From here to God knows where.

Sunshine Starwood and Sofia

This will be my last weekend in the sunshine paradise of Gran Canaria.  As my departure date to Sofia gets nearer my mind is wildly swinging to days past and what the future may hold.

I know I have many faults but one good thing about me is I seem to be flexible when it comes to moving.   Most people say that moving house or country is one of the hardest things ever.  For me, it never has been that much of a hassle.   As I start to get things ready for my move I realise I don’t have much stuff.

Last year I spent 3 months going around Asia and Cuba with less than 8 kilos in my travel bag.

For a long time now I have known I don’t collect stuff.  Not even good stuff.  At times I have questioned myself.  Why don’t I have a sculpture on the table or a picture on the wall?  I presume I just prefer to see the real sculpture in a museum and go to see that place in the picture on the wall.

For my first month in Sofia, I have decided to go down the AIRBNB route.  I think it will be safer to do this until I have boots on the ground.  Experience has told me when picking a place to stay longterm in a new country.  Seeing is believing.

When I first arrived in Gran Canaria I had an apartment sorted before I left Ireland.  All the communications were done online and by email.  On my arrival, my heart sank as I entered a dark room.  The promised sunlight was not there and I needed to keep the light on all the time.  A bit of a disappointment after coming to the Canaries for winter sun.    Also, the workmen who I had been told would be finished in a few days were still drilling a month later.

As tends to happen with me at times a period of calm was replaced by a one hour rant with the landlord.  Needless to say, relations were not good when I left 2 months later.

I am happy that as I get ready to leave Las Palmas.  After 4 years in my apartment, I am leaving on good terms with my landlady.

My AIRBNB in Sofia is costing me 450 Euro for the month.  It is a 1 bedroom apartment.  It includes wifi, heating if needed and a place to cook.  Having done some research online I think I can get a similar place when I am Sofia for between 300-350 Euro a month.  I don’t need much.  A bed.  Chair and table and wifi.   In the last few years, I find I am watching less and less T.V

 

Starwood Days

As I headed towards my mid-30s I, at last, began to deal with my compulsive gambling addiction.  Like all addictions, despite being the closest the addict always seems to be the last to know of the problem.  From age 17 to 34 were by far the most destructive years of my life.  When I had money I was in the bookies.  When I had no money I dreamed about being in the bookies.

I went from job to job.  Crisis to crisis. At the time I usually found work as a builders labourer.   No disrespect to anyone in the construction industry but it was not a job I liked.  Working outside in all types of weather.  Mostly bad.  I think I worked hard but I was not reliable.  When I got paid I went straight to the bookies.  It was not unusual to lose my weeks wages in 1 hour.  It was difficult to get enthusiastic about turning up for work the next day after losing a weeks pay not long after receiving it.

As more days passed without gambling my head began to clear.  I decided to go back to education.  I had left school at 16 years of age.  I remember the day I left.  I walked out of an exam and I was asked by a teacher whom I did not get on with where was I going.  I replied F**k Off you won’t ever see me again.

19 years later as I signed up for a 2-year tourism and travel course at Saint Johns College in Cork city the very same teacher was the person interviewing me.  I thought he will never remember me.  Welcome back Pat he said.  I said I was sure you would not remember me.  He said don’t take this the wrong way.  You never remember the good ones.  Only the bad ones.  We got on a lot better over those 2 years.

I did good over those 2 years.  I had a desire to do the best I could and try to make up for lost time.

My exam results were good enough to get me a job as a reservation agent for Starwood Hotels in their office in Penrose wharf in Cork.

I have mentioned the worst job I ever did.   Those years in the Starwood hotels office where definitely some of the best working years of my life.

My mind was in recovery mode.  I had enjoyed St Johns college.  Progress in Starwood was possible and did happen.   Most of all I enjoyed the fun of working there.

We played a lot of pranks on each other.

One day I was talking to a friend about the new who wants to be a millionaire show on Irish television.  My manager Holger who was passing overheard and asked what were we talking about.  I said it looks like I will be on the show.

After a lot of lies and devious planning, I ended up in a friends house where we pretended to call Holger as a call a friend.  My buddy said he was the show’s host and I was calling live from the show.  Amazingly it worked.  As Holger awaited my return from the show in Dublin he planned for a lot of people in work to go to the Shelbourne bar nearby to watch the show as it was broadcast.  I will admit to getting extremely nervous as I was unsure how his reaction would be but I was into deep now.

As all the 10 contestants were introduced the confusion on Holgers face became apparent.  Where are you?  Got ya I said.  To Holgers credit and my relief, he started laughing.

As always seems to happen in these situations revenge was swift and brutal.

One day in my office a note on a new company policy was on my desk.  The company was going to conduct random drugs checks.  To be honest I was quite sceptical about it.  Then a work colleague Laila said she had also received the note to report for the random drug test.  I thought they would never be so cruel as to involve an innocent person in a prank.  Big mistake.  They were.

I reported to the office where the test was to be done.  Eileen O Grady proceded to explain they needed to take a piece of my hair for the test.  It kind of made sense.  The hair was cut and bagged and so was I.

I often wonder if I made a mistake in not trying to stay with Starwood longer.  I enjoyed it but at the end of the day, I have always been a restless soul.

So one more week to Sofia.  Bulgaria is forecast to have the fastest decline of population in the world.   9 million in 1990 has become closer to 7 million now and 5.5 million is forecast by 2050.  I always seem to be walking against the grain.

Even though I was just in Sofia for just a few days I saw potential in the city.  I only saw the centre but it did look like a pleasant place to live.  I am sure there are many issues that I am not aware of yet.

One thing I do know about travelling to unusual counties in the past few years.  If you believed all the bad things you hear and read online you would never go anywhere.

So my final weekend here in Gran Canaria.  I think I might pop down south for a night.

This day next week I fly to Sofia Bulgaria.

Join me on my Journey.

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Comments (4):

  1. Cathy

    July 7, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Best of luck to you my friend….xxx

    Reply
  2. LOLA

    July 20, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    I wish you all the best in Sofia. I like very much your blog Patrick. I´m waiting for the next…

    Reply
    • PATRICK O Neill

      July 20, 2018 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks Lola. I like Sofia but am missing Las Palmas also.

      Reply

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