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Christmas deserves its own category Covid Plague Ireland Adventures Life In Eire

An Irish Christmas

Here we are on the other side of December and I wanted to (finally) write an update post about life here. The last few months have been spent largely at home as we got through our second Level 5 hard lockdown and now we’re back in lockdown for our third, and hopefully final, hard lockdown that will last until at least 31 January. The festive season, even with restrictions and masks, was joyful and magical so it’s nice to write a post reflecting on our first Christmas in Ireland as well as nearing the end of a full year here.

Firstly though, Christmas!

We spent December enjoying the ramp up in delicious treats and twinkly lights everywhere. Seriously, everywhere! One of our strategies for getting through the shortest days of the year was candles, candles, and more candles based on this article with the overall goal to stay positive and embrace this cosy season. Our late October/November lockdown was scaled back on December 1 just in time for the city to be properly decked out and a growing atmosphere of excitement for the season with people wandering around the streets with a Christmassy drink in hand. As new locals, everything has very obviously been a complete discovery for us so we tried to enjoy things as much yet as safely as possible. Getting bundled up to walk around our neighbourhood, spot lights and soak up pockets of winter sun made the lead up to Christmas especially wonderful. The sense of anticipation was palpable and now that we have a sense of what a ‘normal’ Christmas is like over here, we’re very much counting down to when we can visit markets in mainland Europe for the full advent season and all of the glühwein…hopefully this will be possible in 2021. An equally noteworthy aspect of ‘the season’ was European Christmas treats from local Cork specialties through to the Aldi, Lidl and M&S accoutrement. We are loving this and in the present tense are still working our way through chocolate truffles like actual truffle pigs…

One thing we’d done here and there over the years is a ’12 Dates of Christmas’ with small dates planned out for spending extra quality time together during such a busy time of year. This year, these dates were more of a distraction to find a way to have things to look forward to as we’re still erring on the side of not socialising with people, unless it’s distanced and outside, so this was a nice way to make things feel special particularly when we naturally had some wobbly times due to uncertainty etc. We matched our dates up around merry things like watching a beloved favourite podcast’s Christmas Special at home through to writing snail mail cards for loved ones. We do still have some things on the list – like learning to play chess together – so we’ll be ticking dates off into the new year, too.

We also got a projector as an early joint Christmas present and it has made life pretty magical to say the very least. We are working our way through the ‘roaring fire’ YouTube channel and relishing a pseudo-big screen that is probably the most grown-up appliance we’ve ever owned. A solid investment and worthwhile present that’s made nights (and, frankly, the now entire months) at home much more pleasant.

Projector night! It was my first time watching Independence Day (no shaming please!)

For Christmas Day, the O’Sullivan family blessed us with an epic hamper of everything we needed to make our own traditional feast. This surprise was so incredible and stunned us completely. Rob, Kathleen and Paul thought of absolutely everything down to relishes and brandy cream which has kept us going from 18 December through Betwixtmas and the new year.

Simon stepped up as head chef for the meals with a glazed ham that didn’t last 24 hours and a spiced beef that similarly barely made it past the 30 hour mark in our house… Spiced beef is traditional Cork Christmas fare and we devoured ours in hoagies on St Stephen’s Day with plenty of mustard and enmental cheese. From the above, we are still working through the Biscoff spread and we have a second Christmas pudding that we’ll tuck into any night now. We spent Christmas Eve facetiming with family then on the day itself, we opened presents with a Baileys coffee before going on a long walk in a stunning blue sky winter day. We came home for more ham, more Baileys and our Christmas movie of Die Hard 2 chosen for its Christmas Eve timing and setting in an airport…needless to say, we really miss those…

Overall, Christmas was a quiet and peaceful day that filled our hearts and bellies, and then some! We actually really don’t miss the summer heat at all although we do yearn for the beach and our traditional getaway to Wooli for a week over new year. All in all, while things feel very different, as ever the main thing we miss is loved ones as our sense of ‘home’ rather rather than actual places. It might not have been what we dreamed of 12 months ago however we’re where we want to be, family and friends are all safe and healthy, and life truly is good.

Some reflections on our first year here and 2020…

After nearly a year here, it’s strange to think that this time in 2019 we were finished packing up and selling things and in the transit phase of getting over here. We often discuss the parallel universes of what might have happened if we’d delayed the move by even a few weeks or if we’d known what the majority of this year would hold. It’s obviously impossible to know for certain but I know that I speak for both of us in writing here that we wouldn’t have been able to stay the course without support in all its myriad forms. We always knew that this year would be a state of flux without a community around us like we had back home and this has become even more profoundly true as all community went remote even with the people we know here. Then, when it became apparent that meeting people, building a community and ‘setting up a life’ would be on hold somewhat indefinitely, it reinforced just how important it is – no matter the circumstance – to prioritise staying connected with loved ones is. We see how vital it is for all of us and know we wouldn’t have made it this far without connection with loved ones.

It’s meant so much to us to have you check in on us, play remote quizzes and Catan and Hearts with us, drop us voice messages and video messages, and send us postcards and care packages. You’ve shown us again and again what truly loving the people around you looks like and we have new reference points for what caring for one can be. Learning this lesson and feeling that connection of humour, concern, interest and friendship is something that we treasure above everything. Even though 2020 is going to look so weird on all of our ‘résumés’, figurative and literal, this is the important stuff that I will carry on in all the years ahead and for every single thing, we are immensely grateful.

Thank you so much and all our love, Aoife & Simon xx

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Life In Eire Moving Abroad

A Wee Tour Of Our First Irish Home

After 11 weeks living out of our suitcases, we’ve made the jump and set up in our first Irish home. We’ll start with some quick snaps from last Friday when we got the keys to our little terrace house just 48 hours after applying on the spot at the viewing. Needless to say with the rental market in Ireland being epically competitive when you find somewhere that hits the budget, location and specs trifecta, you find you’ll move heaven and earth to try to make it yours!

Prior to getting this place, we had been on the property hunt for a solid two weeks before we were successful in applying for this place — I say successful because I’d honestly lost track of how many properties we applied to look at, how many we managed to book a viewing for, how many we actually got to see, and then how many we applied for. Like I say, a very competitive market and if you’d told us this time a week ago that we would have a place let alone a place we like so much, we would likely have scoffed a bit and gone back to trawling the Daft app hoping that a property in our range had listed.

As Simon was up in Dublin for his first three days of work (training in head office), I traversed the city going to viewings and hammering out preliminary EOI messages to property agents. The moment I walked into our home I knew it would be perfect for us. It was adorable on first sight and easy walking distance to St Patrick’s Quay (20 minutes on the flat — so the same as a walk to James Street from our past Bowen Hills house), plus it had a surprise ground floor bedroom for Simon’s studio. Despite this, I’d learned after our first application disappointment that surviving the rental application game is 100% more about mental fortitude and odds-playing than anything else. You’ve got to be in it to win it and do the legwork of getting to as many viewings as possible. I knew better than to get too excited even with things looking so promising from the first seconds in the door.

And of course, this is where things hit a bit of a hitch with this seemingly perfect home: the third floor attic bedroom had a staircase so small even I have to crouch to get through the doorway. Adorable and perfect, yes. An absolute physical hazard for one Simon Lane, also yes! To combat Simon (or ‘My beloved’ as he referred to him) not being there in person, the property manager very kindly suggested I video call Simon from the house and so I walked him through the house from top to bottom, knocking my head a little along the way, then ultimately paid a deposit on the spot!

After a nail biting 24 hours, we received word on Thursday that the house was officially ours and then picked up the keys on Friday afternoon. A totally joyful and unreal whirlwind that’s wound up our second month here in Cork. My Uncle Barry and I collected Simon from the Friday afternoon train, then we headed to sign the lease before moving in on Saturday with help from friends. With only our suitcases plus a bit more ‘stuff’ we’ve acquired in the interim, it was the easiest move of our adult lives and we’re already trying to work out how to minimise our overall ‘stuff’ so that every move can be two carloads that are unpacked in an afternoon.

The area is historic and the house itself feels like a wee lighthouse with the stair bannisters reminiscent of a ship, little light portholes in the galley kitchen and a huge skylight in our bedroom that opens out over the street and water. It’s newly renovated and we love all of the furniture that’s part of the rental. The location itself is also magic: we’re right near the river, a 10 minute walk from the train station for both our jobs and about 25 minutes from Lidl (ahem, priorities). We also walked past a very cute bakery in the Victorian Quarter (about 15 minutes walk) on Sunday that I can’t wait to check out.

We will probably send a video through privately however here are some initial photos. To give an idea of the overall feel of the place, it’s a terrace home spread over three levels and with a view of the River Lee. It already feels like our own home and it just had a positive vibe the moment I walked in. It’s equally great that Simon has wound up loving it, too!

My final thought is that we wouldn’t be here in our new home without the support of our family and friends here, in Aus and NZ, and all around the globe. It’s bittersweet to be here in our new home (although Simon is back in Dublin for the week training again) and to dream of having people visit us from all over here all while not knowing exactly when that might be. It’s a bit strange to have that sense of the in between right as life starts to take up the shape of normal routines again. Another part alongside this is that while we’re so grateful to have this wee home, we are already missing our housemates we were living with initially, Rob and Rebecca, and all in all we so enjoyed our time together at Jacob’s Island. With this in mind, we hope to have them round for a Sunday Roast as soon as we’ve a table as this was a tradition introduced to us in our time living together.

We’ll have more updates soon as I have my first day of work tomorrow and we’re hoping to book some warm weather sale flights for another adventure in the coming months. Until then, wherever you might be, happy spring or happy autumn. The days here are still cool while the daffodils are blooming and the days are getting brighter and longer. It’s going to be a glorious stretch ahead that we’re in just the right place to enjoy most thankfully.

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Life In Eire Moving Abroad

An Update From Ireland

We’ve now been in Ireland for five weeks and it’s definitely a case of blinking then time flying by.

We’ve really settled into our set up phase now with this basically involving hours at our computers, visiting recruiters and drinking a million plus cups of tea e’ry day. We’re also hard at work meeting people in our respective as well as crossover industries with some connections being made through friends here. There’s also been meetings of happenstance through coffee shops, rad record stores and even the Cork City tourist office (hey, Tony!). Irish people are incredibly kind and every time I leave Simon to pop into Tesco/Lidl/Marks & Spencers, by the time I emerge he’s chatting with a new friend who’s parked up with him on a bench watching the world go by.

Some other updates because it’s worth sharing the nuts and bolts of getting set up here with the realities of challenges as well as other localised things affecting progress…

The Wins

  • Simon’s residency permit – We were so fortunate and Simon was granted his residency permit on our third day in Ireland with a completely unrestricted Stamp 4 that means he can work, we can travel and the permit is until 2023. We’re genuinely so fortunate in this regard because we know from the Australian side that this can be so difficult no matter where you’re trying to move and we’re also very privileged (whether because we’re married, we don’t know) to have been able to get this permission simply and quickly. Bottom line: this is genuinely amazing news!
  • Corcaigh – We love, love, love Cork and it’s suiting us really well so far! There’s been some snow the last couple of days (not enough to stick!) and all in all, it’s dreamy! We know we’re in the right place for us and all things considered it’s a huge win to be loving our surrounds.
  • Good people – We have a lot of support both near and far that is helping with the transition especially when we’re chained to our keyboards! Job applications in particular are a real mental game of both odds playing and persisting in the face of radio silence and/or rejection. Keeping our chins up, support from everyone all over the world and chocolate from Lidl helps as a discretionary desk treat.

The Challenges

  • Winter sickness – This started with me getting a nasty cold a couple of weeks ago and now Simon has succumbed to it as well. He’s had a decidedly yucky five days of it and finally made it out of the house today. Hooray! Three boxes of tissues later…
  • Political unpredictabilities – Ireland had a general election over the weekend and between this and Brexit the weekend before (things aren’t happening by halves!) it’s interesting to see as well as experience the localised effects. One of the main ones is a bit of a pause in the hiring market while companies wait for the Brexit dust to settle. Watch this space and keep your fingers crossed we get jobs soon!
  • General life admin, i.e. bureaucracy in all its forms — all this to say, while we had a win with the Residency Permit it’s the PPSN cards that are taking their time. These are a cross between Medicare cards and tax file numbers except they’re an official photo ID as well. We are trying to get in to get an appointment for these and have experienced some literally very challenging misdirections in our course of getting to the appointment stage. It goes without saying that adulting in its life admin form is not fun for anyone no matter where in the world you are. Further comments on this: we are counting our blessings, crossing fingers and toes that next week this is sorted, and ultimately, keeping calm, like.

We’ll have some more updates soon from our verdant neck of the woods!

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Ireland Adventures Moving Abroad

Around Our New City

We’ve been here in Ireland for two and a half weeks (in Cork the entire time) and it’s safe to say we’re completely smitten! We’ve been blessed with blue skies as well as some unseasonal sunshine however as the day closes in, the temperature drops really quickly and gifts us with some of the most beautiful wintry sunsets conceivable (I’m hopeful we might get snow based on the extra warm days).

Dreamy and chilly, believe me

We are generally getting around either on public transport (double decker buses that give us a bird’s eye view of charming narrow streets and gorgeous houses). We’re also walking a lot and, as always, it’s my preferred way to discover a new place. I’ll put it out there now: Cork begs to be enjoyed and there’s so much to enjoy. We basically stop every half a block to bookmark places and take pictures.

Around Cork City and a walk we did recently on an old railway line converted to public space

Amongst our visits to recruiters, we’ve also made our way to UCC (University College Cork) and soaked up some of the lush campus. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves — it’s about 25 minutes walk from the city centre.

Needless to say, we’ll be back and we’re looking forward to tackling one of the many walks that circuit around the university as well as checking out the gallery Simon is pictured on the other side of above

Finally, we’re still loving all of the street art and sculptures dotted everywhere — here are some gems from the last few days or so. Let me say it again: we love it here and are thrilled to be sharing this special place with you, too.

Technically not street art but it was on the side of a building…
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Interior Highways

I. Interesting, rad and enjoyable things

One aim I have for this year is to be better at sharing things and so I’m aiming to use this site for building a compendium of recommendations. Prior to now I’d used sporadic WhatsApp/FB messages with friends and loved ones to share things in a manner inarguably sloppy, sporadic and somewhat difficult to process. For a long time I’d thought about properly sorting things into emails however I’m actually the worst at this so moving forward, I’m going to try and write these posts and then there’s easy hyperlinks too!

Without further ado, some recent things that are worthwhile sharing:

  1. To start, this undeniably enjoyable street art from our new city located on the South Mall, Parnell Place. Not sure of the connection Alf Stewart has with Cork but holy cow, anything that immortalises one of my favourite ‘Strayan ockerisms is a bloody winner. Here’s a fun response from the icon himself, too! On the whole, the Cork streets are home to mesmerising art pieces with the standout for me the Irish historical figures located on Kyle Street.
  1. The first book I’ve read in 2020 is the much-acclaimed Michelle Obama memoir Becoming*. I’d heard that Becoming was genuinely extraordinary writing however I was completely unprepared for how engrossing the narrative structure is and how effectively the key motifs around education, economics, structural segregation, community, rhetoric and policy is communicated. I can’t recommend this highly enough, not least with regard to relevance around how subsequent USA administrations are managing civic issues both on a federal and international level. Also, an additional comment that Obama’s expertise is formidable – prior to reading this memoir, my understanding of her experience was limited to her work in law – with her work post-FLOTUS a continued pursuit of essential social change that shows genuine leadership.undefined
  1. Sincere thanks to my rad brother-in-law Andrew for alerting me to this interview with Andrew Scott, Irish actor extraordinaire, on the famed podcast How To Fail with Elizabeth Day. This episode is a stand-out and kicks off a new season of How To Fail, with this conversation with this hallowed actor an all-round treat and I’ll also take the opportunity to highlight a slightly different interview here with some of his lesser-known fans, too… A stat that’s additionally worth sharing: Scott’s cult character on Fleabag Season 2 has spiked sales in Marks & Spencer canned G&T.
  1. I genuinely love grocery shopping and when I’m somewhere new, supermarkets and chemists/pharmacies are my ideal place for an excursion, especially when this involves sourcing snacks, etc.: enter, Deliciously Ella Salted Caramel Cups. These are a winner, albeit a treat in every sense of the word as they are a bit ‘spenny. More generally, we are actively acquainting ourselves with supermarkets in Ireland (so far our favourite is Dunnes Stores, in particular the Bishopstown location where Simon picked up a cashmere beanie from!!!) and subsequently getting amongst brands and treats not available in Australia. Last night we tried the infamous Salted Caramel Cups. Needless to say I’m thinking about them right now and they were an outstanding pre-dinner-walking-home-from-Tesco snack. Honourable mention here to this local brand, Cali Cali Foods, for their chipotle hot sauce as well – more of a salsa-y relish than a hot sauce and deliciously smoky, too – we’ve been enjoying this with loads of meals!

Finally, our hearts are heavy with the bushfires and national emergency happening in Australia. This crisis keeps evolving and we are trying to stay informed with regards to how we can all be responsive on a community support level as well as mobilise as citizens. One component is ensuring that all of our voices are heard so that action is taken on localised and national fronts for both recovery and structural changes plus funding to environmental and preventative policies are made. In terms of the scope of damage and the extent of the fires, this photo essay here puts into perspective that this crisis did not happen in the space of days – ordinary people, emergency services and journalists have been engaged with this for months now.

*One last note, my preferred place to buy secondhand books online is Better World Books. Not only is their selection stellar, they donate to world literacy programs plus they donate books, and their work saves books from becoming landfill (they reuse, repurpose and recycle). I will note that books can take a little while to arrive however it’s worth it – check them out!

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Moving Abroad

Touching Down In Ireland

All too quickly our time in Dubai was over and we were packing up yet again for our final travel leg: Dubai to Dublin by plane and then Dublin to Cork by bus.

Our final day in the UAE was spent in the Hatta area with a healthy mix of hearts (may the record state that I shot the moon to win the game) and kayaking before returning to Dubai for dumplings shared under the Burj Khalifa.

Post-hike up to the dam in Hatta with Eoin and Sarah, adventures in marital kayaking… and post-lunch mural photos – this one’s for you, Dad!

At the Mall Of The Emirates and looking up at 800plus metres of the tallest building in the world

In yet another marathon Tetris packing mission, we repacked our bags and assembled for our 4am wake-up call with Waffle the cat helping throughout (Simon is Waffle’s favourite person and she couldn’t get close enough, including jumping in and out of our suitcases). All too soon we were running the checking in baggage limit gauntlet and successfully avoiding excess baggage fees before boarding our flight to Dublin! It would be off-brand for us not to comment on the caffeine offerings and we can happily report that the Jones The Grocer departures outlet does live up to its promise of good coffee. It definitely hit the spot in terms of our overall sleep deprivation and impending travel four hours backwards to Irish time.

Ready to fly north!

Touching down to blue skies in Dublin was an early lesson that weather changes quickly in Ireland and by the time we were on the bus heading south to Cork, the afternoon light and the rain were closing in. After landing, we began the immigration process (more on this in another post) before collecting our luggage and sharing a pre-bus ride ‘Mighty Irish Breakfast’. I am very happy to report that my earlier endorsements of Irish bacon were upheld in the Mighty Irish Brekky and Simon is now an initiate and convert to the traditional delicacies of black pudding and white pudding (again, more on this at a future date).

Snapshots of Dublin including those blue skies – we are looking forward to a proper stint in the capital as soon as permits!

We arrived in Cork slightly ahead of schedule with our host Rob picking us up before the cold really got into our bones and fatigue from a full day of travel could make us entirely delirious. At Rob’s place just outside the Cork centre, we enjoyed our first night in our new home city with the local seasonal meal of spiced beef shared in outstanding company. Rob’s place is lovely and we’re very grateful to feel at home already.

As we don’t have any further photos from our arrival, I’ll close with my mum’s welcome message that seemed to echo as we were driving through the historic streets of Dublin and then getting off the bus at Patrick’s Quay by the River Lee, Cork: “Welcome to the island of saints and scholars.”