Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Ireland”

The Big Brushoff

 

I GOT A BIT OF A PLEASANT SURPRISE THIS MORNING when I turned on the TV. Most mornings when I turn on the tube I am inundated with infomercials of all sorts and reruns of Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger. I don’t mind the last two, but nothing great.

This morning however I was greeted by a blast of something both fascinating and cultural. On channel 198 here I bumped into a show that I had been watching while in Ireland. On what is called the Ovation Channel here was a program called “Portrait Artist of the Year.”

“Portrait Artist of the Year” is a painting contest. I know what you’re thinking, “Boy that sounds as exciting as…as…as watching paint dry.” But it is fascinating in my diseased mind.

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Looking Out Of The Window Until Spring

WHY DO I FEEL THAT THERE IS A GAP, AN EMPTY SPACE, IN THE WORLD? Oh, yeah, I know why – I’m in Ireland and the World Series is over. I didn’t watch any of it live on TV. It didn’t start until a little after 1 AM and I do need my beauty sleep.

This is the first time in my memory that I have not watched the World Series on TV. Regardless of the teams involved I have always made it “Must see TV” every September/October…and in a few cases dribbling over into November.

This year the two teams battling for the big ugly rings and big trophy were from Washington D.C. and Houston. I didn’t really care all that much who would emerge victorious, but I leaned ever so slightly in favor of Houston. Why? Because I had a couple of Houston players on my Fantasy Baseball team. That was the sum of my “fandom” this year.

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Farkle!

GAMES – THEY CAN GET BLOODTHIRSTY AND GO ON FOR DAYS. Like those poker games that show up in the movies every so often.

Poker, Blackjack, Farkle, they’re all the same.

We are here on the Northwestern coast of Ireland along the “Wild Atlantic Way.” So what are we doing?

We are playing Farkle. And we are doing it until we are seeing spots in our eyes and losing the ability to do Third Grade Math.

For those of you unfamiliar with the noble game of Farkle – let me give you a thumbnail sketch so you can fully appreciate it, or understand what you’ve gotten yourself into.

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Let There Be Lights, Dang It.

IT’S SATURDAY MORNING. IT’S STILL DARK OUTSIDE, BUT, “HEY?” IT’S DARK INSIDE TOO. I flipped the switch on the bedside lamp…nothing. The power is out.

THE POWER IS OUT!

Oh, Man, what’s next – a plague of locusts?

Never before on our four previous trips to Ireland have we had this many Snafus, Breakdowns, and Fubars. Over the earlier visits to this island with forty shades of green things had gone smoothly and we were able to relax in comfort. This trip? No way, Paddy. On this five week trek back and forth across this beautiful country we have had little irritations (The neighbor’s cats getting into our house and not wanting to leave), to maddening annoyances (A slow moving toilet that needed 20 minutes to be ready to go), up to the Wrath of God blowing in off the ocean knocking out the power to our whole neighborhood. All of that was just the opening act for our fourth and final rented house.

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WELL, AREN’T YOU A SIGHT TO SEE?

 

 

WE ARE NOW IN OUR FOURTH HOUSE AND OUR FOURTH AND FIFTH WEEKS IN IRELAND. After this week we will begin the process of closing the book on Ireland and begin to get our thoughts on heading home.

For the first three weeks we were tourists and tour guides. We were blessed to have our “Alaskan Cousins” with us. They had never been here before and we wanted them to see the parts of this island that has brought us back time and time again. We may have run them a bit ragged, but with us they saw more than those tourists who saw the country from inside a rolling tour bus.

Before we left Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Guinness does go well with chocolate.”) our itinerary would have had us on the go about 36 hours a day. We’ve done it before and we thought we could do it again. Reality threw a pie in our faces on that idea. The first time I came here I was 60 years old and Dawn was…a mere yute. This trip has defied my experiments with time travel and tore too many pages off our Calendar. When we all landed in Dublin the age range of our group went from 73 years down to 62. We were not being mistaken for Hostelling Students on Holiday.

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It Was Not A Close Shave

 

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO DO THINGS STRICTLY BECAUSE THEY NEED DOING. Things that are not fun. Things that are more of a bother or inconvenience than anything difficult.

Like shaving.

I have had a beard for most of my adult life. I grew it the first time while I was still in college. We’re talking the late 1960s here. I grew it for a play I was in. I forget which one. All that’s important is that I was brilliant and the beard was scruffy looking.

Over the years, decades now, the beard has come and gone with fashion, day job rules and what show was being cast. Now that I’m pretty much a retired geezer the beard is there out of habit and as a way to cut down on the need to shave. If I didn’t have a beard I would have to shave at least twice a week. Otherwise I’d look like Yasser Arafat the late Palestinian terrorist leader. Not a good look for me. It wasn’t for him either, but he always looked like it was Day #3 on his face. I don’t know how he did it. But he’s dead. Moving on.

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ALDI La La La

 

I LEARNED THE IMPORTANT THINGS AT MY MOTHER’S KNEE. Unfortunately, I am currently in Ireland and my Mother’s knee was Lithuanian. That uh-oh of geography has left me in a quandary when it comes to grocery shopping in the Emerald Isle. What works in Terre Haute, Indiana (That’s French for “Don’t put the ice cream on the Hob.”) does not necessarily work in Portshannon, County Clare, Republic of Ireland.

We are staying here in this house for two weeks and since we have become accustomed to eating we must also go grocery shopping, but trying to do that in this wide spot in the road village is futile we have to saddle up the old Kia SUV and go to a wider spot in the road.

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I Am A Creature And I Want My Comforts

SOMETIMES HAVING THINGS DIFFERENT IS GOOD…SOMETIMES NOT SO GOOD.

I’m a person who likes his creature comforts. I like being warm when it’s cold outside. I like to take a shower with hot water. I want to have the toilet flush when I push the handle. Am I asking too much?

I am in much of Ireland it seems.

It looks like there are different standards of expected comfort. In every place we have stayed in Ireland, not just on this trip, but over the last 13 years of my personal experience.

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What? That Makes No Sense.

IF THERE IS ONE THING I CAN SAY ABOUT IRELAND IT IS: “WHAT? THAT MAKES NO SENSE.”

I don’t mean that as any kind of insult or disrespect. I would never do that because I am a quarter Irish myself and if I did say something insulting I know too many Irish folks who would bury me in the peat bog.

No; when I say, “What? That makes no sense,” I am reacting to something looks out of place. Incongruity is something I find very entertaining. It is the bedrock of Comedy in my not so humble opinion.

The “What? That makes no sense,” in this particular Irish case is strictly horticultural.

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Our American Cousins…Kinda, Sort Of

THEY WERE HERE A MINUTE AGO…BUT NOW THEY’RE GONE. For the last three weeks we were a quartet, but now we are duet. Our Cousins from Alaska have left for home. They have abandoned Mountshannon, Ireland for the balmy weather of Anchorage, Alaska.

They were only going to be with us here for three weeks anyway, but it seemed to fly by. I’ve had weekends that lasted longer than their time with us. Dawn and I will spend these last two weeks in this house before we too pack up our bags and fly home.

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Notes On Cliffs

 

YOU WOULD THINK….AT LEAST YOU WOULD…I MIGHT NOT about what would be the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland. When I was asked that question the other day by one of the Alaskan cousins I had to stop and do what passes for thinking in my world.

“What is the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland, Cousin Krafty?”

Knowing these people as I do I immediately became suspicious. Was this a trick question? Was there a gag hidden in there somewhere?

“Biggest?” Did they mean the physically biggest attraction?

“Biggest Tourist?” Did they mean the attraction that would appeal to tourist who is the biggest? What would appeal to that 600 pound guy I’ve seen on TV?

“In all of Ireland?” Are they trying to trick me with world “All” in there? Do they mean the Republic of Ireland or are they trying to slip one past me by using “all” to include the counties of Northern Ireland?

Do you see my problem here? They are family and because of that I am almost obligated to be suspicious of them.

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I Got It! I Got It!…I Ain’t Got It.

I’LL ADMIT IT – I’M EASILY CONFUSED. If it involves mathematics of some sort I am almost assuredly baffled. It doesn’t have to be Inter-Galactic Hypersomnambulistic Digital Train Schedules or anything. Grocery store coupons tie me in a knot. Going from Metric to Whatever it is we use might as well be done in a dark room wearing a blindfold while listening to chalk on a blackboard, naked.

And then there is Daylight Savings Time. Uhhhhh. OK.

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How To Spot A Pregnant Sheep

SHEEP! THERE ARE SHEEP EVERYWHERE. There are more sheep than people on this island.

And the sheep know it.

As we drive along the Irish country roads we have to be alert because around any curve of the road we might be met by a sheep, ten Sheep, or fifty Sheep. They might be crossing the road or, more likely, walking down the road stopping to graze on roadside grasses. As they are doing this they will take an occasional in our direction – not with any animosity, but to send us a message.

“We were here first, so chill.”

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Enlightenment Is Not Always There

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT IT GETS DARK, RIGHT? You have no idea what dark is until you’ve been in a power failure sitting on a cliff looking out at the Atlantic Ocean at night.

Last night there was a real doozy of a very windy storm here on the northwest coast of Ireland. The sheep on the hillside were holding on for dear life. One wrong step and they would be airborne all the way to Scotland.

It was at about 8 PM when things began to get strange. The wind was already blowing and our lights started flickering. They would throw us into darkness for just a second or two then come back on. That was enough to turn off the TV and make the Alarm System twitter and flash. This happened three times until, at almost 11 PM straight up, the lights went off and didn’t come back on.

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“Let Me Get You A Wee Map”

IF THERE’S ONE THING I CAN SAY ABOUT THE IRISH PEOPLE it’s that they are friendly and very helpful. They all seem to be working as unofficial Ambassadors of Goodwill for their country. If they spot us as being from overseas (The U.S.) they will do two things.

First they will tell you that they have been to “The States” and where. Almost always they have been to New York City, Las Vegas, and Florida. Florida can be translated as Disney World.

Secondly, they will ask if they can help you in any way. And they mean it.

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How Did They Do That Without Fred And Barney?

NO MATTER HOW MUCH I TRY I have trouble relating to things that are 5000 years old. There aren’t a lot of those things around, at least not in my neighborhood. I’m as close as it comes. It was just the other day that my ability to relate to things older than Sophia Loren was put to the test.

One of those places that everyone should visit if you are coming to Ireland is Newgrange. It is a U.N. World Heritage Site and is only about an hour north of Dublin. Once there you will be greeted by something to make your jaw drop. 

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This Is No Way To Treat A Nervous System

 

IF THERE WAS ONE THING I COULD SAY ABOUT IRISH ROADS IT WOULD BE THAT ONE THING IS NOT ENOUGH. I NEED MORE.

Much like the roads back in the U.S. most roads in Ireland have a number designation, but they also have a Letter attached and that is where the story really gets told.

At the top of the bill are the “M” Roads. The “M11” or the “M7” as an example are super-duper ultra modern divided highways. In Ireland a divided highway is called a “Dual Carriageway.” These roads are in much better condition and better laid out than anything on the American Interstate System.

A slight notch below the “M” Roads are the “N” Highways. These are also excellent roads where you make good time at 120 kph or about 70 mph. They are a good way to travel about the country.

Now, it is on the “R” roads where everything starts to fall apart.

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Rolling After The Rock

MAYBE I AM GETTING OLD, BUT GETTING UP AND WALKING JUST ISN’T AS GRAND AS IT USED TO BE. I had that change pushed in my face this week.

We loaded up the car on a fine Irish morning (That means it wasn’t raining as hard as it was last night.) and headed out from Enniscorthy to play tourist. Our destination was about a 90 minute drive away. We were going to revisit “The Rock of Cashel,” an ancient Royal Castle perched high on a hilltop with a commanding view of the countryside. Anyone with plans of conquest would come around the curve in the road and see that humoungus Fortress Castle up there and think, “Perhaps we should forget this and just go to the beach. We could get a shrimp roll maybe.”

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Connecting All The Way To Disconnect

OH, SWEET JESUS, I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY DID IT. 

Our traveling companions arrived more or less on schedule, but it was a schedule that appears to have been designed by the travel agency of the Marquis de Sade…on a bad day…when his feet hurt.

The “Cousins from Alaska” were coming to Ireland for the first time trusting us and our judgment as to the best way to get from Anchorage, Alaska to Dublin, Ireland without going mad.

No matter how you slice it if you live in Alaska going anywhere takes some serious planning.

For them to get to Dublin their itinerary read something like this: Fly from Anchorage to Seattle. Just about all flights from Anchorage go through Seattle. A layover in Seattle of several hours. Then fly from Seattle to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Several hour layover in Minneapolis. The next leg was the biggie. They then boarded an Aer Lingus plane for the trip nonstop to Dublin overnight. They landed in Dublin at 8:45 AM local time. This made for an amassed time change of NINE HOURS. Their internal alarm clocks must have been screaming by this time.

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Pick Up In Aisle Seven

WE GET ON A PLANE AND FLY ACROSS THE OCEAN to another country where we expect things to be different and they are in many ways. Despite this thought there is a mountain of ways where the differences are merely cosmetic at best.

Back home in HoosierLand (AKA Indiana) when I have the need to go grocery shopping I just hop into the Toyota Stretch Limo and zip down the street to the Kroger Supermarket. In Ireland the differences are minimal. Instead of Kroger we go into the Tesco Supermarket where I can find everything I need. It might take a bit of a search, but I can find it all eventually. I go to Kroger and I leave happy. I go to Tesco and I leave happy.

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