Archive for October, 2007

Day 5 – Country Roads

One of the nice things about road-trips is that you’ve no real plans for what to do, and if you’re me nothing really else in your diary to keep you busy. As a result you drive where you please, till you run out of ideas or get sick of your companions, or the Volvo breathes its last.

I’d phoned home to speak to Dad and find out how his first outpatient appointment had gone and I suppose that brought a lot of stuff back to me. Talk of chemo and weight and cancer remembering the past 3 months. And I suppose that was road-trip over for me. In my head anyway. I realized I’d not really thought of Dad for 4 days (which was the kind of the point of road-trip) but that 4 days was long enough and I waned to be at home again (which was kind of the point of me not being in NZ).

I’d been away for a year and now I was getting homesick after 4 days. Weird huh?

But we still had the whole day ahead of us and we decided to switch coasts and take a drive through the Wicklow mountains. If only cause the N6/M50/M1 sequence just wasn’t scenic enough.

Two major highlights:

library-5493.jpg1) Glendalough – I have vague memories of this as a kid. Why my parents were walking me through ancient graveyards at the age of 6 is beyond me, no doubt some educational/cultural value… It is kind of a cool place and it scares the willies out of you thinking about sitting out a bunch of Viking raiders up a stone tower in Medieval Ireland – even if St Patrick had already got rid of the snakes…


2) The general scenery – Ireland does bleakness very well. The vast open expanse of the peat covered hills, topped with cloud and mist. Nice to see from a car at speed. The other bonus was autumn. If it wasn’t for the rain and cold it would probably go down as my favourite season.





By the time we reach the south end of the M50 it’s dark and rush hour’s just starting and dual carriageway takes us all the way home (along the new bit of the A1 I’ve never been on before, making me miss my last chance for cheap fuel) in the mighty Volvo 850 which, fittingly has covered just under 850 miles in the last 5 days. Good times.

Long live the road trip.


Day 4 – No fear of falling

To finish off last night.

There was a brief jacuzzi. Though it was just me and Sparky wearing swimming caps (one of those swimming pools) and while it was indeed bubble-tastic it had a bit of a municipal swimming pool feel to it.

We ended the night in the local chinese served by someone we came to affectionately know as smiler. It wasn’t her fault, it just took her a while to warm to us, and a few rounds of ‘hum an appropriate tune when she comes past’. Sparks led with smile like you mean it and I followed with cheer up sleepy jean.

As always it turned out she was a lovely wee lady, who by the end of the meal was asking us where we were from and what we were doing in Clifden. In an even more random set of circumstamces she also had a second job cleaning in the hotel we were staying when we met her the next morning.

We cleared out of Clifden quick smart, the weather still being half reasonable. We had a lovely drive, hugging the coast round to Galway. Made all the better for some random jazz and some early Pete Wilson stuff Jonny had sequestered about his ipod. Journeys are all the more memorable for a cohesive album than just the ipod on random.


My lasting memory of Connemara is rocks. Lots and lost of rocks. As if the staple crop were not library-5435.jpgpotatoes but stones. Sewn in spring as pebbles and nurtured with copious amounts of wind and pissy weather until they’re ready to harvest in late autumn, fully matured into Ireland’s finest rocks. Plucked from their native dirt and transported a yard and a half to the middle of their current field to take part in a whole new wall of loosely aligned rocks to further subdivide their birth place.

The fields didn’t even have sheep in them. Sheep will eat any type of chlorophyll containing substance but simply draw the line at having to digest and metabolise rocks.

Back to Galway. We ended up in a Jury’s Inn by lunchtime. Getting a much larger room than last night for a third of the price. Most impressed. Right on the Spanish Arch too.

library-5455.jpgTo fill the afternoon we headed to the south side of the bay, through Lisdoonvarna (the home of Europe’s biggest singles/dating event – man I wish we’d got a photo outside that sign) to the cliffs of Moher.

The cliffs are an impressive set of sheer drops overlooking the barren Arran (do you like what I’ve done there…) islands. I didn’t know they even existed till about two years ago.

They charge a modest 8 euro for the parking priviledge and then you’re free to explore and let your small children run wild beside a 300 foot drop. To be fair they have put up a fairly substantial barrier and keep you well back from the edge.

Until you reach the limits of state owned land there’s nothing but a rather large sign telling you inlibrary-5474.jpg three languages (English, French, German and astoundingly not Irish) not to pass go and not to collect 200 as this here land is private land and careful now you just might die.

This advice was thankfully being dutifully ignored in at least 10 different languages (including Irish this time) as one and all hopped the fence to climb a narrow mud path skirting the cliffs to see whether the grass is indeed always greener on the other side.

The wind was fierce to say the least and there was always the awkward question of etiquette when allowing someone coming the other direction to pass. Do you keep your nerves intact by forcing them to pass on the cliff side or risk a hasty death in order to get a smile and a thank you out of the pretty girl comng towards you. After my performance today, I’m pretty sure I’ll be around for a while yet…

On the way back we had one more box to tick (such a hypocrite…). Sparks and the Office had found directions to the house used in Father Ted last year and had done a brief road trip to Galway (and ended up sleeping in the car) last year and got a great photo outside the most famous parochial house in the world.

library-5480.jpgI’d managed to find the same directions, with such helpful hints as turn right at the red phone box. To be honest if Sparks hadn’t already been there we would have turned back, the road becoming more like that corridor in Alice in wonderland that becomes narrower and smaller the further you go along it.

Yet after 5 minutes up an upmarked road (which had been suspiciously recently resurfaced) where the trees and bushes almost met in the middle, the road opened out to reveal a rock strewn ridge in the background with the famous house in the foreground. The toyota corolla parked outside didn’t really fit and the statue of our lady was missing but otherwise you were right there in Ted land.


Round off the evening with a simply fantastic meal in an Italian restaurant just down the street (from the hotel not Ted‘s house), with lost of pasta type things I couldn’t even pronounce. I had raw beef for starters. Winner.

And so now I’ve abandoned the boys with their Potters (numbers 6 and 7) and sit in the bar on my own on my second run through In Rainbows quietly judging the punters around me. Maybe I could be back in NZ after all.

Day 3 – Harbortown

Having sorted out the brief temporal disturbance, and realizing that we’d almost missed breakfast, we sat down to a feed of sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, eggs and lashings (yes Enid Blyton is alive and well…) of tea and coffee. Our fry in seems to be lacking in potato bread and soda bread, that which makes for the famed Ulster fry. Though I’m not sure I want to make breakfast into a political statement by asking for some. I did wear my Ireland rugby top, though I admit that of all our sports tops that’s the least likely to be politically offensive, unlike the Man United top, which although politically neutral generates a whole new brand of sectarian hatred in everyone’s hearts.

The drive to Westport was wet and bumpy and almost resulted in a serious car accident when some Muppet pulled out in front of the office.

We kept getting stuck in queues of traffic outside chapels in small towns, as legions of the faithful piled out from mass into the narrow streets to escape the rain.

Just as we approached the doo lough pass the skies began to clear giving us a vista over the hills of Connemara, transporting us from the cloudy damp west coast or Irelandglen.jpg to somewhere just outside Glencoe. If this is somewhere in Ireland you haven’t visited then make a point of visiting it.


The view did bring about a brief period of giddiness and some minor nudity (note – arses have been [poorly] altered to disguise identity) among the lads but this passed before it was drawn to the attention of the local Gardai (all one of them).


From there the road followed the river out to where it entered Kilary harbour, the only fjord in Ireland (said in a Father Ted “I hear t’is the largest launduret department in Ireland…” stylee). This is another place you need to see.

At the head of the harbour are the Aasleagh falls. Again worth seeing. In fact it’s all good and I’ll leave the Bord Failte stuff to … Well.. Bord Failte I suppose.

I have this unforgettable places to see before you die book. Which is a bit of morbid and strange title but anyhow… And Kilary harbour is in there, along with the Giant’s Causeway. So I suppose that’s two done. The idea of box-ticking travelling now repels me – even though it didn’t only 2 years ago. Funny how you don’t notice things change in you.

library-5388.jpgWe stopped briefly at Kylemore abbey – a big kick ass 19th century mansion place that was taken over (though not in the military sense) by a bunch of nuns from Ypres who lost their convent (in the military sense) in France during WW2 and were given refuge in Ireland. To be fair they could have done worse, ending up in a mansion running an exclusive boarding school. Vows of poverty eh? Who needs em?

library-5301.jpgAnd so eventually we come to Clifden, a nice wee village that’s seen the benefit of some N6 Euros from Dublin, and now sports a spanking new hotel complex with a mini shopping arcade below.

We get the last room in the place. And while more pricey than a room above a pub in Newport it does give us access to a jacuzzi.

Of note this has been a bit of a soft, southern shandy drinking road trip for Nelly. Yes I do like sleeping in my car, yes I do enjoy not washing for several days in a row and eating cold noodles off a trangia. But I suppose road trip is more about the collective than the individual. And the collective isn’t up for the back of the Volvo (in any sense!!!) or cold noodles or not washing. And well to argue would just be rude wouldn’t it. Yes, rude, wouldn’t dare… Oh yes could you fluff another pillow for my back please… Ahhh…

Day 2 – Go West

Sharing a bed with a grown man is a strange experience. Especially when you’re a repressed homophobe (though I try not to be…) at heart. You always find yourself rolling over at the edge of the bed, to the point of possibly falling out of bed. All to avoid the an involuntary leg touch during the night… Sorry. Enough of that.

last-roll-177.jpgSpent the morning in Mullaghmore, feasting on fried sausages and eggs looking out at a grim and dark looking Atlantic ocean.

There was a brief break in the cloud over the beach giving us a chance to brave the wind and get a trot along the beach. The endless ocean is a leveler. Love it.


On our way south to Sligo we stopped at Glencar lough, keen to see last-roll-027.jpgeither a Nessy or a Timotei ad moment under the waterfall. Disappointed on both fronts, best we got was Jonny in a shower cap. And despite a quick game of ‘if we give you a tenner would you…’ we couldn’t convince him to debag and wear a shower cap under the waterfall. In 20 years time in therapy I’ll be glad he didn’t do it.

We stopped briefly down the coast to look at the waves coming in off the Atlantic. A huge swell with a lovely left to right break looked perfect for a wee surf. Though the closer i got the more it became clear I’d just get dumped upon by a swell like that.

Every other car we passed had a board or two on the roof. Made me extremely nostalgic and jealous for the old drive out to Ocean Beach at 7am with some of the murses. Made me wish I’d brought the board back with me. Maybe some day… Anyhow focus. You’re in Ireland now, remember.

last-roll-038.jpgWe were heading for Achill island. Which is almost (but not quite) a fake island, there being only a 10m gap or so separating it from the mainland. We’d read in the (never again to be trusted) Lonely Planet that there was a quality hostel with great food, a nice pub and a warm fire on the island. Our plan was an afternoon in front of the fire with a book and the papers and possibly an endless game of higher-lower with the pack of cards.

This was quickly scuppered on our arrival to Achill sound (if you have an image of Milford sound in your head then forget it) where we found the hostel had been converted to a nursing home.

We followed this with a 2 hour drive round the island looking for accommodation.

We found ourselves turned away from at least 5 places, but only when they found out who we were.last-roll-044.jpg As soon as they realized it was a group of blokes from the north then they weren’t interested and made up clear and blatant fibs that they were either fully booked (when they weren’t) or had a booking already (when they didn’t). Usually I’m not one to see the worst in people in things like this but by the fifth time it was getting ridiculous.

We divided possible reasons into the following:

1) a group of blokes traveling and wanting a room together must be poofters out to pollute the minds of their youngsters and sodomize the local livestock (don’t start me on that one please…)

2) a group of blokes traveling together will no doubt drink the place dry and throw the television out of the first floor window before spray painting the words ‘bazza wuz ere’ on all the local livestock.

3) a group of blokes from the north are here to take part in a paramilitary training exercise in a Connemara bog before using incendiary devices to blow up the local livestock.

Please don’t be three. I know we have a bit of work to do on dispelling number one but please tell me we’ve got past number three.

In the end we got a couple of rooms above a pub in Newport (where?…) where I presume they thought we’d be far enough away from the local livestock to cause no harm.

We took a (very) brief walk around the village taking in all the main sights, the bridge, the pub (voted best pub in Connemara 2006), the other pubs and even the newsagent. I love this country.

Meeting us in the Newport hotel (fighting off vicious local competition for the title) was the office, who’d pulled his usual trick of driving staggeringly long distances (4 and a half hours on his own from Portadown) to get to a place just for one night and then repeat the journey in reverse the next day. And there wasn’t even a bird involved. He amazes me. With his brilliance or stupidity I’m never entirely sure.

When he arrived we got down to some grub and a quick game of naming all the fifty states in America (damn you Vermont…) and listening to some genuine Irish fiddly-dee music in the pub.

We all went to bed, sensibly putting our clocks back an hour to prepare for the end of British summertime (though i think Connemara declared the end of British summertime shortly after the 1916 easter rising and the declaration of independence…). We all woke in the morning to find that the wonders of technology in out phones had taken time into their own hands and sliced another hour from the clock on top of what we’d already taken.

Technology is smart but also kind of dumb eh?

Day 1- Road to Nowhere

The boys have jobs and stuff and real lives so we don’t leave till after 5pm on Friday, joining the crowds of half-termers fleeing the family home for a small fiberglass box on wheels or a grim B&B on a cliff top.

The idea of weekends scares me sometimes. That you work all week and then spend two and a half days in celebration of freedom from your chosen occupation and then go straight back to it all on Monday. I have this thing against enforced, corporate happiness. That anybody can tell you how and when to be happy based on market and social demographics.

Maybe that just leaves me a grumpy old git who’s emotionally stunted and unable to relate to the majority of the population.

Maybe it just lets me think I’m better than everyone else.

Goodness such self-analysis and only three paragraphs in. Will endeavor to refrain from such.

The mighty Volvo is packed and loaded for the craic, even brought the guitar in the hope of some inspired sessions on a beach somewhere.

The boys (Jonny– who designs and engineers large green machines for separating rocks;




and Sparks – who endeavors to teach young humanoids how to form words and sentences in a cohesive manner)




seem intent on naming the poor car, as if it was somehow unhappy with its current moniker of car and Volvo 850. I’m all for personification of inanimate objects but I’m not sure they need a stereotypical fiddly-dee Irish name for that to happen. And I was never going to let Victor the Viagra fueled Volvo stick. Without putting up a bit of a fight anyhow.

As the west bound M1 petered out we made it through the wall of mizzle and cloud to see a glorious autumn sky and the sun setting. About as glorious as Ballygawley ever gets anyway.


We got briefly lost in Sligo, thankfully not eaten by the natives before getting on the N15 (funny how planned and organized the roads sound when you give them a alphanumerical title, making a winding lane between farmhouses sound like a major communications artery) to Bundoran.

We’re staying in Mullaghmore, just north of Sligo in what I imagine would be some pretty spectacular scenery if it wasn’t raining and night time. Given that it nearly always rains, then the scenery is only fantastic for about 3 days a year when Bord Failte comes and takes all the photos for the ads.

By the time we got here the restaurant was near closing and we managed to throw a few steaks and a pint of the black stuff down us before a dander along the harbour and making of plans for the morrow.

Hotel is nice, better than sleeping in the Volvo at least. Though I am sharing a bed with a grown man, which always seems to be the problem of three single blokes looking accommodation together.

At least we got a sea view. Hopefully it’ll look pretty here in the morning. Prettier than Jonny will anyhow…


On the road (again)

Nelly is off into the wilds of the west coast of Ireland, with a few muppets in the volvo for a few days. With luck we’ll find Father Ted’s house, the only Fjord (no Mondeo jokes…) in Ireland and if we’re really lucky the holy stone of Clontibbert.

It even appears we’ll be blessed with classic Irish weather. Makes me wonder why I got a car with a sun roof.

So expect the return to old form of a ‘blog a day’, Kiwi road trip, except with less surfing and lying in the sun.

Long live the road trip.

Too many sad words make for sad sad songs

Part of the problem with being unemployed, or at least partially employed, is all that awful free time you have to fill. You kind of get used to not having a second when you’re working – not that you enjoy not having a second, you just get used to it.

So recently I’ve had all this spare time to fill, I’ve been obliged to hold conversations, spend time with people, read, pray, think, even do some gardening – though I know that’s probably a step too far…

Following the Turf marathon (in fact imagine an actual Turf marathon, sponsored by Flora and all… not to self…) on Saturday I sat down all day Monday and recorded one of my own songs, one of the ones I’d battered out on the dodgy karaoke mic on the Mac Mini in NZ. The hiss and squeal on the recording was just winding me up too much, and that was just my voice.

In doing so, I think I’ve found the perfect way to procrastinate and whittle away a perfectly useful day. Possibly even better than Halo 3 or Harry Potter.


Yours sincerely, with headphones on like the next Nigel Godrich.


PS Bonus points if you spot the Kylie quote

I Left You Behind


October 2007