Sunday, 10 June 2012

Films, football and festivities, oh my!

Man alive, it has been a busy couple of months! I've already written about how we moved house in mid-April. We've settled in really well in our new house and our new area so far, with only a few minor issues to resolve (the most recent of which involved part of the guttering coming down in the torrential rain we had this week - eek!). Happily, although it has been a busy couple of months since the big move, they have been good ones! We've done a lot of fun stuff... and my credit card doesn't half know it! Here is just a flavour of what we've been up to.

Summary of a busy May and June

Firstly, I can't recall if I've ever written about this before, but my merry band of amigos and I quite enjoy holding themed movie/TV nights complete with appropriate costumes, kind of like our own personal film festival - it's great craic. Our dressing up boxes are certainly a lot more diverse because of it anyway! Amongst others we've had Blackadder night (medieval dress), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (posh dress), Japanese night (complete with origami), Star Trek night (speaks for itself I think!) and Disney night (PJs and bring your own childhood toy).

This year's calendar kicked off with Indiana Jones night on 21 April. The Yorkshireman and I had just moved at this point and spent that morning each making mercy dashes to the various charity shops in Ballyhackamore while the other managed things back home. I got to go first and I somehow stumbled across the amazeballs hat that you see in the photo above. Isn't it awesome? We had football stuff to do that afternoon so it was a bit of a rush to get ready but somehow we were back and all dressed up ready to go watch Raiders of the Lost Ark at our friend's house on time that evening. Another friend, who had visited Egypt last year, had prepared us an Egyptian feast in honour of the movie and it was delicious. And this from the woman who once microwaved baked beans still in the tin!

Next up was Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!) so we had decided to watch, well, Star Wars obviously. Our choice was the original, which is now known as Episode IV A New Hope. However it was on a Friday night after work and we knew we'd all be a bit tired to dress up, so we decided the dress code would be dressing gowns (closest thing to Jedi robes) and light sabres. Luckily not-so-little brother still has a whole arsenal of various toy guns, swords, etc from when he was younger, which happened to include some light sabres. Sorted! By the time the movie was over, we were all slumped and sleepy - dressing gowns are clearly too comfortable for effective socialising!

The next day we decided to forego another Star Wars themed day (even though it was The Revenge of the 5th) and instead attend a little event called the Irish Cup Final at Windsor Park. Our beloved Crusaders FC had fought their way to the final to take on the Marmite team of the Irish Premiership, Linfield. I cannot abide Linfield, with their special treatment from the Irish Football Association, the poor attitude of their players and management and the somehow-overlooked sectarianism of their dumbass fans. I also hate Windsor Park - it is the most soulless football ground I've ever been in, and I am perpetually angry that somehow Linfield get to play a home game in all their cup finals - an unfair advantage if ever there was one. So, I did not go to the final with high hopes. It was just as well really since Linfield won 4-1 on the day. Quelle surprise!

10 May was another public sector Strike Day, both on the mainland UK and here in Northern Ireland. I've written before about my personal feelings on the whole pensions debacle and my reasons for striking the first time around. This time I felt the strike was very badly organised - there wasn't nearly enough hype about it in advance to encourage people to strike or even explain what it was all about, plus by the time I left work on the Wednesday evening, no-one in my workplace had even been told where the rallies were going to be held the next day. I also don't think that the unions had given us enough information ahead of the strikes about the negotiations that had supposedly been going on with the government. The first that most of us heard that the government had said it was no longer open to negotiations was in the news stories after the strike. In truth I probably would have still gone on strike had I known this beforehand, if only for the principle, but it would have been nice to have all the facts on which to base my decision. I'll have to think very carefully about any further action proposed by the unions.

A few days later and it was the Setanta Cup Final between Crusaders and Derry City. Derry are a professional club from the Eircom League of Ireland whose wage bill is probably at least 5 times more than that of the semi-professional Crues. Combine this with our loss in the Irish Cup the week before and hopes for a win were tentative at best. Strangely, even though Derry had been the ones to knock Linfield out of the Setanta Cup, I'd said before either game that I thought we actually had more of a chance against Derry than Linfield, since the Crues (and every other Irish Premiership team) seem to have some kind of mental block when it comes to the blues. It turns out, I was right! Yay!

It was a nail-biting game at the Oval (not Windsor Park, thankfully) and eventually came down to penalties. The Crues are historically, well, not great at penalties, so there was an audible groan in the stand when the whistle was blown at the end of overtime. But somehow we did it! It was a great game, especially for Crusaders' captain Colin Coates, who scored both Crues goals himself, plus one of the penalties. It was his testimonial year last year and what a way to end it! The Yorkshireman and I ended the night dancing and drinking the night away in Crusaders Social Club with the players and hundreds of fans, young and old. When Fun.'s We Are Young comes on the radio now it always makes me smile as I remember when they played it that night, with the players and fans all jumping up and down together , holding the cup in the air and grinning in the disco lights.

That night was also a great night for one of our other beloved teams, the New York Rangers, who made it into the Eastern Conference Final of the Stanley Cup. What a night for sports!

The next weekend we calmed things down a little for another dress-up movie night with our merry band of amigos. This time it was Some Like It Hot and the dress code was, "dresses, even for the boys!" I had great fun dressing the Yorkshireman up in one of my dresses, an auburn wig and teaching him how to apply foundation and blend eye shadow. I have to say he looked rather impressive - he was a very classy lady! I decided it was only fair I make a bit of an effort too, so I dressed up as Marilyn Monroe, complete with blonde wig and drawn-on mole. The film was actually pretty good, although it must be said I'm a sucker for classic films anyway.

The merry band of amigos didn't have much of a break from us after Some Like It Hot night, as the next morning we set off to the Marble Arch Caves on a belated birthday trip for the Yorkshireman. None of us had ever been before but we all thought it was great - the Yorkshireman especially seemed to enjoy combining getting his geek on with his photography hobby. My favourite bit was the (very) short boat ride though the caves. My least favourite bit was climbing the billion steps to get back up to terra firma again afterwards. I really need to get back to the gym!

The next day, Monday 21 May, the weather turned quite warm - a nice surprise for Belfast. However the day after it turned positively hot and stayed that way (in the 20s Celsius) for the next week - it was amazing! It cooled a little bit after that and now the highs are back down to the mid teens most days. If summer is a washout (again) this year, at least we'll always have that week in May... *wistful sigh*

During the hot weather, Eurovision appeared on our radar. We missed the first semi-final but enjoyed watching the second one at mother dearest's house. Eurovision is one of the highlights of our televisual year and we always enjoy getting all judgemental and scoring the various acts. This year was only improved by the addition of European Wil Wheaton! We took from the semi final that Turkey was the country to beat - their act turned themselves into a boat for goodness sake! Check it out: 2m 15s or so in - also keep an eye on the guy at the front of the ship - hahaha! Bring on the final!

The next day was not so much fun, as the New York Rangers were knocked out of the Stanley Cup by the evil New Jersey Devils. Bah! On the plus side at least that was the end of my disturbed nights' sleep as alerts of goals went off at all hours of the night on my mobile.

The next day was a lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon. It was the perfect day to go out and enjoy the sunshine, but alas the Yorkshireman is a vampire who doesn't like the sun and so did not want to come out and play. In the end we compromised on going to a bar to watch the Yorkshire derby of a League One Playoff final, with Sheffield United and Huddersfield competing for a place in the Championship next year. We had no real vested interest, other than the Yorkshireman being, well, a Yorkshireman and also a football fan, but it was something to do. As we now live within walking distance of the Upper Newtownards Road, we decided to give The Point a go. We had lunch from their bar menu and a few beers; I opted for Peroni because it tastes like "holiday beer" and sure enough with the bright sunshine outside radiating into the cool bar through the open door, it really felt like being on holiday. Clearly the topless men walking around outside felt the same, as their torsos turned from blusher pink to lobster red.

That night we also attended one of my aunts' 50th birthday party. Everyone was in a jovial mood, even in spite of the inadequate air conditioning in the venue, and the Yorkshireman ended up downing a shot of Piranah in a pint of Stella Artois in one go... a wonderful example for not-so-baby-brother and my younger cousins, I'm sure you'll agree! Sadly the Eurovision final was also on that night, but we had plans to have a belated Eurovision party the next afternoon, so we had to endure a media blackout for almost 24 hours. Do you know how difficult that is in this day and age? No TV, no BBC website, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Google Reader... *shudder*

The next afternoon we did indeed have our Eurovision party at mother dearest's house: scorecards and European themed buffet food at the ready! Our own personal leader board had the Russian grannies as the winners, with self-boatulating Turkey in second place. Alas in reality it was Sweden who emerged victorious in the real thing - they had been 4th on our list so we were willing to accept that.

The next week saw the launch of the 2012 Belfast Film Festival (i.e. the city's official one, not just me and my friends being random). We've been frequenters of various BFF events for a few years now and this year would be no exception.

The first BFF event we attended this year was Zoolander night at The Black Box on 2 June. I love Zoolander - it's so funny - but I think they could have made more of the event itself. Don't get me wrong, they tried hard, but it was a bit too hard - most people want to enjoy the film, a few drinks and the company of their friends, but probably not embarrass themselves taking part in a Blue Steel competition or a walk-off on a catwalk in the middle of the room. I know it's just a bit of fun but when they're struggling to make people take part, it ends up making everyone feel a bit awkward. Some people's costumes were totally amazing though, including a whole table next to us who really went for it, and a guy who dressed as Zoolander in his mining outfit. Kudos, folks!

Then, thankfully, it was a bit of a break from the busy and frustrating hell that work has been for the last while, as it was the jubilee weekend. Sadly the Yorkshireman wasn't allowed any time off but I enjoyed both my days off (sorry darling!). On the Tuesday night I met him in town after work to go and see Men in Black III. I have to say I totally loved it, and not just because it is set in my beloved city of New York and heavily featured "my" building (the Chrysler Building). Definitely worth a watch if you enjoyed the first one/two.

The next day it was another BFF event, this time To Kill A Mockingbird, which was being screened in the Royal Courts of Justice - how exciting! It was a brilliant experience actually. There was a short talk beforehand from someone high up in the legal world of Northern Ireland, which was great except that he probably should have given a spoiler alert before he spoke, since he gave away every plot line in the film. The Yorkshireman, who hadn't seen it before, moodily quipped, "I wonder what's going to happen..." as the opening credits rolled, which made me chuckle. I have to say, the plush leather seats and solid wood benches made it one of the most interesting cinemas I've ever been to! The film, which I'd seen before anyway, was of course wonderful and watching the court scenes whilst actually in a court room really added to it.

Last but not least was our (now traditional) annual film on the Lagan Boat. This year we selected Ghost Ship and set about gathering snacks for the boat. Unfortunately at the last minute one of our group couldn't make it, but we pushed on without her, even in spite of the heavy rain that day. We'd been on a different (two level) boat in previous years but the weather was so horrible this year that they moved us to another (entirely indoor) boat. It was still great fun though. I always love to see the faces of the newcomers to the event as the old hands pull out their bottles of wine and plastic cups... it's like, "surely they're not allowed to do that... are they... oh but other people are too... damn I wish I'd known!" I very much enjoyed my red wine and cheese melts as we navigated Belfast Lough. The only thing cheesier than my snack was the film, but that only adds to the experience really. I already can't wait til next year!

Other than all of our above comings and goings, it has also been a good couple of months in TV land. I was sad that season 3 of Glee finished, but I thought the last few episodes especially were really well done. I can't wait to see how they're going to manage season 4 now that most of the big hitters have finished high school. We shall see! We also had The Apprentice Series 8 to watch. As soon as I heard Ricky Martin claim to be "the reflection of perfection" in the first episode, I took agin' him instantly. However by the end I was glad he won - the rest of them annoyed me or had stupid business plans (or both). I don't think it's that long until The Young Apprentice comes on, although I always feel a bit worse about heckling the younger ones. The other, unexpected for me, highlight on TV in the last couple of months was actually Planet Earth Live. I don't like animals in general and would never intentionally watch a wildlife show. We started watching it by accident (thinking it was maybe more about places on planet earth than animals) but then kinda got into it. I'm still perplexed at myself but really did enjoy it!

And now it's Euro 2012. I don't really care about it at all but at least it'll keep the Yorkshireman out of trouble for a while. I'm just hoping things will calm down a little soon and I might actually get to spend some time just chilling out in our new house without rushing around everywhere. We shall see what the rest of June brings!

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