22.10.2010 - 30.11.2010
We decided to go back to Ireland to work for the last 6 weeks, before returning home, to replenish our dwindling coffers. We were soon to discover that the financial turmoil in Ireland had become even worse than before.
We arrived in Monaghan, and were met by the GP's wife who showed us the apartment we were to stay in. She had kindly put some roses on the table, and milk, white bread and marg in the fridge [which we secretly passed on to the surgery staff the next day, since these goodies are not part of our chosen wholefood diet].
The following two weeks were spent in the GP practice during the week, with David travelling for several hours on the weekends to do CareDOC shifts in Carlow. Even though the weather was brighter down south, it remained gloomy and depressing in Monaghan, which is wayup north, near the northern Ireland border. David couldn't stop commenting on the majority of people in the town, who he thinks are very sloppily dressed and who all look depressed - much like the shopping-mall population we observed in Livingston [Scotland]. Is this sad phenomenon due to the weather or the economy? Who knows.
We were surprised to see how big Halloween is in Ireland. The shops are full of costumes and scary decor, and in the housing estates swarms of kids mob the houses "trick-or-treating". Every town and village seems to have their own fireworks display. When David returned from Carlow, he had to face his own Halloween surprise!
We decided to finally start our low-carb diet while staying in the apartment. The idea is to eat no more than 20gm of net carbs a day (did you know that a tomato contains 3gm of carb?) It means that one eats mainly protein and fats, which is actually easier than it sounds. Vegetables are restricted to mostly raw or steamed greens [not that we mind that], but most fruit was off limits initially. Our digestive discomfort rapidly disappeared, and hunger was not a problem as one remained satisfied for up to 6 hours. We even had hot cocoa [yay for organic Green & Black's cocoa powder] in the evenings, with a dollop of [lactose-free] cream - what a treat!
Within a couple of weeks we had each lost 2kg and pulled our belts in a notch! The only problem with such restricted eating plans can be constipation, for which Psyllium husk powder is recommended. When water is added it swells alarmingly into a gelatinous mass, and can be a challenge to get down! Sandi swallows it nestled into a bowl of sugar-free jelly, dubbed Psilly-jelly by us, which makes it palatable for her. David has his with soya sauce and pretends he is eating dim sum! Research has shown that when one consumes little carbohydrate, one's metabolism converts to burning fat. Also the high fat intake is not harmful to cholesterol levels, if the carb intake is kept low, and eggs are free range.
David came across some more interesting Irish names among the patients: Sadhbh (pronounced Sive), Saoirse (Sersha), Cahill or Cathal (Ca-al), Aodhaghan (Agorn), Aoibhinn (Avin) and Eoghain (Owen). We both find some of the more rural Irish accents difficult to understand, but generally the lilting accents are a delight to the ear.
The following two weeks were spent at a GP practice in New Ross, down in the SE of Ireland .
We stayed in a B&B called Glendower House, and continued our slim-down eating plan by enjoying a standard Irish breakfast every morning, without black and white puddings and potato hash browns, and added some grapefruit. Dinner would be roast chicken and coleslaw or green salad, with chicken salad the next day, or smoked salmon, or cold meats and cheese, etc. All a tad tricky without cooking facilities - but we managed with some innovative planning. Since we were avoiding bread, Sandi created salmon or salami rolls [in place of sandwiches] with layers of lettuce and mayonnaise, rolled up into little bundles - delicious! One evening we brought the induction cooker/hot plate in from the van, and fried some chops and caourgettes on the bathroom floor. Unfortunately, the bathroom and bedroom reeked of garlic and chops for 2 days, forcing Sandi to burn incense for several days to dissipate the pong. Oh, the joys of confined living!
The last 10 days in Ireland were spent doing CareDOC after-hours shifts in various locations, so we decide to extend our stay at the Glendower, as we had a lovely big room and bathroom, and it was fairly central to the shifts in Wexford, Enniscorthy, Gorey, Clonmel and Cashel, none of which are more than 90 minutes drive away.
The Irish people are very angry with the Taoiseach [Head of Government] and the ruling Fianna Fáil party [Soldiers of Destiny] for the mess that the country is in. After the Celtic Tiger boom years, we now have the Celtic Crash, and in fact today [26 Nov], an Irish newspaper has issued a pack of playing cards with faces and quotations of the main poker-faced politicians and bankers/jokers responsible for gambling away the fortunes of an entire country.
It all began with the banks flooding the market with unsecured loans, followed by the government guaranteeing these enormous loans when the banks threatened to crash, in September 2008. To date it still appears that the top banking culprits have escaped penalties. The country is rapidly running out of money, and is borrowing from the international money market at ever-increasing interest rates. Belatedly, the government is bringing in €15 billion budget cuts, but has denied for weeks that an EU bailout is on the cards. Suddenly, this past weekend, the Taoiseach announced that in fact the EU has been asked for a €85 billion bailout package to save the country. It is quite understandable why everyone feels they have been betrayed and lied to, and all the papers, radio and TV are full of angry commentary. And then [earlier this week], the Green party pulled out of the ruling coalition, thereby forcing a snap general election early in the new year. We are certainly living through a tumultous couple of weeks here. Interesting to be part of history in the making!
We were pleasantly surprised to meet up with Bob and Bear again [our house-sit chums from France], who came to Ireland to view a boat they were hoping to purchase. They drove up to visit Sandi one morning and then we drove down later to join them at their hotel in Co Wicklow for a cosy winter dinner and catch-up.
At this point, with no further offers for the van, Bob and Bear kindly offered that we could park the van on their property in Truro, Cornwall, for a few months, until our return. We have realised we will have to return to Ireland to replenish the coffers after a few months, since we don't yet have any work lined up back home. We would use the van while working in Ireland and probably do some more camping, before selling it in the summer, which would be a much better time to sell it anyway. We decided to purchase a motorhome cover to protect it from the ravages of winter weather, so Mr Stubby is going into hibernation until Spring.
On the last weekend, David was to work in Gorey, about an hour's drive from New Ross, but thereby hangs a tale. On the Saturday morning we were astonished to open the curtains to a white wonderland outside our window! We were in the midst of a heavy snowfall as temperatures plummeted.
Besides the awesome beauty of snow, the absolute silence of snow falling is profound. So different to other elemental sounds, like rain.
David set off with trepidation down the road, which was so thickly covered in snow and sludge, that he could only travel at 15km/hr. After 20 minutes, and not even out of the town yet, he called CareDOC to advise them of the impossibility of getting to the treatment centre in Gorey. Parked on the side of the road, he observed another van slithering crab-like down the hill towards him! He turned around and crept carefully back to the B&B - much to Sandi's relief.
The following morning he was up early to reassess the situation for the Sunday shift. The van doors were frozen closed, as the overnight temperature was a record -7.5 degrees! Michael, who runs the B&B, advised that the roads would be very icy and treacherous, so David had to beg off duty again. Another day's earnings were lost, but David survives to live another day!
We managed to travel to Clonmel for the last red-eye shift, then back to Wexford on roads which by now had been salted and gritted, so were drive-able, but we were still extra cautious. We camped in the lounge of the local Whites Hotel to drink Guinness, eat our last seafood chowder, use the free internet, and generally while away the time until our ferry leaves at 21:00. On landing in Wales at 01:00, we intend to drive through the rest of the night to Cornwall, where we are going to park the van, but are a bit concerned about weather predictions for further heavy snowfall during the night, and lots of snow already on the ground in Cornwall!
And so, sadly, our two year walk-about comes to an end. Can it really be two years already? The time has just flown by. It has been a wonderful opportunity for new work and leisure experiences, which we could not have enjoyed without the opportunity of earning euros in Ireland. Out of 22 months away, we have spent 9 months in Ireland, working to finance our travels, and also having to send a considerable amount home each month for mortgages, insurances, wages, etc. Keeping the home coffers liquid in fact took 50% of our monthly budget, which meant we had to live frugally - something that could be a bit frustrating at times. However, the work in Ireland was a real blessing, without which our journey would have been very different - so no complaints!
Pondering our adventures so far, we find it has been a time of new togetherness for us both, as we have had more time in each other's company than at any other time in our 30 years of married life. We have tried to enjoy each day to the full and attempted to "live in the moment/present" and actually put our personal philosophy to the test. There have been difficult times, during which we have helped and supported each other, but those have been balanced out by the times we have fun, interspersed with joyful belly-laughs that we still have together, just about daily. It has been a very freeing time, as we shed most of the attachments (both emotional and professional) and responsibilities which occupied our busy lives at home. We have also eschewed many material comforts, in order to travel like gypsies on the road; but this makes our appreciation of comfort even greater when it is present. We are grateful every day for our many blessings, not least of which are our loving family and friends, many of whom have kept in touch and cheered our hearts when we have felt most alone.
Slán go fóill
David and Sandi