Category Archives: Daily Prompt

Wordpress very kindly publishes a prompt every day, which helped me kick-start this blog from a moribund few posts with no followers in January ’14 to a much livelier piece of work.

I was very gung-ho in January and February, but by March I began to feel the prompts were becoming a little repetitive so going forward I’m going to just respond to the ones that really and truly interest me.

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.

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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.

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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

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?

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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

Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me

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What is your favorite sweet thing to eat? Bread pudding? Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies? A smooth and creamy piece of cheesecake?

No hesitation here – for me, the epitome, the nirvana, the apex, the most wonderful, fabulous, irresistible, sweet thing to eat is a chunk of moist, crumbly carrot cake.

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Not for me the neat square or the tidy cup-cake. No fake marzipan carrots or artificial cream cheese topping. If it cuts into a neat square, it isn’t carrot cake.  If it’s in a little paper cupcake case, then it’s a cupcake, not the genuine article.  Grated or shredded chocolate on top is the work of Satan.

It’s got to be the kind of cake that is so moist and packed with carrot, orange and walnuts that it  falls apart a little when it’s cut, the three primary flavours of  can be distinctly tasted, the cream cheese topping must also taste of oranges. The texture of the shredded carrot and the crumbled walnuts should be distinguishable and the orange should zing on your tongue.

Over the years, I’ve made it a point to try the carrot cake in every city I’ve visited.  Surprisingly, the Paris test, which one would expect to be the pinnacle of pattiserie, was a huge disappointment.  Lucky for me, a cafe just round the corner does a really nice version, but I found the ultimate, finest, most supreme and perfect candidate in Cairo.

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Daily Prompt: Pour Some Sugar on Me

Favourite Carrot Cake picture from Cooking in Mammy’s Kitchen Square Carrot Cake from Centre State Foods and  Carrot Cupcakes from BBC

Daily Prompt: Careless Whispers

sa8120It happens: sometimes that filter in our head bursts and we say too much of what we’re thinking and someone gets hurt. Tell us about a time you or someone you know said something that they immediately regretted.

This topic brings me back to one of my favourite (or least favourite, depending on how you look at it) themes – phone calls in the workplace. 

I wrote on this subject a little while back, in Daily Prompt:  Truth or Dare, where I gave some examples of the kind of response a hapless phone operator would like to have given to some awkward callers.

Today I’ve got a story from when I was very young.  Picture the scene – my boss, already late for an appointment, pauses on his way out to give some last-minute instructions for something that has to happen straight away.  I’ve just picked up a call from a client who is a rather cranky, garrulous old lady.

Struggling with the antiquated switchboard and caught in the crossfire between boss’s rather stressed  directives and her high-pitched demands to speak to him immediately if not sooner, I manage to figure out he wants me to tell her he has already left, and to remind him to call her in the morning.

My mouth translates this into “He’s not here, but he says to tell you he’ll call you tomorrow….”

Doh.

Daily Prompt:  Careless Whisper – Picture of the switchboard I operated back then from British Telephones