Monthly Archives: August 2017

Stoop Your Head and Pick Up Your Money

When last we wrote it was about being rejected and scolded. Much has happened since and all of it good.

On Friday evening we went to “Stoop You Head” for dinner with friends and family of Lynne and Martin. Stoop Your Head is a restaurant/bar which specializes in seafood. They don’t take reservations but suggested that if we came for 5pm, it shouldn’t be a problem seating the 10 of us, and it wasn’t. The only problem was that we were to head off after dinner to The Gladstone Pub where music would be playing – starting at 10pm. Now that’s a) a long time in between the two and b) much later than we are used to going out. Apparently, though, it is quite common for stuff to start at that time of the evening – who knew?

Skerries harbor on Friday evening – not a bad shot for a phone.

We had a lovely meal with a lot of laughter and conversation. The Irish certainly know how to have a great time. By the time we got to the bar our numbers were down to 8 and then others had to go so by 10pm there were just six of us. Music is played every second Friday and our Friday was supposed to be the off Friday. However Dermott, one of Lynne’s best friends – in fact best man at their wedding talked to a couple “of the lads” and they came along anyway. It was just fantastic – exactly as one would imagine an Irish pub to be like. We didn’t leave until just past 2:00 – an hour and a half after the bar closed. There were a lot of traditional Irish songs but also an awful lot that we knew. People just sat, sang, listened, chatted and drank. One of those magical nights.

There were three of them – the fellow in pink, the one with the guitar and the fellow on his left. It was very interesting to watch how they each sang a song or two and then just played while one of the others sang and so on. The one in pink is a professional musician and fairly well known from what I understand but he was just “one of the lads” on Friday. Eventually Dermott was convinced to sing and he joined is as well. He has a fabulous voice as well.

Dermott getting into it.

Saturday was a short day since none of us stirred until just after 11:00 and eventually it was off to Anne and Mal’s beautiful home for a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef, cabbage with bacon, parsnip/carrot puree and Irish potatoes. I want you all to know that I ate all the vegetables and they were fabulous. I might even ask Anne for the recipes – except that the cabbages likely came from the field next door and what we get might be have the same flavor. I’ll have to see.

Cabbage – just over the side fence

Anne and Mal live on an acre and have spent the last thirteen years working on their garden. It is spectacular. Both their home and the garden have been featured in Irish magazines.

Monty and Douglas rule the house – and the yard.

Anne tells Terry something which requires hand gestures

The cabbage is just over the fence with Lambay Island – home to wallabies in the distance.

What’s a garden without a water feature…

…or a Maori head for the Easter Islands

The English garden look

Who knew this is what a hazel tree looks like?

Monday we were off to the west coast. Westport is a beautiful town. It is clearly a tourist destination but even so it has a fantastic charm. I will write more about it later, but let me tell you how fantastic it is. We go into the Porter House pub for a pint before we go off to dinner – which is an incredible experience in itself. After dinner we go back to the Porter House for another pint or two and for the music – which is also great. The place is packed. Our host Andrew says “The barman wants to know if any of our group lost any money earlier.” I had looked in my pockets and thought I had – but then there was wine and Guinness involved so I wasn’t sure. Andrew says go up and tell the barman. I say I think I may have lost 200 Euros ($300.00). He turns around goes to the till and brings back my 200 Euros. How amazing – first that someone would have turned it in and then that he would have pursued it. Again – thank you to the barman at The Porter House and some other kind and honest soul!

The almost missing 200 Euros

And finally, to recap week one…

There are no words


Beyond the Pale

(Ed. note: I still have a trio of posts (The Safari, Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and African Tales) to write  but they will have to wait until our return from Ireland.)

Well here we are in Skerries, Ireland with good friends Lynne and Martin, two days into our Irish adventure. So far we have had too much to drink, a lengthy power outage, multiple rejections and a scolding. Gotta love the Irish.

Our home for the next few days. It is, apparently, very common to name your home in Ireland. Ours is Ithaca and we are one third of a house exchange. Skerries is Lynne’s hometown (18 miles northeast of Dublin) and Pat and Mary, who own this home, are staying for a couple of weeks at their place in Coquitlam and then going up to ours for a week. We’ll be here for a week then travelling with Lynne and Martin for a week and then two weeks on our own.


Our view

We had a 3 1/2 hour nap on Tuesday morning after arriving in Dublin at 7am. We then went for a walk around Skerries. In 2016 Skerries was named the tidiest town in Ireland and it is a very, very tidy town. Almost no litter on the streets (with the exception of the wrapper the elderly man across the street refused to pick up off the sidewalk, trying repeatedly instead to knock it onto the street with his cane).

Eventually we found our way to The Gladstone pub (one of 13 pubs in town) where Geoff had his first ever Guinness in a real Irish pub. (Ed. note. – not first ever Guinness, just first ever Guinness in a real Irish pub). The Gladstone dates back to 1865. My theory is that it had its name changed to honor English prime minister William Gladstone since he was in favor of and indeed proposed Irish home rule in 1886. Who knows – nobody there did.

First of five – yes FIVE -pints

While we were at the pub there was a thunder and lightning storm which caused the power to go out for a couple of hours. Nothing stops the Irish from enjoying their pints though. Candles of all sizes and types – short, tall, fat and tea appeared throughout the establishment – including the toilets. You haven’t lived till you enter a windowless restroom all lit up by tea lights.

Did you know that a pint of Guinness followed by a glass of wine and then 4 more pints of Guinness and then several more glasses of wine with dinner can help you sleep through the night?

Surprisingly, Wednesday had a slow start to the day. We eventually went for another walk around the Skerries’ harbor and came across Wally, a friend of theirs. He is in a group of about twenty people (The Skerries Frosties) who go for a swim every day of the year. Not a long one, but it is the Irish Sea – not known for its warm tides. In May 2016 Wally and a few other Frosties were swept away by a rip tide and had to be rescued by helicopter. Pretty sure you wouldn’t have found me going back in…

Wally is a hardy fellow…

It’s one thing to wear some kind of body covering suit, but to go in in just a pair of trunks – I wonder just how many Guinness it would take.

…and so are these intrepid souls.

A couple of years ago I was on a golfing trip to Ireland and we were staying quite near Skerries. Lynne suggested I visit it just to see the village. I went online and used Google Earth to get this screenshot and pretended that I had really been here. I certainly had Lynne fooled. It turned out that I had chosen a spot which was 4 houses away from Lynne’s childhood home and right next to their very good friends. What are the odds. Anyway the first “photo” was the screenshot and the second was the actual photo taken yesterday morning.

Shennick Island, off the coast of Skerries from Weldon’s Lane

In a town of just a few hundred at the time, the loss of these 6 men would have been quit significant.

After lunch it was off to Newgrange. Newgrange is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, Ireland, located about 30 minutes northwest of Skerries. It was built during the Neolithic period, around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The site consists of a large circular mound with an inner stone passageway and chambers. Human bones and possible grave goods or votive offerings were found in these chambers. Rejection #1 – We arrived around 1:30 only to be told the next tour was at 5:15 – we didn’t wait but did go through the visitor interpretation centre which had a small but life size replica of one of the passageways. Not sure Geoff could have gone through anyway, since the passageways were quite narrow and confined and he might have freaked out.

We did get a couple of good photos on the bridge to the bus park however.

Rejection #2 – Since we couldn’t get in there, we decided to go for a tour of Ardgillan Castle, one of Ireland’s hidden gems.

Ardgillan Castle

After a wee drink (No no – tea and coke) and pastry we were informed that the last tour had just started and that we were too late. Sigh… We did get to see the rose garden – would have been fantastic a few weeks before but they were mostly past their prime. Sigh, sigh…

A rose by any other name…

Not sure what caused this carnage but it was quite significant.

As we were leaving I heard this woman yelling at her little girl. The wee thing was having a quiet tantrum and was just sitting in the grass. “GET UP! This behavior is totally inappropriate. You have ruined the entire day for all of us!” A moment later she was up.

Clearly someone wasn’t having a great day.

As we started to back the car out of its parking spot, the woman, her two kids and another woman and her two kids (all friends) arrived behind us. We then sat for a minute or more while they did whatever they were doing, letting the four kids run around behind our car. Finally Martin gave a short toot on the horn and we were scolded with “A little patience wouldn’t go astray,” repeated several times. It has become our phrase of the week.

Now, the title of this post. The area of the Irish coast between Drogheda in the north and Bray in the south was once called The Pale. It was generally the domain of  the landed gentry. If you travelled outside its borders, into the land of the wild Irish, you were considered to be beyond the Pale.

The Pale

And thus endeth the lessons for today.


The Boma Part 2

Not an awful lot to write about here – just some photos courtesy of Cathy, Karen, Shannon and Cheryl.

A view of the roof from inside.

The light inside the home was not great. There was only one window and it was quite small.

The bed – clearly. The “blanket” was a tanned cow skin.

To the woman’s right is the fire where meals are cooked

The one window is about 15 inches by 12 inches.

I love this photo. Often times when you wanted to take a photo, even if they had agreed, the person would look away.

Inside wall under construction. I’m not sure what the piece of aluminum is but I doubt that it is an eave.

Finished inside wall with the jerry cans waiting to be filled

This was actually a very comfortable stool.

The inside of the bomb was very dusty. I can’t imagine living in it day after day.

The man on the right is the son of the Mama.

This is a “kikuyu” or gourd. It is a from a calabash plant and is used to keep goat milk cool for a couple of days.

And now some of the kids

This little girl was carrying the littler on all the time we were there.

They were fascinated by either the smoothness or the whiteness of the skin.

This was the “head” mama. I think that everyone here was related to her – sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandchildren.

Very cute kids

He was a happy little guy – always smiling and giving the big thumbs up.

I’m not sure what she was carrying on her back.

Grandma and a couple of the little ones

I’m not sure if this was a play house or served a more practical purpose but the kids seemed happy.

The Shoe Glove Blog

After an afternoon of smearing, all the gloves had to washed and dried in anticipation of their next activity.

All clean

Next post – Off On Safari.

Life in a Boma

(Ed. note: My sincere thanks to Shannon for the use of some of her photos for this post. It is much appreciated.)

Friday was a day of immersion into two aspects of the life of the Maasai on the African plain. The morning was the water walk and the afternoon was smearing.

We are very lucky to get water plumbed right to our house. In the community of Engutukoit it is piped from the mountains to a variety of places where there are central taps. These are often out in the middle of an area where the women (commonly referred to as the Mamas) go to several times each day to collect containers of water.

Water for all…

We were scheduled to collect water from this watering point to carry to one of the local bomas. When we arrived there were 8 or 9 Mamas just sitting there. Apparently the water had been turned off due to some problem or other and they were waiting for it to be turned on again. They can often wait for many hours.  I gather this is not an infrequent occurrence.

Burros are used to help transfer the jerry cans.

Waiting for the water to be turned on.

After some discussion and negotiation via telephone (It is strange to see cell phones being used out in the middle of Africa) we went up to the school and collected water from there. Since it takes about 4 minutes to fill one and we had 12 cans to fill it took almost an hour and then we had the walk. It would be a similar situation for the Mamas since they would have to wait their turn and then walk back and forth to the camp.

It takes about 4 minutes to fill one of these.

Once the cans are filled, they are strapped on to either the burros or the Mamas head/back. We had the opportunity to experience this daily task. As opposed to the women who do it alone, we were set up in pairs and switched off a couple of times on the way to the boma (community) which was approximately 1 kilometer away. I had a great partner – thanks Liz.

Liz – alway a happy woman – even with 20 liters of water strapped to her forehead.

Mark had much better posture than I did!

Each of the jerry cans had 20 litres of water weighing 20 kg. or 44 pounds (Ed. note: For those of you still in an imperial world). I can’t imagine doing this several times a day in order to have the necessary amount of water needed for cooking.

Scattered around the school grounds were more water cans. The kids would fill them on their way home each afternoon. They also served as p.e. equipment. (more on that later)

I have certainly seen photos of women around the world doing this, and saw many of them while on the roads in Arusha. Nevertheless it was a remarkable experience to actually do it, even if it was for a very short time.

After lunch it was time to go back to the boma to learn how to smear. A boma is a collection of homes in what could be defined as a compound. Within the compound there are also areas where the animals (goats, cattle) can be kept, I assume in the evenings. Both the compound and the “corral” are surrounded by branches of acacia trees. They serve to both keep wandering animals of any kind out and the wandering babies in.

This was the barrier around our camp. It is a much much smaller example of the one around and within the boma.

The opening into the boma. There are other acacia branches which are dragged into the opening in the evenings.

The homes in this boma are generally in good repair. I think there were 6 families living in a number of homes, but I’m not sure how many people there were.

A home in good repair.

Not all the buildings were in such good repair, however.

Needs a little work.

The homes are basically made of a mud mixture consisting of dirt, water and fresh dung. This mixture is worked together by hands and then smeared on the wall of the building. In rainy season this has to be done 3 or 4 times a week! When we were there in the morning many of us thought we would be applying – or smearing the mud on to a new residence.

This “skeleton” was waiting for us to apply the outer coating.

They use anything and everything to build a frame.

We were very wrong however. In retrospect perhaps they didn’t think we would be skilled enough to “build” a new home.

First you have to mix the compound.

Mixing mixing mixing

Yes, c’est moi mixing the dung! And no gagging. I was terrific at mixing.

Those are the hands of a mixer – okay the gloves of a mixer. While we all wore gloves to mix and smear, the Maasai just dig right in.

Over my left shoulder (above) there are a number of warriors-in-training. They found it quite amusing to watch us, particularly Mark and I since this is “women’s work” in their world. (Ed. note: One thing I found a little frustrating was over the photography. One of our facilitators asked if it would be okay if we took their picture. They declined but then were taking photos of us using their cell phones. Didn’t seem fair to me but then again, their life isn’t fair either.)

The building we practiced our smearing on was one which was in need of repair. Once the mixture is made, step two is to put lumps of it on the walls in the required spots and using the palm of your hand work it in.

Not so good at smearing it on, however.

Step three is to using a cloth and water to wet it down and spread it out.

Some smeared and some spread with the wet cloth.

The roofs were sisal and straw weighed down with branches of wood to keep it safe from the high winds in the area.

Next post – the people and the homes of the boma.

The Shoe Blog

Okay so before the comments come in regarding my footwear, let me say that I know I was not wearing the correct shoes but Mark was. I don’t recall my reasoning, since the right shoes were back at camp.