The Ireland Invasion: Coda'ed
All good things must come to an end, right?
All good things must come to an end, right?
This marks my fourth consecutive visit to Edinburgh for the annual laugh known as the Edinburgh Fringe Fest!
This was the last order of business for the Ireland Invasion. I thought it'd be a great way to end things. Better still, I was here for six days, which had me at a metric tonne of shows! Good times!
That's Gaelic, for "Goodbye and Blessings Be with You, Ireland". But, as I told Irish elite at Ulster, no "good-bye"s, just "until next time."
The Coda's entered act two. Life here's wrapping up.
Today was the last full day in Dublin, and it's the last day to do things. Things like collect my UB Sharesave money, collect some delivered post, ring an investment co., and, of course, visit the bank ppl one more time.
It was a busy one, which was fine, as it kept me from getting to caught up in the significance of these activities and what they represent. Despite crossing all but one off my list for today (the rest have to be done tomorrow, on my last day)...
It's hard to leave.
Mary, Eoin, and Suzanne were kind enough to join me this weekend for one more blast in Blackrock.
Mary's been a good friend since the beginning, when she moved here into that house on Barclay Court three years ago. Her bf, Eoin (pronounced "Owen" -- it's the Gaelic spelling) is a good laugh. They're some of the best folks I've met here, and was delighted to have one more night out with them. Having the lovely Suzanne along just made life better.
We hit a few of the local faves: Jack O'Rourke's (great food!); the Breffni (which was bereft of the crazy old men I promised Suzanne); Conway's (how much longer will it be open?); and the Wicked Wolf (which supplied the crazy old men missing from the Breffni). Great night out, which made for a sluggish morning.
Suzanne just left, and I've got a bit of time before Mary comes by to check on me.
It is going to be so very hard to leave.
The movers came today, and whisked away my boxes. What was supposed to be four ended up being six: the third big box was separated into three smaller ones, for ease of transit.
There's still a fair few things to do, like see some BR friends tomorrow. Worse still, there's a few things that won't be done until Wednesday when I leave. It's a bank holiday here on Monday, and Tuesday's going to be action packed.
It's going to be hard to leave. (And this time, it's not just emotionally speaking.)
Two minor trips made here over the last month were Sligo and Donegal.
Met Brian, Helen, and Derrick for lunch today, at Davy Byrne's. I've never been to that bar/resto, but it was nice, and did a nice (but a tad dry) roast pork carvery lunch.
Brian was the main attraction here. We haven't seen each other in some months, since he left the bank at the end of 2008. He, Helen, and I worked together for some months there, and got along well. Good to see D-rock again, too. Good times had by all.
D-rock and I went for a few games of pool afterward, in the Palace, on Camden. Good times. (Bad pool, but good times.)
This is why it's going to be hard to leave.
A couple of years back, I found Super Mario Bros. 3 online, and noted its 20th anniversary. That site also has heaps of other games from older platforms, including Super Mario Bros. 2! For fun, I thought I'd spend some time getting acquainted with this old friend.
Turns out that I haven't forgotten much: I found it a couple of days ago, and a day after I found it, and got used to keyboard controls, I mastered it! I remembered a fair bit of it, too.
(Who's cool? I AM!)
I had one final official act in Ireland before shuffling off. One of the lads from work, James, finally got hitched to his longtime gf, Maj (pronounced "My" -- it's Danish).
We expected an epic wedding, in a similar vein to Lisbon. And boy howdy, we got it!
I just bought the ticket home.
It's going to be hard to leave.
Wednesday past marked the end of this summer's tag rugby league. I didn't play with my usual faves, team AIB, as their opponents forfeited the match. That was just a friendly, and I reckon the other team just wanted to watch the World Cup semi. I played with the other, new UB team, made up of people I never saw around the bank, save for two. There was also nothing on the line here, but at least the other team showed up and played.
I reckon it was our best match of the season! We played so much better than we did in the past. Those drills before the match helped heaps, as we moved the ball around better. Hell, we moved the ball at all, as this was one of our sticking points from previous matches.
It was a loss, but still, we played very well. I played my best match of the season, grabbing lotsa tags, and scoring two tries! I'm back in form! (Too bad it's at the end.) Of note was Adrian's massive cut from some guy elbowing him in the head. Adrian ended up with eight stitches! 8! It'll be a good battle scar.
Fine times over the last three seasons.
This is why it's going to be hard to leave.
One of the TNA Knockouts, Angelina Love, was first.
Then, myself and Nicola at Ulster were subject to the same. Mine are known. Nic's I don't know about, but I reckon she'd be more successful at hers.
Now, PWI Insider is reporting that Drew McIntyre and Wade Barrett (Drew Galloway and Stu Bennett, resp.) are off WWE TV due to visa issues. Theirs have expired, and are awaiting their renewals.
I feel for them. I really do.
While not strictly part of my WW2 trip, it was a must that I spend some time in Paris. It's one of the major centers of almost everything in Europe, and in the world, both nowadays and in history. It's a big city with heaps to entertain in all sorts of ways. This marks my third visit here, and really, the first time I'll enjoy the city on my own with my own agenda.
Whilst I planned to do two full days in Paris, my time was whittled down to a little more than a day. Getting back to Paris was easier than leaving.
Invariably, when talking about WW2 in Europe, Normandie enters the conversation. In June 1944, Allied forces landed on several kilometers of beaches on the French coast in Normandie. They fought hard, and took a good beating, but persevered and eventually claimed the shore on all fronts from the Axis forces.
I had two stops here, the beaches of Omaha and Juno.
Allied forces stormed the costal port town of Dieppe, France, on 19 August 1942. From accounts and records, this was a disaster, due to poor reconnaissance. Ships veered off course, the sea wall provided an unexpected obstacle, and a strong German presence made this a less-than-stellar effort. The silver lining is that this provided knowledge to German operations, a trial-by-fire approach to liberating a port town. A couple of years later, in 1944, Canadians lead the charge to liberate Dieppe.
This was the second stop in my WW2 trip.
Got through Paris easily enough this morning. The infamous Charles de Gaulle airport wasn't too bad, and easy enough to get to. The car I hired took some finding (but the guy at the desk didn't tell me the elevator was right beside the car desk), but I got it: a white Smart car (one of those tiny, two-seat beer cans-on-wheels), convertable, too! This will be fine weather to bask in!
First stop in this WW2 trip: Vimy.
(And I know that the battle of Vimy Ridge was part of WW1, but there's more to this trip, and the others were part of WW2. So, instead of having a long name like "ADKO WW1 & WW2 France", I kept it short. The needs of the many...)
Squeezin' in a few final travels of "Yurp" while I can...
Seeing as this past April marked the 65th anniversary of the end of the second war, a few celebrations were held around Europe. This made the news, and I caught wind of it. I figured that since I'm near by, and have some time on my hands, I'll get around to see these monuments and battlefields.
I'll be in the north of France for a few days. I'll go to Vimy, Dieppe, and Normandy for Omaha and Juno beaches, and round it off with a couple of days in Paris. And I'm hiring a car for this. And the weather looks good, according to the Beeb. Should be a good one!
Just got back from James', the lad here that's getting hitched in a few weeks, stag in Lisbon. It was, as expected, a messy affair, but a good time!
It's 22:16 here, and it's not even twilight out. Being this far north has it's advantages. And it's not even the summer solstice yet!
This is why it's going to be hard to leave.
Something just occurred to me now: I've fully experienced the vampire mythology.
First, there's the silliness in K-W and Toronto.
Then, and more importantly, there's the real thing, which birthed the vampire myth.
I was in Vienna in 2006, a home to Countess Elizabeth Bathroy, who is rumoured to bath in young girls blood, extracting the blood with some pokes in the neck.
And not too long ago, I was head-to-(bronze-) head with Vlad the Impaler, who was just plain gruesome.
How's that for awesome?!
This is why it's going to be hard to leave.
The Independent reported that Taco Bell is going to open an outlet in the U.K. this year.
LOSERS! Why now?! Why not sooner, say six years ago?
24 just finished here in Europe. (Yeah, nearly a week behind the times.) I really didn't know how they would end it. I knew how I would've liked them to end it, but those two concepts are usually incongruent.
I've been there since nearly the beginning, when Linh got me hooked just after season 2 got started. I even spent a few nights watching all of season 1 to get myself up to speed. I got the season 2 DVD set for a Christmas.
I, like so many others, damn-near idolise Jack Bauer. (Really, who wouldn't've loved to "go Jack Bauer" on someone at some point over the last decade?) I saw the highs (season 2), and the lows (season 6), and saw the good (Jack, Nina, Renée), and the bad (the Logans, President Taylor, Ryan Chapelle). It was a great show, but over the last few years, it has been in decline. I mean, how many nuclear strikes can happen on U.S. soil by terrorists? (But what do I know?) I think they outdid themselves early, in season 2 -- where do you go after a nuclear strike? Biological weapons, fine. But, then it alternated between nuclear strike and biological weapon for the next few years. Season 6 was the low point, and while the subsequent seasons were good, it lost a lot of its momentum. Fox rightly pulled the plug a few weeks (months?) ago, and the final hours just aired.
Eight full days plus a two-hour stint in Africa, and now, it just wrapped up. Honestly, I hoped for something more. I wanted a happy ending for Jack. I was hoping for something other than this particular ending. But, I guess this just shows that Jack can't outrun his life. It ended the way the other seasons played out, with Jack on the run and still fighting. Good to see that he was fighting until the end, though.
Those foxes were marching around here again. Well, mommy was not too long ago. Haven't seen the li'l 'uns in a while.
This is why it's going to be hard to leave.
I played my first match of tag rubby in about six months tonight! Great fun, it was. It was with the AIB team, the team I really liked last year. They're great people, play together all the time, they're good, and they get along with each other. There's no UB Hippo team this year, as it would've been pointless. Most of our girls are gone, and the ones that aren't here... well, there's not enough of them -- you need minimum three girls on the pitch at any time. The Hippos struggled with that last year, and now we'd've had even fewer lasses. So, that was a lost cause. But AIB team, the "Travellators", they're a good team.
I was a bit rusty on the pitch, however. Even though I cycled for the last year, the start-and-stop sprints on the pitch are different from a steady cycle, and it was tiring, but it was great! Got a try, too! We won, which helped.
It'll be a great way to spend the next few weeks. Props to Ms. Cooney for the invite.
This is why it's going to be hard to leave.
My leaving presents from my friends, colleagues, and well-wishers at the bank were:
The card was touching. The gifts were also good, in more ways than one. See, they're good as they are (dunno about that jumper, though), and not just because Sinéad did a fair bit of shopping. To get all these would've taken some cash, probably €200 or so. That's great, that people were kind enough to donate to the Tyler-is-leaving fund.
This is why it's going to be hard to leave.
Nigh on four complete calendar years after I first touched down in Dublin and began my latest stay in Europe, and almost as long in Ulster Bank; with great reluctance, a heavy heart, and bittersweet sentiments, my time here is drawing to a close.
I found out that the flight from Bucharest last night was the last for a few hours, maybe days, as that Icelandic volcano's spewing ash and stuff again. Close call! I could've been stuck in Bucharest for a bit longer. In theory, that sounds good. Somewhere else, though; hells yeah!
Dracula Trip, 2010 wraps up today. With all the big points of interest hit, there's only a few things in Bucharest left to accomplish before I fly out.
There's a dénoument to Dracula Trip, 2010. I have an extra day in Romania due to the Aer Lingus flight schedule. My options were to hang around Sighisoara another day, or return to Brasov, or return to Bucharest, or go someplace else.
Brasov's done. (Castle Bran be damned!)
Bucharest will be completed before I fly out.
So, it's someplace else.
And that someplace else is on the west coast, at the other end of the country. I'm heading for the city of Constanţa, a resort town on the west coast. This will be my first visit to the Black Sea!
Dracula Trip, 2010 reaches its apex!
Many stories have been written over the years about this historic meeting. Now, the Dark Knight meets the Impaler. Batman meets Dracula. I make my way to the birthplace of Vlad Ţepeş III: Sighişoara!
A few hours and a few hundred kilometers away from Bucharest is the little city of Brasov, tucked away in the Carpathian mountains, which is supposed to be a thriving town, rife with life and scenery. Better still, I'll be in Transylvania! It's Dracula Trip, 2010!
Dracula Trip, 2010 begins in the capital of Romania, Bucharest. While kinda modern, remnants of the communist era are noticeable. And if you look carefully, you can see the mark of the Impaler!
An idea I had nearly six years ago comes to fruition! I'm spending this May bank holiday weekend in the country of Romania.
It's Dracula Trip, 2010! Woooooooo!
Today is a monumental day. Finally, after a little more than two months, I've finished my labour of love: I've stitched several, several pictures together and completed my panoramics from my time in New Zealand!
Because of the vast landscapes in Kiwi-land, taking a picture with my dinky 35mm camera just didn't do said landscapes justice. I had to make use of the pano making software that came with the camera. And I did. A lot. A lot.
35 quasi-panoramic pix, consuming over seven gigabytes of .psd files (Photoshop documents) equalling 300+ Mb of .jpg pix, comprised of around 300 individual pictures were painstakingly stitched together -- some with the PhotoStitch sw, and a few on my own -- and edited, with stitch "bandages" and photo adjustments -- contrast, brightness, skewing and rotating -- taking about 11 weeks (not continuously, but the better part of 11 weeks). Trust me, with the tools I had to work with (the PhotoStitch software + Adobe Photoshop 7.0 (from about 2002)), it was tough, and time-consuming. I knew what I was getting myself into, and always knew it would be a labour of love.
It wasn't all doom-'n-gloom, mind you. My techniques improved, my sense of detail heightened, my patience... well, it was tested, but stayed, and my use of Photoshop widened, but only marginally, as I stuck with the usual, tried-and-true tools.
I just took final looks at them for other, minor details, and pretty well did away with any minor and intolerable variations. I'm pleased to say...
I HAVE FINISHED!!! I'M DONE!!! I'M BLOODY WELL DONE!!! FINISHED! COMPLETED! OVER! FINITO!
D O N E ! ! !
And it feels good!
Now what do I do with my time?
That was a great Olympic effort from Canada! 14 gold medals, an all-time Winter Olympic record, was won by Canada. The final medal was in the final event of the games, men's (ice) hockey. Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 OT! That was a thrilling game, closed by Syd the Kid's overtime winner, in the 67th minute, assisted by Iggy.
(Really, if we only won a single gold medal, it had to be in the hockey, the men's hockey at that. If we didn't get that, the whole effort would've been for naught.)
We came 3rd in the overall medal count, at 26, which is a great effort. The U.S. topped all with 37, and the Germans came in at 30, which was surprising. Also surprising, the Ruskies were 6th with only 15.
Good effort, for the host country to have a strong showing, and finish strongly. Good work, soldiers!
Beeb 1's showing Super Bowl XLIV right now. I find this really surprising. I didn't think American football was that big here, but here it is. I heard that some NFL exhibition game in Wembley coming up (or already passed -- haven't been paying attention) sold out. I guess American football is popular on this side of the pond.
I've tried the local radio stations finally -- the new phone has an FM radio tuner, and I've been making use of it. Problem is I can't find a decent radio station. Nothing's really tickling my fancy.
This trip back to Dublin was a massive one, to say it mildly. To illustrate how massive, I found and compared distances between each destination. It's quite revealing:
|WLG-DUB -- TLW||15,073||24,259||13,100|
|Earth's Circumference (mean)||24,825||40,041||21,620|
|Half of Earth's Circ.||12,413||20,021||10,810|
M&N, J and I were up and at Wellington Airport by 05:30, just at my first flight's cut-off. It was nearly a teary departure. Had I been more awake, it might've been, but I was pretty out of it, and knew that I had to get moving.
Quick but solid "good-bye"s were given to M&N and Janelle, and I was off for my trip home, the longest voyage E V E R ! ! !
M&N's wedding -- or, should I say, the new Mr. and Mrs. Duncan's 'ding -- was really the beginning of the end for J & my time in Kiwi-land.
After the wedding and afters, all invited to the 'ding were invited to Matt's parents gaff for a bbq.
Matt + Nicky = ♥
More than 600km in eight hours. This sounds reasonable. Drive at 100 km/h, and be there in good order.
Factor in towns, and the drive's a bit longer.
Factor in traffic, like trucks and those going slower than I, and the drive's even longer.
Factor in the allegedly unforgiving speed cameras and associated policemen, and the drive's longer still.
Factor in the twists and turns in the road that characterise driving through the Southern Alps, and the drive's even longer.
And, of course, factor in the other drivers, and the drive's even longer.
All of them played their part to slow us down, especially that last factor.
One last item on Janelle's agenda was to visit Mt. Cook. Getting there was long and butt-numbing, and had some points of interest.
Fjords were on the travelling menu today. Milford Sound is the place to be for all your fjord needs.
My agenda in NZ was pretty simple: see LOTR sites, and bungy jump. (And go to M&N's 'ding.)
The LOTR sites were numerous, and accomplished a few times.
Queenstown fulfilled the other matter!
Just over five years since my first jumps in Oz, I upped the ante in Queenstown, and jumped off one of the bigger bungy platforms in the world!
Not a heck of a lot happened on the way to Franz Josef, location of a real live glacier. However, given the driving conditions, that's a good thing.
The trip's off to a good start whilst in Wellington. For the south island trip, Janelle planned several stops over the next week. Things start in the port of call of the ferry, Picton.
Things got started for real when the M&N took us back to their place, our base for the NZ trip.
The two best kiwis ever, Matt & Nicky, two that I met when I first came to Dublin, but since left back to home in New Zealand, are getting hitched. Matt & Nicky were kind enough to invite a bunch of us from the Dub days. I was determined to go, and eventually I got to sorting my flights and timings. I'm back in the south Pacific for two weeks!
Getting there, though... that's going to be a trip all itself.
It's Christmas time, so it's time for the visit home. Just a week at home (more on that later), so it was pretty action packed, but good all the same. Only saw Phil & Dana & fam, Anton & L3 & fam, and Linh, and my own family, of course. Actually, now that I wrote that out, that's pretty close to the complete list of peeps to see. Didn't call anyone, however. My bad.
Despite the jet lag, it was a good time. Perogi making was good. I was inspired from the trip to the old country to try other perogi fillings, and they were a hit!
I think my gifts went over well. Not sure if the li'l one liked my book (a picture book on Ireland), but she'll get use out of it one day, and it'll make a great coffee table book. The bottles of booze went over well (per usual), and the crystal candle holders did get rave reviews.
There was one almost-major kink in the plans. My bags didn't arrive on the flight from LHR. They told me in Montreal, and that I'd have to fill out some claim with AC in Toronto. After calling repeatedly the hotline they gave me, along with the number for FedEx, I got my bags in good order. Got them on Wednesday, and that left a half day to get them before they closed for the holidays. Considering that, along with my short time frame at home, and this was a close call. But I got them, and all was right with the world. I was really starting to panic, and curse my choice of flights -- I usually buy separate legs of a journey, but decided it might be easier to do one flight booking with multiple legs. My first time with connecting flights was not a pleasant one. Maybe this is just a once-off. Hopefully this is a once-off. (Damn well better be a once-off.)
Props to Frank for picking me up and dropping me back off, and for the wallet with money for the next leg of the trip. Which I'm about to head off to now: two weeks in New Zealand! (Damn, this is an expensive Christmas!)
After a bit of searching, I got some Samsung touchscreen dealy! It seemed to be the best value. I'll get to configuring it tonight, and letting the fun fly! Woo!
Well, it happened. After just over five years, bought when I first got to Australia, and lasting through... well, many events and in many places, the ol' Sagem My-V55 phone I had died. The last straw was a few weeks ago when I got caught in the rain and it got soaked. After that, it was a matter of time. The battery was bollocksed, and the buttons were becoming even more insensitive. Then, for some reason, the charger was getting a bit touchy. Now, the day before yest, that race against time was finished, and I was tired of fighting with it. I proclaimed last rites (and took what I could off that phone), and accepted the truth: that phone was done, and it was time for a new one.
No complaints, though. It did last for more than 5 years, which is pretty good. (But I take good care of these things.)
Godspeed, phone. Godspeed.
I finally made it out to Poland!
It's half my birthrite. Plus, it's been almost 3.5 years since I touched down in Dublin for the first time, and I've been in Europe for almost 4 years total. It's about time to make it out there.
It's a long wknd here in the republic, and I'm taking that, plus one more day to make my way around the country, through three cities: Kraków, Warszawa, and Gdańsk, in that order. But first, I had to do some reconoissance.
I've had a cough for nearly a fortnight now. It's pretty irritating. Nothing was working. It was going away slowly, but not fast enough. Calling on previous experience, I made a pre-emptive strike and saw a doctor, but he said antibiotics aren't required. Just rest, warmth, and proper nutrients.
What he neglected to say was a few shots of whisky would help. And help it did!
After a glass last night, the throat feels much better! Coughing's reduced, phlegm output is slashed, and things taste better!
Oranges and grapes are good and have value, but that whisky did the job.
(It was a bit difficult drinking that last night, being the day after that Guinness Day thingy, so the drink didn't go down as well as it should've, but when does cough medicine ever taste good?)
Last night was a violent one. We were celebrating Guinness Day, when Arthur Guinness was born (or something like that). (I'll do the hyperlinking and quick recon later.) It was basically a Paddy's Day celebration, and as such, it was a messy one. Good time, though.
(I think another sign of age has shown: I have a headache today. I never get a headache after a session. Could be age, could be the G. Either way, I'm not diggin' it.)
Notables from this past wknd's Electric Picnic:
(UPDATE: now with pix from the GFW6 ppl themselves.)
20 km run.
44 km cycle.
1.6 km kayak.
Roads. Trails. Bogs. Off-road cycle paths. A mountain.
These are the elements that constitute Ireland's newest adventure race craze, The Gael Force West 6!
For the last three months, it's occupied my thoughts and actions. My life outside -- and even inside -- work was focused on this.
I was ready...
This marked my third consecutive visit to the Fringe, and it was the best yet!
I found something funny in the Google Translator.
Translate from English to Spanish, "How good is my spanish?". The result translates to "How good is my English?". Trés drôle!
U2 came to town this past wknd., promoting their newest album, No Line on the Horizon. This tour is the "360°" tour, featuring the 360° stage. This is a stage set in the middle of a stadium so they can give a new, dynamic performance. They'll walk around the stage, all of them (save for the drummer, Larry Mullen, Jr.) and do their bit. This allowed everyone in attendance to, no matter where seated, to see the band do their bit, with little obstruction.
(Well, that's not entirely true. Their shows in Dublin, at Croke Park, had the stage at one end of the stadium, nullifying any benefit and distinction to the 360° stage. (Might as well been the 270° tour.))
I've been told that they're good in concert. One tour guide I had some years back said that everyone should see U2 before they leave this earth. High expectations have been set.
Pleasantly, those expectations were met. They put on a good show, and made use of the 360°(ish) stage. The stage was quite distinct, and the visuals were pretty darn good. The crowd was right into it, as expected -- expect no less from a thwack of ppl who paid upwards of €130+ for a ticket (like myself). The band played the music I wanted to hear (except for one, but I knew they wouldn't play it).
I expected more preachiness from Bono, but it wasn't too bad. I was told that he's done worse. (Or better, depends on your perspective.)
It was good! I can scratch this off the to-do list.
Hace cinco años menos una mesa, era en España. Hice y vi mucho, pero hay mucho más para ver.
Hay una cosa quería ver y hacer durante algún tiempo. En los años pasados, recordé demasiado tarde. Pero esto año, recordé pronto. (No muy temprano, pero con tiempo suficiente.)
Por cuatro dias, era a la Fiesta de San Fermin. Aqui es el espectáculo anual del encierro. (En ingles: The Running of the Bulls!)
I got a new bike!
I only got it yesterday, and I've already wiped out on it, and already had to replace an inner tube, and the back light's fallen off, but I love it! I went out for a 40ish km cycle today just for fun. It's been ages since I've had my own bike, since that summer of 1995(?). (Remember that one, Linh? It still burns me.) I've got wicked saddle sore right now, but that'll pass.
It took some time -- probably a year or so -- but I finally left that house. My new digs are much, much better!
It's a bank holiday here on Monday, giving us three days of nothingness. So, for my first trip of the year, the first since December, I'm off to Deutschland for an action packed wknd -- another manic travel!
The agenda was simple: Munich, Nuremberg, and Berlin. If you know anything of German geography, you'll know that's a fair bit of ground to cover. Another manic travel.
Good times abound here in Dublin!
In March, Ireland won the 6 Nations grand slam. Shortly after that, the Triple Crown and 6 Nations tournament trophies made their way to the bank. Ulster is owned by RBS, and RBS sponsors the 6 Nations tournament. We were treated to the trophies, one of the team, fullback Rob Kearney, pix with the hardware and Rob, and a li'l talk and Q&A with Rob.
It took a while, but I got my turn:
And the best was yet to come...
It's a fine time to be a supporter of Irish Rugby.
In the 6 Nations this year, Ireland won the Triple Crown (besting all England, Scotland, and Wales), the 6 Nations tournament itself (besting the three just mentioned, plus Italy and France), and did it without losing a match. The combination of the three equals a Grand Slam championship. For Ireland, this was their first grand slam since 1948.
Since 2009 started, I have had a devil of a time getting the energy to do much of anything. Apathy's been at a high, and that says a lot considering how I felt by the end of October. Egypt did well to fire up the blood, and the down time over Christmas was good, but not long enough. Since then, it's been a struggle to do much of anything.
I still believe I haven't recovered from that brain-drain known as the corporate migration project. But, it's been some time since that passed -- nigh on 4 months since the wknd, and nigh on 3 months since I left it. I can't still use that project as an excuse (can I?). My work in 2009 hasn't been as challenging, so I can't say that I've been burned out already. (But, the level of challenge is set to change. Infrastructure (software) is being laid now, and work will pick up soon.)
So, is something really wrong? Am I still burned out? Lazy? Do I need a challenge the likes of UCM? I'm pretty sure it's not that typhoid bugger that I got in Egypt. Hmm... Do I need something more physical to ignite the blood, like a trip or fight? Is this just a strong bout of the winter "blah"s? We'll see...
Rather than squandering a day or two on some much needed rest in Dublin, I made another trip oot and aboot. Today ended a 24 hour stint (or so) in Zurich, Switzerland!
The long awaited Benny Hill-grimage!!!
We're winding things down here, all of us. Which is too bad, as it was a fine time here.
I planned this trip so that I'd have a few days after the tour was over to bum around and do something in this warm weather before I flew out. Luckily, two others from this trip had the same idea. Jared, Keri, and I were off early in the morning for Alexandria!
With the trip over, and the masses leaving, this was the time to explore Cairo my way: unscheduled and impulsive. A few others, Jared and Keri, also stuck around for a few days, so I had some travelling buddies, which is nice.
Little to speak of here, having done much in Cairo already. We went up some massive wicker-looking tower near the Nile that gave 360° views over the city. Dinner was OK up there. It was expensive by local terms, but converted into Euro, it was pretty reasonable. We went to one of the markets here, the big one for the tourists, Khan al-Khalili, which would be the second of many visits for me here in the next few days. Tourist shopping was to be done, and some was. I'll do mine later.
That virus was still in me, but it was subsiding. My appetite's still pretty small, and I need to be near facilities most of the time. But I'm improving! (I can't be rid of this soon enough. I'm tired of these massive pills and this salene solution.)
As our guide, Yonis (YOU-nis) said, "Now we forget about Pharoahs and history, and just relax. It's showtime!"
There's some history around Dahab, but it's more a leisure spot. There are hills to climb and seas to dive.
... and nasty little viruses to pick up.
Some hundreds of km south of Cairo is Luxor. It's home to one of the highlights of Egypt, the Valley of Kings, along with the Valley of Queens, and some immense (I'll use that word a lot) temples.
It's off to a good start because it's more inland, and it's much warmer here!
I've had Egypt on the brain for a while now, and with my leave from work built up from the year, I'm exercising two of those weeks in Egypt. I got myself on a tour now that takes me (and several others) to the places I wanted to see. We just wrapped up Cairo.
That project that I was on, that I babbled about on those overnight wknds, is over.
All those long hours (60 weeks weren't uncommon, and neither were 12 hour days) paid off. The piece I was looking at went off with little pain. Sure there were expected difficulties transferring to a new set of operating systems and platforms in all areas -- "teething problems" has become a new buzz word -- but all went pretty well. November was spent doing knowledge transfers and helping with the daily grind, that auld job I had for 18 months.
I've got some leave built up now, several several days. I plan to use them well. You'll see...!
The Windows thermometer says that it's 0°C outside. There was a fine layer of frost outside. Mittens and scarves are abound. Winter's here!
(Christmas decorations went up around the city center already. Weeks ago, actually, which is way too soon in many opinions.)
The Dublin City Comic Con was this past wknd, and it was... meh. (It wasn't worth of a "Dark Knight" label. That's how "meh" it was.) But after last year's fine show, where was there to go?
D'oh! I didn't finish the unsolicited updates on the overnight I worked a week back. Well, all went pretty well, so much so that a "go decision" was made, meaning that all systems were a-go, and the system changeover happened. There have been some hiccups -- "teething problems" has become a new buzz-term -- and these were expected, but overall, the ridiculous amount of work that I and (some of) mine have done has apparently paid off. Woo!
The night went well, too. The food was good and plentiful, and the night had enough happen to keep us well awake. Good craic with those Sco'ish lads.
Plus, since I was awake and near Smithfield early on a first Sunday of a month, I made my way to the horse market. It's a place where horses are, as implied, bought and sold, along with any accessories, like whips (heh heh) and saddles and the like. It was still early when I got there, and merchants hadn't fully setup, nor all had arrived (or so it looked). I saw some fine lookin' horses, and some lovely li'l ponies. It was a nice, quick visit. Then it was time for home and bed, and a nice, long rest.
This is the second, and likely final, overnight that I'll have to do on this project. So far, so good. There's enough to keep us awake, but not so much that time's passing to quickly. If it does lag, I've got a lappy with me for some personal fun stuff, plus the machine I'm at here is Java enabled. (Dolphin Olympics! Woo!)
More news later...
It's 07:10 on Sunday morning, and the overnight shift I'm on is winding up. Doubtful I'll have to stay past the 08:00 projected finish for myself, but that means I'll have to find some way to stay awake long enough to watch wrestling this morning.
This shift I'm on is to monitor the test data transfers from the old to the new systems. Anything that goes belly-up is to be investigated and resolved. My specific job was to collate info and ship said info off to some higher-ups.
It was a quiet one, I'm told. Last "dress rehearsal" was much more hectic. But, there was enough going on to keep me awake, which isn't bad.
There'll be at least one more in my future. I'll get to do this again.
The pay for this is handsome. And there's all sorts of free food to be had!
Sure I have to sacrafice a wknd, but I knew what I was getting myself into, so I can't complain.
This has been your unsolicited report on my Saturday night/Sunday morning.
You know I like my winter, but I'm not ready for it yet. These days in Éire are getting shorter -- it's getting pitch black by 21:00 now, and the lights go on around 20:00.
Not yet. Not now. Eventually, just not now.
Some darling British lass said I have a funny accent last night. Not just because it's Canadian, but because there's a little Irish to it!!!
After more than two years here, I finally got out to see a pair of GAA matches!
T H E F R I N G E ! ! !
It was a bank (stat.) holiday here in Ireland, but I had nowhere to go come Friday. Work's been beyond hectic, and I didn't have time (nor energy) (nor forethought) to book something for this wknd. I could use some sun, but those destinations were a bit out of reach financially -- I couldn't justify a €500 round trip flight to the Canaries when in a month the prices drop huge. And the Isle of Man (IoM) had been put in my head sometime back, so what the heck, right?
The little research I did on it revealed that it'd be a quick and... well, kinda... dull trip.
I was pretty much forced to book leave today, ahead of some communiqué sent to some managers, to plan around this corporate migration project I'm in. This is so they can plan resource allocation in the coming months. So, 20 days got booked. The only certainty is that I'll be in Edinburgh for the Fringe again this August! Really looking forward to that. (Actually, talking about the Fringe a few weeks ago made me want to go right now!)
As for the other days, I've got ideas, but nothing concrete. Yet. Thoughts?
Hoy, hemos tenía el examen por nos curso de español. Creo que he hecho buen, pero los resultados estará disponible en el proximo semana. Creemos que el examen he sera muy diferente, más dificile; el examen hemos escrito fue como un examen por inicial 3, y somos inicial 4. No importante -- el examen fue más facile para nosotros!
No sé si iré por más. Los cursos de conversación ayudarán con mis estudios. También, he creido estudiar un otra lengua. Frances, quizá...
Ahora, relajaré por el verano. El trab. será muy dificile, y trabajaré mucho, mucho más. Y más, es verano! No quiero estudiar algo, especialmente cuando hace buen tiempo. ¡Lo he ganado!
It's been five years since my first and so far only Port Dover Biker Rally, held every Friday the Thirteenth. I wonder how this one was? It was a good one when I was there. Not great, but good. I'd go back. Maybe in six years time.
Well, this wasn't the best night for myself, but overall, the team did pretty well!
We played the league leaders, and only lost by 4, 10-6, and we're far from the best. Our offense was blah, but our defence was helped by their rather selfish style -- some of the lads on their team didn`t pass much, and that helped us.
They were also fiercely competitive. They took this very seriously, while we... well, we don't. Not as, anyway.
And me, well, I was butterfingers tonight. The ball slipped through my grasp a few times. I didn't get any tries, and was pretty poor on D. It happens, I s'pose.
I gotta get me some cleats. (Here, aka: boots. Dunno why, but that's "Oirish".) Running on a wet field (here, aka: pitch) is tough in running shoes.
My aggressive ways continued this week, but this time, most of my run-ins were with my own teammates! I steamrolled one poor lass, tripped up another, and nearly kneed some bloke down under. But at least the intensity continued!
More next week.
I got myself into a tag rugby league with some folks from the bank. It runs for the next se7en weeks. I thought that, if nothing else, it'd be a bit of craic during the week. Tonight was the first go at 'er.
Yeah, it will be fun during the week. I'm looking forward to it.
BUT I've never played any rugby at all in my life. Ever. I only got into it here, during the 6 Nations tournament. Thus, my exposure to this is pretty low and new.
This is a slightly different form of rugby. Instead of running into each other full-tilt, you get tags (flags, straps) to attach to your shorts. Play resets when someone grabs one of the tags fixed to you.
Boys and girls play. Girls get more points for a try (running the ball to the opponents side, like a touchdown) than the boys.
It'll take some adjusting. Not just the rules, being used to running full-tilt into someone, but just playing organized team sports. My inner thighs are a bit tight right now.
That is now two sports I've played here that I've never played at home: football (soccer), and now (tag) rugby. Good times! (Well, the footy's over. I got tired of it. (And I really wasn't good at it, but more got bored.))
I got a very pleasant surprise this morning.
There was this beige envelope with my name in silver ink on the front. I had absolutely no idea what it was, nor what the occassion is. It's not my b-day, I'm not getting fired (this time), there's no one leaving that I know about. What is this?
I looked at the writing, and deduced that it's a girl's penmanship: very neat and proper, all the letters were even height, and legible. After a few more seconds, I figured out that it's my ex-boss's, Sinéad's writing. I wonder...
Opened it, and read that's it's an invitation to her wedding reception! She invited myself and a very select few from the bank to attend the "afters" (after the ceremony, pix, food, when the dancing starts up).
This was a huge surprise! I was really honoured to get this, and know that she doesn't despise me. I fully expected her to tell everyone at the bank to stay the &%$£ away from Donegal that wknd. But no; if she does say that, a few of us will be exempt from that sentiment (threat?).
Hey, it's an excuse to visit Donegal finally. (Well, other than M's standing offer.) Donegal's one of the final frontiers of Ireland left to visit.
One of the attractors to life in Dublin is the pub life that's here.
No, I haven't turned into some pathetic wine-o (Guiness-o?). That's simply life around here.
One anniversary that won't often come to mind to many, if not all, is that Super Mario Brothers 3, the best game for the auld Nintendo Entertainment System, turns 20 this year!
I have fond memories of wasting countless, countless hours at that thing, playing it in the morning and late at night. Playing it the fast way, with the warp whistles to the end, and the long way, going through each and every world and freeing the captive lands of the Mushroom Kingdom.
I bought a strategy guide for the game way back when, published by Nintendo Power, an in-house cheat publisher. This thing had
E V E R Y T H I N G about the game in it: all the worlds and how to get through them, all the secrets to each level (except for one, at the end against Bowser), all four schemes for the N-card memory-match-and-win games. Everything!
E V E R Y T H I N G ! ! !
At home this past Chrissy, Linh's brother had an NES emulator for the (D-Generation) X Box, and it had SMB3 on it! The controls were a little backwards, but the game was there, and it was a blast! I surprised myself by how much I actually remembered. (On second thought, I wasn't that surprised: I played the damn thing enough that most of that game should be burned into my skull.)
If you're like me, and occassionally you long for simpler times, take some time out and stroll... I mean, use Goomba's Shoe to skip down memory lane and play the online Java version:
SMB3! (The controls take some getting used to, you'll get there!)
(BTW, the title's a homage to SMB. The free lives were called "1UP"s, and it's been 20 years, so... ya dig?)
For those of yous back home that are getting tired of being blasted by winter still, it's pretty similar here. It's frikkin' freezin' often, like right now, and today, it was hailing! Freezing rain and hail has been common lately. And it's still frikkin' freezing! <huff>
Dublin: if you can financially make it here, you can financially make it nearly anywhere:
Oslo, London, Copenhagen world's top three dearest cities: UBS
Trust me, it is that bad.
In the past week, I've finished two spindles of thread, both of which I've had for some years. I'm now down to the three Gutermann's mom gave me before I started out some years back.
I was delighted at that! I'm now rid of that mediocre black thread, and that silly purple thread. Though that purple thread was good to use for unimportant or hidden items. May have to get some cheap-o thread now, and leave the Gutermann for the real jobs.
Today is a rare one. It's the 29th of February -- the leap day to bring our calendars in line with the earth's proper rotational time. (There's actually just under 365.25 days in a year. There's 365.2425 or so, meaning that there's a leap year every 4 years, except every 100 years, except every 400 years. Ergo, 1600 and 2000 are leap years, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not. There ya go! Something for pub quizzes.)
Supposedly here, in "Yurp", it's a day when the lasses will propose to the gents. I like that! Kind of a fun idea.
And how cool would it be to have a baby on this day?! I think it'd be great! Not because you only have to buy presents every four years, but that's one distinction that not everyone will have. It'd be a great piece of info, a shining characteristic to carry around. Dying after a long, prosperous life, at the tender age of 22! Great stuff!
(BTW, I'd still buy whatever li'l chap or lass I have presents annually. That'd be downright cruel not to.)
I wonder what else will happen today?
As I mentioned in my previous babble, I didn't have the best time coming back here.
In the end, I arrived in one piece, well and good. Was well fed on the plane, entertained fine, and got all my bags, and nothing of note was damaged. But, there were some troubles.
Home for the first time in a year and a half. 'Twas a good time, too!
Sure, it was good to see all these ppl again. Not just e-mail, but talk and visit. Didn't get to everyone, but that's life. Also goes to show how short and fast two weeks goes. Just when I got into the Eastern Standard Time, I had to go bugger it up again. It was worth it, though -- good to be home again!
I take a massive journey on Sunday. I'll be in transit for most of the day.
... actually, it'll probably be 23 hours from the time I plan leaving home in Éire to the time I get back home in Canada. Good God, I hope BA serves something to sooth the nerves.
Home for Christmas, the first time in a year and a half. Moreover, it'll be a complete 18 calendar months and one day since I left Pearson! That's a long time, and now that the week's done, and knowing that home's been covered in snow, I'm getting excited!
If I don't talk to you before then, you all have a Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!
(If I don't talk to yous when I get home, don't take it personally. Jet lag, plus a desire to do nothing will hamper any plans I have. Really looking forward to lazing at home...!)
How's y'alls doin'?
Things haven't been quiet here, although this site would lead whoever's reading this to believe.
Since that fine wkdn in Booterstown for the con, yeah, there really hasn't been that much to speak of.
Work's progressing at its working-harder-than-I-should pace. There've been a few new ppl at work I've had to train. (One of whom I'd really like to crack in the jaw.)
The company Christmas party was last Thursday, and it was a fine time. No tux or kilt from me, just a fine lookin' suit. Better still, I had to work the next day. I got 0 hours sleep, but I still did better than all of the new regime combined.
The Sinestro Corps war has wrapped up, but I'm hunting for part 7 of that. (Green Lantern Corps #16 is the issue.)
Gettin' kinda antsy when work's not on, so I may take up a language class or two in the new year.
Went skating for the first time in years and years the other day. There's a makeshift rink just down the road from me, so myself and a few flatties went out there for an hour. It was fun, and I did much better on skates than I thought I would. (I only fell once!)
A new Futurama movie came out, but I haven't seen it yet.
Um... <shrug> I think that's all. If not, you'll hear from me. (Or not.)
There was a comic con in Dublin on the wknd., the Dublin City Comic Con, and it's been a very long time since I've been to one. Better still, it was just down the road from me, about a 30min walk. I absolutely HAD TO GO!
Got back on Saturday, and lazed the wknd. away. I unpacked and did a thwack of laundry, and readjusted to Irish life, and weather, again. So, all's back to normal. (Work was sluggish today, but that's how life usually is after two weeks off.)
Closing remarks on the last fortnight:
I'm diggin' Malta!
It's been right hot and humid these last three days (today, plus Thurs & Fri). This is totally the reason I'm here! It started out iffy, but it got good and hot. Much beach time and much swimming's been had! Boy, I needed this; it's nice to swim around and laze on a beach. It's been a while, and it feels good. Dunno if I'm much darker as a result. The sun's been warm, but dunno if the UV rays are that strong.
(And yesterday was crazy: very humid, and the seas were nuts! Huge waves, deterring most from venturing for a swim.)
There are a few things to see around here. The island's old, and there are some neolithic temples just down the way. There's also a "blue grotto" in the south, a cave-ish formation with some very blue water (caused by the algae living there). There are a few more things that the travel book mentions, but I'm not that bothered by them. I'm here for some down-time.
As for the cities, they're not much. They're adequate, and again, that's fine, as I'm not looking for anything glitzy. Valletta, the capital, is pretty dull. But it's hosting a Caravaggio exhibit right now, which was a treat. Other than that, there wasn't much there for me.
Sliema is pretty good. Lots of ppl (and lots of Mancunians), but it was close to the sea, and had some fine restaurants.
All in all, it was a very good time here in Malta. Again, I didn't come for much, but this is the place for it.
I'd come back :)
Arrived in Malta yesterday, no problems. Air Malta is a decent airline. I forgot what it was like to fly on a "frills" airline (as opposed to a "no frills"). The seats were a bit better than the discount fliers, and I got breakfast! It wasn't much, but it was kinda nice. Too bad it left at 05:00. I didn't sleep at the airport in Athens, knowing that I wouldn't, and if I did, it would be detrimental. I did catch a few on the plane, and in the airport.
Luqa's airport isn't much. Pretty small and basic. It was a few hours between my flight's arrival and the opening of the info office, so I slept a bit. Besides, even if I did get into the city at 05:45 CET, likely the only places open to check into are the five star ones.
So, I got into the other big city here, Sliema (SLEE-ma). The cabbie, like in Rhodes, took me to some place along the waterfront, that wasn't too much. All good!
... save for the weather. It was a tad really overcast, and did even rain a bit. Malta was off to a less-than-stellar start :(
Dinner was at some Italian resto, and it was good! I didn't go out, on account of fatigue, and my knee -- I hurt my right knee in Olympus NP, on that walk, and it's a bit tender now.
Today's been better. It was right sunny out this morn, and I was there for it. Not that long, only a few hours, but some sun is better than none, esp. when this is the reason I'm here. That ended when the clouds moved in again.
Thinkin' of getting a car tomorrow and taking the long way to Valletta, the nation's capital, before my exit on Sat aft. Going to look into that now.
(And it's overcast again.)
'Twas a very brief jaunt in Rhodes, less than 24 hrs., but I can say I saw some of the islands there.
It was a great day out when I was there yesterday. Nice n' warm, a stark contrast to Thessaloniki's cool wind and rain. It didn't take me long to get out to the beach. Not much of a beach, and certainly not one that any tourist board would display, but more than functional. It felt great to get into saltwater again, and then to sun-dry it off. 'Twas a good day. (Until that night, when dinner was kinda blah, and I had to scramble to get plane tix, but that last one's mostly my fault for leaving purchasing tix for my next destination for so long.)
This morning was the opposite: it was cold and rainy. Not diggin' this, so it's time to leave. I'm off to Athens again, just for a few hours until my flight tomorry morn'.
Maybe Malta's going to have consistent, sunny days. Fingers crossed...!
That was one challenging climb!
Olympus was a toughie, made worse by the rain, but I made it. My legs are a bit... well, very sore now, but I'm alive, and not too much worse for wear.
I did a li'l recon on Friday, down the easy path, but that was nothing compared to E4, the way to the peaks. It was very uphill, with the occassional walk down to the river running through the mtns. The map obtained from the hotel I was at said the elevation was 1100m, a climb of 700m from Litochoro, the town at the base of Mt. Olympus, as it's 400m up.
It was grueling in parts. Some "stairs" were long, and it showed how inexperienced a climber/hiker I am, and/or how old I am. It was tough, but I made it to the first shelter, Prionia, in 4 hrs, about 7.7 km, when 5 hrs is the estimate.
The downside to this is that I had to make my way back. It wouldn't've been so bad, except that it was still 7.7 km and 4 hrs back to the village, and that it was raining. Not too hard, but enough that a steady walk through a heavier drizzle will get you soaked to the bone. That, and it wasn't entirely downhill walking -- those downhills I encountered on the way up meant uphills going back. But, I still managed to do that in 4 hrs.
I hadn't planned on going all the way. I wasn't anywhere near equipped for that kind of trip. The first shelter was my goal, and that was done. I would've loved to get up to Stefani (the seat of Zeus) nonetheless. Maybe another day.
(Pix I have from this time are mostly crappy, due to cloud cover.)
So, I was soaked, cold, and hungry. Time for dinner now, one of the inspirations I had to get me back to Litochoro now. Yay, me!
Finally getting to the islands tomorrow. Probably go to Rhodes first, and maybe go to Crete later, time permitting. God-willing, it's nice n' hot there.
Spent the day in Delphi today. The ancient location for the priestess whom received the god Apollo's messages to any who asked (and had a sacraficial animal). It was as immense as the Acropolis, with so much to see and walk around. It was well preserved, and was easy to make out the lay of the land. The Temple of Apollo, the Theatre, the Stadium, the offeratory receptacles, all of it was just awe inspiring.
The museum had some impressive pieces from the old temples. Many were as big as what can be seen in Athens in the archeological museum.
Delphi itself is a li'l town surrounded by hills/mountains, rolling right down to the sea. Was a classic Mediterranean village. (Grimier than the stereotype, but had all the other trimmings.) The town was awash in hotels and restaurants. I'm sure the real locals and their dwellings are there somewhere.
Better still, this marvellous, darling Greecian lass, Xania, helped on my way back. If not for her, I'd've gotten back to the city much later. She was good fun! Her english was decent, way better than my Greek. She even taught me a thing or two in the local language.
(And talk about HOT! Damn, she had it all. If only she wasn't 18... :( )
Trying for Mount Olympus next.
More news later.
Greece is good!
Got in yesterday evening, and into Athens with no troubles. Found myself a hotel to crash for the nights here. (EUR70pppn is a bit much, but it's central, and not a hostel!) Went around a bit last night, seeing Athens at night. Got some fine pix, that only well lit, antiquated superstructures can provide.
Did the same today, but actually got to go into these places. The Acropolis is beyond immense! I could've spent so much more time there just sitting and marvelling at the Parthenon. Too bad that museum in the Acropolis is closed. The Agora was good, and the archaeological museum had some fine antiquities, but really, it was all about the Acropolis. It's just so... big! And overshadowing.
Food's fine. No surprises, yet. Souvlakis, kempaps (anglisised to "kebabs"), feta cheese, ouzo. Itchin' to try some octopus, so maybe I'll get to that tonight.
The girls are pretty darn cute, too.
And I think my skin's a li'l redder today. That's really the main reason I'm here: a tad more colour, and to flex my pygments.
Now to find some way around this nation. Wish me luck!
So, arrived in Brundall well and good. Marq and Caroline have the house in good shape. They're down with a case of green thumbs, so gardening's the flavour of the moment. I think I'll be
suckered helping with that later.
Not much new here. Norwich & Brundall are as I left them from a year ago. More, actually, since last year I didn't do anything in Norwich. All the same, consistency is good, right? (Sometimes, yes.)
About to head on a bike ride with M. Not sure if I'm looking forward to this as it's been years, about three, since I was last on a bicycle. Saddle-sores a-comin'! :(
Tonight: look for places to stay in Athens. Tomorrow: a buncha shtuff to do in town, like buy sandals and other odds & ends.
Talk to y'alls in Athens!
Next Tuesday, I'm off to Athens, Greece, for aboot a week, travelling around the country, going to (going to be, that is!) the Oracle at Delphi, a god on Olympus, and a citizen of the Acropolis, and all the other tourist things.
After that, it'll be about four days in Malta, just lazing around that tiny island.
Before that, though, I'm off to Norwich for a few days, visitng the fam I have there, that I haven't seen since last year. (Yup, one whole calendar year. (And I've been in Dublin for how long?))
I'm going to try a different style of babbling here. I'll try those li'l on-the-spot blurbs, updating TK:O while I'm out there. That's the theory, anyway. In reality... <shrug>. Hell, if the capital O can do it, why can't I?
And this is a much, much needed getaway. Time off, time away, time out there in "Yurp", and time in warmer climates -- summer passed Ireland by, so I need some hot weather.
Talk to yas later, when I'm in Norwich!
So nice, I did it twice!
A few of us went out last night to one of the acts during the Bulmer's Comedy Fest. On recommendations from myself and another bloke, John (good guy, btw), we saw Reginald D. Hunter, the same guy I raved about after seeing him in Edinburgh at the Fringe Fest. The material was mostly the same, but still funny, and he did tell things I hadn't heard before, which was far too funny! Good times were had, and many laughs, too.
He's recommended watching, if you get the chance. (Dunno about YouTube, though. I saw a clip of his stuff on there from a few years back, and it wasn't as good as what I saw here. See him live!)
I need to go someplace hot. And I need it soon. I had plans for a getaway soon (very soon), but there was a monkey wrench. That wrench was someone, a bloke here that would be able to cover for me, taking leave in a few weeks. The kicker is he's on leave now. That's two weeks out of four he's gone. I didn't think it'd happen, so I had all these plans, and was all set to click a variety of "SUBMIT" and "PURCHASE" buttons, but then I thought I'd see if, in the off-chance, there'd be someone gone when I wanted to go. "No way" I thought. But yup, there it was. He took off the 1st week in Oct. My options are now the last week in Sept, which is very soon (and maybe too late), or mid Oct, which is a bit cooler and weather variable.
Kinda my fault for leaving it, but there's no way this guy needs two weeks out of four of leave.
At last! AT LAST! At long last! I get out to that marvellous city, Edinburgh, for the annual spectacle known as the Fringe Fest!
I never made it three years ago in London, due to lack of money and that E.U. West Invasion. I didn't go last year because I was settling in Dublin. I had to go this year. HAD TO! If I didn't go this time, I might as well have just gone home, ferget that work permit.
Edinburgh's good on its own. It gets a bit better at Christmas. There's only one other time of year that could trump it all; I had to go to the Fringe.
So I did. I spent two days there, and man, the only way to describe it is "sensory overload". In a good way, natch.
Even just on the Royal Mile, you're bombarded with people, performers, and flyers! All sorts of acts and shows were being advertised. You really can't turn around without meeting someone that's just trying to give you a flyer advertising their show.
I got out to see two big names in comedy here, Frankie Boyle and Reginald D. Hunter. Both were good. Boyle's got a biting humour, the kind that makes you want to stay obscure so he doesn't pick on you. Hunter's my new favourite comedian! The guy's delivery is the best one going, and his observations on the mundane are just plain ol' funny.
This is an all-out arts festival, allegedly the biggest in the world. It's still mostly comedy, as it began, but there are plays, "physical theatre", exhibitions, musicals, and even things for kids. (I found this strange, to have a kids programme at the Fringe, but it's better to bring them to these, rather than hear, say, Reg Hunter talk about his disdain for "Bridget Jones".)
Two days, and I think that was enough. Even if I was there for longer, the ultimate limiter, with anything else, is £. It wasn't cheap, but it was money well spent. I'd go again, in a heartbeat!
II: abr The Ireland Invasion.
Extended: adj drawn out in length especially of time. "An extended visit."
The gov't got back to me today. They granted me the work permit! I'll be here for another few months, until EOY.
It was a pleasant surprise to return home to from my stint in Northern Ireland. It's one less massive headache to worry about.
Now, hopefully, I can rest easier :)
We've a long weekend here, so I extended it by a few days, and made a trip to Northern Ireland out of it. The north is the final major territory to visit, and I've been told there's a few things up here to see, so I spent the last six days up there.
On the list: Belfast, the Giant's Causeway, and Derry.
Come tomorry, the working holiday visa expires. Well, technically, tonight at midnight. So, my tenure with the Republic is done. But, I'm not really going anywhere. I'll be going to the UK and back via ferry, so I can technically stay here as a tourist, but that's in a week. In the mean, I'll be kicking around here, readying myself for el examen sobre el lunes por mi curso de español.
Why stick around here? Well, best to see this country whilst I can, and to have one last do with the fabulous mates I've made here, a pair of kiwis and an Ottawa gal, all leading up to...
... the decision from the government: if they'll grant me the work permit that I've applied for...!
I've had a nagging cough since I got back from Scandanavia. I sorta let it go, but it escalated into something more. It just wouldn't go away, and there was some awful sounds and goo coming out of my mouth. (My fault for it getting this bad. I wasn't eating nor sleeping enough when I was combatting it.)
So, a couple of trips to the doctors, a week of antibiotics, and this thing is subsiding. At last! It took the better part of the week, but those antibiotics kicked in. That infection's all gone, or mostly gone anyway.
One good side to these appointments and needing rest is that I got to knock off work early. I tell ya, I could get used to this, so long as the weather holds. It was good to go home and enjoy the sunshine. Something tells me, however, work wouldn't allow me to get a laptop and do my work along the shores of Blackrock :(
I had a li'l visit the last few days from the weird clown, and my valentine, Soapy, aka, Sophie, and her (wonderful) sister, Catherine! They were looking to take a trip somewhere, and with a few friends on this island, they made their way here to see Ireland.
It was only for five days, and for any visitor, five days is plenty in Dublin. There's not a heck of a lot to see. Worse still, it was pretty miserable outside for the time they were here. When they arrived and when they left was nice and warm, but the time inbetween wasn't. Ah, well. That's Ireland.
They seemed to have a good time. They liked the Guinness brewery, and the li'l selection of Tim Horton's doughnuts in one store, and I showed them as good a time as possible, given the weather and the activities around the city. (Ladies, let's be honest: that Maritime "festival" wasn't that good, was it? If you were here two weeks from now, you'd've seen those street performers in that competition.) They liked my mates around here, and my mates had good things to say about them, too. (Surprisingly :P  )
(Plus, they had some amazing cooking! (Right?))
Have fun here, S&C! I think you'll like it out west.
I saw my first (and apparently Ireland's first full rules) fighting event tonight.
Cage Rage Contenders held a show in Dublin, at the Point. I'm into the fighting sports, have been for some time now, and only recently elevated my interest in MMA (mixed martial arts, the UFC, full fighting stuff) in the last few years. Since my knowledge of this sport is relatively limited, and I've never been to an event like this before, I wasn't sure what to expect.
If you've got some time, and good memory, play the Advanced Paper-Rock-Scissors game!
It's a long weekend here, with Easter and all. And, there's another part of Ireland left to see. Arrangements were made to make another road trip. This weekend, it would be to county Kerry, where things are supposed to be very nice, or so they say.
Matt & I have been throwing passages of a certain movie to each other every now and then. We've probably done the whole movie over the last few months. He ordered it online, and it was just a matter a time before we finally got to see it. There was a delay at one point, but there was a txt from Matt, saying that the movies were on his doorstep when he got home. "All systems are go" as he put it. It was mouth watering!
After a pleasant walk around, we got to the kiwis, and we got dinner and watched it. It. IT.
Eddie Murphy: Delirious!
Yeah, it's lewd and full of all sorts of profanity, but, dammit, it's funny!
Gooney goo goo! (Still makes me smile and chuckle.)
One of the good things about not planning anything is that you're free to do anything when something last minute arises. Few times since I got here has something massive happened last minute, but now is one of those times. Kiwi Matt's got his company's car, and Nicky let us know in the late aft. So, we're off to the west coast for the first time. (And not the last...)
I'm still alive and kickin' around the Republic. No worries. Sorry for not posting anything in the last two months.
I have been busy. Extremely busy. Work has pretty much dominated my life, and planning trips ain't easy, I tells ya. I'll get to posting them soon. (I hope!)
(My disappearance from cyberspace isn't unprecedented. Top Hats & Coat Tails was untouched for... jeez, some lengthy amount of time. And, after Aus and before Ireland, I didn't have much to say on anything.)
This is THE holiday in Ireland. It's today that, historically, St. Patrick brought Christianity to prominence on the island of Éire. It's today, currently, that everyone's Irish. Back in Canada, and probably everywhere around the world, everyone grabs a drink or two, dyes it green, and wears heaps of green. What would it be like here?
Sorry to tell you that it was a little disappointing.
BIG BIG BIG day today, as England comes to Ireland in week three of 6 Nations action.
Sometimes I wonder if this job is worth it. Sure, it's nice to have steady employment with interesting work, and to work around some decent folks. However, to be blamed erroneously for "losing" large quantities of cash is trying. Blamed because someone can't add properly. Please, oh please, don't shoot the messenger.
(And the contract's extended until EOVisa! But forkin' hell, I need more money for this. This isn't worth it.)
(On the plus, the bank lets me claim overtime! Dancin' in the streets when that happens :D )
It's time to get out there again, jump on a bus and go somewhere. Doesn't really matter where.
I had a flip through the indie guide book last weekend, and decided on a fine li'l city/village to visit, even if just for a day.
I got up pretty darn early to make the most of the day. Jumped on the bus (too early for the DART), headed into town, to Busarus, and bought a return ticket to the city of Kilkenny.
All in all, the last few weeks have been one of, if not the best holiday season ever! EVER!
Everyone should know that I love Scotland. When I was there the first time, in September, I didn't spend that much time there. I was there for a short wknd., seeing only Edinburgh and Glasgow. When I mentioned how much I love Scotland, Nicky invited me to join her, her bf, and some mates on a tour of Scotland during the festive season. So, with them I went, on a Haggis tour of Scotland!
The festive season is afoot, and it's damn infectious.
I'm just aboot the leave the office, 15:18 on the 22nd. About 90% of the floor, and probably the bldg. have left already, making it hard for me to do the one last task of a silly reconciliation that has no time-sensitivity to it. So, unfinished it shall remain.
I've been showered with wishes and gifts since last Thursday. Everyone's in such a giving mood. Good as they are, the best just came from my manager, possibly the best manager ever (sorry, Todd), Sinéad, who got me an Irish football shirt. (May be a size too small for us.) It's great!
And, since last Thursday, the party hasn't stopped. Christmas parties, going away bashes, dinners, lunches... jeezum crow! And it's going to continue for another week or two. Scotland will be revisited, and James is on his way after Christmas. It's a good time to be alive!
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a brilliant new year!
Last night, we saw off one of our own. Our circle's young, reckless drunk, Eric, went home this morning. Last night was the last hurrah, for now. It was a quiet night at cafe and a pub, but still a fine time. (In stark contrast to Friday, which was loud, but still fun.)
Godspeed, Eric! It's been a thrillride. Lookin' forward to St. Paddy's Day with you :)
Leave it to a bank to throw a classy party in a first-rate hotel! (And, I like to think I dressed in kind ;) )
The Christmas party is on Thursday.
The slick blue suit with pinstripes I saw last night?
Tux with kilt?
Top hat, cane, gloves?
After five complete months in Ireland, I thought it due to visit the Crazy Couple, Chris & Katja! They now reside in Vienna, and seeing them again was the perfect excuse to make a flight to continental Europe. What a great idea this is, and what a great time it was!
Dublin isn't the only major city here. This weekend, I and mine went off to discover a city that has many supporters, and a few detractors, Cork.
The Dropkick Murphys concert was a blast! The Ambassador was a close, cozy setting for a fine show as such. The crowd was into it, the Murphys were into it, and the music was very very lively. (Check them out if you haven't heard them. It's hard rock/punk with a Celtic infusion. Doesn't sound like much on paper, but it sounds good.) I even managed to get to the front of the stage, or as close as you can get before the barricade! Took a while to get there, and a few people to get through, but I got there :)
Last week, the weather around here was pretty balmy. It was pretty close to the typical Canadian fall weather, I told people. Then this week brought the chill. It got cold. Not gradually, either, it got cold. There was frost outside this morning, and someone heard that the mercury dipped down to -2C this morn. I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I heard from the 'rents that snow's already fallen on some places in North America. I will complain that I now have to go buy more clothes, and you know I find shopping generally to be a pain.
Like many other countries I've been to, there's a bit of buzz about Hallowe'en. Mostly it's the commercial aspect of it, getting dressed up and crap. But here in Ireland, it goes one step further. One would suspect that it's native country goes one step further for the end of the Pagan year.
The office, hell, quite possibly, the building cutie left today.
That's all to say. Sorry.
There's a bomb in Dublin today, right now.
O'Connell Street, one of the main arteries of the city's traffic, was closed off, forcing traffic onto all sorts of smaller streets all around. Not sure of what's what, but it's gotta be big. Or, at least, something worth buzzing about.
UPDATE: looks like that was a false alarm. An airlink bus, one of the buses running from the city center to the airport directly, was stopped by the driver after he/she noticed a suspicious bag. Bomb squads were called in and examined the bag, but found nothing.
Probably for the best. If there was a blast, we could've felt it if it was big, since Ulster's HO is not too far from O'Connell. If we didn't feel it physically, then we would've felt it other ways -- transportation would likely be shut down, and it'd take forever to get home.
All continues to be well in Dublin :)
I moved into my new house on Wednesday evening. So far, all is good. The housemates are decent folks. It's an internationl house. There's one Canadian, one Frenchie, one Italian, and one Irish -- it's a near requirement that I live with at least one Irish person, since I want to meet authentic Irish folks while I'm here.
The location's good, and it only takes me 30 min to get to work, if I get to the station just as the train rolls up. And the house is comfortable, just like it was when I went to view it. But, since I'm just coming from a hostel, comfort and serenity would be easy to find.
Better still, previous tenants have left behind food, such as pasta, rice, and spices. Also in this forgotten food is flour, sugar, and salt. That, plus the milk I bought, and the butter and baking powder I will buy equates to pancakes!
The hamster's OK, but I don't think Mike likes living in his cage. I saw and heard him gnawing at the metal bars the other night. Can't blame him, really.
I think I'll like it here :)
The txt was sent on Monday 09 October:
"Keep this Friday the 13th clear, because the Dark Knight will strike London!"
That was a long, very long, month. One calendar month. One calendar month of wear and tear, and half of that was ultra wear and tear. Lots of looking, lots of hunting, lots and lots of time.
But, after an exhausting search (where I devoted my time, even taking time away from work (sorry, Ulster :( )) (and where I had some incidents that can only be laughed at in a few months time), my search for a flat is done. DONE! (Cue the AC/DC tune, "Back in Black".) On Wednesday, I'm back in Blackrock! South county Dublin, where I used to live, and where I wanted to live again. It's like a massive weight lifted off my back.
(I wrote a much longer, too much longer version to this story. If enough of you want to sit through that read, let me know and I'll publish the for the full flat hunting story.)
Today's Thanksgiving day in Canada, and while you're all relaxing your bellies for the big feast, we in Ireland aren't so fortunate. There is no Thanksgiving here, so we gotta work today. But, all's not lost. Janelle had the idea a few days ago to host Thanksgiving day at her place yesterday!
The evening was great! It was her first time cooking a turkey, and, with Nicky's and my assistance, turned out much better than expected. And the bird was huge! Everyone pitched in, and it, like I said, was a great evening. I haven't eaten that well in quite some time :)
Janelle: many thanks. The Christmas dinner's got a high standard to follow!
(And don't worry about me not getting today off. We in Ireland get Hallowe'en off!)
We had a "team building" session last night. Tax and treasury went out to the Shelbourne Park dog track for a night of fun and gambling. It's the first time I've been in a corporate booth, and it provided a good view of the track. I did some betting, but didn't win anything. I think I lost about €10 altogether, but I was inclined to plop down more on several occassions. (I mean, that could've been my ticket out of here!) Some folks did win some decent coin, but nothing to retire on. Still, winning or not, it was a fine time. (It'd've been finer had I won something.) I'd do it again!
Ulster's got me scheduled for a training course for some new software. (Well, new to us.) This training is in Edinburgh, a big bad, and supposedly good, city in Edinburgh. Training is on Monday 25 Sep. Travelling, ie: not-work, is on Sat. and Sun., 23 and 24 Sep: I finally get to visit Scotland!
When talking about ancient lands, China and Egypt instantly come to mind. They, and other places around there, like biblical lands, are ancient countries with stories that define good chunks of the modern world. Beneath that radar screen is Ireland. Ireland boasts some very old haunts, some that predate the pyrimads in Egypt by 2,000 years.
Old though they are, they're new to me!
Something all foreigners in the Republic of Ireland must do is register with the local policing officials, known here as the Garda. When you register with them, you give them a buncha info, and get a card in return. (This card was free, then, one week before I arrived, they started charging €100 for this! 'Stards)
On Tuesday, I went and registered, paid €100, and got my card.
This card has my name, nationality, registration number, etc. It also has my picture on the front, and a space to sign on the back. Also on the back is this, at the bottom:
"THIS IS NOT AN IDENTITY CARD"
Things like this make me laugh with rage and confusion.
It was a sad way to wake up today, hearing the news that Steve Irwin, the world-renowned Crocodile Hunter, was killed. Killed by a stingray shot to the heart.
I was fortunate enough to see him live at the Australia Zoo in Brisbane. His show at noon was short, but it was full of that natural exuberance that he has. It was a fun show!
I think we all can agree that for all the times that guy should've died -- chasing black racers, standing in the way of a near-goring elephant, and countless other times -- to die now, he did alright.
R.I.P., Mr. Irwin.
The idea was pitched a few days ago to take a hike outside the city somewhere this weekend. Bray Head and Glendalough (Glen-da-luk) were the two choices. Bray would've been closer, but it would've been an easy climb up that hill. Seeing pix online of "Ireland's Garden" made up my mind, and the others: Sunday, we're hikin' around Glendalough!
I saw that the Spanish village of Bunol is holding La Tomoatina now. La Tomatina is the festival where tomatoes are hurled all over the place. "... you come dressed in white, and you have to leave in red after having lots of fun!"
How great would it be to go there? Add that to the list of things to do next year.
As it stands, we've been told to leave by the 24 Sep. The day the notice came, a bill for €160 was presented, for six months worth of bin charges. (You have to pay to have your rubbish taken away.) The ll (two lower-case "L"s) said there was an additional 18 months of charges at his place. So, we were told to leave, and we had to pay him a thwack of cash. The deposit return wasn't looking very good.
I got a call today from Peter, a guy in the house that's the contact with the ll, that the landlord caved. We'll get our deposit back, but we have to clean the place.
The "double-el" caved b/c there's no contract with us and him. The original lease is b/w whomever leased the house from him and him. Subsequent residents didn't have to sign a lease, but to leave, and get the deposit back, they had to find someone to replace them. That practice is pretty common here.
So, realizing that if this was taken to court he would lose, he succumbed. That's a huge hurdle cleared. Now if we get our € back is another question, but as long as we
threaten mention the lease, there ought not be a hassle! <phew>
We've been evicted.
The landlord has decided to sell the house. We have one month to move.
That's really all I know. I guess there's not much more to say. This could go well or poorly. I guess I'll find out in the next month.
I'm in a holding pattern here. I'm in Ireland, but really, I haven't done much, outside of the usual life stuff -- work, eat, sleep. Sure, I've been out to movies and some fine pubs and met some fine folks, but nothing major. That'll change. Come paycheque #2, that'll change. I've got a few day trips in mind, some things around Ireland that date back before the pyramids -- Ireland is a very old country that has a wealth of history and character. Plus, folks in Europe to visit, London's carnival season, Dublin's carnival season, and maybe a visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (unlikely, but a boy can dream, right?). Big things, sister, big things. It's mouth-watering!
For over a month now, I have been working for one of the big banks in Eire, Ulster Bank. They hired me as a group treasury analyst. My job description, in as few words as possible, is to count other people's money. It's fairly accurate, but not the entire story. If any of you Coral folk are reading, or you know something of finance, it's very much like the ol' risk job: comparing figures to policy daily and making sure no one's losing their shirts. In fact, the agency that got me here gave me some prep info for the 'view, and it dealt with various forms of risk, mainly liquidity risk. (How fast something can be bought or sold in the market. Lower risk means that something can be bought or sold faster.) After that brief job spec and the background info I needed for the 'view, I knew I'd've gotten it. (Or, more accurately, was pretty darn sure -- I've been "sure" of previous candidacies before.)
Try this, and laugh with me:
How the %£$&! do you get that from "intreguing"? Why would you get that in a list of alternatives to "intreguing"?
Regarding the latest changes to the site, ingeneral:
That is all.
When I was looking for a place to live, the ladies here practically said that the south side of Dublin's better than the north. So, I had little misgivings when I got a place in Blackrock. It's about a 20 minute train ride there, not too far, but far enough away that it's not the city, it's its own li'l village. Or so I was told.
See, since moving there just over two weeks ago, I haven't done much or seen much of the village. I mainly use it to rest my weary head. This is kinda silly, as I can rest my weary li'l head anywhere. I chose Blackrock because it's supposed to have some charm to it, being a nice seaside community. So, I finally got off my can and explored Blackrock on Sunday.
I hate looking for long term accomodation. I hated it during university, I hated it after university, I hated it in London, and it hasn't changed, I hate it here. You deal with so much garbage when you're looking for something affordable, manageable, and not owned by you. You have to contend with other folks, and accept living with other people. And, obviously, concessions must be made: smaller rooms, and every thing is a shared facility. All these bad things lend themselves to some good stories, or so I keep telling myself. I gotta tell myself something, right?
I's gots the job. That's a huge relief. Now I can do a bit of relaxin' until I start on Monday. So, howzabout a day trip?
Business before pleasure, right? I knew I had to find work as soon as I got here. I know what I wanted to do, and I know I could get it. It started the Friday I showed up. It ended today. Yay!
Despite a hectic day, moreso than usual (since the usual was doing nothing, and this is the day I leave), 22 June showed promise for my latest Invasion. Mom, Dad, and uncle Joe were kind enough to drop me off at the airport, and it was a pretty quick ride there, just under 90 min. to take me to PIA. Little traffic, no major slow-downs. Everyone's happy.
Nothing world rattling at the airport. I checked in, ate, took a picture with some giant moose in a mountie uniform, complete with the Bat(!), and I sat down at the boarding gate.
... or, that is, tried to sit. Like I said, it was a hectic day. Just general last minute things, and I still didn't get to accomplish everything I wanted (damn printer), but I got what I needed. So, I was pretty antsy. I paced and I paced, hoping to wear my self out. (Maybe I shouldn't have had that energy drink w/ dinner.)
Plane goes up, plane goes down: after seven hours of flying in a cramped plane, it came to a merciful end when we touched down in Dublin, Ireland. Not the most pleasant flight I've ever had, but it's a discount airline, and ya gotta make concessions.
So, here I am. Dublin, Ireland.
More thanks to the following for this latest journey:
I hope to hear from you folks!
Jeers to the following:
You'll get yours. You'll all get yours. Grrr...
It's been almost a complete calendar year since I left Australia and took the long way back home. In that time, things haven't been so cheery, so I decided to change that. I'm off again, bound for Europe again, but now to an unexplored region, the Republic of Ireland!