Riding Ireland’s Hogwarts Express all the way to Greystones

Travel

There is something incredibly soothing and peaceful about travelling on a train, and I’m not referring to a city’s crammed subway or unventilated underground.

Those are merely a means to an end, a necessary evil. I’m talking about trains that, with the slightest glimpse out the window and onto the horizon, stimulate your mind and open your imagination. I’m referring to the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) bound for Greystones, Ireland.

The train itself isn’t too sweet on the eyes. Its carriages are old and plain, covered by a green mucous-like colour those with bacterial chest infections are all too familiar with.

Throughout my travels, though, I’ve learned never to judge a train by its outward appearance.

A look back at how the line was built

So anticipant of our Greystones arrival, I perceived the train ride as merely a means to reach our final destination. Slowly but surely, as we distanced ourselves from Lansdowne Road – our place of departure – I realized this journey was going to offer so much more than just a commute.

Tasked with creating tunnels through an outcrop of bedrock into the belly of pre-Cambrian rock, William Dargan – one of Ireland’s most famous railway projectors – and his crew were responsible for the Bray to Greystones line expansion.

The first five miles of the extension saw Dargan and his crew dig three tunnels and build four expansive wooden trestle bridges under abject conditions. That section of rail was named Brunel’s Folly due to the numerous problems the line faced, including falling rocks, landslides and erosion.

Tools needed to be brought in by hand, making them nearly impossible to deliver.

A look above the Hogwarts Express as it passes between tunnels. GP

To solve this quagmire, workers built a cliff walk that, in some areas, directly follows the rail line. Starting in Greystones and skirting its way along the seafront all the way to Bray, the walk is now known as the Bray Cliffside Walk.

This functional trail enabled an easier delivery of both tools and men to the construction site. The line extension was completed in the mid-1850s, the team responsible lauded for their impressive engineering feat.

Relinquishing control en route to Greystones

But for a few other passengers, the train was almost empty. I took comfort in the rhythmic pace with which the train zipped down the tracks.

As it picked up steam, I found myself being transported into a wholly unfamiliar world, one of total serenity. Though a rare occurrence, it felt good to relinquish control.

The landscape, with Dublin fading away in the rear view, started to change as we snaked along Ireland’s eastern seaboard. We had escaped the big city, bungalows and country houses now taking the place of city blocks and stacked high rises.

The surrounding scenery changed again after departing Blackrock, a station about 20 minutes from Greystones. Houses along the train line became more sporadic, the cliff’s bedrock starting to envelop us on both sides.

Into darkness

The engulfing rock clued us in as to what was next. Everything went dark as we darted directly into the cliff’s belly. Like a through-and-through bullet, the train pierced out of the tunnel almost as quickly as it entered. Upon exiting the darkness, we were met by a view worthy of its own postcard.

Train travel is my favourite form of commute, especially when it takes you to an enchanted place on Ireland’s coast. GP

Snug against the cliff face on one side, the train skirted the Irish Sea on the other. Vibrant, radiant flowers accentuated the already stunning coastline. Flocks of seagulls flew overhead, biding their time for an opportune moment to catch dinner.

We passed clusters of flowers as the train skirted the coastline. GP

A few jagged rocks, like pimples on a pre-pubescent face, protruded from the sheer cliff face. It was a sight to behold, the earth’s burley, rugged side meeting its elegant, graceful counterpart.

Company arrives

About 30 loud and leery students hopped aboard our carriage at Killiney. Resembling a colony of bees, the group was buzzing with excitement. Some sat, albeit briefly. Most, however, scurried about the cabin, a few pointing to the horizon on the Irish Sea.

It appeared that, even though it must be a familiar sight, the view hadn’t become tiresome.

Seeing all these kids go about their daily routine reminded us that this train hadn’t been plucked from a fantasy novel but is an ordinary mode of transportation for most passengers.

To us, though, it felt like we were on board an Irish version of the Hogwarts Express. The kids disembarked a few stops later, the cabin quieting with eerie efficiency.

We approached our final destination after passing through another four tunnels. Rolling into Greystones, I reflected on how gratifying a train ride it was. It reinforced the idea that it’s not the destination that holds the most sway but the memories made on the tracks along the way.

Had Greystones not been the end of the line, and our severe hunger not come into play, we may have just stayed on Ireland’s Hogwarts Express for rest of this magical day.

All Tottenham supporters want for Christmas is a healthy Victor Wanyama

Sports

Tottenham miss Toby Alderweireld’s presence, but their Premier League struggles so far this season are more due to Victor Wanyama’s long-term absence.

During the 2016-17 season I wrote a piece about how pivotal Wanyama is to Spurs’ high pressure success, and now we have further evidence to reinforce that assertion. While the loss of Alderweireld is having an unequivocal detrimental effect on results, Wanyama’s absence is being felt even more acutely.

The Kenyan made 36 appearances in the 2016-17 season, and was only on the losing side in four of those contests. With Wanyama protecting Tottenham’s rearguard, Spurs claimed 80 of 108 total points, equating to an impressive 74 percent return.

I’m not usually a superstitious man, but I do feel slightly accountable, even bereft about claiming last year that Wanyama is “seemingly immune to injury.”

Regardless of my degree of culpability, Spurs miss their main fulcrum in midfield more than a freshly incarcerated man misses the ability to roam freely. The Kenyan international, when uninhibited by injury, is omnipresent, like a Category-5 hurricane enveloping a city.

His ailing knee has kept him out of all but two Premier League matches this season. Since going down with the lingering, long-term injury, Spurs have managed 22 point from a possible 39. That’s an overall point return of a miserly 56 percent.

He finished the 2016-17 season with 90 tackles, the ninth most in the top flight. But more importantly, he offered his backline immaculate protection, his reliability matched only by tireless energy and knack for finding an outlet pass.

Wanyama’s unparalleled ability to disrupt the opposition is one of the main reasons Pochettino was able to switch to a back three. Opposing teams were forced to either knock it long or try, often at their peril, to play out of the back under duress. Either way, the athletic Kenyan was poised, perfectly positioned to anticipate and cover as required.

Still only 26 years old, Wanyama has about five seasons to perform at his peak level. That is, of course, if he can regain the agility, pace, strength and athleticism that underpinned his otherworldly ability.

Sports Illustrated recently reported that Wanyama is scheduled to make his first-team return during the busy festive period.

It’s the kind of news, if it pans out, that would make true millions of Spurs supporters Christmas wish.

But I’d be lying if I said Wanyama’s return is the only thing I want for Christmas. My Christmas list includes Alderweireld miraculously recovering from his hamstring ailment, along with a world-class striker being dropped out of the sky over North London by a stalk, aiding Harry Kane in his goal-scoring plight. I wouldn’t mind it if Mousa Dembele returns to his pre-injury form, either.

Call it greedy, even gluttonous, but getting precisely what you want is the only thing that gives the festive season meaning.

Or did I completely miss the boat on the true meaning of Christmas spirit?

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Match Day 16 Premier League Predictions: Wingman’s Perplexing Play of the Week

Videos

The Wingman is on a roll, as he lets loose on West Ham, lambasting the Premier League side for their latest managerial appointment.

David Moyes, the Wingman asserts, is going to drive the Hammers straight off the Premier League cliff. Or very close to it!

Moyes is still looking for his first Premier League victory as West Ham manager. This will most likely be the dour Scotsman’s last chance at a Premier League management job, and rightly so.

The Wingman believes Tottenham will get back to winning ways against Stoke this weekend. They haven’t won a league match in four and should rebound at Wembley.

In the surprise pick of the week, the Wingman goes with a draw in the Merseyside Derby. Everton are massive underdogs, but have played inspired football since Sam Allardyce arrived on the scene. He is known for inspiring struggling teams, while keeping an organized and disciplined defence. Everton will travel to Anfield and pull off a shocking result, walking away from Anfield with a share of the spoils.

If you like our jibe, please subscribe. Give us a like and comment too. Will Moyes run West Ham off the Premier League cliff are do they have too much talent to go down?

Why Canada Sports Betting? Because every player needs a wingman.

(Script and character idea creation by Newagejourno. Video production and editing by LTD EDN Productions.)

Match Day 14 Premier League Predictions: Wingman’s Perplexing Play

Videos

The Wingman this week focusses on Everton Football Club for the Perplexing Play of the Week, or the perplexing season thus far in Everton’s case.

Ronald Koeman was fired after nine matches, such is the state of disarray at the club.

The blue half of Merseyside spend over £140 million on signings during the offseason, many of whom have failed to impress so far at Goodison. The Wingman takes a look at what you could buy that kind of outrageous money, and you’ll want to see some of the items on his shopping list.

For the Premier League Pick of the Week, the Wingman dives into the weekend’s marquee matchup, between Manchester United and Arsenal. There is no love lost between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, which the Wingman poignantly points out.

Watch this segment to find out who the Wingman is backing in the massive contest at the Emirates.

If you like our jibe, please subscribe. Give us a like and comment too. Let’s get this conversation started!

Why Canada Sports Betting? Because every player needs a wingman.

Who do you think Everton should hire to save their club from permanently spinning out of control?

(Script and character idea creation by Newagejourno. Video production and editing by LTD EDN Productions.)

Finding out you’re moving to Yeosu, South Korea, not Mokpo

Travel

With a week of acclimatizing under our belts it was off to Mokpo, a small city on the southwest coast of South Korea, to start a new chapter.

Or so we thought.

I was pulled aside by my teaching facilitator, Chris Devison, a few hours before our scheduled departure. In a nutshell, he said the school I was supposed to teach at in Mokpo was not expecting me.

In other words, my position had disappeared into thin air, evaporating as quickly as water in Death Valley.

Crestfallen, disappointed, and utterly perplexed, I had no idea of how to proceed.

Using his adept crisis management skills, Chris conjured up a solution. He has come to expect the unexpected during his years working in South Korea and thought nothing of what I perceived to be a minor catastrophe.

Moving to Yeosu

A few hours elapsed, my nerves and tension increasing with each passing minute. Chris, while I waited on pins and needles for some news, had sourced another position in Yeosu, a role that almost immediately appealed to me.

Yeosu, we found out after a bit of digging, has a rich culture, one steeped in generations of tradition. In addition, it is perfectly situated on the coast and is blessed by a stunning landscape.

Overlooking the harbour just prior to dusk, the glimmering shine accentuates the speed boat's approach. ©

Overlooking the harbour just prior to dusk, the glimmering shine accentuates the speed boat’s approach. ©

In a gondola and on the move, this is a bird's eye view of Dolsan Bridge and the surrounding landscape. ©

In a gondola and on the move, this is a bird’s eye view of Dolsan Bridge and the surrounding landscape. ©

This near calamitous situation turned on its head in mere hours. On the verge of becoming an indelible black mark on our Korean adventure, this sticky situation has since turned good.

In fact, moving to Yeosu has slipped into one of our top five Korean moments thus far.

Woohoo, we're in Yeosu! ©

Woohoo, we’re in Yeosu! ©

When you think everything is lost (not just a famous Coldplay song), take a step back and draw deep breaths because problems are rarely as bad as they first seem.

Tottenham welcome Pul-less West Brom to Wembley

Sports

Spurs host West Brom on Saturday, who, for the first time in almost three seasons, head into a match at Wembley without Tony Pulis at the helm. 

Pulis was sacked in the aftermath of West Brom’s 4-0 defeat at home to Chelsea. The sacking came on the back of four successive Premier League defeats for the midlands club, who find themselves a mere point above the relegation zone.

While the Lilywhites have lost only once in 15 previous meetings with the Baggies, West Brom have tasted defeat one time in the last five away tests at Spurs. Historically, this fixture sees a lot of draws, with eight of the last fifteen ending in a stalemate.

But Mauricio Pochettino’s side showed their superiority when the teams last met in January, with Spurs handing West Brom a 4-0 thrashing.

Everton, West Ham and Crystal Palace are the only Premier League teams to record fewer away points so far, with West Brom taking four points from a possible 18. In those six away encounters, the Baggies scored three goals and allowed eight. Their single away victory came at Turf Moor against Burnley on Aug. 12, three and a half months ago.

Spurs happy to be home

Sounds like a strange thing to say, with all the historic negative rhetoric surrounding playing at Wembley, but Spurs are happy to be home after losing consecutive away matches in the Premier League for the first time in over a year.

Tottenham, at White Hart Lane and Wembley, have lost a single match in their last 25 home fixtures. After a slow start to the current campaign, Spurs have found their feet at the national stadium. They’ve won three on the bounce – against Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth – by a 6-1 score line.

Top four finish prime concern for Spurs

Forget runaway leaders Manchester City for the time being, Spurs need all three points to avoid falling out of the top four. Two behind Chelsea for third, Tottenham are a point up on the chasing pack – Arsenal, Liverpool, and of all teams, Burnley.

Maintaining their place in the top four has to be the primary focus for Pochettino’s men as they enter the busy Christmas period. Any more dropped points against lesser teams will cause irreparable damage to Tottenham’s 2017-18 title aspirations, while leaving the team with an uphill battle to be counted among the top three.

According to the PremierLeague.com, only Newcastle United (6) and Liverpool (5) have taken more away points against Pochettino’s Spurs than West Brom (4).

Losing a long-serving manager is never an easy thing for a squad to deal with, but it’s a routine part of the modern game. Teams historically play well in matches following a manager’s sacking, so Spurs will have to be on full alert, ensuring they don’t add to those foreboding stats.

Pochettino, though I doubt here’s aware of the Baggies’ success against him, won’t allow for his team to lose three successive Premier League matches. It’s a worst-case scenario that doesn’t bare more thought.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Match Day 13 Premier League Predictions: Perplexing Play of the Week

Videos

The Wingman takes centre stage in this week’s Premier League pick and perplexing play segment, replacing the Canada Sports Betting’s previous host.

This week’s Perplexing Play(s) of the Week was a no-brainer. Selhurst Park was chockfull of controversial and mind-boggling moments. From Oumar Niasse’s blatant dive – which earned Everton a decidedly unjust penalty kick – to Crystal Palace scoring in the first minute of play. Oh, and let’s not forget Julian Speroni’s moment of madness in Crystal Palace’s net. He gifted Everton the equalizer on the cusp of halftime. It was as intriguing and exciting as it was riddled with comedic errors.

We go to Anfield, where Liverpool host Chelsea, for our Pick of the Week. Liverpool haven’t lost at home so far this season and Chelsea haven’t conceded a goal in three Premier League matches. Contrastingly, Liverpool are scoring more than Leonardo DiCaprio at the moment. We like the draw on the moneyline. Take a look at this week’s segment for all the details.

If you like our jibe, please subscribe. Give us a like and comment too. Let’s get this conversation started!

Why Canada Sports Betting? Because every player needs a wingman.

Video script and Wingman creation by Gary Pearson. Video production and animation by LTD EDN Productions.

Spurs win Group H, beating Dortmund with clinical 2-1 away win

Sports

Spurs, with a match to spare, secured top spot of Group H after Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min capped off a sublime second half by the away side. 

Tottenham enjoyed a remarkable transformation after the halftime break, as Kane punished the home side in the 49th minute with a clinical finish for his eighth goal in as many career Champions League matches. Only Didier Drogba and Diego Costa can boast about the same achievement.

Danny Rose, who enjoyed a sterling rebound performance after the adversity of not being included on the roster against Arsenal, won the ball back, playing Dele Alli into space. Dele knocked the ball on to Kane smartly, whose snapshot beat Roman Bürki to the bottom left-hand corner.

Dele then split the defence, somewhat fortuitously, and toe poked a pass to Son, who took a touch and banged it into the top corner, giving Bürki absolutely no chance.

Whatever Mauricio Pochettino said to his team at halftime had the desired effect, as Tottenham dominated proceedings in the second half.

Eric Dier made a few vital interceptions, ensuring Pochettino can rest a few of his best players against APOEL in the last group game.

First half

Nineteen minutes elapsed before a clear-cut opportunity fell to either team. Andriy Yarmolenko bypassed Spurs back three with a ball over the top for Dortmund’s poacher, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Alone on goal, Aubameyang made a hash of it, tentatively passing it well wide of the post.

The German side’s top scorer got another chance in the 32nd minute, this time making no mistake. Yarmolenko, who was responsible for creating any notable Dortmund threat, split Tottenham’s defence in two with an ingenious, no-look flick.

It took 40 minutes before Spurs really tested Roman Bürki. Rose zipped a low cross into Christian Eriksen’s stride, whose side-footed effort forced a strong reaction save from the Swiss keeper. Eriksen’s first-time shot was at an ideal height for Bürki to parry aside.

Dier connected well with a header directly from the ensuing corner, but Bürki somehow made an acrobatic save at full strength to maintain Dortmund’s narrow lead at the half.

Stifled in attack once again, Tottenham created little going forward for most of the first half. Eriksen and Son had weak efforts easily turned aside. Harry Winks and Dele Alli were absent in the first 45, barely getting a sniff. You could see Dele’s frustration mounting as he dropped deeper in an attempt to make something happen.

Bring on the round of 16

How things changed in the second half, though. Winks started to boss proceedings, allowing more space for Rose, Kane, Dele and Son to expose Dortmund’s fragile defence.

Undefeated so far in Group H after five matches, Tottenham deserve a favourable round-of-16 draw. Let’s hope fate is on the Lilywhites’ side.

Then again, to be the best you have to beat the best, and Spurs won’t be too concerned with a tough draw in the knockout stage. Just look at how they dominated the supposed group of death.

(This piece was originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Moving to South Korea: Experiencing a Seoul-ful moment

Travel

Moving to a new country, especially one like South Korea, where the native language is not English, isn’t easy, nor is it for the faint of heart.

Uprooting and upheaval are part and parcel with any move, particularly when the country you’re going to is wholly unfamiliar.

Sheer excitement upon arriving in South Korea

The transition will invariably challenge you, test your nerve, patience and moxie like never before. You’ll go through stages, the first of which being sheer excitement.

My excitement, upon touching down in Seoul, reached fever pitch. Eyes agape, like a newborn seeing everything for the first time, I had a new lease on life. The sensation was palpable, a feeling you have to experience to fully understand.

Alight and electrifying, these fireworks are the best way to symbolise the thrill and excitement with which we felt upon touching down in Seoul. ©

Alight and electrifying, these fireworks are the best way to symbolize the thrill and excitement with which we felt upon touching down in Seoul. © GP

The raw, natural high you feel upon commencing on a new adventure is like smoking your first cigarette. It is as powerful and addictive as it is fleeting.

A simple task becomes ever-more difficult

One of the first things we noticed is the difficulty with which the most simple of tasks are accomplished. Thinking we were adequately prepared for our first taxi encounter, we had the hotel’s address, name and phone number at the ready. The address, however, was written in English and having the hotel name was about as useful as watching Korean soap operas.

The taxi driver’s English was about as good as our Korean. We got lost several times. Irritatingly, he kept the meter running every time he pulled over for directions. There was no way to convey are growing frustration.

As you can probably tell, culture shock has most definitely set in. That, or I'm severely sleep deprived, jetlagged or on some sort of acid trip. I'll let you decide. ©

As you can probably tell, culture shock has most definitely set in. That, or I’m severely sleep deprived, jetlagged or on some sort of acid trip. I’ll let you decide. © GP

Elevated blood pressure and 13,000 won ($13) later, we arrived at our hotel only to be informed that we had travelled in a black cab, the rates of which are double that of other taxis. Maybe it was all part of an elaborate plan to con the westerners. If that’s the case, he deserves an Oscar.

Lesson learned. We hit the hay after two piping hot – both in spice and and temperature – kimchi jjigae (soups).

Although moving across the world is an immeasurably exciting endeavour, we found it near impossible to compete with Dave's unremitting enthusiasm, especially after being crammed into a suitcase for 20 hours. He's the most grateful of stowaways. ©

Although moving across the world is an exciting endeavour, we found it near impossible to compete with Dave’s unremitting enthusiasm, especially after being crammed into a suitcase for 20 hours. He’s the most grateful of stowaways. GP ©

South Koreans’ patriotism

In the morning both of us, enamoured by Seoul’s sites and sounds, stared out of our respective windows during the brief taxi trip back to Seoul Station. Most noticeable was the abundance of Korean flags. They were draped across buildings, used as lanterns and displayed on every street.

South Korea displays its flag everywhere, and in abundance. © GP

Koreans wear their country’s pride for all to see, their devotion and patriotism as abundant as kimchi.

The power cut stage – self doubt

The euphoric feeling, for first-time travellers, can last for weeks, even months. Well-versed, experienced travellers on the other hand can expect a short surge before entering the second stage, which I refer to as the power cut.

If you’re anything like me – which is a scary thought – doubts will inevitably will creep in. You might be thinking, “Have I made the right decision? Is it too late to go home? What have I done”?

Rest assured, this momentary doubt is normal. Of course, that’s going on the assumption my thought patterns aren’t entirely abnormal. Don’t let the negative murmurs get the best of you. Stay on course and embrace the challenges that will be indiscriminately tossed your way every day.

You’ll grow stronger, more confident and comfortable with your new surroundings each day. And soon, you’ll find yourself using chopsticks as if you were South Korean in another life.

 

Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen ascends to demigod status

Opinion, Sports

Christian Eriksen made it a night to forget for the Republic of Ireland, whose dreams of qualifying for the World Cup were dashed by the demigod Dane’s hat-trick heroics.

It was an evening of international football that will be eternalized in Danish folklore after Tottenham’s midfield maestro enjoyed his most prodigious performance, both for club and country.

Constantly creative, threatening and dangerous in the center of Tottenham’s midfield, Eriksen has never been so magisterial, almost demigod-like in dispatching a team and country in such a merciless way.

While scoring a hat-trick at any level is no simple task, more impressive is the stage on which he pulled it off. Ireland took the lead in the sixth minute from a Shane Duffy finish before Andreas Christensen equalized in the 29th. Eriksen then put Denmark on his shoulders, scoring three unanswered goals less than 40 minutes apart.

Ireland’s fortitude and resilience gave them a chance to pull off the unlikely upset. The difference in class, however, shone through, the cream eventually rising to the top. International football matches are parity-laden, won and lost by the slimmest of margins.

Those tiny winning margins usually come down to a moment of pure class. A single magical moment wasn’t enough for Eriksen, who was clearly unaffected by the grandeur of the occasion.

The 25-year-old looked like he was enjoying a recreational kickabout at Spurs training ground on Hotspur Way, such was the impressiveness of a performance most players don’t experience in an entire career. And all of it coming on the road, in a particularly hostile environment.

Eriksen immortalized by hat-trick heroics

I won’t be surprised to see Eriksen’s profile – and market value – skyrocketed after last night’s fairytale display. He has propelled himself into an unfamiliar, and unachievable, world for most, one defined by improbable feats of perfection. Few players can relate to how Eriksen feels today, among them another Spurs legend, Gareth Bale.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo also deserve the plaudits that come with lifting an entire country to new heights, taking their rightful place as national heroes. But unlike Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, Eriksen is humble and virtuous, forever placing his team’s wellbeing ahead of his own.

Football ability aside, it’s the reason he’s so beloved on the white side of North London.

In the aftermath of the defeat, Republic of Ireland bench boss paid homage to Tottenham’s star.

“We were beaten by a side that was better than us and has a world-class player in the team, who was absolutely magnificent. Eriksen is top class and he showed it.”

All of this bodes extremely well for Spurs ahead of their most important fixture of the Premier League season. Eriksen is clearly walking on air, his confidence on par with Achilles after becoming the hero of the Trojan War.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dane forgoes flying back to London on a commercial airliner, instead spreading his wings, once again taking matters into his own hands, or feet, depending on the situation.

The appendage in question matters not for Eriksen, whose larger-than-life figure will be haunting anyone associated with Arsenal Football Club in the coming days.

(This piece originally feature on Tottenham HQ. Feature image by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)