Posts Tagged Galway
The window of McCambridge’s is one of the great places in Galway to have coffee. Looking onto the main shopping thoroughfare, it combines all that’s best about walking around town with all that’s best about sitting inside not doing that.
With our weather – and the last time I was here I watched a wooden forklift pallet being blown down the road – it’s a priceless resource.
The name of that thoroughfare by the way is Shop Street. I’ve always liked the excessive literalness of that. The adjoining High Street meanwhile is full of pubs. All we really need is for the banks to be down Arsehole Avenue.
But I must stop avoiding the issue, I’m here to apologise. This has been one of the longest breaks I’ve ever taken from writing here. What siren has lured me away with her haunted song? I’ll tell you honestly. Flagrant geekery. Part of the time it’s been Java. Not the coffee, the programming language. Part of the time it’s been Linux. All of it, in short, stuff that most people neither understand nor – and here’s the really tricky part – particularly want to understand.
So writing about them in an entertaining way may be a little tricky. But I will give it a go.
It’s something of a tradition that the simplest possible program, and therefore the first one you’ll ever write, is one that prints out “Hello World“. It’s cute and sweet because it makes the computer seem intelligent and aware – if only just.
I know how it feels. So I’m dropping by here to say hello to the world. I haven’t seen much of it, living as I am in a tunnel of projects and meetings and assignments. And yes, programming.
Also, to say that if you’re in Galway now’s your chance to march with the lovely people from Ballyhea in their ongoing protest against giving all our money to reckless and irresponsible bankers. You know, the ones I went to Frankfurt with. And when I say march, to be honest it’s more a saunter. Despite the seriousness of the issue it’s as good-humoured a protest as you’re likely to find. They’re forming up at the station corner of Eyre Square at 10:45. I urge you to join in.
And for the record, my first attempt at a program printed out “Hello Golfcart”.
It’s a little buggy.
- These brave men and woman of Ballyhea and Charleville (thepressnet.com)
Well here I am in sunny Tuam, for the first time really since I passed my driving test. Yes I’m sorry Tuam, I admit it, I used you. People say it’s easier here than in Galway city. After the fact, I’m not so sure. Galway traffic is insane at rush hour it’s true, but Tuam was then going through an interminable process of roadworks, diversions, temporary traffic lights and tailbacks. And though Galway has imposing roundabouts, Tuam has far too many of those ridiculous mini-roundabouts that transform a simple honest junction into a revolving door. Also, some trick signage; my instructor introduced me to a way you could fail your test without even trying. At one junction there’s a yield sign, so naturally you stop if there’s oncoming traffic. If there is no oncoming traffic, you fail your test.
How come? Because there’s a STOP line marked on the road – presumably left there from a time before the junction was demoted to a mere yield. But the indicator of the greater hazard overrides the lesser, so if you went through without stopping you’re breaking a stop sign, an instant fail, even though there’s no stop sign there. OK, it’s not part of any known test route, they’re not actually out to trick you with legal ambiguities. But with all those diversions in place, you never know your luck.
I’ve just passed a restaurant called Cré na Cille. It’s named after quite a famous novel by Máirtín Ó Cadhain, sometimes called “The Irish language Ulysses“. One problem though. Literally, the title means “Graveyard Soil”.
I wonder what their specials are.
Speaking of tests, we have our first one coming up on the MSc course already. Well it’s a project, for the Data Analysis and Project Management module, but we will be marked on it. We’ve two weeks to get a proposal together, which includes assembling a team, creating a proposal, even devising a contract to sign for ourselves. It’s not something I mind doing, it’s just that before I do I could probably use a few lessons in, you know, project management. And data analysis.
We’ve had just two so far. I only have the sketchiest idea of what the course is even about. Project management and data analysis – you might as well say “All that businessy-computery stuff.” So I literally don’t know where to begin. I have no idea at all of what would make a good project. Or even a feasible project.
And as a part-time student, I’ve very little idea about a team either. The full-timers meet much more, and many of them will have been undergraduates together. Us part-timers meet literally one day a week. Some of us might be able to get together socially, but most not. So I’ve volunteered to create a forum or bulletin board for us, so we at least have some level of virtual presence.
I’ve done forum admin before, but I’ve never actually set one up from scratch. It’s not hard though – not at least if you rent some web space that supports the necessary technologies. I set one up last night in fact. And in the light of what I learned by doing that, I’ll be setting it up all over again today. I’m also going to suggest we create a spreadsheet of our strengths, weaknesses, and other factors, centralising the information we need to assemble project teams. A database, if you will.
Huh. Maybe I have a project idea after all.
Or would that be a metaproject?
- Public-Private Folly (i.doubt.it)
- Man (22) critical after being hit with rock in Tuam (independent.ie)
- Town Council refuses to be ‘whipping boys’ (misebogland.wordpress.com)
I’ll tell you about my back-to-school experience tomorrow though; first I’ll talk about this show while there’s still a chance you could make it. Well, the final performance is on at 8:00 tonight at the Town Hall Theatre Galway, so you’ll have to be fairly near. Or what the hell, charter a plane. It’s pretty good.
People from Galway will need no introduction to… well to anyone really. We’re informal like that. But Little John Nee will be familiar to most. A clown, musician, actor and street performer for his day job, about once a year he puts on a theatre show. In Galway it’s one of the events of the Season.
Always funny and poignant, a Little John play can sometimes have a serious historical or social side too. The Mothers Arms, not so much… This is straight-up comedy, albeit of the dark persuasion. Our protagonist is a former blues man, who fell in love and became so happy he had to put down his ukulele (yes) and take up organic farming.
On collision course with his happiness: The Highly Strung Orchestra, a band on the run, plus Dublin property developers and Northern terrorists. The epicentre: run-down local singing lounge The Mothers Arms. Featuring an ensemble of misfits, tattooed ladies, tattooed gentlemen, and faithful old overweight dogs.
And all really just a story that Little John tells us. Though he illustrates it with music and is supported by three great musicians playing bits, it is essentially a comic monologue. Well mostly comic monologue, a little bit gothic opera, full of sharp, funny descriptions of rural life in a state of terminal disrepair.
It could have been longer. A problem with comic drama is that characters are introduced because they’re funny, and then nothing much happens with them. I’d like to see Little John do something more complex. But the meandering, anecdotal style is full of charm, and full of darkly amusing lyrics about contemporary life like, if I’m not misquoting:
You want to hit a banker but there isn’t one in sight
So you settle for the wanker who just bumped into your pint
A lovely little show, and very much part of the fabric of Galway culture. Catch it tonight if you can.
As if of its own volition, the car darts to the left. A skid? I know how to deal with that. Stay calm, don’t overcompensate. And yet I am lurching drastically to the right now. My feelings are oddly not of panic and fear but puzzlement, disappointment. The steering, something I’d come to think of almost as a direct expression of my will, had suddenly decided to have its own opinion. Parents of teenagers must feel like this, as their world spins out of control.
A ditch. No wait, a tree. A slow, sickening crunch. I’m athwart the driveway, nearly facing the way I came. But I’m relieved. That tree saved me from the ditch, that’s good. I’m a whistling kettle of shock and adrenalin, but I seem to be uninjured.
So what was that sickening crunch, exactly?
I turn off the engine. My glasses have flown off in the impact, I know not where, so I get out and inspect the damage without them. Even with the glamorising effect of soft focus though I can see it’s not pretty. The right wing is crushed like foil, the water tank displaced and leaking, the wheel… doesn’t look right at all.
My glasses turn out to be under the passenger seat. So, can I drive this thing? The engine starts. The power steering does move the wheels, though the noise it makes is like insurrection at the bacon factory. I select first gear, let out the clutch and…
Nothing at all. It’s a front wheel drive car, and the front wheels don’t. That… is probably not a good omen. The damage goes well beyond one corner.
What the hell just happened? I was on the driveway to Cregg Castle, an old colonial manor house that’s being converted into an artists’ residence. It’s covered in slippery mud. The drive I mean. It’s also pocked with holes so thickly that they’re practically impossible to avoid – indeed I’d just failed to avoid one seconds before the accident. Had I simply skidded on the mud, or had the impact broken the steering? It had felt more like the latter. And indeed the two front wheels pointed in different directions now, though of course that could be effect rather than cause.
Sudden steering failure. Imagine if instead of a driveway that had been on a main road. At 95kph, with oncoming traffic. It would have been almost certainly fatal, for me and for others.
And yet I find myself hoping it is the explanation. I mean, skidding off a driveway. That’s just embarrassing.
So first problem would be getting the car off the road. I was near the gatehouse and knew the people who live there; fortunately someone was in. We couldn’t move the car between us, but soon more people came down the driveway in both directions and they stopped to help. They pretty much had to, but I’m sure they would’ve anyway. Two women tipped the balance, and we got it lined up to the point where it could be towed off the road. Thanks to James, “Lorraine Micra”, and all the cooperative people from Cregg Castle. And to the couple who were just passing by to take a walk in the woods but offered me a lift without knowing my mother’s house was only a mile away.
Now it’s the next day. I’m a little achy, though that will be mostly from trying to push the car. I await the insurance report which hopefully will tell me what happened, though I expect it will also bring the sad news that the car is a write-off. The first car I’d ever owned – and that for only about two months. It wasn’t all that much of a car perhaps. A red Nissan Micra that had been my mother’s before me, and several other people’s before that. Thirteen years old, but a tough and feisty little car. Useful, pleasant, reliable – well, it was only unreliable once. I will miss it. I may well buy another like it; I don’t think the write-off value will cover the Land Rover I really want. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if it didn’t cover the excess. But I will need something if I’m going to college next month.
And you know what’s even more annoying? Literally the day before I was full of joy because I’d finally got my resident’s parking permit, the magic sticker from the city that means I never have to pay for parking near my flat again. Freedom at last! It’s almost like receiving full citizenship; finally I was a paid-up member of Galway’s horrendous traffic problem, and could park anywhere I liked in the part of town that has no parking.
But seriously, just taking the car into town for an afternoon had been costing me six or eight euros. Having it overnight was pretty much unthinkable. So since I’d got the thing it had continued to reside at my mother’s place. Now at last I would be able to make proper use of it.
Oh well. Taking a bark rubbing with your front end is another way to avoid parking fees I suppose. But the irony, it is bitter.
- Oh my soul! (vandachittenden.wordpress.com)
And one of the biggest such partnership plans touches close to my home: The Gort-Tuam motorway. Yes, you read me right. Those are the words I actually wrote down there. A motorway, from Gort to Tuam. We have built a lot of decent roads in this country in the last decade or so, and I’m sure they all stimulated a great deal of economic activity. We needed them, they were a good investment. But you see what’s happened now, don’t you?
We’ve run out of places to build motorways to.
What puzzles me is how the private partners can hope to make a return on a new faster route between two such non-urgent points. I can only think of one way: They build the motorway over the existing road, giving people who actually have to get from Gort to Tuam (poor benighted souls) little choice except to pay. This is a worrying precedent. If it continues, free roads all over the country will be paved over with new pay-roads; in some cases, right up to our doors (perhaps). This will have the effect of transferring immense amounts of money from the general population to a few wealthy investors, but apparently that is what governments are for now.
When you think about it though, these roads don’t have to make a profit. They don’t have to be completed even. All they have to do is create economic activity. You realise what that is, don’t you. We’ve had it before, during the Famine. Landlords who believed that free food created what the rich like to call a “moral hazard” gave their starving tenants pointless tasks to perform. Sometimes they’d build a mad monument to nothing, a tower in a valley maybe, a brand new ruin. Sometimes, it would be a road.
This is a whole new class of folly: Faster, wider, vastly more pointless. A Famine Freeway, if you will.
- Major roads in Galway and Wexford included in €2bn plan (irishtimes.com)
Dammit, I can’t sleep. The hot sun won’t stop streaming in through the window. What sort of lake-strewn, tree-befuzzed hell have I arrived in?
But wait, let’s start at the beginning. Or at least, where I finished. Yesterday, in Café Wa, in Galway…
The best part of a journey is not to travel hopefully or to arrive, but the moment that comes just a little after you set out. I mean the one when it hits you that it’s too late now to worry if you have all the right underwear and cables, there’s no point in once again checking your ticket and passport. That ship has, perhaps literally, sailed. Finally you sigh and stretch and let the vehicle carry you.
The worst part conversely is the one before departure, when searching through pockets to confirm the presence of items you know are there is still a live option. And that’s the stage I’ve reached. Essentially I’m writing this to keep my hands busy.
I would have been on a bus to Dublin now but for a last-minute change of plan. My flight leaves at the unthinkable hour of 7:40 a.m., meaning they expect me to check in at 5:40 – about the time I’m usually going to bed. If that sounds convenient to you, consider that I’m the sort of person who can’t sleep until they’re too tired to stay awake. This means that I have to do the hardest part – actually making sure I get on the plane – when I’m at my least conscious.
My idea was to go to Dublin this evening, stay awake till about 5, get up an hour before that and head to the airport. There was a flaw to this plan. At the bus station though I found that they run all night. New plan then: instead of trying and probably failing to sleep in Dublin – our much worse, falling to wake up – I would leave here at about 2 a.m. on a bus straight to the airport, arriving refreshed and in good time!
Only one possible drawback to this brilliant scheme – It leaves me with hours before my bus, and absolutely nothing left to do.
I wonder if I have an even number of socks.
- The Road To Finland (i.doubt.it)
I sit in the lovely Japanese Wa Café, passing time before my bus leaves, having my hearing loss enhanced by what might best be described as zombie Thin Lizzy. Bizarre to see a band effectively become a tribute act to itself. This is all part of the carnival for the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s not why I’m leaving town, but it is one reason I’m glad to be.
This isn’t resentment over the Occupy affair. It’s true that there is something uncomfortable about holding the final of a mega-expensive luxury yacht race in a country that has been plunged into almost unimaginable levels of debt. But I hope it does all sorts of good for local business. It could use all the boost it can get.
But the crowds! Lord Jesus and his pals, the crowds. It is like an extra Race Week in July. This may be the time of year when Galway’s business makes its money, but can they really not find a less cram-the-streets-with-loud-drunken-unpredictable-crowds way? It’s a topic I often reverted to in Microcosmopolitan; as a place with little elbow-room and even less good weather, what the hell are we doing trying to be an event tourism mecca? How about specialising in something more calm and relaxing – there’s real money to be made if you can establish yourself as the place that’s best at one certain combination of things. I suggest we make ourselves the global capital for librarians. Who practise yoga.
In flotation tanks.
- Volvo Ocean Race Live streaming available July 2-3 (gisuser.com)
- Team NZ win final Volvo ocean leg (3news.co.nz)
On Saturday I drove to Westport, a pretty little town in the north-west corner of the country dating mostly from the 19th and late 18th Centuries. I was here last year to walk up a mountain, but this time was a lot more leisured.
Westport recently won a competition for the best place to live in Ireland. That means we have to hate it now. But you can see why.
In the 18th Century redesign the town was constructed around the river, with pleasant tree-lined walks along either side, humpback stone bridges, and weirs.
Matt Molly is one of the most respected flautists in Irish traditional music, and the pub he owns in Westport is an absolute classic example of the Irish pub genre.
If boots are your thing, they have boots in Westport. Moran’s shop in fact has boots literally hanging off it.
Westport’s layout is surprisingly complex. It has two junctions that you might take for the centre, both attractive enough to grace a town of twice its size or more. One is octagonal. This one has a peculiar clock.
You don’t see phone boxes like this anymore. And even if you did (which you don’t), you certainly don’t see them in green. Contrary to the mental images of some, phone boxes in Ireland where not painted green for many decades, certainly not in my memory. I expected an Irish Doctor Who to step out of this thing.
OK, letter boxes are green.
A sweet little back alley.
A handy graphical overlay guides tourists around the town and its environs. Shown here, the route to the scenic coastal resort of Loading Bay.
First I march in Germany, now I’ve helped organise an anti-capitalist comedy gig. I’ll be living in an Occupy tent next. If there are any left. As a cartoonist and columnist, I always felt that having political opinions was the day job and my spare time was my own. These days though I don’t know what the hell is happening.
Anyway, this looks like it’s going to be an excellent show. More than a show really, a kind of event. A tour of free gigs powered only by goodwill, cutting out the middle-oligarchy. Demonstrating that the way we’ve been doing things is not the only way.
3:00 this afternoon, at Kelly’s on Bridge St. It’s a great venue for comedy, they’re great comics, it’ll be a great gig. See you there I hope.
- Free Comedy Gigs Versus The Banking Industry! (i.doubt.it)