Archive for September 22nd, 2009

Gilead

I started reading this on zoomtard‘s (with all the Karl Barth I can see why he liked it. Really you should keep the Zoommatics thing going. Otherwise I’ll have to read Barth myself and that’s just not on)  and Transfarmer‘s recommendation.

[That in itself is worth discussion – very few things in my life I have discovered on my own. Simy introduced me to almost every cool thing I ever got involved in, Da introduced me to sarcasm and writing (and so much more), Liz to Anne of green Gables… Not so much Liz. (You introduced me to much more than that I just thought I’d take the piss while I could.)

I listen to Pedro the lion because someone I knew listened to it, Skeeno introduces me virtually all my new music, Spuddy pulls his weight in that department too, Phil has bought me more books than hot dinners. I know these people because of people.

I enjoy what I enjoy not because I discovered it in a vacuum but because other people did before me. These things I enjoy have had quite remarkable influences on my life (fight club changed my life I tell you) and I let them because these other people introduced them to me.

Books are dangerous things. You open a book or listen to a song and a few years later you’re not the same.

I’ll stop there.]

Back to Gilead. A letter (a really long book length letter) written by an elderly dying preacher to his still young son. So that the son will know the father as he gets older.

It is nearly a year since Dad died. And this is what I think about. Gilead. The thoughts of a dying man. And I miss him.

To quote:

There have been so many fine days this summer that I’ve begun to hear talk of a drought. Whatever is coming I’d be sorry to miss it…

Dad died with a coming financial crisis that at least gave him an ironic laugh. Before swine flu, before Obama, before Spotify, before Transfarmer, before sitting here in a pub in Ballyconnell with me wishing i could give him a ring and laugh about it all.

Worth an extra non-dad related quote

He could knock me down the stairs and I’d have worked out the theology for forgiving him before  I reached the bottom. But if he harmed you in the slightest way, I’m afraid theology would fail me.

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Canal song – Part 3

We ended up in an Italian restaurant last night. It’s weird how many small Irish villages have really cracker restaurants sometimes. Well fed and waiting impatiently for 10 pm when we felt it would be respectable to go to bed.

Slept till 9am.

Apparently it was breezy overnight. One of the metal gates on the back of the pub had blown off. Or rather the wall had blown off and taken the gate with it.

We had to endure another gruelling carry of the loaded Kayaks down to the river. couldn’t be more than 100 yards but was pulling the arms out of us by the end of it. We are such light weights.

Back in the water for 10.30 am and on our way. The rain joined us. Most upsetting.

By Lunch (which was a cup of coffee on one of the IWAI marinas) the sun came out and made it a very pleasant afternoon.

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While it’s wonderful having the facilities in place, it is a bit of a spoiler on the view to have all the marker posts throughout the waterways just to stop some idiot piling a cruiser into a sand bar.

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It was here that the going got a bit tougher. Up until this point we had been blessed by having the wind mainly behind us and whatever flow was in the canal was in out favour. At the point we turned into the river Erne and had to go both against the flow and against the wind. Not nearly so pleasant.

We did find this very pleasant old cottage facing onto the river.

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Finished in Belturbet about 3.30 pm. Tired and a bit hungry. Good trip.

Canal song – Part 2

Sleeping in tents is something that seemed like a good idea at the time you thought of it. But in general by the time you get round to it you wish you were in your own bed.

Sleeping in a tent on a small uninhabited island in the middle of a Cavan lake seemed like a great idea till it started raining quite so heavily.

Against my usual better judgement (and the 6 quid per mb charge) I used the phone to check the weather. It gave vague promises of a bright spell from 9-10am and then rain till some time in early November. I waited till one of us could wait no longer to get up and pee (it was Phil) then crawled from my sleeping bag to greet the dampness.

Saving grace is the fact that we only planned to spend one night camping. As a general rule only ever spend one night camping. Unless the weather is guaranteed. And in Ireland it’s never guaranteed.

I had such great plans for a lovely cooked breakfast that came to a squelching halt with the rain. The only aim was to get packed up and in the canoes as quick as possible.

Unfortunately with the rain the wind had picked up significantly so our first paddle of the day was a slightly breezy run across the main channel of the lake to get to a bit of shelter on the otherwise.

We did get lost.  Or should I just say that I got us lost.  All these lakes look the same to me really. How should I know. It was only briefly lost. And pleasantly so.

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Once you’re in the kayak with the spray deck on and the kag and a hat you’re pretty cosy. Rain becomes something of an irrelevance.

The wind however is a different story. Trying to cross a lake with the wind even a few degrees off your direction leads to a constant battle to keep the canoe going in a straight line.  Couple that with the waves cast up by the wind and it actually becomes really quite hard work.

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It never really brightened up all day but I must say it was almost nicer because of it. All my memories of Fermanagh have grey skies in them and it seems only fitting that Cavan should be the same.

A grand total of 3 and a half hours after starting out we arrived at Ballyconnell, (hardly very long paddling is it? I realise that, if you wanted a blog on endurance kayaking then you came to the wrong place) promptly missed the best stopping point and had to struggle back upstream against the wind to make it to the marina.
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So two men walk into a bar in ballyconnell dressed in shorts, sandals and life jackets and ask for a room for two. No wonder we got funny looks.

We also had to carry two canoes down the main street (it’s not very main) to get them to the pub we’re staying in. Pretty sure that’s not something that happens every day.

The shower you have after a couple of days living in your own filth is always the best one. The shoulders are begonnign to feel the strain now a bit. Most pleasant surprise is that a pint of guiness here is only 3.20 euro. Pleasantly surprised compared to the 4.50 euro in Dublin. Maybe I should move here.

Canal song – Part 1

[Before I even start, my dearly beloved Canon IXUS died, the lens won’t come out. 5 years isn’t bad for all the water, sand and dirt it had thrown at it. So all the pictures are from the iPhone and of dubious quality]

So it begins again. Off on another trip. Off on another paddle in the Ireland rarely seen. Kind of like lesser spotted ulster except without Joe Mahon.

This trip started as me and wee Phil wondering what to do with a week’s holiday at then end of September with him just back from 2 months saving lives (and maybe even the world) in Africa.

The original plan was to canoe from Lough Erne in Fermanagh all the way to Limerick. This was perhaps slightly ambitious.

It then became a 5 or 6 day trip to Athlone and then 4 days to Carrick on Shannon and now it’s 3 days from Ballinamore to Belturbet. Good call I say.

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Took us about two hours from portadown to find Ballinamore. Down roads I’ve never driven before. Always a good experience.

Just as we’d organised supplies and got a bite of lunch the rain came on. Typical.

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Though the silly misly type of Irish rain that makes you nervous that it might start pissing down any minute.

The shannon-erne waterway has a remarkable history. Originally planned to revolutionise industrial transport in the 19th century. In it’s 10 operating years it carried 8 barges. Not exactl profitable for having dug a 60km canal though the west of Ireland.

It’s introduction came just as the railways exploded onto to the scene. Hardly a fair fight. It took us just over 30 minutes to drive from the beginning to the end of our route that we planned 3 days for.

It got reopened for the tourists – mainly Germans (it seems) in rented cruisers in 1994 and seems to be popular enough to still be running.
The locks are automatic controlled by little pass cards and control panels. All very exciting. But we realised after the first one that it’s probably easier just to carry the canoes round them.
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I thought I’d go gentle on phil to start with and we only had 6 mile or so for the first day, especially as we only started at 3 pm.

Tonight we’re camping on church island. A tiny place a few hundred yards across in the middle of Lough Garadice (never entirely clear if the Lough is meant to come before or after it’s name). There’s an old (proper old) broken down church and that’s it.
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Lit the BBQ, drank some coffee and set the camp. Wonderful really. Just needs to be a bit wamer and it’s perfect. There’s a marina a few hundred yards across the lough and earlier a band was playing 80s rock classics at a quite phenomenal volume. The wind carried it well.

Read a good third of Gilead in one night by the light of the gas lantern and pondered how different a life we lead compared to a hundrd or so years ago. And indeed how different a life we lead compared to the majority of the planet.

22.45: Curled up in the sleeping bags hoping sleep comes easy and the zombies don’t rise from the graves of the abandoned church and gouge out our eyes while we sleeep. Not sure that’s gonna help me sleep thinking like that.

Incidentally – finally got the new David bazan album. About flipping time.


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