What A Week: Wild Atlantic Way

The vision……
R has long fancied holidaying in a motorhome. The biker in him loves the call of the open road, and he likes camping weekends consisting of a lot of standing or sitting in fields doing not very much.  The plan was to rent one for a week, hit the west coast of Ireland with son and dog on board, and see how we got on.  You’ll love it, they said, you can just stop where you like, make a wee cuppa, enjoy the freedom and the relaxation, bond with nature. Yeah right.

R’s personality type means he likes things open, spontaneous, to be able to decide on the hoof.  By contrast, I like to research and plan. It was hard to find some common approach to the holiday, but we did agree it was sensible to book in somewhere for the first night, and wanted to do as much of the Wild Atlantic Way as we could.  So this gave me enough material to research.  I joined the Motorhome Craic facebook group, who were very friendly and helpful, and purchased the “Britstops” book, which gives deatils of some stopping places near local businesses (pubs, smokehouses, fruit farms etc).  My big worry was that we would driving around frantically at 6 or 7 at night unable to find somewhere to stay, so I drafted a rough itinerary with some suggestions.  Here’s how we got on.

Day 1: pick up van. Enniskillen

Handover, showing us where all the bits and bobs were and how to operate the various functions, including the all important chemical toilet.  We loaded up and set off for Enniskillen.  I sat in the back with Minnie, who was a bit restless at these new surroundings, and couldn’t find a comfortable spot. My first impression was of how rattly the van is!  There’s also no aircon, so it’s not the most comfortable of rides.  But we make it to Lochside Marina (£20, no extra for showers) with no issues, and do our first electric hook up (EHU).  I’d had hoped that the site would be close enough to the city centre to walk for fish and chips or something, but it was about a mile out.  We decided to get a Chinese delivered, which was rather tasty.  But I’m still struggling to see the attaction, plus being by the loch there’s quite a few biting insects around.

Day 2: Downpatrick Head

After a not-bad night’s sleep, I make tea!  And a one-eyed-jack (known in our house as Amy’s Eggs) for breakfast.  We headed for Sligo, where we would pick up the coastal route branded the “Wild Atlantic Way”.  This genius marketing ploy was devised by Leo Varadkhar when he was tourism minister, and since there were already a few coastal scenic atlantic drives in existence, it was just a matter of joining them up, adding a few wiggly signs, and sitting back to await the influx of tourists.

Except Sligo isn’t terribly helpful in pointing me in the right direction.  I scoured in vain for the wiggly sign, or even a sign for the airport, but all I can see is “Sligo Core” or “Sligo Ring”, which mean nothing to me.  We programme the sat nav for Strandhill, and shortly afterwards find a lovely pub restaurant called The Venue, with outdoor seating where we order lunch (chowder for me, roast lamb for R, fresh water for Minnie despite her barking at the kind waitress).  Parking in the car park is a bit awkward – we take up 2 spaces and hope that we don’t get blocked in.

We continue along the WAW, learning as we go how to differentiate between the main route (marked S or N) and the little fingers out to a viewpoint.  We stop at Lacken Strand, a vast expanse of golden sand with drones and air surfers overhead.  Minnie leaps to freedom and enjoys a few zoomies around the place.  It’s tricky drying off her paws, especially in such limited space.

Onward to Downpatrick Head, a spot which was recommended to us by a Swiss couple last night.  It’s a dramatic headland, and as we approach it in the afternoon sunshine we can see other headlands and islands dotted along he coastline to the west.  There are no stopping places to try to capture this in a photograph, but it would be impossible to do it justice even if there were.  The glorious panorama takes in big blue skies, azure seas, and green-grey granite slabs. I set off with Minnie towards the headland, but a sign says that dogs are not allowed, so I leave her back to the van with the boys and continue alone.  It is stunning – sheer cliffs, blowholes, and the 50m high Dun Briste sea stack.

 

Back in the car park, I order hot dogs and chips from Patsy’s van, and he delivers them to our door!

This is our first time trying “wild camping” ie no electric or water, and it feels strange to watch the car park gradually empty of day visitors and have the place to ourselves.  Well, almost, there is one other van in this car park, and another motorhome parked up in the next one down.  My hopes for a wild Atlantic sunset are dashed, though, as a surly sea mist rolls in and turns the sky 40 shades of grey.

We have problems with the chemical toilet, and decide that wild camping is not for us.  Patsy had recommended staying by the beer garden in Healys pub in Ballycastle, so that might have been a better option.

Day 3: Achill Island

Back on the coastal road, the views are stunning, but there are very few places to pull in.  What was that lie in the vision – you can just stop where you fancy? No, not really, you have to choose a spot that you can get in and out of safely without inconveniencing other road users.  But we find a great big car park opposite a fab Spar in Barr na Tra.  A fellow motorhomer with a lovely Boxer dog pulls in too, and we compare notes on how best to dispose of rubbish. The Irish government is promoting a recyling policy, and charging for landfill rubbish.  This does mean that there are very few bins around that we can use.  We try to keep recyclables separate and find the appropriate bottle banks etc, but I find that I’m using black bags, wet wipes and kitchen towel at a greater rate that I would at home, and can’t find many food watse disposal points.  But hey, it’s bound to be more environmentally friendly than flying somewhere.  Fuel topped up, and homemade scones purchased for later, we decide to skip Belmullet, and do the square loop at Blacksod Bay.  Suitable stopping point found opposite a pub, we turn on the gas to make soup and sandwiches.

After admiring the peaks of Achill over lunch, it’s lovely to make our way onto the island, and follow the signs to the newly opened Achill Seal Caves site (28 euro). The facilities are excellent, with loos and showers (1 euro for 3 minutes, plenty of space to leave towel and clothes), and a campervan servicing bay.  As I’m guiding the van into this, the rear brake light cover strikes a not-very-obvious grey wall and smashes. Ouch!  Oh well, it’s a bit of a rite of passage, and could have been much worse – no bodywork damage.  R gets the roll of clear tape and sets about doing the jigsaw of the smashed pieces.  The rest of us explore the beach.

It is golden sandy with rolling waves, but the sand is a little soft and rocky, and there are quite a few jelly fish washed up, so I’m not tempted to go for a dip.  The Strand Hotel nearby advertises “home cooked food all day!” but this turns out to be only at weekends,  So back to the van for rather tasty steak and veg that we brought with us.  Afterwards, we admire kites being flown on the beach, including an impressive whale, advertising a local pizza place.

Day 4: Keogh’s, Ballyconneely

The morning dawns cloudy but pleasant. so I take Minnie for a run.  However, the loose sheep give us problems: they see her and bolt, she sees them dashing off and wants to give chase. But it’s good to get the endorphins shuggling round my brain, and running on the beach in such surroundings is very therapeutic.

We pack up and head for Westport, one of the places I’d been looking forward to pottering around in.  But it’s a very popular spot, and driving through the town is more than a bit hair raising, with lots of cars double parked, and delivery vans reducing the available lanes.  So that vision of spending some time wandering among the colourful pubs and shops quickly vanishes.  We can’t see anywhere to park, so continue out along the southern shores of Clew Bay, and stop near Croagh Patrick, for a cheese-and-crisp based lunch. From there, it’s my favouite road in the whole world, the Doo Lough pass.  Again, not enough places to stop and photograph, but we enjoy the scenery around Killary Harbour and Leenaun.  Just past Kylemore Abbey, there is a narrow bit of road, and we see another motorhome approach us.  “Breathe in!” I say, but the 2 wing mirrors clip, at a combined speed of about 80 mph, and the mirrors pop out and smash.  We pull over, and the German couple do turn around and come back to us.  I get out the accident form and start completing it, my rusty German being tested severely (Indicator light? Mirror housing? And what date is it anyway?)  A Garda car stops and makes sure there are no injuries, and if we are happy enough just to exchange insurance details then he will leave us to it.  But it’s not just the mirror that is shattered – I’m feeling very stressed out after this, tensed up as if I was in a dentist’s chair, and my heart is in my mouth around each tight bend in the road.

Tonight we are staying at Keogh’s, one of the aires in my Britstops book, which is a large gravelly car park beside a pub-restaurant-shop-filling station. (You had me at pub-restaurant).  Manoevering is made a bit more difficult without a wing mirror, but we get set up, and head across the road to enjoy a super dinner in the outdoor seating area.  The menu is very impressive, and I am spoiled for choice, settling eventually for the seafood platter, including oysters, crab claws and steamed mussels.  It is absolutely delicious.

Day 5: Galway

Overnight, some travelling fair trucks have parked up near us, getting ready for this weekend’s Ballyconneely Show.  But we manage to pick our way out of the park.  No loos in the shop, which opens at 8, only in the pub, which opens at 10.  So we head off for Galway, having researched where the Ford parts dealer is, in the hope that a replacement mirror can be procured. Driving around the iconic stony green Connemara landscape, I imagine a sort of Craft-coffee-shop-with-loos, and lo and behold!  At Glinsk such a miracle appears!  It is lovely, with a very extensive gift shop where we spend some time, and beautiful gardens with a stunning view of the mountains.  I treat myself to a Connemara marble worry stone – just rub it and your worries will disappear!

Soon we are driving along Galway Bay, and stop at Spiddal to make ham-and-crisp sandwiches.  I have a little mosey around the Craft Village, with intriguing basketweaving, glass painting, silver jewellery etc shops.  Well worth a visit!

The sat-nav leads us through the narrow streets in Galway centre, where again double parking and delivery vans make the journey more difficult than it should be.  The parts place is on Headford Road, a large industrial and retail zone with a big Dunnes Stores, Halfords, and  a Pet World. Bad news is they don’t have that mirror in stock, but they can get one for tomorrow.  We head for Salthill camp and caravan park, to find them closed for lunch.  But we can wait.  It’s 40+ euros for the night!  There’s a per adult and per dog charge (what facilities is she going to be using?), 1 euro for shower, 50 cents for hot water to do dishes, 5 for laundry, another 5 for drying, and lots of dictatorial dos and donts on signs around the site.  Depending on which sign you read, check out could be 10.30, 11 or 11.30, so it’s obviously been a contentious issue. I can’t find the promised beach, but I do find Joyce’s supermarket, which is an absolute haven of edible goodies and local produce.  I buy some fancy artisanal yoghurt for breakfast, and some mushrooms which I add to a pack of microwave rice cooked in a saucepan, with crispy bacon for dinner.

I stroll along the coastal path in the evening light, before we join some fellow campers in the recreation room to watch the England-Croatia match.

Day 6: Lough Ennell

Minnie wakes early, and I take her along the coastal path as the sun is rising.  Some photographers are setting up tripods in the outdoor pool and diving area, but I’m not sure what they are expecting. I shower using a plastic bag method: put clean clothes in bag and hang on hook.  Take off dirty clothes and leave in a corner.  Shower, dry, put on clean dry clothes, and place dirty ones in bag.  I do some sun salutation yoga strecthes, and enjoy my hand-knitted hippy yoghurt in the sunshine.   All the hard stands have a grey water drain, so it’s simple enough to get everything ready to go.  Back to the motorparts place, I go for a bit of a walk, and enjoy a cup of tea and a croissant in Dunnes cafe.  I think that’s another thing I find hard on this sort of trip – finding some me-space.   The mirror arrives, R fits it easily enough, and we are soon underway.  We’ve chosen somewhere to stay tonight somewhere that’s on the way home, so it’s goodbye to the Wild Atlantic Way.  And goodbye to the City of Tribes which I didn’t really get to experience – I shall have to return some other time.

We set off on the N6, M6.  There are no service stations, but eventually we find a pull over place, and I rustle up soup and sandwiches and a mug-shot with added cheese for lunch.  Lough Ennell is well signposted, and is a large well spaced site with plenty of wide available spots with EHU and water.  28 euro.  There is a small shop on site (no wine….), but we get some bacon and eggs for dinner.  Being by the Lough, there are quite a few flies around, but a charming family of swans with a group of fluffy cygnets are playing by the water’s edge.  We settle in to watch Lilo and Stich on DVD, an old family favourite, and have an early night.

Day 7: Home

A good night’s sleep, a shower (1 euro), plenty of tea and bacon butties for breakfast, and I’m almost human again. An uneventful journey home (the van is much less rattly on smooth main roads), and we’re home mid afternoon, in time to give the van a good final clean before handing back.

Final verdict?  Motorhoming is not something I’ll be rushing to do again.  It’s a big beast which limits where you can park, and I like to be able to make tea, go pee, and have a shower, without it being a major faff.  But the scenery was marvellous, and I’ll definitely revisit the WAW some day.  Maybe in a sports car……

List of things we should have brought:

  • The list!  Which I thought I’d left on the kitchen table, but which turned up about 3 days in.
  • Scissors
  • Ziplock bags
  • cleaning wipes
  • J cloths
  • Hand towel
  • travel dog crate whcih can be used outside
  • Tether point for long lead
  • handwash
  • Crocs for everyone (I was the ony one who’d packed some, and had to share.  I should have charged by the 3 minutes, same as the campsite showers!)

parkrun tourism (and half cowell!): Castleblayney

Well whaddya know, I’ve only gone and run my half Cowell! Now my loverly tracker I had created to mark my progress to this, my 50th different event, so it was with some emotion today that I coloured in the final square on the L. I’d chosen Castleblayney as my mother had lived there for a while when she was a wee girl. She still reminisces about having to walk a mile to the National School, where they were taught in Irish, but all she can remember is ta rasha fada, ta rasha Fol (fly away Peter, fly away Paul).

Access:
Google maps offered me a choice of 3 routes, all of which would take me around 1 hour and 8 minutes. My own sat nav couldn’t recognise “Castleblayney”, so I chose the familiar outward route down to Dundalk and turn inland at junction 17. Crossing the winding Irish Border a few times as I headed west, the roads were good and nice to drive on, a few tractors to sit behind, but a very pleasant drive. The instructions on the parkrun page were good, and was pulling into the ample car park at Muckno Street well before 9.  The sat nav took me back through Keady and Armagh, so a few additional broder crossings…..

Facilities:
Parking aplenty, I did struggle to find loos onsite (though they were available in the little room used afterwards).

Crowd:
Numbers are small here, you are guaranteed a good finish position!  Youngish crowd, and Minnie and I were thrilled to meet little puppy Charlie.  No doubt he will be barkrunning at some stage in his future!

I got chatting to a couple touristing from London, whose local was Ally Pally, and who were also visiting family at Dundalk.   They were fascinated that my parkrunDANCER challenge had used those particular runs for the D and A.

Course:

I do love a forested course, and this was delightful.  Two laps through beautiful trees and shrubs, past lakeside and ducks, and foxgloves and rhododendron and a crumbling pile that I really want to win the lottery and restore. The path is compacted stone, there’s a few testing inclines, and I swear that second lap is longer than the first. It’s quite narrow in parts, if you need to overtake.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I’m still working on running without headphones, but Classic Rock FM on the way down played Supertramp and “It’s Raining Again”. The weather on the way down was very wet, with a lot of surface water, but as I reached Castleblayney a little patch of blue sky appeared and the sun shone for as long as needed during the run.  Being so tree lined, there’s plenty of shade from the sun.

Gear:

My Garmin actually worked, for once!  I wore my cow leggings, Hoka trainers, and I’d adapted my milestone 50 Tshirt to list all 50 of the events.  This Tee had previously done duty as a 150 T, so I had to find a way of disguising the additional 1, hence the hashtag coverup.  I got talking afterwards to some people interested in running with dogs, so I showed them my waist belt and running line.  Having arms free is good, dog on a short but bungee line, and dog using a harness that pulls from the body/ chest rather than the neck.  No extendable leads, no way no how.

Time:

I was pretty happy with a sub-30.  I did my usual fast start, and was overtaken by 3 females, and so ending as 5th female encourages me that I can return some time in the future and nab a podium position!

And the rest:

It was all about the cow.  I’d put a lot into preparing for this.  I’d had the T shirt printed (huge thanks to Paul Knight at Print NI), and worked out how I was going to do a cake. Sainsburys came up with the yellow and black icing, and the “decorate it yourself” cake.  Lakeland had the cow cookie cutter.  And if I say I used Stolichnaya vodka for the cleaning of the cake do you think they might send me free samples?

I know there were some photos taken on the day, but I haven’t been able to access them.  When and if I can, I will add them in.

 

Coming soon – “50 ways to reach a parkrun – da movie!”

 

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

parkrun tourism: Oldbridge

parkrun #208 event #49

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It had always been my plan to use the lighter mornings in spring and summer to tick off some of the Irish parkruns that are about an hour – hour and a half away from me.  Living south of Belfast, and close to the motorway junction, the journey to Oldbridge, Drogheda, was very straightforward, and on a balmy May day, was very pleasant indeed.

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Access:

The event takes place in the Oldbridge estate, site of the Battle of the Boyne.

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So there are plenty of brown tourist signs guiding the way.  My trip took me over the fabulous Mary Macaleese Bridge, and you will need euro coins for the toll (1.90 at time of writing.  Notes are accepted also).  There’s plenty of car parking. It was a little late starting the day I visited due to an Orange March, but I gather this is a once a year thing.

Course:

The course is mostly grass underfoot, so it can get slippy, and trail shoes would be a good option.

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It starts down near the wooden triangle huts, runs up to and in front of the big house, up a short sharp incline, along a ridge, into a field for a lap, back along the ridge and down the incline, and a few more field laps, with no repeated sections. Finish is close to the start, and you can leave keys in a bag, coats and water bottles under a tree where the scanning takes place. All the junctions are well marked or marshalled.

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There are some fabulous old trees in the estate, so there is occasional shade, but a lot of the course is quite exposed.  I can imagine during the winter it is a testing course. Fantastic views of the suspension bridge!

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Facilities:

Ther are nice clean loos in the car park, and a cafe on site, though runners are asked to change out of grassy shoes if they are going indoors.

Crowd:

Typical numbers are about 100, mostly youngish.  There were a few other dog runners there, I don’t think the course would be easy for buggies or wheelchairs. I didn’t get a chance to stick around afterwards, but everyone was friendly and chatty at the start.

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Gear:

It was a warm morning, over 20 degrees even at this time of day, but with a bit of a breeze.  I was glad I’d opted for the sleeveless apricot shirt and calf length trousers.  My garmin died half way round, and I wasn’t using headphones.

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Time:

Minnie was struggling in the heat towards the end of the run, so we tucked in just over 30 minutes.  Don’t worry, we’ll be back some time and I can snatch a PB!

All My parkruns:

summary list of parkruns

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parkrun tourism: Griffeen Park

Run #207, event # 48, alphabeteer letter G

 

Being an alphabeteer is sometimes frustrating.  We are all still waiting for someone to start a parkrun beginning with X, and the currently available Zs are a loooooong way away.  But even within the UK and Irish set there are some letters that really ought to be more easy to capture than they are.  One of those is letter G.  I was disappointed on a recent visit to Glasgow to find no letter Gs there, but I always enjoy ticking off another Dublin parkrun, and so I planned to combine my visit to the annual Dublin Scottish Dance Club dance with a trip to Griffeen Park.  And was keen to show off my new bobble cow hat!

Access:

Griffeen is in a somewhat residential area west of the M50, near Lucan.  In fact my sat nav took me first to a cul de sac of houses at the back of the park.

But a quick consult of the course map on the parkrun page led me round the corner, where there is a small car park.  There’s a GAA field in the park as well, so the car park can fill up quite quickly.

I was there typically early (I always allow for sat-nav disagreements) but when I was leaving there were quite  a few vehicles parked on the nearby verges.  There are no loos in the park.

Crowd:

I apporached a small group of people who looked like runners, who assured me that I was in the right place, and chatted to me in a very welcoming and friendly fashion.

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Paul was most interested in my alphabet challenge, and Pat the first timers briefer made sure I got a shout out in the tourist welcome.  The average number of runners is 150,  it was a glorious sunny day when I was there, and there were 183 there, including some newbies.

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Course:

2 laps, fairly flat, across 2 bridges and past some lovely shrubs and trees.

The start and finish are beside each other, and there’s a box for leaving keys in.  All the junctions are well signposted and/or marshalled.

 

Gear:

I deliberately had no watch or ear phones with me, in fact the only thing on my wrists was my barcode.  I’d been low-carbing all week, and so had been trying to get more in tune with my body.  So I wanted to be aware of how it was coping, and tell it to get a move on into the fat-burning mode! Part of low carbing involves drinking copious amounts of water, which I had been doing.  Except for Friday when I dialled it back a bit in view of the 3 hour car journey I had to take.  So my mouth on Saturday morning was extremely dry.

Anyway, having no headphones allows for a bit of banter with the marshalls and fellow runners.

Time:

I’m still struggling to get anywhere near 30 mins, but I really enjoyed my 33 minute canter around, and finished with my usual skip-change-step over the finish line.

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Post-run:

I’d planned to join the crew at the local Starubucks, but my sat nav couldn’t find it.  Instead I ended up in Lucan, where there was a service station and Macdonalds complex, including a healthy food place called Chopped, where I tucked into a lovely omelette with ham, tomato and feta.

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And the rest:

It was quite the weekend of dancing!  I’d thoroughly enjoyed Hofesh Schecter’s “Show” at the Mac on Thursday evening, full of macabre energy and pulsating rhythym. I treated myself to some glimpses of new workds on Saturday afternoon as part of Dublin Dance festival, and danced the night away with our Dublin friends on Saturday night, donning my fascinator in order to be properly attired for the day-appropriate “Haste to the Royal Wedding”.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

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Eurovision 2018 – preview

I’ve treated myself to the CD of this year’s songs in advance of watching any of the contest.  It came with free coasters!

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I —pressganged-– persuaded cuz-in-law Karen to listen to them on the way to and from Coleraine for a dancing weekend, where we were undoubtedly the belles of the ball!

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Her comments are marked K, and have marks out of 10.

So here’s our thoughts on each one.

Bingo Card Squares this year: 

Award yourself a shot of the European tipple of your choice (and a Baileys in memory of Sir Terry) when you hear:

A song in waltz time, something about canonballs, breathy whispery female vocals, a brass instrument played in a jaunty fashion, something about storms,  anything “featuring” someone else. Oh, and the once compulsory keychange is in short supply this year too, so feel free to down a slivovitz when you hear one.  Last year’s Portugese winner seems to have influenced this year’s entries – there’s more being sung in own language rather than English, and quite a few understated and emotionally charged deliveries.  But it’s a wide menu, including country rock, rap, reggae, opera, and jazz.  Lots of one word titles and a darker Game of Thrones feel with Bones, Stones, Storm, Monsters and Taboo.

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In alphabetical order (as per the CD):

1. Albania “Mall” Eugent Bushpepa

That name is from a kid’s cartoon character, surely! First of the songs in triple time. Male singer with a decent voice, comfortable at both soft and loud volumes.  Acoustic guitar. No idea what it’s about.

K: Happy, hold your lighters up song. 6

 

2. Armenia “Qami” Sevak Khanagyan

A slow and wistful ballad, with inventive backing twiddles. Instantly forgettable.

K: Boring, but would be a great Scrabble score. 2

3. Australia “We Got Love” Jessica Mauboy

This is a perky enough tune, but I don’t feel it’s as strong as its Aussie predecessors. There are some very trite lyrics such as “at the end of the day, we’ve only got ourselves to blame”.   There are many Twitter comments on the dress.

K: Good beat, very Kylie-y.  Needs a wind machine, but catchy hook. 7

4. Austria “Nobody but You” Cesar Sampson

Smoky jazzy, piano ballad, segue-ing into a gospel choir number. Favourite lyric “Don’t make me tear my heart out, I’m shaking till I fall down”.

K: Is this Rag’n’Bone Man? 6

5. Azerbaijan “X My Heart” Aisel

“Every night you fill the sky with new revelations”.   I’m Stronger than canonballs! But tear down the firewalls.  Interesting mix of time periods there.

K: Generic 2

6. Belgium “A Matter of Time” Sennek

Smoky jazz, breathy female vocal, Kylie’s Confide In Me, crossed with a James Bond theme tune.  Some very forced rhymes – station, combination, imagination, sensation.

K: Jazzy Bond theme, I can see the opening credits now… 5

7. Bulgaria “Bones” Equinox

Sparse and atmospheric opening, bit like Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human.  A capella Bridge to the more rocky chorus.  Second vocal is very different, and sounds a bit auto-tuned, don’t know if they blend well.

K: Very atmospheric, I’m expecting a lot of grey on stage. 4

8. Belarus “Forever” Alekseev

Breathy male vocal. Sparse piano.  God this plods along, is it only 1 minute gone?  It’s living up to its name.

K: Samey, a bit “cut’n’paste” 4

9. Switzerland “Stones” ZIBBZ

6/8 time, builds to a throaty raucous chorus “think different is the enemy”  Oooh, something about canonballs!

K: Canonballs! 6

10. Cyprus “Fuego” Eleni Foueira

One of my early favourites on first listen, and one that I replay frequently.  I can definitely hear this being played at beach bars at cocktail hour on a Mediterranean island this summer. Favourite lyric:  “you got me pelican fly-fly-flying”

K: Rhianna-like, good dance rhythym. 7

11. Czech Republic “Lie to me” Mikolas Josef

Remember J Lo’s squeaky bike wheel song from a while back?  Add in a sleazy trumpet motif, and a bit of rappy style delivery,  a nod to Robin Thicke, and a wee bit of indistinct scat singing.

K: Bruno Mars, but needs more cowbell. 7

12. Germany “You Let Me Walk Alone” Michael Schulte

Sounds a bit likeThe Script, but I’m confused as to what it’s about.  Is it a tribute to single Moms?  A complaint about an absent father?

K: Depressing as. 3

13. Denmark “Higher Ground” Rasmussen

Heavy influence from the Game of Thrones theme tune, this evokes Viking longships, and horned helmets.  Waltz time points! One of my faves, but I’m not sure it’s a winner.

K: The drums! Edinburgh Tattoo! 8

14. Spain “Tu Cancion” Amaia y Alfred

A sweet love song performed by two genuine and adorable young lovers.  This has been getting quite a lot of attention, but it doesn’t move me much.

K: Booooo-ring. 2

15. Estonia “La Forza” Elina Nechayeva

Opera, finishing with a note that only dogs can hear.  Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria comes to mind.

K: Operatic, slow and high.  Very very high. 4

16. Finland “Monsters” Saara Aalto

Saara got some UK coverage when whe appeared on the X Factor, and is a belter of a singer. The kiddies nursery rhymish “I aint scared no more” will have wide appeal.

K: Good singer! 6

17. France “Mercy” Madame Monsieur

Sultry jazzy female voice to open it – I was born this morning and my name is Mercy.

K:  Je m’ennui. 4

18. UK “Storm” SuRie

I voted for this one at the “You Decide” rounds, and I still think it’s a great song.  SuRie is a veteran Eurovizer, having been involved in 2 previous entries.  So I think she will be a stong contender, and has a lovely self-deprecating manner.  It’s the kind of song that would have done well 5-10 years ago, but I’m not so confident about it this year.  I’m going to stick my neck out and say it’ll be in the top ten.

K: She looks – and sounds – a bit like Annie Lennox. 5

19. Georgia “For You” Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao.

This is that song from near the end of the first act of the musical, where the two main protagonists both independently realise that they were wrong, and sing on a balcony, or under a tree, while the audience wonders if they have time to get a choc ice as well as go to the loo during the interval. There’s jazz in the name of the band, but very little in the music.

K: Jazz, what? Linda says she will eat her hat if this gets through the semis. 3

20. Greece “Oniro Mou” Yianna Terzi

Atmospheric opening, with deep and meaningful female vocal, there’s some sort of ethnic wind instrument thing going on there with orchestration.  Sounds very ominous.  No clue what it’s about, could be the difficulty in obtaining decent feta these days.

K:  It’s about how great Greece is, obvs. 3

21. Croatia “Crazy” Franka

Reminds me of Sam Brown and Stop. But with a rap insert referencing Bonnie and Clyde, for extra cool pointz.  Favourite lyric “I will remember roses and horses in the rain.” Jazzy trumpet.

K: Looks like Shania Twain.  Please can we stop with the rap! 4

22. Hungary “Viszlat Nyar” AWS

Bit of a rocking tune, Foo Fighters. Highly unlikely to trouble the juries, but I’ll smile when I hear it on my running playlist.

K: Go the Foo Fighters! 7

23. Ireland “Together” Ryan O’Shaughnessy.

I’m trying to like this one, but it’s a bit insipid.  He sounds very like his high pitched mentor and former Irish entrant Brian Kennedy, but the song is just a bit too slow tempo and forgettable.

K: It’s a bit meh.  Ireland have lost their magic touch. 3

24. Iceland “Our Choice” Ari Olafsson

And we’re back in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical.  This time it’s the male lead,  half way through the second act showing off his range and prompting the upper circle to reach for their tissues, and the male audience members cross their legs at those high notes.

K: Belongs in a musical. 3

25. Israel “TOY” Netta

Nikki Minaj in a toyshop.  Favourite lyric “I’m taking my pikachu home”.  Is it scat singing or just beat boxing or some other form of singing that we haven’t yet come across. Or possibly a guest vocal by a passing chicken.  Astonishingly this has good odds.

K: Quirky, got a good beat! 7

26. Italy “Non Mi Aveta Fatto Niente” Ermai Meta and Fabrizio Moro

It’s very Italian, innit. Music to play while driving your soft top Alfa round the winding wine growing regions of Tuscany.

K: I’m singing “If Iwere a rich man……yabbadabba dabba dabba” 6

27. Lithuania “When We’re Old” Ieva Zasimauskaita

Breathy female vocal. Song about growing old together. “These are the reasons, I want you to know, you made this place feel like home”.

K: This is so boring even she’s yawning during the chorus.2

28. Latvia “Funny Girl” Laura Rizzotto

Another 3/4 song.  “Tell me what you’re looking for, I promise you I got it all”.  Drippy ending.

K: so-so.5

29. Moldova “My Lucky Day” DoReDps

Polka dot polka dot afro circus!

K: Very upbeat!7

30. FYROM “Lost and Found” Eye Cue

This was clearly written by 3 different composers who didn’t communicate during the composition process.  Intro: contemporary pop Verse: reggae Bridge : sparse contemporary Chorus: chanty Ibiza clubby.  I will eat (one of my ) hats if this gets through the semis.

K: Disjointed.4

31. Malta “Taboo” Christabelle

Spooky intro (got the memo, check) .  Build into Taylor Swift-esque refrain, which – pet hate of mine – puts the emphasis on the word THE. Break THE taboo.

K: no comments recorded.5

32. Montenegro “Inje” Vanja Radovanovic

Smoky piano bar crooning. Very sparse notes-of-the-scale tune in the chorus.  You know on Pointless when they have LockDown, and Xander starts the old chaning monks thing.  I want there to be candle-bearing chanting monks in this.  Big finish!

K: BORING!2

33. The Netherlands “Outlaw In’em” Waylon

This was love at first hear for me, and it’ll be a permanent feature on my  running playlist.  Very Guns’n’Roses/ Aerosmith, but I’m not sure if it’ll have Europe-wide appeal.  Favourite lyric ”  everybody got a little front man swagger, stone cold-rollin’ like a young Mick Jagger”. And awwww, leopardskin-jacketed Waylon’s girlfriend has announced they are expecting, so she does have a little outlaw in her.  Song should really have a “yeeehaw!” to finish.  My line dancing sis will enjoy it.

K: Yeeehaw!9

 

34. Norway “That’s How You Write a Song” Alexander Rybak

Euroviz royalty and former winner Alexander is an engaging and infectious performer.  Includes jazz violin and some scat singing, and puts me in mind of Jamiroquai. “Enjoy the small things, in time they will get big”.   But I’m pretty sure there are more than two steps to writing a song.   Aren’t there tune and words and copyright and musical scoring aspects to consider? Ach I know, bless my naievity for expecting lyrics to make some sort of sense.

K: Up town funk you up, with a smidge of Minnie the Moocher.7

35. Poland “Light Me Up” Gromee feat Lukas Meijor

Does he need someone to strike a match for his ciggie? There’s hints of Take That in the tune, with a club friendly middle 8. Help me to ignite…

K: I really hope that the stage show includes his suit lighting up in different colours.5

36. Portugal “O Jardim” Claudia Pascoal feat Isaura

Breathy female vocal, reminscent of Dido, with hints of Ray of Light.  I might sneak this into my top ten.

K: very slow.5

37. Romania “Goodbye” the Humans

Deep and meaningful preachiness  moving into Pat Benetar.

K: Sounds like Pink.4

38. Russia “I wont Break” Julia Samoylova

When it comes to emotions from the deepest of oceans, I won’t give in to the notion

K: I’m going to give this 5, in case Putin reads this blog.

39. San Marino “Who we Are” Jessika feat Jennifer Brening

One of my favourites this year, though I think it’s too similar to Heroes to get away with winning. I like the message about being yourself, bit worried that her voice isn’t going to be strong enough live.  “In the middle of the storm we’re standing tall”. Rap section.

K: Spice Girls, I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want.7

40. Serbia “Nova Deca” Sanja Illic and Balkanika

Oh good some classic Euroviz warbling and obscure instrument blowing! I’ll be astonished if this survives the semis.

K: Warbling and hymn like, Greek like.5

41. Slovenia “Hvala Me” Lea Sirk

Soundtrack by that cymbal playing toy monkey, and the budget clearly didn’t stretch to a tune, as it seems to be just the one note.

K: She sounds really upset about something.2

42. Sweden “Dance You Off” Benjamin Ingresso

Can’t decide if its Timberlake or Beiber, but it’s one of the Justins, innit.  I’m not clear how you “dance someone off”, but it’s a nice song, and he’s an attractive guy.

K: He sounds like a girl.4

43. Ukraine “Under the Ladder” MELOVIN

Sounds like a Money Supermarket insurance advert.  Maybe it is – offering protection for accidents caused by ignoring superstitions.  Bit of a slowed-down section, then speeds up again for the big finish. Maniac, maniac on the floor….

K: Will there be ladders on stage, though?  Has someone done a risk assessment? 5

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MY FAVOURITES

I’m notoriously rubbish at predicitng the winer, but I’d love to see in the Top Ten:  UK, Cyprus, San Marino, Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Poland, Moldova, Austria, with the Netherlands to win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

parkrun tourism: Victoria, Glasgow

parkrun # 204 event # 47

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Victoria, eh?  Well, having done Belfast Victoria (which is a B for all you alphabteers), and noting that the latest London event is Victoria Dock, and hoping to see my son working on the cruise ship Queen Victoria, I have devised a little Victoria Lap of my own.

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Talking of alphabeteering, I still need a G, and was hoping that a trip to Glasgow would net me one.  But No!  Sort it out, Glaswegians.

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Access:

I was staying at the Argyll Hotel on Sauciehall Street, in leafy and beautiful Kelvingrove.  There for a dance weekend, Victoria was the nearest parkrun, just under 3 miles away.  I’d got to the city using the Hannon Coach service.  £29 each way, very relaxed and friendly service, you can take as big a suitcase as you like, no worries about potions and lotions or security queues.  I blagged a free upgrade to the Stena Plus lounge, and so my outward leg was very pleasant and well fuelled.  There’s wifi on board, and to be honest, the opportunity to just sit in one place and do very little for a few hours was divine. 6 hours, city centre to city centre, which is I reckon about 2 hours more than flying, but waaaay less stressful.

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Anyhoo.  To the parkrun!  The Argyll has a nifty taxi-call button in their reception, and I was kept informed of all the details about my taxi, which took about 15-20 mins to get to the famous Golden Jubilee gates. Many people seemed to arrive on foot or by bike.  Car parking is just on the local streets.

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Crowd:

On the day I visited, they were having a memorial run for Brian, on what would have been his 42nd birthday.  There were quite a few youngsters taking part, but I’m not sure how frequent that is.  Average attendance is 250ish, there were 350 this time.  The marshalls were really friendly and encouraging.

Course:

It’s a 3 lapper on what at first sight seems a flat tarmac route round the obligatory duck pond.

IMG_2995This of course means that’s there is a sneaky hill hidden behind that clump of trees over there. And you have to do it 3 times.  But it’s a wide flat path, and speedy runners will find they can get a good time here. Start and finish are in the same general area.  I adored the swans, the daffodils, and the lovely trees.  A really pretty park, no wonder it’s a popular spot for locals.

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Facilities:

I had trouble finding any loos, and those that should have been open at 9 weren’t.   The bag drop is at the tennis court fence.

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Gear:

I always travel in my second best trainers, and they were suitable footwear for this course. My Garmin performed as expected, and I wore my tartan leggings, as I was in Bonnie Scotland.  No other cow cowls spotted.

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Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

No headphones in, but my internal juke box was playing through the Scottish dances that I have to call at ball in a few weeks time.

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Time:

It was a glorious warm morning with blue skies and welcome sunshine, but I found I was having difficulty finding a good rhythym for my breathing.  Plus I was in town for a dance thing and didn’t want to risk any injury or aching calves.  So it was a slow but safe 34 minutes (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…)

And the rest:

The dancing part of the weekend was an absolute joy.  It was my first time attending a Spring Fling/ Fringe event,

and having so many young people around made for a lively and exuberant atmosphere.

IMG_3008 (1)  I bumped into old friends from past Summer and Winter Schools, including one who’d stooged for me in my Unit 3 exam! And I even had a  spare hour or so to mooch around the delightful Kelvingrove Museum, and enjoy the organ recital.

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All My parkruns:

Summary list of all events run

 

parkrun tourism: Monaghan Town

Event number 46.

I’m hoping to reach my half-cowell (50 different parkruns) some time in 2018. Part of this will be acheived using various weekend trips here and there, but I’m also lucky enough to have a few Irish ones not too far away. My NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet) was Monaghan Town, about 50 miles away, and the sat nav reckoned 1 hour 15 would get us there.

The suggested route wasn’t the one I’d normally have chosen, going instead through Aughnacloy, and when I hit a “Road Closed – Diversion” sign, I did have a moment of panic.  But the diversion didn’t add too many minutes to my eta.  The route brought me into Monaghan from a different direction, but serendipitously passed this fab service station, with clean loos, coffee, snacks, plenty of parking for a leg stretch.

Access:

No postcodes in the south, so I had written out the directions from the website – follow the Clones Road, then turn left on 3 Mile House road, past the football stadium, and Rossmore Forest is on your left.

I arrived just after 9, and started looking for the familiar parkrun signs to assure me I was in the right place.

Facilities:

There is ample parking, and a small toilet block, which I would describe as “emergency use only”.

(Parkrun tourist tip #5: carry your own loo roll).  There were a couple of flasks for tea afterwards, but I gather this isn’t a regular occurence.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

It was a beautiful morning, and as I got out of the car I was struck by all the chirpy birdsong.

So I decided to leave the headphones in the car, and let the twittering of the birdlife, and the tinkling of the streams be my natural soundtrack.

Course:

2 laps through the woods, surprisingly flat with a welcome downhill stretch towards the finish line.

It’s all gravel paths, very well signposted and marshalled.  It is stunningly attractive, with a little bridge, streams, swans on a lake, and a host of inspiring trees.

The finish is at the car park, and the start line a short distance away.  I was able to leave my jacket and keys under a table at the finish point.

Time:

I set off fast, and realised that the first lady was about 10m ahead of me.  My mind briefly flirted with the possibility of a podium place, but at km 2 I was overtaken, and at km 3 my podium place evaporated.  So I decided to take my own advice and not push too hard on any first visit – make it easy for yourself to nab a PB on any subsequent re-visits.

I took the second loop at a gentle canter, and stopped to take photos en route.

Crowd:

The average crowd size is smallish, there were 53 the day I was there.  So it’s a good one to get a solid finish position!  I bumped into some other tourists from Marlay at the brief, and the volunteers were all really friendly and encouraging.  Is there a term for being the “runner with the most parkruns done” there?  It was me, anyway.

Gear:

My Garmin amazingly worked without any issues!  I wore my foresty leggings and my 100 shirt, only cow cowl there.

And the Rest:

This was the first time I got stuck beind a pony and trap on  the way home!  A delightful morning’s run, and I look forward to returning.

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list