Thursday, September 10, 2009


Chocolate feast

Nutella, in case you don't know, is a rich, chocolate spread. While passing through the motorway services in Luxembourg, I noticed these Nutella jars for sale. Incidentally, 5kg = 11 US Pounds [ and €28 euros about $35/£24].

Cancel that visit to the dietician and enjoy your jar!

PS. I feel the jar merits a giant cake, sandwich, piece of bread of anything else you can place under the delicious Nutella!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Hidden listed on Alltop

We're delighted and honoured to be listed on Ireland:alltop:

Not only does Alltop contain an eclectic mix of sites, but is also supported by the excellent Twitter system.


Thursday, April 17, 2008


The bed and breakfast experience

If you have been to Ireland but haven't stayed in a B&B, you're missing a part of our culture. We have long tried to provide warm and friendly accommodation and you can still experience this with a stay at a B&B. While it is possible to book ahead, it is also possible to go-as-you-please and get accommodation by knocking on doors, especially in the off-season. If the B&B is full, they will redirect you to another premises and phone their friends for help.

I suspect that many of you may have been slightly alarmed at the manner in which your B&B hostess may interrogate you. Before long, your life story has slipped out and the hostess will have learned every detail about your family, work and lifestyle (prepare for a Christmas card with an Irish stamp this December). This is Irish curiosity at its best, rather than noseyness - one of the reasons is that Irish people have a huge family and friend circle and love to discover that you know someone they know. You might think that this is possible in Ireland where the total Island population is 4 million, but it's sometimes possible beyond that, considering our emigration rate to various parts of the world.

So don't be offended if you feel you're being interrogated - it's just our interest in life - your life!

Labels: , , , ,


The pub with attitude...?

I was not intending to mention drinking again but a recent article in the Irish Times caught my eye. Pubs in Ireland are open most days with a few exceptions, one such day being Good Friday. Due to the difference between licencing laws in pubs and those where the drinking location is mobile, chiefly ships and trains, the latter have exceptions to the normally rigid laws. In the old days it would have taken many hours to go from, say, Dublin to Cork, and a train might start at a time where drink was permitted in bars but it might terminate after drinking would not have normally been allowed. So a little flexibility was written into the law applicable to train travellers, a situation which the rail companies have used to their advantage ever since (and why not).

The jist of this recent article was that Iarnrod Eireann had hired security guards on Good Friday at Connolly Station. You might imagine that a security risk of some proportions were imminent - perhaps some GAA trains bringing county supporters? Naaaa, we have very little crowd trouble at any sporting events in Dublin. Perhaps some political rally? Nope - Easter Monday would be the nearest (the Rising anniversary). The reason was that they had to open the bar at Connolly Station.

What sort of message does this send out? That we're a nation of lager-drinking louts, so desperate to get a drink and likely to get out of control that we need hired hands to keep order? Apparently, one of the tasks of the security hands was to check that persons entering the bar had a valid train ticket. And they weren't accepting 1.20Euro tickets to Howth either - only bone fide mainline rail travellers were wetting their whistles that day. The intrepid reporter managed to find some drinkers who had tickets alright - but to Oslo (if memory serves me correctly). They were en route to a stag weekend (that's an all-male pre-wedding party to you). And Dublin airport doesn't yet have any rail connection as you will know, and even if it did, it would hardly count as 'mainline'.

Unfortunately, Dublin seems to be gripped by this control element, ostensibly to combat rowdy behaviour in Temple Bar and the like. What sort of signal do these measures send to our visitors? Have a drink by all means, but have it outside Dublin city centre if you don't want some lads in DJs and attitude telling you your jeans aren't welcome in their establishment.

I'm working on some additions to the 'Hidden pubs' page (see link on left) and will feature establishments where you can gain entrance without embarrassment and have a comfortable evening's drinking. I would like to stress that this security madness is a feature of Dublin's Temple Bar at night and there are lots of places in and outside Dublin which are hassle-free.


"Name your price..."

The traditional image of Ireland portrayed in the cinema is one of timelessness, a slow pace of life, some great characters (typically drunk but in great spirits) and ever changing scenery. More recent films such as 'The Commitments' (and other Roddy Doyle adaptations) have attempted to create a more realistic vision of modern Dublin and Ireland. However, I can tell you that the mystical Ireland is still very much alive, especially outside Dublin.

In the mid-1990s we went on a one-week driving holiday with some pals around the south and west of Ireland during September. It is a great time to tour since the schools are back and the country is not quite so busy (by Irish standards). We had some great craic in Co. Clare where we walked the limestone pavements of the Burren, tried to (unsuccessfully) coax the chef in a cafe in Doolin for his recipe for delicious cheesecake and we also swam in the Atlantic (not necessarily in that order!).

We decided to head for the Dingle peninsula in Co. Kerry and were drawn by signs to the medieval Gallus's oratory, a gem of medieval architecture (it's still bone dry inside in all weathers although it looks like a upturned boat made of 'dry' stones in the middle of nowhere!). First thing was to park the car and we duly followed the signs. As we drove into the empty field, a man with a cap jumped out from behind a hedge and greeted us warmly. My wife rolled down the window and we had the usual hellos and how-are-yous. He was obviously collecting money for parking - the leather pouch and (even) his official 'Office of Public Works' badge gave that away. So when there was a slight lull in the conversation, she says "Well how much do we pay". His answer, after another slight pause was "name your price". This was a new idea for us and we looked very puzzled. So, after some knowing looks at each other, our pal David pipes up with "how about 50p?" [about 30 Euro cent - wouldn’t even buy you a cup of coffee]. So the man says "Fine" and we handed over 50p.

This episode tickled us so much that David designed a special section in their photo album with the narrative pasted around the edge of the oratory pictures. Our only regret was that we felt a bit mean only giving 50p but it was great entertainment! So the moral is that you can still have great experiences with Irish people on modern holidays - despite the lack of 'little people'!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Webmasters - optimize your site for search engines tips

It used to be straightforward for webmasters when setting up a new site. You uploaded the site containing good navigation and Google and the other search engines (SEs) indexed it.

With the amount of competition and vast numbers of sites the SEs need to list, things have changed. Based on personal experience, here are some steps which might help you get indexed by Google. Yahoo tends to be easier since they focus on social sites and (basically) accept anything.

As well as registering each site at Google, you also need to register a sitemap xml. Create a Google a/c at webmaster tools:

You will need to make a sitemap.xml file and upload to your root domain. You can make a free one here:

Having uploaded it, you go back to Google webmaster tools and tell them where it may be found.

Next run

for great data concerning site size, loading times etc.

Next crucial factor is having good site structure, especially a site map [html version - the xml version won't be visible through a web browser]. You should regularly check for dead links (particularly externals where you have no control on when people change their url etc):

Next step is link popularity:

Your next task is to get people to link to you and vice-versa. You can buy these but they're not worth the money. Far better to
(a) write to people asking for reciprocal links
(b) write a few blogs, including your link - do something imaginative
(c) go to Yahoo Answers and answer something, giving your url. While search engines don't regard blogs, etc as genuine backlinks, you will generate traffic. (d) Join Google Webmaster help:

Post to "introduce yourself", post an additional question (say on the Rankings forum) ensuring your url is included. You will get an honest, friendly and far more expert opinion than mine! Additionally, Google index this page so you will a G backlink.

Regarding (a), you should check your local chamber of commerce and ask if they would link to you. Likewise, perhaps schools in the area? I would strongly suggest a links page where you can host reciprocal links; this needs to be visible from your home page.

I have installed Google Page Rank in my Firefox browser - you can see immediately if it's worth writing to somebody for a reciprocal link. Otherwise this one is accurate:

If you don't have Firefox you can get it free from my site:

There is an endless list of tweaks but this is particularly useful. It allows you to view your page in a variety of browsers:

Finally, always include your url when you e mail people - it should be added to your signature. You would be surprised how your messages are forwarded to hundreds of people, particularly if your content is useful (such as a joke). Obviously, you need to consider the material carefully - all mailers will allow you to include or omit your signature.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, February 19, 2007


How YOU can help make the BBC Apple Macintosh- and Linux-friendly, again

The British Broadcasting Corporation proposes to introduce a new online TV service called iPlayer, allowing users to watch television seven days following transmission. Ironically, given the 'i' title, it won't be available to mac users - nor to Linux users. However, there is a public consultation process and your opinion could count.

read more | digg story

Saturday, February 10, 2007


insiders guide to Hidden Dublin

Massive site on Dublin, Ireland with an alternative look at Dublin and Ireland. I enjoyed the guide on Dublin pubs, music and night clubs. There are a lot of pictures, including several of the secret River Poddle. You can find out information about Ireland in the "Irish facts" section and there are lots of fun tips for enjoying yourself.

read more | digg story

Friday, November 03, 2006


The Irish abroad - why we're loved and hated

I was born in Ireland, an island that does not match the size of many counties in the USA, never mind states! In he middle of the nineteenth century, Ireland was home to approximately 8 million people - following the disastrous potato failure in 1848 that number quickly reduced through death and emigration. There were two countries to which Irish people emigrated: Britain and the USA.

The arrival of tens of thousands of Irish workers, plus their families, in various British cities could not have been more fortuitous to some British people. We assume that the Irish in Britain were deeply resented; such resentment was most felt by the British working classes who were competing for jobs. The arrival of the Irish coincided with the industrial revolution which needed manpower and large and cheap quantity. The construction of the railways, canals, steel, coal and clothing industries emerge during this period and the Irish provided cheap labour. While the railways frequently employed a transient population (often creating huge temporary camps in the back of beyond), the Irish population gradually acquired more permanent work. Since men could get the best jobs at this time, it was crucial for the Irish family in Britain to have a healthy and strong man as head of their household - it was an added bonus if the family had boys. Women worked in the lighter industrial units such as the great cotton mills of Lancashire; they also found employment in the service of the upper classes.

Daily life for the British working class was extremely difficult. Rent was high and families often shared rooms with relatives. Health and sanitation were poor; the provision of fresh water and sewage was often non-existent. One of the reasons for the large alcoholic population was due to poor water – beer was the best and most safe liquid to drink. Many people died of the results of such poor living conditions through cholera, dysentery and smallpox (amongst others).

The family spirit of the Irish was to be their greatest strength, combined with their unwavering faith in the church. Last time I mentioned I would compare Irish and Muslim communities in Britain — here we have our first similarities. The ‘church’ of the Irish was different to the majority of British people since it was the Roman Catholic church, itself the subject of centuries of censure in Britain. The ‘church’ of most British people was the Anglican Church, which is still the official church of the country.

To summarize, there are many parallels between the arrival of the Irish during the middle of the eighteenth century and that of various Muslims from the middle of the twentieth century. I acknowledge that I compare a nationality with a religion but defend myself because this is how British people perceive(d) them. Next time I will discuss how the Irish managed to incorporate themselves into British society.

Thanks for reading this far — you are most welcome to leave comments.

All the best,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?