Archive for the 'Ireland' Category

Stretching my legs, sorting out a peace, and finally more geekly stuff.

The Wandering Nerd August 8th, 2007

Hit up the ‘hop on/hop off’ tour here in Belfast. Luckily the weather turned out well today. Though that just means my travel tomorrow will be shitty, for a number of reasons, more on that later.

Covered a lot of ground on the bus. Saw where the Titanic was built and all of the ‘urban reclamation’ of the industrial areas around it. The shipbuilding industry has long since moved on, only the two giant cranes (which can lift 16 thousand tons) remain. From there the trek out to ‘Stromont’ – the Northern Ireland Parliament building – made me question the weather again. Yeah, sure, it’s sunny here, but it’s still only about 13C, which in an open topped bus doing about 60km makes it a bit nippy.

The tour guide gave warning that there had been an attack on Stromont within the past six months. A guy came in with grenades, live grenades, and then later claimed it was a piece of performance art. He had to spend some time in jail, apparently the judge was a critic. I can only imagine the media furor had that happened in the current US police state. He’d be in Gitmo faster than you can say Habeus Corpus, and we’d be all terror alert Cyan up in the place. Where as here, in Northern Ireland, where they’ve been dealing with politically motivated urban violence (otherwise known as ‘insurgency’ SHHHH!) they had elevated security for the tour bus to get in. Now, when the tour guide said this, I’m thinking American style, everyone off the bus, metal detector, turn your head and cough brand ‘elevated.’ Nope, this kindly old security guard in a neon yellow jumper just walked up onto the bus, asked how we were all doing, and suggested, if we could manage it of course, that we all stop for a bit of the ‘ol leg stretch about the lawn as it’s such a nice day. I can only assume, by extension, that if we had not been on elevated security measures, he would have served us all tea and scones and asked about our families.

The next part of the tour went through the more contested areas. Just as a brief history, as there’s no way I could or would even begin to try to explain the true situation, historically or currently here, I think I need to cover some things. The ‘sides’ here are the people what want ‘one island, one country’ and those that want ‘one island, two counties.’ The 1:1 are the Irish/Catholics/Nationalists/Republicans/Sinn Fein/IRA, the 1:2 people are the British/Protestants/Unionists/Loyalists/Ulsters/UVA/RUC. It’s much more complicated, but that’s a very convenient lie about how it breaks down. From what I gather, it’s moved from being a religious struggle onto a more political arena so the last 40 odd years have been more regarding the governance of the area. But another convenient lie is to use the labels Protestant and Catholic, so play along for a bit. The Protestant area is based around Shankill Road, while the Catholic area is based around Falls Road. Now I’m from Kentucky, we know all about a good feud, but this is outstanding. These two roads run parallel, and only a block apart. A wall was constructed between the two areas that is referred to as the ‘Peace Line.’ At certain points it rises to over 70’, with barbed wire tops, and reinforced solid gates that are still closed every night at 1800. With the new peace accord there was talk of taking it down, but the residents expressed strong concerns to keep it in place.

In the pics you’ll see I walked back and forth between the communities, to tell the difference, generally of course, if the message is peace or unity, or if there are British flags of course, then it’s Shankill, if the message is freedom or there are cameras it’s more likely Falls Road. There’s a photo right before the kids skateboarding that is Divis Street from the ‘Divis Street Riots,’ only about 40 years later. Again it’s way more complicated than all that but I’m still trying to find some good sources on both sides to just talk about it. One of the guys in my hostel tonight is a former Belfast resident who’s been living in England for a while so I’m going to try to pick his brain about it a bit.

After all of the heavy history, even with the peace as it is now, I needed to get a break from it. I saw a billboard about the W5 center when I got into town. It’s like a big science museum/exposition center for kids…of course I had to go. I’m just saying if you have drunken monkeys, I mean children, and you happen to be in Belfast. Go. It’s well worth it. Granted I had to knock some of the little buggers off a few of the exhibits as they didn’t even understand how cool it was. There were stairs that had touch contacts build into them so they were literally musical stairs. I tried to play Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto, but my ankle was still sore you understand, so I had to settle for Chopsticks. Seeing all of the next generation of Belfastians at play melted away a lot of the images of walls and razor wire from earlier. The best parts though, get your geek pants on kids, they had a gallery of Nick Roche, he’s the artist that’s working a lot on the new Transformers comic. That’s right a Transformers Gallery. I’ve kept them separate, but even if you don’t like a) comics 2) transformers d) geek stuff, it’s still an interesting showing. Though come to think of it, if you don’t like any of this stuff, uhm…why are you even here. Not that I mind, I’m glad you’re here, you’re my favorite, honest!

While I’m showering you with adoration, I may have some bad news. I’m not sure what my connectivity is going to be like for a while, I’m heading to the Island of Islay in Scotland for a few days. So between the Scotch I intend to drink and the remote location, I have no guarantees on when I’ll post again.

But in the meantime, enjoy!





diet coke,
i’m on my knees

Old video games, glad I waited to go, and it was only about 60′

The Wandering Nerd August 7th, 2007

I did the Giant’s Causeway/Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge bus tour today in one of those giant touring coaches. The driver was both nuts, and a badass, the ‘tour guide’ however was totally making things up. Met two polish girls Magda, and Domanika, on the drive out and walked around with them for most of the day. Ended up going out for some pubbing later on. I remembered to snap some photos of people this time too so everyone quit complaining. I’m watching funding while in the UK, that whole 2 dollars to 1 pound sterling takes a bite, so I’m not going out as much as in Ireland. I’ll make it up when I get into mainland Europe.

The Rope Bridge was interesting enough, but it’s been re-built and is now pretty much as safe as any normal walkway so I didn’t find it all that exciting, apparently it used to be a more literal rope bridge, with one big rope to walk on, and two to hold on to. Things that would never happen in America without 4′ high guard rails and personal injury attorneys in the queue handing out cards. The same goes with the Giant’s Causeway, which is this gorgeous hexagonal rock formation with people clambering all over it. You could walk right out into the Atlantic there, or be blown in due to the wind shear. Though the water here is 8 degrees Celsius, and your life expectancy if you were to fall in is right around 4 whole minutes. The statement was made that fisherman around here don’t learn to swim because there’s no point.

I’m damn glad I didn’t try to come out here when my ankle was still really stiff, nor when it was raining. In either case I suspect it would suck massively. It really is an otherworldly place. I’m not going to lie; I spent some time hoping from rock to rock pretending I was Q-Bert, and that all of the other people were green blobs or purple snakes. In my head I had made it to board 2-1 before one of the kindly information people asked me if I needed help back to my handler, and if I’d lost my safety helmet.

i wished to wish
i dreamed to dream
i tried to try
i lived to live

Anniversaries, ankles and alliterations.

The Wandering Nerd August 6th, 2007

Two weeks have passed since I left the states. It really kinda’ snuck up on me, as time seems to be hurtling past, and it looks a lot like the Irish countryside in a bus window. I’m still really glad I broke away when I did, and I’m not really missing any. I was missing sushi, but I finally found a place here and splurged a bit. Though if any of you, my adoring audience, are planning on coming over to wander with me for a bit, I’m gonna’ request an air drop/tactical resupply of some things be brought with you, we’ll talk. :)

Dunno’ when this will end up getting posted, the hostel I’m in now doesn’t have any free wi-fi and I’m somewhat loathe to pay 7 bloody dollar american for an hour of access, you’ll get the posts, but don’t count on too many fancy schmancy hyperlinks. So I’ve wandered about and found “Clements,” where they are religious about their coffee. *shrug* Black, large, bring it. I also should point out that the little text on the photos is having some issues, it looks like it usually only works on the first 10 or so then goes all sideways. I’ll look into it when I have more stable time and access, for the time being though, my apologies if you can’t get my witty running commentary. Make up your own, it’s like the home version of the game.

If one of you other nerdly types wants to help a brother out and set up a proxy for me so I don’t have to pay these exorbitant fees, I’d certainly appreciate it. Drop me an email if you do set one up.

Made it out of Derry, without running into the gang that beats up the 7th person to walk past them. I’m not sure if I buy that there is such a thing, seems to close to the old bullshit urban legend about the gang of kids who would drive around at night with no lights on, then when you flashed your brights at them they’d shoot you. Still an amusing thought, and to be quite honest, when we were making a late night kebab run there was some guy standing in the takeaway, looking bewildered, bleeding from his forehead, and holding a napkin to his cheek. I’m not really sure what kind of wound was on his cheek, but if triage dictated he attend to it prior to the gash on his noggin, it must have been a doozy.

I’d met a German History and English teacher who was cycling around Ireland. We grabbed a bite to eat and had an impromptu English lesson for him. I taught him how to make up new adjectives. So I just introduced some new and fun words into the Germanic take on English. Things like ’shit-tacular,’ ‘fan-damn-tastic,’ and the classic american, ‘go *#$! yourself….ly.’ Yup, international ambassador of goodwill, that’s me. We did actually cover some of the more obtuse crap that English, and especially Americlish does, so perhaps I did do some good despite myself.

Feeling like I’d done my share of drinking, I laid off the sauce a bit that night, as I’m tossing some trash out the backstep of the hostel (where of course it’s raining) I slip on a step and twist my ankle and knee….stone sober and I get hurt by stumbling. This is why I practice by drinking all the time.

Not terribly twisted, but enough. I certainly felt it the next day, when I’d planned to go to the Giant’s Causeway. Between my ankle, more incessant rain, and the tour bus apparently taking the day off, I didn’t make it.

I did however pick up a copy of the history of “The Troubles” and spent a couple hours in a coffee shop reading it and making notes, and diagrams. I’m serious, the history of this conflict is amazingly complex, it gets to a point where you really almost need a Venn Diagram to keep sorted who’s english/irish/protestant/catholic/repulican/unionist etc. and over the course of the thing people changed sides, groups get renamed, people go from being instigators to prime players on the political side. The most difficult part for me is figuring out what some of the actions or words mean. Here’s a fun one, the Irish have a ‘Taoiseach,’ pronounced ‘tea-sha,’ who is sorta’ like a president, but sort of like a figurehead. I’m not really sure yet. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “an acceptable level of violence,” it has been orignally attributed to Reggie Maudling…the politicion in charge of Northern Ireland during a goodly portion of the Trouble. How’s that for comforting in a leader…oh wait, I forgot our mis-underestimated Toaiseach. I’m gonna’ keep on researching and see what I can sort out, I really need to find an Irish person and get some questions answered.

Moving from Derry to Belfast is quite a switch. Derry really has the grittier feel to it, while Belfast is more like Dublin, big, bright, full of people, though this time they’re mostly Irish, or nothern Irish, or Irish-Brits…hell I don’t know they’re just people to me. But they talk funny, cuss a lot, and throw in extraneous tourette’s style words…come to think of it that’s a pretty fair description of the people I know in Indy. Belfast is the home of Queen’s College, you really get the university town feel here with students wandering around even now, staggering and blinded by the sun. Their pale skin softly sizzling in the here to fore unseen UV spectrum.

There are Causeway tours that go from here as well, the intent is that I’ll hit one of those while I’m here, plus a hop on/hop off tour bus runs through Belfast as well, so if you’re good, eat all your vegetables, and put all of your toys away, I’ll have more Belfastian photos next time around. I’m not getting around as spryly so fewer shots at the moment.


“relax” dijo el portero
por mi es honor recibir
puede salir cuando quiere
pero nunca yo partir
-gypsy kings

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