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This weekend, the “Independence of the Seas” arrived in Cobh, Co. Cork on it’s maiden voyage from Southampton. It’s the biggest cruise ship in the world, but from what I can gather, it won’t hold that record for long.

Rather than show photos this time, I’ve recorded a short video instead. Enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

Hey!

During the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Cork yesterday the festive atmosphere was broken momentarily by the usual procession of dour, po faced holy-Joes and Josephines threatening us all with damnation and a bit of perdition on the side if we didn’t get back to saying our ten Hail Marys.

My six year old daughter, annoyed by the break in ceremonies, shouts up at me within earshot of everyone around us..

“Hey, this isn’t a parade for God, it’s for St Patrick”..

Ah, bless.

I managed to get myself up very early last weekend in order to take a few photos down by the coast while the sun was low in the sky.

Morning sunrise

This photograph, of the fields, the mist and the windswept bush in the foreground, was taken on my way down to the beach. I love it.

Bird on Ballybrannigan Beach Glow on the rocks Monster head

The above are a few photos taken of the coast and the rocks as they are bathed in the orange searchlight glow of sunrise. Check out the rock monster poking his head out of the ground!

The new Irish Rail experience

Irish Rail recently purchased a whole set of super-duper railway carriages as part of a major government initiative to modernise our country’s rolling stock. You can book your train seats in advance, there is plenty of room for luggage and the journey itself is impressive by its relative silence.

One of the things that particularly interested me were the on-board toilets – automatic doors, push-button locking systems, triple action pee sprays for the loo-bowl, infrared systems for hand-washing, hot air blowers for drying. An almost totally hands-free waste management experience. The future has indeed arrived!

Except for one thing.

On my trip down from Dublin, the smell of cigarette smoke emanating from the little room was overpowering. The little room is being used as a smoking room by some of the lesser-evolved members of this society. And what do Irish Rail seem to be doing about it? Smoke alarms perhaps? Spot fines? Throwing the offenders out of the train at high speed? Garotting them on the emergency break cord? Naah. More than their job’s worth I would guess. After all, we are only talking about health and safety laws here..

In addition, what is it with the Irish male species that they feel obliged to bring on-board 12 packs of beer tins, and proceed to get pissed in front of their fellow travellers? Some of my fellow travellers were already stinking of drink before they boarded the train. If this was air-travel these people would never be allowed on in the first place.

I must be getting old, but it just seems that with all the changes in our country over the past few years, some old habits will take a long time to die out.

Yesterday we went down to Cobh to see a huge ocean liner arrive into the port.

Navigator Arriving

The town of Cobh* has a fascinating maritime history. For decades, before the rise of air travel, it was the departure point for millions of Irish people as they set sail for the New World. It was the last port of call of the Titanic before its fateful crossing. It received the dead bodies from the Lusitania, when it was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale. And it is a later addition to the Republic of Ireland, a “treaty port” ceded to the State by Britain just before the onset of World War II. The headquarters of the Irish Navy is just across a narrow channel from Cobh, on the island of Haulbowline.

The Navigator of the Seas

The ship, the Navigator of the Seas, is one of the largest cruise ships in the world with a weight of 140,000 tonnes. It can carry over 3,000 passengers. In this case, the boat was on a short weekend trip from Southampton. The passengers must have been amazed when they were greeted by a large crowd of onlookers. It was a holiday weekend here, with a local festival happening in the town.

Goliath

My kids were well impressed. A floating hotel of this magnitude is an impressive sight, no matter what age you are.

Looking up

* Cobh is pronounced, and means, “Cove”: unusually, an “irishisation” of an English word. Most of our place names are anglicisations of Irish Words.

Blarney Castle

With St. Patrick’s Day on the way, I took a short spin over to Blarney Castle to take a few pictures.

I’ve never kissed the Blarney Stone – the idea of suspending myself under a damp rampart to press my lips against it in the hopes that I will speak more eloquently seems rather pointless, if not somewhat unhygienic. Anyway, I think I have already have the gift of the gab. You don’t want me to get super-charged on gabbing, believe you me. It’s a magical de-gabbing stone I need.

Stream in BlarneyBlarney Castle up close

Daffodils and Lookout Tower

Click on any photo above for more detail.

The grounds of Blarney Castle are delightful. Along with the impressive ruined castle, there are all sorts of structures to discover including a lookout tower, a lime-kiln and Blarney House itself. Then there is the lake, the cave and the Rock Close: a pleasant walled garden not far from the castle. Spring has come early this year, so all the trees are budding, the daffodils are everywhere and the hazel catkins are in full flower. Not a shamrock in sight.

Our Toastmasters club ran a poetry and prose evening tonight and for the first time ever, I recited some of my poems in public. I got a particularly good reception to my poem He lies there still. We had about 12 contributors tonight. A few guests spoke, including two visitors who have never been to a Toastmasters meeting before. One guest even told us that she wanted to join the club through the medium of poetry!

For me, the comment of the night was “I couldn’t write poetry. Poetry is far too profound. Nobody should ever underestimate the depths of my shallowness”.

The club has been thriving this year. We have signed up our 7th new member (more than the previous 3 years combined) and all our meetings have been varied and interesting. We made a key decision last year to move to a new venue. We moved from the formal surroundings of the local hotel to the more intimate setting of a pub and this has played a part in making the club more accessible to ordinary people.

I’m really enjoying it this year. Compared to this time last year, it’s like a different world.

Another photograph from the weekend. This one is from Inch Beach in East Cork – one of my regular haunts.

Irish country Road by the sea

Over the last few days we have had a continuous barrage of gale-force and storm force winds. Curiously, the weather was meant to be dreadful today but it didn’t turn out like that in Cork at least. It was actually quite a pleasant day..

In any case I still had to get down to the sea to take a few photos. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing like the sea during a storm.

East Cork Storm 4

East Cork Storm 2

East Cork Storm 1

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