Thursday, 31 December 2009

Heading back for 2010

Today, the ice has almost completely melted, the rain has dried up and the sun is shining. We went out to Marks and Spencer’s for their ‘Party in for £10’ and got some cocktail sausages, spring rolls and mini pies along with a bottle of bubbly and some more wine. We’ll be heading back to Belfast today.

It’s been a good week in Ballymena and I’m glad we came, though I was a wee bit apprehensive at the start. I’ve seen some of the countryside, met family and got to go wedding shopping with Lee’s ma and sister. The positive feedback over Starbucks lattes was most welcome and encouraging.

2010 is going to have a lot to do if it wants to top this year :) :) :)





Monday, 28 December 2009

Out on the beach

I was planning on sleeping in yesterday morning and had sent Lee down for a cup of tea. Instead, he came back with news that they were going up to Cushendun to walk the dogs on the beach. I flew out of bed, dressed and was given one of Kerri's hats to hide my bad hair and we drove up to the coast...Lee, me, his ma and pa and Benny and Tina. It was cold and bright and beautiful and helped to remind you that you're alive. In case you'd forgotten. Ice still covered parts of the sand and rocks and after a goodly walk we headed back to the car park where Lee's dad was painting the beach from the back of the car. We drove back listening and singing to Hermans Hermits ('cos they rock like that) and detoured past the old school and some more family.

So much family.




 

 

 

 
 
We ended the day with family. Lee's brother, his wife and her family. And the trauma of realizing they had such strong accents I couldn't make out a word. Nothing.

Not even a key word thrown in to give me a clue.

Joy and merry

I'm writing from Ballymena, this is where Lee grew up and where his family still lives. We arrived on Thursday afternoon. This part of Northern Ireland is still white and icy, so we had near enough a white Christmas. On Friday morning we came downstairs and found the living room under a moutain of presents and gift bags which kept us busy opening and unwrapping for an age. I had to swallow a few tears and the lump growing in my throat more than once. It's impossible being a cynical old scrooge around these folk.


 Lee (aka Jamie) made our dinner as has apparently become customary the last few years. Turkey and stuffing, roast potatoes and parsnips in goose fat, herby, spicy butternut...brussel sprouts...

 
 Beefy!
 

By around four o' clock we were all passed out and snoring in the living room in front of the telly and twinkly fairy lights...fat and full of happy and content.

On Saturday we drove further up north to visit with more family. There's no shortage of family around here...Everyone was wonderful and welcoming and friendly and I managed to remember everyone's name and how they were all connected. No small feat I assure you!

No wonder everyone loves the Irish!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

In the East of Belfast

That’s where I was yesterday. I went there looking for murals from the ‘other’ side of the Belfast community. I was totally taking my life in my hands and it had nothing to do with the slightly run down-ness of the area. It was more to do with the thick layer of ice covering the roads and pavements. I was pretty sure I’d slide in front of a car or just fall down and make a fool of myself. Thankfully neither happened and I just got lots of great photo opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
These types of murals don't really leave you feeling warm, safe or welcome.
 
This guy was hardcore! It reads: 'The strangest victory in all history. Heremon O' Neil, racing a rival chieftain for posession of Ireland became the first man to touch it's soil by cutting off  his own hand and hurling it ashore. His sacrifice made him the first king of Ulster 1015 B.C'

How miffed would he have been if he didn't hurl it hard enough and missed?

 

Next time I'll head over towards the Falls and Shankill roads. Wikipedia says this:

"As the district is located between the Falls Road at one end and Ardoyne at the other, local residents (as well as their Catholic neighbours) found themselves as, generally unwilling, targets for crossfire as both sets of paramilitaries attacked each other and each other's communities. Today, the area is predominantly Protestant and unionist or loyalist in political orientation. The Shankill is separated from the neighbouring Catholic, nationalist, Falls Road area by peace lines."

Nice.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A wee wobbly

I’m happy and that’s a good thing. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be for once and despite this present dissatisfaction, I’m perfectly satisfied. I know exactly what my problem is too, which is helpful, yet not really. I have too much time on my hands, I’m driving myself insane with over thinking and imagination. It’s too cold to go out and even if I were to, I wouldn’t really know where to go.

And with all this over thinking-ness, I find myself cringing when I think back to things I’ve thought of and things I’ve said. Jane, that wise old ’domestic’ we had many many years ago warned me of just this. She said, ‘Keron, just stop thinking. Just stop.’

-Some messy grafitti from the Ann Street subway-

Maybe it's time to heed some advice. That, and force myself out of the apartment and find some more fabulous.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Festive scenes

It was a weekend spent in snowy Ballymena. We shopped and spent our engagement vouchers on kitchen-y things and we booked the venue for our wedding. He has to marry me now ;)
Galgorm was beautiful in the snow and the day couldn’t have been any better. It was full of snowball fights, unhealthy dinners, family (his) and excitement. By the time we got back to Belfast, most of the snow had melted but it was still freezing. I live in hope for some more snow, I may yet get to make another snow angel.

 
   Snow ball fights in the back yard :)
 
 A festive living room
  
Lee, my future father in law and Galgorm in the snow.

Friday, 18 December 2009

A year end do

It was Lee’s end of year dinner at ten square last night. It was a employee only affair, so while he dressed and readied himself, I devised plans to keep myself entertained for the evening. I wasn’t too inspired in my ideas, and ended up on the couch watching Chocolat and drinking Lee’s beer and mucking about with my finger and toe nails. I dozed a little and at around two I got up to sit in the kitchen and look down at a fast asleep city. Below, I saw Lee struggling through the parking lot with an enormous box. 

It was filled with chocolates, bubbly, cake and tea from Marks and Spencer’s. What a clever Lee for having the winning ticket :)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A new day


I was getting snap happy outside our bedroom window this afternoon as the sun started to go down. I don't think I'll ever tire of the view of the city.

Tomorrow, with any luck, I'll venture forth and find some murals to photograph. Just over the footbridge and towards East Belfast.

So lazy, heavy and sore

I finally finished reading Hangover Square. I must have started reading it while I was still in Hambleden, and that was months ago. Once I got into it, once I picked it up again, it only took two days or so and now it has earned it’s place with the other Penguin Modern Classics on our bookshelf.




I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the ending and felt rathly badly for poor George Harvey Bone. Thanks for that Patrick Hamilton.

I slept in until twelve today. I woke up with the sun pouring in through the window and onto the bed. Strange, as I’m pretty sure it’s freezing outside.

It was a nice surprise, Lee coming home at lunch time. I was embarrassed to be found sitting on the couch wrapped up in blankets, dressing gowns, hot water bottles and the internet, my hair still un-brushed and last nights dishes still un-washed. He laughed and cuddled with me and played his guitar and brought me pain killers.

Damn flow. Thankfully the irrationality and weepiness seems to have subsided and I’m functioning pretty much normally again. Hormones are just great.

It's not even three o' clock yet and from the living room it looks as though the sun is already trying to escape behind the outline of Belfast.

I love this city.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Hmmm!!

The yummiest mince pies ever!!
We added chopped pecan nuts, stem ginger, orange zest, brandy and nutmeg to a jar of fruit mince. It was fun and they're quite delightful!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Mince pies and butterflies



A sunset over Belfast

I liked our weekend and our week. The first one back from our holiday. We stopped for a pint at our nearby pub Pat's, wondered around the Continental Market and bought cheese and olives to go with our wine. We shared a mulled wine by the gate of City Hall. I love that mulled wine.

I love everything right now.

 
We made mince pies together. I love those! I love our kitchen! I love Belfast! And I love that we've filled in all the forms for permission to marry in the UK, set a date and picked a venue.

Besides a bout of crappy, crazy and unbalanced hormones, I couldn't be happier.

I hate been irrational.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Jozi pictures


 Street art near the Market Theatre.
 



 
 Pillar sculptures in Joburg in front of some cheery street art.
 
Driving by the city on our way to lunch in Soweto.

Hongonyi



 

 
 A sundowner game drive on arrival complete with lager and crisps while the sun went down behind the Drakensberg.
 
 Our private garden in the honeymoon suite.
 
 Cheetahs at the Cheetah Project.
 
 On the viewing deck.
 

 

 
A dragonfly by the pool.

Part 1, lions, pancakes and ludo.

I'm unpacked tidied and organized and ready to resume my emailing / blogging and facebooking lifestyle. Here is our trip to South Africa in a nutshell.

We spent time at home with my ma and pa, braais, laying about in the sunshine, eating too much, being mauled by my beast and playing games of ludo and trivial pursuit (and displaying just how much of a bad winner I can be!)
 
 
Lion cubs at the Lion Park in Honeydew.


 
 Feeding giraffes at the Lion Park was a highlight. I look kind of nervous because I was.
 

 
We had a surprise lunch at Moyos by Zoo Lake in Johannesburg after a morning spent at the Museum Africa in Newtown and a walk around Market Theatre with our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide Noleen.
 
The second week of our trip was the start of our time in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. A farm stall along the way to Graskop.
 
 God's Window near Graskop.
 
 One of my new favorite places. Bourkes Luck Potholes.
 
 
 The potholes where gold was found.
 

 
The Three Rondavels.

We had such a full two weeks and seeing everyone was so good. It's near on impossible to list highlights but I'm going to give it a go.
  • The Lion Park and playing with the lion cubs and feeding the giraffes.
  • A trip to Gold Reef City with Noleen and Lee with the 'log ride', 'dreamboat', 'runaway train', 'shell' and 'crazy dancer' rides.
  • Lunch of spicy chicken across from Nelson Mandelas former home in Soweto with Noleen, Kaz and Lee.
  • Tomato and Lamb bredie pancakes at Harries Pancakes in Graskop.
  • The view at the Three Rondavels.
  • Big five game drives near the Kruger Park.
  • Swimming all day at Hongonyi Private Game Reserve.
  • Games of Ludo and Trivial Pursuit with my ma and Lee.
  • Braais with family and with friends.
More photos to come!