Halloween Happenings

There is something about Halloween that I love. It could be all the Halloween specials from the Simpsons, from Roseanne (who did Halloween specials in favour of Christmas specials), the dressing up, or the really unsavory tradition of walking up to a stranger’s house and asking for lollies (have these children EVER heard of Hansel and Gretel?).

While people may scoff at this ‘American’ tradition and the demise of Australian culture in favour of globalism, I for one can embrace the only time orange can be seen as a truly integral part of a festival.

I’m Irish, many of Mr BG’s forebears were Irish (some even arrived as guests of His Majesty’s pleasure), and I feel I can get away with the whole all Hallows Eve bizzo of ghoulies, ghosties, witches and fairies. It has been a Christian tradition, but also a Celtic tradition known as Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It’s celebrated with bonfires and crackers (fireworks) in Ireland. In 2001, we were holidaying in Ireland in October and saw the buildup to Halloween, with heaps of crackers for sale. It was one of the first years that fireworks were legally for sale in Northern Ireland, after having been banned.

There will be no crackers tonight, but the kids are getting dressed up, with Miss BG as a witch (for the sake of creche, she was Hermione Granger),

And Master BG with braces, fez and sonic screwdriver as Doctor Who.

There are also some lollies in the cupboard for a ‘treat’ this evening πŸ™‚

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Thank you

Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of condolence via Facebook and Twitter, everyone who has left comments and who has emailed me over the past couple of days. It is lovely to know of your thoughts and well wishes.

The weekend was spent with my sister in Geelong and keeping in touch with my parents and rest of the family in Belfast. My brothers have flown over, so a great deal of the extended family will be there.

I’ve been told that Granda has been lying in state in the lounge room in his best suit while the weekend-long wake has gone on around him. He has been kept close to an open window, mainly to keep the room chilled- it’s the first time he hasn’t complained about the open window and it being not warm enough :).

The funeral is Tuesday, and is being organised by my cousin Karen, with contributions from other family members- he’ll be getting a great send-off!

Tears in my eyes

The tears are falling quietly, splashing onto my glasses and falling on the desk. They are coming regardless of how many times I wipe my eyes and clean my glasses. The world is a bit hazy at the moment, a little bit off-centre…

The call came as I was getting ready for work. My cousin was at the other end and she didn’t really have to say the words ‘He’s gone.’ because I already knew. Noone really rings at 4.40 in the morning unless it’s bad news.

Do I go to work following a death in the family? I don’t know. I want to be with my family, but they’re all far away in Geelong, in London, en route to Ireland and tucked up in bed. I walk out the gate and call my sister. She knew the moment I called why I was calling. We share our grief, then say our goodbyes. I keep on walking to the railway station in the cold thinking about Granda.

His love of smoking. His need to have the house as warm and stuffy as possible. His taste for a very strong cup of tea, preferably stewed. His birthday cards with a little poem inside each one. His reminiscing with me about what my dad and auntie Dee were like as children, the same age as my kids. His faith and his love for his family.

It’s hard to say you miss someone you saw only irregularly, but I feel completely wretched at the moment, even more so because I’m not with my aunts and uncles and cousins who are feeling even worse than I. I think the worst thing is my dad is heading over yet again, too late to say goodbye.

Farewell Maeve Binchy

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Dublin door in the rain

It was with a lot of sadness that I read of the passing of Maeve Binchy. It was like the death of a kindly aunt that you had somehow lost track of.
I read my first Maeve Binchy Firefly Summer when I was 17. I remember buying it at the airport en route to Australia from Ireland where I had been for my uncle’s wedding. Feeling somewhat bereft after leaving my lovely extended family (whom I saw all too rarely), the book enveloped me in a warm Irish hug. I read it from Ireland all the way to Hawaii, taking a break for meals and sleep. (It was 1988 and inflight entertainment was limited to a couple of movies projected on scratchy screens) I read through my grief and at the end of the book felt much better.
Working in a public library later in life allowed me to indulge in reading all the Maeve Binchy titles there were. Under the guise of reading knowledge to provide advice to borrowers, I made sure every new book by her crossed my desk. Taking it home, I curled up on the couch and delved into the comforting warmth. I read to the exclusion of my boyfriend, and the housework, and emerged to eat and sleep (a precedent which was reinforced with the arrival of a new Harry Potter book years later…)
I loved the fact she was easy to read, and eminently readable. I loved her short stories, especially those with recurring characters. I don’t really have a favourite book,maybe Light a Penny Candle, Circle of Friends or Evening Class are ones which spring to mind. It wasn’t just the story which drew you in but the feelings of comfort that one drew from the story telling. She was simply a nice writer who wrote nice books.
And then over the years I left public libraries, married, made a family of my own, and I changed. I didn’t need to read her as much(though I recommended her to mum, who loves her too!), and she faded from my radar.
So thank you for the stories and the feelings you generated.
RIP

Game of thrones-world

Before I went overseas, Mr BG and I had discovered the television series A Game of Thrones. Based on the series of books by George R.R. Martin, it is basically Lord of the Rings with dragons, and warriors, but a tad spicier with more women and sex and no hobbits. It is thoroughly enjoyable, with a great ensemble cast. As with Lord of the Rings, it also relies on stunning locations, in this case Northern Ireland.

We took a day trip to Newcastle and discovered Tullymore Forest Park, which had rambling paths beside little rivers. This location had been used for the scenes around Winterfell and beyond the Wall.

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Another location used was Ballintoy Harbour which was on the Causeway Coast in between Carrick-a-rede and Bushmills. It was a tiny, incredibly windy road that led to this
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This location was used for the island of Pike seen in Series Two (which we had the first 4 episodes with us on the tablet).

It wasn’t Harry Potter world or Legoland, but the kids got a chance to run around on the beach and grab an icecream πŸ™‚
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Well actually, we all got the chance to have an icecream!
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Ireland would be a great place if it had a roof*

Enniskillen is where my granny Kitty lives as well as my Auntie Stephanie and her family. Set on the shores of Lough Erne, it truly is a pretty town with lovely stone houses and bridges, and beautiful surroundings.

It is alsoΒ  where Ireland has lived up to its reputation of incredibly shite weather, so bad it made Master BG remark ‘Gee, it’s just like Ballarat!’. Which is strange, considering that Enniskillen makes much ado of its outdoor activities of angling, boating, horse riding and golfing. When you wish to do any of these activities though, your enthusiasm is somewhat dampened by the rain…

It rained for two days solidly, which resulted in the Bookgrrl family ensconced in our accommodation watching TV, playing Scrabble, reading, or escaping to an indoor play centre so the kids could let off steam. Our accommodation was sadly not blessed with wifi access, and our tablet was put to good use with endless games of Angry Birds πŸ™‚ .

In the end we stayed another day so we could stay another day in order to do the one thing we wanted to do- visit Devenish Island. We missed it the last time we were here as we thought we were too late in the year for the ferry to operate. As it turned out we were in the wrong place entirely. When we finally found the right jetty from which to take the ferry, we discovered the service had been booked out by a tour group and the only places left were located outside in the rain. Being sensible wusses, we declined and opted for another day, then as the weather worsened, yet another day.

As it turned out, staying another day was a blessing in disguise. We had a fantastic pub meal that night at the Horseshoe and Saddler, where Mr BG discovered the delights of champ. It was a traditional Irish pub, with little booths, wood panelling and lots of horshoes and saddles adorning the walls. I had a sudden thought was the pub decorated like this because it was expected of them them as an Irish pub in Ireland and pandering to the tastes of visitors, or had it always been decorated like this? My head was spinning so much I needed another drink, in this case a nice Australian Shiraz to go with my lamb cutlets…

Queuing up for the ferry, it was grey and cold, and then a small miracle occurred- the skies cleared, we saw blue sky and sun! By the time we arrived at Devenish Island, it was sunny and warm(er). Devenish was beautiful with its round tower, ruins of a monastery, and little cemetery.
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We only had 45 minutes to climb up the tower, visit the museum and go up the church tower before we left on the boat. It was a magical trip though, and for once the weather gods smiled on us πŸ™‚
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*Direct quote from an Irishman

Roman Holiday

Following requests from Kerrib and @gigglesigh to know more about my brushing up of my Italian, I’m letting you in on the grand plan.

We’re going on holiday- again. We went overseas 15 months ago, but time is of the essence and the little BGs won’t be so disadvantaged by missing a term of kinder and school now. The holiday will be for 10 weeks, and will involve

  • visiting relatives in Ireland (something I can’t not do),
  • seeing my brothers in London
  • visiting Derbyshire and Yorkshire, which is where my maternal grandfather was born
  • staying in Glasgow and Skye, which is where Mr BG’s maternal ancestors were born
  • one week in Paris, staying in an author’s apartment in Montmartre and …
  • two weeks in Italy! We’ll be spending time in Rome and Florence, with possible day trips to Pisa and Siena.

Master BG is very excited we are going to the land of pasta, Mr BG is very happy to be seeing some Roman ruins and I am over the moon to be seeing Florence. Ever since studying Year 12 European History and looking at the Renaissance and the Reformation, I have been yearning to go. I did Italian at uni concurrently with French, and want to use it. I want to walk through the streets and piazzas, stand in front of masterpieces and drink it all in- not to mention drink lots of coffee and beautiful Italian vino :).

Travelling will include trains, planes and ferries, including a trip on the magic Hogwarts train.

The plane tickets have been booked (thanks to Hannah our lovely travel agent at Travelscene), most of our accommodation in self-catering apartments has also been booked and soon we will start looking at train timetables.

The excitement is beginning to bubble, but I won’t let myself get too carried away, not until I’m walking through the departure gates at Tullamarine!