Sunday, May 17, 2009

London Visit

Part of the itinerary of Tom and Judy’s recent visit was a trip to London. I was really anxious for them to meet my extended London family and although they had previously spoken, through the medium of telephone and webcam, to my sister and my niece Maria. I knew that meeting all the family face to face would be a nice experience for them. Well that is partly true. In reality, I guess I just wanted to show off this branch of the family of whom I am extremely proud.

The start of our London trip - click to play

I have other family members living outside London that I would have loved for them to meet also and spend time with but, unfortunately, as the duration of our visit was only five days, time wasn’t on our side and it was impossible to get to see everyone. Next time we visit the UK, I hope we will have more time on our hands and that it will be possible to get to see everyone. I have to warn Tom and Judy, there is long a list of my family members lining up who have yet to meet them and who cannot be disappointed, so they had better be prepared for many more trips to Ireland and the UK before they finally get to meet everyone.

Our London trip began on 12 March with a flight on Ryanair from Shannon airport where we were deposited by my good friend Pat Whelan to catch our flight for London Gatwick which was due to depart at 1.05pm and arrive at 2.30pm. We arrived on time and were met by my sister Peggy and my niece Maria.

We had chosen some sights around London that we wanted Tom and Judy to see. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, of course, is always high on the list for any visitor to London and, with my sister and niece as our very efficient guides, we set out for there on the day after our arrival. It was a spectacular event and a great opportunity to get some nice videos and pictures. Unfortunately, the day was marred by a very unfortunate accident which Judy suffered when she was knocked over by a lady pushing a baby buggy who was more interested in talking to her friend than paying attention to where she was going.

Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace

Panoramic view of Queen Victoria Memorial and plaza

Part of the Changing Of The Guard cermony

Judy’s accident was an unfortunate occurrence and one that affected all of us deeply, but she carried on bravely and despite the fact that she was in considerable pain throughout the remainder of the visit, we managed to get in quite a bit of sightseeing.

No trip to London can be complete without taking a flight on the London wheel. My grandniece Louise, my niece Maria, Judy and Tom during our flight on the wheel

View of London from the top of the wheel

Maria and Louise enjoying the flight on the wheel

Judy celebrated her birthday during our London visit. Following are some pictures taken at a family gathering to celebrate the event.

Judy's birthday cards

My nieces Margareth, Helen, nephew John and niece Maria

My sister, Peggy with granddaughters Emily, Georgia and Alanna

Tracy and John

Helen and Keith

Everyone wants the last piece

Monday, April 6, 2009

Travelling to the USA

I have recently booked my next flight to the USA and have received my travel authorisation. Would-be travellers to the USA from countries that are included in the Visa Waiver Programme, which allows travellers to apply to go to the USA for a period of 90 days without a visa, should be aware of new regulations which came into force on 12 January 2009.

Beginning January 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain approval via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) prior to travelling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

I’m doing this post to advise that in the course of making my own application, I found various sites offering to facilitate application for this authorisation at a cost of some €39.00 or thereabouts. Please be advised that all information pertaining to (ESTA) is a free service which can be assessed here at the official USA Gov. Homeland Security Web Site and does not bear a cost.

I hope this information is of help to you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tom and Judy's Visit To Ireland

Although very tired and suffering from jet lag, Judy and Tom are now back home in Minneapolis and I am trying to come to terms with the emptiness and solitude of the house.

When I spoke to Judy yesterday, she asked me what my feelings were when I arrived home after leaving them at Dublin Airport on Wednesday. I had to think for a moment to find the answer, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks, that the first thing I noticed as I went about the house was the neatness and tidiness of everyplace. Don’t get me wrong, I like to keep a tidy ship and keep the house in a way that it is always presentable in case someone unexpectedly drops in, but this was different. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Tom’s computer should have been on the floor over by his chair with his red folder of papers close by. Judy’s computer and other personal stuff should have been on the table that she asked me to buy for her on the first day of their visit so that she would have someplace to leave her things beside her seat. That was a fun day, the day the three of us went out to shop for the table. She said a box would do. I couldn’t find a box, so in the end we settled for a little locker-type table with three drawers that has now become a beautiful addition to my sitting room. It has a nice table lamp on top that Judy decided was needed (and which she and Tom bought for me) to compliment the table and transform that corner of the room and give it a nice pleasant appearance. I think it looks much better than the box that she said would do.

Judy enjoying her new table

Now as I surveyed the room everything was too neat and tidy. The cushions were neatly arranged on the settee where Judy sat. It was as if no trace of them remained except a peanut M and M packet containing a few M and M’s that Judy, by some great means of personal sacrifice, had managed to leave for me.

Well now that I’m getting back to being alone again, I can reflect on the great times we had during Tom and Judy’s visit. Highlights of the visit? There were many and I couldn’t possibly pick out one instance above the rest that I could say was a real highlight of their visit. Their attendance at the 10th Anniversary Mass for my late wife, Ann, and meeting all my immediate family there and then having lunch afterwards with those of the family that could attend was certainly a very important event for me. I was so proud to have them there and so proud of my family that welcomed them with open arms to this very solemn event that marked the passing of a dearly beloved wife, mother, and grandmother.

Judy is always a hit with the young people. Here she pictured at our lunch after the anniversary mass enjoying the company of my granddaughter Deirdre (on right) and Deirdre's Friend Lisa.

Judy fulfilling a promise to our dear friend Maryzona that she would drink a glass of Guinness for her in Ireland. I'm not sure if she got to the end of it but the thought was there Maryzona. By this expression she is wishing you the very best of health - as we all are - and a very speedy recovery. You were not forgotten in Ireland !!

A visit to Dundrum in South Tipperary to meet my 3 sisters and my brother in law, Neil, is always something to look forward to. My sister Freddie’s welcome home party is always a very entertaining event. If you qualify for one of those welcome home or departure parties, you are truly well-ensconced as a member of the family. On this visit which took place on Monday 9 we arrived early and first of all had a nice visit and lunch with my sister Kathleen and Neil before joining the rest of the family at Freddie’s to finish off the day. On this occasion too Tom and Judy met my brother, Jim, for the first time and that was nice.

Judy and Tom relaxes at my sister's house in Dundrum

That night we stayed overnight at my sisters and had a nice relaxing day next day before heading home for Nenagh to prepare for our trip to London on the Thursday.
I will tell you more about that in my next post.

Please stay tuned......

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old Family Pictures

On a recent visit to my family in Dundrum, I acquired a box of old family photographs from my sister. I immediately decided that I just couldn’t look at those photographs and return them to the box from whence they came to be forgotten about for another half a century.

I have never known my grandparents - being the youngest member of the family, they had unfortunately departed this life before I came on the scene. It’s unfortunate too that only one picture of a grandparent exists – that of my maternal grandmother. I imagine in those bygone days, picture taking was not a priority and would only be undertaken on special occasions when everyone was dressed up in their best attire. Any pictures of my ancestors that might once have existed have long since disappeared.

With this in mind, I decided I would undertake the task of scanning all the pictures to the computer, cleaning them up and putting them into an album to preserve them for future generations so that at least they will be able to look back in time to come and see most of those that went before them.

I approached this labour of love with zest and enthusiasm. After about two weeks however, I’m afraid most of this enthusiasm began to wear off and there were times when I wondered what moment of weakness compelled me to undertake this onerous task. Well. I’m glad to say I persevered to the end and now the pictures are printed off and enclosed in some nice bound albums that I have distributed amongst different members of the family.

Below is a sample of some of the pictures that I hope you will find interesting.

One of my three aunts that emigrated to the USA in the early1920's

Another one of my American aunts. This picture was in very bad shape. Most of the face was damaged but with Judy's help we managed to restore it to this stage.

An early picture of my mother and father. The little girl in the picture is their first born child who is now my eldest sister. The picture appears to have been taken on a St. Patrick's day long long ago. If you look carefully, you will see the sprigs of shamrock on my mother and sister's dress. The two ladies pictured above are my mother's sisters.

Mother and daughter - my mother and my grandmother

I definitely had more hair in this picture than I do now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Family Gathering

There now appears to be a set precedent in my family of origin, which dictates that if one of us is about to leave on a trip to some faraway place, my eldest sister, who loves to entertain, will arrange a family gathering at her home in Dundrum prior to the departure of the would be traveller.

Those gatherings also extend, of course, to the return home of the person. The most recent one took place on Wednesday night last to celebrate her own return from the Holy Land to where she had gone on a ten day pilgrimage with her local church group.

We were treated to a beautiful meal and a slide show of the brilliant pictures she captured while she was there. My sister, although very modernised, still hasn’t succumbed to the digital camera era. She prefers to take pictures and slides with her trusty film camera as she maintains this method of photography calls for more expertise than the point and shoot convenience of the digital camera.

Well we had a great time and I’m looking forward to the next gathering which I expect will take place to celebrate Judy and Tom’s arrival next March – I’m really looking forward to that one.

My journey home to Nenagh took me past the 13th Century Cistercian Abbey at Holy Cross. The Abbey, which is bathed in flood lights, afforded me an opportunity to get some nice pictures of this magnificent building.

13th Century Holy Cross Abbey

My Paternal grandparents lay at rest here in the adjoining cemetery. They were once buried within the confines of the Abbey, but some years prior to the restoration of the abbey in 1974, the remains of the people buried within its walls had to be moved to the adjoining cemetery.

The surviving relatives had to attend this ceremony to ensure the proper identification of their loved ones resting places and the subsequent re internment of their remains.

It must have been a very poignant and emotional task for all those involved. In the case of our family, this task was undertaken by my late father who spent many days on the site while the remains of his parents were exhumed and re interred.

Another view of the abbey

Friday, November 14, 2008

Endeavour Lifts Off

Riding a brilliant tower of flame into the night sky, the space shuttle Endeavour left Earth on Friday, carrying seven astronauts on a 15-day mission to the international space station.

The space shuttle Endeavour launched on time at 7:55 p.m. ET on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in eastern Florida, mission managers announced.

"Preparing our home in space for a larger international family," launch commentator Candrea Thomas said during liftoff.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Basilica of St. Mary

Some time ago, I received an email from the Editor of a Minneapolis travel guide called Schmap. I was pleasantly surprised and a little pleased to learn that they had discovered one of my pictures of the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis in pictures I had posted to Flicker. The purpose of the email was to inform me that my picture had been short listed for inclusion in the guide and to ask my permission to use the picture if they decided to publish it.

I was happy to give my permission, and I have just received another email to inform me that the picture has made the final selection and has been published in the current edition of the guide.

Perhaps it is no big deal because the guide apparantly publishes a lot of pictures from other sources as well. In fact, I think there may be about six pictures in there of the Basilica of St. Mary from other photographers. Still, even if I have to be numbered amongst others, it’s nice to get the recognition.

Please click
here to follow the link to the pictures. When you enter the site you will see the Basilica of St. Mary at the top of a series pictures which are listed under Churches and Temples. Select the picture of the Basilica and cycle through the screen on the right using the right and left arrows until you find the picture credited to joemw39. That is mine.

Also If you use an iPhone or iPod touch, then
this link will take you directly to the photo in the iPhone version of the guide. On a desktop computer, you can still see exactly how the photo is displayed and credited in the iPhone version of the guide.

This is the picture of the Basilica of St. Mary that has been featured in Schmap. I think it's not a bad picture considering I just pointed the camera and snapped it from the passenger seat of Judy's car as we drove by at nightfall.