Monday, January 23, 2006

Puddle Baby

As every Irish child knows, no toy, nor even the box it came in, can match the fun to be had in a decent sized puddle. All you need is a pair of wellies and a love of being soaked. My daughter, who could discover trouble in a convent (this is charming in a two year old but the possibilities of her teen years are a worry to me), was immediately drawn to every puddle - from the small and shallow to the deep and seemingly bottomless - and she had brand new pink wellies to enable her explorations. Every morning, while we were back in Limerick, my father and Natasha would take his enormous alsation, Mack, for a walk, trailed by two giggling toddlers, who couldn't believe they were this close to such a huge animal . The dog for his part, seemed resigned and bemused by these two tiny humans shouting his name at earsplitting volume and then running away half scared, half delighted when he cocked his head their way. It being Ireland in the winter, puddles were plentiful and both Shane and Maya indulged heartily. Everyday Natasha would return with two besplattered kids. But Shane didn't even come close to the level of Maya's filthiness. She routinely needed a full scrub down.
We arrived back in San Francisco to beautiful, sunny, cold winter days, having missed the deluge that preceded our arrival and flooded many parts of Northern California. On our first walk in the park, Maya promptly discovered a pothole filled to the brim with muddy water. As a puddle jumper par excellence, she recognises puddle perfection when she sees it and took a mighty leap right in. We were happy it kept the two kids occupied while we could relax and enjoy the sunshine, chatting happily with Dervala and Tim, who were both with us. Pretty soon, however, passersby started shooting us concerned looks. People would glance at the kids, then back at us, as if to say, "Do you realise your child is jumping in a puddle and GETTING DIRTY?" Other strollers stopped to take photos on their cellphones. Dervala commented that we could probably charge $5 entry fee for the spectacle. It seems Americans have an aversion to dirt and a muddy child is an oddity. As far as we were concerned, the only problem was the ensuing meltdown when we had to load them back into the stroller to head home. It was getting dark, and at this stage, Maya had decided that lying face down in the pothole was the way to go. She looked like she had been dipped in an oil well. She sobbed the whole way home, mourning the loss of her lovely pothole. We decided to take the side streets as we were getting enough stares as it is. Having three children under the age of four is enough of a curiousity in San Francisco - but when one of them is covered in mud and screaming bloody murder, it becomes a sideshow.

Photo courtesy of Tim.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Descending Brandon Ridge

This is view coming back down Brandon Ridge. Brandon Bay is in the back ground. The village of Cloughane is on the right and Brandon Village is on the left. This is the last Brandon pic. I will eventually get around to writing something new.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Baaa humbug

I must be in the States a long time when I start taking pictures of Irish sheep. This sheep was used to tourists, she even struck a pose.

Friday, January 13, 2006


There are many bars on this planet, and I'm sure that a disproportionate amount of them are in Ireland. We didn't arrive by chance to our reputation as a nation of drinkers. There are many things that go into making a great pub, and none of them fit into an easy formula. A great tavern can't be created - it's an eccentric creature, a thing to be cherished and shared with a select few. You don't want any of the multitude langers, poseurs, and wankers hearing about it and ruining everything. The Railway Tavern in Camp, Co. Kerry, Ireland, West Europe, Planet Earth is a one such place, ( I am only publicizing it because it is already well known). That increasingly rare and endangered species: a fantastic, eccentric, one-of-a -kind, never-to-be replicated, pub. Its owner, Mike O'Neil, is more than a mere publican. He is a breeder of singing Jack Russell’s, a fan of the ZZ Top school of hairstyling, a man with a PhD in interesting small talk, and, more to the point, an all round nice bloke with a kind welcome to all comers. He is also a devotee of the cult of The Beetle. A man after my heart. I once owned a Gold 1975 Super Beetle, and to this day regret selling it. Mr. O'Neil's bar manages to display a dazzling amount of Volkswagen memorabilia without ever being obvious about it. There are several old Volkswagens outside the pub, the Beamish Bug pictured above being one. The aforementioned Beamish is an Irish stout, a competitor of Guinness, albeit with a tiny market share. It is brewed in San Francisco's sister city, Cork. Like San Francisco, Cork thinks it is much bigger and more important than it really is, and like San Francisco, it is built on several hills with a beautiful hinterland. Every second Irish person in San Francisco seems to be from Cork. Anyhow, I converted to Beamish from Guinness while going through a particularly impoverished phase in college. Beamish ran a campaign where they sold a pint for 1.25 Irish punts. This meant one could get four pints for a fiver. That was a cheap buzz even back in those pre Euro days. In Dublin, these days, you'd be hard pressed to find a pint for five Euros.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pater Noster

I am being a lazy blogger, but I'm on vacation. So instead of words here's a pic of the Pater Noster Lakes on Mt Brandon - taken from the final climb to the summit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rock and Roll

I've been wandering around the Dingle peninsula every since I was a kid but I've never climbed Mt Brandon. I finally got around to it last Thursday. Feckin' brilliant! Any one familiar with Ireland's second highest mountain will know it is shrouded in rain and mist almost every day of the year. However, not so last Thurs. It was a beautiful winters day until we reached the summit which was shrouded in mist and also had a layer of snow. The above picture is of some Kerry rocks. Haven't a shaggin' clue what type. More photos to come.