2000-09 (SEPTEMBER, 2000)

Sligo, Ireland

Andy and I went over to visit Andy's dad, Bobby, in Sligo. We took the Friday and Monday off work and had a leisurely trip out and back again flying on an unusually punctual Ryan Air.

We were met at Knock airport by Bobby and drove back to Sligo under some fabulous Irish sunshine. We went shopping in town for food and wine, ran a few errands, stopped for pints at Yeats' Tavern and then headed back to the house at Carney. That night I cooked for all of us and we nattered and drank very good wine until the wee, small hours.

Not too early a start on Saturday. After a great Irish fried breakfast we began our day of sightseeing. First stop was the magnificent St Columba church at Droim Chliabh (Drumcliffe) where Yeats is buried. Next up was Parkes' Castle which nestles on the shore of Lough Gill. Lunch was at Stanford's in Drumahair. Andy cooked us dinner and we relaxed in front of a video ('East Is East') for the evening whilst the wind and rain buffeted the house.

Another leisurely start to Sunday. First up was Sligo Abbey, a twelfth century ruin that is in the middle of Sligo town and is in very good condition for a structure that has been abandoned to the elements for such a long period of time. Unfortunately I had left my camera at home that morning, so the abbey is missing from the photo selection - next time, maybe. A quick detour home to pick up the camera and we were off again, this time out to the passage tombs at Carrow Keel where we were lucky enough to bump into a guided tour that was being run in conjunction with Sligo Heritage Week. Carrow Keel is a collection of twelve tombs that are each over 5,000 years old. Our guide then took us down to another massive passage tomb at Heapstown. We dined at the Waterfront Restaurant on Ross' Point, a fabulous seafood restaurant right on the water.

On Monday we pootled out to Glencar Lake and Waterfall, which were both just beautiful. We boarded our plane home from Knock airport at 17:00 and were home by 20:30.

Sailing - Solent, England

Friday: Eight of us (Linda U, Mike (skipper), Andrew A, Mark, Naomi, Adrienne, Andy, and myself) hired a 45' yacht for a weekend of sailing around the Solent. I left work early and caught the train down to Brighton. From there, Mark and I drove to Hamble to meet up with everyone else. By the time we arrived, it was getting pretty late and we retired after a leisurely dinner.

Saturday: We awoke to a gorgeous, sunny day. The wind was a fun force Four to Five. I was in charge of untying our lines which meant that everyone else got a great view of me leaping from the docks to the boat at the last second, whilst under the glare of several cameras that were hungry for the first cock-up of the weekend. To begin with, we ran down South Hampton Water to the South Hampton Boat Show for a brief viewing from our boat. Everyone got a go at helming. Next we tacked back up the Water and out into the Solent. Mike, our skipper, taught us all to manage the main and jib sheets. We then headed West on a rolling broad reach. The wind slowly edged up to a force Seven (which is a shade too exciting for a complete beginner crew - force Eight is Gale force, remember). I had a go at the wheel where I briefly assumed the nickname of 'Snaky' (due to my steering prowess) before being re-dubbed 'Crash' after a particularly impressive 360° spin whilst our skipper was momentarily below deck (crash-gybing a 45' yacht in a force Seven wind is very, very bad). I was not asked back to the helm. This meant I was free to go and screw up things at the sharp end of the boat - much more fun! We docked at Cowes, on the Isle of White, for the night. The evening was spent in a cute, but crowded, pub near the harbour. The boys spent the evening trying to avoid being covered in glitter by the girls.

Sunday: Not so nice a day today - a rain front had moved in, but at least the wind had come down a notch or two. We began with a lovely sail out to the West again. After lunch, I put my head down to catch 40 winks and awoke 3 hours later. We were on our way home at this stage, racing a big, black cloud bank back to port. The rain caught us again just before we docked. Again, it fell to me to do our lines upon arrival (in order to avoid hitting the multi-million pound boat beside our berth). We missed our neighbour by about half a centimetre which earned me more filthy looks from our skipper - perhaps the stern line could have been a little bit tighter. Still, he's asked me to come sailing with him again (a wee race in the middle of November) so I can't have been too bad, eh! Back home and a curry for tea (at our friendly, local Indian, who doesn't mind four unwashed people coming in for dinner). Yum!

Dallas, Texas (For Work) - United States

Monday: Left London late morning. Arrived in to a glorious Dallas afternoon after a 10 hour flight. I was kindly collected by Mary, one of the women who is also working on our project. At the hotel I was upgraded to a suite on the 24th floor. It had a lounge, bedroom, enormous bathroom, two TVs - one with a games console - and a 180° balcony. Bloody brilliant!

Tuesday to Friday: Worked at the Dallas office and met our international project team (three Yanks, two Brits, one Russian, one Venezuelan, one Australian, one Kiwi (me) and a lady from China). Crazy!

Saturday: I spent the day beside the hotel pool, catching some rays, before my afternoon flight home.