Just when I thought I’d never sail again…

This week saw a return to sailing that, a few weeks ago, I feared might never happen. I’d had 14 fractures in my arm and wrist from my accident at the start of August and they’d given me the impression that putting Humpty Dumpty back together would have presented less problems. I can’t describe the sense of elation I had, then, when I was able to set off in my little boat and do all the rope tugging, tiller gripping and hanging on that was required to take her around the island of Ireland’s Eye and safely home. I’d set up a small camera to record the momentous occasion and my thoughts and all began well. I was just saying how, when I’m on the water, I make it a rule to switch off the technology, however, when, the radio mic cut itself off – offended, no doubt by my gadget-laden hypocrisy. My point was, though, that sailing is more than a recreational pastime for me. In fact, I get the same boost from it that I get when I walk on the Camino de Santiago. When I’m on the boat I get to switch off the world and loose myself in my thoughts and nature. It’s a chance to recharge the batteries. As Dublin’s much loved singer songwriter Damien Dempsey puts it; “Howth was the place I buried my troubles at sea”.

Lately I’ve had so many friends confide in me that they’re feeling a sense of anxiety all the time. In most cases they’re not even sure what it is that they’re anxious about. I suspect that it could be something to do with being so hyper-connected all the time. Social media and carrying the internet in your pocket has massive advantages. When I was a good bit younger and traveling to see the world there were so many people that I met who I would love to have stayed in touch with but, although I carried their phone numbers around in an address book for years, it would have seemed a bit strange to randomly pick up the phone and say “Hey, it’s that Irish guy you met in Mumbai.” Now, though, half my Facebook friends are people I met in those kinds of circumstances and, even if we don’t talk frequently, I have a good idea what they’re up to in life and if I find myself in their part of the world or they find themselves in mine we touch base. The downside, though, is that lack of separation between social life and work. I’ve never worked nine-to-five hours but there was a time, quite recently, when you knew that after 5pm you weren’t going to be contacted by anyone who did have that kind of office job. The first time I sent a document to a civil servant on a Sunday night and got an immediate response totally shocked me. It’s now quite normal. People don’t seem to switch off.

I don’t know if you have something that you do to step off the rollercoaster for a while but I hope so. If it’s particularly good please do share it with us in the comments. Out on the boat is my little “zen zone” for an hour or so while I potter around Ireland’s Eye and watch the seabirds. When I need a real break I spend a week walking to Santiago along the Camino, just switching on the phone once each day to make sure everyone’s okay before switching it off again and getting back to chatting to the people that I bump into who are usually also there to escape the digital ratrace for a while.

If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading 🙂

 

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26 pages of info on The Camino de Santiago (for those who want to spend a week or so on “the road less travelled”)

Having walked the last stage of the Camino de Santiago along the lesser known and, therefore, less commercial Portuguese route to research my book Pins and Needles, I became somewhat of an accidental expert. In order that this knowledge shouldn’t go to waste I put together a 26 page booklet in pdf form giving some tips and information for anyone who’s considering putting a backpack on their back and setting off for a week on the ancient pilgrim trail. As you’ll see from the guide, I thoroughly recommend it for all sort so reasons. You can download the free pdf here. Buen camino!

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Come to my launch!

The ‘powers-that-be’ suggested Thursday, October 12th would be suitable for the official launch of ‘Pins and Needles’ in Hodges Figgis – one of my favourite bookshops – on Dawson Street, just a stone’s throw from Trinity College Dublin. I made a series of phone calls to all my friends, checking their availability, and found that both of them are free 🙂 so, we’re locked in. The rest of the day was spent deciding on things like “plastic or glass wine glasses?”, “will I talk for few minutes or make a short video?”. With the book’s connection to the Camino de Santiago I’ve decided on Spanish wine and something along the lines of tapas. This prompted another string of ponderings on the nature of the latter. The main thing is, I guess, that the launch is on and I hope that you’ll be there to tell me if the wine choice was right and if the tapas hit the spot. Put it in your diary. It’s at 6pm in the aforementioned bookstore. I’ll be setting up a Facebook event so RSVP there. If we’re not Facebook friends then please rectify this situation :)You’ll find me here: http://facebook.com/declanjcassidy
In the meantime, someone got on to me to ask me if I was aware that my book is on sale on Ebay in Australia! Not only that, but it’s selling at $54. I had to check it out and, sure enough, there it is. At least it’s not going at a bargain-basement price 🙂
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Kindle launch means free preview…

With today’s launch of the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ on Amazon, there’s now a preview available that you can read immediately before deciding if it’s for you. The link is below. I also want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who have bought the eBook or paperback and I really appreciate the feedback from those who have finished it. Thanks for passing it on too. The more readers the merrier 🙂

Mother launches acting career at 81…

If those suited people in glass offices are having trouble ‘thinking outside the box’ all they need to do is spend a while with my Mum. I awoke, this morning, at her house where I was taking a turn in looking after her (my siblings and I do 24 hour shifts) to find that the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ had been launched and, already, pre-orders had been electronically zapped to waiting Kindle devices. As I helped Mum get ready for her Alzheimers day club, half my mind was on the productive morning I’d put in arranging some local press attention before picking her up in the afternoon.

“Just a minute,” Mum said at the front door as we were leaving. She disappeared upstairs and returned, a few minutes later, with a handful of books.

“I’ll bring these,” she said.

We were half way through the 20 minute drive when she gave a little, somewhat contrived cough.

“You’ll go in, won’t you?” she said.

“Of course.”

I was unperturbed. Last week Mum had insisted that I brought a copy of my book to give to the staff and she had asked me to come inside with her to present it in person.

We pulled up on the tarmac outside the club. Mum produced another little cough.

“Now, you bring them in,” she said, offering me the books she’d brought.

“Aren’t you coming?”

“I’ve got a cough. Tell them I can’t go.”

As we headed to the shops the cough was forgotten.

“What do you do at the club?” I asked.

“Nothing. Everybody sits around and stares at a fish tank, counting the fish.”

She paused a moment before adding: “… and  some of them are a bit…”

She tapped her head.

“… not all there.”

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800 years of the Irish in Santiago

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Hundreds of scallop shells, each hung there by a passing pilgrim and each one with a personal message. So many stories…

Since at least the year 1220 there have been Irish people leaving St James Gate – home, now, to Guinness – and heading by sea and land to Santiago de Compostela. Of course St James is the English name for San Tiago. I’d left St James’ Hospital a little dejected at having been told that post concussion dizziness and fatigue take on average 43 days to pass if you completely rest the brain or, on average, 100 days if you use your brain (that’s me, I fear, as I don’t know how to switch my brain off), when I saw the sign, pictured below, outside St James’ Church on St James’ Street.

There is an office, there, in the church, staffed by volunteers, giving information and documentation for those intending to walk the Camino de Santiago. I decided to drop in and see if any of them wanted to come to the book launch next month (date to be confirmed). A friendly chap there told me that, when excavating to build the Dublin City Council head office on the banks of the River Liffey they found thousands of scallop shells, such as those above that I photographed on the Portuguese way while researching Pins and Needles. According to the guy, it was customary for pilgrims arriving back in Dublin by boat from their Camino to Santiago to throw the shell that they’d carried for the entire trip overboard and this is what led to the huge number of them on what would have been the riverbed. I’d been surprised, when first arriving in Santiago, to find that Galicia is a Celtic culture and that the people there see themselves as being connected to us here in Ireland. It seems that our connection does, indeed, go back through the centuries.

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To the left hand side of this church front on James Street is the Camino Ireland Office, staffed by volunteers and providing a wealth of information for anyone considering walking the Camino.