Close to home

It’s kind of comforting to call the U.S. and hear the familiar ring tone. They are different over here, a double-ring, lower tone (you may remember hearing it in a Pink Floyd song). Plus I don’t understand how I’m charged for various types of calls here and can see how people waste money based on their calling habits and not paying attention. That it matters whether I call a cell mobile vs landline is a strange distinction for me, not to mention nights and weekends applying to my landline as well, and the toll calls that Skype can’t call even if you are stranded in yet another country with a cell that doesn’t work and need to contact your airline. Fortunately I am not much of a chatter and Skype is good about 98% of the time.

I guess you could call this a lazy weekend. We slept in both days (I think David is a bad influence) and while I planned to get us out of the house today to go hiking in Tipperary, he wasn’t too enthusiastic and I caved. He would have gone, but I’m not sure it’s better to force it. But this counts as the first weekend since I arrived that I didn’t go do something. Next weekend is a bank holiday (long weekend, though we don’t get tomorrow off like the States!), and we’re planning to go to Dublin or somewhere else a little longer distance than the usual daytrip.

Yesterday we did some shopping in Cork, but it was pretty unsatisfying because I’m still not good at figuring out how to shop here, David’s still learning how to drive on the left, I had to learn all over again how to pay for street parking in Cork city (you have to buy this lotto ticket thing in a shop and scratch off your time, rather than pay the parking box like every other town), and I don’t need to spend all day sourcing dog food and hangers. We did walk into town (Kinsale) with Walter in the light rain today and ate food from the chipper at a bus stop shelter along the water, which was a nice way to pass the time despite how it sounds. Walter is so weird about food that he spit out the chips (fries) we tried to give him.

Walter is on one of his hunger strikes again. He hates most dog food (and half of people food) and our usual tricks (spoon feeding, mixing crappy “tasty” wet food, coddling, warm broth, ketchup) are not working very well. The only thing he consistently likes is Casper’s expensive, kidney disease-specific canned food, which really isn’t enough nutrition for a young healthy dog anyway. The dog food selection here is pitiful compared to home. Pitiful, and three times as expensive. The fancy food here is Royal Canin, which I still consider to be shitty, but it’s the best you can do. Heaven forbid your dog has allergies to beef-based foods in the first place.

Going up Breakheart Hill, a shortcut from Kinsale town to where we live near Summercove, which is treacherous after a little rain because the moss on the path gets slippery slippy. David took Walter off lead to avoid having him pull us down. It’s easier to go up the hill than down when it’s wet, and thank goodness the rail is there. (Walter is in the pic if you look in the greenery.)

David took this picture of me to make fun of my rain hat. However, it is his rain hat for backpacking. He just thinks it wasn’t raining hard enough to warrant wearing it. I pointed out that he was wearing a baseball cap, to which he responded he needed a haircut (which I have to give him and then clean up the mess from the clippers, and he always wants to do it in the house). Later it rained harder and he said he was now glad I was wearing the rain hat. (insert eye rolling)

This is how they keep track of a crack’s progress

You would think this is Home Depot. The color scheme and layout are nearly identical, although they don’t stock quite as many items. Instead of Spanish subheadings on the signs, the alternate language is Gaelic.

David feels at home in BQ and is trying to build a desk but has no saw. Yet. Here he’s waiting for his four free cuts.

Eurovision 2010, brought to you by a snarky Brit

David and I watched the Eurovision finals Saturday night, which has been a song contest among European-television-area countries since 1956. It includes Israel and north African countries are eligible too. I guess I’d call it an American Idol/Superbowl combo in popularity. ABBA won in 1974 with Waterloo.

The broadcast we watched was voiced-over by a British guy, who actually talked over the hosts on the screen and everyone else quite frequently. This made the show pretty funny because he made sarcastic comments on a lot of the performances and the voting.

It turned into a geography lesson for us too, because we looked up all the countries we weren’t sure we could find (like Moldova and Armenia) on Google Maps.

Some highlights (the snarky Brit’s comments are in italics):

There were 25 finalists in this show, but other countries had been ruled out in previous shows. Spain drew second place for order of performance.
No one has ever won from second place. I see no reason why that should change tonight.

Spain’s performance was interrupted by a Catalan guy who sneaked in (apparently he does this a lot) and actually made the performance much better before security got him off the stage. The Spanish singer looked like Screech/Richard Simmons and had people dressed as toys dancing with him, plus a backup Screech guy appeared toward the end, who we thought was an interrupter too but was actually supposed to be there. Because of the interruption, they got to perform again at the end, to which the host commented during voting, They performed twice. Doesn’t seem to have helped.

On one of the onstage hosts: Nadia’s back for no good reason.

There was a jumping and spinning neon fiddle freak and a sax player from the 80s in the general freakshow that came from Moldova.

David on Belarus’ golden butterfly lady’s hair: “There was a semen accident,” a la Something about Mary.

On Niamh from Ireland, who won previously: No one has ever won wearing purple

David noted that Booger from Revenge of the Nerds made an appearance in the Albanian performance.

Turkey had a Robocop guy.

Steve Buscemi was in the Russian gig.

Armenia reminded me of the Stonehenge performance in Spinal Tap and was probably weirdest overall. Then I saw Moldova again.

On the appearance of another stage host: Now this looks like it’s going to be lame

Most countries sang in English, but I guess the rules have changed over the years about what languages are allowed (official languages of the entrants, artificial languages, etc). There were a lot of fake wind and fire swamp effects.

David thought the Denmark guy looked like MacGyver or Luke Skywalker.

Each country has judge voting and call-in voting, and gets to give points to their top ten entries. Each country’s vote would show up on screen like “22 of 39 countries voting.” Viewers can’t vote for their own country. It’s like the electoral college or something.

The representative reporting Poland’s results was a little awkward on satellite, saying, “And here are the votes from the Polish people. In Poland.” She was also being a little slow in her reporting. The voiceover host:
That’s where Polish people are from.
In your own time.

Niamh, the Irish entry, had won about ten years ago but did pretty badly in the voting last night. However, the UK did worse and the host guy wasn’t too thrilled about that. In fact the UK came in dead last. As Ireland continued to get a point here and there, Ireland: they’re getting a drip feed of points. They seem to have stopped for the moment.

On the French vote reporter from satellite view in Paris:
The Eiffel Tower again? Build something else famous.

Latvia’s vote reporter was apparently a previous competitor and mentioned it. I want that jacket. Oh let go of the past, Thomas. Latvian reporter: “I hear some applause, that’s good.” Rare for you I suppose.

On Belarus’ Olympian vote reporter: He’s better at skiing than presenting votes.

There was a lot of booing for Russia when they got votes from other countries.

The British vote presenter said, “Thanks for voting for us if you did.” Host: You’re not thanking very many people there, Scott.

When Israel presented their votes: And I did notice, nothing for Germany.

Ukraine have 108 points and we have 10. There’s something wrong.

In the end, Germany won by quite a bit. I’m glad we watched it but I think there may have been some Irish presentation of it that we missed. We enjoyed the British guy’s snark. The Norwegian broadcaster that hosted the event (because their performer won last year) sold their rights to the World Cup, a big deal over here, to be able to afford hosting the event. And I shall leave you with the German performance, a catchy song I like:

And a general picture gallery

Hee haw

A few weeks ago I went to a donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll, Mallow. Strangely enough, there are donkey sanctuaries all over the UK and there are commercials on TV to sponsor a donkey’s care in other parts of the world. Mostly I was lonely to be around some animals. The views over the fields were beautiful and the occasional hee-haws would inspire responses all across the fenced facilities. There was also a random castle in town (fifth picture) and some farm animals had been confined to the castle courtyard at one point recently.

After Liscarroll, I stopped at Kanturk Castle (pics 6-7). I liked the view of the fireplaces in the tower with all the floors missing. Lots of crows living in the castle.

The last three pictures are from Mallow, where multiple castles are in various states of disrepair. As castles deteriorated or were damaged, they kept building new ones next to the old ones. Some punk kids were causing trouble in the ruins and had left a lot of trash rubbish around, so Mallow didn’t impress me much but the ruins were kind of eerie on a gray afternoon. There is a community of white deer living at the property. Apparently you and seven of your friends can rent the ‘newest’ castle for €16,000 per week. The place didn’t look ready for tenants though; a lot of the upstairs windows were open and I imagined a crow-filled Nancy Drew mystery location.

Cycling the hills

Just a quick note to report we are still alive and the dogs are finally pooping in a recognizable manner. Casper’s age is starting to catch up to her. She’s having a hard time getting up from the floor so we help lift her rear, and David re-suggested the Collie Trolley (mostly because it sounds funny, but it started when she was falling down the basement stairs at the Indy house). She still likes to wrestle with Walter and seems happy, but it’s hard to see her get old and not be able to take her on walks into town, let alone up the cliffs Walter gets to see. I guess she never has been much of an explorer so she’s probably happy being at home anyway.

I’m working on finding a pet sitter so we can plan our adventures. The wish list (outside Ireland and Northern Ireland) includes:
-Iceland (we always intended to go there even before there was a job in Europe or a volcanic eruption)
-Glasgow (David has friends there)
-Prague (everyone says this is fabulous)
-Germany somewhere
-Paris because I figure I should

That ought to keep us busy. I figure we’ll go to as many as we can afford and make time for, plus we’ll have to see how much we hate each other after the first few trips! I feel like I’ve gotten Italy, Spain, and the UK mostly out of the way for this round.

I rode my bike to work today for the first time here. It’s less than five miles but dang the hills are hard. I’m a little worried about the way home! I need to tighten my rear brake and get in better shape as the first orders of business. I wonder how many car trips I have to replace with my bike to offset all the air travel we have planned…

It’s a small world (with a lot of fences)

I’ve developed a fascination with customs and border patrol shows, where people try to bring sausages into Australia and then argue for hours about paying a fine because they didn’t declare their booty. I’m hoping to glean some tips on what exactly makes for legal import, what paperwork you need to visit a given country, and what it is about immigration enforcement that gets people so riled up. It’s uniformly sad to raid, arrest, and deport a hard working person. I won’t say whether it’s good or bad for the country’s resources, just that if someone is willing to cling to the underside of a truck to sneak into a new place, the old place must be pretty bad indeed and I have sympathy. I find the American debate about illegal immigration particularly bizarre for being a nation of (mostly) immigrants. How long must one squat to make it legal? Ten years is not enough if you ask the lawmakers, but a couple hundred apparently takes care of it. A couple hundred years of history is but a blip over here, as well as in the grand scheme of who has the “right” to keep someone out because they got there first.

Meanwhile, Irish radio advertises Cuban vacations. The complete lack of info on Cuba in the U.S. leaves it a foggy, concrete, communist country of the 1960s in my mind… and apparently it’s a nice place to take a vacation if your country lets you go. When I was trying to book a flight through London from Spain after the ash cloud canceled the direct Irish flight, the agents had to consider what country’s passport I held to know if the UK would let me through. It’s bizarre to me that you can’t just go somewhere.

In other news, my brother has jumped into the world of blogging and is posting his magazine articles as well. His writing appeals to a broader audience than my ranting (I realize you are only here to see me fall off a cliff like other tourists or to look at my dogs), so go on and visit at General Tomfoolery! Bookmarked in the sidebar as well. Also Arliss the cranky bunny has a new post up.

From a day touring a bit of County Tipperary (and a smidge of Co. Waterford) with my stranded guest, Carlton, a few weeks ago, I give you a lot-easier-to-upload gallery of pictures:

The first four pics are from Cahir Castle, built in 1142, including a view of the town and some from inside the castle.

The next six pics are from the Rock of Cashel, which had earlier structures but most of the remaining ones are from the 12th and 13th centuries. Despite the scaffolding, this is a fascinating place and very well preserved/restored in many parts. The tour guide was quite good and the soaring walls and fresco remnants (I think they’re still called frescoes in Ireland) are worth a visit. The view on a sunny day is pretty too.

The last picture is from the Vee Gap area of the Knockmealdown Mountains, but either volcanic ash or a general haze kept the view a little dull. Carlton and I went on a fuel quest right about then and fortunately the GPS found us some just in time.

This just in: David has just arrived! Our company driver picked him up at Shannon. I hope he isn’t mad that I didn’t get up at 3 a.m. to go get him and have to take a day off work! I will see him at lunch. He claimed his steak on the plane (good old business class!) was better than any he’d had at home and he felt sorry when he saw the folks in “steerage” when he got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I pointed out we will be back in steerage soon enough, but this year we get to enjoy horizontal plane sleeping.

His account of the arrival at the house:

*going to the door*
Dogs: Who the F*** is thatOH it’s YOU!!!
*commence Velcro/shadow dogs and a lot of Walter jumping*

Gougane Barra

The dogs are settling in, but they’re still not, uh, pooping quite right, and Walter doesn’t like his new food (I had to feed him on a spoon and add ketchup tonight!), and Casper is only halfway through a massive grooming project. They saw a vet in Cork on Saturday and she was from Michigan! Unfortunately, Casper’s creatinine is up. Hopefully it’s just due to stress and dehydration from the travel and new home. At least the American vet was cool with selling me a bag of fluids so I can administer them at home if needed; I’ve heard that European vets don’t really let people do sub-cutaneous fluids at home, and indeed there wasn’t a charge listed in their computer system for the supplies. My shipping company was pretty firm that I couldn’t bring the supplies from home.

I’m sure the dogs will be happy to see David in a few days. Meanwhile, I took Walter for a visit at Gougane Barra Forest Park yesterday, where he really wanted to chase some sheep and he practiced his mountain goat skills.

First we stopped in Inchigeelagh, primarily because it had a funny-sounding name. I also took pictures of this weird building over the river.

There is a church on a little island at Gougane Barra. No dogs allowed, but that’s ok because we had some trails to hike.

Stray sheep! They were not fond of Walter.

On the way home, we saw this huge bull. Walter observed with interest from inside the car.

I have to admit, the road over the bridge really was narrow and shaped like this!

We came upon Carriganass Castle on the way home.

Walter has been sound asleep since we got home yesterday. I can barely get him to come eat or go outside. I guess I wore him out!

Some words that sound funny here:
Adidas (oddy-doss)
fungi (fun-ghee)
vitamin (vitt-uh-min)
fillet (fill-itt)

About time

Once the airline lost the dogs’ paperwork again Sunday, I was getting really upset. I got the people in California working on it again but pretty much stayed home all day to be near the phone. All they were able to confirm is that the airline had no idea where it went and the pet movers would start all over again, which would take a couple days. My vet in Indiana started doing her part on Monday and she was getting pretty annoyed too.

When I got home from work Monday evening, I got a phone call that the papers had turned up! (The second round; originals that went with the dogs never appeared. They had spent four days in the vet office in those little sick bay type cages and they should have only been there an hour or less.) It was about 6:30 and the courier said he’d arrive around midnight, and it was closer to one in the morning when he got to the house, but I was glad to see the dogs no matter the time. Walter whined incredibly loudly from the van when he heard my voice, and Casper was just shaky, but it was a happy reunion in the back yard. I got them calmed enough to send the guy on his way and spent the next hour trying to get them settled a bit. Walter was wiggly and excited and loved exploring the yard, and seemed to be pretty much himself in about ten minutes. Poor Casper drank and drank and drank water and was nervous and went to the bathroom a lot when she wasn’t hovering with me. She had rubbed the top of her snout red and raw on the crate door. I left the door to the yard open for an hour so they could go in and out and get used to things without peeing in the house, which seemed to work ok!

I had to get to bed and they slept pretty soundly (Walter on top of me and Casper snoring in the corner). I came home at lunch on Tuesday to make sure all was well. After work, Walter decided to pee in the bedroom, so I was glad I had closed off all the carpeted rooms when I wasn’t home! He and I walked into town to get carpet cleaner and he was pretty good tied up outside the grocery store. There’s even a little ring mounted low on the wall to hitch yer dog.

Casper wouldn’t let me sleep this morning but of course now she’s snoring again. I’m off to work and hope they will nap all day! I’m jealous.

In their new yard

Walter has to check out the previous dog’s door to the shed

Casper found something to eat around here (and would you believe that parsley!)

London, last day

The dog situation still is not resolved. I’m trying to keep my mind off of it; recreated paperwork did not arrive today as expected. The !@#$ airline has no idea where the papers went after they left San Francisco. If we have to recreate it all again, it will be Wednesday before I see them. :'(

So, I will try to replay the last day in London:

Nicole and I made our semi-lazy way back into the city with another toasted cheese sandwich and our bags, which we were able to leave at the train station instead of lugging them around London. We found another vegetarian restaurant for lunch, Mildred’s:

We saw these shirts and I felt I had to take a picture of Arnold for my brother.

Then we wandered a bit and lounged at Piccadilly Circus with a drink.

Nicole’s flight was much earlier than mine, so we said our goodbyes at the train station and I went on to explore a few more hours. I went back near Buckingham and checked out Hyde Park, which has a boating pond, restaurants, cycling paths, several statues and memorials, and a whole lot of people enjoying the spring weather.

Achilles statue

Queen Elizabeth gates

North of Hyde Park is the Marble Arch (more pics at Flickr), and then this statue for which I couldn’t really find a lot of information. Hard to miss, though.

I managed to lose my subway card so I got another one and went up to Regent’s Park, where I had ice cream and wandered through the water fowl protected areas; apparently there’s a zoo and other things to do at the park as well, but my time was running short to explore much. After enjoying the spring flowers, I found myself in front of 221 Baker Street, and the Underground Station there, which took me back to get my bag at a different station, has little Sherlock Holmeses on the subway tiles.

So while I spent all afternoon in the nice outdoors, pictures of the park start to look the same, and I’ll end there. We had known the subway line back to the airport was closed for maintenance, so it took me something like two hours on other lines and buses to get to Heathrow, where my plane left early (and almost without me!). Who ever heard of a plane leaving early? Meanwhile Nicole’s flight had been delayed for hours and she was probably still there too! I made it to Cork in an hour and had Sunday to myself. And I discovered I lost my sunglasses too.

A couple pictures from near home:

Ringcurran Church is apparently not in use anymore, except perhaps a couple times per year

Scilly Walk takes a high path along the harbor, where two ruined forts are visible

Dog disaster

There could be worse disasters, but right now the dogs are in Dublin and someone lost all their paperwork during their flights. Due to flight delays and the ash cloud which keeps affecting Ireland airspace, they were in transit almost 36 hours. Now I can’t even visit them until their paperwork clears, and it has to be original paperwork. I’m glad they are in a vet facility but they have no info or records on them at all.

My vet in Indiana has already overnighted new paperwork to my pet moving company in California, who will take it to the USDA to be re-endorsed, and then take it to the airline office to have it sent over directly, but at best that will be tomorrow. It seems the likelihood of paperwork loss is high again in that scenario.

I am very upset.

David sent this picture of them last week