Star Spangled Spanner

I’ve lived outside the US for several years and often write about my cultural, business and gastronomical experiences in other countries.  It’s with great pleasure then, that I put a different spin on things today – and share a perspective on my own country through the writing of my dear Irish friend and newspaper columnist Suzanne Brett. july 4 #3

(and if you’d like to read her column as it appears in the on-line version of the Cork Independent, click here!) 

After enjoying a few hours of premier class treatment, I again touched down on American soil last week after an absence of a few years. Like so many others, I’ve endured a heavy dose of Celtic Tiger blues but I’m beginning to feel like I’m in remission.

Anyway, myself and G, (my very well connected American bestie, who’d accompanied me and arranged the whole shebang) quickly checked into our hotel, changed into our glad rags and grabbed a cab.

Security was tight as we approached the residence (hint – it’s completely painted white) and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive but also a lot excited.

The scene was so surreal. Only a few hours earlier I’d been elbow deep in laundry back home in Cork and now here I was, dressed to the nines, sat in the back of a taxi watching as US security personnel, using those mirror on a stick thingies, checked out the undercarriage of the car.

And by the way girls, I’d be lying if I said I’d have taken offence to these lads checking out my actual undercarriage … if you know what I mean. But I digress.

After examining our invitations and passports, checking us off against their list and confiscating our phones, the cab was finally waved through and we made our way up the beautiful winding driveway. Everything was pruned, landscaped and shaped to perfection.

It was kind of everything I’d expected it to be from years of watching programmes like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The West Wing’. Those Americans certainly know how to impress, I’ll give them that.

G was taking it all in her stride and remained utterly un-phased by the entire adventure. Granted though, she’s a past master at this kind of thing having actually sat down and interviewed Clinton and Bush among others over the years. However, she handled me with consummate skill and ease and any feelings I had of being the country bumpkin visiting ‘the big shmoke’ were entirely my own, as she couldn’t have been more supportive and understanding of my awestruck-ness.

Being 4 July, the event we’d been invited to was taking place on the back lawn, and as much as I was desperate to have a nose around inside, I knew it wasn’t going to happen on this occasion. We were escorted around the side of the house and invited to partake of the spread of different foods and beverages sourced from the fifty states of the Union.

As I enjoyed a glass of delicious Kentucky bourbon (and I don’t even drink whiskey) and munched on a New York burger I simultaneously made small talk with the Kenyan Ambassador.

In between bites and sips, I was introduced to captains and captainesses of industry, all of whom seemed to have Irish connections of one kind or another. And pretty soon I started to feel like I actually belonged in such rarefied company and august surroundings.

I finally realised I’d become separated from G and in the process of searching for her, I happened to bump into a charming man who introduced himself before asking if I was enjoying myself.

We got to chatting and spent a wonderful half hour before he excused himself and disappeared into the crowd, shaking hands with people as he went.

The following day I Googled the names of some of the people I’d met. Finally, I searched Kevin O’Malley, the lovely gentleman I’d chatted with, just to see if he was anyone of note.

I really don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling I experienced on discovering he’s the American Ambassador to Ireland!

And me, having spent the evening in his beautiful Phoenix Park residence and enjoying his hospitality without so much as a go raibh maith agat! #Cringe #Gobdaw

Thanks, Suzanne! We had great fun, (or “craic” as you Irish would say), didn’t we?!  Let’s do it again next year!


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Renew Your Hope for the New Year

As I was leaving the cafe here in almost always dampy-misty-drizzly Ireland, I first held open the door for an elderly lady.


She smiled up at me as she walked into the dreary outside and said, “Here’s hoping the rain stops soon and we get a burst of precious sunshine.”

I smiled back at her and nodded.  But inside my head was surprised. I thought a bit cynically, “Man, that lady must’ve been around for at least seventy years. She should be used to this perpetually grey weather…

…how funny she’s still making comments about hoping for sun.”

The lady at the café is like most of my Irish friends and acquaintances. They who keep, as they will tell you, “getting on with it.”  They who continue to take care of business, their families and their lives. One eye turned upward in hope of a glimpse of precious sun.

I am certain we have all had our share of emotional rain.  This year, in particular, with so many deadly shootings and terrorist attacks across the globe, it’s not overstating it to bemoan that we have endured more than our share.

And yet, there’s still hope.

Just a couple of days ago, as it began to roll out its holiday “year-ender” pieces,The New York Times took a moment to reflect on some of the brighter moments in 2015 in an expression of hope for sanguine things yet to come.  

So no. The lady’s sentiment was not funny at all.  After I considered that encounter a little longer, I realize hers is only way to be. Unceasingly hopeful.

Simple hope is not enough, of course.  We also have to take positive steps toward realizing the benefits that the vision of hope plants within us.

What are you hoping for? Great. Now in 2016, what are you going TO DO about it?  What active steps? Incremental successes toward a defined goal.  Now is the time to begin.  To achieve what you hope for.

No matter how much rain, we must remain hopeful that the sun is around the bend.

You know the saying,

You can’t have a rainbow without first some rain.

It seems especially true to me leaving here in Ireland.  The land of rain.  The land of rainbows.

Here’s to a 2016 full of hope and positive action!

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

How to be Determinedly Optimistic!

Lulu's first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We're in Ireland!
Lulu’s first day back to school and yes, she needed a scarf! We’re in Ireland!

“How was your summer?” The friendly barista at my gym here in Ireland asked me.

“Good really, I certainly can’t complain,” I replied.

“No one would listen anyway,” he added chuckling.

I thought about that.  It’s true. We really don’t want to listen to people who complain.  Yet, why do so many of us continue to keep up the constant drum-beat of negativity.

You know the types.  Every business project is overwhelming. Every boss doesn’t understand them.  Their aches and pains. The traffic. The weather.

Ah, the weather.  That’s an especially good subject being the transplanted American living here in Ireland now.   Just over a week ago, I was wrapping up a wonderful month in the US – speaking and training at conferences and then spending time with family and friends in the hot and humid Midwest.   We wore sleeveless shirts and sandals.

Now, I’m back in Cork, Ireland where the clouds are almost always moving.  I wake up and there’s sun and by the time I make the bed, the wind and rain have swept in.  Then five more minutes and the sun breaks out again –complete with rainbow.  Last week, I saw three rainbows in one day. No kidding.

The Irish are what I like to describe as “determinedly optimistic” about weather.  They make up funny sayings about it like,

We have four seasons in one day.


 What are an Irish person’s two favorite days? Christmas and summer.

When our plane landed, my daughter, Lulu, and I quickly put on the sweaters we had brought with us for our walk across the brisk and breezy tarmac to the customs and baggage claim terminals.

Yesterday was her first day back to school.  She wore her school’s “summer uniform” which, naturally, comes complete with matching cardigan.  Lulu also reached for a white scarf with dragonflies on it. She wrapped three times around her neck.  She was ready to go and she was happy – no matter what the weather.

After I dropped her off, I zipped over to the shopping center for a few items before getting to work. I noticed other ladies at the shops were also wearing brightly colored scarves.  And sleeveless shirts. And sandals.

It was if they were proclaiming, “The calendar still says it’s summer, no matter what the weather may feel like.”

This week Time magazine is listing 13 ways to be a better human being.  It starts from within. From our attitude to our work, our family, even the weather.

What are we proclaiming every day?  Are we being determinedly optimistic or are we constantly complaining?

Who is listening to us?  What opinions are they forming?

It’s up to you, isn’t it? I say,

Grab a proverbial scarf and keep going!

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

The Opportunity to See Puffins!

What will you do when opportunity presents itself?   Whether in business or not, it’s all the same, isn’t it?  After all, you don’t  have a professional life and a personal life; you have a life.

Yesterday, I took a boat two hours off the southern coast of Ireland to an uninhabited island known as Skellig Michael.

unnamed (1)
Skellig Michael as we approached from John O’Shea’s fine boat.

It’s uninhabited by people – but very much inhabited by 10 thousand puffins.  Yes, the alluring little sea bird with the striped orange beak and matching webbed feet with harlequin-marked eyes nest in burrows all over the craggy rock mountain which juts some 750 feet high out of the Atlantic.   The steep island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also a place I have wanted to visit since I first learned about puffins as a little girl growing up in Indiana, which as you all know is surrounded by corn fields not the ocean.

unnamed (2)

A Puffin ready for his close-up!

Since we moved to Ireland last September, I have been talking about my puffin dream to everyone I met.  A few told me they had visited the island. Many more had not. But, like me, said they dream of going. One day.

Then suddenly, a friend whose family owns a summer home on Lamb’s Head, texted me with the opportunity to stay at the house.  The timing was now.

Was I willing?  Would I pack up, grab my seven-year-old daughter and pop into the car? Drive the two hours along tiny coastal roads I have never traveled on to a place I have never been? Book a boat trip by ringing  a captain I have never met  just one day prior? Inquire about space? Ride two more hours on said boat? Trek up to a remote spot in the middle of the sea?

We did it! We made it to Puffin Island, aka Skellig Michael, Ireland.

But I have other work to do. But, my daughter would miss a day of summer camp that has already been paid for. But. But. There is likely always going to be a but!  But what if you just do it?

Which is what I did, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing this.

Yesterday was a lifetime experience for my daughter and me.   It was a glorious, sunny day  and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves simply watching the birds.

Puffins are treasures, Lulu proclaimed.

unnamed (6)

There was an elderly man on our boat who told us that although he has lived in Ireland all his life, he had never taken the opportunity to see the puffins. Finally he was doing it. Almost too late.

Maybe yesterday wasn’t the perfect time, but it was the time.   Maybe seeing little waddling puffins is not part of your dreams.   But what is?

Lulu, using her stuffed Puffin named
Lulu, using her stuffed Puffin named “Muffin” as a decoy, tries to entice a real puffin. It didn’t work!

When the door opens , will you hesitate, or will you rush through?

(Carpe diem, baby! And a huge, heart-felt thank you to Noelle Barry for the use of her home and to John O’Shea, for an A+ boat trip!)

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

Lost in Translation. An American Business Distraction in Ireland.

 Oh. Em. Geeee! Jack and Jimmy as Gary and Nuno!!! Ha-lair-ee-ous!!


I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Ireland.  I’m drinking Irish black tea and writing a proposal to speak and train on communications for an upcoming international tech sales conference.   But then – ineffective multi-tasking alert! – I notice that my sister, who lives back home in the States, has sent me an email with a video attached.  The subject line is “Watch This Now!”  Obedient sister that I am, I do.  And Whoosh! Down the Rabbit Hole of Distraction I go.

The video is from this week’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Jack Black covering the 1990 music video “More Than Words” by Extreme.

I start laughing out loud like a mad woman.

The twenty-something barista guy is now looking over at me like, “what the heck is so funny…”  And I jump up and say …

 ME:  (still laughing) “You know that ‘More Than Words’ video?’ from that 90s band Extreme?'”

HIM:  “Er, no, not really.”

ME:  (no longer laughing) “Well, okay.. So, you know this American late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon…?”

HIM:  “Nope.  But I’ve heard of Jay Leno.”

ME:   “Yeah, Leno retired. This is the guy who replaced him..Okay, so what about the American actor, Jack Black…?”

HIM: “Oh yeah, ‘School Rock’ or whatever, right? He was funny a long time ago.”

ME: “Yeah, well, he’s still pretty funny.. And anyways, well, those guys are singing a cover of that song from Extre..… oh never mind….”

Okay… break over.  Back to work!

Lesson learned. Stay on task. Watch videos after work.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

The Optimism of Daffodils

As it is Daffodil Day here in Ireland, a day to donate, volunteer and wear a daffodil in support of finding a cure for cancer, I am reminding us all of the grand optimism that resides in these buttery bright flowers! 

Amid lingering piles of snow, battering gusts of wind or, like here in Ireland, drenching torrents of rain, it may not yet feel like spring is at hand.  But some diligent stalwarts are already foretelling the new season’s arrival.

Like many of us, they have spent the winter  in dark solitude.  Unseen, they may have been largely forgotten. But they did not need to be recognized or rewarded or encouraged.  They are self-motivators, working steadily throughout the cold months driven by determination.

And now in our parks and along the green, grassy medians of our roadways, the rewarding results of their tireless  labors are emerging.

An old man in worn and shabby clothing meanders among the rows of bright yellow and looks out upon them.  An overly critical eye might predispose one to assume he should be given a wide berth; he is very likely a person not worth engaging.  But one would be wrong indeed.

This unassuming gentleman spoke and perfectly summed up the sentiment that rings through these dependable heralds with faces stretching upward toward an inconsistent sun:

Ah, the optimism of daffodils.”


How many times are we burdened by work or family or life and forget that a little dogged determination, or focused optimism – viewed as an action-word – not a simple state of being or emotion – will get us through?

Take a tip from the daffodils. The sun will come out again. Maybe not tomorrow. But it will.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Tree Therapy. It’s not just for the Birds.

It’s national “Tree Week” here in Ireland.  Although  some of you may still be looking out on expanses of that cold wet white stuff called snow, the sun here in Cork is bright – and considering it is now March, one might safely say the air is spring-like.

Spring time in Cork, Ireland
Spring time in Cork, Ireland

So, it’s timely that the Irish Independent newspaper published an article today touting the healthy benefits of exposing yourself to trees.   Well, not exposing yourself in that sense.  Shame on you.  But the article sites research – conducted in Europe, Asia and Australia – that demonstrates

walking in a forest or going to a park can measurably reduce stress, boost immunity and calm aggression.

Specifically in Britain, a study found recovery rates improved faster if the patients could simply see trees from their hospital window.


Recently, I have been racked by the flu and a throat-splitting cough that has left me with laryngitis.  The doctor says it’s a virus that’s going around. Only time, rest, plus perhaps warm water with lemon and honey (and a dash of Irish whiskey) will help.   I usually conquer the flu in a couple of days, but this bout is moving into two weeks!

Eager and impatient to improve, I also sought out a salt-therapy clinic upon the advice of a well-meaning friend.  However, 175 Euro and five hour-long sessions later, I cannot concretely say I feel a direct improvement from sitting in that darkened room with its sodium-filled trough around its perimeter breathing in the salty-air.  And as my symptoms persist, my good humor and regular upbeat outlook seem to be disappearing like my voice.

So, maybe it’s not time, rest, lemon-honey-water plus salt-therapy that will do the trick.   Instead I am moved by this week’s reminder and supportive research reports that the great outdoors are exactly that. Great.


I am well enough to get out of the house, not only to drive to the pharmacy for another bottle of cough expectorant, but why not also to take a walk?

  1. Get out of the office.
  2. Drive past the shopping centers and cinemas.
  3. Go to a forest.

Memories of growing up in rural Indiana where our spring-time weekend family outings often meant hunting for morel mushrooms together in the woods come flooding to my mind.  I always feel better physically and emotionally after a walk among the trees.

It just so happens we live thirty minutes away from one of the world’s rare alluvial forests, The Gearagh.  Like a trip to the salt-clinic, a walk in the forest will surely not directly impact my sore vocal chords. But now, with or without my restored voice, I feel my sagging spirits lift as I prepare to trek among the ancient oaks and search for exotic birds and plants.  Plus, since The Gearagh is an Irish Nature Preserve, this therapy will be free.


That’s a therapy few of us can afford not to take.

Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.