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On Immigration, after a stressful day

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

We’ve all by now seen the shocking pictures and stories of what is happening to people trying to get into Europe, or trying to get into the UK. I’m finding it hard to ignore. Today, I was reminded that I am the child of immigrants. My parents were born in Donegal, traditionally a poor county, in a poor country. For generations, people have left Donegal to seek a better life in other places, including many of my own family. Often the Irish have been welcomed in other places, but we shouldn’t forget the legendary “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish” signs. Few Irish fled persecution or danger in recent times – they were what are now called “economic migrants”. They were mostly lucky that legal options were available to them.

Those people desperate to get into Europe or the UK aren’t lucky. When we see what they are leaving, we can understand their reasons for wanting something better. But they aren’t just a mass of foreigners. They could so easily be my mum and dad, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. It could so easily be us out there. Having tried lots of other things, maybe it’s time we tried compassion.

Here’s Fuji!

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Mount Fuji often likes to hide in the clouds, or just in the haze, as it’s pretty far away. So it was cool to see it clearly this morning from the balcony.


The best shop in the world

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Today, I went to the big Tokyu Hands shop in Shibuya. It is, I suspect, the best shop in the world. I spent ages in it. I spent ages in just the vast stationery section! It would seem to be about 24 floors in size, since it starts at the basement and goes up to 7 and there’s an A, B, and C sub-level to each floor. Anyway, let’s not focus on that – it’s big. And it goes from chemistry equipment on the top floor, to bikes on the bottom floor with a lot of cool things in between. I highly recommend it!
(And I only bought 2 pens and a couple of lights for my bike – I’m very well behaved in shops. Unless I get birds of course…)

Tokyo day four

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Day four was a Sunday. I walked a long way on Saturday, so I took a day off walking. Fortunately, entertainment came to me, as we had guests for dinner. They included a very cute 2 year old, so I had my usual Sunday afternoon activity of winding up a wee kid. I had a lot of fun 🙂 Like all kids, he was endlessly amused by simple things like the curtains being blown open by the wind repeatedly. Like all kids that age, his parents had to clarify what he was saying, but in his case it was because he said some things in Japanese which I stood no chance of understanding!
I also ate way too much of Karen’s delicious home-baked cakes, fresh crusty bread, chips and dips. Not in that order. Oh well. I am on holiday!

Tokyo day two and three

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

The good news is that I haven’t had to wear a face mask since the first day. It was noted that Japanese people don’t have noses like mine, so apparently it didn’t suit me well!
Didn’t do a lot on Thursday – went for a walk in the morning, got a bit tired in the afternoon with jet lag and sat around, then had great meal in Akihabara in the evening. But that’s okay – that’s jet lag and sniffles for you.

Yesterday I had a long walk along the river that runs by my friends house. I walked about 9 miles, mostly along the river but with diversions where there were no riverside paths, and distractions in the odd shop. Didn’t walk any dogs – I did see plenty walking by the river, but was too shy to take any pictures of them. The river has a great view of the Tokyo Sky Tree, which as I always say looks like a massive space weapon. And therefore I think it’s great. I’ll be going up that at some stage this week or next 🙂

We had Chinese for tea, and I loved the Japanese interpretation of sweet and sour chicken – Karen tells me they use a dark vinegar which is more like balsamic, which makes a wonderful dark sauce that looks nothing like the bright orange sauce we get at home.
Quiet night in with a DVD, and fortunately my legs still work!

Now there’s a thing!

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

I was recently in the west of Ireland, in Donegal, with some friends from church on a hiking expedition. It’s a long old trip, and on the way we took a wrong turn and drove through Daniel O’Donnell’s home town. I was shocked, stunned and appalled to find:

It’s not many people who get a visitor centre in their home town while they are still alive.

Barcelona Day 3

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Wednesday was an even wetter day than Tuesday had been, and the waterproof trousers didn’t do quite so well. My legs were also pretty tired from two days of walking before I even started out from the hotel, which didn’t help either. Nor did the extremely loud thunderstorm that woke me during the night – it really was very loud, and a part of me kept wondering if it was louder because I was so high up. I’ll admit that I can’t think of any reason why this makes sense, so I guess the storm was just nearby. Or perhaps the noise was being reflected by lots of nearby buildings. In any case, it was very loud and I was wakened a couple of times by the racket.

Anyway, I got all dressed up for the rain and headed off.  Again, I had got up late, so I was keeping my eye out for places to eat brunch. Ended up having paella just across the road from my main destination for the day – La Sagrada Familia, otherwise known as Gaudi’s Cathedral. As I had expected, the location made the food was a bit more expensive, but it was dry and that was the main thing.

And then over the road to admire Gaudi’s masterpiece. And you know what, it really did impress me. The concept behind it impresses me, of a building so ornate and massive that it takes generations to complete – there’s a visionary quality to just embarking on a project on those terms. To start on something, knowing that you will never complete it, but depending on later generations to continue your plan is the kind of long-term planning that is basically extinct these days. Apart maybe from some mortgages…

Anyway, I approached it from this side, the eastern facade, which shows the story of the nativity.

On a picture this size, you just have no chance of seeing the detail. But it is a great piece of sculture, on a huge scale. My favourite part is the slightly incongruous tree up at the top between the towers with birds nesting in it, which represents the church. It brings a touch of humour, or humanity or something to a huge stone building.

This side was where I started queuing, and then ended up at the west side, which represents the crucifixion, in a completely different style of art.

Again, you can’t see the detail, but it is very impressive in reality. However, this picture misses out my favourite part – in the second picture you can see the spires, and up near the top, behind some green netting of some sort, you can just about make out the statue representing Jesus’ ascension shows him sitting on a crossbeam like a builder taking a break. Again, it’s suspiciously like humour!

And no, there is no way of getting a picture of the building without cranes in it. And it’ll be that way for years!

But they have finished the inside, and it is a beautiful place. This is the inside of one of those facades.

And this is the view towards the front of the building from the back.

I especially like the way that the columns branch out to support the various levels of roof. On a horrible wet day, it was a lovely place. It occurs to me that it could only be a religious building – no-one is ever going to put so much effort into making a conference centre, or a city hall, or an airport so beautiful. The pictures don’t do it justice at all, so if you’re ever in Barcelona, just go an see it. You’ll not regret it (despite the fairly steep entry price). And for the record, the towers were closed, so I couldn’t go up and enjoy the view from the top.

The rain did ease off a bit as the afternoon continued, so I did some more wandering around until I couldn’t walk any more, then got the metro back to my hotel, and had dinner just round the corner. Some rather messy but very nice seafood in the Eden restaurant.


Saturday, April 7th, 2012

I’m just back from a few days in Barcelona.

I made the mistake of writing up blog posts offline, and then expected to just paste them up, but I discovered I can’t do that on my tablet, for reasons that are clearly tedious.

So rather than paste up all 5 at once, and blow the minds of readers who are only used to a blog post every few months, I’ll space them out over the next few days.

But just so you know, I am already home!

Whispernet Test

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Just trying out the roaming internet access on my kindle in Donegal. Looks like it works!
Cool 🙂

India – Day 0

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

I’m off on my travels again, once again exiled from Belfast by the powers that be at work, and not allowed back until I have participated in a design workshop in Bangalore, and visited the development teams in Pune and Calcutta.

So although not quite like Dallas last year, it sounds like an opportunity for some blogging, as there’ll probably be plenty to talk about.

So this morning instead of heading for church, I headed to Belfast City airport to fly to Heathrow. The City Airport is once again different to the last time I was there, though this might be the final configuration by the looks of it.

At Heathrow I was able to get checked in and have lunch with plenty of time to spare. Went to TGI Fridays for one of their excellent milkshakes and some chicken bits. I ended up in the very last row of the plane, 88D, but it wasn’t a problem at all. Emirates are very civilised to fly with – the same sophisticated entertainment system as Air New Zealand last year, with touch screens allowing pause and what have you, even in economy. Watched District 9 and The Princess and the Frog – both excellent films. And some Armstrong and Miller, who I think are very funny. But I can’t report on the food, as I felt a bit sick for the first part of the journey, so I skipped it and slept a bit instead. I didn’t expect to feel that way so early in the trip, but fortunately I felt much better when I woke up, so that’s good news.

Now sitting in Dubai International Airport, which is huge and impressive, and has plenty of free wi-fi. I had a gorgeous rhubarb tartlet, and a very grown up hot-chocolate from Paul (not nearly as sweet as usual, and made from a darker chocolate I think). Was delighted to be able to pay in pictures of the Queen, even in these foreign parts. Also discovered on facebook that my cousin has got himself engaged – isn’t modern communication kind of amazing!

Not too long before my next flight, to India itself.
Y’all have fun now, y’hear.