Bubbles of Joy

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(Old petrol station in Birr, Co. Offaly)

We’re back home after our week away. We have lots of photos and memories of beautiful places. I have lots of new ideas, as does Denis. Travelling for repeated stretches without the possibility of checking for messages, emails, social media allows little projects to be formed. I suppose you could call it daydreaming. Not every daydream needs to be activated but without action a daydream or an idea is just interesting.

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(Petrol was measured in gallons and charged in pounds, shillings and pence)

Like the idea I had on the first day to photograph old garages – the ones that fix your car. Not the big fancy ones that also sell new cars. The ones that were probably built in the 1950s or 1960’s. They are usually square concrete buildings that some might call ugly – not me. I see a glossy coffee table book with pictures of the owner and some of the staff standing outside the rusted sliding door, with the garage name visible over their heads. I see moody dark pictures of the workbench covered in tools, the only light coming through a small cracked window. I see a paragraph on the story of the building, how the present owner came to be there and who started the enterprise.

Car Accident

(The first death by car accident – Birr!)

For three days I searched the edges of towns we entered trying to spot the type of building I wanted. By the end of the second day I’d seen four and each time I was filled with a bubble of joy. Unfortunately, the bubble of joy lasted longer than it took to drive past and when I woke up I realised I didn’t know where we were, I wouldn’t be able to find that garage again and I hadn’t taken a picture. At the end of day three I decided to share my idea for a garage coffee table book with Denis. As I shared I realised the book would never happen it was just an interesting daydream.

Rock of Cashel Garage

(Picture from early 1960s of my Dad’s garage)

There are a few reasons. First, the market for people interested in square concrete garages is probably very small. Second, coffee table books are very expensive to produce. Third, I’m not confident in my technical ability to take the kind of pictures I see in my mind. Fourth, I am way too afraid to approach the owner of a garage and explain my daydream. But, the main reason this idea will never become a reality…. is because the daydream has nothing to do with garages, it’s all about forgotten memories that fill us with bubbles of joy and we don’t even know why. That’s the great thing about travel, about daydreaming about being in the fresh air with no smartphone… you end up discovering something you didn’t know about yourself, something you didn’t know you didn’t know, if you follow me.

Close up

(I scanned the picture of my Dad’s garage above into my laptop today so that I might at least have one old garage picture. Then I noticed for the first time there’s an adult (my mother?) and child (me? my brother?) standing at the door to the shop)

Until the next journey, Mairead.

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Obama and Me….

We’ve seen lots more beauty in the past two days since leaving Kilkee but we got a great surprise in a small town called Moneygall.

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(Beautiful place on Loop Head called Bridges of Ross)

Around noon I was hungry and we saw a cute little cafe in the town but it was closed so we travelled on for about a kilometre when we spotted a large service station that served Tim Hortons coffee.

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(Amazing view near the lighthouse at the tip of Loop Head)

The same coffee we had become addicted to in Canada! We stopped off and had some coffee. Then while we were there a lovely couple from America arrived.

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(Swallow feeding her chicks outside our bedroom at a farmhouse near Killaloe)

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to get a picture with them…


(Me and Obama)

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 Turns out it’s their holiday home in Ireland. Who knew? Mairead.

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Writing on the Roads


(Sunny day in the west)

I’m sitting in the window seat of our room overlooking a group of men painting lines on the road. They must have started before 7am. It’s so busy here during the day I suppose they don’t want to interrupt traffic. The traffic of visitors. Accidentally, we have found one of the thriving towns in Ireland. The old shop fronts are sparkling. The only one I found boarded up was being renovated. Ok it’s not perfect, there are a few places closed but they’re not boarded up, they’re waiting for their time. And now the road painting crew are out early to make the traffic run more smoothly.

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(The bustling town of Kilkee)

We’re at the seaside in the town of Kilkee in Co. Clare and when we arrived yesterday it was at its best – sun shining, buckets and spades selling, ice creams dripping, wind breakers leaning and babies eating sand. There really is an air of prosperity here. Not showy prosperity, old-fashioned prosperity. On the seafront there’s a stall selling periwinkles and just now I’ve spotted a woman on the corner selling fish from a plastic box. She has a sizeable queue forming.

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The hotel is so busy there wasn’t a table for dinner last night, but we needn’t have worried searching on google we found 18… eighteen restaurants in the town… open! No worries so. It’s nearly time for breakfast now and I hope they have a table for us but if they don’t I bet there’s plenty of cafes here.


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(There were lots of colourful old shop fronts)

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(and even the closed shop fronts are interesting)

The lady with the fish is chatting with a family – mum with a buggy and two little girls. She’s let the girls pick up the fish. The taller one is holding a fish up in the air pretending it can fly. The smaller one is running around her sister pointing and laughing. The lady is giving them a towel to wipe their hands. No fish have been sold. Instead, connections are being made.

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(Spotted this at the front of the menu last night… community is part of a vision here)


Stories will be told of holidays in Kilkee where real fish can fly, Mairead.


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This Beautiful Country

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(Adorable little cottage with pretty china cups and tasty maple syrup pancakes)

We’ve arrived in Cashel… Not the Cashel in Tipperary. With the Rock. Where I grew up. The Cashel on the west coast of Ireland, looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean… with lots of rocks… and lots of sea view beauty. But before we left Ballaghaderreen we got to visit the award-winning cafe. It’s called Meet you Here and it was well worth going back. Even though we arrived before opening time the nice lady saw our hopeful faces and unlocked the door. As well as a cafe there was a little gift shop and an art gallery in a tiny gate lodge. It was a bit like being in an adult-size doll’s house. I liked it a lot.

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(Peeling paint on a farm building… I’ve been attracted to all the beautiful old farm barns we pass and finally yesterday I got up close and personal with one – want to make this in mixed media!)

Sitting for lunch in the pub on Monday it was easy to see there is a community here in Ballaghaderreen, the tables were full and everyone seemed to know each other. A lady (of a similar age to myself) came in for a cup of tea and sat by herself at a table. As the GAA conversation at the bar became heated regarding whether a foul was real or faked, she looked up and joined in. She had been sitting on her own, reading a book, I thought she was alone. Instead her membership of this community made her part of every conversation, always included. During our stay in the town I had begun to imagine the Irish small towns of the past. I imagined the now boarded up shops on the main street bustling. I imagined a retiring shop keeper having a chat with his daughter about passing the business onto her. I imagined a new arrival deciding to buy a business and hoping it would succeed.


(View from the bike on the road inland from Leenane towards Cashel)

As we left Ballaghaderreen it had started to rain again and maybe it was the lack of brightness that made me notice the housing estate with windows and doors boarded up, one of the outward signs of the recent recession. The journey to Cashel, Co. Galway took only a couple of hours and the scenery on route was very rugged. I spent most of the time imagining how it might be possible for towns with such a strong sense of community to recover their economy. Although it was overcast and there were some showers it was still possible to remember we live in a beautiful country.

Is it possible for us to live in a beautiful economy as well? Mairead.

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Rainy day in Ballaghaderreen


(This is why rain is so great… it makes wonderful green stuff)

Today was a little bit wet so I didn’t get a chance to take many photos. Fortunately, I took a lot yesterday. We’re staying in the small town of Ballaghaderreen, I’m not sure if I know how to pronounce it so I was waiting to hear someone here say it… but no one has yet. I think it’s Balla-hah-dreen but don’t quote me on that. We are staying in a room over the pub on the main street and when we dropped all our gear we went looking for a coffee shop.

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(Perfect cafe in Ballaghadereen… with only one small problem)

We couldn’t find one on our own so we asked a lady in the supermarket and she was very proud to tell us there was a beautiful place up near the church. Her friend told us it won some competition as the best in Ireland. Well, of course that’s exactly the coffee shop we want to go to, right? We followed her precise directions and spotted a pretty little gate lodge with flowers in hanging baskets and window boxes. Perfect. We took some pictures outside and congratulated ourselves on such a great find. Then we went in through a little gate and spotted the sign. The CLOSED sign…. We were twenty minutes late. We pressed our noses to the windows for a bit and returned to our room over the pub. The instant coffee isn’t award winning but grand all the same.

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(Claire and Paul’s lock-keepers cottage on the Royal Canal near Mullingar)

It definitely makes us appreciate yesterday’s tea break on the Royal Canal in the little lock keeper’s cottage. Paul made us great tea while Claire had baked delicious soda bread. If it hadn’t been for Claire chatting away outside with the passing walkers and cyclists we wouldn’t have noticed the opportunity for tea. She grew up in this cottage and years later when she and her husband retired they decide to renovate and they’ve been welcoming passers-by since.

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(This was great tea)

They had been very busy yesterday by the time we arrived and all the scones were gone, then we ate the last of the soda bread. So that when Claire  got word from one of the cyclists that there was a boat coming she had to dash off and put more scones in the oven. I wondered to Paul if there would be enough time to bake the scones and he told us the boat was coming from Mullingar and would have five locks to navigate. There’d probably be enough time to cook them dinner too. I really hope the people on the boat stopped yesterday and I hope Claire and Paul keep welcoming people into the little cottage because it’s a really lovely experience.

All the best from Ballaghaderreen, Mairead.

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On the Road Again


(Our first photo point was an old church and graveyard overlooking the river Boyne)

It’s been a long time but we finally dusted off the motorbike, charged the cameras and took to the road. As I write we’re just outside Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. About two hours from home. We’re taking it slowly this time. You might remember two years ago we went to Florence via Venice on the motorbike? I haven’t been on the bike since. Every time Denis would suggest a possible trip I’d remember that last journey and the heat (40 degrees C in full bike gear)  and the length of time spent sitting on my posterior (some days more than 8 (eight!) hours) and the motorways in Germany (lots of big scary trucks.)


(Going over a little bridge we realised we were crossing the Royal Canal (at Coolnahay Harbour) so we stopped for tea and soda bread (baked by the daughter of the last lock-keeper))

But Denis is very persistent and eventually he came up with a formula I was willing to test… travel (on mainly country roads) for one hour, eat, travel for one more hour, eat and sleep. Also, temperatures would be less than 30 degrees… probably much less. This week we’re testing the formula. In order to make the test more interesting we’re following the Irish photo rally. This is a list compiled by Gerry Christie with twenty four GPS points around the island of Ireland. There are clues as to what you might find at a point but you have to go there to see. The idea is that you get to travel to places on your motorbike around the island that you might otherwise never find. They’re dotted around the country so you can spend your time meandering from one to the next for days. Have a look at the map on irishphotorally.com.


(Bumble Bee at work)

Anyway, it was with a bit of trepidation that I got on the back of the bike this morning but I was soon rewarded with the forgotten truth – it’s an amazing form of transport. I had forgotten. The heat and daily distances of the last trip had erased my memory of it’s beauty. The beauty of the smells… just five minutes from home we smelled the most amazing wild garlic smell. We pass this point at least four times a week, every week never smelling the garlic, but on a motorbike…. The beauty of fresh air! I know it’s free but it’s gorgeous and it smells kinda green, yep it does.


(There’s a lake right next to our hotel with a little jetty)

Anyway, we’re off to dinner now and tomorrow we’ll drive for an hour, eat, drive for another hour eat some more and sleep. We’ll also take some pictures and smell some more smells.

Bye for now, Mairead.

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Under Starters Orders…

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(Danger! Danger!)

A funny thing happened as soon as I sent an email saying I was going to write an ebook… Someone (me) turned on the Dangerous Warning System. I’m sure it’s a very useful system for something, but as yet I don’t know what… but not much use for making stuff or writing stuff. The Dangerous Warning System message is very clear: You are about to fall flat on your face, stop everything! 


(You’re not good enough to go in here!)

Although it creates quite an uncomfortable experience it’s also a familiar experience. I’ve experienced it lots of times. Like that time at the spelling test in 2nd class when I forgot how to spell, couldn’t even manage my name, had to stand in the corner. And the time in the swimming pool when I thought I was drowning. Or that time I was learning to drive and I couldn’t breathe. Very familiar… not very helpful.

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(Narrow road ahead. Photo credit: Caoimhe Walsh)

When my Dangerous Warning System is turned on there’s a sort of rigidity that comes over my whole body, my thinking gets filled with shoulds and long forgotten rules about how to do things right. Soon I want to eat a bucket of sugar, the thing I’m doing gets sidelined and my priority is to find a safe place to hide.


(There’s a terror attack – find somewhere safe to hide, now!)

If you ever find yourself afraid to take the next step, afraid of falling on your face, afraid of the possibility that you have opened the door to some awful monster… then you know about the Dangerous Warning System. And you might want to find a way to turn it off.


(Little baby steps)

I found a way! My way is to turn it off with kindness, from myself to myself. Soothing words like ah sure you’re alright, there’s nothing too dangerous going on here OR lets take it one step at a time and my all time favourite you can do it… your way. After all that kindness I’m probably loosening up on the rigidity and I might even be breathing again. Just to be sure I remind myself to soften, I shake my shoulders and I blow all the air out of my lungs. Then I remind myself, there is no right way to do this, it is possible I will fall on my face but that’s ok. I know it might hurt but it’’s still ok. Just take one baby step at a time from this soft place. And breath… all the way out. Your precious priority is to move and keep moving in the direction of what you love.

And so we begin, Mairead.

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