Sunday, July 29, 2007


I got home from London on the Monday, and went in to work on the Tuesday. Tuesday night Lara and I caught up with Allegra, my friend from Ulster University. We had bubbles and wine, and ate pasta at around 11:30pm; it was rather a late one.

On Wednesday we got out of work at 11:30am, because there was a bonfire built in the middle of the only road in to work! I have pictures to post - it was quite substantial.

I caught the midday bus to Dublin, and changed there for one to Tipp. I felt grand to start with but ended up having to get the second bus to stop so I could vomit (sometimes I'm not a brilliant traveller, and this was a 7½ hour bus journey). Unfortunately when I got off I was far too embarrassed to throw up! I finally arrived in Tipp at half seven, feeling a little under the weather; but Liam (my cousin getting married in Perth) and Ella (his fiancée) met me at the train station, and we went straight to the pub (that lifted my spirits to start with - obviously seeing Liam for the first time in ages did too). No-one was there, so we went to McD's for some food (I got a bottle of water, and threw up in their bathroom; finally - I have found a point for them!), and went back. A pint of Smithwick's, and I was all better; totally up for a big night, in fact... We met Liam's two Irish best men in the pub, Finn and Colm. We played a bunch of (bad) pool, and drunk a bunch of beer. Finn and I chose some music on the jukebox together. That was a bit of a mission, because he doesn't really do decisions either (what were we thinking?), and when you first meet someone what music you listen to is quite important. I've been listening almost exclusively to Snow Patrol and Aslan (with a bit of Portishead) recently, and wasn't sure that everyone else would want to listen to them. So we started with Scissor Sisters, and moved on to Bob Marley. Fortunately €2 only gives you four choices! Eventually they threw us out and we decided to go back to Cloneen to the Thatch (Ella was driving, because she was crook from the night before). The Thatch (if you follow the link, you need to scroll nearly to the bottom of the page, but there is a pic of it!) is one of my all time favourite pubs ever. It's small and dark, and a bit smelly, and doesn't have any electricity. It's fantastic!! Unbelieveably, when we arrived, there was a 20 minute queue for beer! How dare they? I love the Thatch; it's not supposed to be like that. We went to the one next door which is slightly more civilised. Being a little merry I made a bit of an entrance. Mick (first cousin once removed, Liam's Dad) was standing in a really obvious place when I walked in. I was so pleased to see him I shouted at him from the door, then rocked on up and gave him a big hug. He went bright red, but (I think) he was pleased. Sian (Liam's youngest sister) and Davey (her lad) were there too, and Sarah (their mother). Many rounds were bought and drunk, and more pool was played, but there was no lock in. I loved the fact that it was a Wednesday night and the whole village was out. When it closed we moved back home, where there were provisions for the engagement bbq on Friday. Finn and Colm were supposed to be going to work the next morning - Liam had offered to take them in at some ungodly hour; but Finn was still there on Thursday morning when I crawled out of bed.

The weather was stunning - warm and really sunny. Sian, Davey, Finn and I went into Carrick to pick up the family's engagement present (a really beautiful flat crystal bowl). We were very sensible and picked up the present first, then found a nice pub that served food; we were starving because we hadn't had breakfast. After that we dropped Finn home so he could go to work (heheh) the next morning and went back to Cloneen (the civilised pub), where we sat outside in the sun and had some more pints. It was such a nice day. I think the combination of lack of sleep and the beer and the sun knocked me out though, because I was wrecked. The rest of the day passed in a warm fuzzy blur. It definitely involved me sleeping throughout the night though!

On Friday Sarah, Liam and Ella went into town for last minute shopping, and I got up to see if I could be helpful, wandered around cleaning up a bit, went back to bed and watched several episodes of Family Guy. I had a massive long shower. It's so nice since Sarah's done up the bathroom. The shower used to take about five minutes to wet your hair (it was a gravity one), and rinsing out conditioner was a nightmare on wheels; but now it's brilliant. Unfortunately the weather had turned really nasty - it was absolutely bucketing down. Typical. But by the time people started turning up around 7pm, it had lightened up a bit, so we could sit outside under the umbrellas and big canopy thing, where Liam cooked the steak. Grace (one of Mick's sisters) and Wonder Woman (her daughter, so my 2nd cousin) turned up, which was all good, and Wonder Woman brought Holly, her golden retriever, with her because she'd just been to the vet. All the dogs were so excited to see such a cute blonde woman, and she really played it up. Thank god she's spayed! Liam and Ella had brought SingStar over with them from Australia. Very scary with a bunch of drunk people. They had no chance of getting me near it; it was bad enough just being in the same room with them! The party went on very late, with Liam, Finn and I staying up well past breakfast, taking democratic turns to go on the beer run to the kitchen.

On Saturday there was a bit of a clean up mission, which turned into a very nice dinner party in the dining room. Glo (Liam's sister) and her lad came out for it. They dropped by Finn's house on the way to pick him up, but his mother said he was sleeping ("He's been out too many nights recently." Glo: "Yeah, I know, he's been with us." Mother: evil glare. "He's asleep, and I'm not waking him up." Or that's how I understand the conversation went.) The hurling was on just before dinner (and slightly during)! I was so excited to see Tipp beat Cork in the semis (I think it was). I miss hurling, and it was a great match. We all settled down for a quiet evening in front of the tv, but then John (who is, randomly, a relative of Glo's bloke, although this is Ireland, so we shouldn't have been surprised) turned up, and people started to wake up about the time Sarah went to bed. This involved us lounging around the sitting room with Ong Bak on, and arguing about whose turn it was to fetch the beer. I accidentally stayed up all night (again), this time in the kitchen (closer to the beer fridge), drinking and talking nonsense (and it really was!) to John. I stayed up, and helped tidy the kitchen a bit (probably more hindrance than help though) on Sunday morning. I had spent so much time in the three days hassling Liam about not having an invite to the wedding, that he presented me with one in the morning! So, I'm now going to Perth in March, which was really not part of my plan. Ah well, that's the joy of travelling. I discovered that there wasn't enough room for me in the car with Liam and Ella, and the parents and all their stuff, and that Glo would give me a lift to the bus, so I went to bed for a bit of a kip. Glo cooked me breakfast when I got up (sausages, bacon, eggs, toast, it was fantastic), then took me in to the train station. We sat in the car waiting for the bus, until she said "That one's going to Cork..." Eeep. I leapt out, just in time to flag down the one to Dublin which was accelerating away from the station, hidden behind the other one. All good, even if the driver did give me a dirty look!

Made it back to Belfast around half nine that evening, and the weather was lovely. I wandered home feeling at one with the world, and smiling at the people walking their dogs.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


So I finally made it to London the other day, after successfully avoiding it for somewhere in the region of eight years. Not bad going, when you think that it's the favoured destination of most Kiwis. I read somewhere that it has the second largest number of New Zealanders in it. Of course, once I was there I adored it. I had such a great time I'm scared to go back and pop the bubble.

I had a ridiculously early (6:30am) flight, and Lara told me I had to be there for 5am on the Saturday morning. I thought I had it all sorted, from my previous débâcle at the airport, going to my Galway cousin's wedding (where I joined the wrong queue three times); so I'd checked in on-line the previous day, and had organised (ha!) myself so that I could take my backpack on as hand luggage, so no queues there. I'd been invited to a birthday party on the Saturday evening, and had been told that a bottle of N.Z. white would be an appropriate present. We have a great bottle-y (Pooh Bear and I decided on this as a compromise between offy and bottle shop when we were living in Stirling, but I'm still not sure how to spell it) up the road, so I'd bought one (Lawson's Dry Hill's chardy) there. I arrived disgustingly early at the airport, and started the queue for security, which hadn't opened yet (unsurprisingly, it being 5am). When someone finally showed up, I asked if I could take the bottle on with me, but I couldn't. Apparently you can only take things that you buy on the other side. I contemplated downing it there, but concluded that discretion was the better part of valour and all that. So I joined the now-massive queue for check in and luggage-leaving.

There was a BMI woman walking up and down asking for people who only needed to drop luggage, so eventually I joined the (ironically named) Super Express Luggage Drop, behind one (american) family. They had three trolleys piled high with enormous suitcases, each of which was overweight. Of course. It was unbelievable. Another woman joined the queue behind me, and we stood there in absolute disbelief, watching while ... nothing happened in front of us, and the queue we'd come from moved (albeit slowly) ahead of us. We didn't even know what the problem was because nothing was happening. She started to panic after a while (about 45 minutes), because she was going on holiday to Portugal, and had to catch another plane at Heathrow at 2pm. We seriously stood there for about 50 minutes. Eventually they sorted themselves out, and we raced through. I had to take my bag to the "Out of Gauge" place, because it had straps on it, and the other woman decided to wait for me, because she didn't want to face the wrath of the other travellers queue-jumping by herself. As it turns out she didn't need to worry: we'd taken so long everyone else had gone through. The flight also ended up being delayed (which isn't great for the first flight of the day), and I'm fairly sure it was because of the stupid americans.

However, we arrived, and I picked up my bag, got a coffee, and got hold of Alice (with whom I was staying), who duly arrived; she'd been out to see Eddie Izzard the previous night. She was house-sitting in Hampstead, and we caught the tube there. I dropped my bag off at the house, which was huge, and had a gorgeous garden out the back. She told me that they sell for several million around there, and I can fully believe it. We went for breakfast at a place that does good coffee, which is apparently a rarity in London. I noticed afterwards that they had a licence too - so Alice has been in serious need of my company. We took a look at the weather (which was fantastic the entire time I was there), and thought: beer!! (We would have thought "pub" had it been bad.) We walked down the hill around Hampstead Heath, which looked lovely, but full of people, unlike the (Belgian) beer garden we ended up in. After my first pint I called Olive (another Kiwi muso), but her phone was off. She got back to me though, and decided to come down and meet us in a couple of hours. Disaster: we had to stay at the pub, and I had to entreat Alice to try multiple different half pints in the interim. It's not something that rolls easily off my tongue: a half; but she's a genuine gym bunny, and disgustingly fit, so that's some kind of excuse. It was fantastic to see Olive again; we worked out how long it had been, but I won't say. With any luck she'll come to Paris when I'm over there seeing Kipper, my friend from school (and no, in case you're interested, I'm not Elle).

That evening I went to somewhere on the tube (it could have been South Kensington, but I'm not sure), to another Belgian pub (the Dove) - how unfair was this? I wanted to be drinking ales in London! - for Abby's 30th birthday party. She's an ex trumpeter (we rock!) from Chch, who used to go out with Papa Smurf, and she'd gathered a bunch of Kiwis. Danger Mouse (pretty much the entire reason I was even in London) was there, and it was the first time I'd seen him for about 6 months, which was was extremely cool. Hahahahahaa - I made him drink a lot of highly alcoholic Belgian beers. By the time they threw us out most people were ready for bed, but I wanted to go clubbing. Penny and Steve (Chch friends of Abby's) and I were on the same tube line, and she knew a club, but unfortunately it was closed for a private function; and that was the only one around there. I couldn't believe it. I mean, this was London! However, an early night was possibly a good plan; especially when I got off (correctly!) at my stop, and couldn't exactly remember how to get home. I stood there for about five minutes, looking around vaugely (I hadn't worn glasses earlier, because it was so sunny); then I set off in about eight different directions, for about five metres, and came back again. I don't think any spy company is going to hire me. Eventually I made an "executive decision", i.e. took a punt, but fortunately it was the correct one.

Sunday Alice and I went out for breakfast again, to another place that does good coffee (another place that had a licence - when she comes to Belfast we're having a pint for breakfast). The Wimbledon men's final was on that afternoon, and Danger Mouse had organised some more Kiwis (his family were over in London for a bunch of family birthdays) to meet at a pub: his sister Aoife and brother Rob, Abby, Rob's ex Miho, who'd got an £80 ticket to the women's final the day before, and Holly (yes, another muso from varsity) and her bloke. It was fantastic to see them all again, and I have an invite to go and visit Rob in Valencia, which I'm SO going to do! So we were finally in an English pub (in South Kensington, I think), but they only had two ales on tap - gargh, it was a conspiracy. However, it was great weather, and Wimbledon was on (and Federer was looking very fetching in his white jacket and trousers). Everyone crashed again quite early, which was rather disappointing, so I went home and distracted Wendy from her work; she had to bribe me with beer, and music (specifically West Side Story, and the Bruch Violin Concerto(!)), and I stayed up reading Pippi Longstocking (family home) and drinking the family's beer, which was a bit random.

On the Monday Alice and I went to Covent Garden for coffee and brunch (see left) and to meet Danger Mouse again. I'd spent probably 45 minutes "persuading" him the previous night that we should meet at 10am, and it turned out that there was a "passenger incident" on the tube, so he didn't arrive until twenty past anyway. Covent Garden is lovely! We forced him to drink coffee, and he got the jitters (not that we ever would have laughed at him). Then I got hungry and we went to an Italian place for pasta before Alice and I caught the tube back to Heathrow (where I had a Hoegaarden and Alice a glass of bubbly) before I went through security, only to find the plane was delayed by 40 minutes. Ah well... I had Hunter S. Thompson to keep me company and another beer. I arrived home to fog and rain and wind. I giggled.

In which the author finally has an occasion with a glass of wine (at a computer)

It's such a ridiculously long time since I posted that I've had to go back and read what I was doing back then - starting my new job, apparently. And joining the gym, god help me. So I am well and truly ensconced in american dynamics (they're breaking so many of my principles that I can't even give them capitals - and now I can't give the address of this blog to anyone at work!). My official job title is open for discussion; among those mooted were Technical Writer, Technical Author and other far more amusing ones, that I can no longer remember, they were so ridiculous. So my signature, which I almost never use, has me down as a tech writer. I don't even know if my team is Technical Communications or Technical Publications! It inevitably being shortened, naturally I prefer the latter.

After spending weeks and weeks not really doing any work at all, and not being able to play on the internet (as at Ulster Uni) because it's a huge open plan office, and my desk is next to the two meeting rooms, I managed to get rid of my team. (There are four of us: Kevin, the team leader, Jill, who's been there eight months, and tells me the names of the rest of the office, and Bridie, who started the week before me, and is just back in the workforce after having a sprog, but is a real tech writer (unlike me), and used to work with Kevin at Nortel.) Kevin was in Boca (Florida) for the week, Jill is in Dubai on holiday, and Bridie was sick as a sheep. I actually got to do stuff! It was great. I am so sad. I got to talk to people in the office "Bridie's really sick, she won't be in until Monday." "Jill's in Dubai until August." "Kevin's in Boca." HA! You'll have to ask me to do it! People even felt sorry for me sitting there all by myself and came to talk to me. Shame I had no idea who they were... In fact, the software boys, who sit in the next pod, have a new favourite game: point at people and ask me what their names are.

I've been up to such a lot that I think I'm going to make lots of short little entries; I'm too lazy to go to the effort of writing for people to look at it and think "Too many notes, Mr. Mozart." (Not that I'm comparing my prose to Mozart, it was just a nice simile.)

If there's anything you want to know more about just drop me a comment, and I'll fill in all the gory details - be warned, it will be gory, all I've been doing recently is drinking a lot and having a fab time! I have a bunch of photos I want to put up too, but I spent all last week on Corel Paintshop Pro, which is vastly different from Photoshop, so going back to Lara's Swedish, older version Photoshop is going to be hell. I need more wine just thinking about it...