Kittens and Coffee

2018 5

(Spring, spring, spring)

We are still at the house of the oranges in the garden. Ruby is still at the garage. We have fallen into a different routine here. Normally we have breakfast and lunch in the van and get dinner out from time to time. This week we are having every meal out. So for breakfast we go to Padeira de Vila (I think it means town bakery) we went there the first morning and we just keep going back. They are really friendly and the way they make Americano coffee is perfect. Breakfast is coffee and a ham roll with orange juice. you can probably guess that the orange juice is not from a bottle. Today we had lunch, a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, I don’t know what kind of cheese it is but it’s amazing.

2018 2

(Poppies and daisies)

It is very unusual for us to repeat a visit to a cafe or restaurant but this week we are and they are starting to notice us. On the second day the waitress (when we were murdering the language with our order for breakfast) said, the same as yesterday? We were delighted and relieved, Yes, please! Em, sim, obrigada, obrigado! Today a lady who works upstairs at the solicitor’s office (see, we are practically locals) came in with an adorable kitten (sorry no photos, imagine a tabby kitten, the size of the palm of your hand, meowing loudly with adorably velvety ears) that someone else had found wandering in the road. The lady in the cafe gave her a box and a container for milk and milk and off she went.

2018 4

(Sunset from last week)

Thirty minutes later she’s back from the chemist with a bag of baby wipes, a lidded jar, a towel and what looks like a baby’s bottle. The kitten is up in her office and she hasn’t been fired yet. We all bond over her dilemma. We understand. We’ve been there. Kittens have such cute little faces. They are so trusting and loveable. How hard could kitten-adoption be? One so young would easily get used to a new home, even a motorhome…

2018 7

(Like a bird on the wire)

It’s getting dangerous to stay here much longer, between the lovely people the beautiful houses, the favourable cost of living and the cute kittens, we are in danger of making snap decisions with far-reaching consequences. Will know later today when Ruby will be ready, probably should keep away from anything cute until then.

Tchau, Mairead.


2018 2 1

(Welcome to Portugal)

So it’s the week before my workshop in Lisboa and I thought it might be sensible to create some blog posts so I am doing some overtime to cover myself for the duration of the workshop. I have been wondering what to write because I have already written everything that happens (or that comes into my head) each day and posted it in that day’s blog, so there’s nothing left. But then I remembered…

2018 1 1

(Lunch. Isn’t that an adorable box?)

I didn’t blog much last year and I missed it. So before we left this year I decided I would write regularly, definitely weekly. Then I got kinda excited about the idea of writing every day but I didn’t think that would be possible… turns out it was. And now this week I’ll be writing twice a day. I’m doubly excited and doubly worried… but I’ve written previously about my plan to notice my thoughts and that plan doesn’t allow much space for worrying. So here goes…

2018 2

(Make mosaics)

One of the lessons we are learning as we travel is that when you see an opportunity that you want, you really need to go for it. Right when you see it. Don’t wait. Although there’s every reason to believe it will come around again… after a little discomfort. When we see a public toilet as we have a coffee or as we visit a tourist attraction, we use it (ok not every single one).

2018 7 1

(Fill up your gas bottle when ever you get a chance)

If we arrive at an aire and there’s water we top up and we empty our old water. If it’s possible to empty the toilet cassette, we empty it… usually. Last week we didn’t, I might have been distracted. We were in the grand aire by the flooding river. They had all the services but as we were leaving it started to rain, heavily… sure we’re on our way to a campsite, all campsites have cassette empty services. Turns out not all campsites have cassette empty services. There was a little discomfort. I won’t go into it but we will not be making that mistake again….

2018 1

(Travel to warmer countries!)

Going for opportunities is how we came to be living this way, travelling for months each year. It seemed to be possible so we went for it. Going for it can be harder than it seems. It might seem crazy but I find it difficult to leave home and travel. I haven’t shared that truth with many people. It seems ungrateful and a little insane, when so many people wish they could do this and can’t and I can. Or is that normal?

2018 2 1

(Walk in the leaves)

I suppose I’m saying opportunities come with down sides, like the rain falling as you empty your cassette or having to say goodbye to your sister when she’s only just got home. But opportunities also come with up sides and unless you go for it you’ll never know what those up sides are.

From virtual me, (while real me is having a great time at the workshop!) Mairead.

Discomfort Zone

2018 2

(Freezing grass)

It was absolutely freezing when we got up this morning. It was also literally freezing… outside the van. Luckily it was over the 4℃ necessary inside to keep the drinking water inside the tank. We decided in spite of the lovely electricity, Ourol probably wasn’t the place to be, altitude wise. So we headed south down the mountain and closer to Portugal. The weather didn’t initially get better, it got worse hitting -3.7℃! …and then the fog came back.

2018 3

(Sitting outside in the sun!)

Now we’re in the Spanish city of Pontevedra. The old part of the city is very attractive and the weather is very attractive too, 15℃ (am I very Irish, talking about the weather all the time?) we were even able to sit outside and top up our vitamin D. We found another lovely free aire close to the river and the old town with cafes and shops. As it’s Saturday most of the shops are closed – Saturday afternoon closing. They will probably be closed tomorrow too. The restaurants close in the afternoon and open from about 9pm to 11.30pm – the Spanish eat very late.

2018 4

(Convento de San Francisco de Pontevedra)

I mentioned in an earlier post that there was one week in March when we need to be in Lisbon and that’s because I am attending a workshop. I was very excited about attending until the pre-workshop homework arrived. Nah, I’m only joking, I’m still very excited! But there is one assignment that has me concerned. I have to take a picture of a person. A real live person. I only take pictures of streets and buildings and trees and flowers, I don’t take pictures of people. They don’t like me taking pictures of them. I really don’t want to upset them…

2018 8

(Huge cross…)

So I need to ask their permission. Of course I could cheat and take a picture of Denis, but something about connecting with a stranger, another unknown human takes me so far from my comfortable picture-taking that I think it might actually be a good idea to try. As we walked the old streets of Pontevedra today I began to look for people I could possibly, maybe ask. The first person was an older man wearing a knitted hat, he was walking towards me down some stone steps. Just as I reached him he sat down on the steps, I think he was tired. I kept walking. I can still see his face and that hat… Then I saw a young man wearing a tan apron, walking purposefully while smoking a cigarette, for some reason he made me think of a shoemaker. I didn’t go up to him. Then I passed a woman in a pale pink fake fur coat, I was so close to asking her but I kept walking when I realised she was sitting in a wheelchair. I thought I might offend her. I can still see her too and the thing is, her wheelchair was a beautiful blue. It’s a really good picture… in my head.

2018 9

(Nature in the city)

I think I’m (definitely probably) going to start asking people, I just hope it’s soon. Because now I’ve put myself into a discomfort zone… And the discomfort is growing. There’s the discomfort of asking someone can I take their picture and now there’s the discomfort of not asking them.

Do I have to wait for the discomfort of not asking them to exceed the discomfort of asking them? Mairead.

The house special and a van full of whiskey…

IMG 6828

(Spotted this van near reception yesterday)

Whiskey Van

(The writing on the side…)

We are still in Luz near Lagos and it’s just starting to get warm enough to sit outside and write… wearing three layers, thick fleece, woolly socks, boots and sun hat! So this is what spring looks like… here. I’ve been getting weather reports from my Mam and twitter (two very good sources) and spring in Ireland seems a little different. We went to visit the southern edge of Europe on Saturday, the bit of Portugal that points south into the Atlantic Ocean. It was very windy and then rainy and then sunny, familiar. Familiar is nice.

IMG 2006

(The tip of Portugal looks a bit like an open crab claw with Cabo de São Vicente (above) on one tip and Sagres on the other)

We met a lovely couple on the bus to Lagos last week who recommended a restaurant in the nearby village. You really don’t need recommendations as the food in Portugal has been really good, no matter where we go. This one wasn’t Portuguese but we thought we’d give it a try anyway.

IMG 2031

(The landscape at Ponta de Sagres. Kinda like the Burren?)

There were lots of free tables when we got there but despite my very winning smile (normally..) the grumpy man behind the bar didn’t react to our arrival, so we picked a good spot, sat down and waited. We waited a long time during which the occupants of the only other table had taken out their iPod and started a 70’s sing-a-long. Maybe this was the wrong place?

IMG 2040

(The lighthouse at the fort on Ponta de Sagres)

While we were considering our options the grumpy man arrived with menus saying, there’s a lovely Chicken Pie special. We spotted some interesting dishes on the menu and when he arrived back with drinks we asked about a few. Each special we asked about was off or finished or just for the summer season and then he mentioned the lovely Chicken Pie again… we looked at each other and there was a long pause…

IMG 2015

(The beach at the peninsula behind the fort at Ponta de Sagres)

I gave in first, I’ll have the Chicken Pie, please. The grumpy man perked up slightly. Denis wasn’t ready to let go of an interesting steak and sausage thingy and tried again. To which grumpy man replied, ok but it’ll take a while, I have to defrost the sausage. Denis was torn but smart enough to say, no, sur’ I’ll have the special too, thanks. Grumpy man almost smiled. The Chicken Pie was very nice and by the end of the night we were humming along with Gloria Gaynor’s I will Survive.

We have a new rule: Portuguese Restaurants Only. Mairead.

Making peace with embarrassment

IMG 1815

(Palm tree trunk)

We’re still in Luz so I’m getting comfortable here, starting to feel right at home… which means some of my old habits are popping up. (By the way, I’m working away happily on my book so that’s probably why I keep thinking of habits and beliefs.)

IMG 1834

(Lagos, old town)

So… one of my habits is, I see something I want to do but just before I do it, I think, “nooo, I would look stupid, much too embarrassing to do that!”  Then afterwards when I don’t do it I feel a bit miserable for not doing it. A bit of a misery cycle. This habit is masking a couple of beliefs. The one that stops me doing the thing I want to do: What other people think of me is important and it needs to be positive. And the one that makes me feel miserable when I don’t do it: Trying new things is really good for my healthA bit of a self-judgemental cycle.

IMG 1849

(Like blue sky)

At the same time I have returned to meditation, fifteen minutes every morning. And there’s something useful in the meditation practice that can help me untangle the misery and self-judgemental cycles. It’s about noticing whatever it is you’re feeling, just noticing, not thinking, just noticing… in your body. Not in your head, in your body. (Over emphasising might be a habit too?)

IMG 1885

(Blue water, blue boat, blue jacket, blue hat)

So… I’m practicing meditation on my embarrassment. Each day (since Monday) I do one thing that I know would cause me to feel embarrassed and I notice what that’s like. In. My. Body. Monday morning I went to the outdoor gym! I had been looking at the equipment since last Wednesday when we arrived, thinking that looks like fun! Then the misery/self-judgemental cycle began, so I didn’t dare. 

IMG 1943

(Boat for sale…)

But on Monday morning I got into my baggy pants and approached the gym area. Slowly. Giving me time to notice the embarrassment and I noticed it… but it was a bit different. Too late to turn back I arrived at the area and there’s another camper doing gym things (and doing them really well) smiling and saying hello. Having a lot of embarrassing thoughts now but remembering just in time to NOTICE IN MY BODY I squeak out, Hi, which one of these is good for a beginner?

IMG 1952


She is really friendly, Dutch or German I think and delighted to point me towards a swing-swong kind of thing and I start swinging and it is fun. So much so that I try a stand-up-rowing machine thing next but that’s a bit harder. Just as I start to feel stupid and think this is too hard I remember to NOTICE IN MY BODY and I slow down and it’s ok. Feeling embarrassed is actually ok… the thing that’s upsetting is the thinking about being embarrassed, the thinking about the people watching, the thinking about the people who are good at this fun thing. 

IMG 1971

(Rocks and sea at Luz… doesn’t it look like Greystones? Or does everything remind us of Ireland?)

Sooo, I’m stand-up-rowing with a smile on my face and a hello for all the people walking by and my new Dutch or German friend says, the hardest thing is to stop yourself competing with other people, just do your best. Well, wasn’t that lovely? I feel quite emotional all of a sudden. I’m rowing away and I’m thinking this embarrassment thing isn’t so bad. Then a group of six toned Swedish women jog past and I wave and nearly fall off my stand-up-rowing machine.

There should be a health warning on these machines, Mairead.

The eBook is out!

Well it’s finally happened…The eBook is live on Amazon! You might remember I mentioned it last September on this blog post in Creative Calm. So I wrote, edited, got scared, edited some more, went into a small decline, edited some more and finally figured out how to put it up on Amazon. Then there was another round of getting scared, editing, curling up in a dark corner and editing some more. Finally, I told my little sister, Moira, that it was ready. Telling her was kinda accidental, kinda on purpose. You see, she thinks I’m great. It’s best to pick someone like that when you want help breaking out of a fear cycle.

 Untitled 5

(The eBook is here!)

My little sister has always thought I was great, ever since she first recognised me pushing her pram, carrying her in my arms or letting her play with my friends. So whenever I tell her about something scary I’m about to do or that I’ve already done she says something like “Get over yourself, that’s a great idea!” (that’s an actual quote, I never said she was easy on me.) And somehow I get over myself and I come out of the small decline or the dark corner and get on with doing my thing. Anyway, I told her and she went off and bought the book and then she started telling and selling and I woke up this morning to her overnight messages (she lives in Canada) about who had been responding to her methods and I realised I had to Get Over Myself. So this is me getting over myself and telling you about my first eBook. Yes, first because there will be more and yes I may be going into a small decline about that in the future but that’ll mean I’m doing my thing and sure isn’t that the point of life?


(She hates photographs but I had to show you her Get Over Yourself! face)

So, here’s the link for you to click:

It’s called Finding Graiguenamanagh (yes I know the title should be easy to spell…. next time…) and it’s about ten days we spent in Graiguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny, a beautifully special place in Ireland. There are pictures and words and it’s very short. When you click on the link (all going well) you’ll be brought to where you can read the first chapter and where you can buy it… if you want. While I’d love you to buy it, I am working on not caring whether you buy it or not because that’s not my thing – writing the next one is my thing! Despite the anguish and dark places I have mostly LOVED this process and I will keep going and keep learning how to allow myself do my thing without fear.

Look Moira! I think I’m getting over myself! Mairead.

Being Grateful


(St. John’s Gate – Parthenay)

I’m sitting on the swing as I write, in a little bit of shade, it’s way too hot out there under the bright light for my pale complexion. The really surprising thing about a hot day here is how cool it is inside in the cottage. It’s almost like there’s air conditioning in there. I think it must be the thickness of the walls. Caves are like that too, so it makes them a constant temperature year round, cooler than the summer heat and warmer than the cold winter.


(Half-timber house – Parthenay)

I realised a moment ago that we will be starting our journey home in just over a week. It was starting to feel like we could stay here forever! So it makes me think about some of the things I am grateful for here… The warmth – it’s been very hot this week and I love how sparkly everything is in the sun, including the spider’s webs (some photos of those would be nice). The garden – it’s lovely to be among green growing things. The peace – it’s so quiet, not silent, there’s buzzing and I can hear some neighbours chatting. I think I hear a farm machine in the distance and every now and then a bird singing. The trestle table – it has been (and will continue to be for the next week, I hope) fantastic to be able to work outside at this big wooden table made by human hands and planks of wood.


(Very cute house – Parthenay)

The distance from a retail hub – well, this was a big surprise to me, that I could be grateful not to be near a village, town or city. How would I spend my days? How would I fill the time? Where would I get some chocolate or croissants? Where would we eat? For as long as I can remember I have lived in a town (or a city) and always very close to (either next door to or a few hundred yards/meters away from) a shop. In Cashel where I grew up as a child besides the shops there were so many amazing places to visit (really, they did seem amazing!) There was the Rock of Cashel where stone staircases led to turrets that let up to the battlements, hundreds of feet up in the air and unprotected… Any parent’s nightmare – fortunately our parents never knew we were up there! And Hoare Abbey, an old ruined monastery, protected by huge cows (I was/am afraid of cows, so I only ventured in when they were eating the grass round the back). The town of Parthenay reminded me a lot of Cashel.


(Steep, unprotected steps, at the castle – Parthenay)

So I have come to understand that having no shops and castles and monasteries next door to wander around has actually been an advantage to me. Instead, I can wander around glue and paint, paper and canvas, scissors and fabric.


(See the seashell? Symbol of Camino – Parthenay)

I am also grateful that the only cows around here are firmly behind fences, Mairead.

Just Walk

You might remember my budding exercise regime? I was going to walk everyday. I was even thinking of walking on the wet days.Well, it’s been faltering a bit. Now, I had read somewhere that if you can repeat something for 21 consecutive days it will become a habit. That’s what I wanted to do with the walking. It was having a shaky start. Then yesterday it got a bit of a boost. I was reading twitter (it’s shorter than email or Facebook…) last night and someone had retweeted a comment from a lady who wished “that I could wake up in the morning on the Camino and just walk.”


(Some more free food)

It was a simple enough sentence but something about it was captivating. This woman had been walking on the Camino (the Pilgrim’s Walk in Spain) earlier this year and her love for it came through in her very few words. It was a practical example to me of how one person’s passion transfers to another. It did to me.


(No hunting here, seen on edge of forest I passed)

I read twitter to get recipes from The Happy Pear, to look at cartoon drawings, to hear the news (in very small chunks), to be inspired by Brene Brown or to be amused by Ellen. But last night I went to sleep dreaming of what it must feel like to want to walk, even walk all day long. It wasn’t something I had really felt before… the wanting bit.


(Big sunflower face, lots of sunflowers on my walk)

So when I woke up this morning I was raring to go. I put on my new walking shoes and set out the door. Backtrack, first I had my breakfast and then I put on my shoes and went out the door. Although my mind was very excited and ready for a long walk, my body was less than enthusiastic. So I promised it (am I the only one who talks to her body?) that we would just take one step at a time and if things got tough we could always turn back. And then I began to think about the lady and her wish to “just walk” and it was different. Just walk is much easier than exercise regime. Just walk is simple and reminds me of something old-fashioned, an older time, maybe a time when the shops closed on Sundays and a half day on Wednesdays. And walking was entertaining, fun, social.


(One little flower popped out after the rain)

It was so easy I took another Just walk after lunch, Mairead.

Pensive on a rainy Monday


(Photo I took of Glendalough round tower last weekend)

The weekend before we left Ireland I was down in Glendalough at a family gathering. Sixty-five cousins (four generations) from my Dad’s side of the family came together on a Saturday morning to walk in the hills and share a meal. My Dad had three brothers and the organising committee was made up of one member from each of the four brother’s families. I was my family’s representative. It was a very easy committee to be on, everything seemed to slot into place.


(It’s raining today…)

I think that’s due to my cousin Charlie. He was the one who had the idea for a gathering and so we made him the president (chairman was too ordinary.) He was exceedingly good at his job and exceedingly good at delegating. He’d say “Now, I want you to do that, but only if it’s okay with you, now tell me if it’s a problem, but you’d be great, you’re exactly the right person for it.” Apart from not being able to get a word in edgeways, who could refuse him? None of us did. It wasn’t until the Sunday morning at breakfast that I found out his wife, and not he, had been answering all the numerous emails from the other members of the committee over the past few months.


(…so I’m looking out at the pretty raindrops… )

Charlie got an idea into his head all those months ago and he did what was necessary to make it happen. He didn’t do everything. He did what he was good at and he asked for help with the rest. It worked. We sat around tables in the hotel in Glendalough and reminisced about our childhoods, about parents and grandparents who were not there, about cousins who could not attend. We had a great time. We said “This was a great idea.” I’m glad Charlie had an idea in his head and I’m really glad he shared his idea with the rest of us. I think it takes courage to share your ideas.


(…and working away inside)

The sun has come out now so I’m off to sit in the garden, Mairead.