Archive for December, 2008

December 30, 2008

My wrist hurts like a shopper caught in a post-Christmas gift-returning crush, or an unwilling new year party partygoer. Or like it’s been twisted to an angle it usually shouldn’t be at by a football.

Just back from soccer at the cage and a very fruitful trip of going to town and not playing LAN. Not that fruitful if I aimed to not see people crowding in final LAN sessions of the year. Everywhere.

Yeah, I’m pretty incoherent now. And typing predominantly with my left hand. Which goes to prove there’s always a bright side. Go ambidexterity training!


December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone! And a blessed 2009!

Now, who wants to lend me The Joshua Tree?

December 24, 2008

I’m sitting here staring
At a long ride home
Typing and not caring
That I’m here alone

I’m here and just waiting
To get me a drink
Typing and just trying
To sleep and not think

(Adjusting to time differences isn’t fun)

And now, we resume our regularly scheduled (yet irregularly updated) programming.

My previous post was, if I’m not wrong, after getting back from Avenue Q. Which leaves two days to blog about (three, considering that this will only get posted after arriving in Singapore. Fortunate then that the flight hasn’t been delayed.) (strangeness with tense: apologies. Blogging in the present about the past for publication in the future: odd)

Avenue Q. That was good. Funny, politically incorrect, adult, lewd, and obscene, still managing commentary on its themes. Wait, I’ve said that. So, Avenue Q… walked Leicester and Covent Garden…back home to sleep… wake up.

Slept in the next day if I’m not wrong. Crap I am wrong. And I need to stop relying on “If I’m not wrong” as a crutch. After Avenue Q was Sunday, so no sleeping in. Waking early to cycle four miles to church instead. At least we didn’t walk/jog/run. My observations all point to my brother’s church (All Souls) being an Anglican church. Replete with organist, violinist, cellist, flutist, pianist, hornist, and conductor. Grand, old building, grand old traditions as well. It was certainly different, especially in the songs they sing and the manner in which they have corporate prayer. The choice of songs evoke a greater reverence and awe of God, worshipping him for who He is, and not because of how we feel. Their manner of corporate prayer, where the minister/leader prays and the congregation finishes with an “amen” is, in my humble opinion, indicative of a greater tradition of officialdom and rigid hierarchy, where members are less responsible for their faith, and church leaders more so.

Following church was, of course, the most likely event that proceeds church. Lunch. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Lunch in Chinatown constituting “beef in black bean sauce with green peppers and onions on rice” and “crispy noodles with watery egg sauce on triple roast”, with my brother and friend Wesley (whose name evokes the hero of “The Princess Bride” every time I hear it. Apologies to you Wesley, if you ever read this and are offended. You are a very nice person)

Post-lunch activity: shop at Lillywhites—the sports and apparel store with year round up to 70% discount sales. Marketing gimmick it may be, but 70% off £29.99 Pierre Cardin shirts is most satisfying. Wanted to get Karrimor shoes at £20 but decided against it.

Purchases made, we proceeded home, rested for awhile, and then cycled to the Emirates Stadium. Tickets for an Arsenal v Liverpool match are going to be sold out at least two months before the match, and resellers would probably charge two hundred quid apiece. And one would probably need to have contacts. Which we most certainly did not. Although walking around the stadium on a huge match day is rather an experience.

But there’s always another kind of experience you can get in England. Namely, standing in a pub watching football, next to a drunk, vulgar (to the extreme) Arsenal fan. Who becomes so predictable it’s funny. Examples:

Referee appears on the TV
Fat fan, beer in hand: Wanker!

Gerrad appears on the TV
Fat fan, beer in hand: Cheat! Cheat!

Robbie Keane appears on the TV
Fat fan, beer in hand: Wanker!

Suddenly out of nowhere
Fat fan, beer in hand: And **** that fatboy Frank Lampard as well!

I won’t be going into more details about the match here, for the sake of brevity and my (very few) readers. On then, to the next activity. Christmastime dinner at another of my brother’s friend’s houses. In the East Side, south of the river, 11km from Highbury. Or was that eleven miles?

Note to self: asparagus wrapped in ham, a Portobello mushroom with cheese, some mash, a little pasta, the tiniest hunk of roast beef and a few slices of roast chicken can make one inordinately full. Or perhaps it was the Ferreo Rocher, Ben and Jerry’s, and the cheese and butter cookies. Because there’s nothing better than chasing a Christmas dinner down with ice cream, cookies, chocolate, and a four hour discussion on extravagance, ideals, propriety in worship (I think), and who knows what else. Slept over, at 2am.

Monday (how totally unoriginal and uninspired a subheading)\

Woke up in a bed not my own. Check.
Eat breakfast in a house when the owner’s out. Check
Discover bicycle tyre is flat. Check
Push bicycle 2-3 km to a gas station. Check
Reinflate tyre and cycle to Westminster. Check

Discover there’s an entrance fee to Westminster Abbey and decide to not come back at evensong because it would be a waste of time to go for a service and sit when the primary aim is to sightsee. Check.

That pretty much sums up Monday. Except for the sushi buffet for dinner. But it wasn’t worth much mention. Oh right, packing. Wait, what? Packing is worth more mention then a sushi buffet? It most certainly is not. So I won’t even mention it at all. Strikethrough all mention of packing.

And, since waking up, I’ve taken the Tube to Heathrow (the first time on public transport in two weeks. Propulsion not dependent on muscle power for the first time in two weeks, discounting aircraft. I’m not sure what I’m trying to illustrate; it’s probably my incredulity that it took that long to get a ride on the Tube. And at how expensive it is)

Airport, check in, luggage check, passport control, machine scanning of shoes, walking through shops to before realising that I’m cutting it close, getting into the enormous queue at the gate. Old hat. Except for the SHOE SCANNING. Past the perplexing scans, we get to the aircraft. Namely, the one I’m in. The one I’m blogging in as I wait for the lunch I will eat before proceeding to sleep in an attempt to maintain sanity and preserve time for gift preparations and card writing after I arrive in Singapore.

~Pause for sitting in aircraft with nothing to blog about~

Posted at home, 9.52am, 24/12/2008 Intended to post at changi, but forgot. Heh.

December 19, 2008

Alright, instead of overly elaborate excuses and apologies—

(fill this space with an admission of laziness to write 400 word posts every day, and thus resorting to posting once every couple of days)

By my reckoning, I’ve spent (including today) three days tourist-ing London. The first couple of days don’t count, then there was the four days in Ireland. Wednesday’s covered in the previous post. So, begin with Thursday’s exploits is something I will do. Here. Now.

I did mention our plans to visit the Tower of London, Tate museums, the Thames, and Tower Bridge, yes? Being a lazy bum, thursday morning was a wasted. Accomplishment of the morning: looking for discounts and deciding to save money by not going on the London Eye.

Following lunch, we cycled to the Tower of London. Which, surprisingly enough, isn’t just a tower. It’s got two rings of walls, thirteen stone towers archers can shoot out of, a formerly typhoid-carrying moat (now grass) and fortified just about everything. In other words, military waving-my-wang-in-your face, or what the British would consider for a royal residence.

Oh, and the Crown Jewels are kept in the Tower (Castle) of London as well. Won’t go in to too much detail here; suffice to say, the Tower was interesting, much.

Right, Tower of London. Done. Next, Tower Bridge. Skip, because it’s not worth £3 just to go up. Admiring it like a boxing match (from afar) is rather enough. Okay, so, no Tower Bridge. St Paul’s Cathedral, biggest in the world after St Peter’s basilica, then. Except, that you have to pay to tour the Cathedral, and if you go in for free during times of worship, you can’t really walk around and all that. Unless you want to piss off quite a few Anglicans. So, short walk around the outside and a little bit of the inside then. By which time it’s dark. As dark as the darkest night of 4 o’clock wintertime London. (Not to say that the Cathedral isn’t beautiful. It’s magnificent. But magnificent buildings can only be admired for this long by a layperson like myself. A length of time between how long a painting could hold me and the duration an exhibit at the science museum interests me)

So, what do you follow a thirteen-and-a-half century old cathedral up with other than the Millennium Bridge eh? Which offers a scintillating view of the Cathedral framed between other buildings when one crosses it. Crossing, we visited the Tate Modern for a little while. It really is a pity I have no eye for art (nor ear for music, but that’s for another time). Especially modern or contemporary art.

So, Castle, Cathedral, Museum already. What’s next? the Thames of course. Walked along the banks, through the Christmas markets, past the London Eye (you decide, does it add to or ruin the skyline and the countless beautiful ancient buildings in London?), and on towards Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Trafalgar Square.

So, Parliament looks even better for real than a thousand James Bond films put together could make it seem. It’s just so surreal to be seeing it in the flesh stone, to feel the history, even from across the Thames. Too bad then that Parliament’s closed (most likely, for Christmas), and there weren’t, and won’t be any tours. Westminster Abbey was closed by the time we got there, so I intend another visit. Soon. Trafalgar Square has a 30-metre high memorial dedicated to Admiral Nelson. Wow.

Oh, and I met my brother’s Indian landlady for the first time. She was quite nice. I think.

And now, for today. Woke up and got moving earlier today, in order to purchase best remaining seats for £20 for Avenue Q (more about that later). See, how it works is that on the day of the musical, any unbooked seats are sold to students for the low low price of £20. So we got stall seats usually costing some £60 for cheap. Excellent. From Leicester Square, we proceeded to a street market recommended by my brother’s Indian landlady to take a looksee. It was varied and colourful, but we ended up buying nothing except for a £7.50 Gaiman book for me, and a £20 secondhand bicycle for my brother. Which he then proceeded to tow for some 5(?) miles.

The original plan was to go do more sightseeing in the afternoon, before catching an early dinner and heading off to the theatre. Foiled by an additional bicycle, we made our way home to eat home-cooked-baked-rice-with-butter-cheese-leftover-roast-chicken-and-spices. Did I mention it was some two cups of rice? For two people? (Well, we didn’t actually eat all of it. We had four “servings” each, and left one. So that’s 8/9ths of a cup of rice and a quarter block of butter each. Yaymmmm fats!)

Ate dinner, lazed around. Finished the £1.98 tub of Ben & Jerry’s (with Bailey’s Irish Cream). Cycled back to Leicester Square for Avenue Q. And boy, was it great.

It wasn’t side-split tingly funny, though it was definitely very, very funny. Might have been uproariously funny with different company though. (Not that I’m suggesting anything. Other than that the RI boys I know would be very tickled by Avenue Q’s humour. And lewdness).

If you let it, Avenue Q also touches the heart. And provokes some very thought provoking questions. While still entertaining with lewd, sometimes slapstick humour and also with wit, the purpose of showcasing the drudgery of purposesless life is more than accomplished. Kudos to the excellent cast (well, they’ve done it for nearly three years). The music and songs are inspired, crude, lewd, provocative, and yet still funny and charming. All in all, brava!

After leaving the theatre, we walked the West End, Leicester Square, and Piccadilly for some time, soaking in the London weekend night vibe. Pretty happening if you ask me. Although London is so big and such a melting pot that there are bound to be jackasses sometimes. Anyway, we walked around just soaking up the vibe (there was a mini Christmas carnival), and then cycled back at midnight.

And now, I’m posting this at it approaches two. Intend to do some souvenir shopping, see Westminster Abbey, and visit the Emirates Stadium. Too bad Arsenal v Liverpool tickets for Sunday are all sold out, and scalpers will probably be selling them at 300 quid apiece. We’ll see. Cheers!

December 17, 2008

Nuts! Chocolate covered Brazil nuts! Had some of those in Ireland, and they weren’t half bad too.

Nuts! I’m getting lazy to post as well. Failing to live up to daily updates—

Got back from Ireland late yesterday, was a little tired to blog. We’ll get to that in just a moment. Most of yesterday was spent in Galway, or commuting.

Galway was… good, in its own manner. It has all the trappings of a large city: Big streets, shopping areas, high end joints, ice rink, river, swans, bayside promenade, ancient catholic churches…

…oh, right, elaboration.

Not much to say actually. In all seriousness, it wasn’t worth very much mention. (Or, I’m just lazy to recollect and write.) Morning wanderings in the pedestrian-only shopping areas, picking up a few souvenirs, sightseeing along the bay, visiting tourist attractions and the sort, (churches, swans, and the ice rink). Had lunch at a (supposedly famous) chippy, with some three days worth of oil and two days of sodium. Washed it down with even more gallivanting around town.

Before catching the 4 o’clock bus, copious amounts of free food was obtained from local fast food outlet, via a convoluted reward/everyone’s a winner promotion by said fast food chain, and retrieval of discarded drinks cups bearing redemption promises by yours truly and brother.
In Other Words:
Promotion+Thick Skin+Taking Trash=Free Food=Made Day

Two hour bus journey and three hour transit through airport, aircraft, and airport again finally bring us back to England, still without any Bailey’s except whatever was in the cheesecake from the previous dinner. Back at no-visibility Stanstead airport, sans Baileys, and almost without souvenirs. Blame the only store in all of Shannon airport departure hall being closed for stock-taking.

And now, that thing about being too tired to blog yesterday. The new theory regarding the awful bad luck and ruined transport has been revised. The universe is conspiring to keep me away from cycling. Or, at the very least, trying to. The bicycle (chained next to the bus stop four days ago, before we took the bus to the airport, yes?) tyre was flat. Flat and soft, and most definitely unusable. Wow. How many other things are flat and soft? Lucky me. SO, one hour of pushing bikes brings us home, which I still haven’t arrived at before midnight.

~And now, for something completely different~

That is, a day without absurdly bad luck or messed up transport. Scrounged up something to eat in the morning (read, before noon) before going out in the afternoon. Spinach, eggs, toast, garlic bread don’t sound too bad, right?

Oh, lady luck actually smiled on us today. Turns out the bike tyre was flat, but not punctured. So, repumped, and good to go. (Bloody punks vandalising property and letting air out of tyres.) We cycled to the Natural History Museum, which happens to be next to the Science Museum. And so, in we went.

London is bleeding excellent. Free entry to all the museums and whatnot. Singapore institutions are so terribly cash-strapped. And aren’t good or important enough to get patronage or enough visitors to be sustained on contributions. So, today was a lovely time in the Science and Natural History Museums. Would rather have spent more time in the Science Museum and less in the other one though. How interesting can rocks (and stuffed animals) get, compared to the length and breadth of human ingenuity?

We left the museums after dark, spent a little time at the Christmas market in Hyde Park, to take a look at the overpriced rides and food. Mmmmmm, delicious food. Which we had. Not to say the food at Hyde Park. Although it was delecious. We had delicious food. At a Chinese restaurant nearby which does excellent roast duck. Half a roast duck, deep fried squid with salt and chilli, and pi pa dou fu, and lots of rice. Making up for the last few days in Ireland, eh?

I won’t detail the cycle back from Dinner, except to say that Oxford Street (it’s the main shopping district) isn’t really very impressive. Orchard road matches up methinks. Suffice to say, traffic would cause spontaneous combustion to occur in a number of drivers, should car breakdowns occur on Oxord Steet.

And, that pretty much sums up the last couple of days. Going to the Tate(s), Tower of London, Thames, Tower Bridge(?), and that general area tomorrow. Hope for nothing to break down for me. Cheers!

December 15, 2008

Date: Monday, December 15th, 2008
Location: Inis Mór, Republic of Ireland + Galway, Republic of Ireland
Weather: Bloody miserable

Oh, nuts. I forgot to blog about yesterday’s dinner. And, as my dear brother so kindly put it, the “psychopath” at the hostel. Dinner was just pasta we made ourselves with stuff bought at the supermarket in Galway. The psychopath (henceforth known as Peter, because that is his name) was a ukulele playing man, with his (most likely) wife in tow. And resembles, as my dear brother observed, “Peter from Family Guy”, because of his coarsity of language, skills with a musical instrument, coarsity of language towards spouse, and general inconsideration. I hope I didn’t get that wrong (forgive me. At least I haven’t used quote marks). So, this fellow’s steak requires a rather lot of butter. And the all the gas stoves on to keep himself (and the kitchen) warm. The end result being a very smokey kitchen, a lingering buttery smell (even till the next day), and stoves that cease to be functioning the following day.

We also met a rather nice Irish lady at the hostel. But, more about her later. Because, the weather is actually a conversation topic in these parts of the world where it’s woeful.

The weather yesterday was rather pleasant actually. No rain or hail, quite a bit of sun, few clouds. Can’t say the same about today. Think about a cloudless day. Blue skies as far as the eye can see. The sun hanging in the air like a massive golden orb in a majestic ballroom. Today was pretty much nothing like that. Add a bone-chilling wind, stinging sheets of rain, and biting cold to the grey shroud in every direction and you get a rough approximation of the weather.

The original plan being to cycle, we walked the mile or so back to town, to greet resolutely shut bike shops. Actually, to greet resolutely shut everything. For the rest of the day. Either the Aran islands are really laid back for a tourist economy, or they figure nobody’s mad enough to venture out in weather like today’s. As we proceeded to walk the 7 or so kilometres to the foot of Dún Aengus (Fort of Aengus, the ruins of an ancient hillfort on a cliff, off which people have been blown by the wind to their deaths) and then to climb up, we met that nice Irish lady I was talking about. And spent the rest of our time on the island with her.

Holidaying in hostels and going out hiking is really fun, if you chance upon fun, interesting and sociable people. (Unfortunately, I don’t fit the bill). Good thing Arran Murphy fits that bill then. She’s a part time clothing designer, and part time musician in the band Dark Room Notes (MySpace here), an Irish alternative/electronica band who’s travelled around some. Good company, yes, most certainly.

We climbed Dún Aengus, and it was worth it, despite the wind, rain, cold, wet in the shoes and the gloves, and all that other weather related nonsense. Worth it to be the only ones atop a desolate windswept cliff, well aware of it’s history in excess of 4000 years, admiring the ingenuity and tenacity of the land’s ancient peoples, and to be braving the same rains and winds they braved. Worth it to stand five feet from the cliff edge, and to feel the tug of a stray gust. To be able to see the wind—dashing itself against the sheer cliff surface, throwing spray upwards in gravity-defying, mind-boggling sheets. And to observe in awe the tremendous power of the waves pounding the rock, ponderously backwashing, and meeting the next one, churning the water into a vicious, yet awe-inspiring froth.

Having braved Dún Aengus, we treated ourselves to lunch at a place at the foot of the path up, and made our way back to the hostel. (And because it’s getting late, the rest of this post will be brief). Followed it up with a walk to town, sat in the pub for a short while as Arran had a pint of Guinness, and caught the ferry and bus (1.74 hours) back to Galway. All with feet not differing not too much from blocks of ice. We treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant somewhere near the quay (Bailey’s cheesecake for dessert, and it actually had Bailey’s, unlike some jam sold in some jam shops in County Clare). Made our way to the hostel, took a good warm shower, and ended up here, blogging. Aaaaaand, done.

December 15, 2008

Right, didn’t blog yesterday because of the awful hostel we stayed the night at charging €2.50 for half an hour of internet usage.

Anyhoo, it’s not too much of a problem eh? (mutter: and not that much happened over yesterday and today anyway)

Chronological order then:
Sunday December 14: Morning begun after sleeping for some 12 hours or so. (Don’t look at me like that. [indignation] the sun sets early!)

Right, so usual morning routine; freshening up, shower, huge breakfast with smoked salmon, frozen fish fillets, toast, jam, sausages, and tea. Blahblahblah. The humongous breakfast not requiring enough time, the decision is made to cycle to the cliffs of Moher again. Well, the route we take is slightly shorter and more scenic, but uphill most of the way anyway (well, that’s probably because they’re cliffs. And 800 feet high) So, more uphill cycling later, and we come to the gorgeous cliffs. On a day with marginally better weather (read, more sunlight, less clouds). There is a spot from near the cliffs which overlooks the bay and the village on the shore, and yesterday, the sun was hanging right over the bay, (like that Shakespearean golden eye) and the bay itself, wow. A pool of golden, blinding but still alluring light. A pool of molten gold the size of rather a few golf courses. The description is hardly adequate, but the lighting made it impossible to get a goof photograph. Enough said then, that I literally said “wow” when I saw it.

We didn’t actually spend that long at the cliffs. The weather was pleasant, the view good, but we were short on time, and, well, we were after all, there, just, the day before. Excessive and unnecessary comma usage behind us now, (I truly and sincerely believe that’s how street trash Americans sounds like, except, that, like, they add, like, the word “like” almost every, like, three words as well) Excessive and unnecessary tirade aside, we now continue with our regularly scheduled programming. That is, blogging about the nice, uneventful, not-tiring, altogether enjoyable bicycle ride down the hills back towards Doolin to return the bikes.

Remember that other post when I mentioned the jinx on transport except bicycles? Does a tyre puncture count as accursed bad luck? At least it occur ed on the second day. And near Doolin. At the top of the hills back towards Doolin. And that my brother can be nice sometimes.

As for the rest of yesterday, it isn’t worth much mention. Two hour bus rides where an Irish couple can play the hand-slapping game for at least a half hour straight (probably more than that) aren’t worth mention, yes?

Oh, sorry about that. There was something else yesterday that is worth mention. The ferry trip to the Aran Islands (more specifically, Inis Mór, the largest of the islands) conjured such beautiful words to my mind. I do hope you’ll agree with me. Because that ferry trip across 9 miles of Atlantic ocean after sundown, with windows the colour of tar (excuse me for forgoing the more common simile of black pitch), was akin to a mother’s gentle cradle, rocking in a faintly circular motion, a comfort from the terrors of the dark outside. A soothing motion, not quite regular, but comforting all the same. Until the Big One comes. Up, up, up it goes, and the slightest hint of inertia tugging you into the seat, but before it happens it’s down, down, down, and the weightlessness comes, seemingly for ever, but then it’s over almost before it begins. And, far from being discomforting, it brings an anticipation for the adventure of the next. For what wave and what wind can terrify, if the worst has already come and gone? Soon, the swells and the valleys mean nothing at all, and every one, big or small, fades into just one more rock of the cradle, until, all that is left is the gentle oblivion of a slumber bred of exhaustion.

We planned on walking the mile to the hostel, but were fortunate enough to hitch-hike half the distance there. Thank you friendly Irish lady and husband! Considering the already considerable length of this post, I’ll blog about the terrible hostel in the next post. Which would be centered on today’s events. Which I’ll begin writing in about 30 seconds time. Which I’m separating from this post for ease of reading and continuity’s sake. Yep, this is all for this post. So, that’s it then. Goodbye. See ya. Bye. Yes, really. Bye.

December 14, 2008

More greetings from the Emerald Isle! and now I know why it’s so named

(this post was meant for last night, but I lay on the bed an conked out in about 4 seconds, so, manifold apologies)
Yesterday generally involved traversing County Clare via personal locomotion (read, walking and cycling). And it turns out Ireland is covered with hills. That aside, let me regale you with yesterday’s journeys.

Leaving the hostel when it was still dark (before 8.30am), we walked the 6km from Lisdoonvarna to Doolin in a leisurely hour and a half. Gorgeous sunrise, rolling green plains that go on forever, bubbling brooks, grazing cattle, horses and sheep. Words, and even pictures don’t do it justice, but I’ll do my best (and post photographs on facebook when I get back).

spectacular. from some vantage points, they don’t appear to be much, until you remember they tower in excess of 200m. Which dwarfs nearly every building in Singapore. Standing near the cliff edge, one can just about make out the white specks of seagulls on the cliff surface, tiny against the enormous cliff face. Looking down, the waves crashing along the shore appear to trundle along at an agonisingly slow pace, although they’re not doubt racing at a bone-crushing speed. Then it hits that the cliffs are so astoundingly high that the crashing of those ginormous waves is inaudible atop the cliffs. Again, I can’t possibly do it justice here. nor can I do justice the the Renting bikes at Doolin, we cycled another 6km uphill to the cliffs of Moher. Which are awe-inspiringlymyriad other sights along the Irish countryside and the Burren; rolling green plains, quaint little hamlets visible in the distance, picture-perfect with plumes of smoke rising from chimneys. And of course, the amzing coastline.

I’m sorry that I can’t keep going on about the sights, but I’m short of time, and it would be just more of what I’ve already rambled on about. Photographs will come later. Just one last thing. I still haven’t decided if the strneous cycling across the hilly terrain was worth the sights yet. Although I wasn’t looking around much at the end. Fortunate then that we made it back before dark =)

December 12, 2008

Right, sorry about that post cut off halfway yesterday. Fell asleep lying on the bed. Brother was watching Wanted (which, coincidentally enough, a review of can be found in the archives of this blog)

This journey; making me feel like I’ve been cursed. Woke up at 4am to catch the bus to Stanstead airport. Cycled to the bus stop, and the bus comes 15 minutes after it’s scheduled time. No problem.

Stanstead airport: Deja Vu extraordinaire.

The gate opens for boarding 20 minutes late. Reason? Waiting for cabin crew to be available from the previous flight they were working on. Still no worries. Get on the plane. Sit around for an interminable wait. Again, still not a problem. Finally taxi to the runway. Pilot decides it’s a great time to notice a problem with the weather radar. Taxi back to the gate. In short, half the day spent inside a cramped Boeing 737 squeezed into a 3,3 configuration. (I kid you not. 4 hours might as well be half the day when the airport is smothered in fog in winter, when the sun sets at four in the afternoon). We arrive at Shannon airport ridiculously late, in light rain.

(Well, a four hour delay is an improvement from the six hour delay on SIA. Percentage wise, it doesn’t fare that well, with a 50% (of journey time) delay compared to a 250% one. And service wise, well, let’s not go there shall we? Just leave it that I’m glad we brought some snacks on the plane, and how I now know the devious methods in which budget airlines like RyanAir make turn a profit [selling food to starving passengers they’ve imprisoned for hours; fortunate then that my brother’s principles of thrift(?) are stronger then the combined strength of our hunger])

Right, back to Shannon airport and the light rain. The kind of light rain that doesn’t stay for long. Oh, the rain part stays, the light part tends to vanish. And come back. It kind of takes turns working shifts with the heavy. Well, at least it’s the first day in the whole holiday it’s rained. And just when my shoes decided to start doing the worn-out-leather-at-the-front-so-that-water-goes-in-really-easily thing.

Catching the bus from Shannon airport to Ennis two seconds after clearing immigration did us the most kind favour of not having to spend a moment longer in the warm, sheltered, and dry airport, letting us get into a warm, sheltered, and dry bus taking us to a colder-but-not-as-cold-as-London, open, and wet town (Ennis, apparently the largest urban area in the county). So, with the rain providing a constant cadence (as well as fun games involving raindrops, puddles, old shoes and wet socks), we wandered single-lane-roads Ennis, popping into various shops selling assorted paraphernalia (Sports clothing, books, sweets, chocolate, you get the idea I hope) Okay, perhaps it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be (wasn’t that cold after all); the shops were pretty nice, and Ireland is full of friendly people. The Clare County Museum was interesting too. But would still have been much more preferable without the rain, ya? At least the four hour delay saved us from enduring the rain for another 4 hours.

Right O! On to even more travel nightmares. How about an hour delay on the bus meant to take us to Lisdoonvarana (where we’re staying the night) at 6:20? Please try and remember that it’s already dark by six. And getting colder. And that Lisdoonvarna is the kind of place where the shops close at 5. So, uncomfortably damp shoes/socks and an hour bus journey later, we get to Lisdoonvarna sometime past eight, and check into the (really posh) SleepZone hostel. (Note, my brother now thinks I’m a jinx on all transport (bicycles aside, so far). But really, what were the odds of all those delays, especially the aircraft ones? (Seriously, an antenna? Never fly RyanAir again))

Now, bear with me a bit, and let me tell you about this hostel we’re boarding at for a couple of nights. Converted from a former hotel, it is outrageously spanking posh. And the receptionist is really nice. There’s a dining room, a bar, a drawing room, and huge, very warm looking beds. And best of all, it’s almost empty, giving a quaint, peaceful feel. plus the internet access with which I’m posting this. And it’s ten euros a night per person. Which is less than the rent my brother is paying for his room in London

So, after checking in, we make our way to the only place in town that sells food after dark. Chinese restaurant. (So, only the Chinese care to work?) Eat in prices are 40% higher than takeaway, so you know the obvious choice, no? Although I do pity the owner’s daughter. They’re most likely the only Asians in the whole town, so let’s hope 800 years under the English have mellowed the Irish some, yes?

Dinner was 8 euro spring onion beef, 7.50 euro General Tsao’s chicken, and two of the four oranges we bought in Ennis earlier. And now, I’m sitting here typing this post for you to read. Here’s hoping it makes up for the dropping to the bed like a pacific island stone head in the middle of a blog post yesterday, eh?

December 12, 2008

Will probably not be posting the next few days. Due to, you know, being in Ireland and all that. Unless the hostels have free computers and internet connections