Saturday, February 16, 2019

Surviving Ireland in Style:The Park Hotel, Kenmare. Go!...Despite the Price

Now and then life throws a curve ball or two. In this case it was placing my father into Nursing Care. And I must admit it was one of the most difficult missions of my life. For those readers who have not walked through this particular circle of fire and who may face such a challenge, all I can say is gird your loins.

It's not only the fact you have to close down your father's old apartment, sorting through family memories that cause an avalanche of emotional joy or pain. Or must figure out what to do with Florida-based furnishings you can't possibly take back to Ireland. Or move  Dad and a few selected belongings to a single room studio apartment, knowing you have only a few days in which to do it, and certain he'll never particularly like the result.

Or get rid of the car. Get rid of the firearms. Get rid of the detritus of a full life that is now ebbing. Or find time to take care of Dad while also talking to bankers, lawyers, financial advisers and additional professionals as you attempt to put into place various measures that just might let you manage his affairs from a distance. 

Along the way you're hauling stuff hither and yon. Pleading with everyone and anyone to take this or that, knowing you'd rather see it used than thrown onto a rubbish heap. Eating little. Sleeping less. Keeping in touch with family and friends who ask you about your father because his dementia now prevents him from using email or social media or on occasion even the phone.

And when you're finally finished; when you eventually climb onto a home-bound plane, you wonder if you've done enough for his safety. And the wondering means you'll sleep hardly a bit for the next few weeks. 

At times like this you know in your heart and soul you need a break. A place to lick your wounds and recover. A retreat and a bit of respite from life where, for once in your life, people will take care of you rather than the other way around. 

Which is why two days ago I placed The Gorgeous One in the truck and sprinted to The Park Hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry. 

I must say: it's the best thing I've done in years. A few hours of life about which Gorgeous One and I can only observe - We'll never, ever forget. And here's why:

Luxurious Survival Through Thoughtful Care

The Park Hotel, hidden from prying eyes by vaulting trees and assorted green stuff, is located on the south side of the wonderful Irish town of Kenmare. Situated at the crossroads to the Beara Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, the care...the attention to detail...the feeling you've fallen off a cliff into the laps of the Gods of Luxury, starts the moment you drive up the winding drive toward a towering castle of welcome.

Enter the elegant 19th Century stone cut mansion and senses are accosted from all sides. The Victorian fireplace is all aglow with a warmth of welcome. The reception area filled with antiques and paintings. Rich carpets muffle the outside world. And as I'm greeted by staff who treat me as a long lost relative rather than a guest paying for only a single day's break, do I imagine things? Or have our bags just disappeared?

"What have you done with them?" I ask, not quite used to such caring treatment.

"Why, they've already been taken to your room," the woman in black responds with a smile.

And the room? Such a room! They've placed us on the second floor, room 210. Open the door (with a long, brass key, I might add. None of this 21st Century key-less technology. Not in The Park!) and step into wonder.

Two adjoining rooms. Near the door, an immense bed with the fluffiest pillows I've ever encountered in a hotel. "We'll get lost in that monster bed," I say to Gorgeous One. 

"Not that we'll mind. Nor will he," she ripostes, referring to the lovely white stuffed lamb grazing on the bed.

Step down into the living room. A lovely overstuffed couch. Marble topped bureau. Terrifically comfortable stuffed chairs. And our bags? Found magically resting on suitable suitcase frames, ready for unpacking.

Complementary bottle of The Park Hotel water. Two perfect cups - not glasses! - and a delicate bag of sweets. A welcome note from our personal concierge also confirming times for massage and manicure (massage for me, manicure for Gorgeous One). Breathtaking views over the very eastern bit of Kenmare Bay. It's low tide and a single punt sits unperturbed on a nearby bank. 

The bathroom: a definition of pampered luxury. Full bathtub on one side. Two sinks in the middle. A wet-room styled shower at right, toilet next to it.  In the closet: complementary thick white robes. 

I breathe in. I begin to relax. I take Gorgeous One in my arms and say: "I have a feeling we're never going to forget this."  Later, I know I was right.

Fingers and Figures of Relaxation

If you're not Irish or not living in Ireland, you possibly do not know John and Francis Brennan. They've been at the hostelry business for years. Most Irish folk know them by name because they host an RTE television series, At Your Service. In this long running troubleshooting programme, the lads visit various hotels, B&B's and guest houses across Ireland, helping owners to sort out the most basic problems;  transforming existing situations into visitor-friendly experiences.

Gorgeous One and I have watched it for years. And now, visiting the Home they've owned and nurtured since the 1980s, I understand why they are so effective helping others to help themselves.

In short: the Brennans are very, very good at what they do. The Park Hotel is not a hotel. Rather: it quickly becomes  a loving home.

Why? Undoubtedly it's due to the people who work there.

Let's start with the Bar. Having been bowled over by the room, we wandered down to have a drink. There, we met Connor - erstwhile bartender - and John, the Hotel's Porter and also an accomplished sommelier. Though I stick at that point to my usual pint of black, Gorgeous One takes the advice of our new friends and tries the Blanc.  It is absolutely marvelous. We enjoy an hour, then it's time to get ready for true relaxation.

I go first. Down to the SAMAS Experience, a haven for those requiring healing of the spiritual kind - and aptly named because it IS an experience. Seamlessly secured to the Main House, I started my treatment by walking through a dusky hallway surrounded by walls of water, the glow of candlelight, and the wafting odors of unguents. Out to a reception area of modernity, walls of plate glass filtering in Kenmare's natural beauty.

I am met. I am escorted to a changing room. I am shown around: down a short hallway. There, a wonderful Sauna / Laconium rests next to an Aroma Steam room. A shower with various tropical spray fittings. An ice fountain to chill out heated joints. Out a door and there, the Vitality Pool. It's outside but you'd scarcely notice because the water is heated perfectly. 

I spend an hour there. Into and out of the sauna and steam room. A bit of ice. A shower. Through the door and into the natural reserve of the Pool resting beneath tall Kenmare pines. 

I'm told there are two of these luxurious suites, one set of relaxing structures reflecting the other: one for the ladies, one for the men. And I discover: it's true. With no one else around I strip off my soggy, unnecessary swim suit. It is then I remember Dad and I sob. I sob, I think, because within the beauty of this setting, alone in my nakedness, I begin to heal.

But my session is not yet done, not by half. With the hour over, and having also spent a few minutes in a gorgeous Relaxation Room with comfortable Day Bed and personal music to match, and more views of tranquil gardens, my masseuse awaits. 

Her name, as I remember, is Valene. She is lovely - and as strong as Hercules. She leads me to an appropriately lit, incredibly comfortable room. We start with - and I can't believe it - a cup of natural tea: ginger, honey, lemon. It courses warm and welcoming through me. Then it's onto the bed and I know instantly I am in knowing, professional hands.

When the hour is done, Valene has worked the days of nursing home stress and father worry from arms and hands; feet and legs; back and head. I am transformed. 

I look at wall clock. Dinner is still hours away. I smile. I know my stay in my new Home has only just started.

Meal of Magic

The Irish Restaurants Association deemed The Park as having the Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland only last year. Now I know why.

Initially, I had opted for dinner of slightly lower fare. As John, our Porter, pointed out: "Tom, do move up to the Tasting Experience. The price will be about the same. The experience unforgettable." He was right.

John also helped me navigate the wine list. I am ignorant of wines. I am also always faced with a miserable budget. John solved both challenges by recommending a bottle consisting of 75% Sauvignon. Oh my.... I've never experienced such heaven.

But the tastes on that night! Extraordinary. It's a set menu so don't think you can easily switch things. A seven course or five course. We opted for the five. We were right. We could not have eaten more. 

But the volume had nothing to do with it. It was all about the ingredients and method. Start with small Hor d'eouvres... one of goats cheese in an aromatic shell. The other of fantastic meats. Folllowed by

Scallop in a wonderful soupy sauce.  Followed by

Crab meat in all its fulsomeness. Followed by

Turbot cooked beyond heaven. Followed by

Venison, its pinkish meat beyond description. Followed by

Dessert of a rich chocolate cake with lovely vanilla ice cream and amazing sauces

Followed by... the final glass of wine. Coffee for two. And smiles from host Lucas.

Finished, we stumbled to the Terrace Lounge for a final glass of wine. An hour being entertained by a lovely piano player, tinkling tranquil tunes on a baby Grand Piano. Then bed.  But before I stop going on and on about the food, I must mention breakfast. 

Obviously, we have it the next morning. In the same lovely restaurant overlooking Kenmare  Bay. Served by the same amazing staff. And such a treat! Eggs Benedict to die for. I've had this dish in many places. But this? This was absolutely amazing. Accompanied by bread, homemade delicate scones, fresh local butter and jam, and gallons of rich coffee. What was not to like? Nothing, that's what.

Yes It's Expensive. But Go Anyway

In an article like this, the writer must mention those cloying bits he did not like. And yet - I can't think of one thing. This is a little piece of magic. A home away from home touched by thoughtful gestures that elude many other hostelries.

For instance: I never quite did get used to Ryan, a relative newcomer to The Park team, opening the front door for me at every occasion. His youthful exuberance, his fresh smile, the fact that he truly meant what he said and did... his very human persona to me symbolized the care and joy The Park staff has in helping its guests. 

(Note: John and Francis, if you ever read this - may I commend Ryan. You have a wonderful fella there. I know you'll continue to nurture him: the lad has a great future in store...).

And yes, The Park is expensive. Our stay in the luxurious room was 210 euro for the night. The meal: 85 euro each. Bottle of Wine: just short of 60 euro. The Spa treatment: for me, 125. For her: 65. 

But on this one single occasion, I simply did not care. I blew our entertainment budget for the entire year. Because... we needed this.

We needed someone to look after us for a bit. As Francis himself told me when I phoned the day before our visit, worrying we'd arrive too early: "You two just get here. We'll take care of you from there."

Which is exactly what John n Francis n all the staff at The Park did.  They took care of us. And at a time when I needed it most, all I can say is: I'm terribly grateful and will never forget. Thank you all.

For more information on The Park Hotel, go to their website:

Friday, August 31, 2018

Five Reasons Why, Even After 36 Years, I Still Choose to Live in Ireland

Scariff Island, off the coast of Eyeries
Recently, during a visit with my father in a Sun City, Florida, active retirement community, a rather nice woman approached me. We chatted for a bit and as inevitably happens my foreign residency came up:

Her: "It's so lovely talking to you, Tom. But you haven't told me where you live."
Me: "Ah, somewhere  overseas."
Her: (eyes twinkling) "Really? Are you in the military? Where are you posted?"
Me: "No Ma'am. Actually, you see, I live in Ireland."
Her: "Oh I love Ireland! How long have you lived there?"
Me: (gulp) "For thirty-six years."
Her: (after a shocked beat of silence) "Is someone forcing you to stay there? Don't you want to come home?"
Me: "Actually, Ma'am... I'm an Irish citizen now. You see, Ireland is my home."

She studies me closely. 

Her: "How can you say that? You told me you were born in Chicago." (she bristles a bit). "Don't you like America anymore? It's the greatest country in the world. We're making it even Greater! (glaring hard at me). "If you're a REAL American you'll come home right now!"

Then she turned on her heal and walked away in a huff. And all I can do is sigh.

This sort of conversation comes up with my fellow Americans again and again: when I'm in the States visiting; on airplanes when I'm travelling; even in my local pub where I'll be having a quiet pint and engage in conversation with an American tourist or two. 

So why have I stayed in Ireland for all these years? The answer is: because I've fallen in love with it.

Five Reasons Why This Yank Stays In Ireland

Many Americans I meet simply cannot (or choose not to) understand why I continue to call Ireland my home. It's about time I came clean:

1. A Future for my Children and Grandchildren

When I first moved to this country in 1982, Ireland was just shy of a banana republic. The country was in the depths of a horrific recession. Over 17 percent of the workforce was out of a job. Infrastructure was non-existent. Interest rates approached 20 percent. Hell, I couldn't even get a telephone. The plight of the country made me think I'd made the biggest mistake of my life.

And frankly, I was worried for my children. I wondered: Would they ever be able to carve out a future in Ireland?

Over the years, however, Ireland has pulled its socks up. Today, it is one of the most successful countries in the world. Unemployment is at an all time low. Infrastructure (at least near major cities and towns) has been fully modernized. The country is renowned for its diversified industry. It is a center of excellence for I.T., pharmaceutical, food, agriculture, and a wide range of other industrial segments. The country's artistic endeavors (everything from painting to creative writing to the film industry) are flourishing. 

Today, I can even get a telephone!

But back in 1995, desperately homesick for America and fed up with my life as an Ex-pat, I came very close to loading my family onto a plane for a move back home. Before taking that irreversible decision, however, I compared notes with friends living in the United States. What I found changed my life.

Ireland has some of the best education in the world. The country's primary and secondary schools ensure that students become truly literate in the fundamentals to succeed. As importantly, they begin the process of learning how to think for themselves. Ireland's universities and technical colleges offer students a wide range of first-rate subjects that are crucial for success in a growing world economy. Depending on the major, they also receive practical, hands-on education and training. 

Since making the decision to stay permanently in the country (like forever) my children have fared well: a daughter with a degree in business studies; another daughter with a degree in marine science; a son with a PhD in the Irish language. My kids' success are a reflection of the educational opportunities available to anyone living in this country.

And the cost? Recently I had a conversation with an American friend of mine who is facing the daunting financial task of putting his own children through college.

Him: "We've been saving forever and we're almost there. By God we can afford to send the kids to college!"
Me: "Why that's terrific! Do you mind if I ask: what's it costing?"
Him: "Well, one of the kids is going to an Ivy League college. The second will follow in two years. They'll attend an in-state school where tuition is a bit cheaper. So..." he breaths in deeply, "it should only work out  to 250 or so."
Me (impressed): "Two hundred and fifty dollars a year, each? That's terrific!"
Him: "No. Two hundred and fifty thousand. For the lot! Of course that's only for the tuition and fees. We'll have to work on room, board and spending money.  Fortunately, the kids are both eligible for student loans. We'll take a 2nd mortgage on the house. But at the end of it," (I can hear him grin victoriously) "the total debt will be less than a hundred grand. Which is amazingly low compared to many."
Me (shocked): "Well hey Fred, that's just terrific."
Him: "Sure is. Ah, Tom, do you mind if I ask... what did it cost you over there in the Emerald Island?"

I think hard, trying to figure out how not to destroy him. 

Me: "Well, you know, all the kids have finished college now. But it was pretty affordable."
Him: "Affordable. As in?"
Me: "Well, ah, er, about 10K per kid per year."
Him: (a moment of deep silence) "Do you mean like three kids x four years x 10k per year? That's a total of $120 k for them all? But that's just tuition, right?"
Me: "Actually, Fred, that's the whole taco. Tuition, room and board, spending money..."
Him: (getting a bit ridiculous) "But, and I'm not saying anything bad here, the colleges were sort of, what, sort of third rate? They're a bit dumb?"
Me: (my turn to bristle): "Actually, Fred, they're some of the best around."
Him: "What kind of loans do the kids have? What kind of loans do you have?"
Me: "Well, we don't have any loans. None. Nothing. Nada."
Him: "Oh."

And he hung up.

2. You Ain't Going to Go Broke if You Get Sick

A few years back, Dad had keyhole surgery. Obviously, he went to hospital. What was supposed to be a simple out-patient procedure grew a bit more complicated: he was force to stay two nights.

A month later he received the bill. I saw it and was astonished: $80,000. Fortunately, Dad has excellent medical insurance. 

In Ireland, we all bitch and moan about our health system. However, seeing Dad's bill got me thinking. I checked with a local medical practitioner and asked the question: "If I had to go through the same procedure as Dad, what would it cost me in Ireland?"

The answer: A little less than $1,500. And that includes everything. 

Like the UK, Ireland has socialized medicine. We pay a great deal in taxes for this privilege, and the down-sides of public health can be frustratingly cruel (complete disclosure: we have a very high incidence of troubling 'trolley-times' - meaning that those coming into hospital can wait days for a bed and are forced to wait  on a trolley, often in a public area. It's an outrage that health professionals are trying to address - but it will take forever). However, despite this I have the comfort of knowing:

Drugs - no matter what I'm prescribed, it will cost me a maximum of a little less than $200 per month

GP visits - average approximately $70 per visit.

Hospital visits - on public health, max out at about $1000 per year no matter how many days I may have to stay in hospital.

Public health services have many challenges. For instance, Ireland would not have the most advanced healthcare sciences or procedures in the world. For those, by all means go to America!  But here, and particularly as I grow older, I know one fact:

No matter what my body or mind might face, I know I will not go broke. 

3. It's Safe Here

Open an American paper or any online News site and you'll invariably find a report of the latest daily shooting, with scores of people - often children or teens - dead.

In Ireland we don't have that problem and for a simple reasons: most weapons are outlawed. 

As a gun owner in the United States, and a used-to-be fervent supporter of the 2nd Amendment,  it took me years to get my head around this. However, as the years passed I grew up.

While Ireland has murders (and the murder rate is increasing), most assaults do not involve guns. Certainly, Ireland has never experienced a mass school killing. No one walks into a newspaper office with an assault rifle. Here, guns are the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, you can apply for a permit to hold a shotgun or small caliber rifle. But automatic weapons and handguns of any kind are verboten. It's that simple.

Here, I don't have to worry that my grandchildren will die when they attend school. Here, I will in all likelihood never be assaulted by a thief holding a Glock. 

Here I know that my loved ones are safe. 

As time goes on I find I simply do not understand many American's obsession with guns, or their die-hard attitudes of protecting so-called rights associated with extreme views of the 2nd Amendment. For me it's simple:

Kids first. Guns decidedly second. In Ireland, our gun laws uphold this simple value of protecting life. 

4. The  People

It's true. The Irish are probably some of the most friendly bunch of people in the world. I like these good folks. Heck, I've come to love the Irish.

Their good humor, welcoming nature, intelligence, and caring attitudes entranced me years ago. There is a gentleness in these people that is hard to describe or define. 

All I know is I'm comfortable with these folk. And while I am not Irish at all (except by naturalization), and have no Irish blood in me, I can finally say:

I feel one with the people of this country because they have given me my home.

5. The Beauty of Finding Home

Eight years ago I moved to Eyeries, a small village of just over 60 souls located on the Atlantic coast, way, way down in the southwest of Ireland.

It is magic. 

Each morning I sit at my dining room table, sipping a cup of coffee, gazing out at the serenity of Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic beyond. If I sit at the outside table I can hear the surf crash onto the rocky coastline only a half-mile away. I hear gulls scream as they search for their morning meal, and smell the fragrance of salt spray mixed with budding gorse and fuchsia. 

I close my eyes and take a breath. I feel the sun on my brow and the wind in my face. I'll spend the day writing upstairs then eat with my partner and go out for a pint or two with my mates up in Causkeys. 

Here, there is little divisiveness over political issues. Here, we do our best to listen and make a bit of room for each other because most are reasonable creatures. Here, we do not call each other names (except in jest) and do not embrace hate.

Yes, Ireland continues to face many challenges. Its housing costs are once again astronomical. Its debt mountain intolerable. The cost of living is once again soaring.

But... and a big but...

Here, I think I've finally found a little corner of the world to call my own. A place, me-thinks, that approaches heaven. 

Here, I have found my home.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tent Camping in Eyeries: Meeting Folks from Around the World

Dutch Dad & son sharing a loving
moment at sunset in Solas Mor
tent camping
Six years ago, we decided to allow people to use our back garden as a tent camping site. Since then, we've been visited by folks from all over the world. 

Fortunately, life has never been the same.

"You Really Should Let People Camp Here"

It all started six years ago. As usual at mid-Spring here in the very southwest of West Cork, it was pouring. Bucketing. Rain coming down in humongous sheets. On that early afternoon I was lazing on the couch with my nose stuck in a book, when a knock on the front door.

Opening it, I discovered a poor fellow who resembled a drowned rat. Utterly soaked. Shaking with the cold. Water dripping from all extremities. He held onto a bike, in a similarly distraught condition, and I wondered what the hell this poor fellow wanted.

"Would you mind," said he through clacking teeth,"if I camped in your back garden?"

Turns out the poor fellow had just finished cycling from Cork City all the way to our tiny village of Eyeries. He had intended to camp along the seashore. While it would have been a stunning location in which to set up a campsite, the rain and gale-strength wind proved too daunting.

Thinking he would die of pneumonia at any moment I of course agreed. Mind you, I'd never had anyone camp in our backyard before. It seemed a sort of - odd - request. However, with introductions quickly made, and as I put on the kettle for a cup of tea in hopes of warming the visitor, he wheeled his bike to the back yard and as I watched from the shelter of the back room efficiently pitched his tent. 

Magically, at that very moment the rain stopped. The clouds and mist parted. His gaze turned toward the stunning horizon: blue seas, the silhouette of the Kerry Mountains and Ring of Kerry to the north; the finger of the jutting, craggy hills of Beara Peninsula to the south; the islands of Eyeries, Inishfarnard and Scarrif directly west.

And nothing but the Wild Atlantic Ocean beyond.

As I came out of the house to join him, my camper turned slowly to me. "Wow, what an amazing view," he said. "You really should let people camp here."

Camp? In our garden? Like all the time? I'd never considered such a thing. But he persisted. and as it turned out, I did.

The Plan

My camper - the first of many - had bicycled all over Europe. He had stayed in any number of back gardens - space which homeowners had turned into campsites. I grilled a hamburger for the fellow, and as we ate together beneath a cloudless sky he told me exactly what needed to be done to turn our wee little back garden overlooking Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic into a welcoming location to pitch a tent.

We followed his directions to the letter.

Today our visitors can pitch a tent anywhere in the back yard. They have use of the downstairs toilet and shower. In poor weather they can hide in the back room. They have use of our WiFi. If they're good folk, Carm - my erstwhile partner - will often throw in a morning cup of tea and slice of toast. 

We don't advertise (other than a listing on AirBnB and a mention on Google Maps). Rather, we welcome anyone who happens to tromp by and needs a place to pitch a tent.

When we set up six years ago we didn't think we'd get anybody. But since our first visitor from Cork, we've been delighted with the number of people who have visited us from as near as the next county and as far away as New Zealand. 

Stories from Abroad

We don't get many visitors to our little camp site, and for a very good reason: the Beara Peninsula, upon which our little village of Eyeries rests, is one of the most isolated spots in all of Ireland. Most people coming to set up a tent in our back garden are hikers (walking along the absolutely stunning Beara Way) or cyclists determined to knock their legs off on the steep, potholed roads you find here. 

But those that do visit us are some of the best people we've ever met. Carm and I have talked about it, and we're guessing that it takes a special kind of person to make it all the way down to Eyeries. Invariably, these people seem to be looking for some stunning views; a bit of peace and tranquility; a place to unwind and enjoy each other's company.

That sums up what Eyeries and the surrounding Beara offer. 

We've had folks from the UK, Scotland and Wales; France, Germany, Spain and Portugal; Dutch folk, Finlanders, and Swedes. People from North America and South America, Australia and New Zealand.  Iceland and the Isle of Man, as well as Israel, also spring to mind.

Each of the people we meet has a story to tell. If we're lucky, and if the weather is fine, Carm and I will sit outside and chat with our guests over a beer or cup of tea. And as they relax and their minds become filled with the peace of the area - as they listen to the early morning cuckoo that nests down the hill, or watch the gulls soar squaking above, or breath in the smells of the distant sea and its shoreline, they'll share their lives with us.

I particularly remember a German lad who visited us a few years back. He was 18 and built strong as an ox. He was here with five other buddies, all German, all about the same age. For some reason or other, we started talking about the War. And for reasons I don't understand, we began chatting about the lad's Great-Grandfather.

In World War II, his Great-Grandfather had been a sailor on a U-Boat which was interesting. But more interesting than that was the fact that his relative had survived to tell the tale. 

However, when the lad mentioned  that he was ashamed of his great-grandfather, my heart broke for him.  "My great-grandfather was a member of the Nazi Youth," he said grimly. "He idolized Hitler like so many of them did back then. I never like talking about him."

Gently, I mentioned a fact he had never heard: over 70 percent of all German submariners were killed during the War. His great-grandfather had survived.

"If he did not survive, you wouldn't be around to share your story with me," I said quietly. "What he did, and what he believed, were also believed by most Germans at the time. You should be proud of your Great-grandpa. He served his country, and by doing that, gave you a future. 

"It's been 70 years since the end of the War. Don't you think you can forgive him? And be proud of his bravery at sea? And his survival?"

I saw a change in the lad's face. Later, I met him at our local pub, Causkey's, just up the road. He bought me a pint and smiled hugely at me. The next morning, when he and his friends broke camp he shook my hand. "Thank you," he said. "You have made me think differently."

And he made me think differently too: Of how all of us are only here because of the brave  survival of our relatives, and the heritage they give us so freely.

But the lad's heartfelt tale is only one example of the many stories people share with us. We're grateful for these simple gifts of trust and friendship they give us, having come so many miles to stay.

The Serenity of Beara

I've lived in this neck of the Irish woods and along a stunning coastline for almost eight years now. Of all the places I've lived - and I've lived in many parts of the United States and a number of locations in Ireland - I've finally found home. 

There's something special about Eyeries and Beara. It has to do with the people here: their warmth and welcoming character, and the laughter often hidden behind kind eyes. It has to do with the setting sun on a glorious summer's day, or the sweeping seas during a winter's gale. It has to do with the peace found midst barren rocks, or the song of distant bleating lambs, or the stunning view of a falcon hovering over a field hunting for prey.

We've named our small tent camping site Solas Mor - the Place of the Sun. No matter what the weather, the spirit of Sol's warmth seems to shine through.

With campers from all over the world, we can now share the welcoming warmth of Beara's serenity.

For more information on Solas Mor Tent Camping check out Google Maps

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Drowning the Shamrock on St. Paddy's Day

For those of you not in the know, St. Patrick's Day is Ireland's equivalent of July 4th. Only without the national anthem or the nationalism. In Ireland, we don't get all soppy when waving the flag. We don't sing the Irish National Anthem in the middle of a parade. In fact the Irish Anthem, "Amhran na bhFiann" (go to YouTube for a great version: isn't exactly conducive for such use. 

Unlike the US or UK national anthems, with their bold scoring and  rousing lyrics, the Irish Anthem is - well - gentle.

Play the Irish Anthem in a parade and the soft heart of its music and lyrics will be lost in the coughing roar of rusting tractors used to pull tiny floats created by locals for tuppence and flouting the benefits of the town's insurance company, or the raucous out-of-tune pipe and drum band that never quite gets the beat right, or the reams of kids crying to go home because it's cold and lashing rain and why would anyone in their right minds want to stand watching a boring old St Patrick's Day parade in the roaring rain anyway?

You see, it is always cold and rainy on St Patrick's Day. We count on that. The March sun might be blazing in the morning, but by the time the parade starts and as entire communities  throughout Ireland pour down main streets to attend their local parade, dark thunderous clouds will have rolled in. The temperatures will plummet, the sleeting rain will set in, and we'll all be miserable. Kids' smiles will turn to tears and parents will desperately try to rescue the situation with a little gentle coaching as in, "Ah fer feck sake, Johnny. We came all the way down here to watch the parade. Now watch it or we're going home and you won't be allowed any Telly tonight." Which only results in the kids crying even harder.

The Hardship of Lent

Ah St. Patrick's Day. Honestly, you'd think it to be a time of misery. We've the weather to contend with, of course, but then there's the matter of Lent which contributes to everyone's general distress. If you're not Catholic, you might not know what Lent is. Most have possibly heard of Fat Tuesday made popular by the Mardi Gras. That day is one of feasting, knowing that we're going to be deprived of something or other for the next forty days. On Fat Tuesday in Ireland, everyone eats pancakes. Now these are not U.S. pancakes. Rather, they're Irish pancakes - skinny little things that might look a bit like crepes only they're not. The shops sell plastic bottles of inadequate Pancake Batter in the weeks coming up to Fat Tuesday. When poured, it turns out to be a watery mixture that doesn't come close to the hearty pancakes that my mother used to make.

The Irish pour all sorts of stuff over them: jam, lemon juice, some sort of maple stuff that aspires to be maple syrup but isn't. Then they hoist them to their gobs, often hating the damned things, but it's tradition so what the heck and at least their stomachs are full.

Thee next day being Ash Wednesday, everyone troops down to the Church for Mass. They emerge an hour later with dark ashes in the shape of a cross dobbed onto their foreheads. It might be a blessing, but it's a desperate one because we all know that we're now staring 40 more days of penury in the face.

Penury is, of course, what you make of it. It's not like the old days when people had nothing to give up but were taunted by the Church to give up even more. Today, it's more of a reminder: Jesus suffered 40 days in the desert. So now it's your turn. The Church hands out cardboard Trocara boxes. These sit on coffee tables throughout the country. Irish folks everywhere throw spare change into them - change that many might ill afford - and at the end of Lent the money is sent overseas to help those even less fortunate. We're also encouraged by the Church and tradition to give up something. Many give up their mother-in-law. Some give up cigarettes. But many more throw caution to the wind and give up what they hold most dear:

The dreaded drink.

Drowning the Shamrock

So is it any wonder that parents across the country are so dour during the St Patrick's Day parade? Many are probably still suffering from the DTs and are close to madness due to Lent and abstinence.

BUT, and here's the thing. They're also cross due to anticipation. And what do they anticipate? Why Drowning the Shamrock on St Patrick's Day, of course. And here's how it works.

After the parade, everyone troops home. There, they'll sit down to dinner which consists of mashed potatoes with bacon and cabbage (another time honored St Paddy's tradition) that's been on the boil for the past 20 hours and sits on the plate like some sort of appalling sludge. Then, with bellies full, and while it might be only 2 in the afternoon or so, they'll walk out the door and make their way to the local pub.

For reasons I have never understood, Lent's fastings are shelved on St Paddy's Day. So it's no breach of abstinence to have a good few pints on the day. Which makes the day even more fun because we all behave rather like kids mitching from school for a free day off: we're all getting away with something. We take this break from dourness to make sure we don't all go around the twist before the real end of Lent some three weeks hence.

So we'll walk through the rain to the Local and there we'll sit back and join in the revelry. We'll have a pint or two. A hot whiskey or maybe three. An Irish Coffee or maybe five. We'll sing songs and laugh and enjoy each other's company. And for a moment, we'll forget about being soaked to the skin at the parade, and of the Lenten fast that we've all endured, and the fact that it's still raining buckets outside and Spring isn't set to truly start for a good few weeks yet.

And having drunk what we've drunk, and at the end of the night, someone might yet break into a soft gentle version of the Irish Anthem. In the quiet warmth of the local, you can hear the warming words sung by Irish everywhere. Words that only now, on this day of nation's pride, can be fully appreciated.

Happy St Patrick's Day. And do yourself a favor: drown the Shamrock this coming 17th March, will ya? Before ya drive everyone around ya completely around the twist.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Ireland's Full Employment Will Spark Jobs Demand

Just when we all thought things couldn't get much better in this fair land, yesterday's Irish media was chock full of local achievement:

Ireland's economy is heading toward full employment.

If you consider that this country had an unemployment rate of well over 15 percent only a few years back, this startling news shows the magnitude of the economic turnaround. It also  demonstrates the resilience of the Irish people, the effectiveness of agencies promoting Ireland as a great place for international companies to set up shop, and the success Irish exporters have had in gaining market share internationally.

Yesterday's news highlights as released by Ireland's Central Bank report:

  • 89,000 jobs will be created over the next two years, bringing total employment to 2.3 million
  • Irish economic growth will surge to 4.4 percent per annum, one of the highest in the European Union
Strong Demand for Wide-ranging Skills Drives Visas
And if you're a 'foreigner' hoping to work here, you could be in luck. A strong jobs market should spark opportunity for would-be immigrants.

Increased demand for employees by a slew of companies and organisations across the country may not be met by available supply. The local workforce may need to be supplemented by 'foreign' talent to take up the slack. Winners in the race to work in Ireland will, of course, continue to be made up mostly of other EU nationals who have existing employment rights to work in all EU member states (including the Irish Republic).

However, the high demand for talent across many skills should also drive up employers' willingness to hire non-EU nationals to fill positions. As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, employers must apply, and pay, for work permits when hiring employees from non-EU states. 

Which means, of course, that if you're a foreign national who is chomping at the bit to move to, and work in, Ireland - now is the time to start planning and reaching out. 

Employees are being sought in a wide range of disciplines to fill burgeoning demand:
  • Nurses and Doctors
  • Other Health professionals
  • IT professionals
  • Tourism
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • General Business
If you, as a would-be immigrant to Ireland, possess skills that are deemed 'critical' to the Irish economy, you have an outstanding chance to gain a work permit (see Irish Highly Skilled Occupation List for more information). 

Now What?
Truly thinking of moving to Ireland? First, find out if you're eligible for a work visa. Click here to see Visa rules.  Next, take a hard look at the true cost of living in this fabulous country. And yes...depending on where you live it can be very expensive. 

Next, take a look at the jobs market (see the links on the Right Hand side of this blog, or simply Google Ireland and see what happens).

Then start reaching out.... by email and phone. Come over for a visit. Keep your eyes open for Jobs Fairs. Shake hands. MEET PEOPLE. The Irish are a personable bunch of folk, and the best way of getting a job is to put in a little face-time. Then - keep on networking. Use LinkedIn, for instance. Keep it up and who knows? You could be surviving here just like I have.

The demand for skilled employees over here is strong. The economy is growing. Ireland is full of opportunity. 

Now is the best time in years to make your dream of living and working in Ireland a reality. Good luck!  Tom

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom