Guest feature for Women's Thoughts (on-line magazine. 2011)
With a lot of tweeting and twittering as they send messages across the trees, birds get busy gathering twigs and leaves and fly off to a secret place. It is nest building time girls.
Deep in sheltered hedgerows and high in trees where the birds can keep a look out for marauders, birds build their nest, lay their eggs and look after their chicks. As the sun rises in the sky, they have to learn to fly. It is time to go out and be big birds and fend for themselves. Sometimes, a timid one has to be pushed out and forced to fly, but fly they do. They can’t stay in the nest forever.
All at once the nest is empty. Mother and father bird wonder what to do. They feel a little lost. For so long they have put their chicks first and only flown where they could take them as well. Then with a lot of tweeting and twittering, they realise that now, they can do whatever they want to. They could follow their little birds but they now have their own families. Still it is nice to go and visit and see their chicks on the annual get together before they migrate on the winter holiday to the sun.
No I haven’t lost my marbles! Just an example of what it if feels like when the children leave home. That is, if you have no other interests of your own, either as a single parent or a couple. This is your time girls (and boys). Time to do all those things that have been lurking in the background for years and bubbling on the back burner. Best of all, don’t wait until they leave home. Ease back gently and start to explore those pockets of creativity and development inside yourself which are waiting to escape.
When my children were growing up, I found like all of you, that time was scarce as the demands of home and family increased - yes, in the teens, demands changed but in fact expanded. You may find that you are, in fact, what is known as ‘the filling in the sandwich’. That is where you are at a time of your life where you should be enjoying yourself but you have caring responsibilities on both sides. Growing children/teens and parents who need some extra help, so it isn’t easy.That is another subject but in reality, that situation makes it even more important that you ‘do something for you’.
Before we were born, all our attributes where set into the pattern of our character. All our potential skills and qualities were there in that cluster of unique cells which make us what we are or could be. Time then to explor, to let your children fly the nest, to let them grow and develop in their own space as they forge their way through life and raise their own families. Meantime, if you take the plunge and go to that pottery class, learn some new skills, learn to ride, settle into more reading, join a group or committee, you will find some of that lost confidence and remember that you are a person and have a right to a life.
Yes families are important, but so are you. You may not have had the opportunities when you were younger which are available to youngsters today. When to opportunities arise, grasp them with both hands. Release your potential and develop your whole person - those facets of you which, until now, may have lain dormant. I returned to work after a good number of years as a full-time mum. I was brought up that that was how it was. Have a job in an office, get married, raise a family etc. Then one day, after some years of struggle, I said that I wanted to go back and get the GCE’s which I didn’t get in school and my husband said “Why not get a little part-time job. One you can come home and forget about. let’s have some jam on the sandwich.” Well, I did that. A little part-time job in the local newsagents, then I got into direct selling, working a double glazing stand in stores and exhibitions. I don’t know what made me answer the advert. But, you know what? I found myself. I found that ‘this was me’. Eventually I moved into retail sales management where I soaked up all the product knowledge I needed to be successful. I was top sales. I was achieving. Other parts of me were becoming fulfilled. My growing family were at home. I had a lot of demands on my time.
I was given the opportunity to study for some management and assessor qualifications. Doors of my mind opened. I found I was achieving things I never thought possible. My confidence increased as I became my own person. Not just ‘Mum’ with all the perceptions around that. Work patterns and roles changed and I moved on and up. Fortunately I had a supportive husband and, working as a team with both respecting the other, we forged on. I changed careers and worked in Adult Learning - taking my skills and expertise out into the workplace to train employees in the skills they needed in their job roles. This was a rewarding role.
You see, in being fulfilled and respected for what we are and what we do, we are then able to allow our families to grow and develop - and support them in whatever way they need. We are happier, confident, more satisfied and more fulfilled. Life is a learning store which we dip in and out of along the way.
There were still some unfulfilled dreams. Travel was not common when I was growing up but I had long-held dreams of travel to see how people lived in other countries. I remember having a pack of playing cards with pictures of cities on the back. I still haven’t visited Istanbul but over the last 20 years we were able to fly to destinations in the usual fashion. My husband was not keen on touring until one day he said: “I want a little bike, something I can tinker with. I have nothing to fiddle with”. That was his outlet you see and hadn’t had motorbikes for many years. “ If you have a bike, will you travel across the countries we have flown over?”
So a deal was done. We got, not a little bike, but a huge 1500 Gold Wing touring bike. (I had only ridden pillion for a short while after we married (I was forbidden to before then!) and rode a Honda 70cc until I got fed up of trying to start it up. But travel was on the horizon. No Sat Nav then. No Google earth. I had a whale of a time sticking pins into maps. We joined the Gold Wing Owner’s Club of Great Britain. Our lives changed forever. Friends complained that we were never in. Well, no! We were off enjoying ourselves on our beautiful machine. One unexpected benefit was that the perception of me, held by colleagues and managers, changed – it had changed somewhat when, with all the studying, they realised that my advancing years did not mean that the grey matter was dying – now they looked at me in a new light. I was not ‘Miss Prim and Proper’ which was the image I somehow portrayed in my business clothes. I was a ‘biker’s chick’ as a colleague called me laughingly!
I was living life to the full as we pushed back the boundaries of our endurance and explored new horizons. As we pursued our own interests, our family were free to live their own lives without hindrance. Help was there of course - you don’t stop being a Mum. But this was our time, my time. I had a life. I was releasing and realising my potential as I developed my ‘whole person’. And of course, children are only with you for a short time. Your husband or partner was with you before them and hopefully will be with you after they have flown the nest. Cherish that time. It is your time. You are entitled to a life. I once said to someone who complained that I was always off on holiday:
‘We will do what we can while we can, and then we are not saying,” if only”.’
On reflection, in the light of developments over the last few years, you know what? I [we] are so glad that we did!
©Rosalie Marsh August 2011
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“That’s our itinerary for tomorrow and here is where we are go/ing on Friday".
Thus I greeted my husband as he came in from a ‘boys’ afternoon of jawing over old times and bikes. An unexpected day out along the coast of North Wales and beyond beckoned. The response to an appeal for gifts for a raffle in aid of Wales Air Ambulance was overwhelming. (Wales Air Ambulance is the nominated charity of North Wales Wings –a region of the Gold Wing Owner’s Club of Great Britain and our Wing Ding in Bangor was our big fund-raising opportunity) Wales Air Ambulance seemed to be a magic word in this part of the world.
A cold but bright sunny day dawned and our first two ports of call were in Colwyn Bay.
Our final destination was the far north of the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Môn) and the real jewel of the day – a Vineyard. “A vineyard on Anglesey?” you ask. Yes. I was astounded as well when I found it. As we drove along near St. Asaph/Prestatyn, the A55 rose up to cut through Rhuallt Hill and reaching the top we had a breathtaking vista as the Vale of Clwyd spread out below us with the mountains in the distance. This is one of my favourite views and never ceases to make me catch my breath. It is so beautiful and timeless. (The best memory we have is of three Gold Wings in front of us swooping along as we headed for the Bike Safe course in 2001. What a missed photo opportunity!)
Travelling along the coast near Abergele the sun cast a shadow on the battlements of the once great Gwrych Castle nestling in the hillside facing the sea. Colwyn Bay was dappled in sunshine. After making our calls, we continued on the ‘old’ road to visit a friend in his workshop. My husband disappeared to get his ‘fix’ of engines, tools, oil and grease while I talked computers.
Onwards we went to stops in Llandudno and then the old University and Cathedral City of Bangor. Driving along we could see the Isle of Anglesey and little Puffin Island at the southwestern end jutting out into the sea. Taking the first turning off the A55 towards Bangor we passed the gates of Penrhyn Castle. If you have never been there you don’t know what you are missing. There is a Railway Museum in the grounds, which look over the Menai Straits, and inside a great marble hall and staircase. They knew how to build on those days. Now, in Bangor, we had ports of call at either end of the High Street. I have never, ever seen such a long High Street. It seemed to go on forever and a day. It is years since we went there – I think when we were staying in a Pine Lodge near Conwy and we took the children to see The Slipper and the Rose! Thirty years? Ouch! Anyway, the now pedestrianised High Street has every type of shop and winds along past the ancient cathedral. With gifts collected it was by now four o’clock and we had no time to lose. Re-joining the A55 at the junction where the Retail Park is, we were soon onto the Britannia Bridge and across the Menai Straits onto Anglesey. I much prefer the old Menai Suspension Bridge as it is a beautiful experience to ride over it as you enter through the arches and you can see through the sides and all the boat bobbing in the Straits down below. There is also a little island in the middle of the Straits called Church Island, on which stands the very tiny St Tysilio’s Church. You can see this as you pass over. To get onto this bridge you would need to come off at the last junction before the bridge which is signposted for ‘Parc Menai’ and follow signs to head towards Bangor centre. When the Britannia Bridge (which also carries the railway from London to Holyhead) was re-built after a fire, they built. This cut the journey by road to the Ferry Station in Holyhead by about half an hour and took a lot of traffic out of Bangor City. Crossing the bridge, we remembered that there was Plas Newydd (the home of the Marquis of Anglesey) just off there, overlooking the straits, and the James Pringle Weavers shopping experience which is at the Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Railway Station. To the right a canopy of leafy trees covers the road to Beaumaris and the Blue Flag Red Wharf Bay.
The ruins of Beaumaris Castle - another defence against marauders in times gone by, which Edward 1 built and which today draws visitors to its enchanting location by the sea - lies across the green by the sea and pier where children and fathers can fish for crabs or take a boat ride to Puffin Island. Don’t forget to visit the Butterfly Palace. Zooming along we recalled how we had spent a holiday at Rhosneigr on the west, when the children were small and how lovely is the beach there. (The helicopter pilots from RAF Valley used to fly low and look at the candy on the beach whilst out on training exercises!) The land here is a bit flat to the west and unremarkable but reaching Valley we could see South Stack Lighthouse jutting out from the tip of Holy Island. Here the road joins Anglesey to Holy Island as there are in fact two islands. Holyhead is where the A55 ends and where the railway and ferry stations are.
Holyhead has mixed memories for me as I did two Outward Bound courses here as part of management training many years ago. (You know, abseiling down Holyhead Mountain, going out in a little boat in the Irish Sea etc.etc. Believe me, a sea level traverse – or rock climbing sideways with the ground above and the sea below – is no joke, especially when you have to totally rely on a total stranger as you step off the edge of the rock to fling yourself along a rope over the sea to the other side of the inlet. Then, being a glutton for punishment, I opted to do another course which involved yet another Outward Bound ‘experience’.) Today, however, no such terrors waited as we took the road at Valley to the north of the island. I did wonder fleetingly if we would see HRH who is on a tour of duty here as he learns to fly yet another aeroplane. We couldn’t see him coming out of any of the shops in the village so he must have bought his supplies already.
The road from Valley to Cemaes Bay, our destination, was about another twenty miles and seemed to go on forever. The landscape here is hillier with lots of gorse. Passing a roundabout at Cemaes Bay we turned to Llanbadrig and eventually found the Gwinllan Padrig Vineyard. It was very remote and the lane sheltered by high hedges. It is a wonderful peaceful setting. Tom, the owner hails from Manchester and had generously promised three bottles. When I exclaimed again in wonder: “I didn’t know there was a vineyard on Anglesey”, Tom replied that there were two! (Tom explained that he had moved the shop and cafe into the winery next door as he thought it would be nice to sit among the casks. He also has a camp site for the summer.) At this point I began to wonder if I was in a Spanish Bodega after all and not the UK. It will be lovely in summer. Armed with a bottle of red, he then came out with a bottle of Raspberry Vodka while he waited for the seal to be done on the bottle of white. What a wonderful find and the jewel of the day.( Later we found Ty Croes Vineyard at Dwyran Llanfair PG on the Menai Straits and were enchanted to meet Harry who generously gave us some Ty Croes wine. They too have a wine shop and camp site.)
By now it was getting late, we were ready for a cup of tea, and we had a two-hour journey back home to North East Wales. Driving back along the coast road, in the setting sun we could see the sharp outline of the inlets of Cemaes Bay below us and, turning now, there was the most fantastic view of the long line of ‘humps’ strung along on the horizon. These ‘humps’ are the mountains of the Snowdonia Mountain Range. They were covered in a thick layer of what looked like the smoothest Royal Icing but was in fact snow. You know how cupcakes have icing dripping down the sides. Well that is what the mountains looked like. In the gathering dusk and mist they looked as if they were rising from the sea and forming a wall to protect the jewels of North Wales against invaders. I always love the sight of these humps on approaching the Menai Straits from Anglesey but I had never seen them from such a distance. So dramatic and awesome! Nearing Valley, Allen pointed out the two fighter jets coming to land in perfect formation to the RAF base. Perhaps HRH Prince William was going home for tea. Or again, perhaps not! Joining the A55 again, we were soon passing near to the Anglesey Showground where there is a large Agricultural Show each year and the main town of Llangefni. Nearby is Bodewran Bach Camping and Caravan site where campers can sit outside the little pub (a converted piggery) for a relaxing jar of the wet stuff while drinking in the peace of the area. Reaching the Menai crossing again, we had one more mission – or at least I did, my husband just wanted a cuppa. At the Parc Menai Business Park there is a Premier Inn and Pub I nipped in to Reception to see what information leaflets I could collect. With glee, I returned to the Pub next door and showed my long-suffering husband the maps and, best of all, a leaflet about the Snowdonia Mountain Railway.
When we were in Andorra in 2000 we went on a rack railway in the Nuria Valley in Spain and thought it so unique. Why didn’t I know that we had one on our doorstep? (Yes dear, I expect that you did!) I suppose you don’t always see what is close to home and a visit to the summit of Snowdon is certainly on our agenda of ‘must-do’s’. The impressions of the day went deep and we realise again, how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful country. Anyone for Raspberry Vodka?
©Rosalie Marsh 2010
Tags: blog - rosalie's Chatter,sharing tales of travel and life's journey
Re-visiting an article I wrote some years ago.
I may be a little controversial here but I do feel strongly about this topic. The debate on e-books continues and falls mainly into two camps.
I want to look at some of the pros and cons of each.
Now, don't get me wrong, I like a book in my hand as much as anyone; the suspense as you hurry through the pages, turn the page, and stay gripped while you chew on a sweet, take a slurp - sorry, sip - of wine, bite your nails etc., is not to be underestimated. The joy of running your finger along the spines of a row of books on the bookshelf, pausing to select one, pull it out, and browse, cannot be described fully.
But wait! You want to read your current book on the train or plane. The book you are in the middle of is quite bulky, you struggle to fit in in your bag or case, horror of horrors, your case is overweight and you have to leave it behind. Even if you do manage to fit the book in to your bag or case, while you sit in your confined space on the aeroplane there is little room to spread out while you turn the pages. The passenger in the next seat turns the page of his/her newspaper and knocks your drink over - all down the page you are reading. Disaster!
Enter the e-reader.
A quick and convenient way to carry a book for other situations than being curled up in bed or a chair. And, do you know? You can load a massive number of books onto that little oblong item. It could even fit into your pocket. Increasingly, at airports men pop their Kindle into their jacket pocket in-between airport checks or pop them into their hand luggage. Ladies can easily slip them into their briefcase or bags. (We ladies don't seem to have the wealth of pockets that men do somehow.)
Some people find them much easier to use when reading in bed. There is no problem turning pages and holding them down. A quick flick of a button or touch on the screen and, job done. There is no glare on a Kindle when reading outside in sunshine as there is with a Net book or laptop.
Another aspect of e-readers is the versatility.
It is surprising how many people say to me at book events " Oh, I don't read books." They probably read newspapers and magazines and search the web to read information, but books? Shock horror! I do wonder if they have a reading difficulty which was not addressed in school or even worse, were they made fun of in class because they were not as fast as others? That is a huge barrier to reading. One which an e-reader can help them to overcome.
A stack of pages between two thick paper covers can be daunting – a lot to digest. A bit like a huge plate of food that you are expected to eat when really, you would prefer to help yourself to a little at a time. It is the same with an e-book downloaded onto an e-reader like Kindle, iPad, Kobo, even an app (Kindle,Kobo,iTunes etc.) onto your PC. All you see and have to digest mentally is one page at a time. All you actually see while you are reading is one page at a time. It is non-threatening. You feel that you could perhaps tackle that story which everyone is talking about. It makes no difference whether there are two pages, twenty-two or a thousand. All you are being asked to digest mentally and psychologically is one page.
Actually, you have been clever. You do not have an e-reader but you do have a smart phone. You are quite savvy with all these technological innovations and find that downloading from the Internet is child's play. So here you are with a 'book' tucked away on your phone. No-one can laugh at you now; you could be reading anything. It is private and you can soon switch off if someone comes.
Soon, you are absorbed in the story. You are sitting on a park bench; you may be strap-hanging on the tube; you are reading.
And that is the important thing. Reading;finding information;getting lost in a story which transports you away from daily cares.
Another scenario is that you might have sight difficulties and find that the small print in most books is hard to see. Even with spectacles. Your eyes are tired after a long day at work. You possibly need a large print. You do not go into the library to ask for a large-print book. "Good heavens no." I can hear you say. "That is embarrassing." It is also another barrier. So you do not bother. What a shame. You are missing out on so much. There is a hazy screen between you and that huge world of information out there. It is like being on the edge of a forest and you are frightened to venture in.
An e-reader has a useful function of making the size of letters larger. The letter size is called the font size. (The font is the style of the letter.) You can also change the background from white with black letters to black with white letters or sepia - a fawn colour - with black letters. You can make the reading experience your own as you adjust everything to suit.
"But with a printed book, I can put a bookmark in it to tell me where I am up to." Well, you know what? You can do this with some e-readers. And you can make notes as you bookmark pages. Excellent for research and reference.
I for one do not believe that digital e-books will ever replace the printed word. E-books allow another type of reading experience and do, I am convinced, reach out to a new audience. That is why I have published all my books in all formats ( Print, Kindle,*PDFand e-pub ) for a wider readership.
It is the reading that is important. I cannot imagine what it would be like not to be able to read and interact with people as I absorb information and news. Or go off into my dream world as I escape daily cares and relax.
Reports say that those who read e-books actually read more than they did before. That is interesting. It appears that they are enjoying the experience.Some people may want a physical copy of the one they have read digitally. Who knows one day, they may feel confident to venture across the threshold of an actual bookshop, browse the shelves, and buy a book. A 'proper book'! And while they are there, they may, if they are lucky, be able to download another e-book or two onto their e-reader.
You see, they want some books in print and some stored on their reader. For different situations. But they want books. They want to read. Let's celebrate that!
©Rosalie Marsh 2012. This article was first published in Rosalie’s Chatter – Blog. July 2012. It was subsequently used as a guest article for another on line publication.
Guest Feature posted in Women's Thoughts on-line magazine August 30th 2012
It is daunting to go out into the world of work after many years at home—perhaps as a full-time Mum or as a Carer. You may have left school and started a family quite early, and never had the opportunity to realise your dreams. Yes, we all have dreams but sometimes, actually most times, reality steps in and we have to start where we can. But, hold on to your dreams! How do you go about getting that job? It can be a jungle out there!
There are two main aspects to employment.
Preparing for work. Curriculum Vitae.
How you apply for a job and have a successful interview.
Basic things you need to know about working effectively in the workplace.
Basic Information and Communication (ICT) skills in the workplace.
Legislation you need to be aware of.
Moving into Employment
The standards of behaviour and requirements of employers:
Introduction to health and safety in the workplace.
Employment Rights and Responsibilities (ERR).
Important aspects of managing your money
The business environment.
Good working relationships.
The importance of good customer service.
You also need to look ahead to where you want to be. This means taking ownership of your learning and development. To do this you need to take a look at what your strengths are, what opportunities there are for development. This might simply be a refresher course in something you started when you left school. It may be some basic Information & Communication Technology (ICT) training. There are lots of on-line courses available now and employers expect you to have a basic level of IT literacy even if the job you are applying for does not require you to use them all—at that time. Employers are usually looking at how you as a prospective employee can be of benefit to their company, and help it to grow.
So attitude is all-important. It may be that your prospective employer is not worried that you have not had any training for a while. They might prefer to mould you into the ethos of the company and offer and expect you to go on training courses. If they do, then grab this opportunity with both hands.
It is important that you have an up-to-date Curriculum Vitae or CV with a short sharp statement about you at the top.
When you left school, you may have had a red Record of Achievement folder with all your certificates in it. This is important but is it also important to show what you have done in the meantime. You need to bring all your learning and experiences together in one place on what we call a Continuing Personal /Professional Development Record(CPD). This in itself will impress!
So go out there, get that job, and remember:
A Winner is responsible for more than his/her job.
A Loser says ‘I only work here.’ (Anonymous)
Skills for Employability Part One: Pre-Employment ISBN 978-1-908302-16-8
Skills for Employability Part Two: Moving into Employment 978-1-908302-20-5
Available worldwide online http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosalie-Marsh/e/B004AQM4X6/
or from your local bookseller e.g. Waterstones http://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/rosaliemarsh
Tags: blog - rosalie's Chatter, sharing tales of travel and life's journey
The cotton wool clouds cleared as we flew towards Malaga revealing the hard ridges of the Sierras below. The motorway, snaking clearly from west to east like a ribbon, wove its way through the mountains; from it the road south to Malaga and the coast branched off. Looking westwards, we could see a river flowing down into a lake as it nestled among the mountains. Feeling nostalgic we thought of when we rode over all this on our Gold Wing in 2001 as we journeyed north from Ronda through the lakes. How adventurous we had been!
This time we were on an all-inclusive hotel holiday at the Marinas de Nerja on the outskirts of Nerja in the far south of Andalucía. We were bowled over on entering reception at the view through the plate glass windows of the pool and gardens below with the sea beyond lapping the shore. Our room in this Aparthotel came with a side sea view as standard at no extra cost. However , pulling back the curtains I found that we had a full sea view and I caught my breath as I saw the lawned sunbathing area leading straight onto the beach and sea just a few yards away.
‘Wow’, I breathed ‘just look at that and you can hear the sea’. It was paradise and set the scene for the whole four weeks. As we relaxed later on the sun beds, with palm trees waving and the sound of waves calming our spirits, we felt as though we were on a tropical island but with all mod cons behind us to pander to our earthly needs! This was a Saga holiday where the welcome meeting was informative with no attempt at the ‘hard sell’ on optional excursions. We were staying from the middle of November until the middle of December in an effort to build up our reserves before the winter in the UK. Sunlight flooded into the exclusive ‘Saga Lounge’ overlooking the pool and sea; along with the usual Saga library, there was internet and multimedia access.
The hourly shuttle bus from the hotel into Nerja was well timed although it was a nice, easy, flat stroll along the road or the beach. In Nerja, as we strolled through the enchanting narrow streets with their whitewashed walls hung with lamps, and flowers tumbling over curved balconies, memories came flooding back. As this part of the coast is rocky there are a series of short promenades until the rock juts out stopping further progress. In the centre of Nerja is the famous Balçon de Europe which juts out over the sea providing fantastic views of the coastline. One side is lined with hotels and, coming into the street, there is the ancient parish church (Iglesia Carmen) dominating the square along with the elegant Ayuntamiento or Town Hall. The shady Carabeo – a long street from the centre – winds along past shops and restaurants towards the old more residential part of town. Here and there are breaks in the buildings where we leaned over balconies to gaze down at the turquoise sea below. If you feel more energetic take the steps down to a small cove and beach or Playa. Shops are elegant and plentiful with many pavement cafes to sit and enjoy a cool drink while resting your feet. On the other side of town is the Plaza Ermita with its 14c chapel. Here, we took a moment to absorb the peace and beauty of the shaded interior while groups of men sat outside in the shade of the trees. Along here are supermarkets, taxi ranks, smaller hotels and the usual variety of shops that you find in any town. The streets in this older part of town are narrow with well-kept houses – most of them white-washed.
If you want to explore a little more of this ancient country and absorb history and traditions of Andalucía, there is much to see.
Granada and the Alhambra Palace were a ‘must do’ for us so we added these to our well spaced out included trips. There was ample free time in Granada after a short tour of the historic part to meander through the Bazaar, before going on to the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens. Here a dedicated guide wove the history of Andalucía into our experience as he gently guided us around. A few kilometers from Nerja is the small white-washed mountain village of Còmpeta hanging off the mountainside above the coast. From the Balçon de Còmpeta enjoy the wide vista of the countryside right down to the sea below. We visited a bodega, sampling local wine and cake before strolling around the steep narrow streets as church bells rang out their Sunday message.
Antequera lies high in the mountains north of Malaga. It is the old capital of Andalucía with orange tree-lined streets and many ancient buildings. On our trip here we had a chance to see more of the country we had ridden through all those years earlier. The journey took us through the Torcal de Antequera which is a most amazing landscape of figures and forms moulded over time from the erosion of rock. We also eagerly awaited the lush, green, Lecrin Valley which runs from Granada to Motril and Salobreña on the coast. Nearby is Almuñecar with its long flat promenade, beach, market and shops and restaurants which are dominated by a ruined castle high above the town. The journey to Las Alpujarras took us high into the Sierras to Pampaneira with its water channels running down the centre of the street then even higher to Trevélez where hams are cured in the pure mountain air of the Sierra Nevada. On the way down you may be lucky enough to stop at the chocolate shop in Pitres to sample the hand-made chocolates.
The hotel’s entertainer offered trips to the markets and to the caves in Nerja which three boys found in the 1950’s when they were looking for bats, but we had seen these many years ago so opted to see something else. An extra ‘optional’ was a trip to see the Christmas lights in Malaga – an opportunity not to be missed. After a short guided walk we had free time to explore at will before boarding the coach for a drive through the main part of the city to see the lights and Nativity scenes with life-sized camels and Kings with cloaks made from Bougainvillea.
Down on the coast, Marbella and Puerto Banus are a complete contrast and one can only marvel at the sheer scale of the many gleaming white yachts moored there. Strolling along the narrow winding streets of Marbella, turn a corner into the huge Plaza de los Naranjas (Orange Square) where a profusion of orange trees give welcome shade from the hot Spanish sun. I always find it hard to absorb that there are ripe oranges in December not very far from home. From a look-out point in Puerto Banus, on a clear day you can see the outline of Gibraltar.
The full day trip to Gibraltar was well planned with an easy passage through customs. Yes! Passports are essential as you are crossing from Spain onto British soil. After walking through the checkpoint, another driver greeted us as we piled into a mini bus for a tour of the Rock with a visit to the caves. The apes were much smaller than I had imagined and quite sweet in their own way as they played games with the driver; clambering over the minibus when he stopped. From the southernmost point of the rock we were able to see the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the Mediterranean Sea on the other and the hazy outline of the Atlas Mountains of Africa ahead.
With all that was on offer, there was no fear of being bored and always welcomed our return to the family run Marinas de Nerja to relax on the terrace before dinner and entertainment.
©Rosalie Marsh 2010
Tags: blog - rosalie's Chatter, sharing tales of travel and life's journey
Submission to ,Writing in Education, ISSN 1361-8539. NAWE
Some time ago, I contributed to a debate - Writing in the Digital Age - on how embracing the digital age and reaching a wide readership has involved mastering lots of new tools and techniques.This article was originally published as part of the Writing in the Digital Age debate -Writing in Education ISSN 1361-8539. NAWE
"Technology and the use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in learning have come a long way since my research in 1999. Twelve years on and I am writing and publishing books and yes, I am negotiating the exciting avenues of resources available in this digital age in which we live, while many are nervous of even Twitter or Facebook.
So, where do I stand? How have I embraced the use of these exciting platforms to reach a wide readership? Writing is hard. Making your voice heard is harder still, requiring an enthusiasm to explore any avenue open to you.
Progressing from handwritten manuals in 1981 to typing on a simple Casio Writer in 1993 while working in a sales environment, I became the proud and excited owner of a computer in 1996. The world was now my oyster with the tools available to me. Moving into adult learning in the workplace, I wrote or collaborated on producing learning and marketing materials as the Internet and technological solutions became more commonplace.
In 2007 therefore, as I pulled together my first book, I embarked on a steep learning curve and formed a multi-pronged approach to overcoming the hurdles before me as I embraced the digital age.
I needed a Web site A Web site? Wow! Well I had used many software applications such as PowerPoint, video-editing and photo-editing software. Researching the Internet I found a hosting company in the US, which suited my needs. It was designed for those with little, if any, knowledge. The doors of my mind opened further as mastered this. A Guestbook is invaluable for feedback from readers of your work.
BookBuzzr widget On my Website and now Blog, (how I hate that word), I use interactive book covers and samples with the Book Buzzr widget. I schedule messages with a short extract of my book - a few words only.
Podcasts and short videos uploaded to Web and You Tube market my work.
Social Media used sensibly as an online marketing tool and according to the intentions of each – for each has a different focus – is a valuable tool in building an author platform.
Twitter is invaluable for making professional contacts and keeping up-to-speed with current affairs. I can:
· Engage with like-minded people.
· Read the links they post.
· See my posts re-tweeted which widens the circle.
Facebook, apart from ‘being for friends’ provides a more visual impact by uploading photos, videos and web links. Your friends can share with their friends, widening your platform.
LinkedInallows contact with ex-colleagues, school friends, and like-minded people.
Tweet Deck allows posting from Twitter, Liked-in, Facebook, and Google Buzz to name a few. One spawns the other. Using the hash tag allows topics you mention to be read by others with a similar following. My Book Buzzr messages are tweeted on a regular basis.
GoogleBooks provides free samples and links to retailer sites.
On going down the self-publishing route, I was required to submit a finished perfect manuscript and prepare the elements for the book cover (unless I wanted to pay extra). I set everything up for both print and e-book formats.
Later, I realised that I could do all this myself! I had the skills and expertise to format manuscripts, create a professional book cover, and market my work with great success.
Print on Demand. Setting up my own company, I used a US/UK based Print on Demand organisation that had worldwide distribution partnerships, which fed to global retailers. I was in control and published my second biographical travel book, which had much geographical educational content. I used on-line resources for web-based submission, communication, and uploading files.
On-line stores. Data filtered through to global on-line retailers. Amazon markets your book for you.
e-books. Submission guidelines for Kindle required different formatting. It was straightforward.
I wrote the first two of a new series of Personal Development Guides. This was exciting!
With a more technical layout for print, they required yet another approach for e-books.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) guidelines are clear. I read all I could on the Web.
Mobipocket creator converted and built the files, ready for preview in the e-reader.
Kindle previewer for Kindle, iPad, iPhone etc. further ensured accuracy. On-line community discussions on Amazon KDP and Mobipocket shed light on the jargon.
I have learned to use only those strands of Digital Technology, which are useful and are manageable – at that time – and to continue to explore new developments."
(Inclusion in the e-Pub format into major e-book retailers.),
© 2011 Rosalie Marsh
Guest article in 'Best of Wrecsam' Blog December 2011
It had snowed hard when we had our first glimpse of Llangollen one winter’s day in January 1967. Visiting with a view to moving from Lancashire and settling in the clean fresh air of North Wales he roads had just opened after the deep snow. It was like fairyland as we drove along with the river and railway running side by side.. We had never seen anything like it. We were enchanted. And so began our love affair with Llangollen and all that is beautiful in the Dee Valley and North Wales. Settling in the shadow of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and what is now the Ty Mawr Country Park we gradually explored the area. Often we took our children up the mountain at Garth to the Panorama, which affords fantastic views over the Dee Valley across to Castell Dinas Bran (Crow Castle). After a storm, it is dark, brooding, and awesome.
Llangollen though is our favourite escape. We have always enjoyed a stroll by the river by the old corn mill, watching the rapids and ducks, with the towering mountains as a backdrop.
More recently, on the approach into town from the A539, great improvements have been made with a riverside walk along from the old Lower Dee Mill (now replaced by apartments) up to the bridge. Along the shady walk is a remnant of some old mill workings.
Llangollen of course is the home to the International Eisteddfod but at anytime of the year there is a host of things to do and see: a trip on a horse-drawn boat from the Wharf along the canal, a longer trip to Froncysyllte, craft shops, restaurants and pubs, riverside walks, mountain walks, the Horseshoe Pass, Ladies of Llangollen, the ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey, the list goes on.
Now living nearer to Wrexham, our favourite thing this summer has been to escape on a Friday afternoon for a short drive through the mountains to drink in the peace and tranquillity of llangollen as the River Dee burbles on over the rocks where ducks paddle and preen. All rounded off with Welsh ice cream after a stroll by the river of course. Llangollen changes its clothes with the changing seasons.
At any time of the year, there is something different to savour, to refresh mind and spirit.
Guest Article in CPDme Blog
Guest Feature posted in Womens Thoughts on-line magazine August 30th 2012
NOT ‘Just a Housewife’. More a ‘Household Manager
Picture the scenario. You left school with or without many qualifications. You have looked after children with or without a husband/ partner; all at once you find that the years have passed and the children have flown—or are ready to fly—the nest.
You have slaved away, baked, done the school run, cleaned, shopped, decorated, gardened, done the after-school activity run(s). You wake up and stand with a cup of coffee looking out of the window wondering how to fill your days. It may have been years since you worked. Paid work that is. You have just been ‘Mum’. Somewhere along the line, you may have lost your identity.
‘I am just a housewife’, you may say to yourself. Right? Wrong! You have been a household manager and, with all the multi-tasking and people managing skills you have learned and honed what better preparation for returning to work.
It is true that we move in a fast-paced society. When I first wanted to return to work after about fourteen years as a full-time Mum, I went to an agency who promptly gave me a typing test. I was confident that I would meet all criteria. After all, I had worked in a bank. I was a trained bank cashier, had operated the huge NCR 32 accounting machines with their multi-keyboards etc.etc. (Hmm! Now I am showing my age! Even a manual ledger - yes, I kid you not!) I did not come out of it [typing test] very well and eventually found part-time work in a local newsagents/stationery shop before moving on and up into other areas. What I did learn along the way is that you have to look outside the box and be prepared to take opportunities when they arise. Some of these opportunities are learning ones. By that, I mean some training to meet the challenges ahead.
Before we were born, all our attributes were set into the pattern of our character. All our potential skills and qualities were there in that cluster of unique cells, which make us what we are, or could be. We are made up of many facets, which grow and develop at different times of our life. My ethos is that everyone should be able to release and realise their potential, in whatever way that is.
The pace of life is fast; technological changes come at breakneck speed. This means that you will need to:
Take a good long look at what your skills and attributes actually are
Identify what you know now and need to know in order to achieve your goals.
You need to plan how you will achieve your goals
Manage your time and stress.
Develop a basic record of what you have learned and achieved over the last few years.
You will be surprised how much you know but you may find that you need to attend a course to bring you up to date.
“A Winner says ‘I’m good but not as good as I ought to be.’
A Loser says ‘Well, I am not as bad as a lot of other people.” (Anonymous)
So – go for it! See what your local college has to offer. Good Luck!
Release Your Potential: Making Sense of Personal and Professional Development.
Paperback ISBN 978-1-908302-08-3 worldwide online or your local bookseller e.g. https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/rosalie+marsh
Guest Feature Article on Customer Service.
I’ve been involved in Customer Service all my working life. From working in a high street bank in the days when the cashier did it all, to years in retail sales management and then onto years in adult education. Throughout them all I’ve worked to keep customers happy for their benefit, and for the benefit of the organisation. On this my first guest post, I thought I’d share a real story: “Many years ago when I was working in direct selling, I ran the local office for my double glazing firm. Actually, it wasn’t a double glazing firm exactly; it was a windows firm who sold windows either single or double glazed. A man came into my office breathing fire and brimstone about the non-installation of his windows due to a big blip with the finance firm. He perched, well not perched, more like he sat on my desk and declared that he was not moving until I had sorted it out ( my desk was in a isolated part of the building too). At this point in my life, I hadn’t had the benefit of all the customer service courses which came in later years, so I had to rely on my own instincts and common sense. So, I simply, listened and as it turned out I actually agreed with him. This immediately floored the gentleman, it took the wind right out of his sails, and calmed him down. I immediately set about sorting out the problem and resolved it to his delight and satisfaction. What had I done? I had taken the HEAT. I sorted out the problem and he went away happy. Very often angry and upset customers are in a defensive mood and who can blame them, they’ve had bad experiences. Don’t fall into the trap of being defensive and aggressive, instead, be nice! Listen to what they have to say and take the HEAT.
You’ll be amazed at the results. I hope you find this helpful ROSALIE Rosalie Marsh is the author of Lifelong Learning: A View from the Coal Face & Release Your Potential: Making Sense of Personal and Professional Development, two books in the Lifelong Learning: Personal Effectiveness Guides all available from your favourite on-line retailers or local booksellers, published by Christal Publishing.
Rosalie Marsh 08.2011 KinchPrint Blog.2011 (no longer live.)
This is the first in a series of guest posts from Rosalie Marsh, focused on Customer Service – they’re free hints for everyone to use within their organisation or in everyday life.
My Gutsy Story Anthology (2) Compiled by Sonia Marsh
Inspirational Short Stories About Taking Chances and Changing Your Life
Article in Sonia Marsh's 'My Gutsy Story' Blog (USA)
Paris in June! Could I make this happen? Paris had been my dream for many years but logistically it hadn’t been possible. I saw an opportunity to fulfil that dream quite painlessly as I planned our route from Andorra through France. Some years ago we had arrived unexpectedly outside the Palace of Versailles (or Château as it is known); I had noticed a sign for the railway station and the proximity of the town to Paris. I had also had dreams of visiting Versailles one day (but not on cobbles and not with a heavily laden motorbike as we did in 2001).
‘Aha,’ I thought to myself as the cogs of my mind went into overdrive. ‘This could be it’.
With careful planning and research I gathered all my information on hotels in Versailles and routes into Paris. I noticed that there was a convenient Ibis hotel in the centre of Versailles, just around the corner from the Château, with a railway station across the road on the RER ‘C’ line into Paris. What could be better! My husband had bought a Sat Nav and carefully followed its implicit instructions as we headed towards Versailles. All at once we were turning into a wide, tree-lined boulevard which led straight down to the Château before turning near the top into the Avenue General De Gaulle where our hotel was located. I gazed around at the opulence and elegance of the buildings. The Hotel Ibis Versailles Château, was more convenient than I had imagined; the perfect location for a short stay in Versailles with its proximity to Paris. Check-in was easy with clear directions to the underground parking spaces reserved for hotel guests. The hotel was not a separate building but part of Les Manges – a complex of hotels, galleries, shops and restaurants, built on what used to be the Royal Stable. The plushy Pullman Hotel at the end features the original ornate gates bearing the letter ‘N’ in the middle of each. With a wide choice of restaurants close by, we settled for those in the square in the middle of the complex, next door to the Ibis.
‘I want to go to Paris.’ I informed my startled husband over a cooling drink. ‘There is a railway station across the road and it goes straight into Paris. The Eiffel Tower is by the river.’
(The next day, due to timings, we made our way to the next station, a short distance away.) Caught up in the hustle and bustle as we waited for the train to come thundering down the platform, groups of very excited schoolchildren added to the experience. All my schoolgirls’ dreams of using a French railway station were coming true. Hurtling towards Paris, we had a good view of the suburbs and river; we saw with surprise, on coming onto the pavement at the Eiffel Tower station, that the Seine was so close. All at once we were at the heart of things with people of all nationalities hurrying or strolling the short distance to the Tower. Passing a newlywed Japanese bride and groom waiting at the bus stop – he tenderly carried her bouquet as he held up her wedding gown – there was the mighty Eiffel Tower in front of us. Reaching the huge esplanade I asked:
‘How far up are we going?’
‘Why, to the top of course. Might as well now we are here,’ was the quiet reply, (my husband was just as excited as I was,) ‘but you have to count all the rivets on the way up,’ he joked half seriously.
Waiting patiently, we took in the sights and sounds of the babble of many languages and beggars forlornly pleading for money. Gazing around I could see there were boats going up and down the river. These were the Bateaux Mouches and I wondered if we would be able to take a trip later. Rising up in the lift through the lower half of the tower I was able to catch some of the view on camcorder, before we filed out to work our way around the platform at the base of the higher, narrower construction.
The tremendous views stretched for miles as the whole of Paris spread itself out before us. I was amazed by the huge expanses of green – not just parks but huge areas of trees that seemed to go on forever. Working out various landmarks, we couldn’t mistake the Arc de Triomphe. It dominates the area around it; being much taller than even the trees as it stands proudly in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the top of the Champs-Elysées. We slowly circled around to drink in the whole panorama that was Paris. Never in a million years could we have done it justice on foot. After piling in to the next lift we were soon at the top of the tower after a short if cramped journey which took us high into the sky. The impressiveness and absolute grandeur of the Arc de Triomphe was even more in evidence as it towered above and dwarfed everything in sight. A fellow tourist kindly took a photo of us with this as a backdrop. In the shop on the lower level I broke my habit of not a buying souvenir with a place name written all over it and purchased a huge cup decorated with scenes of Paris.
‘Look, the boats are tied up here, could we …? I trailed off hopefully, as we wandered across the road to the river.
After a short stroll along the banks of the Seine we came out of an underpass and happened upon a wonderful Aux Marches Du Palais restaurant with its ‘Cuisine Traditionnelle’. What a wonderful find with the two-course meal priced to include wine as is usual in France. Later we noted the dense crowds waiting to board the Bateaux Mouches and saw there was an alternative in the shape of a Batobus; a shuttle bus which did a round trip along the Seine. With eight stops starting at the Eiffel Tower and other stops at the Champs Elysées; Musée d’Orsay; Louvre; St Germain des Près; Notre Dame; Jardin des Plantes and Hotel de Ville, this was ideal for our short visit. The Musée d’Orsay, originally built as a railway station to serve Orléans until they found that the platforms were too short, was impressive. The Cathedral of Notre Dame sits on a small island in the centre of the river. The Batobus circled around this to make its way along the opposite side of the river before reaching its Eiffel Tower landing stage.
Arriving back at the railway station we found that the murmurings about a strike were true. This had apparently not affected our easy journey in, but was now affecting the journey back to Versailles. With the ticket office closed we had to negotiate the ticket machine as the clock ticked away to the arrival of what proved to be the last train out of Paris to Versailles that day. It was crowded as all Paris appeared to head for home. With a hiss and a shudder the very long double-decker long train, eventually stopped – just past where we were standing in stupefaction. We made it by the skin of our teeth.
Our stay in Versailles would not have been complete without a visit to the opulent Palace of Versailles. Entering the Place d’Armes from the Avenue de Paris – just a short step from our hotel around the corner – we paused to admire the towering statue of a French King mounted on his charger , raising his feathered hat in jubilation as he looked down upon the Avenue de Paris and Versailles. Passing through the glittering, golden, main gates we crossed the Courtyard of Honour into the glory and splendour of the Château; through the Hall of Mirrors and State Apartments to the wonderful gardens and parkland which took us in the footsteps of kings and a step back in time. With our heads filled with the wonder of all we had seen in such a short space of time we headed for home. Our journey back to the Tunnel took us unexpectedly through the underpasses of Paris as my husband put his faith in his ‘trusty’ Sat Nav; not a route we would have chosen to negotiate ourselves. Self check-in at Calais was even smoother than on the way out as inserting our credit card brought up all our information and earlier trains available –at no extra charge.
Eurotunnel Folkestone –Calais booking on-line eurotunnel.com
Award-Winning Author of Just Us Two: Ned and Rosie’s Gold Wing Discovery.
This article is adapted from the sequel 'Chasing Rainbows'. Published May 2011
©Rosalie Marsh 2010
As the plane circled its descent over the sea I could see the island of Fuerteventura, with its long sandy beaches and low mountains, spread out below. What a perfect retreat from the hurly burly of daily life and the harshness of a British winter. This escape in November had been a last-minute decision and, having visited Fuerteventura before, one we knew we would not regret.
Fuerteventura – one of the Canary Islands – lies south of Lanzarote off the coast of Africa. Our destination was Caleta de Fuste on the east coast of the island. This is a modern resort built around an old fishing village with a marvellous sandy beach in the curved bay. In recent years development has included the Fuerteventura Golf Resort about 1km south of the Caleta. This comprises a golf course with a five star hotel on site with a further three hotels across the road facing the sea. We were destined for the Elba Sara situated on one side of the huge Atlántico Centro Commercial filled with shops, a supermarket, cinema, amusement arcade, restaurants and cafés.
The hotel has a secure exit through the gardens which lead straight onto the promenade. It is worth noting that for anyone with prams or mobility problems, this is a long flat promenade. A pleasant stroll in the sunshine takes you past the shopping centre, hotels and the restaurant built out into the sea. Unfortunately the paved part breaks here for a few yards at the undeveloped patch before resuming by the shops (hire your cycles here), restaurants, apartments, Thalasso Spa and tennis courts. With two lazy camels watching as they waited for passengers, we passed along the yellow sands and sun beds of the curved bay before reaching the old fort or ‘Castillo de la Caleta del Fuste’ and the Puerto Castillo Yacht Harbour. This is the old centre of the village. If you want to be a little more adventurous you can have a guided session playing with sea lions in the harbor or take part in other underwater activities on offer. Continue round the headland where the scenery changes dramatically as the sea crashes over the rocks which form this part of the coast; here, if you are very quiet and still, you might see chipmunks as they scurry over the rocks stopping only to catch the peanuts which tourists feed them.
Back at our hotel we took advantage of the all-inclusive terms on offer. Waiters transferred any left-over pastries from breakfast to the Pool Bar; just in case the ample and varied choice at breakfast wasn’t enough to keep you going until lunch. The Pool Bar also served snacks but only outside restaurant hours for all-inclusive guests. Afternoon tea is served in the Piano Bar with its terrace overlooking the Atlantic. It is so restful to watch the sea and listen to the waves ebb and flow. Meanwhile, the animation team attempted to keep everyone fit with a programme of activities including water aerobics demonstrated by a very fit and supple young man. With ample sun beds the only problem was whether to roast in the sun, which would have horrified the hotel’s sun care advisors, or seek some shade in the garden areas. One concern with all-inclusive holidays is a possible lack of variety between lunch and dinner menus but this wasn’t the case at the Elba Sara. The chefs are to be congratulated on their imagination and variety.
On a previous visit to Caleta de Fuste – staying at the Elba Carlota next-door – we took advantage of an island tour. This took us north past Puerto del Rosario and the sand dunes of Corralejo from where you can see the small Isla de los Lobos. From Corralejo you might want to take the ferry to Lanzarote for the day. A regular stop on the island tour is the volcanic Tindaya Mountain in the National Park – where rangers perform little tricks to show you how hot the earth is – before going on to the delightful and ancient village of Betancuria. Founded around 1404, it is now a historic monument with a pretty white-walled church in the square. After strolling around this is a pleasant place to eat your lunch. No tour of the island is complete without a visit to the aloe vera factory where you can have a small massage on your neck to experience the benefits of high quality aloe vera and purchase supplies after a demonstration of how they extract the juice from the fleshy leaves of the plant.
We spurned the usual cycle, motorcycle, scooter and car rental options. Instead we went for an adventure on a boom trike as my husband was having withdrawal symptoms at leaving his beloved Gold Wing at home. Cool Runnings, situated in Caleta de Fuste, offer either escorted tours where you are in the driving seat or a chauffeur driven tour. This takes you on remote roads; you see the island from a different perspective. It was exciting to say the least.
The Jandia peninsula in the south is famous for its long beaches. Here you will also find the Adventure Oasis Park with something for everyone. We didn’t venture out to this, preferring to relax in the hotel grounds taking just the occasional stroll to Caleta de Fuste with the option of a free bus ride back. Yes, the hotel group has thought of everything by providing a free bus service between the village, golf course, hotels and Atlántico Shopping Centre where the best shops are.
Fuerteventura is noted for being windy and a favourite with surfers. However we only experienced severe winds once. For the most part we welcomed the occasional stiff breeze as a very welcome break to the heat of the day. If all this is not enough, and the children are pining for a Big Mac, then pop across the road to McDonald's. All in all a relaxing holiday with something for everyone.
Rosalie flew into the newly extended modern airport only a short distance from the resort travelling Thomas Cook all-inclusive stay at the Elba Sara, Caleta de Fuste, Antigua, Fuerteventura. hoteleselba.com
©Rosalie Marsh 2010
Sharing sharing tales of travel and life's journey
"I left my heart in Ballycroy"
Our first visit to Westport was eleven years ago when we made our first ferry journey on our newly purchased Honda Gold Wing motorbike. This time, riding days over, we wanted to return to Ballycroy to visit the family we found all those years ago and to follow up some business contacts. Our welcome was as warm as ever on this, our third visit to County Mayo.
After a short crossing from Holyhead on the Stena Line Fast Ferry, we made our way west. There has been a big improvement in the road infrastructure since our first with a motorway leading from Dun Laoghaire, around Dublin to quickly connect to the main trunk roads or the new motorway which will soon reach Galway.(Our Sat Nav went into meltdown as it could not find the new road!). On approaching Westport from the east, we had glimpses of the sea and the many small ‘humps’. These ’small humps’ soon reveal themselves as the islands which are dotted around this part of the coast. To the south of Westport the distant mountains rise in ever increasing size. Overshadowing these and Westport is the cone shape of Croagh Patrick which dominates the skyline. After the relative flatness of the surrounding country it is quite startling and breathtaking. It is said that St. Patrick climbed Croagh Patrick and preached to the heathens, converting them to Christianity. To this day pilgrims make the climb, many of them barefoot.
Westport is a charming flower-decked town. A planned town and a ‘Tidy Town’ Award Winner many times. The river, running through the centre, is criss-crossed by bridges which take traffic to other destinations or the ample car parking so visitors can enjoy the delights of this town which is seemingly unchanged for many years. Some concessions to modern day living are found behind the traditional facades and flower baskets as technology has been embraced along with modern interiors and up to date products to ensure that prosperity is not left behind and visitors leave wishing only to return.
We made the excellent Westport Woods Hotel and Spa our base as it was more central for our itinerary of visiting booksellers stocking ‘Just Us Two’. This modern hotel is set in extensive grounds on the edge of town, not far from Westport Quay. With a large comfortable lobby and a choice of the more formal but stylish restaurant or the contemporary Café Bar with waiter service with a smile the scene is set for a relaxing stay. The grounds are near to the grounds of Westport House and gardens which is open to the public. A short stroll down the road is the Harbour and Quay. The road carries on to take you west, past Croagh Patrick, to Louisborough on the coast.
A large part of our trip involved touring through County Mayo to Castlebar and Tuam, north to Sligo and Cavan and south to Ballinasloe in County Galway, so we saw a good deal of the surrounding area. We also re-visited one of my cousins on Achill Sound where the garden goes down to the sea. A truly magical place. However the place which has captured my heart and where I feel close to my Irish Grandparents is Ballycroy. After visiting Ballina in the north of Mayo we skirted the Nephin Beg Range as we headed to Ballycroy via Bangor Erris. The mountains of the Nephin Beg range, with their sharply carved outline rise majestically into the sky. At the side of the road in the shelter of the pine-clad slopes, the sun sparkled on the river which tumbled and wove like a black ribbon down to the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
Reaching Ballycroy we turned for Knockmoyleen (now signposted) to visit another cousin and her family. I had brought lots of information, which I had received from another cousin in the US since our last visit, and my cousin and I were soon lost in updating the family tree. Ballycroy now has a Visitor Centre in the newly designated National Park and we were urged to go there before they closed for the day. The modern building is in stark contrast to the traditional Pub/Shop/Post Office on the nearby main road. My cousin told us to look out for the model thatched cottage and to go inside and take a look at the audio/visual show of life in the1930’s which had been unchanged for many years.
‘Press the button for FOOD and my mother comes up, talking about how they ate. Press the button for BALLROOM and I am talking about the hall which was used in the film ‘Ballroom of Romance.’ At nearby Shranamanragh Bridge we took photos of the big house by the river where my Grandma had worked in service as a girl, and the nearby school where she and Granddad had learned their lessons as children. Stopping on the bridge, I looked across to Granddads old home and the river running beneath the bridge which, in Grandma’s day, sometimes rose and flooded so that she could not get home to Knockmoyleen and so she had to stay at Granddad’s home. I felt as if I had come home.
Mayo offers a wide variety of activities for the more energetic, from bird watching, golf, walking, horse riding, climbing or just exploring the charming town of Westport and surrounding area. There is something for everyone in Mayo a perfect base for a relaxing break with a true Irish welcome to make you feel that you belong. (And on our return, logging on to Facebook, I stumbled across another cousin through asking about our Gt.Grandmother Susan Bilson. Our Sweeney grandfathers were brothers. We burnt the midnight oil!)
Rosalie Marsh 2009.
This article (unpublished) subsequently appeared as part of Chasing Rainbows:with Just Us Two. May 2011
"The little girl sat at the table,carefully unwrapping the fruit she held in her hand.(She loved grocery day when the fruit was delivered). In her hand she held a small orange and savoured the time when she would peel the skin away and then, taking the juicy fruit piece by piece, popping the segments into her mouth and waiting for the burst of juice exploding as her teeth bit into the flesh. Sometimes the oranges were so juicy that the juice ran down her chin and she had to catch it quickly before it stained her dress but,sometimes, the pieces were tiny enough to eat in one go.
As the little girl unwrapped the orange, she smoothed out the paper.Not all oranges were wrapped and she loved to choose one which was - as she thought they were special - so that she could read the labels and dream of far away places.(She already knew that bananas came from the other side of the world). This one said 'Seville'.
"Mummy, where is Seville?" the little girl asked the lady standing near by.
"It is in Spain,Rosie",was the answer,"where the sun nearly always shines".
On this dark dismal day in cold England, Rosie could only dream in wonder of a land which was warm enough to ripen an orange. Would she ever be able to see for herself? After all, in the 1950's even a journey to the next town was an adventure...
In the late 1980's travel was much more common and my husband and I took our eldest daughter to Portugal for a winter break. We chose Estoril which is on the coast between Lisbon and Cascais. Arriving in February we were greeted by warm sunny days. Between the promenade and the sea, ran the railway to Lisbon. We wanted to see this historic city and excitedly boarded the train which took us along the sea-shore into the city. On the outskirts we passed the Jeronimos Monastery which is a very ornate building and a famous landmark. One day is not enough to absorb all the sights and sounds so we had to choose carefully what we wanted to do.Lisbon is built on two levels with a lift to take you to the upper part. In the central part, which runs up from the coast, are wide boulevards. We were fascinated by the trams which toiled up the narrow streets around steep bends. It had been years since we had seen trams running. We opted to go to St.Georges Castle which overlooked the coast.( Napoleon fought here?).
Making our way along the ramparts, I leaned over a wall to see what was on the other side and was astounded to see ...Yes! You’ve guessed! Oranges! There they were hanging from a lone tree which had a foothold on a grassy mound.It held its face up to the February sun which shed its warmth onto its precious fruit. I could not believe what I was seeing. I was truly amazed that such a fruit could be ripening in February. It was to be some years before we saw this again. We hired a car for a few days and went up to Sintra in the hills. On another trip we decided to Fatima. This was a long way and the roads were very winding and, at times, narrow.
I had wanted to see the walled town of Obidos and as we passed it we made a promise to visit someday.
On the way back down to Estoril we were on a rare, very straight stretch of road. This road was deserted and there was nothing in sight only the hills and stupendous views. In front of us appeared an old battered car. As we neared a car show room (the only building in sight), the driver signaled that he was to turn right into the forecourt. As we moved out to go past, they changed their minds and veered left into the bushes by the side of the road. This caused us to swerve and our hire car came to grief. The men got out and ran off into the bushes- no doubt to use the 'facilities'. A young man came out of the car showroom and, thankfully, he spoke English. He called the Police and the Hire people. When the policeman arrived, he was alarmingly bristling with a gun, a truncheon and handcuffs. He also wore big riding boots. After the low key dress of a British Policeman, this was quit scary to say the least, especially as we could not speak Portuguese. He asked to see our papers and this is where the problem started! As we live in Wales our driving licenses - and indeed all official papers - are in Welsh and English. he would have recognised English but when he saw an unfamiliar language he snorted in disgust. I tried to say 'Pay de Galles' which is the Portuguese for Wales but he did not understand. The helpful car showroom man tried to intervene and translate for us. My husband asked:
"Is he trying to say it is a toy town licence?"
"Yes", he agreed. We did not have our passports and this seemed to be a major crime in the policeman’s eyes. As we had had our Passports from the reception desk – where they had been kept safe – to sign for the car, I had popped them back into our room. All this time, the two Portuguese (farmers?) were denying all responsibility. We really thought that my husband was to be taken into custody and we would be stranded. Our daughter had very cleverly made some drawings of a car with its indicators and arrows to where they had actually turned. This probably saved the day but all was not yet settled. After some discussion with the car showroom man, it was decided that we be taken to Obidos where there was an English speaking lady in the Tourist Information Office. The policeman indicated that we should drive in front and he would follow. The Portuguese men were also to follow. On arrival the Portuguese driver sat comfortably in a big chair and waved his hands as he denied all responsibility and tried to put the blame onto us. The lady chastised us for not carrying our passports and we thought we were in big trouble for that alone. There we were, in a remote area in a strange country with a language barrier and no acceptable means of identification. She made telephone calls to our hotel who confirmed our existence but they could not give passport details as they did not have them and they were not allowed to go into our room. I seem to recall that the problem with the Driving Licence was resolved by the lady and we were allowed to go on condition that Passport details were telephoned through on our return.
©Rosalie Marsh (Note: This forms part of the background for ORANGES: A Journey. Published 2013)
Rosalie Marsh 12.08.2014