From Across The Irish Sea

Only minutes after I published yesterday’s post, my shaken mother-in-law phoned us with sad family news.

Excerpt from "Distances." Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Distances.” Click to expand.

My wife’s uncle-in-law, who was an inspiration for a gregarious, friendly Irish tourist in Rome in Distances, died at home in London early Sunday morning.

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“You can’t see me or touch me….”

This is the sort of social media that is indeed “social”: a sympathy message last night from an Irish friend – a longtime girlfriend of ours in Dublin, with whom we’d traveled to Florida in the summer of 2014.

The beach behind our Marathon, Florida holiday rental, with an iguana meandering across it. [Photo by me, 2014.]
The beach behind our Marathon, Florida holiday rental, with an iguana meandering across it.[Photo by me, 2014.]

Several years back, her parents passed away within a year of each other. She had also been thinking about our late girlfriend, Kam. She felt this might be helpful to me:

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Having Sat Out That War Is Not A Badge Of Celtic Honor (So Shut Up And Hope Everyone Else Forgets)

A very serious post to start the week. At a U.K. family get-together over the weekend, I witnessed (yet again) an ugly Irish chauvinism and excuse-making for Ireland’s “neutrality” during the Second World War. It had come up amidst chatter in “taking sides” during Saturday’s Rugby World Cup match between Wales and England, which was playing on the TV in the background.

Rooting for Wales, the London-born person of Irish descent declared snidely, “We’ve always fought the English.” That is the core position that underscores everything. If that was all, I could have lived with it.

It wasn’t. What followed was a descent into a Celtic supremacist blathering that drifted into bordering on pro-Nazi – in terms of Irish residents in England having been drafted to fight the Nazis when they were Irish not British…. and the British had been horrible to the Irish over the centuries (like no one knows that?), but the Germans, well….

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At The Irish Frontier

It happened again. Previously it was at Heathrow. This time, it was Dublin Airport.

Arriving on Saturday morning, my passport’s older stamps made it clear immediately to the Irish border agent that I travel to Ireland pretty regularly. After we cleared up that I live in the United Kingdom and not in the U.S.A., he asked me my occupation. They don’t always do that.

Free Stock Photo: Flag of Ireland.
Free Stock Photo: Flag of Ireland.

I chuckled inside: I knew my answer would get a reaction. Whenever over the years I’d said “university administration,” no one ever raised an eyebrow. However, saying you write novels will nearly always – after the surprise has worn off – lead to some good-natured conversation.

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Monasterboice, County Louth

Yesterday was the first time I’d seen this, which is off a quiet side road, north of Dublin. From where you park, you’d think it’s merely an old cemetery amidst the ruins of a couple of old churches. But it’s much more:

Photo by me, 2015.
Photo by me, 2015.

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Left Side Of The Shelf

We’re visiting our long-time friends in Dublin for the weekend. Flew over this morning from Bristol. Haven’t seen them in person since Florida, last summer.

Settling in, I stumbled on this. And, no, I’m not referring to Larsson or Mandela:

Guest room reading, Dublin. [Sneaky photo by me, 2015.]
Guest room reading, Dublin. [Sneaky photo by me, 2015.]

Oh! Dear! God!

That? In our girlfriend’s guest room? I may never recover from the shock!😉

The World’s Sexiest Nationality?

Previously, this blog has dutifully shared what we are informed are “the most attractive accents” in the world. Now this, as reported by a well-respected Irish media outlet. Understand, it is offered here purely for any “research and reference” purposes you may have:

Screen capture of the Irish Times.
Screen capture of the Irish Times.

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Fáilte / Welcome

I don’t keep close tabs on visitors. However, I have noticed over nearly the year this blog has existed that my “Top Five” countries of daily “regular visitors” clicking in through the web (as separate from those of you who arrive via the WordPress reader) have by now come pretty consistently to be ranked like this each day:

1) U.S.A. [almost always first]
2) U.K. [usually second, but there have been days they’ve outnumbered the U.S.]
3) Germany
4) France
5) Canada [in variations on that 3, 4, 5 order].

Visitors from Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Italy, the United Arab Emirates (yes, really), and Hong Kong, also drop by regularly. [He waves.] Although some days none from those countries appear at all. So this snapshot yesterday afternoon was odd, to say the least, which is why I screen grabbed it:

Interesting stats on Tuesday afternoon, U.K. time.
Interesting stats on Tuesday afternoon, U.K. time. [Screen capture by me.]

That was a real surprise. No, no, and I don’t mean it was because someone from Georgia popped by. Rather, notice that the Irish had clicked through in abnormally large numbers – and I’ve not a clue why.

I wake up ridiculously early. So, curious, I had a peek again just after five this morning, UK time. So this is from the first few hours of today obviously:


Interesting. Anyway, in that spirit I’ve posted this “ridiculously early” too.😉 Regardless of where you are reading this today (including you insomniacs – like me occasionally – the world over), “Hello!”🙂

What Happened To Bobby?

Yesterday afternoon, an episode of Escape to the Country came on the BBC. In the background, we heard one of the househunting couple’s children’s names: “Hatcher.” With that, the fun began:

• Me: “There must be an American in this couple. Boys names in the U.S. have become ridiculous in recent years. Only an American would name a son ‘Hatcher.'”

• Mother-in-law: “It is odd. There’s an American golfer with the Christian name ‘Webb.’ So silly.” (Note: she is of the generation that still says “Christian” name.)

As Escape proceeded, we learned I’d gotten it right. They were an American couple, living in London, seeking to move to Surrey. It’s a well-to-do county that might be compared roughly to, say, Loudoun County, Virginia, or Putnam County, New York.


Their home search had a major requirement: a house needed to be near a train station. Why? The husband admitted on camera that he didn’t have a U.K. driving license, so he had to commute by train.

• Me: [Thinking. There’s nothing wrong with the train. But, God, aren’t you embarrassed admitting that on U.K. national TV? Pass your bl-ody U.K. driving test, and stop embarrassing other Americans living here by giving British viewers the impression we can’t manage to drive in their country.]

While I had become distracted by the driving silliness, my mother-in-law was still on the issue of the boy’s name:

• Mother-in-law: “Over in Ireland, they often don’t have traditional names on children either. [She waves an Irish Independent at us.] Look at this? Apple iCloud. What sort of a name is that?”

• Me: [Thinking: Did I just hear her right?]

• My wife: [After a pause followed by a roar of laughter] “Mum, that’s not a name!”

Seems I haven’t yet entirely “escaped” my personal Seinfeld episode either. It continues on this side of the Atlantic too.😉

Among The Best 25¢ I’ve Ever Spent

Got a bit of a surprise on Monday in Key West. It wasn’t, as you know, at Hemingway’s house. I mean down at the docks behind Conch Seafood:

Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Manatee, below a dock in Key West. [Photo by me, 2014.]

As I tweeted the other day, a manatee appeared seconds after we had fed the fish, resulting in a marine encounter the two kids – the 9 year old girl especially – loved, and which I later joked to my Irish friends was perhaps the best value for 25¢ I had ever gotten in my life. Yet the fish-feeding had proven itself to be an unexpected learning experience too. However, not in a way you might think.

It had all started when I had given our friends’ 11 year old son a quarter to slot into the dock edge (environmentally safe) fish food dispenser, which resembled an “old-fashioned” gum ball machine. Bear in mind he can no problem handle iPads and land 747s using Flight Simulator. Indeed, he is so sharp that early last year, after his mother, “Maureen,” had explained to us at their Dublin breakfast table how she was flying Emirates to Abu Dhabi on her way to India to join our now late friend Kam there, while munching his toast he flat-out contradicted her idea of her own travel itinerary:

Young son: “Mum, you aren’t on Emirates. You’re on Etihad. You’re going to Abu Dhabi.”

Maureen: “No, darlin’, I’m on Emirates.”

Young son: “You’re stopping in Abu Dhabi. You can’t be on Emirates. You would be going to Dubai.”

My wife grabbed her iPad and checked the web. Yep, sure enough he was the one who was right. “Good luck you didn’t turn up for an Emirates flight!” my wife laughed.

But that same lad in Key West the other day didn’t understand he needed first to slot the 25¢ coin into the machine and turn its handle until the coin was swallowed…. and that he needed next to position one cupped hand below the chute to catch the falling feed…. as that feed would be sliding out and down into that hand the second he raised the chute’s cover with his other hand.

Stumped by how to operate it, he hesitated. I bravely took charge of the archaic technology. Oh, and, by the way, it is “technology” that had once been commonplace in the Republic of Ireland too.

Good grief, young people these days.😉