Monday, 17 July 2017

Dublin with a Twist

So I decide to visit the fair city of Dublin. All well and good you say. Ha ! read on. I arrived at the ferry dock in Hollyhead and dropped the car at the long stay car park. Then I headed for the terminal and borarded the bus for walk on passengers. The ferry was spacious with plenty of seating and we were soon out to sea with the Welsh coast slipping away. The voyage was uneventful and the Irish coast soon appeard. This was all new to me so every sight was interestig.

The Dublin Port reception building was a huge improvement on the sad Hollyhead dock. Somone had invested some money. We decided not to board the bus but to walk into the ciy. This was possibly our girst mistake as the port road i long with many lorrie with huge containers passing us by regularly. But a bonus was seeing the final roundabout with a road sign that said Belfast, something  I never imagined seeing.
We then turned left toward the city and met the River Liffey. The river is pretty straight at this point of its journey so it was easy to turn right and follow its banks into th city. Th first bridge was quite modern with a cable support and we crossed over to our first Irish pub, the Ferryman. Desperate for a wee and a drink we went inside and enjoyed the real Irish pub atmosphere along with a pint of McGargles red bitter. Time to move on and we wound our way through the crowds to Grafton Street and into St Stephens Park. My phone battery was running low so we asked a policeman for some directions to Herbert Lane. He could not have been nicer probably used to a lot of tourists.

At Herbert lane there was nobody home and we just walked away when I saw the lady go in. I ran back but too late, so pressd the intercomm. I then tried to push the gate open with my hand and at the same time the lady pressed the automatic button. Too late !! My wedding finger got caught in the trap and lacerated it in two places. I washed it in the sink and with the help of about 6 plasters, managed to stop the blood. After a calming cup of tea, I went to the bedroom and rebandaged so that we could go out to  supper at Milanos. I was worried that whole night that I might get blood on the sheets but no all was fine in the morning. 

This next day was supposed to be our day exploring the city but instead st 9am I was in a doctors surgery having the wound cleaned with iodine,  3 stitches and a tetanus injection. Plus a course in antibiotics purchased from Hickeys later on in town. The doctor and two nurses did a fantastic job and they were more concerned that I should enjoy my day in Dublin. After we headed straight for Cafe Nero at 5 Merrion Row to regroup and plan our day. So finally we walked into town and caught the hop-on hop-off bus for a tour of the city dropping us back around an hour later. We then went shopping plus a drink at Marks and Spencer and Hickeys to pick up the antibiotics. We made our way round the city and came back to the Ha'penny bridge where stands a house that James Joyce lived in. Close by was temple bar and the nicest pub that I have seen in Dublin that definitely warranted a pint. Better still a pretty girl standing outside the said pub.
Spoilt for choice of eating places we settled into the snug Brick Alley Cafe where we enjoyed a pint of guinness with our meal.The ladies were oriental adding to the diversity of this city. Then onwards to Dunnes the supermarket where we picked up a few food souvenirs including Irish honey from Boyne Valley and Dunnes Stores "simply better" Columbian coffee. Then round the corner to the Post Office to mail postcards and see the bronze statue of Molly Malone.
We visited a Carrolls gift shop for some postcards. A store that is aimed at tourists unashamedly but nice in its own fashion. The back to Marks and Spencers for another cup of tea this time out on the rooftop patio in glorious sunshine. Next up was a trip to the art gallery where there is a huge collection of 17th century paintings. I wanted to see at least one commuter train but time was limited so I peered over the gate at Pearce station to witness the trains on a slightly larger gauge to the UK. A quick peek at the national library reading room and back home to Róisín and James house on Herbert Lane. In the evening we went out to Saba and had a lovely meal to end the day.

Next morning being our last day, we said goodbye to Róisín and heade into the city and had breakfast at KC Peaches. A popular breakfast place but the food is prepared ahead of time and as we all know, scrambked eggs do not sit well fir long before they become rubbery. So not the best although the head guy was great and efficient. After figurihg out the buses to the docks we then walked to the Brazen head, the oldest put in Dublin, for a pint of Smethwick Red. Lunch was healthy at a salad bar called Chopped. Then the highlight of the trip for me: in the end we decided to walk back to the ferry and I am so glad we did. Pulling out of the docks with a load was a Class 040 diesel plus wagons and I captured a video to boot. Finally arrived back at Stena ferry for the trip back to wales.

Addendum : Finger well on the mend now and some feeling in the tip. All good.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Pembroke, the Welsh far west

Driving to Pembroke you do get a sense of how far west it is compared to the other Welsh counties. Its eastern borders are for the most part, further west than most counties western borders. You can almost sense the proximity of Eire as witnessed by the regularly departing ferries on a 3 hour journey from either Milford Haven (Aberdaugleddau) or Fishguard (Abergwaun). 

We stayed in Pembroke, the county town, that is very old and remarkably well preserved both in the number of old buildings and the layout of the streets. Henry VII was famously born at the Castle that is itself in remarkably good condition with glass windows in many of the apertures. The high street has many fine pubs and we ate at the Kings Head that served Dylan's excellent dark beer. I had a fantastic curry and the prices were very reasonable.

We visited all of Pembroke's major towns and were able to surmise that in size and popularity and population Tenby was clearly the winner and the most major centre. It also has connections with Henry VII who escaped to France from here, and Dylan Thomas who frequented some of the pubs. It also has probably the most western located Sainsbury's in the United Kingdom if not the world.

To get in touch with nature we took a trip to Skomer Island where we saw puffins and fulmars in amongst a plethora of gulls and rabbits. A beautiful island and we took 4 hours to walk right round but not the most interesting, either that or all the animals were hiding. Skomer is also home to a lichen that is unique to this island.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Sixties the new middle age

After another break I am back, I cannot decide if I am a blogger or not...still we will see.

This blog is about new experiences and not giving in to the dark side. When I think about moments in my past there have been some that I have not been terribly proud of, others that were turning points and have remained with me all my life. Like the day I decided to move to Canada and more telling, the day I decided to move back home to the UK. We are all faced with momentous decisions, getting married, having children, career choices.
R2D2 on Cereal
But as you move into your sixties the focus dramatically changes. Yes there are those career minded people who work into their dotage, or the man who decides to start a family with a young wife. Des O'Connor for one. But generally the sixties are a time for winding down, taking stock and enjoying the fruits of your years of work. I always wondered what it would be like for me and to be quite honest some things have not changed:

Star Wars defined my coming of age, I saw the first movie in 1978 at the Odeon and here I am at 61 faced with part VII coming on to the world stage as strong as ever.  No change then.

I can remember listening to Radio 1 in 1967 with Tony Blackburn and all the hits of the day and I was barely 13. Today I have spent a happy afternoon listening to Greg James on Radio 1. No change then.

The author with a local author
I had my first model railway at the age of 14 or 15 and I had grand ideas. Today I worked on my new model railway and posted a video on Youtube  I am not sure if it is any better than those ones I did in the sixties but it must be my fifteenth or sixteenth attempt at getting it right. No change clearly !!!

What is certain is my intention to adopt the mantra of not going gentle into that good night. I have a life to live and I will live it. I am not exactly sure when I made this decision but if I were to place a point for it I would say at age 59 and 11 months precisely. I have not looked back, I could spend my years feeling apologetic for my misdeeds or I could say the page has turned and this is a new era where neither blame nor accolade is justified. 
Random photo of my travels.
Lady Godiva in Coventry

.......and one of my commitments is to use this blog as a record of my life from hereon in. So if you follow me and are curious then please bookmark and return in a week or so to see the first effort.

Blessings upon you all

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Season's Greetings

As I write this blog, the end of the year is approaching at a rapid pace and Christmas along with it in all its trimmings and commercialism. For me the commercialism of Christmas is not so much that it disguises the true meaning of Christmas, but that it disguises the joy of life itself. Do we really need to see one more picture of one more family going overboard in their commitment to celebrating the birth of Christ. How about the man who decorated his house so elaborately that it caught fire from a shorted fuse. Where is the sense of 50 or 100 people jumping into freezing water for a swim on the coldest day of the year. Why bury Oxford Street in so many lights that the night becomes day. And why, oh why does the old tradition of a carol service on Christmas eve become a mayhem of carol services for all kinds of things starting in late November. I have long taken issue with Christmas starting in September and October but I think I gave in on that years ago. But I do object to this incredible proliferation of services often disguised as raising funds for charity. Not to be controversial but it makes one long for the Indian Diwali or the Chinese New year that are short sweet but no less sincere. 

I loved Christmas as a child and bemoaned all through my adult life at how long the Christmas season became. My earliest recollection  is of a now defunct department store in Toronto that always cleared its Christmas space the week that kids went back to school in early September, the plastic trees and ornaments came soon after and santa's grotto was in place by October. Now this is a given and we have come to accept it. I never imagined it could get worse but now my head veritably spins with all the carol services. I just want to get to Christmas Eve to get to the actual carol service that may actually mean something.  

I think the real joy of Christmas is its timing in the year, close to the winter solstice, I am told to give the heathens something to celebrate instead of dancing around stonehenge on the 21st. Also close to New Year's bringing a real sense of rebirth as the months and seasons start their new march from January to December again. For me I used to wish for the New Year to get rid of Christmas but I don't feel like that any more. No for me now the longing for new year is for the rebirth of the earth, as the crocuses and snow drops push up, as the daffodils start to appear, as buds fatten and birds start to sing again. As the sun starts to rise again in the sky in a real dawn and not hug the horizon for a few hours. 

But most of all we have started a new tradition, the cheap holiday booked in seconds over the internet to take me to Southern Europe to Portugal and the Algarve where 20 degrees in January is not unheard of. Where oranges hang from trees in winter. Where fish restaurants reign supreme, this is the new Christmas Season for me, a chance to celebrate life and a love of this earth in a land of colour.

Roll on January, with apologies to all those Christmas/Solstice/New Year revelers........

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Oswestry Food and Drink Festival

This year we visited the festival as returning visitors full of expectations of a good time and we were not disappointed. So, to backtrack, we discovered Oswestry as a place to visit in the Spring of 2013 and went there several times over the next few months. Oswestry is a relatively unchanged market town but has modern shopping stores like Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, Boots and Costa Coffee. Our visit in July of 2013 was the same plan as before but we were delighted to find the street full of vendors selling all kinds of food and drink. We had a great time sampling the fayre and enjoying a lovely warm day, there were even some street musicians playing excellent music. We walked all the way up the Main street turned left at the old Llwyd building and walked up to the market square. We then worked way round to The Post Office and back into the centre. This year we made a planned effort to visit the whole fayre properly.

The fayre was a week later in 2014 and we arrived and parked around 10.30am. I had my camera ready
and we started at the Sainsburys end of the main street. There was an amazing bread stand selling every kind of loaf and I recognised the vendor from last year. Further on was the cheese man with a huge variety of cheeses and then the first of the beer stalls. I tried several beers from each man and all of these samples were free, but they were happy to give them out especially when I then bought bottles from each vendor. They were delicious as I am a great fan of real ale. (If ever the dear reader is up in Scotland then is a tavern in Cawdor near Inverness that sells Mcgregors ale. I am sure it is available elsewhere but a finer richer beer you will not find. Just a by the by.) So back to the festival...

Close to the heart is the main tent that provides information about the festival, a sort of tourist information centre where polite ladies can tell you everything about what is going on. We stopped there for quite a while and picked up several brochures including the very useful map of the town and a list of all the participants. S far we had spent much of our time on Cross street but there was still the whole of Bailey to cover. I turned away from the information tent and spotted the truck that carried the oxygen tanks that were being used to blow up the balloons. Last year the balloons were green but this year they are pink. It is now August 13th as I write and the balloon is still hanging in my office although I will confess I have filled it up again by carefully not completely tieing the balloon end off. A trick I learned as a kid. Be careful if you do this because the weakened balloon can eventually pop unexpectedly.

Time for a break and we headed into Costa's. Now I know this is not strictly part of the fayre but these
shops actually are quite quiet with all the customers eating and drinking outside. So we had no problems finding a table and getting a coffee. We were soon finished and heading back and up on to Bailey street where the vendors continued unabated. We finally found the cupcake stand which had moved higher up this year, the display and assortment of cakes was even better than last year. Then more cheese, more beer until we reached the square and there was my olive man from France. A bigger display of olives you will never see and we bought our fill. Higher again into the square and this is where much of the fresh fruits and vegetables are sold.

We returned back down the hill via Willow street and came back to the centre before heading back down Cross Street to complete our shopping at Sainsburys. More than anything else the festival tells the story of what a wonderful town Oswestry is, how friendly are the people and how proud they are of their little part of England that is still not sure if maybe it is really Welsh. I would recommend a visit by anyone if they are ever in this corner of Shropshire and especially at the time of the Food and Drink Festival.