Monthly Archives: June 2012

Playing reporter in Belfast

“The boy? The boy in the Belfast jail?” That was just one of the very few lines I had while playing a ‘madam’ in a Western stage production last year.  The name of the play  escapes me right now, but it was based on the warring years in Belfast. I have a feeling someone will post the name of this play.

So, anyway, there I was yesterday inside a replica of a prison cell-the bed and door came from the Armagh Women’s Prison in Belfast. The devastating cell was one part of the Irish Republican History Museum that was opened in the Conway Mill complex in 2007, which coincided with the first anniversary of the death of Belfast Republican Eileen Hickey. Eileen had been one of the women republican POWs in the Armagh Gaol from 1973-77.  Upon her release, it became her passion to educate people on the history and understanding of the republican struggle in Ireland. She collected artifacts and prison handicrafts,that represented various phases of the struggle for Irish freedom. Items also donated by hundreds of individuals and families date back to the Irish struggles from 1798 to 1977 and beyond.

The guide from Dublin to Belfast told us that Belfast is enjoying a calm atmosphere today. I could see that in the business of the street where I had an opportunity to play reporter.

The tour began from Dublin early in the morning. I’m not really ‘into’ tours that much, because my independent streak wants me to sometimes veer off to something that catches my eye, but in general, I tried to stay in my group. That didn’t happen yesterday, through another glitch…The Dublin bus stopped in the center of town, in Belfast, after we had seen a lot along the one hour trip getting there, and we were told to find a bathroom if we needed but to be back to the same spot by 1:55 p.m. to get on a Belfast bus that would take the Dublin folks and others on more extensive view of the City. Well, I ran off to a department store, found a W.C. and thought I had a few more minutes to spend, according to my watch. When I came back, and after learning I had missed the bus because the pin that sets the time in my watch had been pulled out and stopped recording the time, I just stayed put and played reporter.

I interviewed people about their lives in Belfast. Everywhere I go, it just convinces me more and more that people are basically good. Behind me on the bench where I sat, little teeny boppers were lining up. By the end of my time warming the bench, they were lined up all the way to the end of the street in front of a music store.  A mother of one of the girls in the front of the line told me the girls were waiting for the group, Jedward to show up. For those not familiar with the Irish Pop Scene, let me explain that Jedward are twenty year old twins by the names of John and Edward. They are from Dublin.

They didn’t win the Live X Factor show in 2010, but gained popularity since then. The girl’s mother told me that both of the boys have a wild hair-do. I looked them up on the web, and she was right. The mother seemed calm and relaxed while the teeny boppers behind me squealed in anticipation of Jedward.

“Is Belfast quite a bit different than Dublin, would you say?” I asked her.

“Oh, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been there.”

“Oh, are you from another area? Dublin is only an hour away.

“No, I was born and raised her in Belfast, but  I don’t travel.”

Other people sat and joined me in eager conversation. They wanted to know about my travels and about the U.S.  But how I missed the bus drew the most comments. They were so sympathetic that I had to assure them it was okay.

Then there were two twenty-something men, Adam McBurney and Ryan Murray, who eagerly joined me in conversation and they had a lot to say about Jedward. I think Jedward are more for girls, it seems. These two young men were so much fun to talk with, that the time slipped quickly away.

Before, when I was asking around about buses, I told one young bus attendant that I didn’t have any English pounds, only Euros and that I was thirsty, but didn’t want to buy the required 5 euros of items, to get a drink of water. In just a few minutes, the young man handed me a bottle of water. Good people everywhere.

There were two doctors who joined the tour in Dublin. They were both from the states and were playing hooky from a medical conference. When they arrived back to the starting point in Belfast, the woman doctor told me I didn’t miss much, that they were never off the bus, and when we arrived into town on the Dublin bus, we had already seen much of what they saw on the Belfast bus.



The stones are situated on the Ballymuscanlon Golf course between Dublin and Belfast.

The crosses  in a church cemetery and are part of the Irish Pagan religion that merged with Christianity.

The two young men I interviewed

The line of teenyboppers

A photo of a button collection inside the Irish Republican History Museum.

I’m surfin’ the couch


Ever hear of Couch Surfing? That is exactly what I’m doing at Peter Lyons and Jola’s apartment in Dublin. I heard about couch surfing from my new German friend, Nathalie when we were both in the Capital Inn Hostel in Iceland. She has been couch surfing many times as a recipient and also as a host.

All you do is join up and post your profile and vacation schedule, and a host may contact you to spend three evenings in their home.

I’m doing that right now. Peter liberated me from the Four Courts Hostel this morning and took me back to his apartment to pick up two women from Sweden. He returned them, after he hosted them, back to the airport.

It’s a wonderful situation.

After arriving to the apartment, and back on the way with the Swedish women, Peter dropped me off in a part of Dublin where museums are many, and the famous Trinity College campus can be toured, along with The Long Room library that holds  200.000 books, in a room that is 65 meters in length, with very old books that line the walls and up to the enormous ceiling. Very impressive.

I also had bangers and mash for lunch at the Porterhouse Brewing Co. after walking the shopping district and listening to Dublin Street musicians.

One man stood out as the doorman for a large department store. He appeared to be more than happy to get his photo taken.

It’s a very busy district, and before I left the area, I had coffee at the equally famous Bewley’s restaurant. This family owned restaurant has been around since 1814 and still has the original stained glass windows. The restaurant roasts its own coffee, that they use from their own plantations from around the world, according to the waitress.

I’m going to Belfast tomorrow, leaving very early and arriving late in the evening. 

Turning a glitch into a conversation starter

The cards I had printed with the title of my book, the address for the blog was perfect. My email address had the wrong letter. It should read The printer used an ‘i’ for the ‘l’, but I didn’t feel like going back to wait and watch another horror movie, so I just accepted them and when I hand them out, I change the ‘l’ to an ‘i’, and that alone gets conversation going.

I met someone today who owns race horses and I’ll post that story in a few weeks.

This morning I attempted to change two $100 bills and was turned down at the bank. “No bank in Ireland will change your bills,” said a man who seemed to enjoy telling me that.  He said there is no control over if the bills are counterfeit. However, he did tell me of a travel agent about one mile away who probably would change them for me, so off I went down the mall, passing screaming music, and many shoppers. I’m telling you, some people in this world have money to spend. I have noticed in the stores they are having lots of sales, and 3 items for 2 euro deals.

Anyway it was a change making business and an information center I found, and immediately got some euros, which went right away to lunch on the top floor of a department store. Dublin has many department stores which remind me of Ford’s old store in Watsonville, or Holman’s in Pacific Grove,  the Denver Dry Goods or Daniels and Fishers Tower. Ah, the good old days when you could shop and have lunch in a nice upstairs restaurant with all of your packages at your side.

By the way, the noisy Germans have left the building, as I will myself tomorrow. I’ll be picked up by Peter Lyons to stay at his and his wife’s house for three days in Dublin. It’s most interesting how I found these folks, but that’s a story for tomorrow.


St. James Hospital emergency room

I spent time in the St. James Hospital emergency room in Dublin today. Not to worry…it was to get a prescription for a medicine I was  about to run out of.  When I got there a nurse spoke with me about what I needed and assured me a doctor would see me. Didn’t think I needed to see one, but guess they have rules.

So Dr. Darrough Shields, who, by the way, was easy on the eyes, had the nurse take my blood pressure and temperature, and when he declared me able to continue with the medicine, he wrote out a prescription and shook my hand and told me to have fun on my journey. Before seeing the doctor  I sat down in the emergency room to wait my turn, and then observed a sign that stated there would be a four to five hour wait.

The only real emergency was a heavy set man who was lying on a few chairs. He came into the room in a wheel chair. An attendant tried to get him to sit up, but he wouldn’t budge. Finally he said, “If you just leave me alone, when they call my name, I’ll walk in. I’m not that sick.” The nurse did call him in and he stood up and walked in, just like he said he would.

I only had a twenty minute wait.

After I got the prescription, I went upstairs to the pharmacy through the hospital entrance room and lobby. I have never, ever seen such a hospital; it’s just like a city. There were cafes, restaurants, gift shops, and many fast-food places, as well. It was a most beautiful, spacious building. I wanted to trade the noisy Hostel for a stay in the hospital.

Before going to the hospital,  I finally got the directions from the Hostel reception person, after she told me she didn’t know any doctors. I decided a hospital would be the place to help me. I got on the tram just in time. A man saw me racing to the door, and when the door started to close, he opened it with his heel. It reminded me of a soccer game I saw when a player made a goal with his heel. Good save!

When I left California on April 2, Doctor Slater gave me a six month prescriptiowith directions to get an exam in six months. I waited for MedCo to send the meds, and was told they would all arrive by March 25. They didn’t. They also didn’t arrive on the 26th or 27th. Then when I called again, someone from MedCo told me  part of the order would be there on the 28th and that the rest would be at my apartment by the 29th. A partial order did arrive; the rest of the order did not. I would clear out my apartment on the 31st, and that would be my last day there. My son went by to make one last check. I left the U.S. on April 2nd, without the last package of medicine.

Some medicine was forwarded to another sons’ house afterwards. The company was made aware of the fact I would be leaving and needed the meds before I left. I think it may well be worth paying a bit more to a local pharmacy so not to depend on a corporation that does not pay attention to the individual.

Other than this glitch, everything is great here in Dublin. I planned that the first few days here would be to take care of business. I also had some cards printed out with my blog address, email and name of book, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII, and when I gave the order to the printer he agreed they’d be ready by 4 p.m. It was 2 p.m. so I went to a movie. I asked the movie ticket person where she could put me for two hours, and she gave me a ticket to Chernobyl Diaries. Not a fan of horror tales, this one was okay.



Dublin scenes

I met a teacher with a group of students from Germany. Thomas Petri is a renaissance man, who teaches English literature, German and Religious studies. He also makes musical instruments out of cigar boxes, and weaves string bracelets for fun. He is also a lay-pastor for the Baptist church, and he wears a kilt.

Another gentleman, Manuel from a town near Bologna, Italy, is in Ireland to learn English. We sat together during lunch time. I heated up something I got from a store and Manuel spent some time and created a gourmet-looking soup. Guess who doesn’t like to cook?

I’m learning how to walk in this city and watch for traffic that seems to aim take aim at me. There are big letters on every sidewalk warning pedestrians to either “look left” or “look right”. Those warnings are necessary in a busy town with tourists who are used to drivers on the right side of the road. I’m so cautious that it takes me a long time to convince myself I can now walk across the street.

One time while looking for a shopping area where I could replace the second pair of pants that have grown too big, a kind woman walked all the way with me to the shopping district that was jam-packed with folks looking for bargains. The shops are extremely noisy with blaring music and people’s loud voices trying to be heard.

Yesterday, after listening to the jigging sounds of Irish music I walked around a bit and found Christ’s Church Cathedral, Dublina, a piece of the original medieval wall, and much more. I’ve posted a photo of a lovely garden I found, and while walking on the path a gentleman asked me where I was from…I don’t think I look too much different from any Irish woman, but I’ve been mistaken now three times for being Swedish, and he did, as well.

But, once they hear me speak, they know I’m from the states because of my “accent”.

Traditional Irish Music posted on Facebook

I couldn’t figure out how to post the video of the Irish music, so those who are on Facebook can see it there. Sorry.

Irish Traditional music

Today I tapped my toes, clapped my hands, sang, laughed and listened to traditional music of Ireland: the makings of American hillbilly sound. It was a fun afternoon, and was a nice retreat from earlier in the day when I suddenly got caught in a rain storm that soaked through my clothes. I was inside the Brazen Head Inn where six men entertained a pub stuffed with people. Beer was generously flowing between the audience and the musicians.

I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in the 1100s, sitting inside the oldest pub in Ireland, built in 1198. The men played traditional musical instruments and sang, sometimes melancholy, and sometimes bawdy ballads. Every song had a story.

There were two drummers, one used his hand to beat out the rhythm on the drum skin, while another innovated a rhythm section by strumming with brushes on the wooden box he sat on. Other men played an accordion, another an electric violin, two guitars and a spoon player. All of the men took turns singing. The spoon player/singer’s voice was so good, he could stand in for an Irish Tenor. Their expressions while playing the songs showed the love of their culture and the hardships the Irish faced throughout the years. The bawdy songs were so spirited it made them sweat.

One man from Ireland, Kevin McHugh, sat in on one number, singing and playing his guitar, his foot hit the beat with his leg flying way up off the floor. I met and spoke with some of the people in the pub; they were local and some from the states and a couple from England.

I thought listening to traditional Irish music was one way to learn about the Irish culture, but dinner would be another way. So I searched the area known as Temple Bar. On this street, a person could find food from every culture on the planet, it seems, but I wanted a typical Irish meal.

I found one by asking a lot of questions as I passed Italian, Persian and Indian, pizza, hot dog stands, and other restaurants and many Pubs, in the land of Pubs. I ended up having a dish of grilled vegetables and mash.  Mash was mashed potatoes over meat and gravy in a casserole dish and then baked.


Euro games last night, theatre and architecture today

After being inside the hostel (my fifth home on my journey) for about one and a half hours yesterday, two groups of German high school students arrived and set up a Euro Futbol game-watching, arena in the community room. Germany won the game with four points to Greece’s one point and every time a point was made, loud cheers erupted, arms flew up in the air, and one boy jumped up and waved a German flag.

In a room with that much spirit, you couldn’t help but catch it. I rooted for Germany, as well, but can’t help but feel sorry for Greece. Someone wins, someone looses.

This morning I took a tour on a Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus, and saw lots of famous old world architecture, and famous sites that included: Abbey Street, Trinity College of 1592, The Custom House of 1791, and the Four Courts of 1785, among other sites along the route.

Four Courts building can be seen right out of my window. There is some restoration going on the building now.

On my own walk back to the Hostel today, I saw an old theatre, called Smock Alley Theatre, which was built in 1662. Rich Veneza of New Jersey is an actor, but taking a break and working in the theatre in the marketing department. He graciously gave me information on the history of the theatre and let me look at a section of the theatre, but not the stage, as they were in rehearsals for the next performance, “Another Twin”, by Lally Katz, which will run from Monday to Saturday next week.

John Ogilby opened this stone-constructed theatre as part of the restoration of the British monarchy and King Charles II in 1660, along with the London’s Drury Lane, and the Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was the first custom-built theatre in the city and still remains in the same form.

Rich pointed out the ceiling filigree and said it was assumed to be placed there by the same architecture who built the interior of the ship Titanic, but he couldn’t substantiate that claim. It’s beautiful, none the less, and is on the ceiling of a huge room that is used for various other venues, aside from theatre.

Artistic Director Kristian Marken of the Smock Alley Players, directed, “She Stoops to Conquer”, a play that returned two hundred and thirty-nine years later. “Written in response to the polite, mannered comedies of the late 1800s, this play is an uproariously cheeky and bold farce that has lost none of its shine in the intervening centuries,” said Marken in the program booklet when it began its run in May of this year.

Aside from the trip on the bus, I took a short shopping trip to a grocery store, and a stop at an Italian coffee shop for a toastie and coffee. I’m in a tea-drinking world here, and while I prefer coffee, I aim always to do as the local culture does wherever I am, unless the coffee-option is offered. The women in the coffee shop couldn’t understand when I asked what was a toastie. She asked me over and over what I wanted to know. I gave up and ordered one with cheese, spinach and tomato. Turns out that’s what we call a sandwich.


Reflections on the way to Dublin


I’m so tired right now that if someone told me to stand in the corner, I’d fall asleep. It is 1:55 p.m. now in Dublin and 2:55 p.m. in Copenhagen where I left early today on a jet.

I think it many have been the lack of sleep that gave credence to the emotion I felt while on the way to Dublin. Challenges in the Copenhagen Airport should be part of this story, but, like I said, I’m tired and I don’t want to go there in my mind and spirit.

Flying above the fluffy white clouds and an occasional strip of blue peeking through made me nostalgic, and I actually felt like crying, but didn’t really have a reason. Several times while looking out of the window I saw rainbows in perfect circles.

I remembered that Don Watkins, owner of the Durango Air Service where I got my pilot’s license, called it a ‘pilot’s rainbow’, after I told him of seeing a shadow of the airplane situated right in the center of the circle rainbow.

That did it! With a lump in my throat I remembered those days when Arngrim patiently explained (over and over) what I needed to know to get that big machine in the air and down. He is a perfectionist, and that is exactly who you would want as a teacher, and exactly who you would want to pilot the plane you’re in. His attention to detail makes certain that everything  goes as planned. Take for instance, yesterday: He mentioned  to the head flight attendant that I was his friend and his former student, and it would be a treat for me to be invited into the new Airbus cockpit that would take me from the Faroe Islands to Copenhagen.

She did more than that, she got an invitation for me to sit in the cockpit during takeoffs and landings. A lottery win wouldn’t have surpassed that. Many, many thanks to the generosity of the pilots, Johan and Tommy, both born and raised in the Faroes. But a bigger thanks goes to Arngrim for making it possible.

Arngrim began his dream of flying while attending a church camp during the summer months in the Faroe Islands and the landing strip was within eyesight of the camp. “I liked to watch the airplanes land,” Arngrim remembered.

Per, Arngrim’s father, told me when Arngrim came home from camp, he put his fist down on the table and said, ‘that is what I want to do. I will be a pilot.’

His first attempt to get lessons at age seventeen ended in a scam before he even got started, and it was ten years later he began to search again for a school, and that led him to Durango, Colorado.  Meeting him and all the other young pilots from all over the world-and when my husband Will was alive- will all go down in my memory as the best time of my life.

I’ll always remember the flying games at the airport and one of Arngrim’s perfect landings earned him the first place prize.  Will was flying with Arngrim during the competition.  The pilots were to see how close they could get to a wide chalk-marker on the landing strip. Some got close to the mark, some landed before, and some landed after the marker. Arngrim landed on the marker, with the chalk even showing up on the tires.

So that was on my mind this morning as we flew through the clouds. I also realized,  while dreaming and watching the clouds, that looking back at the finish of my year, certain people will stand out. I know the Jacobsen family will be front and center.

That family taught me the importance  of family support. “If anyone needs any help, someone in the family is always there,” Arngrim told me. It’s a special tradition in the culture of the Faroese people. And it extends to people not in the family, as well. That was evidenced many years ago when Per worked on the tunnels that are unique to the Island.

“He was going to be working and would be away from us for a long time, so we all moved in with another family until the job was finished,” said Arngrim. I met one of the women of the family, a little girl at the time,  who hosted the Jacomsens. I met her at the rowing race Arngrim’s nephew, Per, rowed in and took first place.

But now, the journey has led me to the city of Dublin in Ireland, and I am in a hostel, where I am the oldest of about fifty teenagers who came in to stay for a few days.

The man at the front desk, when I mentioned I would probably be the oldest person here, his reply was…...

“Just don’t dance on the table before 9 p.m.”

The photo is Arngrim Jacobsen reading my book, “Too Close to the Sun’ a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII. He has fond memories of the time Will ( who the story is about), and I hosted young pilots from all over the world in Durango, Colorado.


Leaving the Faroes for Copenhagen

I’ll be taking a 2:45 p.m. flight out of the Faroe Islands and will spend one night in Copenhagen, then on to Dublin,Ireland.  I have so much on my mind and heart right now I cannot begin to give it justice. Tomorrow is another day.