The one about the parking fine and the summer holidays

Hello Readers,

Hope you are enjoying/have enjoyed or will be enjoying some downtime this summer. We are just back from the Bells on tour, spending some time in sunny Portugal, followed by a shorter breaker on Inishbofin( As it happens the weather was glorious there too ,which was really the icing on the cake). It was at the end of that trip I found a note on my windscreen with a parking fine… More about that later:)

We had been looking forward to our trip to Portugal, and as we are about to leave I reach for a raincoat. David says, why are you taking a raincoat? I said, well, just in case it rains.. It hasn’t rained in Albufeira in months, and the weather forecast did not allude it was going to rain anytime soon time either. So I left my raincoat at home. We left early morning from Shannon airport. It was raining. I got wet….

I am still struggling with the change of weather, you get on a plane and it’s lashing with rain. Fly for less than 3 hours, the doors open, and it’s blue skies all the way.. wonderful. We had booked a taxi online to bring us from Faro Airport to Albufeira, the driver turned up, and in less than an hour we were in Albufeira. It’s good to know that, in less than 4 hours, we can get to a sunny place, without having to travel to Dublin. We had a relaxing time, spent some time at the beach/pool, saw the sights, ate lots of ice cream , read books, drank blue wine, ate tasty Portuguese food and enjoyed each other’s company.

I was all excited to make use of the free roaming the EU recently announced. As it turned out, my SIM card wasn’t compatible, and for it to function , I needed to get a new SIM Card. So apart from Wifi in the apartment, I didn’t use my Phone. I didn’t miss it. It didn’t rain, in fact they are having a drought there, and farmers are struggling. If only we could send them some of our rain, we’d gladly share it.

Short video of the Catamaran tour we did – Enjoy!

Returning to Ireland was a temperature drop from high thirties to early twenties. It was as if they didn’t want us to have a too traumatic entry, as the sun was shining when we arrived in the airport.Once home, it stayed sunny for a while. Rain arrived soon after, you can’t beat  the sound of  rain. I sent it to someone we befriended in Portugal, she said she missed the sound of rain.

I briefly checked into work, to then start packing again for our annual Inishbofin trip, or Bofin as we call it. Packing for Bofin is an interesting exercise, as you need to pack for all seasons! So long trousers, sweaters, raincoats, rain trousers, hats/gloves and then a much smaller portion, namely a towel, swimming togs, t-shirts, shorts and suntan lotion.  Co. Galway is one of the largest counties, and the trek to Bofin takes us well over 2 hours. And then there is a ferry to catch, to finally get to Bofin. Cars are parked in makeshift car parks in Cleggan.

Last year Co. Galway opened  a proper asphalted car park , and parking was free there. I dropped of the boys with the luggage at the pier, and drove back. The usual car parks looked quite full, so I drove further to the car park where we parked last year.

This year the parking meter was switched on, so after doing some computations on how much I had to pay, I figured out how to operate the machine ( remember I was still very much in holiday mood) and got my ticket. And then I got distracted by a lady who also struggled figuring out how to use the machine. I helped her buying her ticket  and without giving it anymore thought, I didn’t lock my car and walked to the pier. As I was getting on the ferry, I realized my mistake…. oh no…I was hopeful I’d figure something out once on Bofin, even if meant I had to go across again…

As we are unloading our luggage on the pier, I explained my conundrum to the host of the hostel. After some discussion with the ferry people, he said they would take care of it. I gave him the keys to my car and forgot all about it. Holiday mood fully returned.   We arrived with sun, and for the next 3 days, it was there to stay. Met up with the regular families/friends at the hostel ( there is a gang of us going all at the same time), went pier jumping and snorkeling( did you know Ireland has 500 different types of seaweed??), listened to Mick Flannery in Concert in the Dolphin hotel( my new favourite Irish artist), spent a full day on Duach Beach- it felt like we were in Portugal( without the crowds and more bearable temperatures) – and I went swimming -several times- in the cold water – without a wet suite – what have I been missing!

The last night we went for a beautiful meal in Murrays with a beautiful view over the ocean, our skins glowing from the sun. And then it was time to pack. Slightly overcast we returned to the real world. If I didn’t get using my phone in Portugal because of the SIM Card, I don’t even try using it on Bofin, as I know from experience I have no reception there at all. A total social media detox. I did take some pictures, you’ll see them in this post. And then it happened. I arrived at my car , to find a 40 Euro fine between my window wipers.. for not displaying a parking ticket… What??? This must be a mistake..Upon further inspection, I notice  that the parking ticket was on the dashboard, but it was turned upside down, so you couldn’t see the details of the ticket.

The following day I went back to work, and made a quick visit to the County Galway offices. The lady that looks after appeals was on holidays. I wrote a little essay on what happened, enclosing my parking ticket that I did purchase, asking her if I can ignore the fine. A few days later I received a letter from the said lady, with the good news that my appeal has been successful. Only in Ireland. How was your holidays? Where  did you go? Any stories to tell? I’d love to hear them. Thanks for sharing if you liked this post.

Rainy greetings from Ireland ( the holiday feeling still lingering)



Connemara Maths Academy : Smallbusiness interview West of Ireland

Hello all,

It’s been a busy weekend as I took part in the 5th Walking Festival on Inishbofin Co. Galway, and had an incredible time.  We are regular visitors to Inishbofin, but it’s the first time I took part in the Walking Festival. The weather was amazing, beautiful walks and great company! Check out the Inishbofin website and Facebookpage to keep informed of events, there is quite a few during the year. Below is a video I made of some of the pictures I took !
Read my previous article about Inishbofin here.

My next small business is located in Connemara, which is the area you need to drive through to get to Inishbofin. Let’s hear it from Aengus from Connemara Maths!

Aengus O'Connor B.Sc., D.L.S., M.Phil., P.D.E. Director, CMA

Aengus O’Connor B.Sc., D.L.S., M.Phil., P.D.E.
Director, CMA

Tell us a bit about yourself & where you are located in the West of Ireland.

I live in Connemara and run residential summer programmes for teens (10-17) at three centres in absolutely stunning locations along the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) at Kylemore Abbey, Glenstal Abbey & Killary Centre.

Can you provide me with a description of your business?

Summer Camps for teenagers where learning through discovery, creativity & adventure is the corner stone of our philosophy in a maths centered programme.

How long have you been in business? In this business? In other businesses?

This summer 2016 will be our third season. We started in 2014 with two weeks and 40 students and are now open for 7 weeks. Our summer camps sold out last year and bookings are up three fold already this year. Are you ready to be swept away? Check out this video:

How did you get started in this business?

Having worked as a musician and with qualifications in Maths and Music performance & media technology I have always used music tech and media technology when teaching mathematics. When I returned to Ireland in 2012 I saw an opportunity to offer programmes that had maths at its centre through using creative technologies and adventure activities. It’s a great combination and kids have a ball. We have the latest technologies such as Virtual Reality where students will build their own virtual worlds.

Is this your full time job, a hobby or a bit of both?

Full time.

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

I spent many years studying and working! B.Sc (Maths); DLS (Law); M.Phil (Music & Media Tech); PDE (Maths). I worked as s teacher, lecturer, head of department & principal in UK for three years, Italy (3yrs), Switzerland (1 yr) & Syria (3yrs) while also working as a consultant in Saudi Arabia and UAE. International experience is vital I think.

How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business? 

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest

You may find our website here

Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?

We see ourselves being the number 1 Summer Camp provider in Europe within the next 5 years.

Do you plan to compete in the global market place? If yes, how? If no, why not?

We already do. 30% of our students are from over seas, US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Ukraine & Brazil.

How has technology, such as computers and the internet, impacted on how you conduct business?

Our business is dependent on technologies so it impacts is hugely. For example Virtual Reality ( VR) is now available at consumer prices so we can use this to great effect.

What do you love about the area you live in/do business in?

Connemara is in my blood and my family and I can’t imagine living anywhere else!

Whom do you seek advice from for your business/ do you meet up with other business owners? If so, where?r.

My business partner Kim Moran.

Kim Moran, Marketing Executive, Connemara Maths Academy

Kim Moran, Marketing Executive, Connemara Maths Academy

Can you describe your customers?

Happy students & parents!

Why do your customers select you over your competitors?

We offer a unique programme with the very best teachers and the latest technologies. Our methodologies work and students benefit enormously from our programmes.

What are the biggest challenges for running this business?

What keeps you going, when the chips are down?


Do you support local charities? If so which is your favourite charity and why?

Yes. Learnstorm (formerly Mathletes)

Any tips for someone who is thinking of starting their own business?

Exercise often & consult a mentor regularly. Always know how many sales you currently have & make sure your cash flow is secure.  Sales, sales, sales.

What did you learn from this interview?

That marketing is key while quality should never be compromised.

Please share this interview, as I’d like to start a small movement to highlight the brilliant businesses in the West of Ireland!  If you would like to be interviewed, please drop me an email to and I’ll be in touch.

Connect with me on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook!

A family Staycation at Inishbofin , Co. Galway

Dear Readers,

We are just back from a very relaxing week at Inishbofin Island in Co. Galway.
Ireland is of course already an Island, but as it happens, there are quite a few smaller islands off the larger Island of Ireland, Inishbofin being one of them!

To give you an idea where Inishbofin is, check out the below map:

Our journey started off missing(!) the 2 O’Clock  ferry at Cleggan ( check out the Ferry schedule here), as traffic was quite heavy  heading to Cleggan via Clifden, so always allow plenty of time.  The distance from Galway to Cleggan is only about 65 miles, but the roads are narrow, and you might meet the odd sheep on your way, so take your time!
As you can’t take your car to the Island, you’ll need to leave it at Cleggan.  You could try to find a space at the very crowded pier, but you are probably better off( ie safer for your car) to park it at a few of the impromptu cark parks in a field…charges vary, but allow 2 – 3 Euros a day .
When you are buying a ticket and you are bring your own bike, there is  5 Euro charge to bring your bike, so don’t forget to mention it, as otherwise you’ll hold up the flow of people getting on the Ferry!

Your trip will take you through  one of Ireland’s most beautiful area named Connemara, and if you have never seen Connemara, you’ll probably want to pull over your car several times to take some pictures!

I am enclosing a French song from Michel Sardou about Connemara and its lakes ( even if you don’t understand the words, you’ll enjoy the stunning, crisp clear  images of the Connemara region)

The Island has a very informative website  which gives you a good idea of places to stay, things to do, music, festivals etc.
We had been to Inishbofin before, and rented a self catering cottage at the East End. It’s right at the beach, so if the weather is nice , the beach is just literally at your doorstep!
This year however, we had left it too late to book a cottage, but discovered that the local hostel offers family rooms. We were traveling with friends of ours, so we each had our private rooms. Ours had a bunkbed for the kids, and a double bed for us. We also had  a sink, and shared the bathroom with another family. Our friends had  3 bunkbeds. There are also camping facilities.
Here is a link to their website and a picture of the Hostel at Inishbofin.


So we caught the 18.45 ferry instead, leaving us off at the Pier at Inish Bofin about 45 minutes later.
Kiaran – the owner of the hostel- was awaiting us with his van at he pier to bring our luggage to the hostel, so we cycled ( or at least the flat part – the road is pretty steep). It’s a good 15 minute walk from the Pier to the Hostel.
We brought most of our own provisions, as the Island has only one (food)shop and only operates from 11 AM till 5PM, so if you realize later in the day you have ran out of milk, you’ll have to wait till the next day ( way past breakfast!) to get your provisions. New provisions arrive every day by Ferry, but you’ll see that things like bananas will be gone once they arrive in the shop!
We missed out on the market on Monday at the community centre, as that would have allowed us to buy some locally grown vegetables.
Another important detail, the Island does  not have an ATM(cash) machine, so it is recommended you bring cash for your stay.

Staying in the Hostel really was the highlight of our stay… there was a Danish couple who have been coming to Bofin for many years. I got talking to Anne, and she told me came to Inish Bofin about 35 years ago, and at the time, the Island didn’t have electricity. Electricity and running water only arrived in 2002!
There was a a great mix of  Dutch, Canadian, French, German guests  and a mix of Irish families all happily hanging out in the hostel. Don’t think the kettle ever stopped being boiled!

As we have two small kids( and no television in the hostel) they spent many hours in the playroom, playing cards and games with other kids and guests.

For our part, if we weren’t going for a stroll around the Island on our bikes or by foot, we spent many hours drinking cups of tea/coffee, talking to the other guests or just reading a book. There is a veranda on the front which has a beautiful view, or the back area if you wanted more privacy.

Inishbofin is also known for its music, so there is usually live music( session) in the bars.
This year they are also having concerts , we went to see Don Stiffe in the hotel next to the hostel.
If we had gone a week later( ie next week) we could have listened to Damien Dempsey!

I’d highly recommend a stay at Inishbofin, it really hasn’t  been commercialized like other Islands, and is a great way to relax( just leave your Iphone, and Ipads at home, the reception is pretty bad out there anyway!)

If you are in  Galway this weekend, call over to Kinvara, they are having  the  traditional Boat Festival
this week end!