03 December 2009

Mum's Visit to Ireland

Well, today is Thursday and Mum has gone back to the UAE. This week has been so incredibly busy and I am very tired. Work will also be busy for the next week. And of course it is only about three weeks until Christmas and then I will be going to Austria. Perhaps I am just going to always be busy forever now?

Anyway on Monday I took Mum to see Galway and we went for a walk around Galway Bay. First we went to the big cathedral which is right beside Uni. I have never been in before, I wasn't sure if you were just allowed to go in for a look. It is so impressive though, I have never been is such a big pretty church. I lovew all the stained glass windows. If I had to choose a religion I would base it on the prettiness of the church, because then I would have something nice to look at.

There is always a very large number of birds around the docks, swans and gulls mainly, and sometimes you see people feeding them. So we took my loaf of stale bread and we fed the birds. Only we were completely mobbed, those birds really wanted our bread. There was a pile of pigeons at our feet, they are so tame that when I wanted to walk through they didn't fly off, I had to shove them aside with my foot. Then there were all these gulls swooping around our heads, just sort of hovering, and catching the bread in midair before it could get anywhere near the poor old swans. And these huge swans are just sort of sitting there in the water waiting, getting some bread every now and then, but they also had gulls swooping around them and even landing on their backs. So when the bread was all finished we got out of there because having birds flying right around your head is a bit freaky.

The rest of that day was not quite so amusing. I am not saying it was bad - it's just that the birds were really funny. We went for a walk around the bay, and the weather was clear but freezing cold. Still, nearly a whole week of clear weather has been a bit strange. We had a quick look at some shops, went to a tea-house, went to a restaurant suggested by a friend for dinner, and then went to see a show. The tea-house was called Griffin's Bakery and was really cute, a lot of the buildings here a little old medieval buildings, the ceilings are low and the doorways are really small. The restaurant was called McSwiggans and I was expecting a pub, but it was a bit fancier than that. We went up about four flights of stairs for one thing, the buildings here are sort of poky and winding, due to being so old, with a lot of small levels instead of a proper first floor and second floor. So despite all the staircases I think we were only one floor up. Everything is all old wood and stone, and a lot of the establishments have stories and a history behind them. For instance the bakery is the oldest family-owned business in Galway, or something like that.

The show that we went to is worth a mention. It was these brothers who won the Irish talent show last year, which is like that show America's got talent. They play Irish music and sing and dance, but they are very young. The youngest looked about 7 or 8, and played two instruments, sung and danced. So they were very impressive and it was quite entertaining, and makes you want to learn irish dancing and to play the fiddle. And of course Mum managed to find another cat to pat.

On Tuesday Mum and I did another tour, this one of Connemara. This is a region inside of Galway county, and is primarily made up of farmland, bog-land, lakes and mountains.

First we stopped at an old ruined friary. It was a really good stop, I would have like to spend a bit longer there. It was rainy but that was okay. There were only five people on the tour, and the tour guide was very informative and full of information. I was very tired though.

We drove by a big old castle which is now and fancy hotel and then s stopped at a village where the filmed some film that I have never heard of but is apparently very good, starring John Wayne. It was a cute village, but it was cold and Mum was the last to get back to the bus, we were all waiting for her.

The tour went through a lot of farmland which is very different to any you would see in NZ. We stopped to look at things like round-towers, a ring-fort, a fairy-tree and a stone-circle (which is in the photo below), but we did not get out of the bus at those stops. I think because the things that we were looking at were on private property. They are things that are pretty common in the Irish countryside.

The main stop was Kylemore Abbey, which is now a school for girls run by the Benedictine nuns. It was originally built as a castle, and the nuns have opened three rooms to the public, which are all done up as close to their original state as possible. Of course you pay an entrance fee to get in and there is a restaurant and souvenir shop for tourists to spend all their money in. It wasn't as impressive a stop as the Cliffs but was still quite nice.

There was a walled victorian garden. It was interesting but really it was still just a garden. There is a neo-gothic church, which didn't seem overly impressive it wasn't bad. I mean in New Zealand you don't see churches which are full of marble and carved figures with big stained glass windows. Lastly there was a mausoleum, which is really just a little stone building all completely closed up (as is to be expected considering that there is an embalmed body inside). All in all it was a pretty good tour, a much slower day than the Cliffs tour. Between the two though I am definately all tourist-ed out.

Yesterday was almost as tiring as going on a tour. I went into work in the morning, and then in the afternoon we went to see more of the city, look in some of the interesting shops and do souvineer shopping. We ate a lot. We did today as well actually. Ireland may be lacking in the familiar junk food but they are very big on their bakeries, their tarts especially, and pastries and cakes. We brought souvineers and Mum brought christmas stuff - some headbands with bobbly santa heads, earrings, hair clips and you won't believe it but she brought santa outfits for her cats! She expects me to help her take a christmas photo of them when I go to Abu Dhabi in a few weeks. We went to a pub called the King's Head for dinner, another poky medieval building with a history - apparently Charles I was beheaded there or something like that. I can't quite remember.

Anyway as I said it has been a few very tiring days. Today after popping briefly into work to feed the barnacles we went into town again to see the Eyre Square market which was not open any of the previous days. You see they built the shopping centre around the old town walls, which have something to do with the Anglo-Norman's that invaded Ireland at some point in history and set up camp in Galway. So there are these big stone walls and two towers inside the shopping centre which are not some new thing built for show but actually the old town walls. Crazy ay. They have a little market in there, stalls of local produce mainly. Mum brought a couple of last souvenirs for herself and then we had to get going so that she could get to the airport. Despite being quite organised we had to repack her case and then we couldn't find stuff and while she left with plenty of time to spare I have a messy house to clean up.

So now the week is nearly over and I have to get back to work. There is so much to do in the next week. Tomorrow I will be doing some basic histology, learning how to use a machine called a vibrotome which will slice a barnacle sample into to tiny little sections. Yet despite being tiny they might still be too thick to see anything. But at least we will know how to use the machine. And then the sections have to be stained so that you can actually see stuff like cells and muscles. Then all the sections have to be looked at, there will probably be a couple of hundred.

On top of that all of a sudden the barnacle larvae we are trying to rear are just not surviving all of a sudden and I don't know why, and the adult barnacles are not very healthy either. The last thing I need is for them to all die on me, that would just screw up everything. And then my supervisor suddenly wants a poster for this workshop next week, when I have been asking all along if she would like something like that. So now she does and it is about 6 days away. And what results are there to put in a poster anyway? None. So it will just be like an introductory poster, maybe with some aims. Also because of the whole intellectual property thing we are not to actually let anybody know what species we are working on, it is a secret! So that nobody can steal our idea and finish the work before us! It seems a bit paranoid. But good new is the things being looked at by the collaborators in Vienna and Bremen seems to be going well, although it has seemed so before and been misleading. We will wait and see I guess.

So like I said, busy busy busy.

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