A home for random writings

I've decided to create this blog for any writing that I want to make public, such as for #FridayFlash or #CircleofScribes. Please feel free to read and comment!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Tayto Park

For all of you non-Irish friends and readers, I should perhaps give a brief explanation of what Tayto is. Tayto are Irish crisp (chips) makers, but Tayto crisps are not just a product. Oh no. Tayto crisps are part of our national identity, the foodstuff most smuggled out of the country to homesick ex-pats, the provender of Irish patriotism itself. Perhaps our love of Tayto stems in part from a collective memory of the potato famine of 1845, when Tayto were shockingly unavailable... ;) (Not really.)

Some people don't especially like Tayto crisps. Some, indeed, (like myself) prefer King or Walkers - but no self-respecting Irish person would ever admit that *out loud*. Tayto Crisps, and their figurehead Mr Tayto, are so popular that this book was a bestseller last Christmas.

I think it was @chiddle84 who, a few months ago, first alerted me to the latest marvel that our tiny island had to offer - Tayto Park. Despite having long been cynical enough to expect part of Killarney to be transformed into EireDisney or Leprechaun Land at any minute, at first I thought this was a joke. Then I visited the website and, once I'd finished laughing, I just knew I had to go there. A combination of a sick child and snowmaggeddon slowed down my plans, but given the mild weather this week we borrowed two extra children to entertain our own, and off we went.

Tayto Park is located just outside Ashbourne in Co. Meath, about a fifteen minute detour from the M50. The signposting is pretty poor, until you finally almost get there and encounter one enormous billboard advertising the place. Personally, I would have preferred a few more directional signs from the M50.

As you drive in, it's instantly obvious that the place is still under construction. We navigated our way to what was probably a parking space (that's our story) through a sea of traffic cones. The fact that our car park was called the Cheese and Onion car park had me laughing like an idiot.

I quickly stopped laughing when it became apparent that the whole place was deserted - not a sinner to be seen. We almost turned around and left, certain that the place wasn't open to the public yet, but thankfully we tried the door to the admissions lodge first - and lo, it was open!

As we passed through after parting with €45 for five of us we were met first by Mr Tayto.

Then the kids ran ahead to the Pow Wow playground. Admittedly this was an excellent playground, especially for older kids who were unusually well catered for.

Things went downhill a little after that. Map in hand, we set off in search of the various advertised animals in Mr Tayto Critter Country. Sadly, many of the enclosures are still empty, though we did see an ocelot and some bison. And an awful lot of chickens and bunnies. The children were especially interested in the bunnies who were playing leapfrog, but kept getting stuck... (I didn't take any pictures of those.) We also found the tunnel of goats - still sadly lacking in goats.

(Note: Not actually a tunnel of goats...)

We had lunch in the surprisingly good lodge restaurant (the Teahouse in the Treehouse is currently only open at weekends) and set off to see what else there was to see. Well, there was Potatohontas Indian Village, which consisted of 6 large, empty tipis. And there were the many, many indigenous native Irish totem poles... (No. I don't get why they were there either - apart from some spurious link with the history of the potato, perhaps?)

But that, really, was it. We walked around a bit longer, and the kids ran happily back to the playground, but then we were done - a full two hours ahead of the time we had expected.

According to the website, there are more attractions coming next year, when you'll be able to tour the crisp-making facility, see more animals and wander along more paths and trails. There's also a planned adventure trail thingy for next year, that sounds more promising.

So, would I recommend Tayto Park? Well, it's an expensive day out for just a playground, but I think everyone should see it at least once. Why? Cos it's a park. And it's devoted to Tayto. Nuff said :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Children's Halloween Poems

My darling daughter and her friend have been writing some Halloween poems - hope you enjoy them!

How to Make a Pumpkin Sing

How to make a pumpkin sing?
Well I don't really know
Oh, yes, my giddy now go, go go
And fetch me a really big toe
A frog's eye, heart, I really don't care!
Just get me something to give you a scare!

Any person can come, come, come
In their best costumes so I can ruin them!
Hee hee hee, oh be a witch like me!
Yeah, yeah, I'll get back to pumpkins in a sec
I just want to burn my sister Beck!

By DD, age 8

Halloween Night

Halloween night, a lot to scare
Little children with buckets and buckets of candy to share
I am the ghost, the Halloween ghost
Coming to scare you away
To steal your candy and all your treats
Or else I'll eat your stinky feets!
If not I'll eat your thumb
Or maybe your mother's bum!
I'm kidding, I'm a ghost, a friendly ghost,
Oh well, oh well, can a ghost not have a little joke?
I guess not, no joke for a little ghost.
Oh well, oh well, see you next Halloween night.

By DD's friend, age 10

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Pumpkin's Guts!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will be familiar with dd - my darling 8yo daughter. Her current favourite thing is drawing comic books and writing stories (that usually feature death and torture of some sort). Anyway, today she sat down and drew this comic. It was so awesome that I simply had to put it up here and pester you all to read it! Note: the images will embiggen if you click on them. :)

dd would love any comments you feel like sharing with her... ;)

Box 1: Gutting the King
Box 2: The king of pumpkins ruled
Box 3: he married
Box 4: Had kids (Polly Pumpkin and Tanzalaura)
Box 5: He loved every day except for Halloween "Trick or Treat!" "Smell my feet!"
Box 6: Ha ha ha
Box 7: 10 Halloweens later "Open the door punk!" "Huh?"
Box 8: "Give us candy!"
Box 9: "No!"
Box 10: "Well then we'll gut it out of you!" "What!"
Box 11: "Time's up!"
Box 12: Scream!
Box 13: Ha ha ha!
Box 14: Now!
Box 15: Remember!
Box 16: To give kids loads of candy! (I'm coming....)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jedward fiasco at Newbridge Silver

Dear Jedward fans - before you attack me, at least do me the courtesy of reading to the end of my post, where I make it clear that I don't blame Jedward. Thank you.

This is the content of an email that I sent yesterday to the Ray D'Arcy show on TodayFM, which I cc'd to Louis Walsh and to Newbridge Silver:

Dear Ray, Jenny, Will and Mairead,

This probably won't be the only email you'll get on this subject!

Yesterday, as advertised on the Newbridge Silver website and also as emailed to everyone on Newbridge Silver's mailing list, Jedward were to appear at the store. As you can see on the notice, they claimed that entry was free and all fans were welcome. 

I brought my 8 year old daughter down at 4.30 to wait to see them. We were far from the first - large numbers of kids had been waiting and queuing since 9am that morning; I heard of some who'd been there since 6am.

By the time we arrived, the signs outside Newbridge Silver had changed to say that Jedward were arriving at 7pm, but we were prepared to wait. There was no attempt at crowd control outside the doors, apart from occasional security guards wandering out and shouting, so I kept my daughter at a safe distance. 

Eventually an entourage of cars and a van went in through the back gate of Newbridge Silver, which obviously contained the duo. The kids immediately set up a cacophony of screaming, shouting and chanting in huge excitement at the prospect of seeing the boys. 

After a few minutes, a spokesman appeared at the front door to say that no-one was being allowed in to the centre, and that Jedward weren't going to be coming out. He shouted at the kids at the front to clear away from the door, and tried to get the crowd to disperse. There was utter confusion, particularly as most people couldn't hear what he was saying. 

By chance my daughter and I were far enough back from the door to notice the back gate opening again, and the entourage of cars leaving. My daughter just caught a glimpse of one of the boys at the window of the van, and they were gone. They hadn't said hello to a single child, or signed even one autograph. There were children, some very young, in floods of tears. 

My daughter turned to me and said "That was disgraceful! They just used us." Out of the mouths of babes! She was absolutely right; there were plenty of photographers there to snap the crowds, probably plenty of business for Newbridge Silver, but what a disgraceful way for Jedward to treat their fans - especially when the fans are just kids as young as my daughter and even younger. 

We all know that Jedward are a spectacularly talentless pair of kids, but children inexplicably love them. They're going to have a very short career, though, if they continue to treat their fans this way. Certainly they lost one fan today for good, according to my daughter. 

Today I received a response from Newbridge Silver, which was as follows: 

Good Morning Ms. Travers,
Please see statement below from Newbridge Silverware:
Newbridge Silverware very much regret that Jedward could not make their appearance at the Visitor Centre on July 20th.
However the decision to cancel their appearance was completely out of its control. This decision was made by the Jedward management team and was made for Health and Safety reasons.
Please note that this event was not advertised as “signing” or a “meet and greet” event.

It was our intention to give fans the opportunity to see “Jedward” when they arrived, before they entered the Showrooms and Museum.

Absolutely no one was to be given access to the Museum as filming was planned with RTE.
This point was made clear to all fans several times during the day.  
We were conscious of the fans that turned up very early at the Showrooms and decided to give out access tickets to the first 40 fans only.
However as the day progressed “Jedward” management team became more and more alarmed by the numbers gathered outside.   The number of fans that arrived was not anticipated.
The decision to cancel was made at 6.30pm by the “Jedward” team and was done with the safety of the fans in mind.
Newbridge Silverware very much wanted to give fans the opportunity to see “Jedward” but safety is of primary importance. 
We do acknowledge and appreciate the disappointment experienced by all fans and thank you for your understanding on this matter.
kind regards,
Customer Care
Newbridge Silverware

Since I found this reply inadequate, I have responded as below: 

Dear "Customer Care" team,

I am in receipt of your reply in relation to the Jedward event. I take issue with a number of your points, which I have itemised below. 

1. You say that this event was not advertised as a "signing" or a "meet and greet" event. Granted. 

However, it was advertised (and I quote directly from your website) as "Entry Free" - implying that admission would be granted - and that "All fans are welcome" implying that there would be some reward for the fans who attended - even just to see Jedward without any signings or meetings. 

2. You say that "Absolutely no one was to be given access to the Museum as filming was planned with RTE." Once again I refer you to your website, advertising "Entry Free". Again, that implies admission. 

3. You say that this point was made clear to fans during the day - yes it was, but this was in direct contradiction to the information on your website. This left people - especially children - confused as to your real intentions. It was also done in a manner that was rude and upsetting to a number of people, especially children, many of whom had waited for hours to see their idols. 

4. You say that there were Health and Safety issues with the crowds, that prevented Jedward from appearing. Indeed there were, and they were entirely of your own making. You made no attempt at crowd control, nor were any clear directions given to the fans outside as to what was expected of them.  I find it laughable that you say "The number of fans that arrived was not anticipated." With all due respect, you would have to have been living under a rock for the last six months in order to be unaware of the popularity of Jedward. However, since you advertised this "event" on your website and also emailed everyone on your mailing list about it, I can only assume that this was not the case and that you were, in fact, fully aware of their popularity. 

5. "The decision to cancel was made at 6.30pm by the “Jedward” team and was done with the safety of the fans in mind." If you truly were concerned for the safety of the fans then you would have planned this event better. Crowd barriers should have been erected around the entrance to your shop, out of bounds areas should have been cordoned off and properly briefed security staff should have been in attendance. 

I do not blame Jedward's management for not letting them appear at this point; I blame Newbridge Silver entirely for lack of planning and lack of health and safety considerations that led to this decision. 

Your management failed on a number of counts. You failed to give clear information; you failed to exercise crowd control and to protect the health and safety of very young children; and you have now failed at good PR.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crowning Glory

I couldn't see her face properly as she spoke, just the tip of her nose peeking past the curtain of her hair. Even the tip of her nose looked guilty.  She directed her words to the corner of the coffee table, withdrawing even further into the protective shield of her mane. Ironic really, that she had once used that same hair - golden but shot with amber and honey, thick and lustrous - as a siren's snare to lure me in to this relationship. Now she was using it as a barrier to keep me away. 

    I didn't bother answering her, knowing damn well that my words would just bounce off the sunshine-hued helmet that protected her ego from any attack. So she didn't love me anymore. What was there to say to that? Considerate of her really, to have waited until the weekend to break the news to me; at least I had two days to recover from a shattered relationship before putting my suit on and going back to work.
    'I think it would be best if you left straight away. You can go and pack now, I'll be in the bathroom for a while.'
    Was that the greatest insult, that she was excluding me from her Saturday bathroom ritual? I remembered the early days of our relationship when I burned for her, when even a moment out of her company had caused me to hyperventilate. I used to follow her into the bathroom, where I had been given a tiny corner of one shelf for my razor and deodorant, all of her expensive creams and unguents filling every other bit of space.  The first time I saw the Saturday ritual I watched, fascinated, as she buffed and polished every inch of that glorious body, exfoliating and depilating while a thick mask of conditioning treatment worked on her hair, her crowning glory.  That first time I had stripped and joined her in the shower, worshipping her with my hands as I helped to massage and primp every inch. I had worked the conditioner, thick and goopy, through her hair, stimulating her scalp, and she had sighed and leaned back against me, rubbing up against my almost-permanent erection. 
    Those early days, those first Saturdays, I had mapped every inch of her over and over, but always I was drawn back to her hair. She knew how to use it, too. Out of the shower, fragrant and moist, she would straddle me on the bed and whip her hair against my chest, my face, my groin until her hair was dry, the curls bouncing and springing around her breasts, and I was so hard that I would take her, suddenly, without a word. Later that evening we would go out - to restaurants, clubs, galleries - and she would glow on my arm, attracting men like moths. But she always came home with me. 
    Now she had gone upstairs to begin the Saturday ritual without me. Was she going to mourn the death of our relationship with chocolate ice-cream and a soppy movie, or would she be out on the town as though nothing had happened? Was there someone else already? Would the new me be in this house, watching his first Saturday ritual with awe-round eyes by this time next week? I clenched my fists. 
    I went upstairs. I could hear her in the bedroom, opening the wardrobe and laying out clothes. I had better clear out the bathroom first, not that that would take long. Picking up my battered toilet bag I threw in my razors and toothbrush, toothpaste and comb. There was no point in taking my shampoo - the bottle was almost empty. I rinsed out the bottle and balanced it on top of the overflowing bin. There was a gap on the shelf now, between the large tub of Frederic Fekkai conditioner that cost a small fortune (I knew, I had bought it for her) and the bottle of Veet that she used on the delicate skin between her legs, preferring to be bare and clean there. There were a number of other bottles that were nearly empty, and I suddenly decided to clean house and rinse them all out for her. I piled them all on top of the bin and brought it out of the bathroom with me. She was standing in the hall in her navy silk robe. She slipped past me into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. Of course. 
    I put the bin down and retrieved an large holdall from the hotpress. It was so easy to leave a life. I emptied my wardrobe and drawers in ten minutes flat, then carried everything downstairs. In the sitting room I gathered books and CDs into a cardboard box, and left everything by the front door. Done in twenty minutes - I could still hear the shower running.  
    I loaded up the car with my paltry belongings and then remembered the bathroom bin. I went back for it and sorted its contents into paper and plastic, rinsing the thick viscous conditioner out of the Veet bottle before adding it to the recycling. I left my keys on the kitchen table and paused for one last time inside the front door, gazing up the stairs. 
    Right on cue, there it was; the bloodcurdling scream as she began to rinse her hair. I imagined thick gobbets of it, almost melted by the depilatory cream, clogging the shower drain for weeks to come. Well, unclogging that drain wasn't my problem anymore.  
    I let myself out of the house and walked to my car without a second glance.