we bought gelato and tried out the different flavours that each of us had gotten and then after about 15 minutes of sharing stories, suddenly I was turning left and she was turning right and that was the end of the conversation and our fleeting relationship. I don’t even remember her name.
There was something about that 15 minute walk and talk through the centre of early evening Dublin, the light from the sun still hanging around the horizon and all the party people falling about themselves as they went from pub to pub that so perfectly suited my nostalgic mood, my feeling of merely floating through a fleeting world that…. made me want to write bad poetry. No! Sorry, sometimes I find it hard to be serious in these philosophical or significant posts. My style always leans towards the self-deprecating. But, the point is, there was something about my whole experience in Ireland that seemed to be summed up in that 15 minute stroll. The loveliness of it, the randomness of it, the strange, sudden intimacy, the freedom and glory of it as well as the final interrupted and unfinished nature. Perhaps that’s the best way for it to be in the end, instead of dragging on and on like a once-successful comedy sitcom, ending on a high note when all you can remember is the good times.

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Filed under Introspection, Ireland

Donegal

To catch you up on the rest of my adventure from this week (that’s right, in between looking at fascinating online dating profiles and picking them to pieces, I have actually been doing real things in the real world), I was in Co. Donegal at the beginning of last week. From where I was in Co. Mayo, it took me seven hours (SEVEN), plus six bus and car changes (SIX) to get to where I was going, which was the very tip of the South-West corner of County Donegal, a place called Glencolmcille (well, actually, it was a place called Malinmore, but Malinmore wasn’t so much a ‘place’ as a collection of houses with a post box. Glencolmcille at least had three pubs, a school and a folk museum, so you could legitimately call that a ‘place’). Here is an idea of where I was:

I was aiming for the ‘A’. From google maps.

Whilst waiting for the first of my six buses/taxis, I hung out in the deliciously blazing sun of Westport and attempted to even out my sunburn. I know, I know, its absolutely appalling and considering my father has had all sorts of scares with skin cancer, you’d think of all people, I would know not to be putting my skin in trauma, but I couldn’t help it. It’d been so long since I’d seen the sun and my skin was so white and the sun felt so good, that I just wanted to lie out in it an burn myself to a crisp. I covered up my burnt skin in sunscreen and tried to brown my shoulders, but of course went a little too overboard with the sunscreen, meaning that I ended up with red arms, a little stripe of white skin and then red shoulders. Highly attractive. It must have done something for someone, however, because an elderly gentleman stopped in the street to declare me ‘a handsome woman’ and to tell me how lucky was the man ‘who gets to put his arms around you.’ Sweet.
Anyway, I eventually ended up in Glencolmcille, despite a bit of a disaster when I got to Donegal and the mini-bus driver told me that he’d only be able to get me to Killybegs (about half an hour away from where I needed to get). As it was already 9:30pm, I’d been traveling for hours, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do. However, I held myself together admirably well. Compared to some previous travel disasters I’ve had, I simply asked the bus driver to check with the company to see if there actually was a service from Killybegs, as I had checked it several times online. Of course, there wasn’t, but they agreed to organise me a taxi from Killybegs to Glencolmcille as part of my ticket. I was very pleased that everything had worked out and I also hadn’t panicked and made a fool of myself. The taxi driver was very nice, though he seemed a little grumpy at first about having been dragged away from his IRA movie to drive a silly tourist to Glencolmcille. But he became much more friendly and even sang me ‘The Boys of Killybegs’ when I asked ‘wasn’t there a song about Killybegs that I would know?’ He also refused to leave me on my own in Glencolmcille and stood in the car park for a good half hour waiting for the people from my hostel to pick me up. He was very amused to find out that I was writing all about the trip and hoped I would write a new chapter (it was easier to say it was a book) with himself in it. I should really have gotten his name, but if he ever reads this I hope he will know who he is.
The next day, I was hoping to climb Slieve Leage, which are some amazing sea cliffs, about three times higher than the hugely famous and popular Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. Here is a picture:

I climbed to that pointy bit in the middle of the picture. Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slieve_League

Because they are not so popular as the Cliffs of Moher, there is no barrier along the walk to the summit. And, though you can’t really see it in this picture, the walk to the summit involves rather sheer, crumbly, dizzingly high and terrifying drops into the ocean on one side and not quite o high, but just as sheer and perhaps more rocky drops into a valley on the other. The way to the summit is along the aptly named ‘One Man’s Path’. My housemate had told me to ‘go with someone’ along the path, but as I was traveling by myself, I figured I would just have to attempt to do it on my own. The day was perfectly clear and sunny, no wind, so it seemed like the perfect conditions to attempt the scary climb on my own. However, an American man from my hostel also happened to be attempting Slieve League that day and as I needed a lift to the cliffs anyway and he had a car, we ended up doing the walk together by default. He ended up being a very interesting gentleman, lots of great stories about science and kayaking trips and places I should visit in the USA and after a slightly awkward start, we got along very well and had a lovely day. It was kind of lucky he was there in the end, because the One Man’s Path wasn’t nearly as obvious as the name would imply and there were a few times we found ourselves in rather awkward scrambling situations (at one point, we had some very amusing Germans above us. I called out, ‘Did we go the wrong way?’ They replied, ‘No, no, this is the One Man’s Path. It is called this because only one person in every two can survive it.’ Ha ha ha). Not that having someone else there would have helped my climbing abilities, but it was a good incentive for me not to completely freak out and have a hysterical break down on the mountain, because I didn’t want to look like a girl in front of the hardcore American kayak man. Also, I forgot my sunscreen and I really thought that my skin had probably gone through enough trauma for one week and the American had spray-on sunscreen. I still think spray-on sunscreen must be a bit dodgy, but it seemed to do the trick.
We parted ways at the summit, the American went back the same way to get his car, I decided to go down the Pilgrim’s Path down the back of the mountain for a bit of a change. I stumbled into Carrick at 4:30pm, overheated, dehydrated, hot, sweaty and absolutely delighted with myself. About twenty minutes later, the American went past me. I totally beat him down the mountain and he was in a car. I don’t want to crow, but I feel that was pretty awesome. And, in the true sense of the word, not in the American hotdog sense of the word.
So, after a lovely shower, I sat down, outside, in the long evening sun and attempted to write job applications whilst getting very distracted by the google mail chat thing that I have only just worked out how to use again.

Me being summer-y and confused by Gmail chat.

 The next day, I decided to walk over the mountain on the other side of Glencolmcille, which my hostel owner had said was quite lovely. I learnt from one of the other guests (who happened to be an artist) that there were the remains of a cottage Dylan Thomas had once spent 6 months in over the mountain as well and I figured I might go sit in it for a bit and hopefully get some Thomas-like writerly skill or inspiration and churn out my equivalent of ‘Under Milk Wood’ in a day. Or something. I didn’t find the ruins though (they were a bit further away than expected), so I guess I’ll have to do it on my own steam. Apparently the reason Thomas was in this neck of the woods was because it the cottage was the further away from a pub that Thomas’ agent could find near the UK and was hoping to dry Thomas out for a few months. Instead, Thomas decided that a 10 mile walk over the mountains was a perfectly reasonable way of getting to alcohol and did it regularly. Well, I guess if he wasn’t entirely sober, at least he was getting some exercise and that’s… not nothing.
There was absolutely no one up on the mountain except myself and a lot of sheep (and lambies!) The mountain cliffs dropped straight into the sea, and I found myself clutching on to the edge of the flimsy wooden fence and staring down a sheer drop into the water however many hundreds of metres below. It made me ever so slightly giddy, light-headed and giggly.
When I came down the mountain, I popped into the local Folk Museum, which was quite sweet. It had a variety of cottages done up as they would have been in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. I couldn’t help thinking of my eldest charge from last year and how much she would have enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed myself, but thinking of her enthusiasm for knit curtains and old-fashioned things made the experience that little bit more fun.
I was lucky enough to get a lift back from the hostel owners as I was completely wrecked after my 5 day adventure holiday. The weather was incredibly perfect for the entire time I was away and I was little sorry to have to be going back to Dublin the next day, but I was also kind of wrecked and, of course, there was plenty to be done back at home. I’m packing everything up at the moment, as I leave my house in Dublin tomorrow. I’m off to Alaska on Wednesday and then back in Cork for two weeks and then its on to London…
I can’t quite believe it’s all ending. I’m getting more than a little sad and nostalgic and have been listening nonstop to a beautiful Unthanks song called ‘Fareweel Regality’, which is all about farewells.
But, more on that next time.

And now it’s time to say fareweel
And though I hope that we may meet again
And all things may be reet again
We’ve lived and spent the day

And so we’ll cry fareweel regality
And cry fareweel to liberty
To honest friends’ civility
To winter’s frost and fire
And there’s naught that I can bid you
But that peace and love gan with you
Never mind wherever call the fates
Away from Hexhamshire

And what is time that flies so fleet
But just a bird that flies on merry wings
And lights us down in happy springs
When winter’s need is past

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

Aye but the curlew sings her sang
And winds her sorrows down the Rowley Burn
And drear as winds the hunter’s horn
The call is all fareweel

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

And as I set the mossy stones
And do me bits of jobs and gap the dykes
I hear the whispers down the sykes
Fareweel they sigh, fareweel

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

Do I remember? Do I dream?
And did we rightly meet by Viewly Side?
For all this and much more beside
Has got me sore beguiled

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

And on some golden autumn morn
Or when July is hazing Dipton Slopes
By Whitley Mill or Westburnhope
We’ll live and spend the day

And so we’ll cry fareweel…
And so we’ll cry fareweel…

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Cycling the Greenway

So, we’re up to my second day in Westport, Co. Mayo. Having wrecked myself on Croagh Patrick last Friday, I decided to do something similar the next day on the bicycle. You may remember that I wasn’t able to get a bus from Westport to Achill Island, so I decided to cycle 42km there instead. The sun was still blazing, but I had sensibly bought sunscreen this time, and proceeded to cover up my already bright red arms and neck.
After a check-in with the cycle company, who told me where to start, gave me a map and their phone number so I could call them from Achill and get their courtesy shuttle bus back to Westport, I headed on my way. I was full of enthusiasm, feeling like an intrepid traveler once again, having packed up my panniers with water, food, a jumper (more to ensure that the Irish weather DIDN’T turn cold, as we all know by now that the Irish weather is malevolent and will only ever do exactly what you expect it not to do), books, sunscreen, my map, my mobile and money.
But, then, not even out of Westport, I hit the first hill. Oh, woe is us, my legs cried, do you not remember what we did just yesterday? Why do you hate us so? All my confidence that I would make it alive to Achill Island in a timely manner was now starting to drain away. But, I convinced myself the only thing to do was to try.

This was an excellent choice. The Greenway (part of which I had cycled the day before) has mainly made on the old railway line between Westport and Achill Island. This old railway line is quite interesting, featuring, as it does in a prophecy put forward by an Irish monk, named Brian Rua Ui Cearabhain in the 1600s. Old Brian said that one day between Westport and Achill Island there would be “carriages on iron wheels, blowing smoke and fire, which on their first and last journeys would carry corpses”.  Well before the time of trains, Brian’s image would have seemed surreal and terrifying to his contemporaries. For us it is more chilling. Beyond the fact the Brian seems to have imagined trains before such things were beyond the imaginings of most men, the trains from Achill to Westport did indeed carry corpses on their maiden voyage of 1894 and their final journey of 1937. More than a bit chilling and thrilling. 
Anyway, the advantage for me is that trains aren’t great on hills and unless you’re in Switzerland and not really able to do so, people who build railway lines tend to do it on a flat surface. Or, as much of a flat surface as they possibly can. The people who had converted the railway line to the cycleway had been mercifully considerate and kept the flat gradient, meaning that the fear the first hill created in myself was completely unfounded. 
In fact, with the sun a-shining and the green hills a-rolling in the picturesque distance, it was all I could to stop myself from yelling out in sheer delight that I had happened upon such a country and such a place at such a deliciously wonderful time. I mean, if I had taken my holiday at most any other weekend in the rest of the year, it would not have been nearly so pleasant and pretty. But my sheer chance, I had taken my adventure holiday on the only blazing hot sunny days Ireland is likely to have in 2012, making the water sparkly, the hills shimmer, the flowers sparkle and the landscape seem, on the whole so painfully beautiful that it was sometimes necessary to stop and reach out and touch something, just to make sure it was all real and not some incredibly fabulous, accidental drug trip. 
In fact, when I was whooshing down the lovely Greenway, safe in the knowledge that the path was for cyclists and pedestrians only, no cars, I couldn’t help but squealing, ‘Greenway!’ in a strange, high-pitched voice, as if I were a character in MarioKart (‘Ima gonna win!’). I was just so happy that someone had come up with the idea of creating the cycle way and that other people had also thought it was a good idea, and they had given them money, and then other people, whose farms the Greenway cuts across, said, ‘sure, I’m happy to have a Cycleway in between my cows and sheep’ and, finally, that other people had been employed to design and build it. 
Artist’s impression of Jenny on the Greenway. Found at: http://www.mobygames.com/game/n64/mario-kart-64/screenshots/gameShotId,246966/
I made it to Achill Island in record time, even with the amount of stops I required to squeal delightedly at the little lambies eating grass by the side of the road. The lambies weren’t as delighted by my presence and tended to either run away, pee or poo when they saw me. Charmant. 
I had initially told myself to take it slowly as I wasn’t sure my fitness would hold up. Also, I was enjoying the scenery. However, two… middle-aged people went past me and… well it hurt my pride just a tad. I felt like as the young, sprightly one I should be overtaking them. I suddenly became very competitive and insisted on pushing myself, making certain that I at least kept them in sight, if not being able to overtake them. 
Of course, this resulted in me getting to just outside Achill Island and my body suddenly packing it in. No, no, Jenny, we refuse to go on any further until you provide us with a litre of water and two bananas. At least. Luckily, I had packed just such things and after a brief rest, I managed to get back on the bike and head the final kms to Achill Island. It was 12:30pm and I decided to take a break in the shade and read some of my book (a side note about the book. My housemate lent it to me and it is about the ‘Sack of Baltimore’, where Barbary pirates stole away 107 English settlers from the Irish coast in 1600s. Absolutely fascinating. My housemate is great). After a bit of a break, I convinced myself to try and see some of the island. However, I looked at the map and realised that the loops around the island were at least 20km and the longest was 44km. Deciding I didn’t have the energy to do another 42km, I thought I’d just head off in a flat-looking direction and see what I found. 
I found a secret garden, the ruins of Castle Grainne and a shady spot to read my book and look out of the sea. 
It was about this time, 2:30pm, that I started to think I should call the bike hire company and get them to pick me up. But there was part of me that was oddly reluctant to do so. Part of me that was thinking, oh, but what if I want to see some more of the island? Or what if I want to cycle back a little of the way to Westport? I’ll just wait a little longer and then decide. 
I’m sure you can guess what happened. My brain convinced me that I could definitely cycle the 42km back to Westport again, if I just took it slowly and wouldn’t it be cool to brag that I had cycled 100km in one day and wouldn’t it be nice to see all those pretty places again properly and I could take breaks for food and I’d be really fit after I did 10km and etc. etc. etc.
To be fair, I did make it back to Westport in one piece. It did, however, take me 6 hours, when the initial trip had taken me 3. I also had to stop in every town along the way, drink litres of water and devour large amounts of sugary, carb-based foods. Bags of dried apricots. Packets of salty potato pancakes. 
By the time I was outside of Westport, it was 9:30pm and the sun was racing towards the horizon. I was only barely managing to pedal on flat bits of ground and the minute there was even the hint of an uphill slope, I’d jump off the bike and walk it up instead. All the bugs were coming out in swarms and were sticking in great numbers to my sweaty, sunscreen arms, or flying up my nose or into my mouth, or into my eyes and taking up residence. In short, it wasn’t the most pleasant homeward journey. I probably would have enjoyed myself much more if I had just called the blasted shuttle service. 
However, I did get to brag to the girls in my hostel room about it and the men I returned the bicycle to in the shop the next door were very impressed. And we all know that my main in life is to impress people I don’t know, so all in all, I’d say it was quite the success.


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Climbing Croagh Patrick

Today, I’m moving away from the ‘heart-on-sleeve-so-honest-it-makes-you-uncomfortable’ style of post that proved so controversial a couple of days ago. Instead, we’re back to the ‘fish-out-of-water-tourist-Jenny-makes-amusing-mistakes-but-still-manages-some-weird-understanding-of-the-world-around-her.’
Yay! Tourist Jenny! She’s my favourite Jenny.
Much more fun than Honest Jenny.
Or Identity Crisis Jenny.
Or 3:30am Jenny.
ANYWAY.
So, yesterday was my last day at Fishamble, which was quite sad *sniff sniff*. But, I’m meeting up with the Literary Manager again next week to talk over the internship, so its not all over, not quite yet. Dragging out that ending as far as it can go.
Anyway, as I have a week and a half before I head off to Alaska and not much time in Ireland when I return, I thought I would try and squeeze in as many Irish tourist things that I have wanted to do all year and never have for one reason or another. I wanted to see Co. Mayo, Co. Sligo and Co. Donegal and I wanted to do it all in 6 days. Ambitions? Yes. Do-able? Just.
My final shift at Fishamble turned into half a shift and going to see a lunchtime production of ‘A Galway Girl’ at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, which was quite fun. Now, that is a full-length play, not just someone singing the Steve Earle song over and over for an hour. In fact, there was absolutely no mention of that song, which is kind of a relief. Not that I don’t like the song, but… well, its all about context, people. Something that you might enjoy after a couple of pints whilst surrounded by American tourists may not be exactly what you want to hear when you are going out to the theatre completely sober.
After the show, I headed home, picked up my bags and walked to Dublin Heuston station. The sun was blazing. I mean, it really was blazing. It was warm. It was HOT. Its funny, that’s the time I miss Australia the most, whenever Ireland is most like Australia, that’s when I get homesick. Maybe its because I don’t know what to do with myself in Ireland when its warm. Or maybe all my Australian memories are indelibly tied to blazing, uncomfortable heat. Whatever. To make things worse, when I saw down at Dublin Heuston station, with the blazing sun blazing through the glass roof in a blazing manner, three Australian women sat down next to me. I desperately wanted to talk to them, but, at the same time, I had a strange desire not to be so needy (‘I couldn’t help but hear… are you Australian? So am I! Perhaps we could discuss superficial cultural things that we may have in common. Umm… the ABC? BBQ’s at the beach? I know, Vegemite! Or thongs, with me safe in the knowledge that no-one is going to get uncomfortable because they think I’m talking about underwear? I’ll even talk about Tony Abbott for a bit, if that’s all you’ve got!’) I pulled out my Lally Katz collection of plays on the off chance that they happened to be Australian theatre buffs with a passing interest in the new generation of Australian female playwrights and would recognise me for the Antipodean I was. Turns out they didn’t get the reference. Still, it was nice listening to them talk. Reading my (Australian) book, listening to the Australian accent and with the blazing sun blazing away, I got a strange sense that if I just closed my eyes, enough Australian things would conspire into some sort of vortex, transporting me back to Central Station, waiting for the Newcastle and Central Coast line, heading home to see Dad. I think the Katz plays were affecting my sense of reality. Those things are trippy.
Anyway, I was actually getting a train from Dublin Heuston to beautiful Westport, which is the closest town to Croagh Patrick (croagh=mountain). Croagh Patrick is a place of pilgrimage for many Catholics, as Saint Patrick is meant to have spent 40 days and nights up there one Lent many a moon ago. It was my plan whilst in Westport to walk up Croagh Patrick, visit Achill Island and then head to Donegal. I had decided that if there was any place that I really, really, REALLY needed to hike up in Ireland, it was Croagh Patrick, for what I would assume would be obvious reasons.
The evening in Westport was just as beautiful as it had been in Dublin. We’re moving into that wonderful part of the year in Ireland when the sun stays out until 10pm. I still find it a bit confusing (I think one of the reasons I’ve been staying up so late is because I’m not used to going to bed so soon after it gets dark), but it is glorious when the sun is out. And the sun was out.
After dumping my things at the hostel and getting a little dolled-up, I headed out to find a pub my housemate had suggested I check out (as a side-note, I’ve decided that the reason I like my new hair colour some days and not on others is because it really needs me to wear make-up with it for it to look right. My hair + no make-up kind of looks like wearing a gold lame disco top with tracksuit bottoms. It doesn’t quite work. As I often go about without make-up, it sometimes looks a little odd with my party-bright-disco hair. But, that is by the by). The pub is called Matt Molloy’s and is owned by the flute player from ‘The Chieftains’. I checked it out on the map and it looked like it was just opposite my hostel. Easy. I set forth, full of optimism.
Of course, this being Ireland, maps are not to be trusted, street signs are non-existent and you’re better off just following your nose. I circled the inner block of the town 3 – 4 times without seeing the pub, gave up and wandered into a random place that seemed atmospheric and had music going on. As I walked in, an American tourist told me I looked lovely, which just added to the charm of the place, really. As I was ordering my drink in this pub, I looked at the barman’s shirt, and, of course, it was the pub I had been looking for. I must have walked past it four times without realising it was the place I wanted. Oh well.
There was a fantastic band playing, who also happened to be Norwegian, which meant that they were doubly fantastic. Of course I went up and tried to talk to one of them in Norwegian, but he couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him. He was from Trondheim, which I am telling myself was the problem and not the fact that I’ve probably forgotten most of my Norwegian through lack of use. The bass player was the most typically ‘Norwegian’ looking man ever, he had snow-white hair, blue eyes and the jaw bone and facial structure I associate with the Norwegians, so I developed a special fondness for him. He noticed and kept shooting me smiles, too, which was nice. All innocent, people, he was probably older than my Dad. Not that you are old Dad, all I mean is just..  oh, dig UP, Jenny, dig UP.
So, yes, where was I? Sorry, Facebook interlude. Umm… yes, I had a lovely time at Matt Molloy’s pub and a man from Atlanta, Georgia told me that he could tell I was ‘an adventurer’, which I very much appreciated and would like to put on my business cards, please. ‘Yes, hi, I’m Jenny and I’m an adventurer. A man from Georgia told me so.’
This morning, I woke up to a blazing hot sun (BLAZING) which was coming right through my curtain-less hostel room and interfering with my dreams. I had learnt the day before that my travel plans for my days in Westport were not going to work out as I had hoped. The buses to Achill Island only departed at 4pm in the afternoon, presumably because no-one goes for day trips, they only ever stay out on the island for at least a night. Well, that is to say, they are FORCED to spend a night out on the island because the Irish don’t run a bus service that caters to day-trippers. A cunning plan, Tourism Ireland, or, at least, Tourism Achill Island.
Not knowing how else I could get out to Achill Island, I started looking at the information available at the hostel. And I came up with a plan. The other way to get to Achill Island would be to cycle there. Now, it is 42 km from Westport to Achill Island, so it would be no mean feat to cycle there and back in one day (84km. Seriously. Do the math). However, it seemed my only option, so I decided if I got up really, really (REALLY) early, I could take it slow, with lots of breaks and of course, there was the glorious sun that would stay out until 10pm, giving me plenty of time to complete the marathon cycle if necessary. I then realised that if I hired a bike today, instead of just on Saturday, I could not only start cycling really, really (REALLY) early towards Achill Island, but I could also cycle to Croagh Patrick instead of walking there and shave a good 3 – 4 hours off my travel time. Part of me was thinking, ‘Now, come on, Jenny. I know you’ve started back at the gym, but who are we kidding? You’re still pretty out of shape. Can you really cycle 84km in one day? After walking up Croagh Patrick the day before?’ I decided to ignore this voice. 
So, off I pottered to the bike shop. I’m ecstatic that I did. They’d only just opened when I got there and the man who helped me was a bit flustered. The good weather had meant the place had been very busy and he wasn’t sure which bike, if any, he could give me. 10 minutes later, though, he had me set up with bike, helmet, lock, panniers and high-vis vest. He showed me the best way to get to Croagh Patrick and off I headed into the blazing Irish sun. The bike man told me that they could also arrange a pick up for me the next day, meaning I would only have to do 42km and not 84km if I wanted to see/get to Achill Island. I was delighted with myself for taking the chance and not stopping myself before I’d even tried. 
Really, the money for hiring the bike the extra day was worth it just to get the bike-man’s advice on how to get to Croagh Patrick. I would have taken the main highway, but the bike shop man directed me to an old railway track which is now a pathway/cycleway and then onto the coast road. It was a quieter, safer, and most importantly, more picturesque route. I had the magnificent Croagh Patrick in clear view on my left pretty much the whole way.
Now my camera has finally given up after 8 years of faithful service (it had still been working on and off in the last few months, but it was starting to make everyone and everything look like you were viewing them whilst on an acid trip, so I decided to retire it), so I’m relying on the friendly internet to give you a sense of what I saw today.

The magnificent Croagh Patrick. But today, there was not a cloud in the sky. NOT A SINGLE CLOUD. Its some sort of modern-day Irish miracle. Found at: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=78452809

The ride was beautiful and almost exclusively downhill which gave me a false sense of confidence, whizzing away, going, ‘Oh, I don’t know why I was worried, this is going to be a breeze’. I kept ignoring the voice that pointed out I would have to climb back up these hills on the way home…
At the start of the ascent of Croagh Patrick is a car park, where I locked up my bike, feeling very smug as I walked past all the people who had merely driven to the mountain. Oh, I was so feeling so fine, so fit and healthy on this glorious sunny day.
I started the hike up and almost immediately came across this:

Found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomszustek/3857084609/

My first thought was that St. Patrick was pointing a pistol at me. I think, is this a message from God? That he wants no heathens on his holy mountain? On closer inspection, I realise St. Pat is holding out a shamrock, but I was sufficiently unnerved to wonder if the whole expedition was actually that good an idea. The ascent is very steep, the mountain is very high, I’m not very fit, I’m using my handbag as some sort of demented backpack because I forgot to bring one and the sun is… well, did I mention that the sun is blazing? Yes?
But, on I go. Ten minutes in and I feel like I’m dying of thirst. I drink half my water and I’m not even a third of the way up the mountain. Again, I think, maybe I’m not fit enough for this anymore. But I convince myself to keep trying, taking it slowly, stopping now and then to admire the scenery (and catch my breath). It really was a magical place. Despite there being a fair few other people on the mountain, it was so quiet that all you could hear was the hollow whooshing of the wind through the grasses. Oh, and the occasional sheep. You could tell why people would think it might be a place to become enlightened, to converse with God or have a religious experience.
By the time I’ve finished the first ascent and gotten to the only flat bit of the hike, I’m feeling good. A Cork man in a black shirt who was powering up the hill before is now stopped and waiting for his brother. He seems intent on letting me know that it’s his brother holding him up and not exhaustion on his behalf. He adds in that he did a long run yesterday too, so he’s feeling a bit tired. And it’s hot. Otherwise, the implication is, he would be bounding up the mountain with the speed and grace of a runaway gazelle. It was an interesting conversation, because, of course, once upon a time, climbing Croagh Patrick was meant to be a religious experience, about pain, suffering and penitence, whereas now its just about the challenge, the exercise and the achievement. You can do runs up Croagh Patrick, you can do 7 day challenges, where you climb it 7 days in a row and all sorts of other things. I guess its still a religion of sorts. The religion of personal achievement and self-improvement. But, still, within this religion, you don’t want to show that it’s any effort. Or, you want to grunt and groan the whole way but never stop. Ok, so, maybe its exactly the same as the religious pilgrimage just without the praying. And with shoes (many pilgirms walk up without shoes, because the walk is basically just sharp rocks. Now with extra suffering and penitence! What fun religion is!)

On the flat bit of the hike. Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croagh_Patrick

 At the top of the mountain (I did get there eventually), is a little church and a rectangular square of concrete guarded by low metal fences that is supposed to mark St. Patrick’s bed. It looked rather uncomfortable. The second ‘station’ was next to it, the first being on the flat bit of the hike and the third bring past the summit. The stations are kind of like activity stations when you’re on boot camp. Except, with like prayers ‘n stuff. They were asking me to say a set number of Our Fathers and Hail Marys whilst walking round in circles or kneeling or some such. I didn’t much fancy kneeling on the rocks, so I said what bits of the Our Father I could remember in my head, which was about 4 lines and on I went. On the other side of the church, I found other hikers and a collection of dogs. One dog, a sheepdog, was the calmest, more centred, blissed out dog I have ever met. Seriously, this dog looked like a guru in an Indian ashram. I felt like this dog had it all worked out; he understood more about life then I did. He was just hanging in the sun, looking chilled and wise. When I sat down next to him, he immediately rolled slowly onto his back, one front paw raised and making a patting movement in the air whilst he watched me. Not demanding or excitable like many puppies or dogs, just, ‘you will do this for me now.’ So, I rubbed his belly for a few minutes which he enjoyed. When I stopped, he sat up, put his paw out again and made the same patting movement, as if saying he still wanted me to pat him. I patted his paw and then he put his paw on top of my hand, bringing it down to the ground with his paw, as if comforting me. ‘Ok, we’ll stop with the patting for now, my child, if that is what you wish.’ We sat like that for a few minutes, like the guru and disciple. It was ridiculously silly and made me so unreasonably happy I couldn’t stop smiling.

Church at Croagh Patrick summit. Found at: http://banner25.redbubble.com/sets/36465/works/1908882-croagh-patrick-church

After a short break, I headed down the mountain again. You always think walking downhill is going to be that much easier, but the ground was so slippery and the gradient of the hill so steep, that it required a great deal of balance and stress on the knees to get down again. I was caked in dried sweat, bright red and my hands were so swollen that my ring was in danger of cutting off the circulation to one of my fingers. But, I still made it down in good time. In fact, the only difference I think between unfit me now and Andean-leaping-fit me of 2008/2009 was that I had to go a bit slower and possibly my recovery won’t be quite as easy. I’ll leave that to tomorrow to worry about.
Anyway, because of the bike, I had many more hours than I had expected to have after finishing the hike. So, I took a breather, had some lunch and headed out again.
I saw the National Famine Monument, which was very sad. Its in the shape of one of the coffin ships and has all these flying raggedy skeletons over the top of it. In fact, it looked so sad and miserable I decided not to go in and look at it too closely. After all, the sun was blazing and I didn’t feel like being miserable. There were all these signs up for the Clew Bay Archaeological Site Trail, which I had never even heard of, but I decided that was as good a trail as any to follow and went round ticking off the sites that I could find. The trail is meant to be driven though, not ridden, so I eventually had to give up when the signs started asking me to ride 10km to the next site. I headed back to Westport, taking any side roads that took my fancy, finding myself on a pier, then on a beach, then at a quay and many other places. I saw so few people. The coastline was all mine.  Well, mine and a couple of cow’s.

Clew Bay. Found at: http://www.mulrannyparkhotel.ie/fishing-mayo

The sun was so, so glorious and the sky so blue and clear that it didn’t seem quite possible that I was still in Ireland. I started to think about the other sunny days that I’d had in Ireland and I realised something interesting. Because gloriously sunny days are so rare here, I could actually remember all the details of all the sunny days I had experienced. That might sound depressing to someone back home, but I thought it was miraculous. As if each sunny day was as important and unique to you as every single one of your lovers, meaning you could recall every single detail.
This particular lover has a sting at the end, though. It always happened to me in Australia too. The first really sunny, hot day of the spring/summer, I would wander around in a happy, slightly mindless daze for hours and completely forget what happens when one wanders around in the blazing sun for hours. One gets sunburnt. And I got spectacularly sunburnt today. I’m now wearing a delightful summer dress, the effect of which is ruined by the bright-red sleeves on my arms, the angry red circle around my neck, the red-clown nose and the snow-white shoulders and decolletage they are contrasted against. Oops.

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The Other Side of Panic

This afternoon, I panicked so much about my visa that I actually went through the panic barrier to the other side of panic, which is kind of like an insanely happy place where the grass is purple and the sky is green and I am totally insane.
As a teenager, did anyone else ever have those mammoth phone conversations which would go, like, SO late into the night (like, 11pm or MIDNIGHT) and you would get tired, but you still hadn’t solved the problems of the universe (or finished talking about the guys you liked), so you would keep talking, and then, eventually, you would get so tired you actually didn’t feel tired anymore, you actually felt perfectly normal except for the fact that absolutely everything was suddenly really, really, REALLY funny for no reason whatsoever? You’d look down and realise that you were no longer sitting in your chair, but lying on the ground with your legs up in the air and giggling at your bare toes. It was a strange, exhilarating feeling.
Well, that’s what it got like today. I was finally called up and told there was no way I was getting an extension on my Irish visa (which I expected and was already starting to plan for), when suddenly someone threw in the possibility of getting a performer’s visa for the Midsummer Festival, which, at first seemed the perfect solution, until I looked into it further and realised I was supposed to apply from my home country (yet AGAIN) and it took 6 – 8 weeks to process, oh, and, of course, they needed my passport to organise it. All of which was slightly impossible at this late stage of the game. Even though I had, before this, resigned myself to the idea that I would have to leave Ireland on Friday, I suddenly became majorly frantic attempting to fit myself into this performer’s visa. I had to physically prevent myself from pulling out my hair. Eventually, we sent off a quick inquiry to see if the visa could be arranged urgently.
In the meantime, I decided that I should get a move on with packing and cleaning, in case Friday actually was the last day I would be in Ireland and that I would either need to take everything with me, or, at least, have it all packed up so that my housemate could send it on to me once I figured out exactly where I was going next.
And it was at that point that I went to the Other Side of Panic. There was something about throwing out all the junk that I have accumulated that suddenly put my in an amazing mood (is this what people feel like when they clean things? Is that what people do it for?) Maybe it was the feeling of moving on. Maybe it was the feeling of something finally being decided (even if it wasn’t the outcome that I was hoping for). Maybe it was the feeling of adventure again – who knows what’s around the corner (or, indeed, Pocahontas, what’s around the river bend?)
Who knows. I started to feel better.
I had a fabulous indie music mix on thanks to 8 tracks (check them out – http://www.8tracks.com and for my exact, Other Side of Panic mix, check out – www.http://8tracks.com/bellh/adventure-time ) and was dancing around my room trying to decide whether or not I really needed to keep my Ireland Lonely Planet or if I could safely give it to the charity store around the corner (its going to the charity store). Then, attempting to sort through my clothes – to decide which ones were now too big (there were a couple – HOORAY), which ones fit me now, which ones may fit me in a few weeks and which ones I have always hated and will continue to hate for the rest of my/their existence and I can’t understand why I bought them in the first place – I ended up trying on all of the clothes and having some sort of demented dancing, fashion parade from my room to where the mirror is located in the bathroom. Down the corridor, down the stairs, ooh, up the stairs, the bathroom mirror is upstairs, that’s right, keep on dancing, don’t slip or trip up and land yourself in hospital (though there’s a potential way of staying in the country…. JOKES, JOKES… I’m not considering it, Irish visa official, I swear). All things considered, I was in a mad mood. I was having a great time.
There may have also been half-dressed dancing in socks.
You needn’t picture that. 
The lesson here is that no situation is so stressful and awful that it cannot be distracted from by a little musical interlude a la Risky Business:

  
I even managed to get up and stay away from my computer for whole minutes at a time. I didn’t manage this at all on Friday until it was close of business and I was absolutely certain that no email from the British Embassy could possibly be coming for me. I spent the entire hours of 9 – 5 in my pj’s, in bed, watching ‘Spooks’ on Netflix and bawling my eyes out when Adam Carter died. (Was it because he died, or was it because of the visa situation? Who knows). Oddly enough, today the good mood was reversed. I stayed maniacally happy until 4:50pm, when I then closed the computer, went downstairs and made myself dinner, refusing to let myself look at the computer screen again until 6pm and hoping against hope that some kind British embassy official had sent me an email in the last 10 minutes of their day. 
Of course they hadn’t. 
And then my mood crashed and all the panic came back.
I now have tomorrow, possibly Wednesday and maybe the morning of Thursday (depending on how brave I’m feeling) to wait for the visa outcome before I have to ‘pull the plug’, so to speak and get my passport back so I can leave the country on Friday and not get the red mark stamped inside it which says I overstayed my visa and I am therefore a terrible human being who should not be trusted with another visa and may not even be able to travel to places that I don’t need a visa for in case I should get the ‘overstaying’ urge and just go on the run in Canada or something. 
To make things worse, a friend in the UK has sent me the details for the mot amazing job, I may go so far as to say my DREAM UK job and I don’t think its a good idea to apply for it without my visa being approved (she has suggested getting the job and then getting a sponsored work visa, but I’m not sure if this would work… I have no proof of that of course, but the way my luck is going… I suspect it would be a case of… MORE BLOODY VISAS).
Its just salt in the bloody wound of the visa application process, basically. One half of me (the stupid, optimistic half) says, ‘Oh, the world wouldn’t let that job be advertised without you getting the opportunity to apply for it. You’ll definitely get the visa.’ Tra-la-la-la-la, have a lollipop and the world is just unicorns and roses. The other half (the half that curls up scowling in the corner of my brain, hiding from the light, smelling bad and spitting at things) says, ‘Well, of course that would happen. That’s what life’s like. You’ll definitely NOT get the visa now, just to prove how stupid you were for not getting all the visas organised earlier.’
Anyway, I’m trying not to think about it much. Which is clearly not working, as this is only the third post I’ve written on the subject in a week and a half.

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Filed under Introspection, Ireland, UK