There's a reason I'm not a poet

Tie the knot

So it’s been two weeks or so now since my sister entered into the Super Grown Up world of married life! No more singe pringle ready-to-mingle for her. As he’s moved over to the Emerald Isle, the deal was that the two of them would get married where he’s from in Wales. And I’m not talking about Cardiff, I’m talking about the type of Wales where the family potatoes are served at the wedding (and great potatoes they were mind you)

As there was a lot of wedding stuff to bring, between various dresses, decorations and the like, and so we brought three cars over with us. Which meant we got to have a great amount of driving around the countryside and see the place. When the weather was nice it made for some beautiful scenery.

But yes let’s focus on the day itself. One brilliant aspect of the day was that family had gathered from all different parts of the UK, and people had come from other countries just to attend! My uncle came from USA, and my cousin with his family from Japan. So it was a great atmosphere because everyone was specifically there for the day, and our family pretty much took over every single B&B and pub in the area. The welsh contingent were so welcoming and there was just such a lovely vibe around the whole week.

With all the build-up and preparation that went into the wedding, I was expecting my sister to be quite stressed, trying to make sure that everything happened according to schedule and that nothing went too drastically wrong. But in her own words, she wasn’t so much Bridezilla as Bridechilla: I was so impressed by how relaxed she was, and she spent the day walking about with the biggest most genuine smile on her face, really seeming to enjoy herself. Spinning around with your veil while dancing to Robbie Williams’ Angels seemed to be a fun point.

But the whole day did (generally) go to plan very nicely. I’d made myself a chronological list of usher jobs and worked my way through them as the day went on, and thankfully all the effort my sister and mum/her bridesmaids put into the day paid off swimmingly. Apart from the minor issue of showing up at the church without any rings- I think that one caused a bit of stress. But thankfully they made their way up the aisle just as the priest was about to bless them, so no harm done.

The day was filled with so many personal touches, with references to Audrey Hepburn (my sister’s idol/hero/obsession) in the order of service, the groom’s dad getting up and singing Myfanwy & Danny Boy during the mass, and the venue sporting a 1897 steam engine that the groom’s dad had painstakingly restored and polished brilliantly! The speeches obviously had my mum and other sister bawling, and the food obviously had me making good-food-noises. Oh man the food, highlights include creamy garlic potatoes, cranberries and a huge platter of mini desserts that suddenly arrived and had my attention for at least 20 minutes. Apparently the caterers for one part of it recently catered for the Queen. Only the best for us of course.

There was a ceilidh, a band fronted by the groom, and a crapload of dancing. Needless to say I had to step outside to cool down from all my boogieing about five times throughout the night, and after we made our way through the choruses of Tell Me Ma, B*witched’s C’est La Vie and The Corrs’ What Can I Do To Make You Love Me (spot the irish wedding) the music came to a close at three in the morning. My feet were delighted but my sister was a bit heartbroken it was all over so didn’t let us go to sleep for another two hours.

Then the next day the two of them headed off on a tour of the west coast of America and a cheeky wee flight to Barbados. I’ve never liked them.

M

Wey Aye Man!

Last weekend I was over in Newcastle visiting two friends of mine who are currently working over there. One of them went to school with me, so I’ve known him for a fair amount of time, but obviously as we’re now living on different islands I don’t tend to see them as much as I’d like. So, I decided to take the opportunity to play the rude card and invited myself along to stay with them. (Thankfully they didn’t seem to mind)

They’re both Real People now, with jobs, a mortgage and two cats. The set-up they have there is sweeeeeeet, living in a really nice apartment in a new development with a bunch of their friends living nearby and some fruit and vegetables growing on their balcony. We spent the first wee while catching up and chatting before playing some Super Smash Bros (standard) and heading out for some cake (also standard) in a wee tea house in a nearby town. Such yum.

I didn’t really know much about Newcastle before I went; all I’d really heard about the city was that it was a really fun place to go to university in, so I’d kind of envisaged a 1970s-style city filled with block-like grey buildings. Which was wrong: because of the Tyne River, there are a whole load of bridges around the place, which actually run through the city, so you can end up walking along streets underneath these humongous adqueduct-style bridges, which cut an impressive shape next to all the sandstone buildings. So yeah, it made for a very nice city.

But it is known for its night life, if the number of hens and stags you see traipsing about in tiaras and fairy wings are anything to go by. So we went to a pub on the Friday night, which is one of the oldest/if not the oldest pub in the city. It used to be a market and so is filled with apothecary drawers and more nooks than you can shake a cranny at. Because I’d ended up staying up late pretty much every night of the week playing Final Fantasy, it ended up not being too late a night out.

We got up the next day and after I had some caramel cake from the tea house for breakfast (ideal) we headed out to Beamish, an outdoor museum showcasing the history of the North of England, looking specifically at how life in towns and the country was around the turn of the 20th century. With coal mines, a pre-war school, ye olde sweete shoppes and a Freemason hall, it made for some good viewing and was great fun. They were also running a 1950s day, so lots of people had dressed up specifically and were getting their hair did in the style of women back then: it was all very impressive!

Carrying on in that theme, after a yummy Chinese stuffing-of-the-faces that evening we headed out to a swing dance night! One of my friends’ pals is into swing dancing, and the group she’s affiliated with were doing an event for people to come along and learn a few steps before a swing band started for people to practise their moves. People were encouraged to dress up so I pretty much just wore my oldest-timey work clothes and dance my little white boy heart out. Turns out it was some serious fun. It ended up being one of the sweatiest nights out I’ve had in a while what with all the jumping about and lack of air con, but I ended up being pretty decent at it and had bucketloads of fun.

So yeah: Newcastle is officially sanctioned by me!

M

Hear Me Roar

Like several other million people in the world, I’ve been hungrily watching the last 8 episodes in the new series of Game of Thrones. I’ve read all the books over the past two years or so, and since moving back to NI have been having a right royal binge through the previous episodes, in order to get myself up-to-date to watch the most recent series alongside my friends.

I’ve really enjoyed this series in particular: the show has now reached a point where there are significant deviations in story lines from the books, so I’m left not at all knowing what’s going to happen next. The books also have the drawback of having to sit through the endless whining of characters that you don’t like- whereas on the show they’re on-screen for like six minutes top and then you move on and don’t have to endure the half hour it takes to read through them moaning about their mummy/daddy/daughter/sister issues.

The series also provides great opportunities to geek out. Last year my housemates got a Game of Thrones board game for their birthdays, and we had a pretty brutal session which involved the perfect amount of attacking each other, stabbing people in the back, and generally kicking each other in the crotch when we were down. Always fun.

Geeking out also has its rewards: a group of us went to a Game of Thrones pub quiz last week. And it’s no underestimate when I say that we bloody well tanked it. Not only did we come first, but we also won the speed round (winning £45 for our team) and didn’t get a single question wrong the whole night. I mean, they were kinda piss-easy, but that didn’t stop sitting on the Iron Throne they had made at the end of the night any less sweet.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Ain’t no white walkers here

M

Mao-tivated

Slight delay in posting this but my Chinese classes have ended! Aww. By the way in case you didn’t know I’ve been taking Chinese classes. And they’ve been great fun! It was a bit strange cause nearly everyone else in the class had come from the “level one” beforehand, and so there were a bunch of times when they were talking about vocab that I didn’t know as if it were common knowledge. But generally it wasn’t difficult to keep up, and the course I did a few years ago gave me a really good grounding in the language, so I was quite happy in the class.

I feel like I made a bit of progress with the language, but as I’ve obviously been working this time I haven’t really had the time much to sit down and just geek out on my zhongwen like I did a few years ago. And as the course wasn’t as intense (ie there weren’t two exams at the end of it) there wasn’t really any pressure to study in between classes either. So I probably didn’t advance as much as I could have done. Which isn’t really the end of the world.

So it raises the question of what to do next. I’m currently thinking of taking a gap yah after F2, and during that time I’d quite like to go to China for a bit and explore. Ideally I’d like to be able to survive on my own while I’m out there, which would obviously involve a bit of speaking the language. I don’t feel like I’m there yet, so a bit more learning is required.

My next placement is A&E, and what with the irregular shift patterns I don’t think I could realistically commit to going to a class at the same time each week. Well, maybe I could, but I feel like I need a contingency plan. So I’m thinking about the possibility of getting private lessons; they’d be less fun obviously because you’re on your lonesome, but I feel like I’d learn quite a lot.

So yeah, the dream of becoming Asian is still alive.

M

It’s a fact universally acknowledged that all people who have had three graduations will be in want of a fourth.

So, I headed back last Friday to the old Alma Mater with my parents to pick up a free degree. After six years in the place, I’ve got a BA as well as my medical degree, but all undergrads who’ve studied there become eligible to have their Bachelor of Arts converted into a Master of Arts degree. Without any extra work being required! All you have to do is remain an upstanding member of society, ie avoid getting

  1. Bankrupt
  2. Thrown in jail
  3. Divorced

Yeah.

We flew over and I picked up my stuff for graduation, and immediately started running into a huge number of familiar faces, setting up the theme for the weekend. It was pretty great seeing so many people again, as practically the whole year was back at the same time. There was maybe 100-150 people from my year in college, so there was a whole bunch of people I’d lost contact with who it was great fun catching up with. People are doing Real Life Things like moving to exciting locations, buying property, heck one guy even brought his daughter along.

Of course, with a year group that big, there have to be people that you weren’t best buds with, that you at best exchanged awkward hellos with when you came across them in the street. Aaaaaand that was another part of the weekend: there was a hefty number of times accidentally getting caught chatting to someone while walking towards one of your actual friends/alcohol. It was flipping hilarious watching people go through this, and deliciously painful when it happened to me.

Graduation was preceded by a dinner the night before, which again was a great hark back to old times. Food, wine and port was served, we got screwed over by seating mayhem, and the serving staff told us off for being too noisy. The ceremony itself involved a lot of standing, a lot of waiting, and a lot of Latin. All the pomp and fuss is quite fun, but by the time I went up to the front I was a bit keen to get out pf there into the sun! We had lunch in college and hung around on the grass chatting- we ended up being the very last to leave out of the 300 or so people there, as one of my friends was taking 595 photos. Yup.

That night we headed out for dinner to a South American tapas place for my birthday. It ended up being a bit of a logistic nightmare, what with sixteen people ordering off three different menus and sharing 2 for 1 cocktails, but the food was class and the craic was 90, and the sitting down meant I had a bit more time to chat to one or two people I hadn’t really managed to yet.

We ended the night with a walk around college at dusk, reminiscing and stirring up nostalgia. With a sit on the fountain I said goodbye to college life. For the first time I don’t know when I’ll next be back in Cambridge, which is strange. I had a flipping great six years there, but that’s all over, and Cambridge is now just a place I used to live.

M

Island Getaway

It’s my birthday this Saturday (woooo!) and I’m going to be over in England for my last in a long line of graduations. I’ve taken this week off (another woooo!) and decided to head out to Rathlin Island last weekend with a few friends, partly to see the place and partly to celebrate my birthday.

I’ve seen the island from afar quite a large number of times from the north coast, but as far as I can remember I’ve never actually been there. It’s quite a small island, about 6 miles long with around 100 people on it. We got the ferry over, working on our quads against the rocking of the boat, and made our way to a hostel a few minutes walk from the harbour. We got a bit sidetracked along the way when we found an OUTDOOR GYM, getting a bit excited as it was essentially a playground.

We went for a walk around the island before heading to the pub for some grub and some drinks. Inevitably this turned into a bit of a boogie. There were only around twenty people in the bar, and most of them all knew each other of course, but the atmosphere was so friendly and welcoming that it meant for some brilliant craic. We hogged the jukebox a little bit and had a boogie, and a bunch of the locals joined in. The electricity wasn’t working in half of the bar so it was just like being in a dark nightclub in the real world.

We ended up staying out quite late, dancing/chatting/eating birthday cake/getting offered jeeps until the early hours of the morning, and it had been a while since I’d had a drunken boogieing night out with my friends, so I was in a pretty great mood by the end of it and well tuckered out. We slept in a fair bit the next day to work off the alcohol, so missed the morning, but then headed out, got one of the world’s best sausage rolls, and then went for a trek up round the island.

The weather wasn’t too kind to us over the weekend: there was a fair amount of rain, and an awful lot of wind. This meant we didn’t really get to do the whole cycling/puffin-watching set of activities I had mentally planned in my head, but the scenery on the island was still pretty great. I don’t tend to do too many outdoorsy-type stuff, but when I do I appreciate how much of it Northern Ireland has to offer.

So yeah, bit of a short trip but really enjoyed myself. I’ll definitely go back some day, if for nothing else to finally see those puffins!

M

1. Dancing your heart out in walking boots can be sore

2. Baby guinnesses are glorious

3. If you’re nice enough a woman called Nuala will lend you her jeep to drive around the island.

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