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


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


Mother Nature vs. the Galway County Council

At the beginning of January this year Galway – and the entire western coast of Ireland – was hit extremely hard by a major winter storm.  High winds and heavy rains lashed the coasts for days.  We watched on the news as live webcams and camera feeds showed the ocean snatching away buildings and seawalls in a matter of moments.  Damage amounted to millions of euros, fishermen lost their living for weeks, re-building took a toll on property owners and business owners.  Leisureland, the local fitness/swimming/amusement center, is still rebuilding 10 months on.

The Prom is a seaside walking trail along the sea coast of Galway Bay, extending from near the Claddagh to the Blackrock diving tower, and is one of the main attractions in Galway.  People come from all over the world to walk the Prom.  I once met a couple from Dublin who made it a habit of catching the bus once a month from The Big Smoke out to Galway specifically to walk the Prom.  (Frankly, I count us terribly lucky indeed to live so close to such an amazing place.)  The county council extended the Prom past the diving tower some years ago, all the way out to Silver Strand.  This little path was situated only a few hundred yards up the beach and right next to the golf course.  It was mostly gravel with a bench or two along the way; it was also a marvelous walk with incredible views of Co Clare, the Burren, and on good clear days, the Aran Islands.

The trail took the brunt of the damage of the storm and was wiped out.  Folks were disappointed but the ocean does what it wants.  But there was no stopping the council.  They got right on rebuilding that trail – into a monster!  It is now paved the entire way, bordered on the golf course side by curbing (that likely contains conduit for electricity…) and on the bay side by these enormous rock walls that completely obscure the view unless you’re over 4.5 to 5 feet tall.  The gigantic rocks are held together with a slurry of concrete that looks for all the world like a rock monster got ill and sicked up everything it had eaten for years all over the place.  Honestly, it is so bleeping ugly!  There is one break in the wall about halfway between the diving tower and the strand that allows people to access the beach.  Word on the street is that they plan on lighting the entire path, but that may take a while considering it’s taken them 10 months to complete only about 75% of the trail.

We expect an outcry if the lighting goes up – but here in Ireland the government rarely listens to the people, much less follows their mandate.  Maybe we’ll get lucky… Who knows, it could happen.

But whether the lights go up or not, in our opinion the trail has already been ruined.  To be perfectly honest, we’re kind of hoping for another storm like January’s, localized onto this horrid Sasquatch of a trail, just enough to take the damned thing out and give us back our lovely walking path.  Ah well, one can hope…

Claude trying to enjoy the view

Claude trying to enjoy the view


The horror of the concrete


The horror continues forever


Life and beauty attempt to prevail

— Cindy

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

Spring has Sprung

Mist rising off the bay
Boys yelling as they try to walk into the water
The scent of bar-b-q lighter on charcoal
Must be spring

It has been an interesting while since I last wrote — I have meant to on various occasions but never seem to find the time.

The other day I went in to work late, the sky was clear and the optical illusion that County Clare is floating was in strong evidence.  I looked to the west and the Aran Islands were standing out strongly on the horizon.  They were the biggest I have ever seen them.  There is some sort of optical illusion that occurs when the sky is bright.  The space at the horizon is different.  I suspect that the light bends around in the hot moist air and makes things over and on the horizon suddenly appear above it.

The next day was completely different.  At the edge of our estate is a golf course.  When I got to the end of the road I looked across and saw that 1/2 the golf course was hidden behind a shroud of fog.  Near me was the yellow of the blooming gorse and the green of the fairway and greens, but just slightly farther away there was nothing but a wall of fog.  To the east there was a patch of fog down on the water and hiding County Clare.  It looked like a cloud laying on the water.  Yes, I know that is what fog is, but fog gave the impression of a cloud on the water, not the misty edge normally associated with fog.

Ahhh so it must be Spring then.

— Claude

It Was a Dark and Stormy Morning…

I awoke to the sound of the howling wind at 4 AM. I think I discerned the collapse of a barrier when the wind’s tone dropped. I rolled over and attempted to get the 2 hours of sleep before the alarm went off; and then rolled over again, and again, and again.

Eventually, at the ringing of the alarm, I arose from my bed and began my day. Little was I to know….

The walk down the path out of our estate was windy but uneventful, but once on the Prom that changed.  The overnight storm was still blowing and the morning was as dark as night.  The street lights on our end of the Prom have been non-functional for several days — since the last storm.  In the dark I could see rocks and sand on the sidewalk, here on the far side of the road, away from the bay.  As I approached the intersection, I could see that the road was flooded with water standing up to the top of the curb and in case that was not enough to deter the motorists, the Garda had closed the road by placing their traffic cones across it.

I stood in the shelter of the wall before crossing the road to speak to a couple of fellow bus travelers.  We quickly concluded that the bus was not going to arrive; a couple people went home, one up the hill to the stadium end of the bus run, and I decided to walk to Salthill at the the other end of the Prom.   My other options were to walk uphill into the howling wind to try to catch a different bus, or across the wind and up a steeper hill to try to catch the same bus in a different place.

With the wind at my back it was a fairly quick walk down the Prom, past the football sized rocks and slippy seaweed to the Salthill Hotel, where the storm had created an inland sea in the hollow on the lea side of the road.  I could not cross the road as the water seemed to go all the way to the ocean and I could not continue as the water was rather deep.  I backtracked to a lower section of wall, climbed up and walked down it until I came back to the hotel car park where I then dropped back down to the solid ground.  I walked across the car park to the entrance furthest from the ocean and discovered that the new inland sea was lapping at that exit.  I made my escape and moved further inland to the next road that would take me further east.

Broken surfboard in park

Broken surfboard and other debris near the East wall of Salthill park

New Inland Sea with Flotsam and Jetsam

Part of the new new inland sea and the detritus along it’s shore

The road was dark, though there were a few street lights burning, but I was confident that the lack of automotive traffic would keep me safe.  When I achieved the end of the road, a tee-junction at a park, I could see the new inland sea to my right blocking my exit to the Prom road.  I could also see the sea at the south end of the park, so I moved across the north end of the park and made my way to the bandstand.  Here I saw what looked to be a swimming marker float from the bay — one the triathletes use to mark the 750 meters from the diving board — several rescue style surf boards and several regular surf boards, one of which was in pieces.  There was also a line of flotsam and seaweed deposited along the shore of the new sea.

I walked back north so that I could exit the park and walk back south to the Prom.  When I achieved the corner at the Prom road — a point I have mentioned in the past as being the windiest place on the Prom — I turned the corner and headed into Salthill.  The shop on the corner was flooded and the alarms were ringing.  The next shop had the door smashed in, the following shop too.  The wind here was so strong as to make me worry about losing my footing.  In front of me was a car, facing the wrong way, and resting on a pile of flotsam and jetsam, large rocks lay strewn about the road and walkways.

The sidewalk was blocked on my side by high water so I moved across to the other side of the road and as I passed a van a huge wind blew in and the sky opened up with another deluge.  I sheltered behind the van and discovered that, except for my feet and ankles,  I was unaffected by the rainfall thanks to the wind.  I was wondering how long I would have to wait for the wind and rain to drop enough to allow me to move on when a city bus came by.  I ran out into the weather to catch it; in the process my entire back side was drenched by the wind-blown rain.

Thus my tale of a dark and stormy morning ends in a warm bus on the way to work.  We picked up other brave (foolish) souls and had great conversation about weather and current flooding and the route the bus would take into the city.  The way home that evening was not as eventful but still difficult as the bus was not running the full route and I had to return by much the same route.

— Claude


My route that morning

Wicked winter

The weather has been incredibly unsettled for a few weeks now.  Winds surpassing hurricane speeds, high tides flooding coastal areas, power outages.  We have been lucky to maintain power and, because of our location at the top of a rise, to not get flooded.  But the main road to and from our estate has taken a beating.  Claude went out on Saturday and shot a few pictures surveying the damage, and of how life adapts.  Feel free to enjoy them in this Flickr set I produced.  Predictions are for continued unsettled weather throughout January.  Oh boy.

— Cindy