End of the road

(Here’s our entire route from the Rego app…)

Thank you for being with us on the journey, now we’re all back where we started. We’ve been back a week and have managed to do some travelling in Ireland in that time. It’s just as beautiful here as it is in France and Spain and Portugal, by the way. The weather? Not as different as we used to think.

(Listening to a busker at the Rock of Cashel)

Ruby has been emptied, the washing machine has been filled and emptied many times and we are getting used to having extra space, extra power sockets, unlimited electricity, unlimited data and a wild garden. We’ve noticed having a car makes us walk less as does having a washing machine. During our forced stay in Benet I hit my step count just by going over and back to the laundry machines.

(Noticing sunset near Cloyne)

I am, as I decided when we reached the journey ending, at a beginning. It’s up to me to decide what this is, what I want to be telling myself and you for the next few months. Do you think it’s possible to live intentionally with a story you tell yourself? I think we live in stories we tell ourselves all the time, just accidentally. Telling an intentional story would mean choosing what you really want to be, do, feel, think.

(Smiling at the cute postbox in Dungarvan)

Our attitude to the weather is an accidental story we tell ourselves. In Ireland we believe the weather is supposed to be good, we are disappointed when it’s not. We complain about it all the time. What if we believed the weather was supposed to be terrible? On a wet and miserable day we would nod our heads and carry on. But on a day when the sun rose to a cloudless sky (like today) we would be astonished, in awe. We’d still just carry on but we’d notice the beauty… and we’d feel it.

(Remembering Lisbon scooter rental at the bike rental in Dublin)

I am quite nervous about sharing my plans for this beginning because I’m not at all confident that I can successfully complete them, so maybe I shouldn’t even start them. Weirdly, that’s a helpful realization and leads me to the first intention: to notice myself thinking, you never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this and carry on doing what I’m doing anyway.

(Listening to the son making music…)

So here’s my intentional story for the next few months… I will compile the blog posts over these last eighty-something days into an ebook and put it up for sale on Amazon. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this. When that’s done I will create a short and simple video course about how to compile your writing into an ebook and sell the course. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this. I will get up every day at 6am to get this work done. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this. I will incorporate healthy habits, like walking, eating well, practicing mindfulness and noticing beauty. You never finish anything, you won’t be able to do this.

I’m just getting started, Mairead.

And then there were two…

(View from the castle ruins… very familiar)

Two more sleeps until we leave France. I found another lovely place to spend the night. Actually we arrived around 10am so we spent the day here too. I didn’t realize it at the time I was choosing it but this town reminds me of Cashel in Tipperary, where I grew up.

(On top of the rock)

Domfront is a Cité Medieval and is built on a huge rock outcrop on an otherwise flat landscape. And so is Cashel. It was only when I was standing looking over the walls of the old town that I made the connection. The scene in front of me was not unlike the view I knew so well as a child looking over the wall at the Rock of Cashel into the town. There’s a long street in the distance called Friars Street, it runs at a slight incline. It has shops and the church and here was something very similar in Domfront, France.

(Ruins of the castle at Domfront, also familiar)

When I started reading the tourist information stands dotted around the town I realised Domfront is probably as much English as French. Some memory of history class reminded me the kings of England were also kings of northern France. Think of the region of Brittany. Domfront is in Normandy (to the east of Brittany) and the Normans although originally from Scandinavia, invaded England from Normandy. So this place has seen a lot of battles and a lot of blending and mixing of nations. As has Ireland.

(Gateway to the town)

Maybe that’s why this place feels so peaceful. It really does. We both felt very calm as we walked around the old town towards the runs of the castle. But maybe it’s just familiarity. The castle walls are made of grey stone, probably granite, very different from the finish of a Château or the red stone of the walls in Portuguese Silvas. But very like home. The roofs of the houses in the town are topped with slate, most French roofs have red tiles.

(Grey stone, this could be any town in Ireland)

Intentionally choosing this town even without knowing its history or its story reminds me of the time Denis choose to drive to Beja when we needed a garage. Or the time we drove into the motorhome dealer in Benet when we really, really needed a garage. Our brains take in far more information than we are aware of and then they offer it back to us when we seem to need it.

(Higgle-de-Piggledy houses)

It’s not always a given that I listen to the quiet internal voice because it’s hard to believe what’s not in front of my eyes. But the alternative is to work everything out and try to control the results. I would prefer to listen more to that quiet voice because it was right to bring me here. To a familiar place for the first time in a long time.

I love the unusual but maybe I’m getting ready for the familiar, Mairead.

(Domfront: free parking, motorhome facilities behind office of Mairie. Public parking. Best croissants in France!)

Once upon a time we had no water…

Lots of people ask me how Denis and I can live together, in such a small space, without killing each other. I’m not sure I have ever given an adequate answer, mainly because I don’t know. So I thought it might be interesting to notice on this trip what we do. Today I got some useful information… it’s a long story, bear with me.

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(Our back garden tonight)

As I was saying we planned to be taking the slow journey through France, as long as the weather was kind… and the weather was grand, but we hadn’t taken into account a particular side effect of weather – water pipe safety. Yesterday we travelled for about an hour from the ferry at Cherbourg and arrived in the town of Isigny sur Mer at dusk. We planned to fill up with water and stay for the night. While in Cork the previous Sunday we had filled our drinking water tank but we forgot that there’s a safety thingy in the van that protects against frozen pipes – by dumping all the drinking water! It only happens if the temperature inside the van goes below 8 degrees. Must have gone below 8 degrees while we were on the ferry because when we got off in Cherbourg the tank was empty. We might have left 100 litres of Cork water in the English channel… sorry.

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Not really a problem, we would get drinking water at the aire in Isigny sur Mer. But we couldn’t! This is a bit of a sweeping statement but it might still be true: in winter the French turn off the drinking water taps at their aires. To be honest we’ve only tried two this morning but two out of two is enough for me to start making sweeping statements. Still, not a huge problem, we do have a couple of two litre bottles of water I bought in Lidl when the whole of Greystones was on a boil water notice. That will keep us going for a bit, but I think we need to reassess, regroup and let go of the original plan.

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(Spotted on our way to the supermarche)

When you decide on a plan and then set it in motion it takes on a life of its own. Every decision that follows fits neatly into the plan and before you know it there’s a machine trundling down the road to get water where none exists. The machine in this case is a camper van plus two humans. When the water at the second tap an hour south of the first tap was also turned off the two humans approached a crossroads (metaphorically). One of them was doing all they could to keep the machine moving with the original plan, i.e. on to a third tap, while the other human was doing all she could to throw out the original plan and come up with a new one.

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(Here we are)

It turns out we have very different patterns when it comes to finding a solution. Denis focusses on making the present plan work (tenacious). I focus on coming up with a new plan (creative). Even thought this is a metaphorical crossroads it felt exactly like we were pulling in opposite directions and it was very uncomfortable. Discomfort makes me grumpy and blamey (not a real word but I think you know what I mean…?) It wasn’t very peaceful. I’ll spare you the back and forth that went on until silence descended. Not peaceful silence. Then something changed. (Incidentally I would not have understood what changed had I not been writing about it. Thank you, writing, I love you!)

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(We found water!)

But first… Many years ago these two humans were not living peacefully together. They had a lot of hard stuff going on and they were pulling apart at every crossroads. And then they stopped, I actually don’t know why they stopped, probably a combination of things, other people inspiring them, books teaching them, courses educating them. I don’t know, but things changed and they found common ground. One night, I think they were sitting on the sofa watching the telly, they came to an agreement on something… they wanted peace. And they were willing to do hard stuff to have peace.

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(Our first bbq on the road (thank you for teaching us, Moira!) and the orange/metal thing in the park is a game called disc golf – google it)

The thing that changed today was that as soon as we realised we weren’t at peace, we separately (and silently) stopped thinking we were right and the other person was wrong. Then we began to search together (awkwardly) for workable solutions to the problem. Then we drove to a place we knew had water… duh.

We are able to live together, in such a small space, without killing each other because we want peace, 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.

How often do Ryanair fly out of Pisa? Anyone?

We’re leaving Florence today, well, tomorrow as I write and we’re leaving very early (read 9am…) so I anticipate having too little time then (now, to you) to write so I’m writing now…. which is in the past… which means I may have developed a time machine… it is now as you read and as I write?… Oh better yet, I’ve found a way to explain The Power of Now…. maybe later.

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(Window in Venice)

Although the Florence bit is nearly over there’s still the journey home…. Four days of wonderful riding through Italy, Austria, Germany, Holland, England and Wales… Emmm… Thing is, the trip down kinda put me off the trip home and I’m busy looking at a train to Pisa and a Ryanair to Dublin. But don’t tell Denis. He’ll be motoring along without a care until the first stop before he realises I’m not on the back. He’ll open his mail and this blog will be there, maybe I should write something nice for him, so he’ll understand…

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(Windows in Siena)

Never mind, I’m not really going to Pisa, I’m going overland and I’m going to make the journey as easy for myself as possible! First, I’m going to start by following my own advice… well, I was only sharing it because I wasn’t using it myself. So, I’ll notice what’s happening now on the journey.  Instead of imagining and getting fearful about what might happen or about how it might be as hot/tiring/sore as the last time I’ll notice how exactly it is right now. Also, I’ll appreciate stuff that happens and I’ll share with you what I’m grateful for each day…

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(Window in Duomo, Florence)

You might notice that “easy” for me doesn’t really include any physical issues…. (well, we will be stopping very regularly, in fact by the time we get home we’ll have stopped at approximately 25 motorway services/roadside cafes  over the four days, so that’s a given!) No, all my issues are mental – interesting, right? Mmm…

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(Window in Pitti Palace, Florence)

We’ll be in Austria next time I write to you, and I’ll let you know how I am then, but of course it’ll be now… again, Mairead.

Ordinary Venice.

After my observation on the blog yesterday that I was not noticing the beauty all around me I decided to start paying attention. My mission: To pay attention and notice the ordinary. Here in Venice even the ordinary is different so that wasn’t too difficult. As has become our habit, Denis and I set off on our fifteen minute bus ride to the city before breakfast. We arrived around nine o’clock. This was useful because a lot of ordinary things happen around nine in the morning.

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But first we were going to have breakfast. This was a much cooler day and rain was forecast and believe it or not we were looking forward to rain! When we got off the bus Denis (who was also on “ordinary stuff” patrol) noticed a pathway we hadn’t seen before so we took it. There were fewer people walking this route but there seemed to be more boats. We stopped at the first cafe and ordered coffee and pastries (not exactly high fibre but very yummy.) And that’s when ordinary Venice started to happen.

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The delivery boats. I know I’ve mentioned this again and again but… everything, every thing coming into this city comes in on a boat and get to its destination on a handcart. Three delivery boats had passed before I had wrangled the camera out of its bag. But I got DHL. Well of course DHL deliver to Venice!

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(DHL… Excellence. Simply Delivered… to Venice. On the lookout for UPS)

We took 351 pictures yesterday and they are all of ordinary things. Here’s a taste of ordinary Venice…

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(The milkman)

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(The laundry)

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(The builders)

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(The ambulance)

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(The bin men)

By lunchtime I was exhausted! Noticing the ordinary is work. It’s everywhere. It’s constant. It put my senses to work. When my senses are at work… with what’s happening right now in front of me my brain can’t be making up stories about the scary things that might happen in the future or the annoying things that did happen in the past… But it’s a bit of work and maybe I’d much rather be numb or bored or talking to myself about scary stuff…. Nah, here’s some more ordinary Venice….

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(Someone had a blocked drain…)

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(Bottle cap art – lots and lots of ordinary plastic bottle caps)

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(A bus/boat stop dock…. there are lots of these in Venice)

We’re off to Florence today…. might be hot…. might be busy…. might be fun… might be terrible… or it might be amazingly ordinary right in front of my eyes, Mairead.

Getting forgetful?

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(Morning! Or afternoon?)

As I sit here at 8.30am on Monday morning I wonder why I don’t sit here at 3.30pm on a Sunday afternoon. Why wait until the last minute? Why set up a habit that doesn’t support the good and the healthy? Why not set up a habit that makes life and the living of it easier? Why indeed?

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(One of my buttons on my art project)

It’s something I’ve considered previously, with some success too. There was the walking for twenty minutes a day habit, the drinking three pints of water a day habit, the blogging at 3pm every day habit, the photography every day habit, even the drawing every day habit. But for some reason it’s much easier to let those kinds of habits go and forget that they were even a consideration.

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(Focus on the important things….)

Now I’m considering…. and it seems like this might be the perfect time to reinstate some useful habits. I’ll have to be ruthless when I’m deciding which ones to reinstate. Probably best if I ask myself what I want to be doing in six months time (when my habits have taken hold.)

This could take a little time, Mairead.

Happy New Year


(Way too much chocolate….)

Is it morning already? I’ve been away in the land of Christmas and I have jet lag (or… sleigh lag.) So just enough time and energy to wish you a Happy New Year – it’s 2013 – and encourage you to consider your hopes and dreams and wishes this year. For a start scribble something you really, really want on a bit of paper and stick it in the back of your purse or wallet. Don’t look at it again until 2014.

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(Way too much food…)

Or if you’re really brave…. send your bit of paper to someone who will encourage you; or send it in an email to lots of encouraging some-bodies; or do what I did and set up your own team of people to encourage you! That’s why I’m off out the door now to draw and paint at this un-holy hour (well 8.30am…) instead of lying in bed. And even though I’d rather be lying in bed at this moment…. I am very glad I started this journey.

Happy 2013 and start scribbling, Mairead.