Frank McMullan's blog

My post-retirement blog adventures

Archive for July 2010

Travels in Ireland

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Invasión peruana

My Peruvian friend, Michael, came to stay with me in Ireland after my travels with him in Holland. Our journeying around Ireland did not amount to as much as I had originally anticipated, as Michael had other things to do, but we nonetheless managed to visit 9 of Ireland’s 32 counties: Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, Laois, Tipperary, Limerick, Clare, Kilkenny and Carlow.

[Michael loves statistics like these. He is an intrepid traveller and keeps tabs on the number of states in the US he has visited. He wants to visit all of them before he leaves the US and is already well over half way there. He keeps similar tallies on the continents and countries he has visited. He would fly anywhere for a weekend; but getting him into a car for anything more than a couple of hours is beyond his endurance!]

Here are some of the highlights on Michael’s Irish tourist trail:

Written by Frank McMullan

26 July 2010 at 20:49

Posted in Travel

EI staff magazine article: Silver Stars

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My work magazine, Interact, asked me to submit an article on my involvement in Silver Stars for its summer/autumn issue. Here is what I’ve submitted:

Silver Stars shine on the international stage

New York rehearsal: Neil Watkins, Frank McMullan, Erich Keller and Paraic Cullen

In 2008, almost by chance, I got involved in a musical project as part of the Bealtaine Festival which celebrates creativity in older age.  Commissioned by Bealtaine, Silver Stars is a song cycle by singer/songwriter Seán Millar in collaboration with Brokentalkers modern theatre producers, Gary Keegan and Feidlim Cannon.  It tells the stories of older Irish and Irish-American gay men’s lives.  The song I sing, “I Love You More than God”, is the hit of the show.

In 2009, Silver Stars was invited to stage in the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival.  From this the show was invited to New York in January last as part of the Under the Radar Theater Festival at the Public Theater, off Broadway.

I was on holiday in Peru over last Christmas and New Year and – instead of coming directly back to Ireland – I diverted through New York instead.  My jet-setting was almost of EI overseas office proportions!  As my annual leave was already used up, HR very kindly granted me an unpaid leave of absence for my once-in-a-lifetime Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Frank McMullan

25 July 2010 at 17:14

Posted in Silver Stars

Travels in Netherlands

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On Wednesday, I took the train from Gent to Groningen. What a wonderful part of the world this is! I met up with my Peruvian friend, Michael, and we were hosted by Michiel, a Dutch friend, who also took great trouble to show us this part of the country. Groningen itself has a lovely old city centre. Seeing many traditional windmills, the countryside now has many many more modern windmills littering the landscape. The seaside town of Harlingen in Friesland must be one of the most beautiful places in Holland.

World Cup fever has taken over the country!! Many were disappointed that Germany were not their opponents for tonight’s final. Some streets are decorated from top to bottom in orange.

2 of the many interesting people we met were an Iranian man of 20, who was granted refugee status in Holland because of his sexual orientation, and one of Holland’s longest AIDS survivors. Having been infected in the early 80s and gone on to develop the syndrome in the early 90s, he still enjoys a good life and has a magnificent garden which he planned from scratch and tends himself. Sadly, Iran still has the death penalty for homosexuals.

On Friday, we travelled by train down to Eindhoven, a more industrial city. We are being hosted here by Bert, another very kind Dutch friend.

Written by Frank McMullan

11 July 2010 at 14:35

Posted in Travel

Daithi Rua: an overnight success after 20 years!

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Daithi Rua

Daithi Rua was a surprise highlight of my recent visit to Gent, Belgium, to visit one of my brothers. Daithi [aka David Donegan] hails from Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, and spends most of his time in this part of the world. In the Irish ballad singer tradition, he writes most of his own material, has a powerful voice and plays no mean guitar, but above all, he is a consumate live performer.

One of the most moving of his songs was his dark tribute to Michael O’Brien, former Mayor of Clonmel, a victim of clerical child sex abuse – though this is not one of the songs on his new CD, ‘Black Fox’, being released on Dolphin Discs and also available for download. I understand there is a distinct possibility of this song’s being recorded by Christy Moore.

It is good to realise that Irish balladeering is still alive and well and living in Belgium, of all places. Go n-éirí an bóthar leis [Literally: May the road rise with him; idiomatically: may he journey safely].

Written by Frank McMullan

10 July 2010 at 08:44

Posted in Music, Travel

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Ryanair: the lowdown low fares airline

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“I do not like thee, Dr Fell…”
Tom Brown (1663-1704), from Marcus Valerius Martial (c40-104)

I was in Dublin airport earlier this week. There were 2 Ryanair staff whose job it was to police passengers whose carry-on baggage mightn’t quite fit in the device for measuring it – even though there would likely be little problem in getting it into the overhead racks on the plane. Many people were ‘caught’. Interestingly, I saw no one attempt to reverse the decision by taking something out of their cases and wearing it – though I’m certain that would have ‘solved’ the problem in many instances. They just took the ‘hit’ and the public humiliation of it and made the best of it. Many others had the indignity of awkwardly pulling their barely-fitting bags out of the measuring devices. I would absolutely hate success in my job to be measured by the numbers of people I caught a couple of cms over the limit.

One guy had a small rucksack as well as his carry-on bag. He wore 2 jackets over the rucksack on his back: his manoeuvre wasn’t spotted by the Ryanair ‘prison’ wardens on duty! Maybe they should be fired!! 😉

Why do I feel this is an awful way to do business? I wonder if a boycott of some description would bring Ryanair to its senses? Or, simply, an action of consumer protest by opening carry-on bags – especially as Ryanair provides customers with no way of testing their bags beforehand – and wearing some of the contents from bags that might thus be made to meet the ‘prison’ rules. The ensuing boarding delays would likely require some action by the airline – though, of course, the rule-ridden way Ryanair operates could easily decide to forbid such second chances. It would, though, further show the company up for what it is.

There’s something sinister about an airline that prides itself on having far less staff than other airlines now having so many on duty at departure gates.  Ryainair’s business model of increased last minute charges etc works perfectly to support this rip-off.

Written by Frank McMullan

9 July 2010 at 17:23

Posted in Travel

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