Small Observations

Small Observations

As I am here now just over 19 months, there are a few things I haven’t seen before but they are getting less and less.

But today I got to see something I had never seen before, a prison chain gang, ok its now called a Prison Inmate Work Detail, but when you strip away the political correctness, it is what it is, a chain gang without the chains.

The funny thing is, seeing this today as I drove in Gwinnett County just outside Atlanta, I suddenly noticed another on the side of the road and then a big orange bus with Prison Inmate Work Detail written on the side of it passed me by. So the chain gang sighting was like waiting on a bus back home, you don’t see one for ages, then 3 come along together.

Not sure how many other counties in Georgia do this or even states across America but it does strike me as a good idea. Having inmates help to supplement the county workforce, keep motorways tidy, help cut grass etc. Of course the PC brigade back home would be up in arms if this was to be even suggested in Ireland.

50!

50!

And so I am now 50. I have been through all sorts so far in my life and I try to be nice, polite and friendly. I also live by a motto, growing old is mandatory, growing up is voluntary and recently I have added that growing old is a privilege denied to many so enjoy life while you have it. 

So as my 50th birthday has arrived I intend to continue to live by my motto and try to be a nice and friendly person. I have a good life, a great wife, great friends and a family not only back home in Ireland but also here in the USA. 

I will end by wishing myself a Happy Birthday and look forward to the next whatever years I have left, hopefully another 50. 

My Dad RIP

My Dad RIP

This past week I have been sharing memories of my life as I approach my 50th birthday this weekend. Today I will share some memories of my Dad, who passed away on July 21st 2016, a year ago today. 

July 21st 2016 and we are driving to Michigan for a weeks vacation with Leanne’s parents. We were up at 4am, dogs in back of car keeping Robert company and we were making good time. At approx 8am I got a call from my sister to tell me my Dad had taken a downward turn and we were in the last few days of his life and she would keep me up to date. Less than an hour later I got the call I was dreading but knew was coming, my Dad had passed away, with my Mam, sister and brother with him. I was lucky that Leanne and Robert were with me and it helped enormously to be with them at that time.

But let’s go back a good few years. My Dad was the the one that drove us to everything, football, scout trips, vacations and family day outs. My Mam didn’t start driving till we were teenagers so my memories are of us all being piled into the car, bags on the roof rack and me standing behind my dad, helping to navigate. 

Of course there were times when we bent the rules on the roads, cramming a bunch of scouts and bags in car was definitely one of them, a driver’s the car at the time was just a VW Beetle. 

Rather than me ramble about things we remember about my Dad I am going to borrow the Eulogy my sister, Anna, wrote for the funeral……

Bright Eyes and One Front Tooth

Bright Blue Eyes,

One Front Tooth,

Warm Heart,

Kind Hands,

Dark, dark hair that turned to white.

A man who put his family at the heart of his world.  And we knew it, no doubt.

A man who was more ethical than ethics required.

A man who let us watch Westerns but told us that the Indians were not the bad guys and to not always believe what we saw in the movies or read in a book.  Life was more complicated than that.

A man who showed is that integrity was to do the right thing, not so others could see, but because it would be the right thing to do.

Gur Cake, Madeira,

Knickerbocker Glories on First Holy Communion Days.

Taxi-ing to rugby, football, scouts, ballet.

Working up from a green dilapidated Volkswagen Beetle to a car with sun-roofs, not one but two.

Full of boldness and giddiness,

Sneaking a Big-Mac into hospital ‘coz he knows you won’t survive on toast and tea,

Getting ice-cream for you for breakfast ‘coz sure you’re on your holidays,

Building stone houses on the beach ‘coz sure they cost you nothing but time and love,

Fitting in a sneaky water fight while pretending to be taking the job of washing up after dinner seriously,

Snuggling under blankets with grandchildren and pretending to be asleep when Mam came in,

But then, at every major step of life, being there, listening, offering advice but never making you feel obliged to take it.

A man who like to keep to his routine but who would travel to unknown destinations, both in real life and metaphorically, with the love of his life.  Always together, in heart and in soul.

A man, understated in emotion, who showed his love thru’ his actions, steadfastness and generosity.

And though his last breath has gone,

He lives, 

In our hearts,

In our minds,

In our souls.

All that and more is the man I was lucky to call Dad and my sister done a wonderful job in putting into words everything we we thought of a wonderful man. 

Now as I get ready to celebrate my 50th birthday, today and over the weekend we will take time out to remember one of the most loyal, loving and friendly men you would ever meet, my Dad. Miss you every day Dad and I hope I am making you proud with how things have turned out. I will have a pint in your honour tonight and we will celebrate your life and the influence you had on us all. 

RIP Dad, sleep well.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Lots of Memories

Lots of Memories

Today’s post will be a bit of a ramble through my life, schooldays, family holidays and just various other stuff from the last 49 years and 362 days. 

So let’s start at the very beginning, Sunday July 23rd 1967, the day I popped into this world as a little chubby baby. Of course I remember absolutely nothing of that day or the following few years but I was a good baby, eating and sleeping when I was supposed to, sone people will tell you they are 2 things I am still very good at, eating and sleeping. 

Sometime around when I was 4 it was time to go to school and learn the stuff that I would need for the rest of my life. So reading, writing and math, of course school couldn’t leave it at that so I had to also learn history, geography, and as I got older they added French, Science and accounting. But eventually my sentence of 14 years in school was completed and I was allowed out into the real world of being an adult. Whoohoo, time to work, grow up and be mature!

As usual I ramble, so back to my childhood and family holidays. We were lucky as we had a family holiday every year as we grew up. It was either on the beach in Portrane just outside Dublin, some were spent in Mosney Holiday Camp, we went to Wales, Isle of Man and our last family holiday together before we were to old to go on family holidays was to Jersey, a place were my parents spent their honeymoon.

We also had trips away with the Boy Scouts, again visiting the Isle of Man, various places in Ireland and Belgium. So all in all I was very lucky and got to travel and see different places, and now all these years later I am still seeing new places but on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. 

So to borrow a phrase from Forest Gump…..”Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you are going to get.” Well I have certainly lived my first 50 years, living for 48 of them in Ireland and looking forward to living another half a century in the USA. 

A trip down a railway memory lane

A trip down a railway memory lane

The day of my 50th birthday is fast approaching and I continue with my trip down memory lane and recall some things that helped me fall in love with trains. 

Where I lived in Dublin was close to one of the mainline rail station out of Dublin to the West and South of Ireland. Places like Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Waterford were served by the train from Heuston Station and still are today. My second job after I left school would see me get a job on the trains. And as I loved trains this was probably the best job for me to start my working life. Meeting people every day and working on something I loved. 

I got to travel to Westport in Mayo most days before moving over to the Dublin – Belfast line for about a year and needed my career on the railways working relief shifts on Dublin to Galway, Waterford and Sligo. I got to travel on nearly every inch of track in Ireland over my 3 years working on the train and it was a wonderful experience. 

But my love of trains started well before my working life started. The railway being beside me helped and getting a Lima model railway set for Christmas one year certainly helped. I had pictures on my wall of trains and I vaguely remember train wallpaper in my bedroom too. 

We went on a family holiday to Wales and got to go on a steam train and of course the Isle of Man had all sorts of railway stuff, steam trains, vintage electric and horse drawn trams. I just loved tracks and it’s something I still notice as I drive from place to place. 

Last summer on our drive to Michigan from Atlanta, and even though the day was tinged with grief (more about this on Friday), I noticed railway tracks wherever I could. Detroit was great for that and driving around I got to see and get an idea of how busy it must have been as a rail kink years ago.  

Well my love of railways will now manifest itself into probably one of my life bucket list items, a model railway layout in our basement. I had a small layout back home but I had to leave all my railway stuff behind when I made the move to the USA in 2015. 

Sporty Billy! 

Sporty Billy! 

Taking another trip down memory lane and today it’s all about Sport. OK so now I am nearing 50 but still enjoy playing football (soccer) especially since I made my return to playing a little over a year ago after 20 years away from playing regularly. So where did I get this love for playing football. 

Well it started in my backyard back in Ireland playing with a tennis ball or a football and just kicking it against the wall. As a kid I played football, rugby and hurling. I was kinda small for rugby but I was lucky enough to be fast, it helped stopped the big guys flattening me. Hurling I found a great leveler, the little guy with a. Stick can hit just as hard as the big guy but again it was a little bit of speed thst kept me out of getting hit to hard. See a trend in both of those sport? And so I got really good at football and I wouldnt get hit, at least not to often. 

My football playing days ended really when I suffered a broken femur just after I turned 20. I just couldn’t face a hard tackle again so I stepped away from the game for a good few years, just playing occasionally. But that did not stop me watching football as often as I could. My earliest memories of watching football was the 1976 FA Cup Final in England, followed by the 1977 FA and European Cup finals and the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina. I think it was the 1977 Euro Cup Final that really got me hooked. Liverpool had lost to Man Utd the previous weekend in the FA Cup Final but bounced back on the Wednesday to won the European Cup.  I then started to follow English football and became a Liverpool supporter. 

The World Cup in 1978 was memorable as it was the first time I remember seeing international football, Scotland beating Holland but still going out after 2 previous disastrous games, the ticker tape final which seen a Mario Kempes inspired Argentina hand Holland their second successive final defeat and Archie Gemmils goal in the aforementioned Holland Scotland game are just some memories I have of that world cup. 

As this is a trip down memory lane I won’t go into what I follow today, but I still watch for Liverpool results, watch football most weekends and play most Sundays. But some of my best memories have been watching St Patrick’s Athletic back home in Ireland. I have seen them win leagues, cups and play away in Europe. I have also suffered heartbreak as I have seen them lose more Cup finals than I care to mention. But in 2014 that ghost was laid to rest as St Patrick’s Athletic finally got their hands on the FAI Cup and I was the road to record the whole thing on camera. 

I will come back to memories with St Patrick’s Athletic as they are so numerous that a single post wouldnt do them justice. Being a fan of St Patrick’s Athletic is a privilege I am glad to have, I have met some wonderful people, made live long friends, lost some good people, had some great experiences at games and some heart breaking ones too. 

I suppose now as I live in the USA I have to adopt a few local teams in various sports. So now I have Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (MBA) and now Atlanta United in the MLS. Add them to St Pats and Liverpool as well as Michigan Spartans for college sports and I have a busy schedule just keeping up with results. 

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane and I hope to add more over the coming week as the big 50 birthday looms. 

Mann what an Isle! 

Mann what an Isle! 

So I continue my journey though life and today I am remembering my favorite holidays (vacations) from my past. I have traveled to numerous countries, and seen nearly every county back home in Ireland, with Giants Causeway the one big omission, but my favorite place has always been the Isle of Man. 

My first trip there I was no older than 11 or 12 and it started a love of everything on the island. A few hours by ferry from Dublin the trip over was always done very early in the morning, arriving on the Isle of Man as morning started, around 7am. This lead to some early morning fun when I would return to the island as a adult with 2 friends and my brother, but that’s a story for another day. 

As I said, my first trip was when I was 11 or 12, and it was with the local scouts. It was quickly followed by a trip with my parents, sister and brother as we had a family holiday together there. I would go again twice more with the scouts, once as a leader and once as a scout. 

So what is it about the Isle of Man I love? Well you put steam trains, old electric trams and horse drawn trams in one place and I am a captive audience. My love of trains is no secret and it was in the Isle of Man I was able to get close up to real working steam engines. 

My best trip to the Isle of Man was in 2011 and it was a birthday trip with a retirement from the military as well as my first lone  trip with Robert, my son, after my divorce in 2009. We had a blast, riding the trains and trams every day, going to visit old castles, seeing motor car racing and generally having a blast. To see Robert enjoy the Isle of Man as much as I have was a joy to behold. 

Someday I hope to return to the Isle of Man and share the memories I have with Leanne. Probably will only be a day trip or 2 but it will be worth it to have one more journey on the steam trains and electric trams.