Friday, October 29, 2021

Retirement - One Year On

This day last year was my last day at work before retiring from the National College of Ireland - how time flies! At the time I didn't imagine one year on, or even what life would be like into the future. It was very much a step into the unknown.

One year later, I have absolutely no regrets to take the decision to retire early at the age of 61. Even though the Pandemic has dominated everyone's life for the past year, at no time did I think I would have been better off still working. I do miss teaching and interacting with students, and the camaraderie with colleagues at the College, but there's lots that I don't miss!

I have only been back to the College Campus once since I left. Recently, I met a former colleague for lunch and was brought to see my old "office". It is gone and has been turned into a classroom! I'm sure that if I had not retired that I would have been chucked out of this office. I was very fond of that office and many colleagues were envious that I had a room to myself. But I have no doubt now that the space is now being put to a better more productive use as a classroom.

Office 3.21. There it is - gone!

One of the main things I had wanted to do after retirement was to travel the world - I wanted to go to places such as Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan, Canada, and South America. Covid 19 has put paid to all that. We'll all have to wait some more before these dreams can be realised. On the plus side I am getting to see my parents a lot more and to visit Wicklow/Wexford more frequently. Working at the Aviva Mass Vaccination Centre during the summer was definitely a welcome opportunity to get out and about, while I am also proud of my Ballingate Bell story published earlier this year. Earlier in the year I also published a series of 106 YouTube videos based on Programming in R which was modelled closely on one of my old NCI modules. I plan a similar series for another old module this coming Winter.

Retirement needs to be worked on, and yes - there are times when you are waiting for the phone to ring or wondering what you'll do next. Somehow us retirees mange to fill the time - we don't have the time to work!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Return to SCUBA Diving after 33 years

During the mid 1980s, I was a member of the Dublin University (Trinity) Sub Aqua Club (DUSAC) and logged almost 100 dives. The Club was very active and we dived nearly every week. I reached the Advanced Diver qualification in 1988 and was Training Officer for the club in my last year. In 1988 life started to get in the way of diving. First, I submitted my PhD in January 1988 and graduated later in the year ending my student days. I also started an eight-month Technology course in the old Centre for Advanced Technology Training (CATT) in Bray which would eventually lead to a job. Also in 1988, Roma and I started our family. In October 1988, I had my last dive just off Dalkey Island (with CPS) - I remember it as a short dive with almost zero visibility. Little did I know at the time that it would be my last dive for 33 years!
Me in 1987 at Killoughter, Co Wicklow.

In Crete this week I signed up for a beginner dive with Fun Dive in Platanias. A couple of years ago I did the same in Cuba, but bad weather prevented us going out. This time in Crete we went by boat to just off Paralia Macherida beach, which is near Chania Airport. I wondered how much I would remember after 33 years, but with the reassuring and fantastic guidance by my instructor Dimitrios, I felt safe and confident. We had about 20 minutes of snorkelling first in the crystal clear waters before dining our gear for the dive. Following safety and skills instructions it was backwards over the boat and it immediately felt like old times. We dived to about 8m and spent about 25 minutes underwater - I loved every second of it! We fed the fishes and had photo opportunities galore. The Fun Dive guys were brilliant - highly recommended.

A learning for me was to not wait another 33 years (when I'll be 95) to dive again. I won't go back to my College days, but I'll certainly look it up on holidays in the future - especially in warmer waters than in Ireland!

Feeding the fish!

Thursday, October 07, 2021

German Military Cemetery of Maleme

While in Crete I took the opportunity to visit the German Military Cemetery of Maleme where 4,465 German soldiers, who were killed in Crete between 1941 and 1945, are buried. The German invasion and occupation of Crete was brutal, and there is no attempt to hide this by the Volksbund (German War Graves Commission) at the site. It is a peaceful place, and is well kept by the Volksbund. Many of the graves are of unknown soldiers, but most have names and ranks. 

The invasion of Crete by German paratroopers on 20th May 1941, did not go well on the first day and many were killed before they fired a shot. So many of the grave markers had the date of death as 20th May, 1941. It is also striking to see that so many of the dead were very young - teenagers and many in their early twenties. What did they die for?

German Military Cemetery of Maleme (2021)

In 2008 I visited the La Cambe German War Cemetery in Normandy where there are 21,000 soldiers buried. As in Maleme, it too was well kept and is a serene and calm place. In both cases, there were very few people visiting the cemeteries (in complete contrast to the American Cemetery and Memorial, at Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy where there were thousands visiting when I was there). It must be hard for the German people of today to take in what happened to their menfolk in World War II. Many of the young boys/men in Maleme and La Cambe could still be alive today 80 years later had war not happened. I left both cemeteries with an overwhelming sense of waste of life and sadness for what might have been for the young men who lost their lives on both sides in the war.

 La Cambe German War Cemetery (2008).