Our new house rambles around a bit. Very easy for a 2 year old to go missing for a few minutes. Click below to watch the video. It’s worth it!
May 18, 2009
November 27, 2008
Ben’s been growing a moustache for charity. He looks truly horrendous.
So I thought I would put it on the web!!
May 7, 2008
We’ve been making the most of our weekends and holidays over the last couple of months. First the whole family, Ben, Suki co, Fionnuala, Alan, Mum and Hugues went to Hugue’s family’s place in Serre Chevalier in the French Alps for Easter. I managed to sneak in a bit of Snowboarding and discovered that I wasn’t quite as creaky as I thought I was. The first few days involved a LOT of falling over, but with a few lessons behind me and a bit of practice I was cruising down the mountain. Rory went to Ski school and did a stormer (watch video here). Jannene sort of drew the short straw as she was too preggers for skiing. I owe her majorly. All the photos are here (thanks to Mum for some of the pictures!). Keeping up the French theme (I am a quarfter French blood you know), Rory and I nipped over to Paris for a weekend with Mum and Hugues a few weeks back. We had a fab time. Mum’s apartment is fantastic. Right near the Eiffel tower so it basically formed a backdrop to the whole weekend. Excuse me if there are rather a lot of shots with the same background, but it is some landmark. All the pics are here. And lastly Patrick and Bridget are over visiting from Sydney so we all jumped in the cars and drove down to Cork for the weekend. There’s probably more photos to come, but in the meantime here’s a couple including one with a very big cruise ship in the background. We even ran into Paul Hogan while we were there. Should put a few more pics up once Jannene is back with the camera.
April 23, 2008
Radio National did a great programme about Cana Communities. Maybe because I miss Teresa House a bit I loved listening to it. It has a bit about Teresa House starring the fantastic Mario, but also the rest of Cana with a focus on spiritual aspects of Cana. Have a listen and if you’re feeling flush make a donation.
March 12, 2008
OK. If you’re not a fan of people hurting themselves in videos then don’t look. I am not sure if anyone sane IS a fan , but if you’re somewhere in the middle here’s our little fella getting the swing right and then getting it wrong.
(Also I got the videoing wrong on the second clip, so please rotate your computer screen to see it right!!)
Originally uploaded by christiana_childers
Jannene’s friend Christiana took some fantastic photo’s of Jannene and the boys in Sandymount park last week.
There are some more pictures here.
December 7, 2007
we visited Dad’s place on the island of Ithaca in Greece back in September. We had a fantastic time.
Finally I got around to putting the pictures online.
October 17, 2007
On the way to Dublin at the end of June we visited Japan for 10 days. We had a briliant time. So here’s the story:
So first stop Osaka , but not before JetStar had punished us for being overweight (our bags that is) with a bit of excess baggage. The flight was fine. Rory and Luke got masses of attention from the other passengers; particularly a large group of schoolgirls who each HAD to have their photos taken with Luke. (more of that later!)
Kimiharu was one of our fellow walkers in Vietnam and has since travelled around most of the world on various trips, keeping us up to date with emails all the time. I had told Kimi many times over the years that we would visit him in Tokyo and a few weeks before we left I emailed him to meet us in Tokyo . Yes, he would meet us, he had replied, and he would get his friends to show us around Osaka too. Fab.
So after a night in the airport hotel we met up with Yuji who was to be our guide. He did a great job of showing us around Osaka over two days. It’s not that Japan is not tourist friendly. It is amazingly so; people are friendly, railway stations are well signed in English and have lifts to almost every platform (if you have pushed a pram you know why this is good), and generally you feel very safe when you are getting around. But still when it comes to working the ticket machines, knowing the best line to catch etc. you can’t beat having a local along. Plus we had two huge suitcases, a full rucksack, a sports bag, Rory, Luke, a pram and Rory’s fire engine bag to get around. The extra pairs of hands were wonderful. Biggest highlight of Osaka ? Probably the aquarium. Sydney has a great aquarium, but for sheer size, slickness and variety, Osaka beats it hands-down.
It was a busy day when we went, but there was hardly another overgrown European to be seen. At times Luke and Rory were getting more attention than the animals behind the glass.
We spent one wonderful night in a traditional Ryokan (Japanese Guest House) called Carpe Diem, which has rooms centred around a beautiful garden. Hard to describe. You need to see the pictures to appreciate. Truly a unique experience.
Next stop Kyoto . A bit more than an hour on the train North East from Osaka . You’ve probably heard of the Kyoto Protocol but not much more. Neither had we but it was supposed to be a great place to visit so there we were. We kind of expected a city full of wildly growing trees, houses made of recycled toilet rolls and rare animals sitting on the bonnets of Toyota Prius cars eating Macrobioticly controlled wildflowers. Well we didn’t see any of these, but there were a lot of temples. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. Too many to even try and see, so we settled with seeing a couple. The other great thing about Kyoto was the covered shopping streets / markets. Loads of them selling everything from Tofu, Seaweed and Chillies to trendy t-shirts and second hand Birkenstocks.
We had four days in Kyoto and we got quite used to the place. Our tiny hotel had a good sized Japanese-style room; which means you sleep on Futons on top of Tatami mats on the floor. Perfect for Luke and Rory as there was nothing to roll off.
We ventured a few times into the local baths. These places have to be experienced. There are two doors at the front; one for men and one for women. You walk in, pay your money and straight away separated from the street only be a single door and a piece of handing fabric you are in the changing room. You get undressed, put your stuff in a locker with a wooden key and go into the inner room. There you have a choice of about six baths. Before you go anywhere near them you have to wash yourself thoroughly with soap and rinse any grime off completely. Baths are not for washing!!!
So looking at these six baths I thought you might have very cold, cold, warm, warmer, hot, very hot. No chance. You have one very cold bath and you have 5 very hot baths. Anything else is for wimps. Oh, and one of the baths also provided a little bit of electricution in case you were getting too comfortable. I got straight back out of that one. You could actually add cold water to some of the baths, but there was so much hot water about it really didn’t make much difference except to help convince Rory to put a toe in. And like the little legend that he is, after a few visits he got in right up to his chest. Now this water was hot. Really hot. What a legend!
On the other side of the partition a gaggle of women kept Luke amused pushing him around the room in a clothes basket while Jannene dunked herself. Love the Japanese people.
One of the first things I did in Kyoto was to wreck my back hoisting the rucksack onto my back. Not surprising after carting all the bags between the hotel, onto and off trains, to the station lockers, around the streets etc. I really hurt it quite badly so for the next week or so I was a pathetic creature as we moved between places; pushing a pram piled high with bags, while Jannene pulled both suitcases and carried Luke in the Baby Bjorn on her chest. Rory did his bit by pulling his fire engine bag along. I am sure the locals wondered why this wimp was getting his wife to do all the heavy lifting.
We caught the bullet train up from Kyoto to Tokyo . Yes, the train went very fast. Playing “I spy” was hopeless as before anyone had a chance to guess; the piece of scenery in question was long gone. We saw a lot of paddy fields. Many many many paddy fields. The Japanese love their rice and really don’t like anyone else’s. So every spare bit of land is a paddy field. Even in the suburbs of Osaka there were paddy fields jammed in between the houses. Out in the country there were of course even more paddy fields. The sheer greenness of all the fields was startling. It was coming to the end of the rainy season too I suppose everything was about as green as it gets.
In Tokyo we put our big bags in the locker and styed in a cute if a little shabby hotel. I laid up on my back watching bizarre Japanese TV while Jannene and the boys went out to find some dinner.
The next day we were back at the station catching the private “Romance Car” train to Hakone; an area in the mountains outside Tokyo that is a very popular tourist spot for Japanese. Once up there it was all about transport. We caught a bus to the town we were staying at. We caught a pirate ship (!!) across the lake to the cable car. The cable car took us up to the top of the mountain where there were hot springs . At the hot springs they dunked cages full of eggs into the boiling sulphurous water to produce black hard boiled eggs. Which we (and just about every Japanese tourist on the mountain) bought, cracked, peeled and ate on the spot. Stinky but delicious! Then we were back on another cable car. Then a funicular railway down the other side of the mountain, and we got back on the bus to the hotel. Along the way there were a lot of beautiful views. There are supposed to be views of Mount Fuji from the lake, but all we saw was a haze from our pirate ship.
Back to Tokyo next and it’s Kimi and Singha’s turn to show us around. I had asked Kimi to show us “the real Tokyo ”. We had seen a fair few temples already and some contemporary Japan was in order.
First stop; Akihabara; Tokyo ’s electronics district (or as Kimi called it “Nerd Capital”). We hit a few huge electronics shops; whole departments stores full of electronics selling everything from music players to motherboards to Linux books in Japanese. I picked up a few things for my camera but resisted the tiny, sexy laptops. Jannene and the kids went off to look at another shop and Kimi took me to look at one of the local specialist shops. You’ve probably seen Japanese cartoon characters which are young girls in short skirts, maid costumes etc. Well this shop had a whole floor dedicated to plastic models of what the Japanese call something like “Mowaye” girls. Thousands of plastic models of them. Holding weapons or just bending forward in their short skirts. You get the picture. It’s quite disturbing to think of thousands of Japanese men buying these underage characters. Kimi did warn me before that it would be weird and he swears he’s not into this stuff. I believe him. Really!
Then we met up with Jannene again and went to a “Maid Café”; an above-the-board place where you can go and have lunch, coffee, ice-cream etc. All very normal. Except the waitresses are all wearing Manga-Style French Maid Costumes. It probably sounds a little weirder than it was. There were Manga cartoons playing on large screens on the wall and it really felt like pretty harmless fun. Beside us a very geeky looking man was having lunch with one of the maids and talking about his favourite cartoons with her. Which he would have paid to do. OK so perhaps still a bit weird. By the way all the girls were from “PinkLand” and they were all 17. Really.
On the floors above you could get a back massage from a Maid, get your ears waxed by a Maid…
For lunch we went to a place called “Akiba Noodle”. Brilliant idea. They have a few thousand types of instant noodles. You pick one and they cook it for you; adding extra meat and vegetables if desired. Then within minutes it’s ready. So cool. The website is here; www.akiba-noodle.com They even have a blog that seems to feature a new noodle every day. Here’s google’s translation of one of the blog pages:
Later on we went to Harajuku where Japan ’s young and disaffected get dressed up in costumes, meet in huge numbers, hang around looking unJapanese in a very Japanese way, and buy crepes. It was fun, but not really what I expected. It had a vibe a bit like the Temple Bar in Dublin in the eighties, but with shops like a suburban mall. The sheer volume of young people was amazing though. Plenty of teen spirit.
The Emperor’s Palace was nearby. After a good stroll through the park we arrive there just in time to witness a wedding procession coming through the temple. Pretty amazing. Check out the pictures. Kimi’s friend even got the bride and groom to pose for a picture with us. The brides Mother-In-Law didn’t look impressed at all. It’s probably bad luck to have wedding pictures with us ghosts.
That evening Kimi had organised for us to visit the Hot Baths at Odeo Onsen. This place was a huge theme park all around hot baths. After entering we were decked out in Kimonos and strolled through a sort of market / shopping / entertainment area where you could do things like throw Ninja stars (I was hopeless). After a little while in there we went in to the springs area. Males one way, females another. Kit off, wash yourselves like crazy with soap and water, rinse. Then in to the baths themselves. This was a huge area with every type of bath imaginable; baths to lie down in, baths to sit up in, salty baths, very hot baths, cold baths, outdoor pool baths…. The temperatures generally seemed a bit more reasonable than the local baths we had been to before. That didn’t mean that Rory was about to relax though. He splashed from one bath to another; always seeing another bath in the distance that looked more fun. After languishing for a while we got dressed into our Kimonos and headed back to the eating area. Rory went ballistic running around the Tatami mats, doing somersaults and generally being the Energiser bunny that he is. Dinner and beer. Yum! ????? pushed a plate in front of Jannene. “What’s this?” “Sashimi. Horse Sashimi.”. Nice. I am not really sure why our values system sees this any differently than a plate of beef sashimi, but needless to say, Jannene said no.
So all in all a typical day in Real Japan; buy some electronics, coffee served by a French Maid, instant noodles for lunch, walk around in your best goth costume, quick traditional wedding, get naked with your friends, then a little raw horse for dinner.
Sunday was a little more relaxed. We started by going to the government tower. We were hopelessly late, but as per normal form, Kimi was extremely polite about it. The view was impressive. Once again, Mount Fuji was obscured by haze.
Next stop was the Tokyo Fire Department and Disaster Training. We spent the next few hours being trained in what to do in the event of a natural disaster. This included a 3D earthquake film (Rory was a little scared!) an earthquake simulator, a smoke-filled maze, setting of fire extinguishers and a hurricane simulator complete with wind and rain. It was mad and all in Japanese. Kimi and friends translated. It was just like that scene in “Lost in Translation”; the woman would talk away for five minutes then Kimi would say “she says you have to keep close to the ground to avoid the smoke”. We got our certificates and souvenir photos and headed off. I have to say it was a truly unique experience.
In an amazing bout of hospitality Kimi’s friend hosted us and a good dozen of Kimi’s friends for dinner in her beautiful house. The food was excellent, even for my Veggie appetite. Major thanks to Tommy and everyone who helped with the dinner. Much was eaten and drunk and Singha told us plenty of embarrassing stories about his travels abroad with Kimi.
It was sad to say goodbye at the end of the night. We ended up going from last train to last train on the way home; traversing a few dodgy bits of Tokyo until we finally got home to our hotel.
The next morning we rose at 5am to make our way to the airport. As we checked out the woman said “you’re checking out a day early?”. No, we said. This is definetly our day to check out. As we waited for the bus we thought we might just check the dates. Sure enough we had stuffed up our days and we had another day left in Tokyo . Shocker! Back to the hotel looking very sheepish and back to bed for a few more hours. We made the best of our extra day and took a boat cruise down the river, did a walking tour around Shinjuku, checked out the posh Ginza shopping district and finally met up with Kimi and about a dozen of his friends again for dinner at an Indian restaurant. We had another last train to the last train episode on the way home. Somehow time really flies with these guys.
Finally with great sadness we caught our plane out the next morning. We really had a fantastic holiday in a large part thanks to Kimi, Singha and their friends who showed us lots of Japanese hospitality. I really hope we get to repay them sometime when they visit Ireland . Even without locals to show you around Japan is a great place to visit.
March 22, 2007
Yikes it’s been a long time since I posted, and I know that there are some faithfuls who are still checking the site for updates regularly. Thanks for waiting!
It’s just been very busy around here since the arrival of Luke as you can imagine.
So anyway I’ve got a bunch of photos for you. If you watch my Flickr account you might have already seen some of them.
We had a great weekend away in Wollongong at Patrick’s mum’s place. Photo’s are here and here. It was a great weekend. Kai, Angus, Rory, their respective little brothers and their parents were all there.
Here’s Luke looking very grown up in Southerly’s super cool chair:
We baptised Luke. It was a great day. It was at the local church and we had coffee and cake at the Presbytery afterwards. Luke behaved himself extremely well; managing to stay happy and awake for most of the ceremony and then falling asleep just as the party started afterwards. Photos are here.
The other big event was that Mike and Renaye got married. It was a beautiful day. Renaye looked great. Mike brushed up well. Photos are here. Luke came along and behaved himself extremely well; getting almost as much attention as the wedding party.
Last but not least, we had the annual Teresa House Dinner Dance. As usual we spent the previous months working up to it and wondering if it would ever end, but it all went according to plan and we had a brilliant night. The theme was Masquerade and people generally did a great job of dressing up. Brian was easily the best disguised, although he was looking a bit ragged by this stage. We had about 180 guests. As usual the dancing competition was hugely popular. Photos courtesy of Fiona are here.
Oh, and somewhere in between I made my mother-in-law very happy when the Catholic Weekly did an interview with me about Teresa House. It’s online here, sadly without a great picture they got of me with Karen, one of my favourite guests at the house.
That’s it for now. Promise to get more frequent again in the future!
November 9, 2006
A big thank you to everyone who sponsored the Dirty Reds for the GongRide. You certainly got your money’s worth. I was seriously close to pulling out it was so horrible at one stage, but I kept thinking of the grief I would get from my sponsors (plus I didn’t really have any other option to get to the end of the race!!!!) and I kept slogging through the rain.
Despite all the best intentions I didn’t do any real training for the event at all. I had all the best intentions, and even organised one early morning run, but things just got in the way. In the end I rode to work three times the week before and hoped that the 5k’s I regularly do to work would all sort of cumulatively help when it came to the full 90k’s.
We started well. By 7am we were all ready to ride. The weather was a little threatening; it was overcast and drissling lightly as we set off. The team was Mark, Mike, Jane and myself. Mark was the only serious cyclist amongst us; he eats 100k’s for breakfast. Jane rides occasionally I think, but not normally anything of this magnitude. Other than my regular rides to work I seldom clock up much distance. Mike had to clean the cobwebs and dust off his bike and get some of the rust seen to before the race, but he had a particular motivation to do the race (in fact it was his idea).
Back in August, Mike, Renae, Tony and Pete had entered the Oxfam 100k walk. Yes, 100k. Yes, walk. Again, it was a fundraiser, and they had to walk 100k’s through bushland during night and day; only stopping for a few hours sleep. Madness. But despite a strict training regime and tons of preparation, the mind was willing but the body could not comply and Mike had a knee blowout half way through and after dragging himself along in a lot of pain he had to drop out at about 64k’s. He caught a lot of grief (none of it meant seriously) from his sponsors etc. So Mike was on a mission to complete this ride and prove to the world what a finisher he is.
Here’s the course profile:
The course started easily enough. There was a huge mass of riders; 10,000 riders were starting over a couple of hours, so there were bikes everywhere. The first sobering event was near Taren Point where there was a nasty accident. A female rider was down on the road with a large pool of blood around here head. It was a horrible sight. Lots of people were looking after her and the ambulances shot past a few minutes later so hopefully she was OK. It certainly put a dampener on the jolly atmosphere at the time.
As we rode up to Sutherland my left knee started to give me some pain. This got worse for a while and then thankfully stabilised. Knowing Mike’s story I was very nervous that this could end my ride. Mike in the meantime was getting pain in both knees and was struggling a bit on the long hills but absolutely determined to finish the race.
The first ride down into the Royal National Park was just sheer bliss. Bombing down the hill in the trees; bikes everywhere, no cars. It was fun fun fun. After a good break for lunch we headed back up the hill to Otford. It was a long old slog; the silence of the national park only broken by the clicking of gears, the heavy breathing of the riders and one GSOH girl who had rigged up a stereo in her pack to play a selection of bike riding tunes. (only 5 songs; she must have been going mad after a few hours!!)
Once we got to the top a huge wind was blowing. This gave us the first indication of what was to come. From the top of the hill we could see Wollongong and it felt like the rest of the ride was going to be a piece of cake; just 30ks and looking mostly flat. It looked easy.
After barelling down another fantastic hill the next challenge was the new sea bridge which was extremely exposed. (you can see a picture on the GongRide homepage.) At this stage we were riding in to a 60kmh head wind. Most riders were practically standing still or had got off to walk. It was a long hard slog up the bridge and over the headland.
Pretty soon after the bridge it started to rain. The last 20 ks were just disgusting. It was lashing rain, we had the headwind and as we rode along the coast we had all the ups and downs as we passed every cove along the coast. Somewhere around Thirroul I had to walk up a hill for the first time. By Tourangi point I was totally exhausted and mentally hit a real rock bottom. I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I was struggling to pedal and lot of riders who we had overtaken a long way back were scooting past. In the end I dropped back, got off the bike and found a cafe which had some chocolate. Half a Curly Wurly later I had my walkman on and was listening to the happy deviant pop of Lilly Allen and feeling a lot more positive. I got back in the saddle and the rest was a piece of cake.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I got to the finish line. More relief than happiness, but by the time Renae appeared and we got in the car I was feeling very happy indeed.
Here’s a picture of Jane, Mike and I at the end;
(Mark left us behind at Otford and was nearly home by the time we finished the ride.)
Overall, it was definetly worth doing and was a lot of fun for the first 70km’s. I will do it again, but next time I will do the training beforehand, I will use a road bike instead of my mountain monster and if it’s raining on the day, well… I will have to cross that bridge when I get to it. Maybe I will extract some extra money from my sponsors for misery endured.
Speaking of which if you meant to sponsor me, but didn’t get around to it, you can still do so on the Gong Ride website.
So, Mike, what’s the next event?