Sunday, November 30, 2014

House sit at Cara Cottage -- Day 3

A beautiful walk with Rooby, followed by a Thanksgiving lunch (the called it their turkey special,) looking around the village of Westport and then back home to write.

I love how colourful the buildings in the village are. It would be out of place in Switzerland, but every where I look, the colour makes my eyes happy.

Flooding in Argeles

The river in Argeles is mostly dry all year round. When the circus comes to town, they leave their camels, horses, buffalos, and elephants there.

Dog owners run their pets up and down.

I had my flat there for almost 18 years before I ever saw water in the bed.

Rain was desperately needed in the area, but not this much. One of our friends who had parked next to the riverbed (legal parking spot) still can't find her new car.

Another has a foot of water in her house.

This is another part of the river that is usually dry.

Mother Nature will always have her way.

The blue snowsuit--symbol of cultural differences

My family wasn't a travelling one. I only half joke that my mother believed if you went more than two towns away you fell of the edge of the world. She had everything she needed in town, she said, including the country club.

However, when I was six, I left Mrs. Weagle's first grade class and the two-generation family home to travel to Bluefield, West Virginia where my dad operated an Underwood typewriter franchise.

I have many memories. We rented a house on a steep hill, so steep that our first floor window looked into the second floor window of the house next door. It was the same for them. Their first floor window looked into the second floor window of the next house down the street. Our house had an apartment rented by Sheetsie, a nurse, who was invaluable when my mother took a long time to recover from my brother's birth.

We later bought a house on one of the few flat streets in the city.

My mother didn't think the southern schools were academic enough thus I was sent to a private school, Miss Blanche Miller's. I was one of five pupils run by a stereotypical spinster. We were reading, doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in first grade. Handwriting was just that, no sissy printing. And a wrong answer earned a ruler on the knuckles. In that year I completed the same work as I would have in three years in Reading.

We only went three hours a day and we did have a 15 minute play break. I remember the monkey bars with sheer hatred. The object was to hang on and swing from rung to rung. I cried as I did it, but Miss Blanche would never let me drop off nor could I go to the swings until I finished the rungs.

My grandmother was always concerned with warmth. Knee socks were worn until May, a long-sleeved undershirt as well.

She would put me out to play in my blue snowsuit, not like the one in the photo except for colour. Mine was made of a fuzzy material. She would add woolen hat, pink scarf, mittens and push or maybe me roll me out the door.

The problem?

In New England snow might still be falling. In West Virginia the magnolias were already in bloom and Anita Best, my friend across the street was running in her dress without a sweater as I waddled along trying to catch up.

Because it was March and in my grandmother's world view, snowsuits were still to be worn. For an extremely intelligent woman, I will never understand why she couldn't make the temperature transition.

I was lucky I didn't come in from playing roasted enough to satisfy even the most finicky cannibal.

The cultural differences for my family going from New England Yankee (Damm Yankee as the people at the grocery store called my mother) as my changing countries decades later. After two years, my mother had had enough of the South. She packed us up and moved back North. My father followed later.

Although in the US, I've lived mainly in Boston, I've also made Germany, France and Switzerland my home. In each I've tried to get to know the locals, embrace their customs whether it is two or three cheek kisses, shaking hands, or staring into everyone's eyes during a toast. I've eaten their foods and followed their unwritten rules (discovering them has been half the fun).

I've never ever worn another blue snowsuit in warm weather. Or a red one, or a green one or . . .

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The best coffee

"I was told you had the best coffee around," I said to Luis from Venezuela at the stand in the middle of Heuston Train Station, Dublin.

He hung his head. "I have to confess," long sigh followed by him raising a head and flashing a smile that would illuminate the darkest corners. "You're right."

The mocha was wonderful. The chocolate muffin, equally so. 

Thanksgiving just a little late

 Being out of the US at Thanksgiving means being creative if one wants to celebrate traditionally. We found a turkey dinner with great stuffing at Cosy Joe's Bar in Westport, Ireland.

 And then we bought apple pie at Super Value. 

 Who cares if we're a little bit late? Not us.

The second day of our housesit

We are into day 2 of our house/dog sit in Westport Ireland. We found the owners through  

After many email exchanges they decided we were dog lovers enough to look after Rooby (pronounced Ruby) while they spent time in India.

We thought it was a great way to see a new part of the world and help someone out. As former dog owners and maybe future ones, we knew all about the worry of leaving a pet in someone's care or worse in a kennel.

We spent a night in Barcelona and Dublin (connections were under-wonderful) but it was fun to add beds to Rick's collection of bed photos and explore Dublin. We arrived at Cara Cottage to find a delightful mother and daughter and of course, Rooby.

The first day we had and heat issues which were quickly sorted out. Because of the hectic last three weeks, we both need time to decompress and catch up on our writing while we fulfill our responsibilities as friend to one lovely dog.

She started her day with an early morning walk in the garden.

 Then we took her for a long-long walk on a nature trail with lots of bracken. 

 Back home as I was writing, Ruby thought she might be able to replace my mouse. She didn't edit anything I was writing as she stared at the screen.

 In the closet with the cups I saw one cup that appealed to me more than all the others. Drinking tea in a pretty cup, adds to the pleasure. Turns out the cup was made by the daughter for her mother. No wonder it felt special.

The front door offers a really cheery hello. 

We did our first wash in the wash house and picked up logs for the fireplace.

Friday, November 28, 2014

An hour in Dublin

 We had an hour in Dublin before our train so we took a quick walk. Here's what we discovered.

 A piece of white chocolate on a statue.

 A bicycler riding while wearing high heels.

 A fun kid park.
 Scooby checked out the Oscar Wilde memorial.

Michael Collins, hero of the 1916 Revolution, wasn't smoking a ciggie. Someone had put a three-part piece of hot chocolate in his mouth.

 Loved the name of the building.

 We crossed the lock, but Rick had to get a picture and I needed to take a picture of him taking a picture.
A brave bud refused to give in to the cold.

Not bad for a quick tour...BUT...we must go back to Dublin because it is a city that has so much to see.

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...