Friday, 15 April 2011

A meal in Muriels and a luxury liner on the Lagan

Yes, get a load of the alliteration in that title! It also concisely sums up how I spent Wednesday evening with the Yorkshireman and our merry band of amigos.

We met at our usual haunt (Starbucks) and, as usual, were practically forced out at around 6.15pm, even though it doesn't close until 7pm. I totally understand that they need to start cleaning upstairs before closing time, so that there's not as much to do when the last customer has taken their last sip of latté and finally left the building, but when the downstairs is full to bursting a whole hour before you're due to close, do you really have to close off the whole upstairs and shout at people who dare to attempt to join their friends who are already up there? Could you not even just leave a few tables available near the top of the stairs or something? Just a pet peeve…

But anyway, having enjoyed a very quick grande, skinny, wet, white chocolate mocha with no whipped cream (new favourite drink - lots of calories, even the skinny version with no cream, but a delicious once-in-a-while treat), we ventured to Tesco Metro on Royal Avenue in search of supplies for our plans later that evening. Then, laden with cheap and mostly unhealthy food and drink, it was on with our evening. First stop, dinner.

We'd been meaning to try Muriels on Church Lane for dinner for a while. I'd read some good reviews about it online a while ago and it was actually going to be the venue for my birthday dinner back at the start of March, but our plans on that day changed and so we didn't manage to get around to it until this week.

It's a strange little place altogether. From the outside it looks like it's been plucked out of a romantic little side street in Paris and implanted unceremoniously into a slightly less classy side street in Belfast. There are little outdoor tables, undoubtedly hugely popular in warmer weather, and a little menu stand in front of the door - all very charming! It's fairly small inside but the décor is interesting, with boldly patterned wallpaper, chintzy furniture and arty black and white photographs of young, attractive starlets on the walls, leaving you wondering whether you're in a brothel or your granny's living room. We went upstairs and grabbed a couple of tables in the corner beside a huge fireplace (although the only heat and light it emitted came from the fairy lights in the hearth) and perused the menu.

I'm a little torn as to how much I liked the food. On the one hand there's plenty of choice on the menu - even more so than the menu they have online - and they have some very inventive ideas, for example a mini three-course meal served as a main course and the option for a cupcake and tea/coffee for dessert. Most of us took them up on the latter and I must say it was delightful. However dinner itself was, for me at least, just ok. The chips were too skinny and crunchy and, bar the tasty seasoning, might as well have been from Burger King. I also had the fish bake, which had far too much creamy sauce and not enough fish in it for my liking. Comments from the others seemed to range from a rather bland "nice" (the steak sandwich) to "soooo good" (the risotto), so perhaps it's a little hit and miss depending on what you order. Personally I thought it was alright - I'm glad I went and my meal was nice enough but I'm not in any big hurry to return.

With our opinions formed and our stomach full, it was on to part two of our evening's entertainment. After the success of last year's event we had been hoping the Belfast Film Festival would be putting on a few more films on the Lagan Boat this year - happily they didn't disappoint us! We actually had three to choose from this time around but as "scary" sea creatures and ghost stories aren't really my thing, I opted for Juggernaut instead. I'd never heard of it, let alone seen it, but IMDB revealed that well-respected actor Anthony Hopkins was in it, so how bad could it really be?

One thing we noticed last year was that everyone on board seemed to have come prepared to party. People, who had clearly been to these events before and were as such "in the know", were rocking up with takeaway food and bottles of wine, while we made do with a few measly sweets. This year, no longer novices, we boarded the boat complete with our own stash of goodies courtesy of our aforementioned shopping trip. Within minutes of settling ourselves in for an evening's floating entertainment, I had whipped out the first bottle of red wine and was doling out the white plastic cups. I had mild pangs that this might make me seem like a bit of a lush, but when four different parties of eager movie-goers took their seats and promptly produced their own bottles of red wine and plastic cups I knew I had found kindred spirits. I mean, wine and sweets, watching a film about a boat, on a boat, floating around the calm waters of the Lagan, watched over by the lights of the city... it just doesn't get better than that on a weeknight!

The film itself was awesome purely because it was quite rubbish. I hadn't realised it was a British-made film from the 1970s and as such knitted jumpers and handlebar moustaches were all the rage. You can read all about it on IMDB if you so choose, but essentially it was a cross between Speed, Titanic and The Sweeney, the plot being centred around some bombs that had been planted on a cruise ship and the efforts to disable them on time before everyone is blown to smithereens.

The villain of the piece was the most monotonous baddie I have ever come across. The man just did not stop giving instructions over the phone! And they weren't even straight-forward instructions. It was like, "Go to number 372 Smith Lane. Underneath the gnome with the red hat and the green fishing rod you will find a key. Take the key and go to Jones Bank at number 22 High Street. The key will open box number 452. Therein you will find a purple party hat and a monkey called Eric. Take the monkey to the fountain at Trafalgar Square and place the party hat on his head. He will then dive into the fountain and retrieve a small plastic tube. Within this tube are further instructions. I will contact you again at 2.13pm precisely." I so totally would have been doodling on the corner of a page and "mmm-hmm"ing after about thirty seconds.

The film also featured two of the worst parents in the world. The mother was so miserable with sea sickness that she kept losing her children and let them run freely around the ship, even when her boy-who-looked-like-a-girl son said he was off to investigate the "hole in the ship" and also later after said boy had almost been blown up already. It's ok though, his father, who by the way was such a good parent that he wasn't even on board the ship with his family, responded to the news of his son's near-death experience by telling him to go to bed. Parenting fail, much.

It wasn't the most exciting of movies but it was so bad as to be entertaining. I barely noticed anyway - I was more preoccupied with looking outside at all the real ships moored up and down the harbour, as we passed by within a few metres of them. I'm always fascinated by proper big ships, especially those that have portholes. I have no idea where this delight comes from other than a vague memory of having had a wooden jigsaw that included a ship with portholes on it as a child, but I just think it's cool when a ship has honest-to-goodness portholes!

Our own little portholeless boat soon stopped back at the Big Fish and, having disembarked back on to dry land, it was time to go home. I had great craic though and will definitely be back again next year, red wine and plastic cups in hand, natch.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Dreaming of the city that never sleeps

I have a confession to make. Last year I had a love affair which has since led to a bit of an obssession. Not a day goes by when I don't think about her and read all her latest news. I have photos of her on my desk at work. Songs on the radio remind me of her. I spend happy moments reminicing about the time we spent together last November and making plans for things we can do together when we are eventually reunited. I get jealous of others who get to visit her in my absence and then claim they love her as much as I do. But how could they? Oh New York, I truly do "heart" thee!

It all started when I was planning our first ever trip to "The Big Apple" last year. My Google-fu had been strong and I had collated a whole lot of information about what to see, what to do, how to do it, where to eat, what to avoid, etc. The "NYC Trip Nov 2010" bookmarks folder on my Internet browser was full to bursting and yet kept on growing. During our precious time there we only got around to visiting a small number of these places, leaving the remainder for future trips. And then there are the places we did go last time but were so awesome that we want to visit again.

One of the main sources of valuable information for planning our trip was the New York City TripAdvisor forum. I love that place. The Destination Experts are wonderfully snarky (typical for New Yorkers, or so they tell anyone who complains!), especially when you ask vague questions or questions that reveal your thorough lack of research by yourself first, but that's one of the things I love about it. There's no messing around and no unnecessary niceties. These guys know their stuff and they're more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge with you, if only you put in a little of the grunt work yourself. If you ask me, that's fair enough.

You see people all the time who come on and leave their first ever post saying, "We're going to New York soon for the first time ever and we're so excited! What are the "must do/see" things in New York? Where should we stay that's close to everything and doesn't cost that much? Looking forward to all your suggestions!" Seriously people, those are some vague-ass questions. There is nothing that you must do except comply with the city's legal requirements and customs. What you inevitably see and do is is pretty much dependant on what your interests are - what's the sense in recommending the Guggenheim to someone who's more interested in Monster Trucks? Also, no hotel is "close to everything" - Manhattan is 13.4 miles long in itself, with the "must see" Statue of Liberty on an island off the South and "must see" Central Park in the North... and then there are the other boroughs of NYC like Brooklyn and Queens beyond that. As for accomodation that "doesn't cost too much", define "too much". I imagine a guy living behind a dumpster and Donald Trump would have very different ideas of what costs "too much". And also? If you'd read the frequently asked questions down the right-hand side of the forum or even searched through previous posts before you posted, you would probably have all the answers you're looking for.

It even makes my blood boil a little when people just want someone else to effectively plan their whole trip for them and I'm not even responsible for answering their inane questions. Instead I just lurk, even now, five months after our trip, in part to keep picking up more tips for our next visit to New York and in part to smirk at posts that will inevitably incur the wrath of the regular posters on the forum. It's a little schadenfreudian I grant you but it passes along my lunch break wonderfully.

Perhaps, though, it's really just a case of the green-eyed monster. These people are just starting out on learning about this wonderful city ahead of actually going there to experience it, while all I'm doing, for now at least, is reading about it wistfully and reminiscing. The Yorkshireman and I continue to save hard for another trip stateside but at the moment our bank balance is woefully deficient and so it looks like it will be the end of 2011/start of 2012 at the earliest. We could probably go a bit earlier if we wanted to live cheaply - after all, I've picked up a lot of tips on TripAdvisor about cheap places to stay and eat - but then we wouldn't get to experience half of our own little list of "must do/see" things and that would just seem like a wasted trip.

So for now I shall just keep sighing deeply at the photograph the Yorkshireman took of the Chrysler Building that I have on my desk, keep reading the posts on the TripAdvisor forum at least once a day, and keep adding to that bookmarks folder on my browser. It might take some time to get back there but when we do it's going to be one helluva trip in one helluva town!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Just another Manic Thursday

My participation in the Belfast Film Festival 2011 continued yesterday evening. When I'd been looking at the programme I stumbled upon a "special event" called Dance Mania. Its name didn't seem to fit in with all the other arty film titles and so it caught my attention. It was described as follows:

Get your leg warmers on and get ready for a fantastic evening of dance and film at the Spectrum Centre.

We’ve edited together a compilation of some of the best dance routines from some of the greatest musicals of all time. So get ready to go disco with John Travolta, Put a ring on it with the kids from Glee, try some Summer Lovin’ with the gang from Grease, Do some Singin' in the Rain with Fred Astaire and don’t forget We’re All in This Together with the team from High School Musical.

Why not come along and bust some moves on the dance floor with us…"

I figured, hey, I like musicals, I like dancing and I especially like Glee - this sounds like my kind of event! My mother, who enjoys utter cheese as much as I do, also thought it might be fun and so we conspired to head up the Shankill Road together on Thursday 7 April and boogie on down.

So last night we headed out on the town. First we decided to grab a bit of dinner - after all, you need a lot of energy to dance the night away! We were originally going to try The Potted Hen in St Anne's Square but their pre-theatre menu didn't particularly stimulate our mental tastebuds and so we headed across the road to Hooligan. Or, as the case may be, not Hooligan. You may recall that as recently as last week, the Yorkshireman and I had a wonderful dinner at Hooligan and so I had been contemplating its sister restaurant, Made In Belfast, as my venue for our pre-Mania meal. However when I visited Made In Belfast's website earlier this week, I was stunned to see the following announcement:

"Hope the hangovers have cleared from your Paddy's Day adventures and you have obtained a clean bill of health. However, for those who still want to eat, drink and be merry our lovely team here at Made In Belfast are in the process of opening our second restaurant, on the very grounds of our pop up restaurant Hooligan (which met a violent end :-x)...MADE IN BELFAST CATHEDRAL QUARTER WILL OPEN ON 1ST APRIL 2011....and no this isn't a joke! Though our staff have big smiles xxx."

What do you mean "met a violent end"?! If it did indeed turn into Made In Belfast Cathedral Quarter on 1st April, I was apparently there on Hooligan's last day of existence and it seemed to be very much in one piece then! Perplexed I tried in vain to call Hooligan's number to see if they were still open, albeit in the form of Made In Belfast Cathedral Quarter, but it was constantly engaged, hence our decision to go to The Potted Hen instead. However when we walked past yesterday it was indeed open for business and so we figured, hey, why not?

Nothing whatsoever seemed to have changed apart from the now absent Hooligan sign that the Yorkshireman had so carefully documented for posterity the week before. The kooky décor was still the same inside and I still risked setting my clumsy self alight on the candle in the wine bottle on our table. The menu had changed slightly however. The Yorkshireman is now entirely gutted that they no longer offer their fish finger sandwich, even though I explained to him that my mother had essentially the same thing in the form of the their fish and chips with mushy peas, the only difference being a lack of bread (which you can order separately anyway) and the fact that hers was served in a metal bath. I on the other hand had an absolutely devine Greek stifado stew and was gutted only because we didn't have time to stay for dessert.

Before we left I quizzed our waiter on the whole Hooligan/Made In Belfast Cathedral Quarter debacle and he confirmed that the name had indeed changed and that if we had been there the week before then we must have been present for Hooligan's "downfall" - I still have no idea what actually happened or whether they're just being fabulously dramatic about a mere name change just for the craic but I like their style!

And so it was off to be dancing queens for the evening… or so we thought.

Our first hint that the event would not quite live up to expectations was the fairly short list of people who had purchased tickets and the equally empty room when we arrived. But fair enough, I thought, an evening of dancing to cheesy music is not for everyone and it's better to have only a few fellow crazies than a lot of disinterested folks being boring. Onward!

However the evening did not get any better when the "event" began. There was no introduction from anyone - the lights simply went off and the screen went on. It looked fairly promising at first when a montage of dance clips from movies like Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Grease and Rocky Horror played to the tune of Footloose and had us simultaneously dancing in our seats and sqwaking "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" and "It's just a jump to the left!". However once Footloose finished so, effectively, did the entertainment.

From that point on, one song simply followed another, as though someone was clicking their way through YouTube one video at a time by following the suggested video links down the right-hand side. The quality was awful in most of the clips too and the editing was truly shocking - some clips ended in a black screen for an eternity before the next one started whilst some screeched and warbled to a sudden halt just before the end. Only three girls ventured out of their seats at any point to dance and I have a suspicion they were in some way connected to the organisation of the event. It also paled in significance when compared to the seven people who got up and left about 5 minutes in, effectively cutting the audience in half.

What annoyed me most, however, is that a good amount of the songs were in no way related to musicals, film or even TV. I can sort of understand them playing Thriller (even though I detest it) because it's sort of a mini film in itself, but how exactly did the creator of this bilge decide that the dance-loving audience of a film festival audience would be more enthralled by Groove Is In The Heart and Walk Like an Egyptian than, say, I've Had The Time Of My Life or the Time Warp? We were waiting for the punchline or something great throughout the evening but it never came.

Thankfully it was as short as it was rubbish and we were out on the pavement blinking in the daylight after about an hour, wondering how someone had managed to scam us into paying a fiver each to sacrifice an hour of our lives in such a way! As my mother said, if a GCSE media student had submitted it as their coursework, they would have failed.

And so it was on to Starbucks for some caffeine to numb the pain. Well there had to be some high point to the evening! Prior to that my favourite part (apart from dinner) had been when they played the Glee version of Single Ladies, but any happiness this provided soon faded when they played not one but two High School Musical songs, each as monotonous as each other. Woe!

I must say I'm fairly disappointed. I guess their budget isn't that huge but I'm fairly sure that even I could have edited the thing better, not to mention choosing better songs to start with. Bad Belfast Film Festival! I am so totally putting you in a corner because that is where the naughty step is! I can only hope that my next (and final) Belfast Film Festival outing later this week will be of a higher calibre. Only time will tell!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Table for one please Captain

You may have noticed that I am a bit of a nutterbutter at times. I dislike things other people enjoy, such as talking to a friend on the telephone, and yet like things other people hate, like travelling (the journey itself rather than the destination). It was in this spirit that I decided to take a day off work and book myself a random little trip over to Stranraer and back on the ferry one day. Alone. The most commonly asked question by anyone I told about my planned voyage was, quite understandly, "umm... why?" For no purpose other than for the adventure, mayteys! That said, it still became known as my "random loner trip" by those who just didn't understand (i.e. everyone).

I really love travelling on boats. I don't know quite why, although there is marine history in my bloodlines (the Navy rather than a half-dolphin great grandmother), but I find it soothing. In fact I find it more calming (not to mention fun) when there's a good bit of rough seas going on and you can barely walk in a straight line due to the swaying of the boat. I especially love standing out on the deck with the wind howling past, making my hair all tatty and my lips taste like salt - so refreshing!

And so earlier this week, with my printed booking confirmation in hand, I arrived at the Stenaline terminal on time for the 11.45am sailing to Stranraer. The Belfast terminal has certainly come on in leaps and bounds since the last time I was there, with a complete redesign that has essentially turned the whole place into a giant coffee shop (and you know how I love a good coffee shop!). My only quibble was that there was no announcement over the PA that the ferry was ready for boarding and I only realised I should probably be on my way when I looked up from my book to see everyone else scurrying off towards a far corner. Oops.

On the first leg of my trip I was on the Stena HSS Voyager. This is the faster of Stenaline's ferries and I've always kind of liked how you walk around in a big circle to get around the ship - it reminds me of the Enterprise from Star Trek TNG in that respect. For my little "loner trip" I had decided to go all out and book myself into the Stena Plus lounge. It was £16 extra each way but the website promised me free unlimited tea, coffee, wine and snacks, so I figured that given my usual caffeine consumption and the standard price of refreshments onboard the ferry I would get my money's worth in coffee alone. Plus sometimes it's nice just to splurge a little and feel special, especially when you're seen Titanic as many times as I have and know that the first class passengers get all the best places on the lifeboats if something goes wrong!

In the end I didn't need a lifeboat and nor feel that special, since it seemed like the world and his wife had been thinking along similar lines. Having given up looking for a table anywhere near a power outlet for my laptop (some chance!), I finally bagged the only two seats still available that simultaneously looked out towards the sea and were on the same level as the snack bar (both very important requirements!). Then it was into the five-minute long queue for the coffee machines.

I eventually managed to obtain a cappucino, a glass of apple juice and some shortbread and settled down for the journey. The HSS journey only takes about two hours and I spent it rotating between reading my chick lit book du jour, staring out the windows at the rolling waves in some kind of aquatic trance, enjoying a very tasty chowder with a tuna and cucumber sandwich from the lunch menu and helping myself to umpteen cups of tea and coffee (and post-lunch a couple of glasses of wine too!). By the time we arrived in Stranraer I was feeling very relaxed and the sun was just beginning to emerge from the grey and cloudy skies. Perfect!

Stranraer. Well, there's not really a lot to do in Stranraer to be honest. I even did research beforehand just in case there was some hidden gem I could take in during my brief trip, but alas it seemed that Castle St John is about it for visitors to Stranraer. That said I managed to fill the few hours I spent there quite comfortably by browsing in the shops, taking walks along the harbour and through Agnew Park and eventually having some decent fish and chips (compulsory when visiting the seaside) in the Starfish Restaurant. It was a lovely sunny day in the end and it was nice just to wander around a town I didn't know much about with nothing specific to do and nowhere specific to go.

The only strange bit was when I stopped into a pub for a quick drink and I ended up being the only person in there except for the barmaid. She watched Emmerdale, where someone seemed to be having some kind of breakdown, while I sat by the dominos table (I did not know pubs still had such things!) sipping my pint and trying to avoid awkward eye-contact. A sign on the window had advertised a beer garden but its whereabouts were not instantly apparent and to ask would have required forced conversation so I amused myself with my mobile for a few minutes instead and then left as soon as feasibly possible to continue my loner day back in the 21st century.

Soon enough it was time to head back to the foot passenger departure lounge for the ferry home. This time it was the Stena Caledonia and it was 45 minutes delayed, which wasn't a great surprise bearing in mind it had been 45 minutes delayed coming into Belfast when I was waiting to leave that morning. I found a plug socket by the vending machines in the departure lounge and hooked up my laptop to enjoy an episode of House to help pass the time. It did so admirably and by the time the end credits were rolling it was time to board. This time around I faced a 3 hour journey, as the Caledonia is slower than the HSS, not to mention older, so I was intrigued to see what the difference would be with Stena Plus lounge onboard this ship.

I followed the signs for the Stena Plus lounge and then stood around looking befuddled. A very helpful employee approached me and explained that there were actually two lounges onboard, one downstairs and one upstairs. He let me into the one downstairs and the door closed behind me. I looked around and essentially it was a small, depressing room with three windows, a small snack bar and a few tables and chairs. The people in it looked as grim as the room, so I turned on my heel and smartly marched straight back out again. The helpful employee, who was still there, looked at me knowingly and said, "would you like to try the upstairs lounge instead?" Yes please - I know £16 isn't a lot of money these days but it's more than I was willing to pay for the slow but steady withering of my soul.

At first glance, upstairs was marginally better. There were more windows, tables and chairs, the snack bar seemed a little bigger and there was (much to my chagrin) a children's play area (sorry mummies and daddies but children screeching for 3 hours is not my idea of fun). However a further look revealed two major plus points, namely that down one side of the room was an area with massive, fancy touch-screen computers (which no-one else seemed to be remotely interesting in) and also that on either side of the room was a door straight out onto the deck. Excellent! I installed myself in the very corner at one of the computer desks, moved the keyboard and mouse aside and set up my own laptop instead. Then I collected a new stock of caffeine, snacks and wine and returned to my little corner of wonder.

I spent about an hour of the journey writing my Rocky Horror blog post and the remaining time drinking wine and coffee, watching more episodes of House on my laptop and wandering out on to the deck to have my head blown off. I also tried the thai chicken curry from the dinner menu, which was pretty mediocre, although the chicken was nicely cooked. Even the children in the play area were relatively quiet. Then at around 9pm it was finally time to disembark back on to Belfast soil and make my way home.

All in all it was a strange but lovely day. I got to go on a boat (two actually), I got to walk along the shore and look at shells and I got to completely relax and do whatever I wanted, and all with a steady intake of precious caffeine and alcohol.

My only regret is that I had booked my trip before the Belfast Film Festival released this year's programme and I ended up missing something I would have loved to go to. The Yorkshireman however did attend said event and no doubt will write about it soon. But as for me, I had a nice day out and I think I might have to go on another similar little loner trip again sometime soon. Yes, I know I'm an oddity, but I'm mostly harmless. Mostly.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Belfast’s unconventional conventionalists

I spent most of my workday last Thursday in a state of excited antici... pation. That joke will either be completely lost on you or you’ll instantly know what we were up to. Or, if you also happen to read my husband’s blog, you’ll know already regardless of your knowledge of Transexuals from the planet of Transylvania. Yes, we were off to Rocky Horror.

I’ve been at least peripherally aware of the Rocky Horror Picture Show since early childhood – I remember my sister and I repeatedly insisting that the DJ at my uncle’s wedding play the Time Warp for example – but I never really fully appreciated it until a few late night viewings in the latter end of my teens. Note I don’t say that I never fully understood it – I’m fairly sure there must be parts of Rocky Horror that even Richard O’Brien doesn’t fully understand and he wrote the thing – but it’s definitely compulsive viewing and listening no matter how bonkers the plot or its characters may be!

I think you also need a fairly open mind to appreciate it. I have a colleague who’s a little on the naive side who recently told me she was horrified when she watched Rocky for the first (and only) time, to the extent that she was even a little wary about watching Glee’s interpretation, bless her. Another colleague who is also a little, well, on the moral side, said she had never seen it but would never watch it just from its description. Ah well, I’ll be happy doing the Time Warp with my fellow sickos and perves then!

It was in this mindset that I nearly imploded with excitement when I read the Belfast Film Festival’s programme for 2011 and saw that on opening night the Black Box were hosting a Q&A with Patricia Quinn (owner of the famous lips in the opening scene of the movie and also plays Magenta) followed by a screening of the film.

I’m generally quite blasé about celebrity sightings because unlike the majority of the Heat Magazine-reading, Jordan-obsessed UK I believe they’re just human beings like me and thee. No pedestals here I’m afraid. But it still seemed like it would be quite cool to see how different someone you’ve seen so often as a fictional, singing, incestuous alien on your TV screen looks forty years later and without the maid’s outfit or spacesuit. Plus I’m always up for an excuse to dress up with fellow crazies. So at the first available opportunity the tickets were booked and, much to the Yorkshireman’s consternation, the costume-planning began.

I’ll spare you the ins and outs of how difficult it is to find a decent Rocky Horror costume on a budget and the related last-minute mail-related ups and downs. However suffice to say by the evening of the event itself I had a black PVC mini dress and some fishnet tights in my bag. The Yorkshireman copped out and bought a Rocky Horror t-shirt, even declining my simple request that he wear fishnets tights underneath his work trousers in addition. Men... tisk! I mean, I do not have the body to be wearing a tight, short PVC dress in public, but it’s the spirit of the thing! I mean the film is all about expressing yourself (well, that and the transient morals of mankind), so you’re really obliged to let it all hang out. Or to contain it all in fishnets. Either will work.

So, after a quick pint of Guinness at the Duke of York and then an absolutely delicious dinner at Hooligan (seriously, you have to try this place), I donned my outfit of shame and, eternally grateful for my knee-length coat, headed around the corner to the Black Box to meet our friends. They had done us proud on the costume-front and so, suitably attired and with our names checked off the list, we headed in to a wonderland of darkness, fairy lights and red and black. Perfectly Rocky!

However when I went next door to their café to order my tea-total friend a latte it appeared that there was a totally different vibe in there. A couple of cool arty types were performing live, laid-back music in the corner to a group of similarly cool-looking arty types, all of whom were giving me odd sideward glances. Meanwhile I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the latte, all the while standing next to a bemused-looking elderly lady who probably thought I was in for a quick caffeine hit before I began a night of hooking around the Cathedral Quarter. However if she had ventured next door she would soon have discovered that I was far from the worst culprit. Some Rocky fans really go all out! I wonder whether she would have been most disturbed by the Magenta whose skirt didn’t quite cover the important areas, the blood-stained, scrubs-wearing Frank N Furter or the seven feet tall Usherette with the most amazing blonde beehive wig I have ever seen.

Anyway, having obtained the latte and given the elderly lady one more rueful, I’m-not-a-prostitute-honestly smile, it was back into insanity for me. The evening was everything I expected and more. Patricia Quinn was delightfully quirky (and I suspect, quite pissed) and the interview was thankfully not too long. With a parting shot of “let there be lips!” it was time for the show, much to the delight of the Rocky fans in attendance. Patricia’s lips, her billing page on the cast list and her famous line, “You're lucky, he's lucky, I'm lucky, we're all lucky!” all got enthusiastic cheers but as always it was the Time Warp that had everyone (except the Yorkshireman and a couple of other boringheads!) on their feet. It’s amazing how many people (myself included) will attempt a bit of tap dancing during Columbia’s Time Warp scene despite having no tap ability whatsoever. Essentially it was a room full of people jumping up and down and making their high heels click on the floor a lot - great craic!

One of my favourite bits about watching Rocky Horror with a group of fans is the audience participation. There are whole scripts out there in Interwebzland but unless you’re really hardcore there are only a few that are always said, for example when Brad’s name is mentioned by the Narrator you shout “asshole!”, when Janet’s name is mentioned you shout “slut!” and when Doctor Scott’s name is mentioned you shout “sieg heil!” However the audience are also perfectly entitled to make up their own lines and often people will shout out something you’ve never heard before. Depending on the person (and often their alcohol consumption) it can be hilarious or really not funny at all, but in the latter case it’s fairly evident from everyone else’s reaction (or lack thereof) that they should shut the hell up already and most times they do. You don’t want to cross a Rocky audience – you may not live to tell the tale mwahahahaha!

By the end of the night I was all danced out, my throat was hoarse from singing along and I was keen to get home and out of my fishnets, but I had a brilliant time. So that was event number one from my Belfast Film Festival list. Event two is later this week and I have another costume of sorts planned, even if this one is not quite so provocative! This outfit should be fairly work-safe. Evidently I never grew out of the dressing-up stage when I left primary school, but I figure you only get out of an experience what you put into it. Now just to locate some transparent rubber tubing, faux meercat fur and glittery fairy wings. Just kidding... or am I?