Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A painless Lyrical experience minus the lyrics

The Yorkshireman has already written about our little trip to the south of the city to watch The Painkiller at the Lyric Theatre but I thought I would belatedly throw in my two cents' worth as well.

My family assures me I have definitely been to the Lyric before (in its previous incarnation) but I don't really remember, so it was cool to go and check it out now that it has been completely renovated. It's quite a nice theatre actually. It's very well laid out and, although a good bit smaller than the Waterfront Hall or Grand Opera House, it's probably about the right size for the kinds of shows it tends to host. It's in a pleasant location too, which makes up for being a little way out of the city centre. It's well situated beside the Lagan and is only a few minutes' walk from the village feel of the coffee shops and restaurants on the Stranmillis Road. It was dark by the time we grabbed a couple of glasses of wine at the bar but even then the lights of the Embankment dancing on the black shimmering river proved to be quite a pretty view.

As for the play itself, well, I never really know what to make of plays. I've only ever seen a few and even then it tended to be on a school trip where the attraction was less the action on stage and more being out of school. I also like my theatre with a side of comedy and a generous helping of song and dance on top, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this music-free show.

In the end it was actually pretty funny, which was quite unexpected given that the plot centres around a hired assassin and someone who is suicidal. It was actually maybe a bit too slapstick for my tastes but I still laughed in all the right places. The acting was very good too. I've always had a bit of weird crush on Kenneth Brannagh (one of my favourite films is, weirdly, Much Ado About Nothing) and also he apparently went to the same primary school as me, so we're practically BFFs. I also have great respect for Rob Brydon, so it was a pleasure to see him grace one of our local stages.

So, having watched the Painkiller, even though I definitely enjoyed the experience, I'm still not entirely convinced about plays in general. I kept expecting the actors to burst into song at certain points and was a little disappointed when I realised I was out of luck. Also the sets, whilst impressive, couldn't quite make it real enough for me to notice the lack of special effects and clever camera angles. When a man "punches" someone on the stage, it's kind of hard to notice that no contact is actually made, no matter how quick and convincing the reactions of the "injured" party.

I also like to have a little insight into what the character is thinking and feeling, the perfect vehicle for this being a song, or even some background music reflecting the mood. However with a play (unless there's a soliloquy or something) you have to gauge that kind of thing yourself based on the actor's expressions, body language, etc, which can be a little hit and miss depending on the ability of the actor in question.

So whilst my night at the Lyric was most definitely painless (haha), I think I'll mostly be sticking to musicals in the theatre from now on. What can I say, I'm clearly just a sucker for a bit of the old razzle dazzle!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Let them know it's *not* Christmastime

I recall that last year I wrote a blog post about it being too early to be thinking about Christmas, even though the world seemed to be already strong-arming me into preparing for decking halls and trimming trees. As Scott Mills proudly declared this morning on Radio 1 that he had just played the first Christmas song of the year (as per his yearly tradition, Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You) I felt that familiar stubborness boil up inside me. It's too early for Christmas!

So I checked the date of my post last year and back then I apparently got as far as 6th November before I got stroppy about Christmas beginning to take a major hold on the population. However today is 21st October. More than two weeks earlier than last year. At this rate we'll be getting Christmas catalogues through the post on New Year's Eve by the year 2032! We haven't even had Halloween yet!

What with Mariah's dulcet tones invading our airwaves this morning and having booked a group Christmas party just last night myself, it's already starting to feel a bit too real for my liking. What's more is that you should have seen the restaurant's bookings diary for December - we were lucky to even get a table and our chosen date is only about a week into month!

I am now starting to feel the pressure to go Christmas shopping though. Colleagues and friends are starting to brag about how they've already bought so many of their gifts and just the other day we had the family talk about price limits for presents. Also, annoyingly, if I wanted to order anything from somewhere like the USA I do indeed need to be thinking about that sometime in the next few weeks to make sure it arrives on time. Plus with so many Christmas parties to attend you kind of need to spread the cost of your gifts over a couple of months (easier said than done - November and December are both 'break the bank' months for me). So, ok, I guess the present-buying side of things is acceptable, for practicality's sake if nothing else.

However I do draw the line at Christmas music so early in the year. We all like a bit of Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree and Last Christmas but if you start hearing them every day from mid-October they kind of lose their shine by the time you're sitting down to your turkey and the Queen's speech. With Scott Mills threatening to play one every day between now and then, it's another reason to be very glad that Chris Moyles is back on the breakfast show from Monday.

In the meantime, just like last year, I suppose I best start gift-hunting. God bless the Interwebz!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The lesser publicised divide

At work the other day a conversation started about the great divide between two types of people in Northern Ireland. It's a conversation that crops up fairly often in an office full of people from different backgrounds. What starts out as gentle stereotypical banter can often escalate into downright insults being flung around with abandon. Offence can be taken and wariness remains about those on "the other side" of the divide. To what divide am I referring? Is it between Catholics and Protestants? Nationalists and Unionists? The rich and the poor? No, my friends, I refer to city mice and country mice.

I was born and bred in Belfast and I do take pride in being a "city girl", my only shame being that Belfast isn’t a slightly bigger city. I walk through the streets of the city centre pretty much every day and I thrive on the hustle and bustle of it all. I tut at people who walk too slowly or who stop dead right in front of me. I enjoy playing "chicken" with harried-looking businessmen who clearly (mistakenly) believe that they should always have right of way on the pavement. I like being able to give confused tourists directions.

I also feel secure in the knowledge that a lot of shops will still be open when I finish work if I need to pick up something for dinner or a last-minute birthday pressie, or failing that, I can always fall back on late night shopping on a Thursday night. I love that I can finish work and go get myself a cappuccino and abuse Starbucks' free Wi-Fi for while. It's fabulous that my gym is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It's also great that, if I want to eat or drink those burned calories back on again, there are hundreds of bars, restaurants and coffee shops ready and willing to come to my aid. I peruse those free "what's on" magazines and am always pleasantly surprised at the number of diverse events going on all across the city, even if I don't actually get around to attending many of them. Culture? Luxury? Tradition? We've got it all!

However those who weren't raised in Belfast (or any other big city) don't seem to feel the same. Many of them tell me that they find cities scary or dirty or noisy or too busy or confusing. Going "into Belfast" is a big deal to them, I guess similar to how I feel when I go to Dublin on the train, not because I think Dublin is bigger or scarier etc, but just because it's somewhere I don't know like the back of my hand, so it's like a little adventure when I visit.

My friends and colleagues who live in smaller towns and rural areas apparently know most of the people they pass when they go for a walk in their local area and even go so far as to stop and talk to them. They love the fresh air, open spaces and pretty landscapes. They can't imagine a life without their car. They get snowed in when bad weather hits. They have big houses with huge gardens and often lots of pets running around. They might have been in the Young Farmers Club. They may have to drive for miles to get to the nearest supermarket or to work but it's only a minor inconvenience for them and well worth the benefits of living in a more remote area.

I guess I sort of get it... a bit... but my own lifestyle and viewpoints are so different that it's perplexing to me how anyone can feel completely the opposite as I do. If I won the lottery this weekend (although it would help if I actually played the lottery) I would do what most people would probably do and think about investing in some property. However whilst my country mouse friends would be looking at seven bedroom rural retreats, I would be looking at city centre penthouse apartments. Taking care of acres of grass and cleaning four bathrooms sounds like a pain in ass to me and quite frankly I would wither away being miles away from anything and anyone. However show me a panoramic view of the hills and river by day and the glittering city lights by night and add in a good café on my doorstep and I'm pretty much in heaven.

My theoretical rural-based lottery winners might also think about buying a new car - something big and tough like a Land Rover, or a sporty wee number to race around those blind bends on country roads at a bazillion miles an hour - yet a car wouldn't cross my mind. That's not to say that if money were no object I wouldn't start ordering taxis or town cars to pick me up from my luxurious penthouse apartment rather than waiting for buses in the rain, but learning to drive and then buying a cute little convertible would be pretty far down my list of priorities because who needs to drive when you live in a city?

Even attitudes to holidays seem pretty different. We supposedly go on holiday to "get away from it all" but yet we all seem more comfortable with the familiar. My country-dwelling acquaintances all seem to prefer quiet beach holidays where they can meet some nice people (usually from "back home") and lie in the sun all day. Either that or they rent a little cottage somewhere out of the way (to look at some different grass and trees presumably). Whereas for me, I say bring on the bright lights and big cities. I'm used to being "on the go" all the time so I don't relax easily. For me to have a truly great time I need to have exciting things to see and do all around me and preferably be within a few minutes of a caffeine fix when I need one. It's rare to find a Starbucks on a sandy beach or in the middle of a forest (although give them a few years' more expansion and we'll see).

I guess it's just down to personal preference. I understand how someone can be overwhelmed in the middle of a big crowd, especially if they're not sure where they're supposed to be going. However that kind of thing just makes me feel pleasantly at sea - I love the anonymity of it all. I only tend to panic if I'm supposed to be somewhere at a specific time and I don't know where to go, but my blood pressure has definitely been higher than that when I've been sat in a friend's car in the middle of a dark country road with neither of us city mice having any idea where we were. Street lighting, people - it's the future!

I'll admit I do feel a bit superior sometimes, being a city girl, feeling at home in the busy urban streets, sufficiently au fait with the traffic light system patterns to knowingly start crossing the road just before the "green man" lights up, striding quickly down the pavement with my takeaway coffee in hand, etc. I feel that my experiences of having lived in and visited several metropolitan and cosmopolitan cities have made me more culturally aware than a lot of non-city folk who only really associate with people from the same background as themselves. I fear I do occasionally have conversations with my country mouse friends and find some of their viewpoints a bit backwards and ignorant, and I find that I often know more about a wider variety of issues.

I realise this does indeed all come across as very prejudiced and smug and judgmental. However I don't feel bad about it. Why? Because I know my "culchie" friends pity me in return. They don't want to live somewhere so impersonal and busy and impatient. They don't want to put up with annoying strangers on public transport or blowing cigarette smoke into their faces as they walk down the street. They don't want to live in a cramped two bedroom terrace with anti-social teenagers setting off fireworks and dealing drugs outside their front doors. They shake their heads with disbelief when I repeatedly say "I have no idea where that is" when someone mentions a place outside of the Greater Belfast Area. They care more about what's happening in their own community than in the wider world and look me as if to say "bless your bleeding liberal heart" if I start expressing my outrage at some political injustice or another.

These are of course sweeping generalisations and I do know people from rural areas who are highly intellectual and cultured, just as you only need walk around certain areas of Belfast at night to see people who are blatantly insular and small-minded, but in general those are my honest observations. But whilst I'm happy living in "the big smoke", they're happy to be well out of it, so I guess at the end of the day it really boils down to yet another case of "each to their own". Just don't be shipping me off to "the sticks" please - if I get any further than five miles from the city centre I start breaking out in hives.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Music can change the world because it can change people

Title quote attributed to Bono off of U2

So what do we all think about the MTV European Music Awards coming to Belfast on 6 November then?

I must admit, my attitude thus far has been mainly along the lines of "meh…" After all, it's not like I'm actually going to get to be there on the night or even see any of the celebs in person (if anyone exciting actually shows up in the end and they don't all just send a lame acceptance videos from halfway around the world instead). I figured the only way it might affect me is that the city centre would be a bit busier in the run-up to the event and that going anywhere near the Odyssey Arena on the night was a non-starter.

However as it gets closer, more and more details are being released about other events around the city and I must admit it's starting to sound like a pretty decent shebang now.

At first there was just a vague announcement about "Music Week", promising other music-themed events around the city in the week before the EMAs. Then came the programme giving details of all the gigs that would be happening. I've never really been into the local music scene so I didn't really recognise many of the acts listed, but there are certainly a lot of things occurring - kudos to the organisers.

Then, last week, came the news that Snow Patrol and Jason Derulo would be performing live at a free gig at the City Hall on the night of the EMAs. Tickets were available from the Belfast Welcome Centre from 8am on Sunday and when I walked past at 11pm the night before, people were already queued right back past the Disney Store, complete with folding chairs, sleeping bags and tents. Spirits seemed high and there was the occasional bout of groupie-style screaming. It seems that all 15,000 tickets were given out within an hour and some are now on sale (illegally) for over £150, so it looks to be a popular event!

There have been a few other rumours floating around too. The latest issue of GO magazine hinted that there would be two big external events related to the EMAs. Whether the second of these is the newly announced Red Hot Chili Peppers gig at the Ulster Hall isn't clear, but at £42.40 a ticket I'm guessing demand won't be quite as high for that one. It's quite a small venue for such a huge act though, so it'll probably sell out quite quickly.

Money and spare time are both in short supply at the moment for me though, so I'm not sure how many of the events I'll even end up going to. From the programme, my personal picks for Music Week would be Dead Disco: Classic songs from beyond the grave at Katy Daly’s on 30 October (Free), The Pigeon Detectives at Mandela Hall on Friday 4 November (£15) and Vintage: classic tracks at Lavery’s Back Bar on 4 November (Free). However I'm already otherwise occupied on those dates so I may have to see what else is available. There really does seem to be something for everyone though, whether you're into lambeg drums, rock or dubstep.

I wonder how the organisers are feeling about the whole thing. This is a massive publicity opportunity for Belfast, which could be great for things like tourism, but there is also the intrinsic risk that if something goes awry we end up looking like the backwards little city that wasn't quite up to the job. As a city we're getting used to holding big multi-venue festivals now (e.g. Arthur's Day, Culture Night and the Belfast Film Festival, amongst others) but generally speaking the target audience are locals and the occasional visitor. It's a rare occasion when our city is the centre of attention for millions of people around the world. The pressure to put on a good show is bound to be at an all-time high… is Belfast up to the challenge?

I certainly hope so because I for one am proud of my wee city and want to disprove to the rest of the world any outdated misconceptions they may have about it. So I hope that Lady Gaga and her ilk have a wonderful time here and that the whole thing goes without a hitch. And if not… well, the show must go on!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Grow up? But I don't wanna!

It seems as though everyone around me is growing up. People I went to school with or worked with are all off buying houses and having babies and the like and my Facebook news feed won't let me forget about it. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy for them all, but as a married woman of child-bearing age I must admit it does tend to pile on the pressure somewhat.

The Yorkshireman and I realised a long time ago that we there seemed to be far too many stories out there about people who married young, had babies almost immediately, spent all their time working or being parents and all their money on a mortgage and their offspring, and then suddenly realised at the age of forty that they hadn't done anything they really wanted to do with their lives and had nothing in common with each other any more except for the aforementioned children. "There but for the grace of God…" we thought (well, I did - the Yorkshireman is agnostic teetering towards athiest - but our sentiments were the same).

Hence we decided that whilst marriage would likely only enhance our relationship (which it did - our kitchen is much better equipped after all the wedding gifts we received), that whole financial strife and procreating thing would just have to wait. We both love travelling and had seen disappointingly little of the world, so that became our new mission. Together we've saved hard and have already explored lots of exciting places with a few more ideas in mind for when our savings allow.

People often react a bit oddly when we tell them about our travelling plans, saying things like, "oooh lucky for some!" We don't earn massive amounts of money so I guess people probably wonder how we can afford such luxuries, but in reality it's down to good old fashioned budgeting, saving and planning. Could we afford to fly over to the USA next year if we had a massive mortgage to pay or children to take care of? No, definitely not. But that's the choice we've made and for now we're happy with it. That's not to say that there won't be a mini Yorkshireman or a Friday-loving toddler causing mischief in a few years' time, but for now we have other priorities.

Not everyone "gets" it though. Some people tell me I'm "just right" to not have rushed headlong into years of dirty nappies and tantrums (the latter probably being from me) but they look a bit doubtful as they say it, as if they think we're making a terrible decision but are too polite to say so. Other people tell me reassuringly that I'll "be next", as though they're convinced the reason we have not yet sprogged up must be some kind of medical problem that must not be mentioned.

However the majority of those who genuinely seem to support our decision are those who themselves did not become parents until later in their lives. They say that they're glad they waited until they felt ready for that big step in their life because otherwise they would have regretted not doing what they wanted to do beforehand and would have resented parenthood. That, to me, makes a lot of sense.

Let's face it, being a parent is difficult enough even when you enter it willingly. If you felt like you'd been pressured into it in any way I can only imagine how depressing it would be to try and comfort a colicy baby at 3am, deprived of sleep, the sound of constant crying grating on your last nerve and feeling guilty that even though you know your child is in pain, you can't do anything about it and you just want the thing to shut up already.

Then again perhaps I'm just too aware of the negative side of parenting for it to be particularly attractive right now. My brother was born when I was thirteen (sadly older than some girls who have become mothers) and my sister and I helped take care of him. We sterilised bottles, learned how to make up formula so it wouldn't clump in the teat, fed him, burped him, got covered in vomit, were woken up in the middle of the night when he was teething or sick, were drooled on, laundered a veritible sea of bibs and onesies, picked him up when he hurt himself, comforted him when noisy household appliances frightened him, bathed him, dressed him, fought to get him into his high-chair, jiggled his buggy to try and calm him down when we were out and about and he was overtired and cranky, tried to feed him and then wiped smeared baby food off his cheek when he inevitably turned his face away at the last second...

I'm certain I changed more nappies than my father and I remember wriggling uncomfortably in my chair at school because my back was aching from a night spent walking around the house, stooped over, holding his little hands as he wobbled around learning to walk. Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind most of the time because he was my adorable baby brother and I love him to bits. But, ever the realist, I learned pretty early on that babies are hard work. And he was a good child! I've since worked in a childcare setting and some of those little horrors would have you running off to Google "tubes tied" in about a minute flat! Not to mention that my once adorable baby brother is now a wise-ass, ungrateful fourteen year old emo, so I know how the story ends.

I know there is also the positive side of parenthood. Creating a little version of you and your partner (actually in our case that's fairly terrifying) to love and cherish and feel fiercely protective of. Feeling proud when you see that little person you created learn and grow and turn into an actual human being with their own personality. Seeing them smile at you and tell you they love you. It's all very sweet and lovely. Everyone I know who has become a parent, regardless of how they felt about it beforehand, tells me that you won't understand the overwhelming feelings and emotions until you actually have a child of your own and that they wouldn't change it for the world.

But then again there are statistics that say that 1 in 10 women suffer from post-natal depression. I'm no medical expert but I'm fairly sure that your chances of such things are heightened if you're not entirely secure in your decision to become a mother in the first place. Not to mention the cost of having children. Between clothes and furniture and equipment and childcare and birthdays and Christmasses, etc, etc, it's no wonder there's a debt crisis. Personally I'd rather not take the chance of being depressed and broke right now. Until the Yorkshireman and I both feel ready to inflict a collaboration of our genetics upon the world (be afraid, be very afraid…) I'll be very happy about our procrastination and staunchly defend our right to do so.

In the meantime, please can the rest of the world do me and all other married women of child-bearing age a favour? Should I opt for a non-alcoholic beverage, or put on a bit of weight, or leave work early to go to a doctor's appointment, please do not assume I am knocked up. And beyond that, do not then have the further audacity to look disappointed when you realise you were wrong. When I decide to baby-up, I will let you know. Until then all suggestions are welcome for destinations for our next great adventure - just make sure they have good beer and a child-free spa.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Local Tourist - European Heritage Open Days - Grand Opera House and Hidden History Tour

After the success of our European Heritage Open Day tours the day before, we were very much looking forward to what was in store for us on Sunday. We started the day with breakfast at The Allotment on Upper Queen Street. I had a bacon and pepper omelette and the Yorkshireman had some beans on toast. Being quite plain menu choices, it was pleasant enough if not particularly special, and average value for money. I won't be rushing back for breakfast but I could be tempted to try some of their lunch or dinner dishes at some point in the future. Then it was over to Great Victoria Street for our first tour of the day at the Grand Opera House.

Having grown up in Belfast, I have of course been on the audience side of the house a few times, usually watching warily as May McFettridge pranced around the stage as a pantomime dame. However I'd never been backstage or, to be honest, really had a good look at the inside of the theatre, my main concerns usually being where my seat is, whether the interval ice-cream will come with a little wooden spoon and, in recent years, how expensive the wine is at the bar.

It was an interesting tour for several reasons. For one thing the tour guides were trialling a new tour script, which happened to involve some acting in parts. It was successful in varying amounts at different points throughout but they needed a little more confidence in their delivery methinks. Regardless of their nerves it was all very enlightening though.

We began our tour in the auditorium itself and had a gander at the décor whilst learning about the architect, Frank Matcham. It was a bit of a strange juxtaposition: our imaginations were being transported by our guides back to a packed full theatre in the late 1800s, whilst in our 2011 reality a young technician dude walked around on stage doing a sound check for the matinee performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… reduced volume because of the lady doing the Heritage tour please… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…" I waved but he didn't seem inclined to wave back. Must be the pressures of the job - counting to 10 is hard, especially in front of so many people.

During the rest of the tour we visited most areas of the theatre, including: backstage (which was a lot smaller than I'd expected); the Baby Grand auditorium (which I'd been in before); stage door on Glengall Street (where they explained how the Opera House had been affected by the bombings of the Europa Hotel next door during "the Troubles"); the bars and restaurants in the recent extension of the theatre; that little conservatory-type room they have right above the (old) main entrance (which apparently used to be a bar back in the old days); and finally the (old) main entrance itself, where I remember coming in for pantomimes etc when I was a bit younger. I would have loved to have seen one of their new dressing rooms but apparently we couldn't because the Joseph people are very strict about that sort of thing. Oh well!

All in all it was an interesting tour. There was a bit too much of this "on the 30th of February 1901, this happened, and then on the 41st of March the following year, this other thing happened" malarkey for my liking. I like the anecdotes but if you start telling me dates every few seconds, I start to zone out. Especially since they saved a lot of that for the end of the tour, by which point we were all standing in the old foyer, tired from walking around for an hour and a half. It might not have been so bad if I'd had the option of a seat. But still, it was a decent tour. If you're interested in the theatre or in architecture it would definitely be worth going on but if, like me, you only have a general passing interest, I would consider how much they're charging before I signed up.

Having luvvied ourselves out, we made our way to the City Hall for the 9/11 memorial ceremony. I've already written about that so I won't go into detail, except to say that it was a sombre and moving interlude for our European Heritage Open Day activities, but I'm glad I went.

Conveniently our next tour actually started from the gates of the City Hall right after the memorial service finished. We were off on a walking tour called 'Hidden history - the past under Belfast's streets'. I must admit right from the off that this, for me, was going to be the least interesting part of our weekend. I'm not all that interested in history in general but the geographical aspect seemed to capture the Yorkshireman's imagination and I have an open mind, so off we went. My nonchalance was not helped by the fact that the tour started ten minutes late, during which delay we had no option but to stand around in the drizzle, bored.

Once we did get going our first stop was Corn Market, where our guide told us (in substantial detail) about three castles that were apparently once built in the area but that no archaeologists have thus far been able to find. I paid attention for about five minutes but by the end of what seemed like three hours of talking about digging (or the clearly disappointing lack thereof), I was slumped over one of Starbucks' outside tables, yawning and willing our group to move on already. At this point I suddenly recalled why I hated history and geography at school.

Eventually we moved on to Ann Street, down one of the entries and out on to High Street. Then it was on to the Cathedral Quarter area. Our guide, with the aid of a rudimentary map of Belfast back in olden days (yes that is as specific as I'm getting), explained throughout what the relevant part of Belfast would have been like at various points in history. Some bits I knew already, e.g. the river Farset used to run right up where High Street is now, and other facts were new to me. However apart from one interesting anecdote about a skull (I won't ruin it for you in case you intend to go on the tour yourself), I must admit I found the whole tour extremely dry.

I guess if you're a real history buff or interested in archaeology it might be up your street but the guide assumed a basic knowledge of local history (which I don't have - who the feck were these "earls" he kept referring to? Actually don't answer, I don't really care anyway) and anything additional he was telling us was told in such a dull way that it went in one ear and out the other. I've been on plenty of tours with historical aspects and despite my lack of interest in the subject at hand, they actually held my interest because they brought it to life with interesting stories. I'm sad to say this tour was not one of these occasions.

I guess I'm not the target demographic for a history tour (being, as I am, an advocate of Barney Stinson's rule that "new is always better") but in my opinion it's definitely not a great example of how to encourage interest in history amongst the general public. In fairness I will say that the Yorkshireman seemed to enjoy it more than I did and I have another friend who apparently has been on it before (although with a different guide) and she liked it, so perhaps take my damnation with a pinch of salt.

So, as we abandoned our guide across the road from St Anne's Cathedral (me feeling giddy like the school bell had just rang at the end of the day), that was the end of our European Heritage Open Day adventures. Some bits were (obviously) better than others but generally I feel like I learned a lot and it was especially interesting to see the parts of such well-known buildings that no-one really gets to see most of the time. I'm already looking forward to next year's brochure so I can go and nosy around some more!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Work hard, play hard

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I have another "local tourist" post about the European Heritage Open Days in progress but I just haven't had time to finish it off. It's like my employers expect me to actually, like, work for my pay or something, the cheeky beggars.

One piece of brief but happy news however is that the Yorkshireman and I have now set the wheels in motion for our return to the east coast of the USA early next year. By all accounts it'll be absolutely freezing but living in Northern Ireland I'm pretty used to wrapping up warm and carrying an umbrella at all times in the winter months, so it's no skin off my nose. Well, maybe some dry skin if I don't stay moisturised (I recall falling gratefully upon some Palmers Olive Oil hand cream in Duane Reade on our trip last November when my poor extremities started shrivelling up in the cold, dry New York air).

So yes, the flights are booked, hotel rooms are reserved and train tickets between the three cities we'll be visiting (Washington DC, New York and Boston) have been purchased. I cannot wait! The only disadvantage is that my leave from work is now very much limited between now and then, so I imagine I'll be hitting Virgin Atlantic's free "sky bar" pretty hard as soon as the seatbelt sign has been turned off after we leave Heathrow.

Beyond that there's not a great deal of excitement going on right now. The Yorkshireman and I have spent the last two weeks fighting off a nasty cold that's being doing the rounds. Tonight I managed a gym session for the first time since the Sunday before last and was very proud that I not only managed to remain upright and breathing, but also managed to run a 5k. Naturally I'm rewarding myself with copious amounts of wine and pyjamas. Well, today it is Friday yet after all!