Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Sad News

I had dinner at Nana and Henry's last night. She is still limping rather badly from the break and Henry has just been diagnosed with bone cancer (in addition to lung and lymph cancer) so on top of the chemo he has to have radiation therapy.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Leaving Edinburgh

Well, I have one full day left in Scotland which I will be spending in Edinburgh with Alan, and one evening left to pack. I would hate to have done it in advance after all-then how would I panic about it weighing far more than 20 kilos at the last minute!!! I can't say I love the idea of flying charter. I will be stuffing my pockets (trousers, jacket, purse) full of stuff, since they don't weigh you. you may think I'm joking, but as it is quite a lot of my stuff has ended up in Alan's parent's attic.

So my stay here in Fife has been a bit uncomfortable. Alan's parents are not happy about their only child moving so far away, and they have not hidden it from me. All the negative comments about us moving to Canada have been hard to take-I think they picture us arriving in a cold Vancouver winter (it is colder in Scotland than Vancouver in the winter) and living on the street, jobless and friendless. When I try to point out that we are going to stay somewhere while flat hunting (ie a hostel) and that three uni graduates ought to manage a job in McDonald's if nothing else (ahhh! Then all those purple engineers at queen's will have been right!!!) they don't listen. I am politer than that, obviously. However, we generally get on better than that. Other people's parents, what else can I say.

However, I haven't been spending much time out here in the back of beyond (read: Fife), and while I will not be breaking my record last year for number of festival shows, last year I was still working. I filled out a survey for a woman at the book festival and she asked my occupation. When I said travelling, she wrote down unemployed. Now, the way I see it, I only become unemployed as of 10 am Friday when I set foot on Canadian soil.

I started out the festival by seeing Monty Python's Flying Circus performed in French the day I flew in from Dublin. Not only is my French not as bad as I would have thought, but the lyrics to sit on my face were much funnier in French. le parroque est mort! My next stop was Ross Noble (not as funny as last year, sadly), followed by Thebans (Oedipus, Antigone, and that one with oedipus's two sons fighting it out over Thebes, can never remember the name, all in one by Liz Lockhead-very good Scottish poet), and Shakespeare's Italian Job (picture the film but with all dialogue taken from existing Shakespearean plays). I saw All the Great Books by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Sexual Perversity in Chicago (a Mamet play, very studenty production, but good), Camut Band's Life in Rhythm (tap dancing and drum playing, very good), The Typographer's Dream (very depressing, about people and their careers and how they don't much like them), and Alexandra's Project (go see this film! Australian, really weird, but must see).

The book festival was my favourite of them all this year. I saw David Reiff (wrote a book about humanitarian aid called "A Bed for the Night"), Susan Sontag (WOW), Gil Courtemanche (he's Canadian, presumably he's popular in Canada? I had never heard of him, read an article in the paper and decided to go. I got his book "A Sunday Afternoon at the Pool in Kigali) , it looks good, will read it on the plane), Kate Atkinson, and am seeing Iain Banks tomorrow.

Saw a big Monet presentation (the RSA is finally finished, Jas, a bit too late for your visit sadly), the DinoBirds of China at the museum, and visited the Aberlemno Pictish stones (carved, very cool). The Aberlemno stones trip was a good way to wrap up my time here in Scotland-over a year ago Alan, David, Andrea, and myself all attempted to drive up and see them. Just that day I had bought the Lonely Planet Scotland (lost it on Orkney). Didn't read it. They were covered in big brown boxes to protect them from the winter weather and we went up two weeks too early! They were worth the wait though. On our way up we went to an amazing beach with sand dunes, tide out. I am going to miss living near the sea, especially the smell of it. I am even going to miss the smell of Edinburgh-the smell of beer from the Caledonian Brewery and all those pubs... Edinburgh smells like no place else in the world. Getting a bit weepy now.

However, tomorrow will be a laugh. A play, Iain Banks, and then a drink at Sandy Bells.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Ireland Part II - The South

We had a tour guide named Joey showing us the south-the rules on the bus were explained early on and pretty much coloured the rest of the trip. Anytime anyone saw a cute guy/girl out the window, they were to yell "sauce". Sauce was to be searched for each evening in the pub and all scandal revealed the next day to everyone on the bus. So silly on these tours! Especially as there are some nice looking bartenders in Galway (mmm, sauce). Joey was quite a laugh, kept us all amused telling us about the time the bus got stuck on a beach with the tide coming in, or stuck under a canopy at a petrol station.

Day one started out with a leisurely drive through Dublin-the city streets were empty since it was a bank holiday, so we drove through the rich area and saw the houses of Bono, the Edge, Enya, etc. Our first stop was Glendalough, absolutely gorgeous area that was used to film several scenes in Braveheart. A waterfall, two lochs, and a monastic city; it was lovely and we spent an hour walking around in the hot sun-it was the start of a heat wave in Ireland (and apparently in Scotland-just my luck to miss the one good week of weather in two years!). We ate a picnic lunch on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle (sadly, mum, I didn't have a pint of your favourite cream ale in Kilkenny) and then drove up to the Rock of Cashel. Can't really remember it's significance (bad, I know), but it had a very nice ruined church and an old statue of St Patrick. Our first night was in Kinsale, very nice hostel!

We visited Charles Fort, built by the English, and then headed to Blarney Castle. Very long queue for the stone kissing, and you can pay 9 euro for a photo. I am actually quite tempted as I am sure the look of utter terror on my face would be very amusing for all of the rest of you. I am not too fond of heights, and you get to suspend your entire upper body over a very, very long drop while holding on to two bars to kiss something that looks like something a large dog has just slobbered all over. Nice, huh? The castle itself is very pretty though, and after a quick lunch, we enjoyed a visit to one of the most touristy, tacky shops ever. I am pleased to say I held out against temptation, buying only a couple of postcards. Andrea and David, you were lucky, cause the tacky things I could have bought you...

Down into Dingle, we stayed at a 17th century manor converted into a hostel and were introduced to Joey's famous punch. This was really alcoholic stuff, and we all washed it down with further bottles of wine, etc. The next morning we drove along the Dingle Pennisula, to see all the fantastic sea views, and crazy cliffs the bus always managed not to fall off. Visited a triangular church, Gallarus Oratory, and went to Dingle for lunch. Passed up the opportunity to go and see the famous Dingle dolphin, though I had only seen some fuzzy ones from a bus window... That was rectified later in the week when we saw some for quite awhile swimming along as we rode past in the bus. So it's only an otter I have missed seeing this summer...

We went to Inch Beach, because the weather that week really was amazing. Then we drove over to Killarney and took a horse and cart ride through the national park-very beautiful and very relaxing. We wandered off to see some Irish set dancing that night (like ceilidh dancing with tap shoes).

It turns out that the high king of Ireland these days is a goat named King Puck-and I have the photos to prove it. After that fun stop, we drove along the Ring of Kerry road, with some really incredible scenery. At one point the clouds over the sea were lower than the surrounding land-hope those photos turn out because it really was magical. Got taught hurling (vaguely like lacrosse) and ate bailey's flavoured ice cream in Sneem. We finished off the day with a view of the lakes of Killarney National Park from above in the hills and a visit to Torc waterfall.

Our next day took us on a ferry between County Kerry and County Claire. Another stop at a beach, this time no sand as the tide was in, and then we visited the Cliffs of Moher. The week before a woman from Dublin was blown off them, so I stayed well back. Very dramatic, maybe more so than the Slieve Cliffs in the north, which are bigger. We drove through a very rocky area badly affected by the famine on our way to Galway.

Another Friday night in Galway-this is one fun city. We went and discovered a brilliant drink called fat frogs (at Richardson's, where some of us, not me, had forgotten to pay for meals the week before! We weren't recognized!!!) and spent the evening again in the King's Head.

Our last day was largely just a drive back towards Dublin-with a visit to the Guinness Brewery. The store there is very addictive, I now own two Guinness t-shirts and will very likely never drink a pint of Guinness again-unless I return to Ireland, of course.

I managed not to get stuck with Rebecca, the annoying girl from my north tour, too much. Avoiding sharing hostel rooms with her became something of a military operation... I kid you not, she was so clingy, she offered to come with me while I called Alan one evening! Jenny and Andrea, I think she might even beat Maureen as a horrible person to travel with.

To finish off the trip in style, the airline left my bags behind in Dublin. I arrived in Scotland at 8 am, they didn't show up until 10.30 pm. In the queue to report them missing, I heard that Air Transat had lost a bunch of bags on the Toronto-Glasgow run, which is very reassuring since I fly with them on Friday to Toronto! I will be bringing an extra set of clothing with me in my hand luggage obviously.


Ban the Fat Frog

A NORTHSIDE TD has called for a new 'designer' drink to be banned from Dublin pubs.

According to Deputy Martin Brady (FF), the 'Fat Frog' cocktail is increasing in popularity, particularly among young drinkers. He claimed the new drink fad is worrying because the alcohol content in it is extremely high and has the ability to render the drinker incapacitated very quickly.

"The 'Fat Frog' combines several 'alco-pops' mixed in the one pint glass," said Mr Brady. "At a cost of around e15, they are capable of getting drinkers extremely intoxicated very quickly and this fad must be stopped now before it spirals out of control. To drink three types of alco-pops in one glass is nothing other than stupid and dangerous."

Deputy Brady said that having worked in the bar trade for over 10 years he witnessed at first hand the emergence of designer drinks and alco-pops.

"I believe the onus is on the publican to be vigilant and sensible when it comes to serving 'Fat Frogs' and alco-pops in general," said Mr Brady. "The Fat Frog fad will take off if publicans continue to serve them so I appeal to publicans to stop it now for the sake of us all as a nation which has a gigantic drinking problem."

Sunday, August 03, 2003

The craic in Ireland is mighty!

I'm in Dublin today, just hanging out-getting my laundry done, emailing, reading, etc. I have spent the last 6 days on a tour of the north of Ireland with Paddywaggon.

The day we headed up to Belfast, we had some really Irish weather-everyone dreaded that the whole week might end up being rainy and horrible, but we've had remarkably good weather since. We passed by Slane Castle (where they hold huge rock concerts), saw St. Oliver Plunkett's preserved head, and entered into Northern Ireland. Being a bit of a travelling ditz, I had totally forgotten that I would need pounds on the trip, and had to make a quick visit to an ATM as all I had was euros.

You could tell we had left the republic-British army bases, protestant neighborhoods with the curbs painted red, white and blue, lots of protestant Ulster flags (looks like the English St George flag but with a red hand in the centre of the cross). Belfast is a nice city-we went to the main shopping street for lunch and then headed out to the Ulster museum. We passed one of the queen's uni buildings-gorgeous!- that took me back, as it was one of my choices for doing my exchange.

That evening we started out at the pub next to our hostel. It had a huge cage on the door and you had to buzz for entrance. Our guide told us the next day that it was where ex-IRA guys hang out (some of them released from prison as part of the Good Friday Agreement) and the cage is because of an attack when protestant gunmen burst in and killed seven people. As you may guess, the hostel was located in a Catholic area, and once the tour buses were even set on fire over night while they sat in front of the hostel. However, it was a very nice little pub!!! Then we moved along to the Crown. This is quite a well known pub in Belfast as it is elaborately decorated. The crown itself is a mosaic on the ground in front of the door, so that everyone walks over the British crown while entering. Lots of Guinesses and Baby Guinesses consumed, while we sat in a snug.

The next morning we had a black cab tour of the protestant and catholic neighborhoods to see all the murals. I've got tons of photos and they are really fascinating-the historical aspect of the first three days of the tour was fantastic. Lots of murals commemorating the hunger strikers, Oliver Cromwell, various terrorist groups. Heading out of Dublin, we walked across the rope bridge at Carrick-Fergus and then saw the Giant's Causeway-lots of the faerie stories/myths here in Ireland mirror those of Scotland, so some of these characters must have racked up lots of frequent flier miles!

Again in the evening we hit the pub in Derry, this time participating in the 1st ever Paddywaggon Bar Olympics. It involved asking a series of questions of complete strangers-like the type of underwear worn by the bar staff or using cheesy pickup lines on guys. Kate won (I got to judge having been involved in making up the game). It was an absolute laugh. Nothing like cheap cocktail pitcher to make for an interesting evening.

We did a tour of Derry's walls and again of the protestant and catholic neighborhoods. Derry was the location of the Bloody Sunday incident and there were murals commemorating it. There were several interesting things-a statue of two men reaching across to each other and not quite touching, symbolizing the work towards peace, and designed to meet up once the people of Derry feel that peace has arrived. There was also a mural of a 14 year old girl (killed by British army snipers while in her school uniform when they claimed they thought she was a bomber) with a butterfly in the corner-again the butterfly represents peace and is unfinished, waiting for peace to come.

Up until then our driver was big Joe and we switched over for the next three days to Conner. Conner was a laugh, and every second word out of his mouth was fuckin'. So if I swear like a trooper on my return, I blame it all on his bad influence ;) There were three Canadians on the trip, and he christened us a canary of Canadians. We wandered around donegal in the bus, stopping at stone circles and ancient forts. Saw the highest sea cliffs in Europe-any fans of the Princess Bride film, they were where the cliffs of insanity bit was filmed. We were back in Derry that night, and back in the pub-this time to hear some Irish folk music. Had an incident with a drunk guy who kept asking us all if we were catholic or protestant and got quite nasty.

Leaving Northern Ireland behind, we headed back into the republic. Visited Yeats' grave and then headed up a big hill to see Queen Mary's tomb. Having tired out our leg muscles, we went and had seaweed baths. It was very relaxing-first you steam for 10 minutes (opens the pores) and then hop in a very hot bath filled with seaweed, which detoxes you. Our evening pub experience that day was in Westport in a famous little pub called Matt Malone's. The folk music was great-especially a wee old man who sang unaccompanied. He sang a version of the Wild Rover about never again being a drunk driver-pure genius. Got locked into a pub after closing for a bit, enjoying the craic.

Our attempt to climb Croagh Patrick the next day was stymied by the horrible weather-sadly, as I only went up part of the way I am not going straight to heaven (apparently if you climb it you can skip purgatory). Then we headed through Connemara, one of the worst hit areas during the potato famine where the population levels have never recovered. The scenery was very Scottish-hills and glens, waterfalls, and even a pub with people speaking Irish Gaelic. That evening we arrived in a very busy Galway, as the races are on! We had intended to do a pub crawl, but ended up staying at the King's Head because it was far too busy to move. However, as our tour was made up of two guys and the rest girls, most of the girls were pleased to see that the King's Head had far more guys than girls, and they were all very good looking. An enjoyable evening of talent spotting.

Our last day driving back to Dublin had us stopping at Larry's Old Time Traditional Village. Larry is a retired guy who has created a whole mini village-it's hysterical. So is Larry-he proposed to one girl on our tour-apparently his big draw is that he comes with a bit of property ;) The pictures are no doubt going to be a laugh! It sort of reminded me of my grandpa's model train set, but on a bigger and nuttier scale. We also saw a monastery with some beautiful Celtic crosses and a castle once belonging to the Boelyn family. Our trip ended with a trip to a pub in Temple Bar area of Dublin to see some more folk music.

Have any of you guys heard of Mundy? Great Irish band-they do a song called July.

I head down to the south of Ireland tomorrow-it seems more popular/touristy than the north and apparently the tour is quite a party.