Thursday, November 27, 2014

Another taxi driver

“Harvey,” said Kevin the taxi driver from the School House Hotel to the Heuston Train station on the last leg of our journey to Westport and our housesit with Rooby, the dog.He was describing how his new pup licked his face. He told us of a Frodo, his last dog, gone to the dog biscuit factory in the sky last March. “He came from a couple who was divorcing and he needed a new home.”

“How did you decide on the name?” Rick asked about the pup.

“It was undemocratic. I came home, and the wife pointed to the puppy and said, ‘Meet Harvey`!”

Kevin was short and a bit of a chunk ball, but he knew his history. He pointed out the site of the 1916 rebellion and where the leaders were buried in a pit with lime thrown over the bodies. A mini tour of the city that has convinced us to look for a housesit so we can explore more in depth.

“That’s the oldest pub in Ireland,” he said. Seems during an earlier rebellion a woman stuck her head out the window and it was blown off by a British cannon. “Good story, but not for her,” he said as he doubted the authenticity.

He was also a credit union member since the age of 17, proving once again if you mention credit union to an Irish person, they will have a membership.

Another taxi driver to add to my collection of memorable moments going from point A to point B.

Thankful for thanksgiving

We are on the west coast of Ireland with not a cranberry of turkey in sight. Yet the lack of a Thanksgiving makes me no less thankful for all the proceeding Thanksgivings that are marching around in my head, a more pleasant-type of Dicken's ghost of Thanksgiving past.

Reading, MA--coming back from the traditional Reading-Stoneham game to smell my grandmother's roast turkey and baking pies. Taking off my coat, hat, gloves, scarf reveal the black slacks and red sweater that were the Reading Rocket colours.

Möhringen, Germany--asking a motherly-looking woman in the commissary at Kelley Barracks how to roast a turkey. She took the time to explain in detail including timing on the veggies.

Scituate, MA--After the dishes were cleared away at my dad's and step-mom's my aunts, uncles and my stepmom's dad Jack (who was also born on July 24) disappeared for their penny jars and the poker game would begin. My dad would stake me, and I could keep my winnings and his donated stake. If I lost, I didn't have to pay back the stake.

Over the hills and through the woods to Aunt Millie's house in CT we go...these were Norman Rockwell, Currier & Ives traditional Thanksgivings with my housemate's aunt. The women cooked in the kitchen, the men watched football. It was where Eva's meatballs were a must...she made them with grape jelly and ketchup, something the Pilgrims would never have had, but we did.

Boston, MA--Llara and I had a New England boiled dinner. After having turkey leftovers through March of the year because Digital had given us a huge turkey, we couldn't face turkey anything. The last bit of that turkey had been the turkey tacos.

Boston, MA--"It's an emergency," my daughter said over the phone as I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The "emergency" was that the bus hadn't shown up to take the band to the traditional Boston Latin/Boston English football game. I turned off the burners and oven and shuttled students and instruments. We did discuss that "emergency" includes, death, blood, gore NOT buses that fail to arrive.

Nashua, NH--With my Yugoslavian  exchange student we went to my brother's, the first he and his wife were to have in their new apartment. She was expecting my niece. My mother had pulled a hissy fit, saying we should be eating at her place, she couldn't drive and refused my brother's and my offer to drive her the horrible 30 miles distance. We held firm, but my brother did prepare a plate with all the lovely turkey fixings and desserts and made the 60 mile round trip. I wouldn't have.

North Andover, MA--Back from Toulouse we did eat Thanksgiving at my mother's. She was a wonderful cook. At the end she presented us with a bill. Despite the photo above she didn't take credit cards.

Geneva, Switzerland--a pumpkin pie appeared on my office desk at the IEC. In Switzerland, an American Thanksgiving was just another work day. One of the young women I worked with had her Armenian mother make me the pie. She'd heard me say that Thanksgiving was the only day I was homesick, really homesick, and she wanted me to feel better.

Payerne, Switzerland--Susie and Bill came from the States with the turkey roasting equipment. Llara and her friends came down from Germany bringing an American butterball from the Army commissary.

We were 12 and decorated the little house (behind the main house) my companion of the time used for entertaining. Eying the turkey and all the veggies and pies, he asked if we had enough for his friends. Three Swiss couples were called, invited (usually dinner invitations were planned weeks in advanced), cautioned NOT to wear suits, just casual clothes, and accepted.

Bill wanted me to explain the tradition in French. I found a Thanksgiving connection for everyone...Calvinistic Puritans, German Protestant reformation, Leiden sailings...until I came to Llara's Finnish boyfriend. In desperation I said, "And Eric drove the turkey to Payerne."

Corsier Port, CH--Julia and I wrestled with a turkey, especially ordered because whole turkeys are hard to come by and named him George. We put on a great meal for American friends and those who liked the idea of thankful feast.

Ferney Volaire, F--Llara and I took our friend Mary, a Brit to a Chinese Buffet in Ferney-Voltaire. I couldn't get the stove to work and we'd promised her a Thanksgiving feast. We wondered how Voltaire would have felt our substitution in face of tradition. Whatever he said, it would be well written.

Collonge-Bellrive, CH--the restaurant puts on a meal that matches the best American grandmother. Even the most talented grandmother couldn't produce the pumpkin truffle soup. We gathered friends and family. The only thing missing was the hot turkey sandwiches the next day.

I still want to know who won the Reading/Stoneham, Latin/English games. I'm grateful for the internet that allows it.

On a deeper level, many of the people whom I've shared Thanksgivings with are gone. I'm grateful for having them in my life. I am even more grateful for those still in my life not just today, but every day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The School House Hotel Dublin

Rick could not have found a better hotel.

Built in the mid 1800s, the original building was used for St. Stephen's Parish school. Each room was named after a writer.

Ours was Frank O'Connor.

I was glad it wasn't the James Joyce room. I did love The Portrait of an Artist of a Young Man but will never get through Ulysses. I do like Rick Steves description of Zurich as being James Joyce free since 1942 when Joyce died in that city.

The Canteen is the name of the restaurant which had a fireplace burning on a cool Nov. day. The bar is called the Inkwell.

Scooby II looks up at the canopy. He may never have slept in a canopy bed before, although I have. Nice and comfy too.
The tile on the floor is beautiful.

You did good Rick...

Taxi values

I collect taxi drivers...well not the drivers themselves but their stories.

Riding to our hotel from the Dublin airport we met Brian.

He told us how he had worked on the oil rigs but hadn't enough money for his retirement so he was driving a taxi.

He said he finished paying off his mortgage in 1999 which helped and he bragged about his autistic grandson. He was so proud of what his grandson WAS not what he WASN'T.

He is good friends with the neighbours and their children are often at his house.

He talked about the importance of saving and makes sure that he saves something for his grandchildren every paycheck.

The conversation turned to credit unions (Any time I mention a credit union to an Irish person they have a credit union story.) He's a board member and believes in the principles of saving and borrowing together, helping your friends and family.

He hummed as he got back into the car after taking out our luggage.

His values, his happiness made us happy too.

Childhood is wasted on the young

Okay...Scooby II did it again. He snuck out of the house to go to Ireland with us. We noticed him when our friends R&E drove us to Barcelona and he made friends with their little tiger. 

Don't ask why four adults with grown children still play with toys.

Monday, November 24, 2014

On the road

Barcelona tonight for an early flight to Dublin tomorrow where we'll stay at the Schoolhouse Hotel. I do miss the times in Geneva when I could walk to the airport, literally.

The dining room looks like we won't have to worry about lectures, homework or exams.

Then on to Westport to doggy sit Rooby for almost a month. Looking forward to walks, finding a new magic place, maybe for a novel (I did hear about a woman pirate from there). The next book after Edinburgh, still in writing might also be from Amsterdam using the Tulip bubble. On verra.

And mostly we are hoping for quiet and a piece of peace.

When we head back to Dublin before Christmas will be the greatest gift of all. Meeting up with my adored daughter.

Life is wonderful.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Neat freak gets comeuppance

I am a neat freak. 

I admit it.

If I take a piece of paper out, I put it away or throw it away or file it (file being a pile that someday maybe will make it into folders but all the edges align).

I had plans that when we left for Ireland everything would be perfect.

The bed in the nest would be made up for my daughter with perfectly ironed pillow cases and duvet covers.

The warren would have everything in its place and would be cleaned.

All the Christmas presents would be wrapped.

All we would have to do would be to decorate the tree that our friend would buy and leave on the patio, stuff the stockings, and buy Christmas day dinner. We are spending Christmas eve with friends.

However, I didn't count on extra wash. For the first time since 2003 (Rick don't read the next six words) I wish I had a dryer.

I didn't count on a stomach bug.

At the moment there is no clear surface in the flat.  

Last Christmas was wonderful even though I had a cold and we didn't decorate as I had hoped. It was our first Christmas together and it was filled with love and laughter.

This year my daughter will be with me. She won't care that the duvet covers aren't ironed. I suspect she is saner than her mother. 

What gets done gets done. What doesn't doesn't.

Two unneeded papers on a desk means nothing in a world where people live under bombs.

A comeuppance is good for time to time. Still when I look at the cartoon below, I hope the lamp stays in the place it was meant to be.

Translation of a conversation about love at Elisabeth's

Elisabeth: It's been three months with my new boyfriend.

Odette: (she is in her 80s) That's wonderful

Elisabeth: I'm not sure. Usually it is much shorter.

Odette: I've been married to the same wonderful man for 62 years. (Old man with her beams and leaves the store) I say that because he likes to hear it. (She takes her oranges and tomatoes and starts to leave.)

Elisabeth: Odette; Odette wait. Here's a real love story. (she points to Rick and me and tells her how we met 35 years ago but only married in 2013.)

Me: It's never too late for love.

Odette: (takes my hand and nods wisely.

The people in line behind us are smiling.

Does love spread...? Maybe. I hope so.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lammily, Barbie and Bonnie not to mention Do-Ann


Little girls everywhere play with them.

There's a new one out...Lammily.

She is not fat, but she's not anorexic either. It is possible, I read, to buy paste-on acne and cellulite along with her wardrobe allowing for her to have real-life attributes.

She promotes the idea that average is beautiful, combating Barbie's impossible figure. Barbie arrived on the scene just after I gave up dolls. I succumbed to buying her for my daughter not all that willingly. Her materialism was disgusting. Buy! Buy! Buy!

At least she had careers so there might be something admirable under that long hair and vapid expression.

It was worse when Llara was given Growing up somebody, maybe Skipper. When one twisted the doll's arms it grew breasts.

At the time I was flat-chested and twisting my arms did nothing to improve my bra size so maybe some of my disapproval of the doll was related to that.

My daughter was too old for the Cabbage Patch kids. A cousin looked at one and suggested Cabbage Patch birth control pills might have merit.

For a long time my favourite doll was Bonny Braids. Her parents were comic strip characters Dick Tracy and Tess Trueheart and she sold for $6.98. About 7,000 were manufactured daily. Two tufts of hair could be braided, although I wished she had an entire head of hair.

My favourite doll of all time was Do-Ann (ok, I said "not to mention" but I'm mentioning her anyway) given to me when I was six. She wore my three-year old clothes that had been saved in case I had a sister. My younger brother born when I was six, the same age that Do-Ann came into my life, had no need for them.

My grandmother made her. She was a cloth doll with yellow yarn hair and a half smile embroidered on her face.

She was named because I could spell both Do and Ann and not much more.

Do-Ann was for many years, my doll, my daughter, my friend, a cowgirl, a space cadet, a Greek little girl, a Roman little girl, a Princess, a slave (needing to be rescued), my student, a race driver, a patient in the hospital. Her thread eyes were always open requiring me to chide her to go to sleep when I left her at night, although I could never catch her sleeping, despite the many roles and activities she had undergone during the day.

Little girls play with dolls. In primitive societies it might be sticks tied together. In modern day ones dolls can get acne.



Thursday, November 20, 2014



Some families hand down jewels.

Others property.

Our family hands down a license plate.

My dad back in the 1950s had the Mass. plate 49T.

When he moved to Florida, he turned the plate over to me. In Florida he applied for and received 49T.

Thus when he came back to Massachusetts and our cars were parked side-by-side they plates looked the same except for the Florida shape on his.

I had to give up the plate when I moved to Europe.

Years, no make that decades later, when my daughter was in Virginia she too applied for 49T and got it. Now she is back in Massachusetts and just bought a car.

Sigh...49T is taken.

However, CH49T is available.

CH is the call letters for Switzerland.

I think we've updated our family tradition. Who needs jewels anyway?

CH 49 T

I've sent the following email to this sorry excuse of a human being.

I'd love to see everyone of my readers do the same.


That any human would be so cruel to prevent another from doing an act of kindness.

I live in Europe and many people have shown me the story in French about arresting a 90 year old man for feeding the homeless and asked me if the US people are really that disgusting.

Sadly, the answer is yes.

I assume you are not Christian, because that certainly is not the attitude of a Christian.

Donna-Lane NELSON