Back on the bike

After spending 2 weeks trying to get to and from my new job on the bus, I gave up and went back to the bike. I had planned to do so but just not so quickly and not by jumping in the deep end with both feet; however travel by bus led to long trips (longer than across town to the old job) or long walks.

I made a short trip on the bike to ensure that it was in shape, and that the shape I am in (round) would not hinder my cycling too much. So Monday, I put 2 glass bottles in the panniers along with a change of clothes, soap, shampoo, and towel and headed to work. I stopped at the glass recycling station and dropped off the glass. “This isn’t too bad, I can do this every day and fix our glass recycling backlog.” I made it to work, and made it home again without incident. Ok, the trip home was a bit hard – into the wind, slightly up hill at the end. But I made it and I didn’t collapse into a heap on the floor. Hooray for the little victories.

Today, I forgot the bottles, though I remembered as I neared the recycling stop. The wind was behind me so it was a nice fast trip into town, and then rain bucketed out of the sky; full on level 7 rain.  Stopped in a portcullis and waited… and waited… and waited.  Finally I put on my jacket and braved the rest of the trip.

So here we are, Autumn in Ireland, cycling through buckets of rain but still enjoying every moment.

— Claude

The End Of Summer

Well, the Irish Autumn, as reckoned by the Gaelic calendar, is upon us – and I thought it might be time to look back on all things I thought about posting but didn’t.

The other morning I spotted a crow that had learned a few tricks from the sea gulls.  I was standing on the rocks at the edge of the bay when a crow carrying a mussel in its beak flew over the rocks.  It cast its head back and forward, then hurled the bivalve to the ground.  It then circled back and began to enjoy its breakfast, after which it wiped its beak on a handy piece of seaweed.

I changed jobs recently, working for IBM again.  It was a very welcome change.  The new offices are near the old DERI offices and I hope to start cycling again.  To that end I got the bicycle out of the shed yesterday, inflated the tires, changed a wheel, and rode off to Eyre Square and then back home again via the University.  It was a hot, sunny day and the first day after the Galway Races, so the square and Shop street were packed with people out enjoying the day.

Last Thursday was Ladies’ Day at the races, and when I went into town to meet Cindy for dinner the square was full of ladies in strange finery.  The young ladies seemed to be partial to fascinators, while the older generation tended toward hats. Accompanying the ladies in their finery were properly dressed men: 3-piece suits, hats, not a trainer in sight.  Intermingled in the crush of finery were the typical afternoon square visitors, and the often found drunk.  Cindy told me that she was talking with Vinnie (of Candyland fame) when he said something like “Jaysas lad don’t whip it out”.  Seems a rather intoxicated young lad decided that taking a piss in the middle of the green was appropriate. He finished making his puddle in the grass, spun around to rejoin his mates, lost his balance and fell backwards into the pool of his own making.  Sometimes the universe applies the best punishments.

The other day while I was walking to work, having missed my bus connection, I noticed the blackberries were ripening.  Later, in the kitchen, a co-worker mentioned that it didn’t feel like the end of summer to her.  That, in her mind, summer ended when the blackberries were ripe.  I mentioned the ripening berries I had seen, and she commented that they seem to be ripening earlier this year.

And so here I am back where I started: at the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn as another year speeds past.  So happy Lúnasa everyone.

— Claude

Catching Up

It has been a long time since I have written here on the blog.  Though often on the way to work I think of things I would like to post, they leave my head before I get anywhere near a computer.

It amazes me that even after almost two years of looking at it the bay is still magical.  It is always changing color and mood, often within a few minutes.

The new job is keeping me busy and allowing us to stay in Ireland.  It is not the most exciting place to work, but my coworkers are nice people.  We have gone out after work on occasion; the conversations over the lunch table range far and wide and are always entertaining.

I’m not riding the bicycle as much as I should.  Skyler and Josh (my daughter and her boyfriend) are visiting so we have been exploring the local environs, mostly by bus, bike and shank’s mare.

We recently took the bus to the Galway Crystal factory and then walked out to the Roscam round tower, church and graveyard.

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Roscam graveyard, church and round tower

We visited Merlin woods – no sign of the historic English magician though.

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Merlin Park Castle from the woods

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Skyler and Josh at Merlin Park Castle

We did our standard Saturday marketing where people have always marketed in Galway.

Galway market

We walked out to Seaweed Point on one of the hottest days of the year and we rode bicycles to Upper Dangan on another.

We’ve eaten good food in several restaurants and walked the prom a number of times.

Yesterday we swam in the bay and built sand sculptures.

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So that brings you up to date.  I’ll try to stay in touch more often.

— Claude

Long time no see

Hey blog, how have you been?  Lonely?  Sorry, my fault.  You see, we have been pretty busy doing our own thing, and you know, I haven’t thought much of what we’ve been doing has been exciting enough to write about, so no entries recently.

Summer is here but you wouldn’t be able to tell because we’re still wearing our winter coats some days.  However we have transitioned more often to the lighter windbreakers, so maybe it’s here…  The plants in the front garden are looking happier, and the fields of bluebells (and white and pink bells [?]) are just gorgeous.  PJ the groundskeeper has been running the lawn mowers.  I purchased a pot of shamrocks in early March which had been doing pretty well but is now living outdoors in the hopes that it perks up and starts growing again.  And here I thought I had overcome my black-thumb tendencies.

We had a few days of very disrupted weather, with lashing rain and tremendous winds.  The bay was green with all the stuff dredged up by the roiling waters.  I like the days where the sun just peeps out occasionally and the rain threatens because the Prom is practically empty of people and it makes for a nice, relaxing walk.

The farmer’s market is gearing up with more people and more vendors.  Summer fruits season is nearing.  I am looking forward to some lovely salads!  Claude and I are on a diet, of sorts, cutting out breads, white potatoes and (sob, sniffle) desserts.  While he has not returned to his bike riding since starting his new job, we do try to get out and do some walking as often as possible.  I miss baking, it’s one of my favorite activities and produces such delicious results.  Maybe after we drop a few pounds…

I have started a new volunteer job on Monday nights participating in facilitating English conversation skills with a group called Fáilte Isteach (it means incoming welcome).  My two ‘students’ are a woman from Pakistan and a woman from China.  It’s an interesting and unusual task.  I’m not sure I’m very effective at it but the woman who facilitates the volunteers is very encouraging.  It happens on Monday evenings so we go out for dinner prior to class.

I have also started going to exercise classes conducted by a very energetic and talkative young physiotherapist with MS Ireland.  Their office is way over on the other side of Galway so getting there is quite the trek, but I think eventually it will be worth it.  He has a special vibrating machine that is supposed to help MS people with motor function and strength issues that I’m looking forward to using on a regular basis.

Can’t go to class today though.  The buses are on strike!  I never realized how dependent we are on them until they became no longer available!  Claude sure can’t cab to work every day!  Bus Éireann is administered by the government and has been instructed by the Labor Court to cut €5 million from the budget.  They want to take that from the drivers in the form of holidays and sick pay.  The drivers are not pleased.  Thus, no bus service.  I sure hope they get this ironed out soon.  I need my lifeline into the city.

The abortion debate is still going strong, which in my opinion is a good thing.  Irish women aren’t going to let the government sweep this issue under the rug.  There’s a tremendous amount of support for a significant change in the law, and possibly even the constitution.  I sit on the outside looking in and hope for the best and only rational outcome of legal abortion for all women in Ireland.

This summer is going to be very special because we have so much of our family coming to visit.  We are very much looking forward to hosting them all and showing them our lovely hometown and beautiful Ireland.

I have gotten used to being pegged for American as soon as I open my mouth.  Fortunately most Irish folks don’t mind Americans, they have a certain affinity because so many of their friends and family emigrated to the US.  The Boston bombing was very close to many people’s hearts.  Galway was, in a lot of cases, the last vestige of Ireland that emigrees saw before sailing east across the Atlantic to the new country.  I also get away with murdering the Irish language; people shake their heads good-naturedly and gently correct me.  I am absolutely convinced that I will never speak or understand Irish but I can at least kind of read it and pick out certain vocabulary words.

So that’s about it for now.  I’m sure Claude would have some observations to offer but that will have to wait for another day.  Cheers!

— Cindy

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white flowers

Work, Play and Life

Another month has gone by and I didn’t post a thing.  Thankfully Cindy has managed to keep the banner flying while I have been slacking off.  So the question now is one big post or a bunch of small ones.  Well, let’s let the muses out and see what happens.

I have managed to land a new job as a Software Engineer with Synchronoss at their European Research & Development Facility here in Galway.   They provide activation software to mobile providers as well as software to synchronize content across platforms.  This is an opportunity to do more hands on development while staying in Ireland.  I now have a green card that will take me thorough next October when I can apply for my stamp 4.  The increase in pay isn’t bad either and means that Cindy and I will be able to eventually pay off last summer’s trip across the continent and perhaps take a few trips around Ireland.  I think Cindy is already planning some.  With the new job being 2x as far as DERI I will probably start by taking the bus to work, but I hope to be back on the bicycle soon as it tends to keep me sane by providing me with a few moments of quiet in an otherwise hectic day.

Speaking of cycling…  I found a patch of black ice earlier this month.  When heading out of the estate there is a gentle slope down and a slight curve as the Dun Na Carraige road meets the main road.  Dun Na Carraige is shaded by the apartment towers that front the shore road.  I remember hitting the ice, feeling the bike start to go out from underneath me, and, like last time, uttering a multisyllabic curse before I hit the ground.  Once I stopped sliding, I looked up and discovered I was in the middle of the road and two cars were following me, so I clutched my arms to my chest and rolled to the gutter.  The cars managed to stop, though one of the drivers almost fell when he attempted to walk across the ice.  PJ, our local grounds keeper, saw me fall and came over to assist.  I sat on the curb for a bit before fixing the bike and heading off to work.  I discovered that the left brake lever was bent so I bent it back, all the while thinking “don’t snap, don’t snap…”  I discovered that my right hip was bruised and my left knee was scraped — figure that out.  I managed to make it to and through work and home again.  But the next day I was so sore I stayed home to recuperate.

I’ve spend most of my time away from work developing a security framework for RDF graphs — a rather esoteric diversion I suppose.  But I figure a shameless plug here will provide my developer friends with an opportunity to check it out.

There was a fairly strong wind storm here the other night.  The next morning I wandered down to the beach to see what effect the storm might have had,  The only thing I could see was that seaweed had been wrapped around the railings of the approach to the diving board.  There must have been some big waves.

Many of the Irish people I have met here have asked me if I like it here.  When I tell them I want to stay, they almost always ask: “Even with the weather?”  Even with the weather.  It’s just not that bad.  It doesn’t get too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter.  It rains a lot but then that is why it is green here — even in the winter.

I hope that the new year brings all of you joy and contentment.  I have no worries for I am in Ireland.

— Claude

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A Year of Cycling

It has been some time since I wrote here, so here goes…..

We have been here over a year now (as Cindy wrote about), and I have been riding my bike to work for at least a year.  One would think that it would get easier, but that does not seem to be so.  Perhaps I am just getting older as fast as I am getting in better shape.

In any case the ride to work has been interesting lately.  The bay always puts on a good show.  A while back, as the sun was going down, there was a storm on the horizon, the top was silver edged, the right orange tinged and on the left the rain was falling and the sky behind was purple.

Mornings have shown the Clare shoreline as stark dramatic hills and cliffs, shrouded in mist, or hidden in the fog.   Some days the bay laps quietly against the shore and others it crashes with an unexpected vigour.

The summer was nice but the winter is back and I am once again riding to and from work in the dark.

But the adventure continues and the thrill is not gone.

— Claude