Cracking the “Getting into Faro on a Bus” Code

Step 1: find the bus stop

It’s Saturday. We’re parked up on the edge of the city of Faro. We are waiting at a bus stop about to do another thing we haven’t done for two years – get on a bus. In fact I can’t remember the last time I got on a bus, it could be three years, four years, more? Isn’t it funny how we usually don’t know when this time will be the last time? Maybe this is the last time we’ll be in Faro waiting for a bus. Or maybe this is the last time we are able to travel so freely… We’re early for the bus so I have time to think.

Step 2: keep alert for the arrival of the bus (can you see it?)

It’s a big a deal getting a bus in a new city, especially when you are not a native speaker. What number bus do we need? Which direction is the city? Which side of the road do we stand on. Do we need exact change? How much does it cost? Which door do we use? How will we know when we’ve arrived in the city? Where exactly is the city? How do we pronounce the campsite name to get back? Should we stand or sit on the bus? Do we need to wear masks on the bus?

Step 3: get on the bus

I remember as a child going on a day trip to Dublin with my parents. When we would have to get a bus my parents would ask the nearest passerby which bus goes to wherever and they would know! They always knew! Everyone on the streets of Dublin knew every bus! And they could point us to the bus stop. Years later when I lived in Dublin I found myself directing tourists to their bus and I don’t know how I was able to do that.

Step 4: celebrate your good fortune

Here at the bus stop in Faro I am on alert. We asked the receptionist all the bus type questions and remember most of her answers by the time we got to this stop – one of three (oh no, which one?) bus stops nearby. We are alone for the first fifteen minutes but then other equally alert people arrive. We, alert ones, visibly relax when a few locals saunter along just in time for the arrival of the bus. I put my hand out and my mask on and Denis offers the driver the almost exact change, she opens a drawer under the dashboard and gives him change. (Exact change not necessary – ok got it.) We move along to let the others in and find seats together near the back. The bus sets off and we are on board and also over the moon delighted with ourselves. You’d think we’d discovered gold. And we kinda did – we cracked the getting into Faro on a bus code. This is a great day!

Step 5: make sure it’s Faro

When we notice everybody (except the other camper couple) getting off the bus we realise we have arrived at the terminus and we get off too. Where do we go now… is there an old town? A castle? A church? Our maps app isn’t much help so we walk on and within 5 minutes we are at a marine. There are restaurants and shops and boats and stalls and it’s lunchtime. We wander for a little but backtrack to the marina to eat with a view. We can stop being on alert now, we have arrived. It’s later, we are home safely. We found the right bus at the terminus and although we almost went to the airport the driver remembered us and stopped the bus in time.

Step 6: take a picture of your fish bones and the strange sitting at the next table

Does everything new start like this? Questions with incomplete answers. Senses on high alert. Requests for help. Pushing over the edge of the comfort blanket. Again and again and again. Feeling overwhelmed with delight when you have survived/arrived/found your way home.

Step 7: get inspiration

Reminder to self: It’s okay to start something new and not know everything, in fact it’s a requirement.

Have a good journey!

Can you make out the terrace bar under shade?

It was the peace of the place that caught my attention first. We are getting closer to the Portuguese border, we’ll probably cross in a couple of days… but for now we are on the outskirts of a town called VillaBlanca (Whitetown) and it’s well named as all the houses are painted white. The park up is owned and run by a couple from the Basque Country in norther Spain. They opened five months ago having sold up everything up north. (He used to be in a heavy metal band touring Spain, she played classical guitar.) His mother was also with them for the winter, she’d be returning north next week. They all worked hard to turn these fields into a place where you could get everything you need in your motorhome. There’s water at every parking spot, toilets and showers and a little terrace bar. Everyone who arrives gets offered a welcome drink and that’s how Denis ended up drinking cervesa (beer) at 10 am on Sunday morning…

Here comes the sheep (and goats)

They continue to work hard, while we sit sipping and chatting with other campers, they were cleaning the toilets – every dream includes a dollop of work. This place attracts people who are curious and we’ve heard some interesting life stories.

A bit of a stand off happening

In the late afternoon we investigate the town. It isn’t too hot. We made a mistake and took the main road which didn’t have a path but joy, oh joy we found the back roads for the return journey. There was a shepherd with a small heard of goats and sheep. The animals were confused by our arrival and turned in many directions. I remembered my Spanish for I’m sorry and used it with my “very, very sorry” facial expression and it was like a key. A key to connecting with another human. Some day I will be able to speak Spanish better than the one or two phrases I can manage now but in the few moments with the shepherd we were all speaking human. He could have been a farmer in the west of Ireland who’s accent was just a little too fast for me to understand. Where in spite of that the essence comes through. He might have been saying, There’s no need to be sorry sure they’ll come back when they realise you’re just passing through. Buen Viaje!

Prickly Pear?

We had been invited to another drink around the fire in the evening and so we trotted over to find the owners, some of their friends and a French couple out on the patio (the promised fire not necessary because it’s warm tonight.) One of their friends had brought their dogs and one reminded me of my sister’s daughter’s dog and somehow I located the Spanish for my sister (mi hermana) and daughter (una hija) and dog (un perro) and then I ran out of words but I showed willing. For the rest of the night the lovely woman, who’s dream this place was, translated every word and every joke for us. And one of the things she explained was that in this part of Spain slowing down is part of the culture. We are very grateful to be here.

At the end of the day…

Buen Viaje! Have a good journey!

Didn’t want you to miss out on a discount!

This feels a bit like confession – it’s been three months since my last blog. And since then I’ve been learning how to make videos in the fridge for my Instagram. Applying to be on the Late Late for Small Business (wasn’t picked😏) Figuring out how to get started on Twitter. Getting (almost) comfortable on Facebook. Risking extreme embarrassment asking local shops if they would stock the cards – without success 😳 while an adorable shop (called Sunfleck) in Dungarvan found me and asked to stock them! So, they’re in a shop! And today I sent my first newsletter.

These past five months since I launched Permission Cards have been a blast and in case you don’t know, you have played a huge part in that. I didn’t know it when I started but a big part of selling online involves writing. Writing posts to different social media platforms, different accounts, groups, writing copy for the website, writing and answering comments, writing thank you notes to customers, writing emails, writing a newsletter. So all the times I was writing to you from our travels in the camper van or on the motorbike I’ve been in training for this season of my life. If you hadn’t been reading I wouldn’t have been writing to you. Go raibh maith agat! Look at what you did – you have been supporting my small business! Thank you! May we continue to walk each other home for years to come.

And finally, just in case you don’t follow me on social media I wanted to tell you about the discount I’m sharing at the moment. It’s 15% discount off Permission Cards until Sunday 28th November. Go to and use the code THANKYOU at the checkout.

No pressure, I just wanted you to know too.

Big Hugs, Mairéad

Social Media Links

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I’m not a complete idiot…probably

Saw this in Portumna, Co. Galway. For some reason it makes me think of social media…

Well I’ve never been more grateful that I write a blog… well I haven’t actually written a blog post since March but I’m still grateful I wrote a post in March. Let me explain… it’s been 5 months since I wrote to you and a lot has happened.

Wild flower. Not weed!

The website ( has changed utterly. The cards are different. And I think it’s possible I’m different too…for one thing I’m making videos. Yes, I don’t know what inner voices I shut down to do that but I shut them down. And now I’m talking to camera like it’s ok, like I’m not a complete idiot, like I’m even comfortable exposing myself (fully clothed at all times.) And I am comfortable. Mainly.

Got a new coffee jug

I’m comfortable until I wake up with a thought in my head that I’m a fraud or too old or ugly or a failure. Those days are hard because it’s kinda natural to want to hide away on Bad Thoughts Days. And sometimes I do hide. Do you have this experience where you start the day with those thoughts and you go into social media and every post you see confirms your thoughts? I have. So on the really bad bad thoughts days I can’t go into social media and I can’t post anything. And posting on social media is kinda my whole marketing strategy (that’s a blog all to itself!)

Muddy track near Shannonbridge Co. Offaly

Funnily enough though, this routine of posting to social media makes me notice those bad thought days in a way I never noticed before. In the midst of a Bad Thoughts Day I think every day is a Bad Thoughts Day. I completely forget that yesterday wasn’t. I think “this is going to go on forever” and sometimes I believe that thought longer than I need to.

Having to post everyday makes me realise Bad Thoughs Days are not everyday. My posts show me that I must have been grand on lots of days because I have lots of posts.

Big sky near Fethard-on-Sea Co. Wexford

And why am I’m grateful I write blog posts (even inconsistently..)? Because when you’re in the middle of change you don’t notice it and you don’t think anything is happening. And maybe it’s time to start having Good Thoughts Days… what do you think? Wishing you good thoughts about yourself ❤️ Mairéad.

How I wrote a book not entirely on my own

(There was a Time Machine in Besançon… or it might have been a Time Museum)

Settle down, grab a cuppa and let me tell you the story of how I wrote a book with the help of six generous, creative and encouraging people …

It was the 4th of February 2016. There I was travelling around the beautiful old country of Portugal when I sort of fell in love with Andy Weir… Andy is a computer/space geek who loves to write. One day he decided he was going to give up the computers and become a writer. So he started and he sent off his first book to the publishers. He got loads of rejection letters for the first book but he was persistent so he started on a second book. He sent his second book off to the publishers and got even more rejection letters. He repeated this, I don’t know how many times, and then he stopped. He didn’t stop writing, he decided sure didn’t he earn grand money writing software, wouldn’t he be just as happy keeping the writing as a hobby.

(One of the clocks…)

So… he started his next book as a serial on his blog. It was in 2011. His friends loved it, they gave him feedback, they passed the blog on to their friends, he had some really high up people in the space industry correcting some of his science (By the way this is Andy Weir and I’m talking about The Martian – great book and great movie starring Matt Damon) he was having a ball!  Eventually he finished his book, while working away at his computer day job.

(Lip seem to be famous clock makers)

Some of his friends started to ask, “Hey Andy, any chance I could get that little book of yours to give to my girlfriend/mother/Dad they don’t know how to get at the blog posts?” So, Andy, lovely man that he is, gathered all the posts into an easy to read file (quite a time-consuming job for lovely Andy) and sent the file to his friend. He also put a link on the blog for anyone else who wanted everything all together. Then someone wanted to read it on their kindle and try as he might the lovely Andy couldn’t get it onto the kindle without charging a minimum price (an Amazon requirement.) So he charged the minimum and people started buying and money started accumulating in his account. (By the way… the full book was still on the blog – for free.) Then slowly but surely the kindle book started going up the Amazon charts and… surprise, surprise, the publishers started contacting him…. and then the movie producer rang… and that’s what happened to Andy.

(Time flying…)

The magic of Andy’s story is that he loved to write and he wrote even when it seemed like there was no good reason. And I love that he found a way to share his writing. Every time I wonder if it’s worth doing any of the things I do so that I can share my writing, I think of Andy and I ask myself: What would Andy do? He never lets me down, his advice is always great and he is never in a bad mood. One morning I was talking to Andy and he was saying maybe I could think about sharing the book I wanted to write on my blog? Andy thought that was a great idea. I thought that was a terrible idea and I had to go lie down to stop feeling nauseous. So Andy waited until I was feeling better (he’s considerate like that) and he suggested gathering a small team of readers and send chapter-sized chunks to them each week. Isn’t he really smart?  (Just so you know, she has never spoken to Andy or emailed him, this is all in her mind – Denis.) So that’s what I did.

(The email I penned to Pam and Allan, Sheena and Moira and Denis asking them to be readers….)

They all said yes and each Friday I sent the chunk of book I had written that week and they sent me back their encouragement. They also did the exercises and either sent pictures of their creations or news of their creative progress. On the 1st of April 2016  (yes, it was April Fools Day) I sent them the last chunk. It was done. It had taken eight weeks. It did take another two months to publish the ebook and a further two months to produce the paperback.

(There’s a cow in the fog and some more in the distance)

Then life happened and I tidied my box of paperback books onto a shelf and got on with dealing with life. Since that time the box has been sitting on a shelf in my studio (fancy name for my front room.) I’ve shared it with a few people but last week it started calling out for completion… So, I thought the least I could do was read it.

(Looks a lot like autumn here)

Back in 2016 my idea was to write a guide for people who didn’t realise they were creative (note:everyone is creative) and were hesitant about starting a creative project, thinking they weren’t good enough. I wanted them to be able to (at least temporarily) turn off the critical voice in their head so that they could get on with the work they needed to do to bring their project into the world. Reading my book again I discovered it works for any project…. Like for instance, something that I need at the moment – promoting and selling a book. You wouldn’t believe the mean things my inner critic was saying to me about selling and promoting (well maybe you would) but  because of the book I’m not listening. Now, I have a lovely encouraging voice in my head and it’s telling me to keep going. Keep going!

So here I am reading my book to help me sell my book and I will keep going. If you want to read the blurb or look at my Amazon Author page (imagine that!), click on Creative Monday – The Book. And if you have a voice in your head that’s stopping you from doing something (creative or otherwise) that you’d love to do then buy my book, follow the exercises and do your thing! It’s time for me to push my project out into the world so I can make room (on my shelves) in my head for the next one.

We wrote a book, Pam, Allan, Sheena, Moira, Denis, Andy and Me. Ps I’m keeping the royalties…

Spending time with Vera…

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(Notice the colour for the houses here is white and grey)

I hear there’s more bad weather on it’s way to you. So I won’t mention that it’s been a lovely day here and I’m outside as I write watching the sun go down. There may be rain here tomorrow, may be. Although I was in the tourist office today and the poster was saying that Serpa gets more than 3000 hours of sunshine a year… In one year? Every year? Yes. Yes. It’s going to be very hard to leave now.

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(Look an angel on top of the spire)

I had a great day in other ways too. You’ll remember the day I interviewed the young man about a week ago? Well since then I’ve been a little bit confused about what to do with my interviews. I keep forgetting they’re still gestating and I wake up in a cold sweat thinking I should be feeding them… if you know what I mean. So today I had a talk to myself and went back to meet the parallel universe me, she wasn’t free so I met someone else.

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(I like number 26)

I decided to fit in a few pictures of the castle first, then on my way back I spotted a shop called Serpa Lovers. I didn’t know what kind of shop it was but it looked very inviting so I went in. There was a lady behind the counter and all I can say is my Portuguese must be improving because after I said Ola (Hello) and Bom Dia (Good morning. Yes I know… it was afternoon!) she started talking to me in Portuguese. She reverted to English when she saw my face.

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(They love Serpa… and so do I)

Serpa Lovers is her shop and it supports local produce like the cheese, olive oil, wine, crafts, art and activities. (When I looked at the website there’s loads of other stuff, like music lessons, romantic dinners, hot air ballooning, walking tours, tile painting… Their website has an English translation) I had missed lunch and she said she could make me some tapas. Tapas is my new favourite word so… of course I had tapas. The local cheese had been calling to me for a couple of days now so that’s what I choose and it was lovely. Also, there was herbal tea, not tea bag herbs but dried-and-still-looks-like-herbs herbal tea. I didn’t know which one I wanted so the lady (later I discovered her name is Vera) let me smell all the herbal tea containers and I choose a mix of three, mint, verbena and anise. It was lovely.

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(I do love the weathered effect)

Then halfway through my sandwich her two sons arrived. How did I know who they were? Sometimes language doesn’t get in the way and you just understand. Not the details but the gist of a scenario. Anyway, somehow we got talking after they left, Vera and I. It turns out she and her husband and the boys used to live in Lisboa. I was thinking, “brave woman to move to a new town with young children” but she talked about the hectic lifestyle, the expensive private school and something being missing so I started to lean in for a story. I wasn’t recording but some words stuck in my head, “the children were growing up between the hours of 8am and 7pm and that’s when they were in school.”

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(Here’s Vera (on the left) she was smiling all the time not just in the photo! That’s her friend on the right (forgot to ask her friend’s name!) And that’s Serpa Lovers. Look at the cute lampshade!)

An opportunity came up here in this place, Serpa, to do interesting work and also to start a business, so they moved but first they asked their then ten-year-old son’s opinion. And he replied with a question, “will this mean we four will spend more time together?” And that’s when tears came to my eyes because that was such a beautiful, wise thing for a child to ask. Of course the answer was YES from the parents and YES from the wise old soul. And although they work very hard they do spend more time together because they now live in this beautiful town where life is lived at a slower pace. Their children spend less time being driven places or collected from places, they walk to friends houses, they walk to school. At the end of the story both of us had tears in our eyes and I’m welling up again now.

Imagine living in a world where the most important thing is your presence. Mairead.

Do. Or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

(Today we went to see the ruins!)

The rain stopped and sun came out…and off we went to the roman ruins at Monografico de Conimbriga. These are the ruins of the old city (about 1800 years old!) of Conimbriga and the nice English-speaking man at the ticket office told us to bring it alive by imagining we were walking along the streets when it was still a living city. I tried.

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(Here’s part of the roman road going from Lisbon to Braga. Can you see the parallel lines? Horse cart tracks)

When we got to the Lisbon to Braga road I was trying really hard to imagine we were back in 194 AD. First thing I tried to imagine were the carts but I couldn’t see the cart tracks so I tried a little harder. It never works for me to try harder, well, trying doesn’t really work. (I could see the tracks when we were leaving and I’d stopped trying…)

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(Can you see the “carpets”? And look through the door and out into the enclosed garden with pools and fountains (you’ll have to imagine the fountains they were’nt working today because of the recent weather))

But then we went into the House of the Fountains. At first glance it’s a load of low stone walls set out in squares in a barn. So I tried really hard to imagine I was going into a house. And then I saw the mosaic floors… I didn’t have to try anymore. I could see room after room covered in mosaic carpets. And the fountains weren’t in the house they were through the (imaginary) windows in the garden. I loved it! I took a picture of practically every mosaic! I want to doodle every single one of them before I get home.

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(Love this…)

I took loads of close-ups too so I can remember them. Can you see how small the square bricks are that make up the mosaic? I’m guessing 3 or 4cm square. Look how many it takes to make a small square – 25 little teeny tiny square bricks! They’re called tesserae. And they were all made by hand and fired in a kiln and assembled by hand and cemented in place by hand and levelled by hand… 1800 years ago.

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(… and this…)

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(Here they are up really close)

After that we saw lots of houses and the city baths and shops and then we checked out the Forum, a huge open plaza with just three columns suggesting the numerous that would have stood when this was the center of the city…

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(The Forum with the three columns to the right. The walkway you can see to the left above is standing in for the entrance to the Forum plaza…)

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(…and this is the model of the Forum at the museum)

The reason this site is in such good condition is that it was abandoned in the middle ages. What normally happens is a new city is built on top of old ruins. So all over the old Roman Empire there are hidden towns and hidden mosaics… mmm. It took us a couple of hours to go around all the ruins and we read later that only 17% of the city has been excavated.

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(Look at the cute mosaic signs for the bathrooms!)

I’m really glad the rain held off and I’m really glad our friend the chief of police told us about this place. He told us the story of when he served in Iraq and walked into the office of the police chief of a small town there and on the wall was a poster of Monografico de Conimbriga. It turned out to be the dream of this man to one day visit Conimbriga in Portugal!

Dreams are like that, they send messengers, Mairead.

The Library

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(I’m at the Library)

So today, on the lookout for a Portuguese venue to rival McDonalds, I’ve come to the library. And I can report that the chairs are comfy, there is indeed wifi and I can sit here for as long as I like! There’s no coffee though… Perfect otherwise.

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(Books, books, everywhere)

So I’m in the Municipal Library of Beja surrounded by books that I cannot read! There might be an English language shelf but I’m between the Geography shelf (if Geografia means geography) and the History shelf (Historia?) I am tempted to look for the craft shelf but what if there were some great looking books? It might be too upsetting not to be able to read the descriptions or the instructions. Oh maybe it’ll be worth it, I’m off to look for the craft section….

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You will never guess what I found! No, not a craft section, still haven’t found that! I found a coffee shop! In the library! What a great place.The library is now officially the perfect Portuguese place to write. Or draw. Or drink coffee. Or read. Or search for craft books. Oh there’s a magazine area with even “comfier”seats and I can see a National Geographic and it’s in English.

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(There are lots of places to sit in Beja)

Some students just came into the coffee shop, two guys and a girl. I don’t actually know if they’re students…. but they do seem to be working on something together and the girl just took out what looks like a text-book. She has green hair. In the magazine area there’s an older man taking notes as he reads a newspaper, maybe he’s writing to the editor. He’s really concentrating, maybe he’s writing to someone else, an old girlfriend, an estranged daughter a friend he met in the army. It seems like he’s finding it a really hard letter to write. Oh hang on it’s a crossword…

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(Narrow streets, where pedestrians squeeze into doorways when they hear a car)

Now there’s a lady collecting a huge hard backed book from the librarian. By huge I mean it’s about three feet by two feet. I‘m trying to sneak a peek but she keeps catching me so I look away. She’s taking pictures of some of the pages with her phone… it might be very old newspapers. The colour of the pages is the same colour as newspaper left out in the sun. Or painted with coffee… as you do!

It’s all happening in the library, Mairead.

Kickstart Your Creativity in 2014


Creative Space Sessions.

You might think you haven’t a creativity bone in your body and you might be right!

Creative bones need to be nurtured and what have you been doing to nurture them? Saying things like, “I’m no good at drawing… “, “I’m useless at sewing…”, “I’m not as good as….”, “I have no talent for…”, “I can’t write… ?”

What if you were saying “Everyone is Creative”, “Creativity is Good for Me”, “Creativity is fun” instead?

Come along to some Creative Space Sessions. You can exercise your creativity by making stuff, or copying stuff already made, or getting inspiration to make something you never thought of making. You also get loads of encouragement.


Combining Life Coaching with crafts helps you notice how useful Creativity can be in all aspects of your life. You’ll learn how to connect with the less logical,and more playful you, the you that sees lots of possibilities.

You don’t need any previous experience (but if you have ever glued paper together then you’re ahead of the posse!)

Would you love to make stuff? Are you making stuff? Would you like to be making (more) stuff? Coming along to a place that allows you to make stuff sounds like a good thing, right?

If your life is busy, it can be difficult to slow down when you want to, or need to… Creative Space Sessions provide an opportunity to slow down and catch your breath.


Sessions Starting From Monday 20th January 2014  – but you can join anytime….

Where: Greystones, Co. Wicklow

Time: Every Monday 10am to 12.30pm

Cost: €15 per session (includes supplies) Minimum 4 sessions.

Contact: Mairead Hennessy 086 827 2332 Email:

Note: Places are limited.

More information at