True winter

Winter has well and truly arrived at our doorstep, here in the dawn of the new year.  The snow isn’t so much snow as it is tiny pellets of hail.  But we’ll take it just the same!  Weirdest part of this particular storm was the thunder I heard rumbling around in the clouds.  In Colorado thunder in a snowstorm means bad bad things.  Here in Galway it was simply curious.

The flamingo and the Buddha remain calm

The flamingo and the Buddha remain calm

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The water gnome remains happy

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The garden of tranquility newly decorated in white

— Cindy

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Strange and unusual

Look carefully at this photo and tell me what’s out of the norm.

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I was sitting at my computer this morning doing research on tablets for my student at computer class when a large fluttering of wings caught my attention.  I may be wrong, but I think this is a small hawk perched on our patio table.  He was only there for seconds and I had to walk stealthily over toward the door with my phone in front of me to get the picture; apologies for the quality.

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Amazing how strange this place can be.

— Cindy

PS: The Buddha apparently likes the spillway railing…

Further random observations

  1. The other day I was riding the bus into town and noticed the bus driver was listening to a radio broadcast with a woman speaking in a calm, soothing voice.  As I approached the front of the bus to get off at my stop, I realized that it was an obituary report!  She was naming the dead person, the time and date of their service, and the charities or families to whom one could send condolences.  Morbid!
  2. I was chatting with my new volunteer mate at the till in the Oxfam shop last week when I asked her what the difference is between cookies and biscuits.  She told me that only chocolate chips in the treat make it a cookie, otherwise it is a biscuit.  I went to the grocery store and confirmed it for myself.  Only the cookies with chocolate chips were labelled as “cookies”!
  3. Somehow I got on the subject of hoarding with my student Maire at the computer class the other day.  We talked about how she finds it very difficult to throw out things that even she has a problem justifying keeping around.  She told me she thinks that hoarding is in the DNA of Irish people.  After all the many decades of poverty and privations, a lot of Irish people find it tough to throw things out.  She said it’s the “7 Year Rule.”  An Irish person must keep something for seven years before it’s okay to let it go.  This leads me to believe that my darling mother-in-law is much more Irish than even she realizes.
  4. Google “uniquely Irish” in the images search and these photos come up in the first 12 choices:
Father Ted

Father Ted

Claddagh-Ring

Claddagh ring

stileirish

Irish stile

uniquely_irish

That whitewashed thatched cottage that every American thinks is where every Irish person lives

— Cindy

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

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The horror of the concrete

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The horror continues forever

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Life and beauty attempt to prevail

— Cindy

Festival city

One of the things we really appreciate about Galway is the tremendous number of festivals it hosts.  As I type, the 60th annual Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival is well under way.  This year they’ve built this huge pavilion on the Fishmarket (apropos, eh?) at the Spanish Arch to accommodate the guests and events.  Today we were having lunch on Quay Street and saw at least two separate parades!

At the beginning of September we had the 3rd annual Oscar Wilde Festival, a celebration of the man and his western Ireland roots.  I have attended one or more of the functions of this particular festival each year because I am a huge fan of Mr. Wilde; this year it was a play written by a local author called “Kicking Oscar’s Corpse”.  Next month we’re going to see two shows at the annual Comedy Festival: Tommy Tiernan and Rich Hall.  The main venue for the festival is the Spiegeltent Paradiso, an amazing looking structure that should lend a bit of panache to the event and the city.

June and July typically bring the most popular festivals to town.  This summer we attended a play and numerous art shows during the Galway International Arts Festival, a huge to-do that brings in artists both famous and no-so-famous, and a showcase play or two starring well-known actors of Irish descent.  This year we were visited by John Mahoney (Fraser’s dad) and Cillian Murphy.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see either of the plays they were in but we hope to rectify that next year.  While we had a chance to attend the Food Festival, we didn’t see any of the films featured at the Film Fleadh (that’s pronounced “flah” as far as I can tell).  The children’s festival, Baboró, is coming up soon too.

Hardly a month goes by without a festival.  Now that I’ve done a bit of research, I find that no months go by without a festival of one sort or another!

— Cindy

PS: New Jamaican restaurant in town, opens in two weeks but they had a “soft” opening today so we got to stop in and meet the proprietor and have some juice and coffee.  Can’t wait to try the food!

 

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The Absurdist Pipe Band

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The Absurdist Pipe Band

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The Absurdist Pipe Band

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Oyster bar

Comfortable birds

great-titWe have a sweet little garden at the front of our apartment – technically a ground floor town home – that we have decorated with our one lonely pink flamingo, a statue of the Buddha, two gnomes, and two bird feeders.  One feeder has seed and the other has nuts, plus we have put out a bowl with fresh water.  The birds have become very comfortable in the garden.  The finches, robins and dunnocks like the seeds while the tits and finches like the nuts.  All the while the blackbirds enjoy the makeshift bird bath. When the weather is nice, as it has been all summer long and now into the autumn, they provide hours of entertainment and enjoyment.

There are a number of them who like to ‘hang out’ in the bush, and when we open the door or step outside they either start scolding us or fly out of the bush explosively.  We also have a few pigeons in the area which we have named Martha, after Martha Stewart, because like her they are both helpful and a pain in the ass at the same time.  They hover under the seed feeder awaiting stray seeds flying down to the ground.  They sometimes try to jump up into the rosemary bush to get closer to the feeder but that is verboten in Cindy’s rules.  We use that plant for food and I’m not about to have dirty birds polluting that bush!  They have actually learned the rule and only the new Marthas break it.  When one Martha is in the garden she tends to shoo away the other Marthas; they’re so funny!  It’s almost like a Benny Hill skit with one chasing the others around!

So the birds are quite comfy with us.  But we don’t mind, they provide a great deal of enjoyment.  However…  The other day I had the doors to the garden open while sitting at my desk working on my computer when for a moment I heard a small clicking sound.  I listened but the noise stopped.  I then heard the sound again.  Something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up and realized there was a robin in my kitchen, sitting on the floor just looking around!  Quelling the panic in my chest I just sat still.  The bird thankfully hopped back toward the door and I shooed him the rest of the way outdoors.  Amazingly enough, the next day one of the Marthas came inside as well!  She didn’t get very far in before I got her back outdoors too.  I have decided that if the door stays open I have to be sitting in the front room in plain sight so the birdies can see me and know they’re not welcome indoors.

This morning I was sitting watching the birdies and I saw a pretty little great tit on the nut feeder.  I was contemplating how lovely it is to attract so many wonderful birds and how nice a day it was while watching him eat.  All these thoughts were swirling in my head when I looked over at Claude and said, “The tits really like the nuts.”  It took about one-half of one second before I realized what I had said aloud – and burst into laughter!  Couldn’t believe I’d said that!

— Cindy