Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Cracked Christmas in Ireland

John, Mary and Donkey looking for
a Christmas dig-out
Well sure now, and isn't it Christmas already? And we here in Ireland are hunkering down between the wind and rain, snow and hail to celebrate the Season. We're planning so many wonderful events - so much fun for all the family! And on Christmas day, we'll pop our Christmas Crackers with glee.

Except for Johnny and Mary, of course. 'Cause they've had to emigrate to Australia, God Bless 'em. Couldn't get a job when they'd been let go from the local factory. And this despite what the Irish Government had promised us all - because we'd seen the last of the Three Ghosts of Christmas Past (also called the Troika) the dreaded program of Austerity was supposed to be at an end. And even though Johnny and Mary pestered their local TD to death in hopes of landing new positions, their local politician was so busy attending Christmas parties that he never did get around to helping the poor couple. Instead, the bank that held their mortgage foreclosed, and they found themselves tossed out in the snow, forced to raise a few bucks with their Living Crib in the town square. Even the Donkey has been reduced to begging for a few carrots.

Least poor Johnny and Mary can take comfort in knowing they're not alone. So many Irish families are facing the same prospect come the New Year! And they'll all climb on the plane, bound for Australia or Canada or the United States, or wherever they might find opportunity, and celebrate Christmases for years to come in those far off places. And the rest of us, stuck here forever, will have to make due with Skype to share our Christmas dinners with them. But virtual Christmas dinners just aren't the same, are they?

Ah, but that's fine, we'll all make due. We'll trundle out to buy our Christmas presents for the kids and grandkids who remain here. But then, there's not much to spend. Not after the tax increases - the new property tax, the new Universal Social Tax, the increase in VAT, the upcoming Water Charges. We'll be reduced to giving the kids a used muppet or two purchased from the Euro Shop, and if they complain that Santa wasn't good enough for 'em, they'll just have to contact their local politician too.

Of course, not everyone will be practicing penury this Christmas. For instance, the directors of certain so-called charitable organizations have been caught out robbing the piggy bank despite the fact that we're funding them through our small donations and large financial contributions from the Government. Needless to say, those moneys come from us too because we're paying them in taxes. Ah, but when they got caught out for earning 200,000 euro and more we felt so sorry for them because they told us of the personal overheads they have to pay: the new house in Portugal with those stunning views of the sea, and the 2014 Jaguar that they're treating themselves to, to make certain that get from A to B in a flash.  But feck it, we'll pay for that too it seems, and it's no big deal. Even though we can barely keep coal in the fire and our transport has been reduced to a goat and cart. That's okay! We're delighted to pay!

This Christmas, we've decided to put up with it all. We'll ignore the bank big shots who never bothered to burn their bond holders when the banks failed, and instead left us poor Irish taxpayers holding the multi-billion euro bill. We'll turn a blind eye to the owners of now defunct construction companies who still
Ah the Christmas drink. And sure, what else is there to do?
managed to salt away a few million despite having ripped-off the country with their illegal mortgage deals, and are keeping it all anyway because they've declared themselves bankrupt and say they don't have a farthing. We'll forgive the Irish politicians who still have some of the largest pay packets in Europe despite the entire country going bankrupt. We'll even turn our backs on the Irish Health Service who can't seem to manage anything, and give huge salaries to unneeded administrators though they've cut the wages of nurses, doctors, and those that we need and trust to give us wonderful care.

Ah to hell with it all. The Country is all cracked, and we'll have a great Christmas anyway. And if all else fails, we'll do what we Irish have done for centuries. We'll wander down to the local and have a pint. After all, that's what Christmas is really for, isn't it?

Want to learn more about living in Ireland? Are you thinking of traveling to Ireland or moving to Ireland? If so, you might consider the purchase of the 2014 Kindle ebook edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Now 80,000+ words long, and having sold over 10,000 copies in its various editions, it could make the perfect gift for those interested in this wonderful country. Simply click on any of the links above to purchase this new Kindle version. You can also download various free aps to read this Kindle version on any PC or Mac. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Cottage Christmas

'Tis the Season, etc etc etc. If I was still living in the United States I'd invariably be doing what any full-blooded American consumer would be doing at this time of year: shopping. Preparations for this Yuletide brand of hand-to-hand combat began, of course, months ago and I too would be drawn into it like a fly to honey.

I would plan the itinerary like Patton, mapping my route to Malls in hopes of gaining a strategic advantage on fellow shoppers to grab those bargains at the first light of dawn. I would charge into battle armed only with trusty plastic, with little regard for my own safety. I would storm the Name Brand Bastions, capturing my prizes with glee, knowing that my scarce resources were being diminished by the second but paying no heed because It's the Season to be Crippled by Debt.

And I would make my way back home through the maddening hordes, on the one hand pleased with my small victories but also feeling a headache coming on because I'd know that I'd have to do it all over again next year - assuming I could pay for this year's extravagance.

But I don't live near a Mall. Not anymore. The only traffic I might fight on the narrow roads of the Beara Peninsula is the occasional tractor pulling fodder to a nearby field, or a flock of sheep that has escaped through torn fencing and wanders stupidly across potholed roads without worrying that they might be mown down by a mad American intent on getting to where he is going. Yes, I still shop for Christmas but now I wander through the quiet fishing port of Castletownbere only 4 miles distant from my home in Eyeries. I'll poke my nose into Wiseman's and sort through the small selection of two year old fashion to see if I can find something for him and her, and then walk down the street to Harrington's hardware to pick up a tool or a fishing boat model handcrafted from wood for Dad. I'll stroll over to the square and chat with the locals minding the outdoor stalls that pop up during the holiday season, bursting with brightly colored local flowers still in bloom or perhaps selling hand-crafted Christmas cards, or offering assorted fat chocolates individually wrapped in sparkling papers to better conceal the sweet stuff within.

As the days march toward Christmas, and perhaps needing a better selection, I'll journey the few miles up the road to Kenmare and visit its fine woolen shops filled with hand-knitted jumpers and rugs, and wonder why I don't buy one for myself while I'm at it? Or drive further to Killarney and walk down the festive main street made joyful with holiday shoppers rushing to purchase fresh turkeys from the poulterers or fish from the fish mongers or cheeses and wines from the shops nestled neatly along the town's narrow roads.

But Christmas in Eyeries isn't only about the shopping. On the 8th of December or so, I'll visit the stand of wild holly bushes that grow only down the road, harvesting a selection of dark boughs strewn with red berries there for the picking. These adorn the lamps that hang from the walls of my living room, and the deep recesses of the front-of-house window wells. Within the dark forest of holly, I'll place bright candles and Christmas toys to tease the children who look in with wonder upon those simple scenes.

Next, I'll buy a tree grown just over the hills in County Kerry. Not a tall tree, not anymore. My cottage's ceilings are barely 7 foot, so a low tree will do nicely. I'll buy it from the fellow at Harringtons, in town, and throw it into the back of the pickup and place it outside to be washed by the winter rains for a few days. Then I'll drag it through the back door and past the picture window that frames Coulagh Bay a-surge with whitewater from wintry storms, and up the two small steps into the living room. There it is bedecked in ornaments that go back to my parent's very first Christmas, almost 60 years ago now, and given to me as a present when my mother passed away. These are mixed with those from my Irish Christmases and remind me of children and grandchildren who are now such a large part of my life. The lit tree glows through the small cottage windows, warming passers-by with its beauty.

Then as the day falls toward darkness, I'll haul in a bucket of coal and a few wood blocks and make up the fire in the tall cylindrical Swedish stove that graces the living room. A bunch of paper at the bottom. A few sticks of kindling with a mix of solid fuel fire lighters. Next the bucket of coal and a block or two. And when I light it, the living room grows snug as the flames turn the cast iron stove red hot.

If it's a cold night, I'll treat myself to a hot Irish whiskey: a jigger of Irish best poured into a tall glass followed with a belt of boiling water that's been simmering in the kettle. Then 2 teaspoons of sugar, and add a lemon slice made fragrant with clove thistles and stir briskly.

And I'll sit warm and cozy in the living room that has now become a Christmas Den and watch the tree lights reflect off the old family ornaments to stir memories of Christmases long past, in another country, and with friends and relatives that really are still there, at least in my mind's eye.

I'll sip my Irish whiskey in the snug cottage, embraced by the simplicity of the Irish Christmas and the blessing of love that I have been allowed to share with so many throughout my life.

Want to learn more about living in Ireland? Are you thinking of traveling to Ireland or moving to Ireland? If so, you might consider the purchase of the 2014 Kindle ebook edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Now 80,000+ words long, and having sold over 10,000 copies in its various editions, it could make the perfect gift for those interested in this wonderful country. Simply click on any of the links above to purchase this new Kindle version. You can also download various free aps to read this Kindle version on any PC or Mac. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Winter's Peace in Eyeries

A number of years ago - 3 now, to be exact - I decided to move away from the Big Smoke of the Dublin area to the small and tranquil village of Eyeries way down in West Cork. The village, with a population of only 60 or so, is located on the Beara Peninsula, one of the last corners of Irish solitude. The peninsula, a finger of land that juts out into the Atlantic, is a place of wilderness. Barren, rocky mountains form a spiny line that marches all the way from Bantry to the east (and the gateway to Beara) all the way to Allihies, a small windswept village to the far west, and one of the most westerly centers of population in Ireland. In the spring, surging falls of white-water cascade down across the face of the stony hills as the water from spring rains seek the ocean. Heathers bloom, dotting sheltered areas in vibrant yellows. In the summer, glorious rainbows arch across rocky chasms, and in early mornings when conditions are right, wispy tendrils of fog twist and turn across green valleys, almost hiding massive boulders left during the last Ice Age.

In September, the weather turns to autumn. The swifts which make their home here in the summer twist and turn in the fall skies as they gorge themselves on insects for their return crossing to Africa and their winter grounds. Blackberries grow ripe within their nettled protective confines of curling bush that surge low along many roadways. Heather and gorse again bloom, as do some wild roses, adding brilliant colors to long walks. As autumn turns to winter, the weather caves in. Huge low pressure systems storm across the Atlantic, finally making landfall in this westerly corner of the country. Gale winds sometimes breaching Force 8 or more push massive seas onto the rocks below my house, and geysers of whitewater sometimes taller than 30 feet surge skyward in breathtaking beauty. Fishing boats make way for shelter in nearby Ballygrovane harbor, snuggling like litters of kittens along protective piers. Village residents, wearing all manner of coats and hats, dash between showers intent on getting to the small shops and back home in one piece.

As we approach winter solstice on 21 December, darkness closes in. The sun, which in summer had lit our lives from as early as 4:30AM to final twilight as late as 1AM, now plays hide-and-seek. On stormy days, our world seems to reside only in twilight. But the darkness also treats us to special gifts. On clear nights the stars glisten like fireflies. Astral formations such as Orion and its belt march playfully across our skies. The Milky Way - the center of our solar system - stretches like a glowing carpet within a field of obsidian darkness.

The village of Eyeries, located on the northern side of Beara and perched on a rocky ledge a hundred feet above Coulagh Bay, hunkers down for the winter. The small main street along which so many tourists walked in summer is now often deserted, as if taking a few months off for much needed rest. But though it appears to be asleep, Eyeries is still very much alive. During the week, villagers go to work as fishermen, farmers, shopkeepers - and writers - driving through the dank mornings in pursuit of a much needed wage. Trailer-loads of firewood are backed down small boureens to be stacked by grateful homeowners as winter fuel. On Saturday nights, the main street is choked with cars as the faithful flock to the weekly Vigil Mass.

Winter in Eyeries is also a time for social activities. Of participating with the church choir if you've a voice. Or joining the local history club, or finding a moment's peace with the Yoga group, or learning to paint from local artists, or taking a walk along the coast despite the weather to fill your lungs with fresh sea air and watch the sturdy cormorants and gulls dive for their winter's breakfast.

It is a time, too, of reflection. And as we hurry toward Christmas, it is a time of anticipation as we await relatives to make their travels back to us from far-off distant lands. Here in Eyeries, the winter gives us time to weigh up what is most important. And often, we can ditch the complexities of the world simply by looking out onto the surging Atlantic or up at the night's sparkling, majestic skies, and know a bit of peace.

Want to learn more about living in Ireland? Are you thinking of traveling to Ireland or moving to Ireland? If so, you might consider the purchase of the 2014 Kindle ebook edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Now 80,000+ words long, and having sold over 10,000 copies in its various editions, it could make the perfect gift for those interested in this wonderful country. Simply click on any of the links above to purchase this new Kindle version. You can also download various free aps to read this Kindle version on any PC or Mac. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Getting a Job in Ireland - MORE!

Over the past few months, I have had a number of queries regarding the possibility of getting a job in Ireland.  I've covered this area a number of times on the Blog, but perhaps I should take a moment to re-emphasize a few points.

Pockets of Opportunity: Recently, Anonymous wrote the following to me: "Hi TOM.. I have done my BCS(Bachelor in Computer Science) and i have 1 year and 6 months experience of Software Quality assurance Engineering in Pakistan. I'm planning to come Dublin. im planning that i will complete my Masters there and then i will tryu to find a job. Can you please tell me that what are chances of getting a job in my IT field and what are chances of getting a job during study in restaurants,hotels etc? Please reply, i'm waiting."

First, good hearing from you, Anonymous. Second, if you're going to seek employment here, first thing's first - make certain that any written communication is as perfect as you can make it. Check spellings and grammar. Remember that first impressions count. I'm afraid that your recent post to this blog was loaded with typos. But to answer your question:

Depending on your qualification, you could indeed find many opportunities in this country. IT, as mentioned in other posts, is rebounding with many companies seeking staff. As also mentioned, Ireland - for whatever reason - now finds itself positioned as the 'Silicon Valley' for the rest of Europe. Pick a major IT company either in the software or physical infrastructure space (think LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Dropbox, IBM, EMC, HP...the list goes on and on) and they're not only based in Ireland, but are actively hiring.

Right to Work: But remember that if you're a non-EU citizen you do not have the automatic right to work in Ireland. Instead, you must get a job permit.  However, should your skills be in demand, a future employer can facilitate that for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for work in an industry that is still in recession and that has an over-supply of available talent, the chances of getting a work permit are slim.

Which brings me to the second part of your question, Anonymous. You ask what the chances are of getting a job in a restaurant or hotel. And the answer is, I'm just not too certain how successful you might be. Remember that Ireland is still in recession and still with a high unemployment rate. Many of the unemployed are in the 18 - 25 year old age group, and many of those people are possibly in college, hoping to get a part time job just as you are. Consequently, I'm afraid that you'll be facing stiff competition. Too, because you won't have a work permit, you will not be able to take a 'legal' job here. Contact the the Irish Department of Justice, or talk to your Irish college or university, for more information.Your questions are also answered extensively in my book, A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. See below for details.

A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2015 Kindle Edition Now Available!
If this blog interests you, then you might want to know more about living and working in Ireland. Are you thinking of traveling to Irelandmoving to Irelandworking in Ireland? Do you want to understand what makes the Irish tick, how you can get a job here, and how to survive in this wonderful country? If so, consider purchasing the 2015 Kindle edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Over 11,000 have already done so! Now over 85,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for those interested in this wonderful country. Simply click on any of the above links to purchase the new 2015 Kindle edition. You can also download free apps to read the Kindle version on any PC or Mac. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wonderland Just Outside My Window

Just over three years ago now, and due to a number of factors that I'd rather not go into here, I moved to Eyeries. This little village, located way down in County Cork (southwest Cork to be exact), is one of the best kept secrets in all of Ireland. It has to be because so few people seem to know about it. I discovered the place quite by accident. About ten years ago, I was looking for a secluded part of the world in which to hide and write a screenplay (that's not yet been produced by the way, though I live in hope). I discovered Anam Cara, a delightful artists' and writers' retreat run by Sue, a wonderful American who also seems to have lived in Ireland for what seems like forever. (Go to for more information).

Sue was a marvel, as was the retreat. She takes care of artists and writers as if they were members of her own family. You work. And while you do, she makes dinner, organizes entertainment, acts as a shoulder to cry on and as a constructive critic if you're looking for such help, and otherwise carries the load while you get busy. And her house! Well that too is magic. Wonderful living quarters. Beautiful gardens complete with a waterfall and small river. Homemade food that is scrump-diddly-delicious. Nearby walks down narrow lanes, past a windswept cemetery. But for me, the best part of it was: all of this is situated right next to Coulagh Bay on the Beara Peninsula, with stunning views of the Atlantic to the west, the Kerry Mountains to the northwest, and the Beara hills to the south and east.

I was hooked.

Of course, ten years ago there was absolutely no way that I would be able to move in this direction. It was impossible. But then things changed.

Just over three years ago I stayed at Sue's house for about two weeks. During that visit, I happened to walk into the village of Eyeries, a 20 minute stroll up to the High Road, down past Teresa's place (the Coulagh Bay Bed and Breakfast - go to for more information on her place and the area), and eventually turned left at the sign for Eyeries.

From there, it's pretty easy because there's only one road into the place. I walked down the main street, past the small Eyeries River that gurgles beneath a bridge, and into a virtual fairyland lined with terraced houses painted in every pastel shade you can imagine. It's beautiful. Quiet. Comforting. On that day the sun was out, painting the trees in gold. Fuchsia bushes, all wearing small red flowers, bloomed along the way. A dog came up to me. I patted it and the collie seemed to lead me to the local pub, Causkey's, one of only two in the village.

Needless to say I asked Donal, the owner and barman, for a Pint. When it settled, I took it to the large window facing west, and looked across the Coulagh Bay and the amazing picture of beauty that it offered. In the distance, a fishing boat strolled across the gentle waters. Seagulls glided nearby. And then the sun set, and as I watched I beheld a magic of nature that I have seen in few other places. It sank beneath a far off line of low cloud, lighting them from beneath. Scattering then across the waters like tiny, sparkling jewels. I wished I could have more.

"I sure wish I could live here," I whispered. And Donal heard me. "Place for sale down the road," he uttered. "Why not have a look?" So I did. I walked out the door and turned left. Walked six doors down, so I did. And saw the For Sale sign.  The house was Robins' Egg blue. I looked through the window. Across a large open living room, I could see the sun as it beamed its last rays through a large back window. The house had the same amazing views that Donal's pub possessed. I got out my mobile and phoned the agent.

Six months later I moved in.  And now I wake to the view of the Bay every day. I walk out onto the back deck. I watch more. When the weather is nice, I walk down to the nearby Beara Trail and breath deep of the sea smells and listen to the roar of the waves coursing in. Sometimes I'll see a seal playing in the surf.  If the weather's bad, I'll sit in the back room of the house, watching as the breakers as they smash onto the rocks, tossing mares tails of mist as much as thirty feet into the sky.

It wasn't supposed to happen, my ownership of the Blue House along the main street of Eyeries. It shouldn't have happened at all. But it has. And when life might seem a bit blue - as blue, sometimes, as the house in which I now live - I look at the wonderland just outside my window. And pinch myself.

Want to learn more about living in Ireland? Are you thinking of traveling to Ireland or moving to Ireland? If so, you might consider the purchase of the 2014 Kindle ebook edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Now 80,000+ words long, and having sold over 10,000 copies in its various editions, it could make the perfect gift for those interested in this wonderful country. Simply click on any of the links above to purchase this new Kindle version. You can also download various free aps to read this Kindle version on any PC or Mac.