Category Archives: Writing

Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

I don’t travel much these days .  Not because I wouldn’t like to, but because, since the last chick left the nest, I am the sole carer for the Baskerville Beasties.  It’s  a big ask for somebody to enter Baskerville Manor and feed the ravening horde of dogs, cats and fish, as well as maintain the in-house jungle, while I am off on an adventure.

However, when I did travel, it was for a number of reasons – holiday, work, competition.  So my approach to the trip was dependent on the reason – holidays are holidays, so only the barest outline would be needed – as long as I made it in time to board the flight or the train or the boat, that was enough scheduling for me.  The remainder of the holiday would be a loose series of targets – visit that landmark, eat at that restaurant etc. (or not, if something more interesting presented itself).

The only things that were de rigeur on my travels were  visits to the shoe souk (yes, an entire Arabian souk devoted solely (sic) to shoes), and a branch of the Sana designer outlet store in Doha.  My niece worked there for a number of years – on the outward journey my suitcase would be filled with contraband like pork sausages and rashers and Tayto – a well-known Dublin delicacy – on the way back it would be bulging with my wardrobe plans for the next five years.

Truckload of camels at Umm Sa'id, Mesaieed, QatarA trip to the beach at Um Sa’id one day, where the Irish and Canadian contingent complained that there wasn’t a camel to be seen in this so-called Arab land, led our Qatari hosts to take us for an impromptu drive  into the dunes at the edge of the Sahara (with a side trip for some Wadi-bashing) to meet a whole truck-load of camels, on their way home from the races.

Working trips were quite different – these varied from shepherding a band, roadies, equipment,  and some random journalists to a gig in Paris where we found we had been given accommodation in a brothel just round the corner from the Moulin Rouge (on another occasion, conducting 22 Scottish bagpipers in full regalia to a nightclub in Leeson Street at 2:00 am on a New Year’s night in Dublin) to managing a meet and greet for senior hospital consultants in Hong Kong, which was tied into an Enterprise Ireland trade mission with the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

Stanley Bay, Hong Kong

I planned my working trips like a military campaign.  It was necessary.  In Paris, when it came time for sound-check, I found myself knocking on the door of a peculiar establishment where ladies work by taking off their clothes, and trying to get the large doorman to understand my secondary school French pronunciation of “je veux que mon groupe dos”. (or words to that effect).

On the Hong-Kong trip, as flights from Hong-Kong to Dublin were limited at the time, I did manage to catch a whole free day  to spend, (and spend and spend and spend) at Stanley Market, which resulted in another five-year wardrobe plan to add to my Arabian collection.  To the great delight of my colleagues, something more interesting presented itself while I was waiting for my connection to Hong Kong at Schipol, which led to a fine romance with a lovely chap from Venice.

For a number of years I engaged in competitive fencing, and was lucky enough to join the national team for some Five-Nations Challenges, which rotated between the host countries, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.  As part of the team, the overall organisation of travel and accommodation and time tabling was already taken care of, it was only necessary to get myself and my kit to whatever muster point in order to travel, get to the venue or compete.  There was a kind of freedom from responsibility in that which I quite enjoyed.


I remember one year, when Wales was the host country, we travelled by sea and coach to the venue.  On the way, we were held up in the Welsh hillsides because of a traffic accident, and spent a lot of time pottering about, getting friendly with a bunch of little lambs while we waited for the road to clear.  We arrived just in time for the formal dinner.  The main menu was a traditional Welsh dish – roast lamb.  The Irish contingent were blamed for giving the kitchen staff a group nervous breakdown when, one after the other, all thirty-odd of us decided to take the vegetarian option.

At the other end of the scale, the members of our little fencing club travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to join the local competitions, as many of us as possible piling into one car with all our kit.  One St Patrick’s weekend, me and four fellow members travelled to Cork in my old Citroen Pallas, affectionately known as “Sherman” because he was big and green and like a tank.  On the way it snowed heavily, both outside and inside my car.  Due to the virtual whiteout, I took a wrong turn and ended up taking a “dog-leg” route across Ireland to Limerick and then back across to Cork – we still managed to arrive on time.  That’s me in the middle of the picture.  NB  – lots of fencers are tall – I’m 5’9” – so picture the situation in the freezing cold car with the five of us packed in along with our rather large fencing kit-bags, wiping the snow off each other.

tcofc (2)

The Schipol/Hong-Kong connection, as I mentioned above, developed into a nice little romance for a couple of years, which involved trips to Venice for me, and trips to Dublin for him. Luckily he had the same laissez-faire approach to travel as me, because a trip to Newgrange (about an hour’s drive from my home) turned into an epic 8-hour journey when I took a wrong turn off what was then a new, unfinished, motorway junction (I always find an excuse for losing my way….)   The up side to this was that he saw a lot more of Ireland than he expected to (and I found places I never knew existed). And we made it to Newgrange – here’s a detail from the side of the great tomb there.

Detail at Newgrange

Apart from my deep devotion to the sport of shopping, one of things I really love to do in a new city is to just start wandering in one direction  and see what there is to be seen.   I had a wonderful time on a trip to Seville to learn Spanish – after class I explored every nook and cranny of the place –sometimes with my fellow students, sometimes alone.  This way, we discovered a genuine flamenco bar rather than the tourist trap the school organised for us.

Looking out from the Giralda Tower, SevilleAt the time, I was reading Dan Brown’s “Digital Fortress” which is set in that lovely town.  I promise you, Mr Brown does not research his settings very well – don’t believe a word he writes.  As I climbed the Giralda Tower  I wondered what exactly he was drinking when he wrote  that the Giralda “has stairs so steep that tourists have died here. This is not America, there are no warning signs, nor banisters, no advice about insurance policies. This is Spain. If you are stupid enough to fall, it’s your own fault, independently of who built the steps.”  Conclusion:  Dan Brown is a prat.

So what would you think all this says about my travel style?  Be kind….please?

Daily Prompt:  The Happy Wanderer

Welsh lambs © Meirion Mathias, found on Welsh Icons

Share your World 2014–Week 11

These are Cee’s questions this week:

  • If you were an ice cream cone how many scoops and flavors would you be and why?
  • Are you left or right handed?
  • Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
  • How many rings before you answer the phone?
  • Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

If you were an ice cream cone how many scoops and flavors would you be and why?

I would be a Ben and Jerry triple sundae comprised of Cherry Garcia, Karamel Sutra and Scotchy Scotch Crunch, with hot chocolate sauce, cream and chocolate sprinkles.

Why? Because it’s the perfect sundae.

Are you left or right handed?

I started out right-handed.  Because of tendon damage from an over-zealous fencing partner a while back, there are some things I now have to do with my left hand.   If I’d known how convenient it is to have the computer mouse in my left hand, leaving my right hand free to write notes, I’d have started doing it long ago.

Before making a phone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?

Absolutely.  A large part of my work is customer support. If I want to do my job properly, I will have researched and rehearsed the solution to whatever the enquiry is so I can give a good useful answer, quickly

How many rings before you answer the phone?

That depends on whether it is in work or at home.  In work, we don’t let it get past two rings if we can help it.  At home I am happy to let it  ring out forever. As I mentioned in previous posts – I’m not that fond of this contraption.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Hmmm… I managed to divest The Diva of the overly shaggy carpet she fondly believes of her coat in one day, which is a huge improvement on the last three-day marathon we engaged in.  She’s not entirely happy about being groomed – she has made a number of posts on this topic on her own blog.


I’m looking forward to a half-day on this coming Friday and a day off on Monday, because I need to use up some annual leave before the cut-off date on March 30.  It’s also coming up to pay-day and due to the demise of Adolf the Oranda, I have a 60 litre aquarium to populate, so I will be bringing the dogs to visit their pals at Artane Aquatics to find some new finny friends.

Share Your World 2014 – Week 11Roundup

Weekly Writing Challenge: Power of Names


Some years ago I worked in the admissions/student support section of an English language school.  Unsurprisingly, we had students from all corners of the world and it was necessary for us (and them) to understand how naming could be different from culture to culture.

Like many Irish people who have a traditional Irish name, I am often amused, and sometimes offended, by the difficulties non-Irish have with pronouncing them.  One of my colleagues was called Gráinne (pronounced Graw-nya) but the majority of the students referred to her as “Grainy”.

I was not surprised when the American TV series “Ringer” was cancelled after one season – the star was unable to pronounce the name of the character she played (Siobhán, properly pronounced as shiv -awn). If one more person calls me “Dearrdreeeee” (à la  Coronation Street),  or Deedrah or spells my name “Deidre”, I will not be responsible for my actions.  Get it right, please… it’s deer-dreh.

Then there are the the international permutations of the Muslim Prophet’s name:  which is transliterated as Mohammad (primarily in Iran and Afghanistan), Muhammad (in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Malaysia), Muhammed (Arab World, primarily in North Africa),Mohamed, Mohammed, Mohamad and Muhammad (Arab World), Muhammed, Muhamed (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Muhammed, Muhamed, Muhammet, or Muhamet (Turkey and Albania). (from

My niece, @urbanfoxe worked in Qatar as a junior school teacher and was often non-plussed when, after school, the mums/nannies would turn up in full abaya and mask, to collect their little Mohamed, or Mohammed.

Getting back to my language school days.  One of my first surprises  while working there was, having followed the Spanish Ministerio de Educación ruling that their scholarship students must never share a host family with another Spanish speaker, on the grounds that it would interfere with their English language immersion programme, we received a complaint that, (for the sake of this is not his real name) “Juan Alberto  Garcia Rodriguez”, was not placed in a host family with (again, a made up name) “Rafaela Adriana Rodriguez Garcia” – turns out they were sister and brother, and their parents wanted them to be together.   Quite often in Spain, I learned, the father’s surname is placed first and the mother’s second, for a boy, and for a girl, it’s the other way around.

I also had all the fun of attending at the airport to meet and greet a student from China who had missed one of his flight connections.  This led to me hanging about the arrivals hall in Dublin Airport for several long hours one Friday night, holding a sign that said “Wong Wei”.

East Asian students liked to adopt a European-sounding name for their sojourn in Ireland.  They often chose a name that represented something or somebody that was important to them.  Some of the names were lovely, for example a young lady called herself Peace and a male student called himself Happiness.  Happiness supported his studies by working at the school as a handyman, while Peace joined the office staff for work experience.  This led to many bemused looks from visitors to Reception when we were heard to ask questions like “Did anybody see Peace today?” or “Where is Happiness?”

To go off on another tangent – the naming of pets.  I’ve got five furries here,  all adopted as adults, so I didn’t name any of them.  They all arrived “pre-named”.   The only thing I changed was the spelling of Izzy’s original name – she was originally called Issey Miyake (after the perfume).  She is so dedicated to more, shall we say, natural  aromas (e.g. badger poo) that it had to be the worst misnomer in canine history. Little Jet-Black is actually Little Very Dark Brown Stripes With Flecks Of White Here And There, but that’s more name than he will listen to. The last pet I got to name was Floyd. I only called him that because my mum could not face the idea of the neighbours hearing her calling “Geronimo” in for his dinner every day.

When I was small, we used to have a collie called Flash.  At the time there was a radio commercial for a cleaning product also called Flash.  It involved a loud jingle which went “all around the house, all around the house, spring clean with FLASH!” The jingle ended on a crescendo and and he would invariably come running to find out who had called him.  To make matters worse, the only word our budgie ever spoke was Flash  and he repeated it endlessly– the poor dog sometimes didn’t know if he was coming or going.

More years ago than I care to mention here, I used to date a chap called Tim.  We had a mutual friend called Shelley.  Time went on and everybody drifted apart, but occasionally, one or both of them would drop by to say Hi!

In the space between one of these visits, I adopted my much-loved beautiful collie, The Elder Statesman – who was given his real name by my nephew. Being a fan of the Enid Blyton “Famous Five” books at the time, he was called Tim.   Around the same time, my brother and his family moved in, bringing their lovely lady collie, called Shelley.  I had nothing to do with it.   Both dogs being rather boisterous, whenever anybody called to the house, there would be much shouting of “SIT, Tim” and “DOWN, Shelley”.  So just imagine what the two chaps thought on their next visit.

You might enjoy the article where I found the picture I used for this post:  When names get ridiculous

Weekly Writing Challege: Power of Names

Daily Prompt: Linger

Tell us about times in which you linger — when you don’t want an event, or a day to end. What is it you love about these times? Why do you wish you could linger forever?


An event is often thought of as something like a wedding, or a concert – a big occasion.  In fact, the definition of an event is this:

A thing that happens or takes place, especially one of importance

I’ve been a nighthawk all my life, staying up to party, finish a book, complete a piece of work or just goof off.  For most of that time, I was not much of an early bird, I liked to sleep as long as possible, then dash off to work or whatever appointment I had at the time.

These days,  even if I stay up late, I wake up early, sometimes around 4:00 am.  I believe it’s a symptom of age.  Through the winter months, this is something of a pain, but as spring comes and the sky brightens, I really enjoy waking up in time to see the sun rise through my bedroom window, while the Baskerville Beasties come to give me their sleepy greetings. 

There is nothing finer, as far as I am concerned, than to wake up slowly, allow the sun to warm the garden and then take time for a leisurely coffee out there before taking the dogs for a stroll while the only sounds are the birds calling and maybe the milkman beginning his rounds.  There is a sense of peace, of time retrieved, that just isn’t available at other times of the day.

When it’s time to get ready to leave for work, it can be really and truly difficult to wrench myself out this idyll and trundle back into the “real” world.

Daily Prompt: Linger – Picture found on Michael Hyatt’s page

100 Words #369: Leather Chair


In our box of family photographs there are dozens and dozens of  black and white studio photographs like these of my cousin Frank, aged 6 months, perched on a leather chair, and 3 year old me with my big brother.


Every year, copies of these photographs would circulate among the aunts (always the aunts!) with carefully written messages and dates, which means all 21 of us have got copies of the same collection.

I wonder if, in fifty-three years, any of my cousin’s kids will be able to reach into Facebook and grab a copy of each other’s baby pictures?

100 Words #369