At home, abroad, on St Patrick’s.

I always say I can grow anywhere away from home, a little like a container plant. But where home is these days, I’m not really sure. But, having said that, I’m pretty sure I also haven’t yet found it. The world is too big, and I have more places to see, live in, and to write about.

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There are none so patriotic as the Irish abroad. We love to sit in Brooklyn or Birmingham, Bangkok or Brighton, and sing a rebel song whilst silently weeping into a pint. Re-runs of Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys only get funnier with time, and we long for the sweet scent of the Oul’ Sod. The Fields of Athenry are sung with passion, and the free bird is allowed to fly at the big games.

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But, wait just a minute. How many of us know where the heck Athenry actually is?  (It’s Galway, lads, catch up) As for all the words – feck it, any of the words – to The Soldier’s Song, in English or as Gaeilge, I think not.But the 17th of March, now, that’s a different thing altogether. Everyone is Irish on St Paddy’s day.

It’s been 30 years since I spent St Paddy’s at ‘home’ in Ireland, and this year I looked forward to it.Well, I pondered it anyway, as I suffered a ride on the hard plastic seat  over to Dublin, complete with Zebedee behind me.

Childhood was green ribbons, mass, a Sunday-style  dinner, and the Big Parade. Trips home, later on and then with my husband,  were made up of a fortune spent in Kenny’s, Courtney’s and The Ball Alley, all local village watering holes. A blur of pints and laughs, smoke filled bars and quick wit, shirts lost at Cheltenham from the comfort of the pub, big breakfasts at my parent’s house – “to line your stomach “- and dinner kept warm and served with a thump – we were always late back.

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This year, I wandered down alone, stone cold sober, and stood for a bit under Carroll’s awning until the drizzle became a bit of a drip, then gave up and came home to watch the Dublin parade with Mother, where several dozen times we cleared up the facts that, yes, it was still Friday, and no, St Patrick’s is not a movable feast. Testing times? A bit. But, it’s okay, we’re alright.

The city centre parade was beset by horizontal rain, high winds and arctic temperatures. But, you know, everyone was smiling, enjoying it, and the Temple Street bar area held the riotous after party, if the Live Web Cam was anything to go by. We enjoyed it all, in our own way, from the safety of the sofa, and the furnace-like blast of the central heating.

It seems nothing stops us. We love a little adversity. And, I thought, no, I may not know where home really is, or what the future holds, but I’ll always, emphatically, be completely Irish!

Lettuce Pray

Those words I always thought the priest uttered at Mass on soft Irish Sunday mornings – I was an almost-adult before – like many song lyrics – I realised I had it all wrong. Young folk have no idea how lucky they are that they have lyric sites at the swipe of an iPhone – and that they’re not bullied into Mass, for that matter.

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But this post is neither religious or musical, though I suspect a Mel Brooks-style treat is being hastily scribbled in the wings.

I ask you to to forget about world hunger. Begone Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and those irritating refugees looking for non-essentials such as shelter and water. The new kid on the block is Britain. Yes, in true OLIVER style, the begging bowl is out. The supermarkets are bare and the Sun editor is doing back-flips. It’s the scoop of the century. There is no lettuce. In February. That’s winter, right? But there’s no use whining and begging. Spain is NOT for sharing.

So, let’s consider the great #LettuceGate scandal of 2017 as a great hunger, perhaps even a Famine. Ah yes, we knew we’d have you eventually, landowners and bigwigs. You thought you could get us with our own potatoes when the chips were down.

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There’s a monumental disaster afoot and it’s caused by a lack of Lactuca Sativa.

What if #LettuceGate has the same consequences as the Great Famine? Starvation. Disease. Lettuce is a rich source of Vitamin K and Vitamin A. It’s a source of Folate. The National Health Service will crumble.

There’ll be mass emigration. The fact that no-one will want you is a bridge you’ll just have to cross in search of Iceberg, Cos or your next bag of Looseleaf.

What’s the solution? Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP might like to know that it’s possible to wait until lettuce is actually in season and grow her own.

Remember one more thing, Britain. Where did all the Irish go after An Gorta Mór? Oh yes, but now, sure, isn’t that ‘just desserts’?

Percolated happiness coming right up

It’s a drip feed, isn’t it? Happiness I mean. Not just happiness, all feelings, all emotions. A sort of osmosis from outside influence.

Peer pressure

We are so easily swayed these days, by adverts, by song lyrics, by reading a book or watching a decent film. Open your Facebook account and be instantly irritated by someone you have never actually met, feel emotional and sad at someone else’s bad luck, or warm and fuzzy from a cute kitten/puppy video. We’re all total suckers for it, really.

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#GoPositive

So there I was, minding my own business, when HAPPY MELLY suggested I get happy for a week; Go Positive they said. Easy, I thought. I’ll just post ‘nice’ things, and curate some positive stories. I can do that. Simple.

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Hard work

It’s not, actually. My social media (personal and pages accounts) are full of some really bad shit, and I hadn’t truly taken note. I found myself SEARCHING for good news stories, and really, it was pretty trying. Forget the newspapers and media pages for a start. My ‘friends’ do like a good moan! Avoidance of 😦 reactions is also harder than you think.

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So, I gaily skipped and scrolled past the RIP posts, the dead dog posts, the FFS posts and the general angst. No Angry, Sad, or even Like  (your angry mood)  responses from me – nuh-uh. I’m not on your bus, sister.

Feelgood factor

Then something odd happened. I found my finger hovering back over those Bad News stories, looking for something positive to say. That’s better, I thought. The OP would ‘like’ my comment, and I’d feel even happier.

 

9 September at 11:27 ·

All done and not a word of thanks from management. Not even a goodbye. Thankfully students were grateful for my efforts. #wontbeback

 

Comments

 

Carol Byrne The students are the important ones, your raison d’etre. Good that they were grateful 🙂

Like · Reply · 1 · 9 September at 12:33

 

I started to do the same OFFLINE. What’s all this? A new me? No, probably not. That would take some sort of miracle.

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But a slow, drip-feed of happiness? Yes. like the best coffee, a sort of percolated happiness. It tastes pretty good too…want a cup?

Wabbit Wabbit – Sustainable gift shopping

I’m enthusing about a newly discovered treasure trove of Fair Trade products, and although tempted to keep it a secret for myself, have decided you should all know about Eighteen Rabbit Fair Trade.

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You’ll already know I’m a bit of an eco-warrior, and am published regularly for the likes of eco-companion, that sustainable travel deliverer of dream destinations. But of course, it’s all about a lifestyle change for the better, and when I want to surprise someone with a gorgeous gift and can’t swing the finances to a holiday, then I forage for the best in eco-friendly gifts online.

Recently, I discovered Eighteen Rabbit, and also found great gifts with a real conscience. Sold!

Privileged reviewer that I am, I was over the moon to receive their  list of review-able goodies, and chose a Recycled Tyre Slim Wallet, as a gift for Stan the long-suffering Man.

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Promptly dispatched to Spain, well wrapped and encased in gift-ready tissue, the wallet arrived, and I was amazed at the excellent quality, craftsmanship and overall tactile beauty. Price? Ridiculous. Just £12. He was delighted, it’s so strong too, perfect for all those bits and pieces he carries around, you know what blokes are like…!

Not just a wallet, there’s a backstory too, let me, or rather Eighteen Rabbit,  tell you…

What: These wallets have the cold, smooth look and feel of leather, but are actually made from refashioned rubber inner tubes. A masterclass in craftsmanship and sustainable innovation. These wallets are available in five different colours, but are all slightly different – a true one-off!

11cm x 9cm (folded) with long internal zip fastening, 3 card holders, small zip and 2 inner pouches. How: Made from recycled rubber inner tubes and cement sack.
Who: These wallets are exclusively available in the UK through Eighteen Rabbit thanks to a partnership we have developed with Cratfworks Cambodia, who work with disabled and impoverished artisans affected by war, poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Why: Buying these wallets helps to cement a new trading partnership between Britain and Cambodia benefiting people affected by war and poverty.

So, a perfect gift, a solid sustainable story with a happy ending, and the promise of lots more browsing and shopping when you enter the Eighteen Rabbit site…I do like the look of these Messenger Bags…

Do you shop with a sustainable mind? The advantages of presenting someone with something that’s all about more than just the latest label brings more satisfaction than you might imagine. Go for it – change your gift-shopping ways today – visit Eighteen Rabbit and see what’s inside… 🙂

 

 

Review: Hotel Rural Laroles

*Unpaid, unsponsored independent review*

Last week we had the pleasure of first night of the season at Teatro Entre Todos and their summer ’16 project of Me Vuelves Lorca. This project (similar to the famous Minack) situated in the Alpujarras is a resounding hit with locals and far flung admirers of greaspaint, footlights and theatre.

Last year we attended the opening night, and also Lorca’s Blood Wedding, and were swayed once again, choosing to see another Lorca piece, La Casa de Bernada Alba, a sad play performed with dignity, outstanding talent and a few wry laughs by the amazing Tribueñe Teatro from Madrid.

The great value ticket price included a bottle of wine, so, not needing to be asked twice, we decided to ditch the thought of a drive home, and booked a night at Hotel Rural in Laroles. Checking the reviews – as you do – on Trip Advisor, we were happy to see so many rave reviews, particularly mentioning Ramón, the host. So off we set, the promise of some tapas, dinner, and a night watching Lorca unfold under the stars.

The host with the most

Ramón greeted us warmly, and as we were the first to check in, showed us ALL of the available rooms, and asked us to choose. He can talk! Hotel Rural may be 2* but it was a 5* 10/10 for a friendly welcome. He deserves all those great reviews, for sure.

The Hotel

The hotel is clean, in fact it is amazingly spotless. The rooms are spacious enough, the usual furniture + a desk, chair, 2 large single beds zipped together, with really comfortable mattresses. WIFI available. Double glazing with 2 sets of doors, a mozzie screen on the balcony (mountains breed midges!) and air conditioning. The bathroom was spacious, modern, well appointed and came with sachets of gel and shampoo (but no soap!) I did spot locally made soap for sale in the lobby.

There’s a terrace, a cosy sitting room and a dining room.

Dinner time

We ordered a pre-theatre dinner, and it was a case of “what would you like?”, rather than “this is what I have.” We agreed on some slow cooked chicken in Champagne, a salad and drinks, and set off to explore  – read beers and tapas. 🙂

After a rest in the quiet, airy room, we partook of the delicious dinner, which was impeccable. Served with that crisp and fresh salad, and potatoes cooked in a tasty stock, we also had 2 beers and a glass of wine. Total bill €20 – amazingly good value, there was so much we simply couldn’t finish it.

We left the next morning after a great sleep, waving away offers of breakfast as were in a rush – we’re always in a rush – but with hugs and promises to return. For the next theatre production, of course…..Just ONE night Ramón 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riad Review. Les Bougainvilliers, Marrakech.

It’s a little bit of an anomaly, to review a Riad, because in general they tend to be special places as a rule, but a recent visit to Riad Les Bougainvilliers in Marrakech proved that some are just better than others. (What was that marketing campaign? If Carlsberg made Riads…)

Trundling our cabin baggage through the Medina at 8pm was a pretty hairy experience, it was Ramadan, the day’s fast had just finished, and as mopeds sped past us on the hot, clammy, narrow streets, and people called out to each other, we felt a bit frazzled after a long day. A flight from Sevilla, preceded by a morning in Córdoba, and then the beautiful madness of Marrakech.

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Arrival

Reading our minds, or perhaps just our lost looks, a local guy asked if we were looking for Les Bougainvilliers. We were promptly hustled up alleys, twisting and turning before being deposited at a large wooden door in a terracotta coloured street that looked like all the others. In reality, as we discovered later that evening, it’s perfectly placed, just a few steps from Jemaa el fna square.

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Total calm

Amal – beautiful, gentle Amal – efficiently swept us inside, and into another world. Everyone will tell you the marked difference between the mayhem of the Medina, and the calm oasis of a Riad, but this was like closing a door on another world. Inside, Les Bougainvilliers is as calm as a south pacific ocean, as sweet as an unfurling flower. Soft music in the background, the hint of some spiced essence, a trickle of water, and total, complete calm. It is decorated in a classic, elegant style that befits the magnificent building. Everywhere, Bougainvillea tumbles over balconies, and the rooms are spacious and individually decorated. Sitting at the marvellous breakfast*, I remarked to my husband that there wasn’t a single thing I would change, I simply could not find a criticism – and believe me I tried!

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It’s the epitome of understated, classical décor, and has a palatial feel without being aloof. That’s the real secret appeal of Les Bougainvilliers – you will feel as though you are at home (but perhaps a much nicer home!).

Select staff

The staff are clearly hand-picked. Nothing is too much trouble. They are there to hand you something just as you are in the process of thinking about it…like magic. They’re friendly, completely efficient,  but never overbearing. They really are perfect, all of them, from the smiling cook (those light, airy crepes!) the friendly girl who cleans (she would put Martha Stewart to shame) the Hammam lady who not only took a layer of skin away from me, but fixed my dodgy knee. Special mention to gentle, helpful night-concierge Moncef, and the aforementioned Amal, graceful, warm and pretty unbeatable at her job. Honestly, we would have packed them up and taken them home if it were possible.

We enjoyed an upgrade to the senior suite (see below) after the first night, so managed to enjoy 2 rooms, each containing their own individual style and calm space.Even the rooms at Les Bouganvilliers have personality!

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Well done to Phillipe the friendly, personable owner, you really have a royal winner amongst Riads – our score for Les Bougainvilliers? You already know that one. 10/10.

Notable points

High points: Staff, Breakfast, Rooms, Roof terrace, Great value, Location.

*Breakfast: Fresh OJ, tea, coffee, flatbreads, crepes, pancakes, fresh fruit, jam (2 types) honey, butter, cheese.

Contact

Raid Les Bougainvilliers. 5, derb Ben Amrane | Riad Zitoun Lakdim, Médina, Marrakech, Morocco.
**Call directly for availability and the best price: Phillipe
Tel. : +212 (0)524 391 717
Fax. : +212 (0)524 391 717
Mobile. : +212 (0)661 170 222 / +212 (0)666 40 60 60
Email : Bougainvilliersresa@yahoo.com**

 

10 top tips for Gibraltar Music Festival 2016

So you’re going to the best European festival of the year? Great choice! Gibraltar Music Festival is in its 6th year, the very first festival in 2012 had Jessie J as headliner, and it was such a success that the festival has grown beyond expectations. Last year was the first 2 day event – with huge acts such as Paloma Faith and the Kings of Leon rocking the Rock. This year -2016- the first names have already been announced with more to come very soon, but we’re already looking forward to seeing the Stereophonics and Jess Glynne, along with many more artists.

Not been before? Well, from a seasoned GMF-er, here are my 10 top tips to get the most from the festival.

1.Book early. Yes, it’s an obvious one but tickets for this event sell out FAST. If you want a particular ticket; general, VIP, one day or both – then get in there and book now. KiDS UNDER 12 GO FREE!

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2. Think about travelling there. Last year GMF laid on a special pick up service for those coming from one of the resorts on the nearby Spanish coast – read the guide to Travelling to the Festival and save yourself a headache. Don’t even think about parking in Gibraltar.

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3. Sort your hotel out sooner rather than later. Places to stay on the Rock are limited, and La Linea fills up fast, so get booking too.

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4. Factor up. It’s HOT there, and September is usually warm and sunny. Long days watching bands require SPF in high doses, so bring the factor 50 and layer it on. Lip salve with a high SPF factor too.

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5. Wear a hat! It’s no fun squinting at a stage, so bring a hat and plonk it on your head, you’ll be glad. Like me, you might look silly, but at least in one way, you’ll be cool 🙂

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6. Be shady. Sunglasses, of course, are a must.

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7. Be prompt.  Get there early – queuing for entry whilst your favourite band are up first is disastrous, as happened with us last year, my 16 year old sulked all day after she missed Union J.

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8. Sit it out. Bring a blanket for later on if you want, BUT, sit on the fringes of the festival. Don’t spread it out in the middle of the ground in front of the stage or you’ll get walked on or danced on.

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9. Er, loo roll. There won’t be any as the day goes on,  baby wipes in a travel pack are your best friend.

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10. Beer o Clock? Don’t drink like a loon. The heat and the long hours require plenty of water along with your beer intake. Remember to snack too – there are loads of great value food stalls on site. Just load up your wristband and there’s no fumbling for cash either.

Lastly, have a brilliant festival! See you there, and say hello, I’ll be the one in the silly hat 🙂

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