Things I’ve Seen

Sometimes I see a little thing and try try to remember so I can write about it here.  Then I usually forget to write until I see the next little thing I try to remember so I can write about here.  Now I sit at this keyboard and try to remember all those little things.  So today a list:

  • They call the ocean the sea here.
  • They call the bay the sea.
  • Cindy and I went down to the sea one warm Sunday a few weeks back to put our feet in the water.  DAMN it was cold! Reminded me of attempting to bathe in Horton Creek, a snow-melt powered creek my family camped next to the summer Nixon resigned while my dad ran an archaeological excavation.  Also reminded me of trying to shower at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival where only the first 5 people had warm water and I was number five hundred and five to visit the shower which was also powered by snow-melt creek water.  Washing your hair made your head hurt.
  • We saw a school of eels while we were waiting for our feet to warm up enough for a second attempt at dipping them.  It was the first time I had seen such a thing.  The word murmuration comes to mind.  Not sure if it applies to anything other than Starlings but it in my head it applies to birds, fish, and now eels.
  • Which brings me to words:
    • Would a starlet who has advanced but not quite to star status be a starling?
    • Is there a collective noun for a group of eels?
    • I heard the word “gongoozler” on the TV and knew what it was.
  • We attempted to have milk delivered to the house.  Cindy and I had milk delivery in the States at different times and found it enjoyable in some sense.  So we tried it here.  The company did not provide a box (as we thought they would and as was done in the States), they didn’t even call to let us know the milk delivery was starting (as they said they would).  We were the second group to discover the milk; the crows were the first.  Now we have to put a bucket outside and upside down with a rock on top to keep the crows away.  We’ll see how that works.
  • There was a family of swans in the canal this spring.  Four cygnets, but as the summer has worn on the number of cygnets has reduced until there is now only one.  It makes a forlorn sight when one knows that there were more earlier.
  • One morning, while cycling along the canal on my way to work,  I saw a pied wagtail catch an insect in mid flight and then fly into the safety railing, which rang out like a small gong.  The bird did not drop its catch and continued to fly off.
  • Galway is bidding for the 2020 European Capital of Culture.  I am working on the data manipulation to track the status of the bid on social media.  I hope that we will be providing a lot of open data for the bid and into the future.
  • We have a lot of birds in our front garden (not just crows) and have decided that pigeons do not land so much as crash into the ground.  We can always hear them when they arrive.

Well that is all I can recall for now.  I am certain there are things I have forgotten but which I will remember the moment this is posted.  I guess those things are lost in l’esprit d l’escalier.

— Claude

Politically correct

yes-equalityOn Friday 22 May the people of the Republic of Ireland get to vote on a referendum regarding marriage equality; in other words, the straights get to say whether or not the gays get to marry.  I find it ridiculous that the masses get to choose whether people who love one another are allowed to marry, but that’s the state of our world these days.  Of course, Claude and I don’t get to vote, and that makes me sad.  I’d love to be able to proudly mark a YES on my ballot.  Such is the plight of the ex-pat.  I am frankly surprised how many people are scared to admit that they want to vote yes – and how many are scared to admit they want to vote no.  The No side has a pretty lame argument: some blather about ‘marriage is about having children’, and how scary surrogacy seems to be, and children needing both a mother and a father (while any number of studies easily accessed will refute that argument quite handily).  They don’t take into account the two-gender marriages that won’t or can’t produce children, or relationships that may emulate a single-sex marriage exactly.  If you ask me, I think it’s just another way for the insidious Catholic church to assert itself into the government and into the minds of the people.

Last week we received our first water bill in the post.  Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention – I’m looking at you, USA – wouldn’t know that water charges are a huge bone of contention in Ireland.  The entity administering this boondoggle is called Irish Water, and everyone reviles them.  They’ve already pulled millions of euros out of our pockets and now they’re siphoning even more – Like that analogy?  I thought it apt – without having done anything to improve infrastructure or water quality.  I’ve been told that the government will not start prosecuting people who refuse to pay until they are 4 bills in arrears.  Others have said that they don’t think the government has the intestinal fortitude to prosecute the predicted number of people who plan to refuse to pay.  But we’re afraid of the consequences to our bid for citizenship if we refuse to pay and end up in court.  So as much as we despise the position we’ve been brought to, we’re going to capitulate and pay the bill.  After all, as Americans we’re used to paying for water.  Where we come from, it doesn’t ‘just come from the sky’!

Speaking of the insidious church, I am finding it more and more difficult to listen to people make reference to their god without adding my two cents.  All these exhortations of “God bless you” and “God willing” and “with God’s help” etc. ad nauseum make me want to stomp my feet in frustration and ask all kinds of questions that will most certainly upset the devout.  I see parents going through the expensive and time-consuming routine of offering their daughters up as brides to the christ (aka communion) because they don’t want their children to feel “left out” while they themselves claim not to be religious or even attend church on a regular basis.  Ireland actually has blasphemy laws on the books under which one could theoretically be prosecuted for saying something against someone else’s god!  There’s an atheist group that I think I should join – and I will, as long as they don’t ask for too much of my time.

I like to be politically involved but I find that it’s difficult to be involved more deeply than simply peripherally, as I can’t really effect any change in any meaningful fashion until I am no longer afraid for my immigration status and can be allowed to vote.

It is 20 months until we can apply for citizenship.  Until then we can only sit back and watch the politics fly.

— Cindy

Almost Summer (“Samhradh”)


Mr Whippie in Salthill, Ireland

Summer, “Samhradh” in Irish, starts on May 1. Yesterday I was at the Salthill promenade. A chill wind was blowing and the sun was shining. I sat in the windbreak of a cement structure and enjoyed the atmosphere.

A Pied Wagtail was darting and hopping about eating flying bugs.

A young man stripped down to his swim trunks and ran into the cold water of the bay wherein he began to yell about the cold.

The salty scent of seaweed filled the air.

The cool cement sucked the warmth out of my shoulder, an effect that would have been welcomed in the hot dry desert of the American Southwest but here just made me cold.

The persistent sound of the crash of waves on the shore and the near synchronous sound of traffic on the road above intermixed with the putt-putting of the Mr. Whippie van.

The crunch of shoes on stones.

The low murmur of people talking, punctuated with the occasional call of a child.

I dozed.

— Claude


Is é Éire mo bhaile

I recently made a trip home to Las Vegas to see my son and family of origin.  While there my nephew-in-law asked me what I found to be the biggest difference between Ireland and the US.  The question took me aback and got me thinking.  There are a number of reasons I wanted to move to the EU: better privacy protection, a chance to live in a different culture, the chance to get out of a country that was beginning to feel like the world’s biggest bully.  But after living here for three years, what do I see as the major differences?

The US feels plastic, nothing seems to be real.  Everything seems to big: cars, houses, grocery stores, roads, serving sizes.  It’s the consumer mentality gone wild.  On top of that a lack of recycling, maximum packaging, few family owned stores.  Nothing that I want to really support with my hard earned cash.

It was good to see the family, the conversation was great craic, and the weather was nice but I don’t want to be there.  It was good to come home to Ireland.  Ireland really feels like home now.

Is é Éire mo bhaile = Ireland is my home

— Claude

You know you’ve been long enough in Ireland when…

You watch Father Ted and laugh your head off because you get the jokes.

You have a conversation with Paddy down at the Saturday market and understand every word he said to you.

Someone uses a colloquialism you’ve never heard before but you still get it.

Your Irish friends quit giving you a hard time for speaking like a local.

You get used to the funeral notices the bus driver listens to on the radio.

The voices in your head are now speaking with an Irish accent.

Convoluted sentence structure doesn’t confuse you any more.

It no longer bothers you to spend half of your conversations with strangers talking about the weather.

You’re afraid the next time you go back home you’ll be talking like an Irish person and everyone will think you’re being pretentious.

This video makes you laugh (and, for me, cringe at the same time)!

— Cindy