Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world and, pre-pandemic, was Ireland’s most popular sun holiday destination. For the past 18 months, many like me have been dreaming about ‘taking the Costa Brava plane’ for some sun, sand, and sangria as they may have in pre-Covid-19 times.
Rome is the city I miss most since Covid began. I’m writing a novel set there in the 1940s, inspired by the work of the Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who lived in the Vatican at the time and secretly helped thousands of Romans and Allied prisoners of war to flee the Nazis.
There was a time when I would have shuddered at the idea of eating and shopping alone. But as I sit on a minimalist wooden seat at Cafe Bao, in London’s Pancras Square, sinking my teeth into a perfectly plump bun, I’ve never felt less lonely.
After the van's GPS flickered out, my mum kicked in: Together, we were piloting a weather-beaten camper north from Reykjavik, Iceland, toward the Westfjords, a shattered peninsula that pokes out from the country's northwest corner.
If only I could freeze this moment in time. I’m sailing along the Costa da Morte in Galicia, following a section of the Camino de Santiago. Skipper Federico Fernández-Trapa Fontán – Fico to his friends – seems to fuel the 49-foot yacht with jokes and laughter, while his cousin Tai Gonzalez sings songs about the sea and the Way.
When crowds cheered at the opening game of the delayed Euro 2020 in Rome, Italians had good reason to celebrate. Aside from beating Turkey 3-0, the country had scored a far greater victory, demonstrating she was ready to welcome back the world.
Monday May 17, 4.30am: as I stand in a queue at Heathrow for waiting for check-in, Michael, a British Airways employee who’d clearly had far more coffee than me, is excitedly moving barriers to create the most efficient queuing system.
In mid-June of 2018 I was two-thirds of the way through the first draft of my second novel, A Sabbatical in Leipzig. Despite what is suggested by the title, the book itself is set mostly in the Basque city of Bilbao. It’s told through the eyes of a retired Irish engineer called Michael Pura, who spends much of his mornings thinking back to a period of his life spent in Leipzig.
The black scabbard is a metre-long, lance-like predator with a mouth full of terrifying teeth that hunts in the deep Atlantic off Madeira. When a fisherman reels one in, the difference in pressure between a kilometre down and the surface makes its eyes pop out of their sockets.
It’s late on a sultry August night in 2018 and I’m sitting on the outdoor terrace of the Peninsula Hotel in Paris, sipping a ridiculously priced mojito and people-watching the assembled beau monde. Trendy young women laugh and clink glasses with girlfriends like in a scene from Sex and the City, older, well-heeled looking couples talk quietly together, while younger, loved-up twosomes flirt and canoodle like there’s no tomorrow.
What I wouldn’t give right now for lunch out, where a snarky, white-aproned Parisian waiter offers a Gallic huff of disdain, followed by a slow eye roll, when I order a glass of rosé to go with my French onion soup.
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