Sean\’s Sicily

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What I’m reading… Undaunted Courage

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What I’m reading is;

Another book by Stephen Ambrose, author of “Band of  Brothers”.  This one’s about the expedition by Lewis and Clarke across the continental United States in 1803.  Difficult to get into but getting more interesting now that I’m into the actual expedition part.

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Written by seancasaidhe

September 1, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Sicily

Restarting…

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Wow it’s been a while and a lot has happened.  And now I’m blogging again.

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Written by seancasaidhe

August 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Sicily

After de Mendes – Ian Tomlinson

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Awful enough that no-one has been held responsible for the death of Jean Charles de Mendes (remember, that guy shot in the head 8 times in Stockton tube station due to a catalogue of screw-ups?), now we have an ordinary bloke getting floored by physced up cops and dying. What the fuck???

It’s clear that Tomlinson is not a happy man in this encounter. It’s clear that he’s pissed about something. He’s surly. He’s not exactly co-operative. He’s not walking away at the pace that the police want him to walk at. Witnesses have alleged that there was another encounter shortly before that film was taken when he was again pushed to the ground.

But he is WALKING AWAY. He has his back turned to the police. He has his hands IN HIS POCKET.

He was not a threat. He was not resisting arrest. He was no disobeying police orders.

What the hell is that cop doing knocking him to the ground? I don’t normally use bad language in my blog – but what the FUCK!?!?!

That’s assault, is what that is. Pure, outright, vicious, assault. And all the other cops standing around, sworn to uphold the law. What do they do? Nothing. They look the other way.

Then the usual Met bullshit PR gets trotted out. Our officers weren’t involved. Protesters pelted us when we tried to help. Terrible incident.

The same BS they trotted out after they shot de Mendes – an innocent man – in the fucking head. “Directly related to terrorism” etc. etc. even when they absolutely knew that he was nothing of the sort. Dirty the name. Introduce doubt. Blur the lines.

The officer that assaulted Tomlinson crossed the line. One giant fucking step across the line. He should be put on leave straight away and put through disciplinary proceedings. The police inspectorate have already fucked up. They were too quick to close the case, hand it off to the police to investigate. With all the CCTV cameras in London, you would have thought that they’d check one or two to see what happened. Now, it must complete the investigation asap and publish the report without delay. The other officers should also be put through disciplinary proceedings for their part. The whole fucking Met should be put through retraining.

They’re supposed to be there to protect citizens – not assault and kill them.

Seriously, he was just a bloke making his way home. Just like you, and just like me.

Ian Tomlinson – RIP.

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Written by seancasaidhe

April 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Sicily

The Thin Blue Line

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IMAGE REMOVED BY REQUEST


The Thin Blue Line

Originally uploaded by doctorbob

I saw this photo on Flickr and I just had this news headline flash through my head;

Leinster House, April 7 2009 – Uniformed Police picket outside the Irish parliament building. The government today confirmed that civil servants are expected to pay a little more for their defined benefits pensions, receive less overtime and, most controversially, pay for their own Gimp outfits.

The high-visiblity belts, however, will continue to be supplied from Central Stores.

IMAGE REMOVED AS REQUESTED.

Written by seancasaidhe

April 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Sicily

Johnny Cash – Hurt

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My friend Filippo posted on Facebook the video of “Hurt”, the Johnny Cash version. What a great video.  My dad was a big Johnny Cash fan, and I remember listening to him when I was a little kid.  Of course, we broke all the records over the years, vinyl being so brittle.  Eventually Johnny Cash was no more in the Cassidy household, and stayed like that a long time.

I remember then, sometime in 2001/2002, hearing the “Personal Jesus” cover that Cash did for American IV (The Man Comes Around) on the car radio.  I wasn’t impressed – let’s blame the car radio instead of me 🙂  I thought – man, what an awful song – what the hell happened to him?

I dunno when I heard another song from his Rick Rubin-produced albums, but something grabbed my attention.  I went out and bought American Recordings, the 1994 album.  Hey, I was only 10 years late to the Cash revival 🙂  I think maybe it was my interest in blues guitars, and in American Recordings it was just Cash and his guitar.  Maybe it was “Thirteen” that struck me.

Anyway, I loved that album, and went straight out and got all the other ‘American Recording’ albums. Some songs I loved, some not so much.

Anyway, Hurt blew ’em all away.  He took a song about heroin and turned it into a song about life.  Johnny Cash had the experiences to sing this song with conviction and weight.  He knew all about the down side of life, he’d been there and he’d come through.  All the fame  he had, all the things he had, were transitory.  He’s won and lost more times, he’d been down and got back up.  At least, at the end, he was on a high, and not one of the too many lows.

For anyone interested in Johnny Cash, if you have to get one album, I recommend Folsom Blues.  Cash at his darndest crowd-playing entertainer best.

RIP Johnny Cash.

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Written by seancasaidhe

March 31, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Hotels Hotels Hotels

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One of the big things still outstanding after all the planning, is the honeymoon.  In this, Sonia and I have some conflicting ideas.

I’ve done a lot of travelling, been to a lot of places, some nice, some not so nice.

One thing I’ve learned is that to get the best prices for the best stuff – you need to do it yourself.

This doesn’t fly for a honeymoon, especially if you want your guests to chip in and help pay for it.  In Sicily for sure, you can’t just ask everyone to hand you brown envelopes.  It’s just not educato.

So per forza we have to use an agency.  And then you start paying agency prices.  Which, for the first agency we tried, was an average markup of 300% on the published rates.

Yep, that’s NOT a type – 300%.  €165 a night for the Travelodge Wynyard, which, if I book it myself, will today cost me €55.

OK, so we’ve decided to not use that agency for the hotels.  Marangolo are happy to book the flights for us themselves, and the price is the same for everyone for flights.  Our friend Vicenzo of Around-Sicily.com explained that on flights the margins are almost invisible, and that it’s on hotel bookings and tours that agents make money.

As such, we’ve asked Vincenzo to book our hotels – he won’t gouge as much as another agent.  Of course he needs to make a profit, and that’s fine, but I’m not paying anyone 300% if I can help it!

As a result of my preference to book everything myself, and if I can’t specify to the smallest detail what I want and how much I know it’ll cost, I’ve done a lot of research on hotels and I’ve definate favourites.  I was thinking of using the Shangri-La chain for all our stays, and I’ve sent an email to their booking office to see what discount they’ll offer if we do that.  The Shangri-La in Sydney has (reportedly) the best views in Sydney, of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.  Otherwise I’m also considering the Observatory hotel, and lastly the humble (in my opinion) Four Points by Sheraton, which at best has views only of Darling Harbour – BORING!

For Katoomba I’m just not at all convinced by the option – there’s some very expensive boutique hotels, but the TripAdvisor reviews are very mixed – there’s the usual gushing happiness, and then some very detailed and very negative reviews.  The more detailed the review, the higher my opinion is of it, so I’ve come away with a fairly negative opinion.  As such, I reckon I’ll be booking the YHA – ‘what?’ I hear you all scream – but youse haven’t been to the YHA in Katoomba, it’s great.  Combined with a private double-room ensuite, what more do you want?  The room will just be used for bathing after hours-long bushwalks along the Escarpment – although I don’t know if Sonia has quite understood that yet 🙂

In Cairns I was thinking Shangri-La again, or Il Palazzo Apartment Hotel, which looks nice.  Lastly, the Tradewinds by Rydges is the economic option.  We might be all luxury-ed out by Sydney and Paradise Bay!

Hong Kong proves to be a difficult one – my friend Peter Wong strongly recommended that we stay on the Island – he dismissed Kowloon as being just for stupid tourists.  All the real people stay on the Island, and it’s much nicer 🙂  But the best reviews are on Kowloon side – hmm, maybe the type of people who stay on the Hong Kong side aren’t the type who write reviews in TripAdvisor?

Anyway, Peter’s from Hong Kong so he knows what he’s talking about, and better yet, he has friends on Hong Kong island which maybe we can meet up with and get an insider’s guide.  So I’ll follow his advice and stay on the Island.  I’m thinking Shangri-La again, or the Conrad or Marriott, and the economic option is the L’Hotel Causeway Bay Harbour View.

There’s a big difference in price obviously between the best and the cheapest. Mind you, the cheapest options here aren’t all that cheap, and they’re definately not low-grade hotels.  I think the lowest is the Four-Points by Sheraton, which is probably a bit posher than my favourite hotel, Jurys Inn on Parnell Street, in Dublin.   Going with the best rooms in the all the Shangri-La hotels, it works out to about €224 a night.  Going to the most economic options, it works out to about €65 a night.

Honestly I think we’re going to mix and match – start out with the Shangri-La in Sydney to get over the jetlag and for the great views, and then opt for the more economic hotels as we go along.  That knocks the price up to about €89 a night, which isn’t at all bad.

Of course, once I include Paradise Bay… aiya!  BUT Paradise Bay includes the transfers from the airport and all food & drink, so that’s something to consider.

Which reminds me, I must write them and tell them I don’t like fish very much…

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Wedding in Sicily – done with the planning, now begins the paying!

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After a couple of months of planning, my wedding is really starting to get close.  So close in fact, that now they paying begins 🙂

Obviously Sonia has already found and paid for her dress.  She has to make an appointment for a fitting in April, but she wants to see it sooner so she can refresh her memory and buy all the girly accessories that she needs.

The reception is being held at a place called Villa Mantegna in Trecastagni – these guys have a famed bar in Catania, so they’ve a reputation.   Plus, Sonia’s aunt and mum have heard good things about Mantegna, so hopefully all will go down well there!  We’ve got a few hundred euro on account, and Ignazio and I will split the final bill based on the headcount.

We’ve completed the hand-made invitations.  Ignazio is delivering them by ones and twos to his relatives in far-flung and remote corners of Sicily.  I need to figure out how much the invites cost us in the end, but that’s the subject for another post.

The bomboniere have been selected, by Cascella on Via Giuffrida, which everyone approves of, and whilst not Caltigirone (of which we found undeniably beautiful pieces with an undeniably high price-tag) it’s very typical of the Sicilian style and equally useful for our Irish guests as well as the Italian ones.  We’ve put down a few hundred euro on account and have to pick them up late in April.  We’re splitting that bill based on headcount too – Ignazio ordered up 40 more than Sonia and I wanted, plus another 20 sets of the flower-thingie-with-sweets, to give to relatives and friends who don’t make the wedding. 

The florist has been hired, Di Fiore in Fiore.  As they are friends of Andrea, they gave us a really good price, plus the security of knowing that we can trust them to deliver.  Contact details on the website.  We went for a minimal classical package, as the church is really small, so too many flowers would overwhelm everything.

I went out yesterday with Sergio and Allessia to find myself a suit.  After humming and hawing a bit, I decided on a suit in Albanese, on Corso Italia – the classic Catanese gentlemen’s outfitters.  The other on offer was a Burburry, in Papini, another classic Catanese outfitters.  That one I liked quite a bit, but it was Burburry, and it was more expensive.  So, um, thanks, but no thanks.  I left a few hundred on account with Albanese and have to go back next Saturday for fitting and paying half, then have to pick it up before the wedding and pay the rest.

So now I have to buy shoes, 1 pair, black.  Had a look today in Portalis and didn’t find anything I liked, only one shop had anything remotely decent, and they had plastic soles.  Um. No thanks.

I did however find some lovely watches for gifts… but that’s another blog too 🙂  Speaking of watches, Ignazio is insisting on buying me a watch for the wedding, which is traditional here.  Insisting, I say, but I’m not protesting too much 🙂  And that’s another blog – sorry, but I can’t write everything in this blog, can I???

So all in all, I’m nearly done with the wedding prep.

Except that I also have to buy cufflinks in steel, silver or white gold. 

And a belt, black, leather.  And that’s it…

Oh yeah, rings.  Gold.  Two.  Must get down to DiStefanos again.  Um, I think that’s it.

Oops, almost forgot to organise the B&B for the family.  Jeez, I’m not nearly done at all!  Aiuuuuuuto!

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