Shield in the strife


Before I left home my friend Cora gave me some of her late husband Eddie’s travel books to peruse.  One of them, “Overlander”, featured Ethiopia and particularly caught my imagination as Michael Palin and his team set out from the North Pole with the intention of travelling along the 30 degree line of longitude all the way to the South Pole without ever setting foot on a plane.  Shirking the quickest, most convenient and safest means of travel for no apparent reason and involving more than a hint of insanity; it sounded like my kind of trip!  (As it happens, they did fly at times as there was no other feasible option but I loved the idea of it.)


When you watch Palin on the telly you might get the impression that he makes these trips on his own, just himself and a hardy camera man but in the books he openly acknowledges that there is a whole host of people with him on the journey making it all possible.  They work away diligently in the shadows, doing untold deeds, greasing things along so Palin can go out front looking smooth and charismatic and glamorous and in control.  Everyone on the crew has a valuable role to play to help the journey go more smoothly.  He explains, in the book,

“The word fixer is often mentioned. Fixers are professional organisers whose job it was to ease our passage through their countries.”

Well, I’m definitely not on this journey alone either and there have been so many “fixers” for me.  I have a veritable army of people along with me and to paraphrase St. Patrick, they go before me, to lead the way when I’m uncertain.  They’re on my right and my left and as a friend confirmed to me recently they are even there waiting with me at that bus stop in the mornings.  They’re there when I lie down at night to take rest after another difficult day at work and some of them are so kind as to distract me so that I fall asleep before the rat starts making too much noise 🙂  They’re there when I sit down to do a bit of work and when I get up in the morning to face another day.  There are others more difficult to catch sight of but I know they are there lurking around in that shadowy place doing good.

Therefore, I can really only pity the fool who, at work or elsewhere, may take a virtual swipe at me as I wonder do they really realise just who they are dealing with and just how many in number we are?

There are fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, librarians, students, nuns, politicians, dieticians, teachers, friends, friends of friends, strangers, husbands and wives, the silent prayers of three people whom I know pray for me daily (!), cards, messages, packages, emails, amazing volunteers, support staff, Ethiopians, neighbours, aunts and uncles, cousins, scouts…there may be even a butcher, baker and candle-stick maker in there too.

Aren’t we a motley crew?!

Things aren’t brilliant here at the moment but I sense that both myself and the blog will return to normal before long, most likely with a fascinating, tantalising, awe-inspiring, shock- inducing, heart-rending, never-before-to-be-seen, (never-to-be-repeated-again), blow-by-blow account of “The Healy Family Holiday to Ethiopia 2013: A Very Unorthodox Christmas”.


Until then, I’d like to dedicate this post and this song to all my “fixers”.  Ye are the only reason it is possible for me to be here.  Thank ye all so much for yeer support.  Sorry I’ve been incommunicado for a while.  I hope ye had a brilliant Christmas and that 2014 will be good to us all.  Is go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo aris.

Let Palin have his team of fixers!  I got mine 🙂

“Life is an ocean and love is a boat; in troubled waters, it keeps us afloat”


23 responses »

  1. I’m one of your fixers but of course Mam is your biggest fixer you can be sure she is really proud of u and will look after u love u loads Dad

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Aw Dad! I dunno if I’ll ever get used to seeing you on the internet like this, it’s always such a cool surprise! You and Mam are in the lead of course. I wish you were here to get rid of the rat, then I would tuck you into bed with a Cadburys Crunchie while you have your socks tucked into your pyjamas to stop the flow of cockroaches to the leg! Memories of a lifetime 🙂 I only wish Mam could have been with us too :/ Love you loads and miss you a lot now, thanks for everything you always do xxxxxxxxx

  2. I love your attitude Aisling. and of course you are entirely right. It is so easy to feel on your own at times but the truth is that we are never alone. That we have amazing support networks, our own team of fixers, is something we must remember.
    On the subject of rats and cockroaches, Eric has got them beaten! For critters, you need to get some stuff called Magic Gel which you squeeze into cracks arounds doors etc. After a couple of days no roaches! Not one! We buy it in Dessie…near the bus station. Eric has also got some amazing anti-rat stuff. Can’t remember the name but suspect that we have a spare packet. Let me know if you want it. Again, you can get it in Dessie.
    Come visit again soon. Dx

    And love to all the Healy’s. It was great to meet you all.

    • Thanks Deb! The rat is indestructible it seems, it has eaten a lot of poison and seems undeterred! I set two traps and sacrificed two cubes of CHEESE (I know I needn’t explain the significance of this sacrifice to you!), then he somehow managed to eat the cheese, set the trap off and yet escape unharmed. Grrrr. xxx

      • It must be a super-rat! The other trick I learned in the UK has also helped if you can find where it is coming in. Rats hate broken glass…soft feet. If they are digging their way in, find the entrance, excavate it a bit and then add some reasonably finely mashed glass before mixing the soil back in. Yes, you may lose the deposit on a bottle but it will be worth it! In our case, they were coming through a hole in the wall, between the sticks. We broke a bottle and filled the hole with broken glass, taping up the opening with gaffer tape. If you are not sure where the bast*** is getting in, get some gaffer tape and cover up all and every hole. They will soon bash their way through so you can tell where they are getting in.

        But to lose cheese with no result….grrrrrrrrr indeed!

      • To lose cheese with no result as you say is surely one of the toughest things that has happened to me here in the past few weeks. The idea of this guy as a super-rat is not entirely comforting by the way but the description of him as a little bast*** is quite fitting! 😉 He got in through a gaping hole in the kitchen which they have now cemented over- grand- except he was already in the house before they closed his way out again. I’ll keep you updated 😉

  3. PS The last few drops of the legacy of the Healy family Christmas are still lurking in the Jamesons bottle. If you make it to Kombolcha again in the next little while then you could help me polish it off! Thanks for the present…really delicious and decadent treat! x

    • How has it survived?! Glad ye are enjoying it. Thanks so so much for the welcome dinner, we all enjoyed it but my father especially was thrilled with it, to meet ye and the way ye opened yeer house up to us and that’s not even to mention the stew!!! Will be in contact if and when I’m in Kombolcha next, hope the two of ye are keeping well xxx

  4. Lovely post, Aisling 🙂 I cannot WAIT to read all about “The Healy Family Holiday to Ethiopia 2013: A Very Unorthodox Christmas”!! PS: I’ve always wanted to know how to spell “yeer” – now I know!

  5. Hi Aisling

    What did Michael Palin do and see in Ethiopia? I remember Shelagh and I sitting on our “comfy” Woldia chairs and watching a Joanna Lumley show on Ethiopia on my small laptop – all she seemed to do was drink Tej!

    Hope things brighten up at work soon…

    • Would you believe I can’t remember! I will have to watch/read it again now as I will see it with different eyes now, maybe he even passed through Woldia, who knows! My sister just recently watched that Joanna Lumley thing coincidentally. I however am not a fan of tej, in fact I think it is my enemy! 😉

  6. When you think of it we all have fixers to help us get through life, you are one of mine kiddo;-)

    ps. I can’t wait to see how you put the healy Christmas into words no doubt it’ll be hilariuos!

    • And YOU are one of my top fixers wherever I am in the world at any time of the day or night. Love you loads ❤ I have absolutely no idea how to formulate a blog post about Christmas- an impossible task?!

  7. Pingback: Janey Mac, Gordon Bennett & Juan de la Cruz | Aistear

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