There's a reason I'm not a poet

Posts tagged ‘take back this city’

Ciao, cuoiaio

I’ve had a pretty good couple of months. Shortly after my last blog I went to Venice for a couple of days with my family. My sister was having a big birthday, and knew she was going on holiday with her husband and son, but didn’t know (a) where they were going or (b) that we were all coming to.

The surprise was slightly spoiled by my dad shouting at my other sister to get out of eyesight when the birthday girl arrived in the airport. Apparently his voice carries. But it was a really lovely holiday, in a flipping beautiful setting.

I was really impressed by Venice; it was unlike any other city I’ve been to. You don’t drive to work, you hop in your boat, and then moor it outside your house at the end of the working day. I had so much fun just casually exploring the city and working my way between various glorious food vendors.

Needless to say I would have loved to stay there for longer. Thankfully, I’m off to Italy again at the start of June! There are twelve of us going, staying in an AirBnB villa for week. To say I’m excited to get back to the land of pasta would be an understatement.

Venice did give me a a bit of language jealousy. Similar to when I was in Japan, I found myself frustrated at not being able to properly navigate the place on account of not having a clue what anyone was saying. In Japan, I had some Chinese ability to allow me to read a couple of characters, and in Italy I had my French (and fifteen-year-old vague memories of Latin). But it’s no substitute for actually speaking the language, and being able to order something in a restaurant/shop/ice cream stand (you can really tell food is my driving factor in life can’t you).

So, on returning to Norn Iron, I managed to find myself some Italian lessons! It’s only a six week course and it’s very much for beginners, and in fact I’m only able to make it to 4 out of 6 lessons. But I’m excited to give a new language a whack and see if I can work on becoming the man in the Dolmio adverts.

Other recent enjoyments have been the Belfast Film Festival (including a virtual reality studio and an absolutely phenomenal Chinese film called Still Tomorrow), the long-awaited death of winter, binges of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Festival of Fools, and particular mention goes to having Flaming Lip and Classic Girl over visiting me a few weeks ago. They’re both from London and the downside of having lots of friends living there is that your amount-of-time-per-friend really starts to suffer. So I really had the best time actually getting to hang out with them, and properly chat. I put on my Belfast tour guide cap and took them around a couple of museums, a lot of food locations, and a balance of both super-Catholic and super-Protestant murals.

It was all a plan to slowly try and convince all my uni friends that Belfast is the place to be and they should just all move here. I don’t really fancy my chances but you can’t blame a guy for trying.



The weary traveller

And now, back to our regular programming.

Yup, my four months of farting around China and Japan are over, and it’s back to porridge for me (time to find out what a year “out of training” means). I had a ridiculously great time exploring the cities, villages and mountains, and my stomach was well-and-truly stretched. Given how much fun I had, I was a bit unsure about how I’d feel about coming back. Thankfully, I was pretty excited about it! Four months is a fair amount of time,  so coming home was pretty welcome, and also it’s nearly Christmas! so there’s a great buzz everywhere.

I managed to get to my godson’s nativity play (which was brilliant fun) and see a bunch of home people before heading to Lahndahn to catch up with some uni ones. With Regent Street and the like covered in giant canopies of Christmas lights and angels, the place was looking great. It’s a bit crazy how much people are growing up though- the number of my friends who now have a mortgage is terrifying. Thankfully to help wash down the fear, London also comes with a massive collection of brunch joints and cake shops, and I went to an all-you-can-eat Japanese breakfast buffet to help me cope with the Asian withdrawal symptoms. Drool.

Belfast has its fair share of things to do too. As well as seeing Lisa Hannigan for like the eighth time, I finally got round to going to an event that’s been going on in Belfast for a couple of years: tenx9. 9 people get up and tell stories lasting up to ten minutes around a monthly theme. The stories can be warm, funny, or heartbreaking- but they all have to be true. I went to one focused around “family”, and unsurprisingly warm, funny, and heartbreaking were all well-represented. I was impressed with the bravery of some people, to be able to stand up and talk about things so personal to a room full of strangers. But it’s a great atmosphere in the place, so I imagine even if you got up and your story was shite everyone would give you a lovely round of applause.

One of the downsides of coming home though is that I went through nine time zones in the air. I don’t know if I ever really had jet-lag before but I can tell you man did I have it this time. I didn’t even really notice that’s what it was, but at one point I nearly fell asleep face-first into a pile of Lego, and there’s a Christmas tree in my parent’s house that I’ve definitely walked past about seven times and that I definitely have no recollection of actually seeing. I’m starting work again tomorrow (some one-off locum shifts) and it’s a good thing I didn’t start sooner as I feel like I’ve only recently entered the land of the living.

Other projects going on at the minute includes sorting through the 1,701 photographs of China and Japan that I took, and trying to whittle them down into something that can (at a stretch) be described as “bite-size”. I’ve spent about three full days on it, and I’m only on about week five. What with Christmas and its food/drink/TV binges coming up, expect to see the facebook album sometime in autumn 2018.


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.

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.


The one with all the questions

So I did something fun last week. Our local does regular po-culture-themed pub quizzes, in the past running ones on Game of Thrones and Star Wars. Last week, my time came.

A Friends-themed pub quiz.


We assembled our team, we booked our table, we did our practice on QuizUp, and in the case of one of my friends, we (she) made four pages of notes. Front and back.

We were ready.

There ended up being about forty teams in all- it was pretty flipping popular. Some of the questions were incredibly niche: asking you for the name of the crazy girl who thinks that Joey really is Dr Drake Ramore, for the names of the women on Ross’ laminated list of women-he’s-allowed-to-sleep-with, the name of Emma’s manny, or the typo on the resumés that Rachel sends out. While we didn’t get full marks on these things, we did a bloody good job and it was down to our severe amount of PREPARATION.

Go team.

There were also spot prizes in the middle of the rounds where you had to write your answer and run up to the front. We were seated upstairs and at the back, so never quite made it to the front in time, however I still got really into it while running. Apparently at one point I elbowed some guy out of the way as we collided while sprinting to the caller. I have no recollection of this; I was in the zone.

It ended up being quite long as it turns out it takes ages to mark the answers for so many people. But at the end of the whole thing we were very pleased to find out that we came third! Which I was extremely proud of because flip me some of those questions were nigh impossible.

We were Judy, and we Looked Alive.



Life’s going quite well in Norn Iron at the minute: job not too stressful, plans happening with my friends and I’ve even been getting a few random stat days off! Which is great, everybody loves a holiday.

Friday night was a great night in Belfast: the annual culture night! Like a hundred venues are open with over 200 events throughout the night, ranging from plays to collaborative drawings, gigs to a roller derby, and food and drink everywhere! My particular favourite was changing across a live reggae performance in a car park. Proud to say I danced like the whitest man alive, and bloody loved it.

Last night was a flat-warming party for one of my school friends and similarly was great craic! Cleverly sat down beside the food and stuffed my face until the people in charge of the music changed seats. At which point the Disney songs and early 2000s cheese came on.

Today was a slightly more mature achievement: I JOINED A GYM. Braving my ultimate nemesis: physical activity. Fingers crossed I manage to stick to my good intentions now that they’re taking money from my pocket. But chances are I’ll end up using it as an excuse to eat even more of all the pies.