Sunday, 28 September 2014

Men and the travelling woman.

As some of you know, I travel independently. And I don't just mean organising my own flights and hotels, I mean I travel on my own. Without going into detail, it just worked out that way. Now I've got the hang of it, I love it.

But it does raise issues with travelling men. Now, I'm no spring chicken. I've got a bus pass, if you must know. Wrinkles to prove the years of experience. (Botox? Why would it want to do that? I'm getting on a bit. Get over it!)

In most western cultures I enjoy the invisibility of older women. Where youth and wealth are valued we are also-rans. We slink into the shadows, from where we can see and hear much more than you can possibly imagine. There are, I have discovered, advantages to being invisible.

In many Far Eastern cultures older people are revered. Once people get over the fact that many of my contemporaries are already dead, I am treated with great respect. There is always someone to help with the rucksack, or steer me in the right direction if I'm lost. Plus countless young people wanting to practise their English, so I am never without company if it want it. Occasionally a young man will show 'interest' but he knows I have a British passport and he lives in poverty. I try to be kind.

And then there is Ireland. I love Ireland. I love the lakes and mountains, the music and the Guinness. But there I was, tapping my feet and sipping the black stuff, when up came a beery bloke about 10 years younger than me and asked if I was dating!! The first time it happened I just laughed, as you would. Every night, someone sidled up to me, would l like another drink - I often had another half, as the music was wonderful and I needed little encouragement to stay. But what was going on? Just the craic? A bit of fun? That's how I looked at it, though I haven't been hit on like that since I was 16. I confess to being a bit clumsy in the being-chatted-up department.

(I can only assume that many Irish women are chained to their sinks, have taken their intelligence and humour to work in the cities, or have more sense than to go near any of these beery blokes. But I'm guessing - if anyone knows where Irish women are hiding, do let me know.)

The daughters might be pleased to know I haven't come back with a toy boy.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Blog changes.

I've decided to drop my twice-weekly blog to just once a week.

I could provide lengthy justifications, explore changes in the blogworld, go into apologies and all that stuff.

So here is the truth.

I'm dropping to once a week because I want to.

We live in a culture where we expect explanations. Small children ask why and we do our best to answer them. We try to make the world logical, and explicable, and predictable. It's not, of course - while some things obey the laws of physics or nature but much of what happens is fairly random and we only ascribe meaning to it because it makes us feel more comfortable.

So I could offer explanations, if I tried. I could witter on at length about what blogging means to me, to you, its place in the general blogosphere. It would be twaddle, of course, and probably not very interesting twaddle.

But I do think that sometimes we carry on doing things because it's expected of us, or we believe it's expected of us. So this time I'm just doing what seems right for me. And I'm not even saying sorry.

And the plan - to blog on Mondays, unless I have a particularly wonderful weekend, in which case anything can happen. It will be interesting to see who sticks around.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I'm back from Ireland, with pictures, as promised.

Well, I made it back in a thunderstorm! After eight days of untypical Irish sunshine the heavens opened as I struggled the last few miles home. Oh well, my home was still standing and it was easy enough to get warm and dry.

As for Ireland ... there is something restorative about south-west Ireland that I'm not sure I can put into words. And so here, without much in the way of annotation or comment, are a few pictures.

Looking out at the lake from Ross Castle

Fuchsia  (but you knew that anyway)

The Meeting of the Waters, on the Lakes of Killarney

The Gap of Dunloe

From Mount Beentee looking west, towards Caherciveen.

Then finish the day with a pint or two of Guinness and some wonderful music:

*sighs* Even organising this post is enough to make me want to go back!

(There are some more pictures on the website if you're really keen.)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Gap of Dunloe

My daughters might never speak to me again for writing this. For the first time I crossed the Gap of  Dunloe we did it together, and the day was so wonderful it has become part of the family story, a 'do you remember when' that still makes us smile.

I simply couldn't resist doing it again, and it was different - my excuse for writing about it now.

For a start, we went the 'wrong way round', beginning with a boat trip across the Killarney Lakes. I had forgotten how long that takes, chugging across the water, the mountains benign in the sunshine. Holly trees clung to the waterwide. Reeds swayed in the breeze. From time to time the boatman told us Interesting Things, but I forget all of them. I was more intent on just being in the boat, bobbling along on the water and looking up at the mountains.

After several days with no rain, the water levels were very low - so low that at one stage we had to get out and walk along the bank or risk grounding. And when we arrived at Lord Brandon's Cottage the quayside was about a metre higher than the water, involving some inelegant scrambling to get out of the boat (and complaints from a heavy tourist who seemed to think everything should be organised just for him. There's always one.).

A quick sandwich (note for daughters - the little cafe is much improved, so no cotton-wool bread wrapped in cling film) and it was time to find a pony to take me over the Gap itself. And this is where things unravelled a bit. There was only one pony, defended by a determined Irishwoman intent on taking me in her pony and trap. Should I stick to my guns, ride alone across the mountain, or accept her offer (even though I knew she was probably taking a backhander for it)?

I took the pony and trap - and can tell you that it is as uncomfortable as riding but at least you can't fall off.

The main difference fom years ago - there is now a tarnacked road the whole way. Where there was once a stony track, now there is a proper road and even the occasional car. Which makes the whole thing more hazardous than it was, with pony carts, cyclists, walkers and cars all sharing a narrow road.

However, it is still astonishingly beautiful. The road winds along a valley before zig-zagging up the mountainside. Sheep nibble at the short grass; birds fly high above the mountainside. The ponies haul the traps up to the saddle and then the view stretches out below. The river burbles, lingers in small lakes, and the tumbles on down towards the sea. And the mountains, blue and mysterious, loom over everything. Trees dominate the lower slopes; the higher slopes are vast and craggy and wonderful.

So it wasn't the day I expected it to be. There are some magical days that should never be repeated. But would I go back to the Gap of Dunloe again and again - oh yes. And there are pictures, but they are still on my camera, so that will have to sit till I get home.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Off to Ireland

You're not off again ...?

Yes, this afternoon I'm heading for the airport, and flying out to Ireland tomorrow.

Why Ireland? I visited for the first time when I was 19, and have been back from time to time every since. And when I had to get my head round the fact I couldn't spend this September in Madagascar (I blogged about that decision here), the most obvious place to go to lick my disappointed wounds was Ireland. Now that I'm so close to leaving, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather go. For the music. For the Guinness. For the gentle people and glorious scenery.

So today I have a dilemma: I want summer to go on forever. Which means I want to pack summer skirts and floaty tops and maybe little light cardi in case it's chilly in the evening.

And then there's reality. I'm going to Ireland and it's September. Common sense says I should pack vests and waterproofs. Sturdy shoes and woollies.

I travel light - I learned, on the long trip, just how little I need. Filling a suitcase for all weathers doesn't sit easily. So much to squash in. So much to lug about. So little room for books!! (I've got my kindle, of course, and a couple of print books because I love them.)

Will I blog while I'm away?

We'll see - it depends on the weather. If the sun shines on me I'll be outside, in my skirts and floaty tops, enjoying the last rays of summer. If it rains, I shall read and maybe visit the blog.

But now for the packing. What would you take? Optimistic summer stuff? Or vests and waterproofs and good strong shoes?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Two winners, as promised, in my little competition:

Jacqueline Pye - who got it absolutely right, when she said Hove and Brighton (I was actually in Hove, and looking towards Brighton).

And Terry Tyler, who came out of the hat first of those who just said Brighton.

I'll be in touch with both of you - and this is what you will win:

Another book?

Yes, another book - a real book in response to all those who have asked me to put my Over the Hill ebooks into print. So here you will find my adventures in the Himalayas, including a rather alarming encounter with a tiger, how I shared a room with a rat in Laos, and finally my salsa through Cuba.

But, some will say, these are all available as ebooks - and you are right. They are. But many people have asked for print copies, to put on their shelves, to share with friends, and so I've put these three journeys together.

So, you might be asking, if I've read the ebooks do I find anything new in From the Inside Looking Out. No - only a brief introduction. If ebook are your thing, then there's no point in buying this purely for decoration. (Aren't I shooting myself in the foot - suggesting people don't buy it if they've read the ebooks? Maybe, but I'd rather be honest with a shot foot than have you accuse me of implying that I've deceived you)

I've got the proofs, and it's at the final tinkering stage - so my winners will have to wait a week or two. But I'll get in contact both of you to get your addresses and send it off to you as soon as the final copies arrive.