One Year On – Growth and Ireland

I have now been in Prague for a year, with my girlfriend for a year, and a teacher for a year (almost). It’s been a massive year of growth and change, and generally pretty good for me if a bit awful for the planet as a whole. (It’s annoying that now anytime someone asks how you are you have to respond “pretty good, considering”, but let’s leave that aside a minute). In addition, it was my mother’s birthday recently! Her 40th.*

And so I went to Edinburgh for her festivities. Here we can see clearly a point of growth: I booked all the flights and none of them were incorrect!

It was a great trip. I saw my brother for the first time in 4 years. These days he farms in Australia so it’s a bit too long for afternoon trips to the pub like we used to do. Still, great stories about farming, which is different. His farming stories didn’t used to be as interesting.

I had the chance of showing my girlfriend my home town – might have scared her a bit because I went into a bit much detail about shit and corpse disposal in the old days, which is an idea I had for an Edinburgh tour years ago. The Sex, Death, and Shit Tour of Edinburgh. Shelved for, among other things, I could not find enough things to say about sex in Edinburgh. The location of sex is hard to pin down sometimes. Still, a good trip for us as we went to Mary’s Milk Bar, featured on a Buzzfeed list of the 19 best hot chocolates in Edinburgh, and Mother India – which may be the best Indian food in the city, country, or beyond.
Following on from the trip home, we made our way onwards to Ireland. Despite living most of my life a very short distance from there, I had never before been to either part of the island. I don’t know if it was lack of money or just a general apathy about going anywhere that stopped me, but I’m gladly over the latter. It certainly wasn’t fear though as I don’t think I’ve ever been clever enough for that at the right times.

I feel like a tree, but the new rings are months rather than years. Now I travel AND I get appropriately concerned when stuff is bleaker than normal. Speaking of trees and bleakness, the dark hedges.

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Anyway, onto the trip. It’s a long one so you might want to put the kettle on.

On our first day, we had no plans. Just walk around Dublin and see what the craic is. We wandered about the university buildings, but didn’t visit the Long Room as I fancy the queue was even longer. They have an interesting design, a real mesh of architecture with some more modern buildings further back in the campus but with the majority of the front facing parts probably around the late 18th or early 19th century. I wanted to see some building that had Oscar Wilde’s name on it but couldn’t find it. We did however find a donut shop called Offbeat Donuts, which claimed to be in the same address as his birthplace. I now choose to believe Wilde was born in a donut shop.

Here’s some Dublin:

I remembered how much I loved Irish born writers only when we arrived in Dublin. Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and W. B. Yeats. As luck would have it, we were walking past the National Library right as it opened for an exhibition for him. My girl bore my love of poetry for a while and in we marched. I saw the book in which Yeats wrote ‘The Second Coming’, amongst my favourite of the poems anyone has written. Couldn’t read his writing very well as it was a bit small and joined up, but I feel an affinity with the hard to read. We walked more then ate tapas for dinner, with a half of Guinness because the desire to drink Guinness in Dublin has clearly been priced into the market.

We went on a couple coach tours with a company called Paddywagon on the second and third day. The story I’ve heard is that it was started by two brothers who ran a hostel when the tourism boom began. They bought a bus, painted it green, and put a leprechaun on the side. The drivers we had were hilarious, totally different characters, making wee jokes throughout the trip. I would imagine the brothers who started the tours are extremely rich now as the buses are famous throughout the country. No idea if the buses go up north during marching season. I’d have to guess they don’t as the insurance would probably cost a ton, but that’s not for several months so it was safe to go North.

The difference between the borders is subtle. Only the line at the edge of the motorway. It’s broken on the Republic side and solid on the Northern. Blink and you’d miss it. In the past, I’m told, it was far more solid. British Army solid. The North looks a lot more rugged in it’s terrain, many more hills and cliffs once you cross the border. It looks like a butter advert in places on the way up to the border from Dublin but then gets a lot more dour and sharper once you cross. Kind of like the difference in character between the more orange Northerners I’ve met and the more green Republicans.

With that tour company we saw the Giant’s Causeway on our second day and the Cliffs of Moher the day after. Here is the best picture I took of the Cliffs, famously used in The Princess Bride and one of the Harry Potter films.

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This day the visibility was marked fair to good. You could have fooled me. Visibility is a lot better with a camera than live. I could hardly see the path and was very thankful for the solid enough looking wall. Visitors would be advised to pack a raincoat or poncho. Also, if possible keep a keen eye on the weather patterns. Still, I love rain and mist

So that was our trips. They were exciting, a bit different
*Not actually but I have a hard time imagining her as much older than that. She has so much energy all the time.

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