10 Things to do in Sligo

A wonderful blog post on what you can do/see around Sligo.

I’ve seen a few lists doing the rounds of things for people to do when they are visiting Sligo and as we are due an influx of visitors for the fleadh and also those checking out the Wild Atlantic Way I thought I do a blog about my suggestions. These are my ten choices in no particular order and I can only recommend the things I’ve actually done so if your favourite activity is missing it’s because I probably haven’t done it. The list isn’t exclusive to tourists either, it’s amazing how many Sligo people have never explored their county, maybe this will inspire some of you.

Eagles Flying

1. Visit Eagles Flying in Ballymote, Co. Sligo.

This is one of my favourite places in Sligo and it’s amazing how many locals have never been. You will get to see all kinds of animals including an albino hedgehog, a pick-pocket racoon, ferrets…

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The Aran Islands

That morning I awoke at 5am after a mere two hours sleep and made my way to the bus station. We finally made it to Galway after two hours on the bus and walked into town for a quick breakfast. My breakfast was a tiny over-priced waffle (but I’m not here to vent about expensive breakfast food).  Another forty minute bus ride later and we were at the docks where the ferry would take us to the island. It has been a long time since I was last on a ferry and I have to say I still love them:

Ferry Ride

We disembarked and walked along the board-walk until we reached a man handing out small leaflet-maps who welcomed us to the island. The first thing I noticed was the sheer amount of bikes available for hire. There must have been at least three bike-hire shops on the same road. Needless to say we hired a bike and I was €10 euro poorer as I mounted it.

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 I neglected to take a photo of the bike shop, but here is a similar one that was close to where we got ours.

 

After a minute of adjusting my unsteady gait to the necessary balance required for bike riding, we cycled off down an unknown path. If you want to measure your fitness level, get a bike and go to the Aran Islands. There were so many small hills at first that I was a little concerned about it turning into an exercise regime. Then I felt the sweet relief of a little thing called downhill. I always underestimated going downhill, probably because I would normally be in a car or a bus or walking but my God, it was amazing. There is nothing better than feeling the cool breeze on your face as you’re effortlessly biking down a slope. My hair transformed into a nice bee-hive-esque do, which reminded me to get a haircut. The scenery around the island is unmatched in how natural and peaceful it looks. If you don’t believe my words, take a look at this:

Inis MorInis MorInis Mor

After a few hours of cycling we got hungry and thirsty so we returned to the mainland from off the beaten track. I was expecting to have some sort of local cuisine at a nice locally run cafe but most were closed owing to the time of year. Instead, we ended up eating food from Supermacs (a fast food chain in Ireland for those of you reading in another country). I was disappointed to see Supermacs on the island. It has no place there in my opinion and it is in stark contrast to the wonderfully natural surroundings. We brought our food to the beach; the rare Irish sunshine encouraged us to eat alfresco. Afterwards, we visited the Aran Sweater Market and admired the intricate patterns of the knitted clothing. There was a green hat I wanted but it was too expensive. If I had more money with me at the time it would have been a worthwhile investment.

Aran_Sweater_Market_at_Kilronan_Village_on_Inis_Mor,_Aran_Islands

All in all, it was a great experience and I would highly recommend a trip if you are anywhere near the Northwest of Ireland. One small tip: get to the ferry as early as possible, it gets packed very quickly.

Girls

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So I recently (and by recently I mean yesterday) started to watch the series Girls. It was recommended to me a few weeks ago and I was a little sceptical about it to be honest. Then I fully realised the genius of Lena Dunham: creator, writer, director and co-executive producer of the show. We get what I think is a good insight into the life of modern twenty-something women. It’s refreshing, cynical, realistic, quirky and interesting. It’s a little depressing in parts due to the fact it deals with struggles that are all too real for most young women (and men) these days aka. unemployment, unfulfilling relationships, societal pressure etc. However, that depression is lifted somewhat by the dark, occasionally cynical humour. There are 4 distinct characters, all of which bring something different to the table in terms of personality, attitude and life experience.

We have the main character Hannah Horvath (played by creator Lena Dunham) who is a 24-year-old struggling writer living in New York who is in and out of employment after being cut-off from her parents financial support. Hannah is self-deprecating, anxious, quick-witted and coming to the realisation that her dream of being a reputable published writer isn’t coming to fruition as easily as she had hoped.

Marnie Michaels (played by Allison Williams) is Hannah’s room-mate and closest friend. She is a 23-year-old art gallery curator in an unhappy long-term relationship. The love she once had for her boyfriend has disappeared and her dead-end career is adding to her quarter-life crisis.

Jessa Johansson (played by Jemima Kirke) is 24, unemployed and well travelled. She is the most free spirited of the group but finds it hard to come to terms with being an adult a lot of the time. Finding herself back in New York after travelling world, she now has to adjust to a more settled lifestyle, figuring out who she is and what she wants to get out of life.

Shoshanna Shapiro (played by Zosia Mamet) is Jessa’s cousin and offers her a place to stay when she returns to New York from her travels. Shoshanna is a 21-year-old virgin with an obsessive personality. The fact that she is a virgin creates a lot of anxiety for her because she feels “left out” and inferior to her other female friends. Her admiration for Jessa’s open lifestyle is excessive and she often puts other women on a pedestal. 

So if you’re looking for a new series to watch or just something entertaining, I would highly recommend Girls, for women and men alike. I enjoy the fact that each character is given the freedom to be vulnerable, tough, kind and mean all at the same. It shows the complex nature of sexuality and doesn’t sensationalise relationships in Hollywood fashion. Each episode is only half an hour long and it has been on since 2012, so there’s plenty to binge-watch before you catch up!

What Makes A Musician/Performer Good?

I often find it disappointing when I discover that an artist I like doesn’t write their own music, whether that be lyrics or otherwise. Why am I disappointed by that? For me, it just takes something away from it. It seems less authentic and less creative for the musician. However, I still like the song. The fact that the lyrics may not have been written by the performer doesn’t change the fact that they perform it well. After all, there are different kinds of talents: singing, playing an instrument, writing lyrics and producing. If I care that they didn’t write the lyrics, why do I not care when they haven’t produced the music? Isn’t that equally as important to the final product? This leads me onto my point. What makes a musician or a performer good?

Talent. The end….

Well, yes and no. Personality can take over in a major way. Bands and singers are often marketed at a certain audience purely for money. I’m not saying anything new here. We all know about commercial pop and how talentless some of the artists are within it. Is there something wrong with liking their music? No, of course not. It’s made for you to like it. Good beats, a catchy hook and easy to follow lyrics and you have a hit song. I just disagree with the principle of it. If someone is going to attain fame and fortune for performing music, I think they should in the very least be good at it. As I’m typing this I have One Direction stuck in my head and I’m not entirely hating it. Shoot me if you will…

So what makes them good? I think it’s a mixture of talent and personality for most of the artists in the spotlight today. If someone can perform a song well and entertain me, I can respect that. We find it very hard to detach the music from the person a lot of the time. Sometimes it’s a good thing and other times it’s not. I find Daft Punk very interesting for that reason alone. I’ve never seen their faces and I never hear of them in the news. All I have to go on is their music and I like it that way. On the flip-side of that I really like M.I.A. and part of that is definitely related to her personality. Would her music be as good if I didn’t know about her as a person? I’d like to think so but I don’t know for sure. 

The answer isn’t simple. We like singers and dancers and writers and producers for many different reasons. It’s a very subjective thing and what matters to some means nothing to others.

The Never Ending Pi

For me, being unemployed is a mix of job applications and binge-watching TED Talks. If you haven’t heard of or seen any TED Talks you can check them out here. They have lots of interesting ideas about a variety of topics from ‘How Your Body Language Shapes You‘ to ‘How To Tie Your Show Laces‘ (I still tie them wrong, bunny ears anyone? No?).

Recently I watched a video entitled ‘The Infinite Life Of Pi‘. Don’t get too excited. I’m talking about mathematical Pi, not edible pie. Pie, in all its deliciousness, is finite unfortunately. The video explains (briefly) where Pi originated, how it is calculated and its practical use in equations for many different things from the circumference of a can of soda to the density of the entire universe. So here is the crazy part. Pi has an unlimited amount of digits after the decimal point i.e. numbers that could continue on forever. You could be born, educated, have an entire career, get married, have a family, settle down and die during the calculation of Pi numbers. Not necessarily in that order (or that choosing) but Pi numbers can outlive you. Isn’t that nice and comforting? Well, I suppose that depends on your perspective.

The concept of forever scares me. It always has. I think it stems from my innate fear of death which I think most people have (if not only some doubt or uncertainty). I have a start and an end. After I die time will go on forever. Before I was born time went on forever in reverse (or it might have, I’m not an expert, ask Stephen Hawking). Is there a “reverse” if time has always existed? [insert profound answer here]. Either way, the mere idea that time will go on indefinitely confounds me. I am so attached to beginnings and ends in whichever form – from books, songs, relationships, seasons, years, decades and so on, that I find it difficult to deal with foreverness. My average little brain just can’t fathom it.

I’m going to go now and watch another TED Talk on time travel. I’m fairly certain my head will explode this evening.

The Luxury of Choice

It’s an employers market. There are thousands of us looking for work and very few job vacancies to meet that need. Looking for work becomes a job. In order to find work, we have to treat our search like a 9-to-5 and knuckle down. This isn’t easy and after so many rejections or lack of responses, it might seem easier just to throw in the towel and accept defeat. I hear a lot of people saying “there’s no work out there” and I think that is a damaging way to think (I’m guilty of it myself). It might hold some truth but it negatively affects our attitude. It’s a truth and a belief that people hold onto and it can result in missed opportunities. There are jobs out there. They are just difficult to find and even when you find them it’s not certain you’ll get an interview. To make it worse, even when you get an interview, you’re not guaranteed a job. There will most likely be 30 other people interviewing for that same position and this is where the problem lies. How are you unique to this employer? What do you have that everyone else doesn’t? 

You have to sell yourself. You are essentially a product and like any good product you need to brand yourself well. Right now you might feel like the store-brand minced-meat you find a the bottom of the shelf but the employer wants a T-bone steak. Your job is to put yourself up there, top of the shelf, and become a deliciously good potential employee. In other words (If my dodgy metaphor hasn’t already stopped you from reading) you need to think better of yourself. They have a problem and you are the solution. I really do believe in a fake-it-’til-you-make-it attitude. Even you feel overwhelmed, insecure and your questioning your capabilities for the job, you can still pretend to be the ideal candidate. Trust me, even the most confident interviewee in that room will not be feeling that way on their first day. It’s a new system, a new building, a new set of people to get along with and that’s hard for everyone. You are no different. You can do the job, you will make mistakes and then you’ll learn from those mistakes. After a few weeks on the job you’ll reach a level of comfort and familiarity that seems like a lifetime away from your first day. So don’t worry about that. Your job right now is to secure your position and nail that interview!

Another complaint I hear a lot is “but I can’t/don’t want to work in a fast-food joint or other menial jobs”. Going back to the first line of this post, it’s an employers market. There is no luxury of choice. If you’re waiting for the perfect job in the perfect area that suits your skills perfectly, then you will be sadly disappointed and probably poorer. What’s wrong with taking a job temporarily until you find that awesome dream-job? You’ll be making money and keeping yourself occupied. There’s nothing worse than a huge gap on your CV. Sure, it’s not ideal but life right now is not ideal for many people and we have to pull up our socks and deal with it. Preparation, perseverance and a positive attitude goes a long way.

I’m in the same boat as everyone else. I’m unemployed and trying to find work. I could try harder. There are things I could do that would increase my chances. In this post I’m partly talking to myself. We all need motivation. I hope that anyone reading this does find work or if you already have a job, then I hate you….I mean, well done and such….. 🙂

To reclaim or not to reclaim, that is the question.

Reappropriation is the cultural process by which a group reclaims—re-appropriates—terms or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group.”

 

Words are powerful. We use them to express our love, gratitude, anger, excitement, joy and sadness. We use them to communicate our feelings, intentions and motives toward others. They evolve over time. The spellings and meanings of words change, sometimes slightly and sometimes entirely. But what happens when the meaning of a word changes negatively? When a word becomes a method of discrimination, a way to hurt and disparage another individual or group based on their sexual orientation, race, gender or disability?

There are so many derogatory words out there that it would be impossible for me to give an example of each. For the purpose of this post I will use one as an example and due to the recent media coverage surrounding gay rights, it seems fitting that I should choose the word queer. I also lack the experience, credibility and knowledge to argue for or against the reclamation of the many other derogatory terms.

A brief history: The word queer originally meant odd or strange. It was an adjective used to describe anything that deviated from the norm. In the mid-to-late 19th century the word began to change in meaning; to describe same-sex relations. By the early 20th century it had firmly transformed into a pejorative term used to discriminate against gay people. In the 1980s gay rights activists decided to try and reclaim the word. The idea was to identify with it and subsequently take away the power of it in the hands of others.

Before I looked into this I had a one-sided view on reappropriation. I thought why on earth would I want to identify with a word that has been used to hurt and discriminate against me? Why should I accept a word that means odd or strange in reference to my sexuality? And after much deliberation and discussions I have had with friends on the subject, the answer still isn’t clear for me. I still don’t have a solid opinion on whether it is a fully positive or negative process. Parts of me agree with it and parts of me still cringe when I think of using the word queer to describe my sexuality.

Empowerment: The fundamental reason for reclaiming the word queer was to take back the power. To identify with it and be proud of it. To wear it like a badge of honour. I understand this. I can appreciate the positive side to it. My only issues with this aspect of it is that, in my view, we haven’t fully taken away it’s power. The majority of members of the public outside of the LGBT community cannot comfortably call someone a queer. It still has negative connotations. I understand the concept of reclaiming a word, but I feel if the word is to really lose its power over us, shouldn’t everyone, regardless of orientation, be able to comfortably (and with good intention) call an LGBT individual queer? Having said that, I realise that reappropriation is not a quick process. These things take time and effort and maybe one day the word queer won’t be so loaded. It might become as common and neutral as calling someone gay.

Meanings: The fact that the dictionary still lists the word queer as ‘odd’ or ‘strange’ is part of the reason why I feel uncomfortable identifying with it. Primarily because there is nothing odd or strange, to me, about LGBT relationships and that association doesn’t feel right. However, words can and do have more than one meaning. Queer in respect of sexuality doesn’t necessarily have to mean strange or odd. it could just be a description of an orientation other than heterosexual….which leads me onto my next point.

Umbrella term: The most positive aspect, for me, in the reappropriation of the word queer is that it can be used to describe not just gay or bisexual people but anyone within the branch of the LGBT community. Anyone of any gender identity or orientation can fit into the category of queer. It’s a neutral and effective way of including everyone that identifies outside of heterosexual relationships. It’s inclusive.

In conclusion, do I think reappropriation is a positive force? I think it can be. Do I think it’s the best way to deal with derogatory words? Maybe not. Will I be comfortable identifying with and using the word queer? Not yet anyway.  What I will say is that I now understand, to a better degree, why people want to reclaim the word. I think it has helped some people to cope with discrimination just that little bit more.

If you’ve gotten this far, I’d like to thank you for reading this and hopefully I haven’t been too unclear in this post. Leave a comment beneath with your opinions because I’d love to hear them.