Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year 

... well it's time to clear the decks and put the year 2003 behind us.
For me and my family, it has been a momentous one. Just this time last year I lived in a busy city suburb, worked in the corporate world, wasted a lot of time on planes internationally ... and said there must be more than this !

Well 2003 was the year of the big change for us, we gave all that up, we found a nice place to live and moved lock stock and barrel out of the "rat race" to the more relaxed pace of country living. It has been a big change of that there is no doubt ... six months after the move, we are very positive about the move. Though some of the euphoria has dissipated, in the dark depths of winter there are certain city comforts which are missed, but overall we could not be happier about the change we have made as a family. We have settled in remarkably well. 2003 was a big year, and one that will be remembered with fondness by us as a family. As we put 2003 behind us, we look forward with hope, optimism and not a little pride that we were not too afraid to make the big change from city life to rural living.

2004 brings with it a new broom, and a fresh start. This is going to be the year that we really have to knuckle down and make this new life work, the honeymoon is over, and we need to develop some income streams and really make a living in the country.

May 2004 be all you hope, and as momentously positive for you as 2003 was for us.

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Christmas in the country 

Well the tree is up, the house is decorated, every bush and branch between here and Cork city seems to have been dressed up with bright baubles and colored lights ... a country Christmas is hard to beat. Needless to say, our children are very excited about Santa's impending visit, and now two days before Christmas the anticipation has reached near fever pitch.

People now seem to take as much effort decorating the outside of their houses as they do inside. Against the pitch black country night, the dazzling colours of the fairy lights, the animated santas, sleighs and snowman offer a cheery contrast in the depths of winter. At night, as a result of the pure blackness around many of the country properties, the bright festive lights stand out like lighthouses on the hills and valleys and it is a real treat to drive anywhere these evenings. Of course, there are some people who go all out ... and sometimes their displays turn out to be sad offerings to the god of consumer tack !! But there are others who do it in style. For instance a few miles from where we live, one of the houses is known far and wide as providing the most amazing Christmas display. Two nights ago, it was a very pleasant if bitterly cold winters evening, we packed up the children in their winter woolies and set off to visit this Christmas Mecca. The house itself is quite small and is situated on a small back road. When we got there there were already 4 or 5 cars which had pulled in to view the display. Well it is nigh impossible to describe the scene that spread before us. Think of a half acre of trees, shrubs and lawns covered in Christmas lights, lamps, santas, sleighs, stars and colored light ropes. Every single protrusion of the house itself had lights or some Christmas paraphanelia on it, every window frame, ledge, chimney pot, eaves, facing boards, and doorways. Think Griswald's family Christmas ... and you are getting close !! ... The house is surrounded by gardens with lots of shrubs and trees and every leaf seemed to have a light on it ... there were tunnels of lights, dancing fairies, and in the centre of it all was a magnificent crib with wonderful nativity statues ... and Christmas music blaring over stereo speakers. The owner of the house allowed people walk around the displays and they had a donation box on the gateway for the local hospice.

So we wandered in with the children, and they just loved it. The owner was adjusting a set of lights on the gable of the house, and she came over to talk to us. She was a lovely lady who clearly enjoyed the excitement her displays created for children and their parents. Before you could say jack flash, she had put her hand into her pocket and pulled out three bags of sweets one for each of the children. They were thrilled with the sweets and being able to wander around in this winter wonderland, they are still talking about their visit today ... who needs EuroDisney eh ?

As a youngster, one of the traditions we had for Christmas was the lovely old Irish tradition on Christmas eve of lighting a candle in every window of the house. The purpose of lighting a candle in each window, is to let the Mary and Joseph know that there was room for them in this inn if they were passing this way. On Christmas eve as soon as it got dark, the whole family would move from room to room for the ceremonial lighting of the candle. The youngest person in the house would have the honour of lighting the first candle which was used to light all of the others as we moved from room to room. Once all the candles were lit in all of the windows we would all rush out into the darkness to look back at the house with candles lit in every window. This is my abiding memory of Christmas past, and so I look forward to continuing that tradition for this country Christmas.

(... sorry, if you find the above a bit over sentimental ... please stay tuned ... normal blogging will return after the holidays !! Well we are choc a bloc for Christmas, so I will not be updating this blog for a few days ... but I will be back with updates on how the festivities went !! May I wish you and yours all the very best for this holiday season.)

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Sunday, December 21, 2003

Bringing Home the Christmas ... 

I have to confess that at Christmas I set aside my usual somewhat cynical approach to life and I get into the spirit of Christmas a little more than I would like to pretend ! Yes, I admit it ... I am a bit of Christmas fan ! All through the year I cannot abide shopping, it is a chore I detest ... Internet shopping was made for me ! However, at Christmas time for one shopping event only I set aside my disdain.

My mother had a lovely phrase for the big pre-Christmas shopping event, where all of the food and drink and related yuletide goodies were bought in one swoop. As we lived in the country, this expedition was a one off trip into the city. She used to call this expedition "bringing home the Christmas" ... and it really was, because usually everything related to Christmas was acquired in this one expedition. The expedition was planned with military precision, for days in advance of the trip, our lists would have to be in precise order, our shoes polished and each one us had a special mission from our "sergeant major" mother ! I always remembered that this event signaled the real start of Christmas in our house and so I looked forward to it every year.

I have to say, in our house we are not as regimented, mind you today was the day we ordained for bringing home the Christmas, I would have liked to have the "sergeant major" around because it was absolute chaos trying to get the kids into the car, and to have the lists ready etc. Our trek to the shopping Mecca was an hour and a half, and it was very pleasant. Though the centre was busy there was no problem with parking, plenty of room for us to move about, Christmas music everywhere and carol singers shaking their tins. It was all very seasonal and pleasant I have to say. My usual threshold (before losing my head) in a shopping centre is about 45 minutes. Because we are hosting the in-laws (or should that be outlaws ahem !) we had a lot of food shopping to do, so we spent 3 hours 20 minutes just on grocery shopping... and I managed to remain almost sane and somewhat jovial. Apart from the mammoth food shop, I even enjoyed browsing in a few other stores and picking up some gifts for our family and our wonderful neighbours who have made us feel so welcome since we moved here. The kids had a whale of a time of course, and what used to be a weekly occurrence, now a rarity a trip to McDonald's went down very well.

We got home, very tired after a long trek, my feet were killing me, but Una and I very much enjoyed bringing home the Christmas to our country home this year.

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Simple Country Living .... 

If you are interested in Country Living this personal blog is a must read ...

Simple Country Living : A personal blog

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Commuting time ... 

I know I am going to make any city folk who have to endure daily commuting in gridlocked cities very sick reading this ... (my apologies in advance !)

When I lived in the city, my daily commute driving to work was about 1 hour 15 minutes, which by many standards is not a huge commute. When the weather was bad, or we had a relatively minor accident on one of the main access routes into the city, the commuting time could balloon to 2 and half hours which was just mind numbing !! Every day I sat in my car, and listened to the same inane news stories repeated every 15 minutes ... and I asked myself "Is this all there is to life ?". Some people can handle commuting and can use the time well to ponder life's imponderables ... but I just couldn't, I would spend the whole time obsessing about all the things I could be doing with all this wasted time ! I guess after a few years of doing this, I couldn't take it anymore and I decided to go for broke and make the move to the country.

One of the things that attracted us to this property, was the fact that the previous owner was an artist and he had a workshop separate to the main property. This we felt would be ideal as a workspace for myself and so it has turned out to be. It is a good workspace, with plenty of light ... and each window provides good views of the sea and indeed overland views. Regularly when I am in my deepest thoughts and working I will hear a cow mooooing in the background or some of the sheep which inhabit the fields behind us ... and I think which is better the sound of carhorns or mooing cows .... tough choice !

My commuting time today, takes all of about 25 seconds from leaving the door of my house to walk my home office ... it is bliss, each day I thank my lucky stars for it. It is an ideal arrangement in many ways, but lest people think everything is perfect, though I am working on it, I still have to figure out how to generate a sustained income from my home working, so not all is perfect in my bucolic abode ... well not yet anyway !!

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Friday, December 12, 2003

Broadband in rural areas ? 

In a previous post I noted the momentous impact that the internet is already having on rural life. To date the potential positive impact that the internet can have on the quality of country life has been severely hampered by the fact (I suspect) that most rural dwellers around the globe do not and will not have access to broadband internet in the foreseeable future. Regrettably, we are therefore consigned to accessing the internet via a 'narrowband' bohreen !

In this country our primary carrier Eircom really appears to be a luddite when it comes to the provision of telecommunications services to rural areas. How much worse will things get on the infrastructure investment side, now that it is an American corporation whose shareholders (venture capitalists) are trying to squeeze every cent out of every asset they have. I never dared to hope I might be able to access the Eircom or Esat Broadband services in from my country retreat ... however I felt sure I would be able to get ISDN and at least achieve a "dual carriageway internet bohreen" (!). But alas no, Eircom after months of cajoling (with no response) eventually responded to my request and said "ISDN will definitely not be possible on your line due to the distance from the exchange. This means that the line will never sustain ISDN".

Isn't it great to be part of the Information Age (sic !)

... I understand our Minister for Communications is today announcing broadband access for an additional 80 towns and cities ... I won't hold my breath !!!

Minister Announces Broadband Action Plan

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Return to the city ... 

I've just returned from an extended weekend in the City. Having not been back for over 4 months since I left I wondered how I'd feel about being back, and whether we'd made the right decision ?

The marathon trip to Dublin took no less than 6 and half hours on a Saturday... because the traffic was so bad ...we arrived tired, bedraggled and with stiff limbs ! The main reason for the visit, apart from meeting family members before Christmas, was an invitation we had from my former employers to attend the annual corporate Christmas party on the Saturday night.

We were staying at my sisters in Maynooth and about an hour after we arrived, we changed into our finery and caught a cab into the city. On the way we encountered the M50 (Dublin's orbital route), which even at nearly 8 pm had a tailback of about two miles to get on to the "mad cow" roundabout and four lanes of a queue over the two toll bridges. I'd forgotten how BAD the traffic in this city was ... and certainly felt very glad to be able to leave that all behind. The cab from Maynooth to the city cost us the princely sum of 35 Euros ... Ouch !

The party itself was great. It was nice to meet my old colleagues and share some reminiscences about the good old days ... the reality was of course quite different ... but misty alchol imbibed recollection is always far better !! Though it is a relatively short number of months since I left the company, I felt as if an eternity had passed and that it was indeed a lifetime ago I worked in the corporate environment. I watched the jockeying for position and the office politics unfold before me with a detached air of indifference .... I was delighted to have all left the "politicking" behind. I felt oddly disconnected from my former colleagues yet at the same time strangely familiar.

Following the party, the rest of the weekend was spent visiting and being visited by various family members who were very keen to hear how we were getting on in the "sticks". As I mentioned, we were staying at my sisters house which is your average semi detached property in a nice new estate in Maynooth. It's amazing how quickly you get used to something. Both Una and I remarked to each other how restricted the space was in the estate and how on top of each other all the houses and gardens seemed to be ... which felt odd as a few short months ago, this is the exactly how we had lived ! In the country it is very nice not to be overlooked in every direction by someone or someone's property. With the exception of the lights of a few far off properties, our country house is surrounded by the darkness at night .... and so strangely I felt at a few points during the nights we stayed in Dublin, that it was nice to have a few lights and signs of life fairly close by. We drove back on Monday, and the journey was pleasant enough and uneventful. When we arrived we noticed a huge tanker had pulled up in the bay in front of the house, and was light up like a Christmas tree ... so I got my wish of having a few lights at night time !!

Leaving all that horrible traffic, the overpriced housing and very expensive services behind .... it feels good to be back in our country home !

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Thursday, December 04, 2003

Escape to the Country BBC2 

"Escape to the Country, the property show that helps prospective buyers find their dream home." - BBC2

Just came across this website for a show on escaping to the country. Haven't seen it, anyone know when it's on or have any comment on it ... is it any good ?

Escape to the Country television programme

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Wednesday, December 03, 2003

24 Hour Doctor Cover ... Southdoc 

Another service I didn't think we would have in the wilds of west cork. I have just discovered that we have 24 hour out of hours cover if we ever needed a doctor (which hopefully will never happen). The nearest Southdoc control centre is less than 5 miles away. So if our local doctor (who has already proven to be fantastic by the way) is ever unavailable, you simply call a 1850 number and a doctor will be driven to your home. Very comforting particularly when one has young children ...

40,000 calls on, SouthDoc has proved its worth

... by the way my order arrived promptly from Woodies DIY online this afternoon. On Monday afternoon, I ordered two sets of christmas lights and the total including deliver came to significantly less than one set would have cost me locally. Good stuff Woodies !!

© James Walsh,2003-2004


Monday, December 01, 2003

The internet impact on rural life ... 

Has there ever been a more momentus change for country dwellers than the internet ? It is very easy to underestimate its impact as unlike the "Industrial Revolution" it hasn't had a huge physical effect on the landscape. Nevertheless it's impact has been no less dramatic, even more so I would venture to suggest.

For example, one of the key reasons I felt I could move from the city, was my confidence (perhaps misplaced !) that with the Internet I could surely find a way of developing, and running businesses from idyllic rural surrondings. This trend can be seen dramatically in areas such as West Cork, where quite a number of inhabitants work in various roles from home via the internet, this despite the appalling lack of broadband in the region .. but that is a whole other story !

The other significant internet impact I've experienced since moving here is the availability of products and services. In an urban environment when one needs something one is conditioned to jump into the car and drive to the nearest retail park and "shop till you drop". For many of us, that is a way of life ... shopping is the new religion ! When I arrived in the country, I realised that hopping into the car every five minutes is not a realistic or desirable option ... after all this "rampant commercialism" was one of things we wanted to get away from !! That said, there are excellent retail parks within an hour or so of where I live ... but it doesn't now seem like the only way to get something. In the last four months, I've ordered the following items online and have received them in a timely and cost effective manner, all from the comfort of my home office !

- Queen sized automatic pumped airbed from Pin Stripe Stuff
- Satellite Digibox Satellite.ie
- Christmas Lights & Decorations Woodies DIY

... and best of all the Airbed wasn't available in any store in Ireland, the digibox wasn't available at any sort of reasonable price anywhere else in Ireland (that I know of !).
Not being a person who likes shopping this is nirvana ! Ironically I feel that I have a better choice of products and services, simply because my first port of call is now the net and not the nearest retail park !!

© James Walsh,2003-2004


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