There's a reason I'm not a poet

Gal Your Own Way

Despite having lived on the island of Ireland for the majority of my life, I’d never actually seen its west coast. A couple of months ago a friend and I decided that should be rectified and we got a group of us together and planned a trip. Inspired by Teresa Mannion‘s weather warnings, we planned our Unnecessary Journey across Co. Galway and Co. Mayo, with our first stop in Clare at the Cliffs of Moher. And made sure to drop into conversation that there were ten of us. Y’know, just ten friends, we’re very popular you see.

The drive down was pretty long, about five hours or so. But I came prepared with driving CDs and activity books for my passengers (my car later became known as the car where fun is not permitted and happiness goes to die) and onnthe way we were that excited it didn’t seem that long. Worked our way through Fleetwood Mac songs trying to make them relevant, but after “You Can Gal Your Own Way” we kinda ran out of ideas.

As I said our first stop was at the Cliffs of Moher, which I think was my favourite spot of the trip. The views were just incredible, and the pure size of them was so impressive; it’s always good when you’re walking above where birds are flying. Much to my friends’ delight, I’m the type of person that when they get to a cliff, they have to get as close to the edge as possible they have to look over. So I went a bit overboard (but thankfully not over the edge) posing for photos and the like.

We travelled to Galway city that evening and stayed in a really sweet hostel, and headed out to a craft beer place and made friends with a harmonica-playing English weirdo. We headed off pretty soonish the next day and got back on the road, touring through the countryside and coastline. The driving throughout the trip was brilliant fun- the roads were mental, with fantastic vistas as you careen round hairpin bends with potholes that come out of nowhere. On day 3 our driving was made even more fun by the addition of a cycling race, and on day 4 it was sheep that refused to get off the middle of the road.

The driving was possibly the major attraction of the trip. The Republic had very kindly put up loads of signposts to ensure you needn’t stray far from the Wild Atlantic Way route, and it was very easy to pick up a brown sign and pop off-piste for a bit to see wide beaches or forts from sixteenth century pirate queens and then jump back onto the coastal route. The downside was that poor wee Nimbus struggled a bit with a car full of passengers and all of our crap. The surprise potholes often came with a lovely crunching sound as the suspension failed to take the hit.

The second night was spent in a hostel run by a frenchman we accidentally named Claude, and we had a lovely time playing Werewolf and breaking doorhandles. The place we were staying in was near the Connemara National Park (much impressive, and with a great playground and Ellis Wood) and Kylemore Abbey (looked beautiful but didn’t have the time/money to properly explore it) and after leaving we drove off through more stunning landscapes up into Mayo and out to Achill Island.

Back in primary school, we were divided up into four houses. Think it was around the time Harry Potter was becoming famous, but I doubt that was the reasoning. They were each named after four Irish islands, and I was in Achill. Until the other week, that was the extent of my knowledge on Achill, and I suppose I figured it was a pretty small place, of similar size to Rathlin (another of the houses) but it was actually pretty massive, and had giant mountains, including another claimant to the title of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. We stayed in a guest house with the most welcoming woman in the world and went to a great pub that night, making besties with some Canadian girl who had travelled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and was now essentially trapped on Achill cause she’d run out of money. Still, a pretty great place to be trapped!

On the last morning we headed out to an abandoned village and a brilliant sandy bay, where Legs managed to get a couple more shots from his GoPro for the obligatory Geektown On Tour video. Then we spent like six hours driving back home and the Unecessary Journey came to an end. Teresa Mannion could rest easy.

M

Five Nightstands

A couple of months ago I was flipping through one of the many booklets you pick up in Belfast’s coffee shops and saw that Avenue Q was coming to Belfast. Most of my friends weren’t fussed but managed to get two interested parties to come with me last night.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s an American musical which is broadly based on the concept of Sesame Street. But rather than singing songs about friendship and how to count, they sing songs about racism and porn.

https://youtu.be/RovF1zsDoeM

Fun for all the family.

I’d seen a couple of the songs on YouTube but didn’t know much about the story itself. And it ended up being great fun- it essentially from the get-go sets itself up against Sesame Street: having been brought up being told “You’re special!” and “You can change the world!”, the show is about being  in your twenties and realising life is crapper than you’d been led to believe.

The puppeteers are on-stage and pretty visible, so there’s a degree of having to suspend belief more than I thought there would be, but it kind of adds to the whole vibe of the show. The laughs are a-plenty and often at the expense of others, but it’s done in a warm way and challenges some modern day ideas about what being Politically Correct actually means.

It’s around for a couple of nights so go see it if you can, or I’d advise you to catch it some other time if it’s doing its rounds again.

M

Maltan Hot

Northern Ireland is cold and grey and a bit crap.

I love this place I call home, but unfortunately the above were my thoughts when I returned back from a week’s holiday in Malta. My mum had a big birthday and a couple of months ago had the idea of the lot of us going out there to celebrate it. We were more than happy to make the sacrifice.

The place we went for was an all-inclusive hotel, something I’ve not done before. As it’s off-season we got it for proper cheaps: flights, transfers, accommodation, food and wine (and beer and cocktails and rum) all for just over £300! Not bad at all. Flipping glorious some might say.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from all-inclusive. I figured there would be food/drink any time I wanted it, but I guess I kind of thought what was on offer would be pretty basic- cheap-tasting spagbol or Sainsbury’s basics red wine. But I was actually really impressed by how yum everything was, and of the quality of the meals. There was salmon, mussels, an omelette stand at breakfast, pineapple juice on tap, and a cocktail list you could shake an alcoholic at.

Needless to say greed was entertained and kilograms were added.

Malta itself was a brilliant country, with fantastic history and pretty impressive buildings everywhere you looked. Pick almost any point on the island and do a 360 view of the horizon and you’re pretty much guaranteed that you’ll spot one if not several of the 359 churches. They’ve also got a thing about citadels. Having had several different occupiers and being in a pretty strategic naval location, there’s been a fair amount of conflict over the few thousand years they’ve been around. So the fortifications in a bunch of their cities are pretty impressive; and behind these giant walls there are quaint little narrow streets with decorative balconies leaning over you. With their golden limestone buildings the whole place is a great sight to behold.

We visited their “Silent City” Mdina, a former capital with less than 300 residents and streets that you can just about get a car through, the main cities of Valetta and Vittoriso, the nearby island Gozo (which comes with its own history including prehistoric megalithic temples pre-dating the pyramids) and also the custom-made-village film set of the 1980 Robin Williams “classic” Popeye.

I’ll leave you with a wee snap.

 M

Treat yourself to a dumpling

My friends and I were trying to work out when the most depressing part of the year was, to decide when to have our Treat Yo Self day. It’s likely some day in the middle of November, but we couldn’t wait that long. So we went for the first Saturday in February!

The day started off with brunch, cake and a mimosa (aw yeah) before driving into town and getting a taxi from our car. Theme of the day. We went shopping for needless items, drank during the day, found the comfiest chairs in Belfast, and had a Rhianna dirty chip. In the evening we headed out for dinner to Shu which was amaaazing. I didn’t take any photos because oh my god the food was fantastic and I was too busy eating. It was clear that everything on the plate had been carefully selected due to compatibility with the other ingredients. Yum to the max.

The next day we had a few people over for Chinese New Year! I don’t actually really have any Chinese friends in NI so I was kind of just winging it. I’d made some efforts at calligraphy beforehand and stuck them up around the apartment.  

 The plan was to make fortune cookies (which failed abismally because tuile pastry is a d***) and then like 200 dumplings. That bit was much more of a success! We had a good production line going, and managed to make three different flavours of the things. I haven’t made them in a couple of years and previously had been under the fierce watchful eyes of some pros so wasn’t sure if I was really the best person to be teaching. But the team did well and they ended up delicious. And I got to eat my bodyweight all over again. Wode fu dao le.

M

Best day of the yearrrrr

Turns out I’ve had this blog going for over two years now. Flip.

MORE IMPORTANTLY next Saturday is gonna be like the best day ever.

Why?

Cause me and some friends are gonna treat ourselves.

M

Hello. Long while since I’ve blogged, trying to get back in the habit. Life has been good recently, work going well and time off work obviously going better. I was over in London at the weekend seeing a few people and the weekend basically involved drinking from like 11am and stuffing my face constantly in between uni-people catch-ups. Which was ideal.

Also had a nice time with the family the week before where we all went to my granddad’s old pub. He owned it during the Troubles so there were kind of mixed emotions with some of the generation above me, but obviously managing to get a large group of people together is a positive.

What I’m watching- Attack on Titan, The Walking Dead

What I’m playing- Ni No Kuni

What I’m reading- Twig, Clariel, Worm

What I’m hearing- The Corrs, Wild Nothing, Crystal Fighters

Need to step up my game in planning China. Tourist visas last for three months so I’ll likely go for that length of time, and am thinking of actually starting off in Japan for a bit! When in Rome, why not visit Sorrento. Exact plans will be confirmed a bit closer to the time, for now it’s about converting the pipe dream into some semblance of a pipe.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as I will be seeing THE CORRS. They were the first band I really listened to, albeit I was eight and had no choice in the matter of which casette was being played in the car. They’re doing a comeback tour and have released a new album; while it’s not amazing it has grown on me and I’ll happily hear new songs alongside the classics. That is if me screaming the words doesn’t drown out their singing. The only thing less cool than going to see The Corrs is going to see The Corrs with my parents. So I’m ticking that box.

Peace out bluds

M

In other news…

IT’S NEARLY CHRISTMAAAAASSS

I have burned a Sufjan Stevens Christmas shaped hole in my eardrums

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