Sunday, 6 April 2014

Around Donegal. Derry-Londonderry. Scotland Independance Thoughts. Last Day in Ireland.

This last post on Ireland is a mixture of photographs from our recent trip there, out and about in Donegal.
Some funny, and some that had me contemplating what Scotland would look like if the country voted for Independence in September, which is not that far away so needs to be thought about. I have to confess I'm as confused as I suspect  many of Scotland's citizens still are. I'm not the brightest bulb in the showroom by any means but sometimes it helps to see another island (Republic of Ireland- Northern Ireland in this case) and compare them as they are as close to us as you will get. A large percentage of Scotland's inhabitants came originally as settlers from there anyway.

This is an impressive sculpture called "The workers" at the dry arch bridge roundabout in Letterkenny, a good piece of public art, but nearly every major roundabout in Donegal has one.   Many are really creative and outstanding examples as you can see here.
This is the three coins roundabout at Lifford. One of my personal favourites here.

 Another roundabout on the way to central Donegal. Pole Star. This one changes shape dramatically as you circle it.
 The Matrimony Tree
Fish climbing a stone waterfall on another roundabout.
A famous set of giant musicians we always pass on the way to Derry airport in Northern Ireland. The Irish are a clever and talented race but I refuse to believe the Scots cant shine creatively and in business as well given our shared DNA. There seems to be a huge amount of pride both in Donegal and in Northern Ireland that seems to be missing in Scotland at present. As a nation we still seem to live on our allotted hand-outs from Westminster and have done since the 1980s This is just my personal opinion from being over here and travelling around a bit but it may be wrong.

An eye-catching store near Lifford. I also noticed that houses in Donegal seem to favour garden ornaments more that Scottish ones and nearly everybody had an example in the garden somewhere.
Every time I've passed here though it seems to be shut so maybe that's one sign of the recession as many of the products are well made, whatever your tastes on garden extras.
Farmer and happy pigs.
Shameless hussy's flaunt themselves bare breasted on the sidewalk.( Having met Cleopatra in a former life however that is an accurate depiction of her dress sense, if not her colour.  She wasn't as small as that though so this must be young Arsinoe getting ready for an Egyptian night club as Berenice was on the heavy side and older.( how come everyone that's had a former life knows someone famous in it when every person I've ever met in this one has been refreshingly anonymous? Ah, the past. I was always tripping over well known figures from history there. Unknown nonentities never seem to exist in previous century's :o)
Fort Dunree. We visited here on a wet day as you can tell from the moisture on the camera lens.
The guns on show as this headland fortress is now a museum.
The centre of Letterkenny one of the main towns in Donegal and a prosperous looking place. As I mentioned in the last post I've been pleasantly surprised by my visits here at the number of new buildings and housing developments throughout the Republic of Ireland built during the Celtic Tiger years when the economy was booming in the 1990s.
Examples of this vibrant architecture are everywhere in Ireland, North and South, but especially in the Republic.

Even in rural areas examples of housing stock like these are not uncommon in what was (according to online research ) one of the poorest countries in Western Europe before Independence. Indeed I would go further and say that the number of properties like the houses above, scattered across Donegal, are far more in evidence here than similar sized rural areas in Scotland where only top footballers wife's and high paid directors can afford them. This is just an average street here and not a posh enclave like say Bearsden or Kilmacolm in Scotland where mainly wealthy people live so the money seems to be distributed slightly more evenly among  the general population in the Republic although a lot of people were hit hard by the financial collapse. Not being a local I don't know if they are all holiday homes for the wealthy who just like Donegal but I don't think so as the number of independent small businesses here seem far larger than our own. There's more of them in rural areas I mean. I also noticed every town and village we passed through seems to have shops with some local service to offer, like hairdressers, chemists, florists etc. Local people having the backing and drive to start their own business obviously. Also the pubs in these areas seem to be still open and doing far more trade than in Scotland where large numbers have closed already. I know property prices have dropped through the floor here and there are examples of " ghost estates" throughout Ireland where houses have been build and are lying empty as no one can afford to buy them but visible evidence of a recent property boom is all around as well. Many young people have had to leave their families and go abroad to find work during the recession but that's also true for Scotland as well. I'm sure some aspects of Independence have a negative input as well but being a casual visitor I can only go on what I can observe around me without an in-depth understanding. Mind you I don't understand Scottish politics either half the time :o)

As a visitor I cant help comparing Donegal to many corresponding areas in Scotland of similar size I've been in ( like Burntisland say) where the main street last year, with its many fine old fashioned buildings, had several lying boarded up and abandoned in an appalling state of falling down, not likely to attract many tourists to the area. Which is a shame as it's a lovely place with great tourist potential given a boost. Too many places in Scotland I've visited in my travels over the past five years just seem to be clinging on and even during periods of prosperity when the economy has been booming I've honestly never noticed much difference to my neighbourhood and I suspect Northern England down to Birmingham  and working class parts of London are much the same. Boom or bust in the UK we're still in the same leaky boat paddling hard just to stay afloat.
    St Mary's Oratory with an impressive frontage.
Maybe that's the real lesson of Independence Ireland can teach us. It may be a risky strategy going alone, and it may all go pear shaped as no-one can see into the future but the rewards as well as any drawbacks are greater and any wealth created through hard graft, if it comes, makes a more visible difference to that society. In many parts of the UK over the last 30 years it always seems to be Austerity Britain.
Also, that's twice in Scotland's recent history that we have been saddled with a government that the majority didn't want or vote for up here yet have had to suffer the consequences with many years of cut backs and more austerity still to come. According to the view of Boris ( The Mayor of London) Johnson's own sister, Rachel, a journalist, on a recent programme for Sport's Relief, Britain is divided into two different worlds. (This fact seemed to come as a surprise to her but certainly not to many). Worlds that never normally meet and ignore each other when they do. Those who need to watch every penny and those who do not need to bother how much it costs for any items they buy. This gap is widening every year and under the current system it can only get worse. I applaud her honesty though as I've seen too many politicians who have been on similar programmes over the years and always brush it off at the end of their stay by stating. "It's meant to hurt- Get a job."  In this programme however, many of the participants already had jobs but thanks to the price of food and fuel, bills, low pay, zero hours contracts, and exorbitant interest rates charged on pay day loans which are ubiquitous on our television screens nowadays they were still earning buttons. Some were living on a pound a day and skipping meals as they could only afford to feed any children in the house but not themselves. Five fruit or veg a day ( up to 7 now) is just a joke for many people, including myself and I consider myself one of the lucky ones as I eat three meals a day. A single turnip or two grapefruit is £1 now and I would rather eat beans and toast or pasta and mince anyway when I'm wanting a main meal. Fruit and certain veg are luxury items these days. I was glad they showed this programme as at least it's a Britain I recognise more than the usual collection of  misfits, alcoholics and drug addicts the media put together when depicting the lower rungs of society. This was ordinary people trying their best to bring up families and still struggling which is more like the reality I've observed around me. After all, I should know what they look like as I've perched beside them on the same rungs all my life happily enough, although, being single, I'm still lucky to get around on a tight budget so far. The Guardian with its take on it.

A view of the peace bridge and River Foyle coming into Derry-Londonderry.
Another view of this fine city which is well worth a visit. 2014 is Music Year here with a wide range of events planned all summer and autumn.
Taken from the plane somewhere over the Firth of Clyde. From up here it was obvious how the cloud mass in every area seemed to hug the land under it as a few miles offshore from this peninsula the skies and seas were clear and blue again.
Alisa Craig seen from the plane.
Prestwick Airport and a fine afternoon in Ayrshire.

I thought I'd end with another of Gerry McVeigh's brilliant short videos on Donegal, this time a coastal walk from the village of Port with world class scenery throughout. Sea stacks, natural arches, and cliff top footpaths aplenty. Great camera work as well. Five minutes of visual bliss.


The Glebe Blog said...

Goodness me, you got around Bob.
That whitewashed thatched cottage looks awfully like one we stayed in around 1990 near Kincasslagh.
Back in the 70's and 80's we crossed the border a few times via Lifford Strabane. It was sometimes considered less hassle that way. My missus with her soft Cavan accent would never talk to the guards or the army or customs, she always left that to me cause she thought I'd understand the accent easier. It wasn't long after our last crossing by that route that Strabane man George Cunningham was shown on "It'll be Alright on the Night"
The Celtic Tiger years certainly saw Ireland prosper.The south took full advantage of Europe, while our government poured a lot of money into the north. It's not just that though, the Irish are much like I remember the Scots being as a youngster, very enterprising.
Back in Willie Hamilton's day I'd have taken Independence, now I'm not sure, there's a lot not been thought out. You're right about our towns too, both Stirling and Kirkcaldy after a 35 year absence disappointed me no end.
I like Tanya Gold's comment in your link to the Guardian article.
"Iain Duncan Smith should do as she has done, for which the gag is surely: haven't the poor suffered enough?"
Really enjoyed the video too.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim,
Yeah,thanks to Graeme and Marion we explored a fair bit of Donegal over three days.
The cottage was near St John's Point, a small craft museum I think.
It's a great video.The same man has posted a few others on You Tube and they are all quality productions.

Carol said...

We have clouds over Yorkshire like that - almost permanent! :-(

I certainly don't know what Scotland should do about Independence and don't think it's anything to do with us English so I'm deliberately keeping out of the various debates on it. But I love your quote:

"Boom or bust in the UK we're still in the same leaky boat paddling hard just to stay afloat"

So true...

blueskyscotland said...

Scotland for the English Carol!
Actually I don't think Scotland would rush towards Independence if it wasn't for a Conservative government( Lib-Con supposedly... apt title)turning the screw at every opportunity with their austerity programme while the taxpayers empty their pockets yet again to fund second homes for hardworking MPs and the memory of Scotland as a wasteland under the Thatcher years for people of a certain vintage,(she wasn't all that popular in Yorkshire and the north of England either I seem to remember)so the SNP might well scrape in by default. Not because we like them that much but just because we really hate the Tories telling us what to do and how bad it will be if we go it alone.
Who knows, if we do become independent, rich, and successful maybe the north of England will want to go it alone as well... or vote for Nigel Farage, who seems to be doing jolly well down there at present :o)

Kay G. said...

Lovely photos. The ones that you got from the plane of the clouds, wow, those are incredible!
What you wrote about the differences between the "haves" and the "have-nots" could also apply to the USA. The middle class seems to have disappeared.
Would they change the Union Jack if Scotland becomes independent?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Yes,I read a report by an American business magazine recently that said exactly that. It was about stores across the USA that catered for the middle range customer and all of them have switched to upmarket products or low end goods. Folk either have money to spend or they are looking out for bargains. It doesn't help that many of the "new jobs" created are lower paid or not paid at all in some cases where you just work for the "experience." That's the biggest growth industry of the last few years here.Zero hours contracts and unpaid experience/ training positions.
Maybe it's just because I'm used to seeing it but the Union Jack doesn't look as striking with only two colours in it. The Scottish flag still looks good though on its own :o)