Friday, July 29, 2005

10 Things I miss about my Island

(...not in any particular order, by the way)

1. 568ml of creamy, cold Guinness (x10)
2. Ballycotton
3. Sitting on Blanan, Cape Clear in a F8 SW, heavy mist and a big passage of birds
4. My old car
5. Sky Sports on a hungover Saturday morning
6. The Bale
7. The sight and smell of freshly cut grass
8. The smell of the sea
9. Clean air
10. The thrill of a twitch

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A great day in modern Irish History...

I am just home and saw on the RTE website that the IRA have released a unilateral statement putting an end, unequivocally, to the armed struggle. They are putting down arms, will total decommisioning of arms, with priests as witnesses, as of 4pm today (Irish time). This is a massive and immensely positive move by the IRA. I fully welcome this statement and now only wish that the Loyalists will follow suit and show the same acceptance that the Good Friday Agreement must be fully implemented. With Loyalists still carrying arms around neighbourhoods (not allowing the residents to order take out pizza or chinese due to the threat of murder...please) it seems highly unlikely. Still, the suspicious Unionists will deny, what I feel is a genuine statement, the intent of the IRA. Both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have done great work behind the scences to persuade the Army Council to lay down arms and follow a peaceful route. Paisley, the DUP and the DPP must act on this and push the Agreement forward now to their people, to bring total peace to the North. It's up to them now, to co-oprerate with the Irish and British Governments to cement the peace process. I know some of you back home will not trust the statement and think that I am blinkered by the "cause" and by Gerry Adams, but we must put our faith in this. It MUST work and it WILL bring peace to the North for the first time in 40 years.

Tony Blair has yet to make a statement but is quoted as saying that it is a step of "unparalleled magntitude". Some Unionists, namely Paisley who met Hain this morning, are outraged by the release by the British Government of Sean Kelly (Shankill bomber) under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, on the premise that the statement would be a positive move by the IRA. It is...

Bertie hasn't said anything yet from what I can gather (still can't listen to RTE Radio live for some reason, only recorded shows) but I am interested in hearing what he has to say. No doubt he'll have been well informed. Here's to a peaceful Ireland...

For those of you who haven't read it, here is the full text of IRA statement:

"The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon. All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.

The IRA leadership has also authorised a representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible. We have invited two independent witnesses, from the Protestant and catholic churches, to testify to this.

The Army Council took these decisions following an unprecedented internal discussion and consultation process with IRA units and volunteers. We appreciate the honest and forthright way in which the consultation process was carried out and the depth and content of the submissions. We are proud of the comradely way in which this truly historic discussion was conducted.

The outcome of our consultations show very strong support among IRA volunteers for the Sinn Fein peace strategy. There is also widespread concern about the failure of the two governments and the unionists to fully engage in the peace process. This has created real difficulties. The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland fully support this process.

They and friends of Irish unity through the world want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Notwithstanding these difficulties, our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland. We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end British rule in our country.

It is the responsibility of all volunteers to show leadership, determination and courage. We are very mindful of the sacrifices of our patriotic dead, those who went to jail, volunteers, their families and the wider republican base. We reiterate our view that the armed struggle was entirely legitimate. We are conscious that many people suffered in the conflict. There is a compelling imperative on all sides to build a just and lasting peace.

The issue of the defence of nationalist and republican communities has been raised with us. There is a responsibility on society to ensure that there is no reoccurrence of the pogroms of 1969 and the early-1970s. There is also a universal responsibility to tackle sectarianism in all its forms. The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.

We call for maximum unity and effort by Irish republicans everywhere. We are confident that by working together Irish republicans can achieve our objectives. Every volunteer is aware of the import of the decisions we have taken and all oglaigh are compelled to fully comply with these orders.

There is now an unprecedented opportunity to utilise the considerable energy and goodwill which there is for the peace process. This comprehensive series of unparalleled initiatives is our contribution to this and to the continued endeavours to bring about independence and unity for the people of Ireland.

P O'Neill."

When the IRA called a ceasefire in 1994 I was at the top of the Sears Tower (?) in Boston, in some guys office looking out on Boston Harbour. Now, 11 years later, I am sitting in a shoe box in Osaka, Japan on the other side of the world when they announce an end of the armed struggle. I am confidnet that this time I won't have to recall where I was when the IRA took up the armed struggle again....

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Pure Night out...hmmmmm, oh and fireworks

Ok then, I ended up going out on Saturday night to a nightclub/late bar called Pure, a cool place, well designed and hiphop the theme of the place. It's 3000yen in but it's all you can drink...yes, all you can drink for 20yoyos!! So I made the most of that. The evening started out confused and dazed as we couldn't find a bar to suit everyone's taste so splinter groups went their merry ways and a group of us hooked up in Pure later on. The places don't close until 5am so a long night looked certain.

Now to the club...picture Reardon's, add Japanese chicks looking for gaijin husbands, Japanese guys thinking they grew up in the hood, practising their rehearsed, dance-class taught hip-hop moves, western rejects looking for anything in a skirt and knowing they will pull as they are gaijin, twats from various countries (Oz, Canada, USA, Europe) knowing the score so acting like they're supermodels and you get a fair idea of what it was like...pretty damn dismal. Maybe it was the expectation of something different. Maybe it was the expectation of madness but their wasn't any. We couldn't take it anymore by 3ish so decided to get a cab home (trains stop at midnight) back to K. This really topped off the night....

Taxi drivers in Osaka at least, do not know their city. They haven't got a clue where anything is. What should have taken a 30-40 minute ride took well over the 70 minute mark. Consultations to the A-Z road map produced "shortcuts" which ended up being cul-de-sacs and the wrong road. If you are lost, to find one's way back to where one began, always turn in the same that is what he did. The dumb shmuck always turned we ended up going in circles. We finally found somwhere we recognised and guided the big ship into port and finally home. An ordeal I will be slow in doing again. Maybe if the night was more slipstreamed and we knew what pub we were going to initially was decided, it may have been different. I guess we'll have to see next time...but it may be a while yet!!!

A mad night life, plenty of hostess bars, strip joints and gigillo's everywhere...certainly worth having a look

Anyway, didn't do much yesterday after that night out.

So where are the fireworks I hear you say, well this evening we were treated to a fireworks display for an hour, form the comfort of my desk. While working away a big fireworks display took place to mark the end of a mini-festival in Osaka. It was not as good as I had thought it would be, being in the region of fireworks supreme but it was pleasant nonetheless. Pity we weren't outside so we could hear it and actually look at them properly...they joys of work

I'm off to bed to read Harry Potter part 5 so I can start reading HP part 6...take it easy...


ps: will post photo of my bald head when i charge the battery to the camera...not fired yet!!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Nara and the Buddha

I headed up to Nara this morning with TM to have a look around and see the largest bronze statue in Japan. I primarily wanted to go Todai-ji temple and in fact spent most of the time in Nara just walking around the temple and the's massive. There are semi-wild deer EVERYWHERE (sika I think, have a look at the photos) and they are treated like the cows in India. The deer were originally regarded as divine messengers of of Kasuga-jinja's Shinto gods and anyone who killed one was subsequently shown the same fate. Vendors sell "deer biscuits" which the deer go crazy over...feeding them was dangerous and my toes have the bruises to prove it! Beautiful beasts though.

Anyway, Todai-ji was founded in 745 and the main hall is STILL the worlds largest wooden's impressive the say the least. I was looking at the main temple and wondering what was different about the was the grass!!! A beautiful lawn of rich green grass. It was the first time seeing grass like that since I have arrived in Nippon. A beautiful place to be in, very peaceful and a somewhat soothing atmosphere there, could have stayed there all day. Not so many people milling about, mainly gaijin tourists so it was pleasant enough.

The Buddha in the Todai-ji temple is HUGE. It is 15 metres tall and pretty old. There are cool samuri-type figues there also and the monks are there selling charms, telling fortunes and just look plain bored. If anyone gets to Japan, you should check out Nara, it's well worth it, the photographs hopefully will do it justice.

Got back from Nara, met DS to go to a barber and proceeded to get a no.1 all over....I'll probably get sacked on Monday but feck it I'll plead insanity and an inability to understand what they were saying to me. It'll grow back...great though for the heat as it's stifling.

Might be heading out tonight so all will be revealed in the morning...

bye for now

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Kyoto and the Gion Matsuri festival

i just spent a wonderful morning in Kyoto, about a 30 minute train ride North of Osaka. The Gion Matsuri festival was taking place this weekend, culminating in a parade of tall, pointy yama boko foats, richly decorated with Nishijin silk. Originally held to keep the plague out of Kyoto in the hot and humid summer months, it was a sight to behold. There was just people everywhere. It was madness in the heat and humidity. I shall post some shots up on the photopage in the next day or so as I took over 100, so it will take a bit of time to sift through. Kyoto is a wonderful city with fabulous little streets and over a 1000 temples, gardens, excellent museums and is steeped in traditional Japanese culture. I will definitely have to go back there and spend some more time just wandering around and visiting the temples...they are so serene and peaceful, a lovely change from the bustle of Osaka. There is no point in trying to explain the size and colour of the floats so I hope the photos do them justice. There was plenty of Black Kites about, circling in flocks of 40 or more, fantastic to see.

It's a long weekend for us so I may go out on the town tonight. We were supposed to go out on Friday night but we just ended up going back to one of the lads' place from work in Konikeishinden (where I live) and I did what Deb has seen me do most Friday nights, fall asleep where I I woke up at 10 am on Saturday morning in a total hungover daze and walked home in my suit in the blistering heat and humidity...not pleasant. As a result, yesterday was a total write off. A few of us went to see Star Wars last night and had a bite to eat in a really nice Vietnamese restaurant in Umeda. The food was great and the film was okay, probably the better of the recent Star Wars films. Still think they could have picked someone who could act to play Anakin regards Ms. Portman, say no more.

On that note, I bid thee farewell...I have to hang up my washing..

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It's all happening back home....SOOTY TERN arrives at Dublin!!

Well, what other insult can the irish birding scene throw at me?? A friggin Sooty Tern!!! Mega-rare on the shores of the fair isle and a cracking bird to boot. It had been found on Anglesey, Wales at the weekend and it turned up near Rockabill, Skerries in Dublin this morning!!! Fantastic stuff. With the 2 Laughing gulls in Cork and Colin's Fea's Petrel, I am being robbed of new ticks and beautiful birds to see at home. Not that I am complaining about the birds in Japan (although the H. sapien variety have not been bad, just not sampled), it's just the wrong time of year...pity really. Anyway, to all the langers back home who read this and have seen the Sooty tern...YER SOME LANGERS!!!!

Anyway, last week's bash courtesy of the boss was a "fabulous" affair, fueled by free gat so thankfully it was painless. Everybody had to make a 1 minute speech extoling the joys of working with the Firm, how amazing the boss is and general stomach churning arse-licking. After making the most of the free bar a number of us headed off for another one or two in a local bar and then went home...Friday was not a pleasant day at work...All in all, it wasn't too bad, but the food was brutal and scant.

Great to hear from Dr.'s Wallace, Roper and Guerin during the last few days and Cally and Mel today...outcha Callster, no better man for the encouraging words (Happy Belated B'day my dear man, age witheld!!), will be on to you by end of the week. I also want to wish my bro a great day out at his graduation in Swansea on Thursday, have a good day kid and make the most of the parents being over, hehehee!!

Did a bit of birding over the weekend and saw feck all but what I saw was not bad (see list below) and just chilled out on Sat night, drank a bottle of wine and watched a DVD. More of the same on Sunday, a well needed rest was called for. I intend to get mildly drunk at the weekend and go clubbing, long weekend in store so it's all go...pity it's just before pay day but I am sure that cash can be found to enjoy it. A big festival happening in Kyoto so we are going to go out to that, it's supposed to be one of the best festivals in Japan and a must-see according to the usual Lonely Planet/Rough Guides splurge. if the weather is nice then photos shall be taken and another page added to the photopage (thanks for the encouraging words Mel!!).

Ok then, another comment on Japan ( I could go on all day about Japan but I think little bits of info will serve you better): the streets are used as vomitoriums after the men have been out having "A" drink and they take a piss wherever they feel like it (ah, reminds me of Pana on a Sat night....)

Bird note from Saturday, July 9th: Meadown Bunting, Osprey, Japnese Bush Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Swallow, Kingfisher, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Fan-tailed Warbler, Little Ringed Plover, Tree Sparrow and Black Kite.

That's all from me for the moment...

Friday, July 08, 2005

London calling...

Woke up this morning, with a bit of a hangover (more on that later), to find that London had been targeted by bomb attacks. I hope that those I know in London are all okay, Liz, Barry, Stevo, Chris, Bernie and anyone else. Although any attack like this is an absolute abomination, I am surprised that London was not targeted sooner than this. The pictures on the news and the reports on the radio make it sound pretty horrible, particularly near the BMA building and in the tube stations. I heard that al-Qa'ida Europe are taking responsibility but there is no definitive proof yet. One can only imagine that it is an extremist group of some nature. The timing to coincide with the G8 summit will bring the attention of the their cause to the fore again...I wonder how long more will pass before Australia, mainland Europe and the US will be struck with more such attacks or worse, although in the case of the US, it's just one terrorist organisation against another, but that's just my opinion....

If you want to read what Fisk is saying today, check out the link to the webpage that hosts his column in the Independent...worth reading.

Thankfully the bombs did not go off during the peak of morning rush hour as it would have been worse than Madrid...

What are the chances of finding these people?? Slim I guess, they still can't find Osama and the Taliban are gathering again with much determination...the Brits might do a better job than the Yanks, at least Mr. Blair hasn't got his head stuck up his own ass, unlike that gombeen across the pond...

Anyway, it's been a tough ol' day so I am going to stop here before I say anything I'll regret.

I hope all are okay in London...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Here we go again...Stevie G

Well, if he does this again I'll never forgive him!! Now he is staying...maybe tomorrow he'll change his mind again. I would love to know what was going on in the background...sounds dodgy to me...

Not alot happening today. Just like to congratulate Boo for her exam results...never doubted ya!! I'll get drunk for you tomorrow night at the party the boss is throwing...should be fun :) We all have to give a spiel or a witty story....christ, I'll be stuck then...

Just home so I am about to make something to eat.

Observation: Japanese men wear their trousers/pants up around their nipples...quite disconcerting

Stevie G...captain fantastic leaves

I am still in shock that Liverpool are European Champions, that Col had a Fea's petrel off Galley head at the start of July but this...Stevie G leaving the ''s all too much......I need a cigarette

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Shirahama and a Fea's

Well the rainy season started on Friday and we departed for Shirahama on Saturday morning to be washed out on the beach. All was not lost though as we set up under a palm tree umbrella-type construction which are on the beach, bought some tarapaulins and proper umbrellas and made it as waterproof as was good until the rain got too much but we drank some beers and had a laugh. There were loads of people on the beach despite the rain, a touch-rugby tournament on one end and crazy Japanese people with umbrellas, wearing their finest walking along the beach. Mind you, they were probably thinking about the dumb gaijins sitting under a most ridiculous looking construction, getting slight wet and drinking beer. We then headed up to the hotel, had something to eat, went to the onsen and soaked in hot mineral springs for an hour before returning to the rooms to eat and be merry. Crashed and burned after that...had another onsen in the morning and went back home early due to inclement weather conditions. It was good to get out of the city though so the weather didn't dampen things too much. Hearing the lions roar from the "wildlife park" next door was pretty amazing, an unbelievable shall follow shortly

Meanwhile, when I got back to the apartment a short while ago,after spending the early evening watching Sin City (a class film, really enjoyed it) at C&S's place, I learn that my dear, dear friend Mr. C Barton has had the holy grail of seabirds off Galley head...a fea's petrel.... my heart both sank and skipped a beat at the same time. It's one of the birds that one dreams about seeing off the headlands of Ireland...a bird that I have looked long and hard for the last couple of years off the headlands of Cork. Fair play Col, it must have amazing...made me slightly homesick to hear of that news as Col and I spent some hours on Galley Head last year hoping one would fly by...ya LANGER!!! I meant that in the nicest way possible Col (amazing number of Cory's aswell, 1000's flying past, must have been cool to see)!!!

Anyway, I shall now dream of that Fea' until next time

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Zentai meeting

We have an office meeting on the first day of every month where the boss gives us an inspirational speech, japan style, with plenty of emotion and vigour. Obviously, being dumb gaijins, we haven't a clue what is going on but we can tell by his manner and the japanese staff's manner, what the mood of the meeting is..What gives me the biggest kick is the intro to the meeting (if TC did this, it would be brilliant!!). He got a very famous and well respected Japanese composer to write a theme for the company. So at about 8.45am, while working away at my computer, the music just starts out of nowhere, at full volume and scares the bejeezus out of me!!! I let loose with a string of obscenities and calm's a cross between Howard Shore and Bernstein and it's mad, plenty of percussion, strings, wind and piano..lots of solos and big string pieces. It reminds me of Star Wars, Dallas and LOTR. In the midst of my sleepy daydream while this is playing (it's so loud one can't hear oneself think) I start picturing the boss, arriving in on a white horse, resplendid in a white cape, outfit (something Gandalf the White would be proud of) and staff, shouting "hi ho Silver, away" at the top of his voice and galloping out again...that didn't happen of course...