Monday, December 14, 2009

The End

So that's the end of my little Irish adventure. Almost two years after arriving in Ireland I flew out of Cork yesterday (Thursday 10th Dec) to spend some brief time in Birmingham with Mum before heading off back to Jersey where I landed today (Friday 11th Dec).

I had every intention of staying in Ireland permanently but the combined effect of the wretched economy and personal financial circumstances mean that I am returning to the Channel Islands where I lived for over 30 years and where there is always a need for accountant-type people. I hope.

In due course I'll maybe write a proper retrospective. But for now, things I'll miss about Ireland.

• My many friends at Crusaders AC in Dublin - I just can't believe that I'll never see many of them again
• The Irish people
• Ringsend and Sandymount Strand
• The Athletics/Running/Triathlon forum on - I will still contribute I suppose but now as a bit of an outsider
• Waterford, despite a short and ultimately painful spell there
• My friends and relatives in Cork, especially my beautiful cousin Mary, her sister Ann, husband Henry and their impressive daughter Eibhlin together with my great and longtime friends Deirdre and Joan
• Guinness
• Setanta Ireland and RTE2 for their sports coverage

But I won't miss

• The circumstances that led to the birth of the so-called Celtic Tiger that ultimately handed us the present basket-case economy
• The lack of runnable footpaths and rights of way across private land that are taken for granted in the UK (and Jersey)
• Not being able to listen to Radio 5Live

I guess I'll start a new blog shortly (check profile) but for Roy In Ireland this is a wrap.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bat Out Of Cork

The present lousy weather isn't, of course, confined to Cork. However yesterday (Saturday) in the city centre was one of the gloomiest, wettest and windiest days it is possible to have. Happily the city has places like the excellent English Market and the Crawford Art Gallery to dry out in whilst hoping that the River Lee remains where it is on the spring tide. The recent flooding was most unwelcome with the Mardyke, including the first class UCC sports complex, being particularly badly damaged.

Today (Sunday) was a distinct improvement with only a couple of drenchings as I made my way from Togher up Spur Hill and into the countryside beyond. At three miles I hit a nice rhythm and, with a little right and left, found myself on a proper country lane - the type with grass growing down the middle. It is not so easy to find these in modern Ireland - lanes which lead pretty much nowhere and where the only traffic consists of those who occupy farms or properties along the road in question. The sun even came out on a couple of occasions and showcased many of Ireland's forty shades of green.

Turning around at six miles my iPod selected Meat Loaf's quite brilliant live version of Bat Out Of Hell - he certainly sounds better on that than he did at the Marquee in Cork last year. I was on the third repeat of the 11-minute track when one side of my earphones decided to pack up. Why is it that those things have a working life of only about 12 months? But it was no bad thing as, for the last few miles, I was able to fully appreciated the sights and sounds of the Cork countryside.

12 miles in 2:08 for just 22.5 miles on the week. And, if as seems likely, this was one of my last runs in Ireland, it was a nice one to go out on.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1,000 Miles

I had resolved to do the final seven miles this morning and the weather gods weren't going to stop me. It was lashing down and the wind was howling as I set off from Togher up Spur Hill. Truly it was a day when the general populace is proved correct in regarding us runners as slightly insane.

Within 48 hours the wind had come around 180 degrees and was now blowing a gale from the south. I was instantly soaked through and quickly at that excellent point where I couldn't get any wetter. Glasses into pocket as being of little use in the circumstances I splashed through the puddles and streams and finally turned around at 3.5 miles.

At least it wasn't too cold. My thoughts turned back to the Jersey Half Marathon back in November 2007, the 9th and last that I organised. The conditions were similar to today but with a much lower chill factor. Three runners were hospitalised and many others treated by St John Ambulance for hypothermia. I consider that we were fortunate and still wonder if we ought to have cancelled the whole thing. A difficult decision as so many had travelled to Jersey especially for the race.

Whatever, I turned around today and with the contours and conditions now very much in my favour I scooted back at a fair old trot and fairly flew (for me) the last couple of miles in sub-8s.

In a year in which my running has been fairly aimless (since Connemara in the spring anyway) the 1,000 mile thread on has given me a bit of focus anyway and has got me on the road when I otherwise might not have laced up. So thanks guys.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Caution, Bowling In Progress

A sure sign that one is in the Rebel County is coming across a road bowling match. Peculiar to Cork, Armagh and very few other places, the contestants take turns in hurling a small iron ball along a country road. He (or indeed she) who completes the distance agreed upon in the least number of throws is declared the winner. Thought to have been brought to Armagh by the mill workers of the north of England, the game was in turn brought to Cork by those workers engaged in the linen industry. It was extremely popular for much of the 20c with hundreds of people turning out to cheer on their local heroes, and heavy betting would took place.

Today's match was a pretty low-key affair though with only a dozen or so spectators. I stopped to allow one chap to take his turn which proved a weak, off-target effort and I proceeded on my way.

I find myself in the Togher district of Cork City, about three miles to the south of the city centre. Heading further south into the country lanes one cannot escape the inevitability of hill climbs. Today I set off from Togher Cross up past the City Bounds pub along a road that appears to have no name on the OS map. It rises quite steeply for maybe 1.5 miles before levelling out, and you find yourself at the perimeter fence of Cork Airport, and indeed passing by the end of the western runway. Running along here the other night was a risky business what with being blinded by car headlights, but today it was fine. A little further on, leaving the airport behind, the road drops away steeply again and I found myself coming out onto the main Kinsale Road at the Five Mile Inn. Happily it was not necessary to follow the main road and I was able to hang a right in the direction of west Cork. At the outskirts of Ballinhassig the Garmin bleeped six miles, time for me to turn around.

Today for the first time I activated the Garmin's 'Return to Start' facility, which is quite neat. It shows the route you have travelled and you can follow this line home if you're lost. Although I didn't have to fall back on it today it would certainly come in useful under certain circumstances, as would the little compass pointer showing magnetic north.

Not for the first time I was struck by the consideration of Irish drivers towards pedestrians where no footpath exists. They always give a wide berth, or slow down/stop if traffic is coming in the opposite direction. In addition the indicator is often used and, if so, is acknowledged by me with a wave (as I hope it is by all walkers/runners, but maybe not). Compare with Jersey where drivers inevitably treat pedestrians with careless disregard, if indeed they happen to see them at all.

I'm running nicely today and I manage to negotiate the steep climb back up to airport level. But it's only now I fully realise that there is a damp and brisk northerly blowing that means I have to dig in along this flat section. Compensation for the climbs come in the form of the views to west and south. In the dark the city lights are quite stunning from this viewpoint. Through the bowling match and down the drop to Togher, now pretty tired and cold and ready for a hot shower.

So 12 miles in 2:07 making 27 on the week and 993 for the year to date. All things being equal I'll try to wrap up the 1,000 on Tuesday.

I feel guilty about leaving my Couch to 5k ladies group in Waterford. We were onto Week 5 and I think they were surprising themselves with their good progress. I left them the schedule for the remaining weeks and hope that they stick together as a group and complete the programme.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Congratulations... Bill Dowis, author of The Road to Philadelphia blog who completed his first ever marathon today at - of course, Philadelphia. Well done mate.

Still pretty aimless really

An interesting LSR today. After two SSRs during the week in which my legs were very heavy I again struggled initially today. Although the gales had abated somewhat it was still hard going as I set off uphill and westward around the city of Waterford. A couple of walk breaks were required as I gained the high ground and then descended to the Old Kilmeaden Road along a very watery Knockhouse Road. The country is basically under water at present though Waterford has escaped relatively lightly.

Battling into the wind and turning onto the ORR (Outer Ring Road) I was tempted to cut it short and hang a left along the Cork Road and a couple of miles back into town. But I persevered and was rewarded with a revival as the Garmin ticked through five miles. This isn't unknown for me by any means. Often in Dublin I'd struggle the four miles up the Royal Canal to Ashtown before finding some rhythm as I headed into the Phoenix Park. So today I perked up and speeded up a tad with the wind now behind, or side-on at worst. So much so that, coming to the Farranshoneen roundabout I resolved to add 3.5 miles by turning right and looping via Knockboy Village and the Dunmore Road.

A little way down towards Knockboy I passed the house bought as a newbuild 20 years or so ago by my friends Eleanor and Dave. Why not, I thought, and paused the Garmin and invited myself in for a coffee and a chat. Poor Elly has contracted successive exotic bugs from visits to Istanbul and Thailand and is a bit fragile at present. But we had a nice chat and I set off again refreshed.

That nice drop past Ballygunner Church with the Suir estuary in the background. Listen to Steve Runner, on his knees, begging us all to start producing running podcasts. Up a last testing little rise to Ardkeen and from there it's a nice drop of 1.5 miles down into town.

13.46 miles in 2:21 for 27.6 on the week and 966 for 2009 to date.

Birmingham Pub Bombings 1974

I was a trainee accountant in 1974, working for a small firm of Chartered Accountants in Birmingham city centre. Us articled clerks - four or five of us, would work away either in the office in Cornwall Street, or else out on site at a client's premises. We were all studying for exams at the time. And whereas the large auditing firms would send their trainees away on residential courses, at Ernest T Kerr & Co it was correspondence courses all the way. You'd be sent the course work, buy the recommended text books, send away the test papers and somehow get yourself in shape for Intermediate, Final Part 1 and Final Part 2.

Thirty five years ago today was a Thursday, a pretty ordinary day I guess. All that week I'd left work and gone with my fellow trainee Pete to the Reference Library with our papers and books. We'd work away for a couple of hours, often testing each other on case law and stuff. At closing time, 8 o'clock, we'd head off for a few pints. Quite often that meant the Tavern In The Town, a lively cellar bar in New Street, next door to the Odeon. But that Thursday I was knackered and we agreed that, with the weekend in sight, that an early night was a sensible idea.

Sure enough, once home in the city's eastern suburbs, I crashed out straight away. Only next morning did I find out as Mum pointed silently to the TV screen. The previous evening 21 people had been killed and 182 injured, many of them horrifically. Bombs had detonated without adequate warning at the Tavern In The Town and at the Mulberry Bush, just around the corner. Most of the victims were young.

The actuality was awful. The aftermath was chilling. For days people, myself included, avoided the bombing scenes and tried to deny what had happened. For a time there was a strong anti-Irish feeling in the city which faded with time. The Birmingham Six were arrested, charged, convicted and later released on appeal. The perpetrators, whoever they may be, are still amongst us today - living, working, socialising.

On the 35th anniversary of the bombings it is still chilling to flick through the photographs of the young victims, none of whom I knew personally but many of whom I would have regularly bumped into making my way to and from the bar of the Tavern. Their lives were too short.