Dalkey: A Day Trip from Dublin

I was fortunate to spend a week in Ireland recently, March 2-9 2016, and a high point was a visit to Dalkey and its nearby villages. Dalkey is approximately 30 minutes south of Dublin by DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) and is a welcome change of pace from the crowds and tourists of Dublin.

When you arrive at Dalkey Station, your first destination should be Killiney Park. It’s a 15-minute easy uphill walk. The park is quite big and there are a few trails that will guide you to the Obelisk at the park’s highest point. From here, there’s an outstanding 360-degree view of Dublin, Ireland’s west coast, the Wicklow Mountains, Dalkey Island and White Rock Beach.

Continue down the hill and head back towards Dalkey. White Rock Beach is worth a visit too, so head over the train tracks and down to the beach if you are interested (the pictures are spectacular when the weather is on your side). It was sunny for most of our day trip, but a few clouds in the sky only added to the character of our pictures. When you are walking towards Dalkey, stop to look at Dalkey Island — you might be able to spot the rabbits and wild goats that live on the small island, and the seals the often lounge on its shores. You’ll also notice a stone church from the 10th century as well as a Martello Tower, built in the early 19th century due to a possible invasion from Napoleon.

Dalkey is a nice spot for lunch — we had a bite at Idlewilde Cafe on St Patrick’s Rd., but there’s also the very interesting Tramyard Kitchen a few minutes away. If you have more of an appetite, or if you are interested in returning for dinner, try the Queen’s Bar or the Magpie Inn. Prices are reasonable, service is fantastic, and the setting in both is memorable.

When you walk through Dalkey, you’ll notice its two remaining castles. Beyond Dalkey, heading north, you’ll enter Sandycove and eventually 40-foot beach. There’s a decent chance you’ll see people swimming in the ocean here year round. This beach is also adjacent to the James Joyce Tower and Museum. This stop doesn’t offer any mind-blowing structures, but the view of the ocean is well worth the walk.

At this point in our day, we decided to make our way back to Dalkey for dinner, but if you’re heading back to Dublin for the evening, the Sandycove Station is a short walk west of 40-foot beach. You can use the DART for your return trip. If you’re planning on spending the night in the Dalkey area, I strongly recommend the Fitzpatrick Castle. It’s only 10 minutes southwest of the Dalkey Station and offers a buffet breakfast, two pubs, a restaurant, and very polite service in general.

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Your “Making a Murderer” Fix: 5 Must-See True-Crime Documentaries

With Making a Murderer on most people’s lips these days and a second season already in the works, here are five true-crime documentaries that are worth watching:

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father

Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne looks at the life of his friend, 28-year-old Dr. Andrew Bagby, who was murdered in 2001. Bagby’s ex-girlfriend is the focus of much of the film including her motive for committing the crime as well as her ability to abuse the legal system for several years.

The Jinx

Robert Durst, a man involved with multiple murders over the course of three decades but never convicted, is finally interviewed. Director Andrew Jarecki sits down with the former real estate heir for this shocking six-part mini-series.

The Central Park Five

Filmmaker Ken Burns looks at the 1989 case of five teenagers who were convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park, New York. The film is an eye-opening look at the power and ignorance of a police force which has hopes to close a case as soon as possible regardless of the evidence.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

This is possibly the most well-known true-crime documentary. It examines the horrific triple murder of three boys, and earned the accused the nickname The West Memphis Three. Similar to Making a Murderer, the film shows how opinions can be impossible to change regardless of the evidence presented. Be sure to follow it up with Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, and West of Memphis.

The Staircase (also known as Death on the Staircase)

This eight-part series examines a high-profile murder through interviews and courtroom footage. The style and pace of this series make it the most similar to Making a Murderer . If you’re looking for more, check out The Staircase 2: The Last Chance.


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A bit of Luck and a lot of Passersby

For a few months now, my girlfriend and I have been talking about purchasing a dog. This past Saturday, she suggested that we pay a visit to the SPCA before a family dinner. At first I agreed, but after some consideration I changed my mind. I knew we wouldn’t be buying a dog that day because we were not set up for one at the time, and the thought at looking at those poor animals in need of a home, and not being able to take one with us, didn’t sit well with me. We agreed to go to the SPCA when we were ready.

Later that day, we picked up my girlfriend’s sister, and headed for their folks’ place. On the way there, and only minutes from the SPCA we were originally supposed to visit, we passed a little dog, maybe a yorkie-cross, on the edge of a ditch. I pulled over and the three of us got out. The little guy was gone.

My girlfriend’s sister moved up the shoulder of the road and spotted it. At the bottom of a ditch, in a hodgepodge of blackberry bushes, sticks, mud, and refuse, the dog struggled to find its way. The little guy would take a step, sink into the mess, and take a second step resulting in the same misfortune. The poor guy wasn’t big enough or strong enough to climb up the steep slope, and he seemed to be walking, what could be, his final steps.

My girlfriend hustled back to the car to get some towels while I climbed into the ditch. I noticed a grey hue to the dog’s eyes and assumed he was blind. Regardless, he was able to sense my presence and began whimpering as I approached. I held out my hand, gave him a minute to calm down, and then I scooped him up. My girlfriend’s sister was waiting at the top of the ditch with a towel and she wrapped him up and brought him to the car.

He didn’t have a collar, but based on his meager build and possible old age, I assumed he must have come from a nearby house. Hoping that luck was on my side, I nipped across the street to the closest house. The man who answered the front door gestured to the property next to him when I inquired about the dog’s owner. I continued to the neighbouring property, which resembled something out of the film Deliverance, where two large barking dogs raced towards me. I assumed their owner was nearby because I could hear some sort of engine running from where the dogs had begun their charge, but that wasn’t in the cards for that Saturday afternoon. I didn’t take my eyes off the lead dog, maybe a pit-bull, and again hoped for the owner to emerge. Nothing happened.

I waited another moment, but with the two dogs not backing down, and no local hillbilly stepping up, I decided to leave. I hopped in the car and we made a short detour, the original detour we’d intended to make, to the local SPCA.

Luck wasn’t on my side when I was searching for the little guy’s owner, but when we arrived at the SPCA, it was. They were scheduled to close at 4:30, and even though we arrived at 4:35, their doors were still open. The staff members were great and it only took them a matter of minutes to get the dog out of our hands and into their care. One of the staff members was able to tell us that the dog was blind, deaf, and missing all of his teeth. He didn’t appear to be hurt, but would see a vet the following morning for a proper check up.

During the rescue mission, my girlfriend’s sister asked an obvious and concerning question. “Why weren’t other people stopping?” There was no way of knowing how long the dog had been on the side of the road, but the cars ahead of us passed it, and the cars behind us passed it too, so it was a fair question to ask. Apart from those who didn’t see the dog at all, there are two answers worth considering.

First, it’s the easy way out. Stopping one’s car, whether it’s a red light, a traffic jam, or an emergency, is never a preferred choice, so even though a helpless little dog is lost and wandering near fast-moving vehicles, better to put that hammer down than delay the arrival to your destination.

Second, the bystander effect. The people ahead of us who passed it would have seen there were people ahead of them and behind them passing it as well. They would have been quick to draw a conclusion that somebody would pull over, or the owner would find it, but aid would come one way or another because of the high volume of witnesses. The greater the number of witnesses, the more likely that help will come, right? Wrong. Most people go the way of those passersby in front of and behind them — they assume that somebody else will help. Granted, this example may not be that compelling to a lot of people, but there are more shocking examples of it that have been documented, many ending with the loss of human life.

It’s an uphill climb to combat the bystander effect, and possibly a steeper trek to even notice when it’s happening, but it’s an effort worth making. Looky-loos, and passersby are not in short supply, so when it’s possible and when you can, stop and help.20151003_163128

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Jim’s Course: The Process

blogThe question that I am most frequently asked by readers is, “How long did it take you to write Jim’s Course?” Here’s the answer.

I began writing Jim’s Course in a creative-writing course with Andrea MacPherson while I was working on my BA at the University of the Fraser Valley. During the semester, the task was to complete the first four chapters of a novel. Andrea urged all of us to write what we knew and to write something we would want to read ourselves. I had been working in a warehouse for a few years, so I had my setting. I was also reading a lot of Tom Perrotta novels, which dealt with young men struggling with female companionship (something I could relate to) so I had one of my themes. Over the next semester, I hammered out part one of Jim’s Course and had it edited and critiqued by Andrea and several peers in class.

At some point in the semester, I had the idea to finish the novel in the following semester through an independent study with Andrea. She agreed, so I drafted a proposal and submitted it to the department head for approval. There was a minor concern that it would be denied on that basis that creative writing wasn’t academic enough, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. The independent study received the thumbs up from the top brass and I was my way to completing my first novel.

A number of students in the creative-writing course heard about my independent study and asked if they could join. When all was said and done, we had a small group of five students (all with very different novels) under Andrea’s mentor-ship. The structure was fairly simple: we would each write a chapter per week and provide feedback to each student’s chapter in turn. Based on the number of weeks in the semester, and that I had completed four chapters already, I planned to make Jim’s Course a four-part, 16-chapter novel. Before the semester got started, I drafted a synopsis for chapter five through 16. I don’t remember how much time I spent drafting the storyline, but I do remember being thankful that I did.

So, in the first semester I completed part one, in the second semester (the independent study) I somehow cranked out parts two, three, and four, and in the end I had the first draft of Jim’s Course – edited and critiqued by Andrea and five of my peers.

I made the appropriate changes and gave the second draft to two friends for further feedback. After their feedback and another redraft, I began trying to get it published. I sent it to every publishing agent and publishing house in western Canada and received mixed feedback. One agent told me that things were too obvious in my writing – another told me that my writing wasn’t clear enough. The big challenge, of course, was that I was an unknown writer. I spent over a year shopping it around and eventually ran out of potential buyers.

A few years later, I met Dave Burdett, author of The Map, A Logan Nash Adventure. Dave self-published his novel, which was an option I hadn’t considered. But Dave seemed to be selling his novel, and claimed self-publishing was fine as long as a person doesn’t mind putting in his or her own money and a lot of hard work. I bought a copy of his novel from Chapters, read it in a couple of days, and felt confident I could do the same with Jim’s Course. That was four years ago.

Two factors prevented me from self-publishing sooner: money and time. Self-publishing isn’t cheap, but the real challenge was waiting for a point in my life where I felt stable enough to financially invest in something personal. I actually had the money saved in the fall of 2013, but a sudden lay-off at work forced me to tap into that nest-egg. A year later, in the fall of 2014, I called Friesen Press, and put the wheels in motion to get Jim’s Course published. Prior to submitting it, I went through it again (the first time in years) to give it some touch ups. With Friesen Press, it went through an additional three editing sessions.

Writing time for the first draft: call it five months.

Redrafting and redrafting: call it a week per redraft, not including the waiting time for people to read it and the years it sat dormant on my computer.

Friesen Press: six to seven months.

Lessons learned: be careful who you ask to read it. Some people are passionate readers, but shitty editors.



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Jim’s Course. Warning: Adults Only.

Being born and raised in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and attending school with the notorious Bacon brothers, I felt compelled to create a novel set in a small town that was impacted by a growing crime rate.

Jim’s Course, a work of fiction, is centred around a protagonist with more human qualities than most traditional main characters. Jim is no hero, he’s no genius, and his self reflection throughout the story is flawed at best. Using a small, gang stricken town, similar to the Abbotsford I remember, as the setting allowed me to explore themes that confused me as a teen and young man, and still confuse me today. The pace at which crime can grow, and rise from background to centre-stage is something I will never understand. Jim is faced with the same confusion, along with personal problems in his own life.

Jim has opted for a mundane life in a union warehouse and given up on a post secondary education. When he discovers a dead body one morning, his life is sent into a downward spiral of paranoia, anxiety, and self doubt.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Jim is his trend of acting first and justifying his actions later. This book examines a man who is very human, in that he doesn’t think about every decision he makes, but reacts to a situation, often irrationally, and comes up with reasons why he was correct in doing so after the fact.

If you’re interested in novel with elements of suspense, psychology, and dark comedy, be sure to check out Jim’s Course.


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Spinnakers Northwest Ale: A Copper Knockout

If you’re in the mood for an extremely balanced ale, something with lots of hops, and a solid malt body, then it’s time to try Spinnakers Northwest Ale.
It’s brewed similar to other ales from the Cascade region, with plenty of hops. This little gem sits at 85 IBU’s, so at first glance, some beer drinkers might suspect it’s only purpose is to annihilate your taste buds. Thankfully Spinnakers has balanced this ale with a fair amount of malts.
It’s a beautiful copper colour, with a citrus hoppy aroma. The first taste, and even the first swallow are primarily dominated by its hop flavour, but the finish is more subtle. This ale goes down surprisingly smooth considering its high IBU rating, so those additional malts prove to be a fine addition.
Some ales boast a complex flavour, but Northwest Ale definitely has a balanced one. It pairs nicely with most BBQ chicken or pork dishes, and works like magic with anything that has a bit of spice or kick to it.  Curry, southern BBQ, or even Mexican foods would all be decent contenders.

It’s available on tap, in cans, and in the big 650 mL bottles.  So, if you’re craving something hoppy, but balanced, an ale that stands out from the hoppy herd, pour a pint of Spinnakers Northwest Ale.

Photo by Brianne Adams

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Driftwood Brewery’s Fat Tug IPA: A Shwack o’ Hops

Water, malt, yeast, and a shwack o’ hops make up this IPA drinker’s dream.  It’s Fat Tug IPA, from Driftwood Brewery.

For a number of reasons, Fat Tug is one of the top IPA’s currently available on the west coast.  It’s a northwest style India Pale Ale, with beautiful colour, great head, and best of all, a barge load of hops.

According to Driftwood Brewery’s website, Fat Tug has an, “intense hop profile.”  It’s definitely an ale for the IPA lover, and it’s already popular amongst craft beer drinkers.  The hop flavour is almost constant while drinking Fat Tug.  Other IPA’s may be sweeter or have a cleaner finish, but Fat Tug is rich, crisp, and leaves a wonderful hoppy flavour on your palate after every swallow.

The off white head resting on the amber orange medium bodied ale gives it an intriguing appearance.   And when the floral, citrus, hoppy aroma get within smelling range, it will be a challenge to put down this 80 IBU bad boy.  Perhaps the best thing about Fat Tug is its price.  More and more craft beers, in a 650 ml bottle, are creeping past $7.00 a bottle, and even cracking $10.00.  Fat Tug is an out of sight IPA, and it’s only $5.50 a bottle in government liquor stores.

This IPA is wonderful with a spicy dish, or any pungent cheese.  It has a 7% alcohol content, and it’s available in private and government liquor stores, as well as on tap at select pubs and restaurants.

So if you’re craving something hoppy, pick up a bottle, or ask for a pint of Driftwood Brewery Fat Tug IPA.
photography by Brianne Adams

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