Work was starting to get a bit tricky at the start of November. My lovely-and-very-competent underling had moved on to pastures new in October and was not (still has not been) replaced, so I had half of her work to do as well as my own (the other half was unceremoniously dumped on another equally-competent-but-not-quite-so-willing underling in the office). There were also some personality clashes causing a bit of tension in the office at the same time, which I was thankfully not directly involved in, but we were all still feeling the strain. This combined with my seasonal winter blues setting in bang on time, I had little energy to do anything other than go home and sleep, but I soldiered on with the usual routine of work, family commitments, gym and the occasional social event.
In the middle of November, the whole family flew over to Rochdale, where my aunt was getting married. I'd written about her hen party back in October. Since the bride and groom were a bit older and had been down this road before, the wedding celebrations were a pretty low-key affair, but that was nice. Also it was good to see everyone again.
Some parts of the trip were more successful than others: I didn't think the hour-long bus ride to the Trafford Centre on the day after the wedding was at all worthwhile (Meadowhall retains its number one position as my favourite gigantic shopping mall) but on the other hand we all had an absolute ball at a Greek night reception that night. I've never been to Greece before and Belfast isn't really known for its Greek cuisine, so it was all new to me. I got to smash a plate (pleasantly violent) and do some Zorba-esque dancing. Good fun! The Yorkshireman's recollection of events is on his blog here.
When we returned to Belfast the pressure was on to help out with a fundraising event for our beloved Crusaders football club. The powers that be had decided that we should run a casino night and even thought I asserted from the start that I knew nothing about casinos and didn't really "do" the whole gambling thing, the Yorkshireman and I were ready and willing to assist with the ticket sales, room decorating, etc. In the end the night was only a vague success and in my eyes totally not worth the effort that went into it, but then I hadn't had high hopes to start with anyway. Local football is a very insular little group and it's tricky to get anyone not already involved with the club to come to events, so you end up targeting the same people over and over again. Oh well, it was a learning experience if nothing else.
Around the same time it was my and the Yorkshireman's second wedding anniversary. Two years ago we had been exchanging rings and vows in the shortest wedding ceremony in history at Carrickfergus Castle before cringing at the whole speeches and first dance requirement at the Clarion Hotel. One year ago we had been in New York, sightseeing before enjoying Promises Promises on Broadway and eating overpriced cheese and desserts in a revolving restaurant in Times Square.
This year we celebrated a couple of days early by having a well-earned day off work, a picnic at Belfast Zoo and then a lovely meal at Northern Whig in the evening. On the day itself we each went to work and then spent the evening getting drenched selling raffle tickets in the dark at a poorly-attended Crues match. I know which day I preferred. Next year we're doing something indoors and preferably with alcohol. But still, two years on and we haven't killed or seriously maimed each other yet. Love is...
A couple of days after the anniversary soaking, I had to go on a Microsoft Project training course at work. I like computers but the tutor was a really strange little man who wasn't very good at teaching, so the end result was that I still know nothing about Project and also shudder every time it's mentioned. Shame I have to actually use it as part of my job now. Eeek! What was also a bit of a bombshell was that I returned from the course of doom to find out that my line manager was leaving... effective immediately! Say what?! So from that point on I had three people's jobs to do. Work quickly became a bit of a nightmare and I started leaving each evening feeling like I had hurtled through the day like it was one of the games on Wipeout.
At the end of November there was some light relief as we went to a Belfast Giants ice hockey game at the Odyssey Arena. The Yorkshireman, sister dearest and I all love ice hockey but we don't get to go watch it quite as often as we'd like. It was a good game and we left feeling giddy... and also slightly envious of Braehead Clan's fans' light-up wigs. I need to get me one of those!
I also had to undertake a grand scheme of subterfuge that night in order to procure some Giants merchandise as part of the Yorkshireman's Christmas present. They didn't have the t-shirt he wanted so, knowing we would be facing average temperatures of -10°C on our upcoming trip to America, I opted for a fleecy scarf instead. Between the longggggg time it took to be served and the not-so-subtle concealment of the rolled up scarf in my relatively small handbag, I'm not sure how I escaped detection but somehow we made it. Yay!
The last day of November was strike day. I've already written about the reasons I decided to strike and any argument from private sector workers I came across (namely a stroppy teenagery reaction akin to "but it's not fairrrrrrrr!") did not dissuade me. And actually some private sector workers I did come across (like the Yorkshireman) were actually in favour of the strikes anyway.
Public transport wasn't running that day, so I set off walking into town to attend the rally at City Hall. The only problem was that I had injured my hip the day before at the gym and it was getting increasingly more painful the more I walked on it. However I had principles to uphold and so I put my head down and walked through the pain.
It was a bright but cold day as I stood literally shoulder to shoulder with the Yorkshireman, my father and my step-mother in the thousands-strong crowd outside the City Hall. The rally was, well, rallying, and I felt it had been worthwhile to lose a day's pay. At the time of writing negotiations continue but the majority of unions are still unhappy with the government's latest offer and it looks likely there may be further days of industrial action planned if some progress is not made soon. I figure, hey, in for a penny, in for a pound, but we'll see what happens.
By the end of November, strikes aside, I was well into my Christmas shopping and looking forward to getting the decorations up as soon as physically possible in December. We also had a whole lot of plans for the festive period, so it was time to get planning. And spending. Spending a whole lot...