Archive for the 'Northern Ireland' Category

20
Mar
10

Various things

Visiting my much-neglected blog earlier, I felt really sad that I’d let things slide so much. Could it really be so long since I blogged? Life has been insanity recently. There are no hours in the day, for anything, it seems!

So much recent news. My business is great- I’m working so, so hard, but there’s lots of quality time with the kids too, and the rewards are infinitely worth it. I’m earning more than I did when in my old job, for fewer hours, WAY more flexibility, and, best of all, I get to see my kids grow up. On the downside, oh…wait…there isn’t one.

The house still looks like a shit heap, but what am I gonna do. :p

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My pony, Morning, had to be put down, three weeks ago. I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about it yet, and it’s really too painful for words.

I know a few of you will be wondering why I am so upset over the death of a horse- I would say to those people, you’ve clearly never had a very special animal in your life. To my family, animals ARE a part of our family.

Her legs gave up. She was pretty well in herself, but she had been having some mobility issues, and this Friday she just couldn’t get up in her stable. The vet discussed it with us, and we knew it was time to let her go. She was 28- quite old for a horse. I don’t want to go into the process too much. She was too big for an injection. The vet shot her. I knew that this is how it would happen, but it was just awful. I don’t think I’ll ever really get over it.

Morning had been with me since I was eleven years old- a child. We grew up together. We were partners in crime; like minded people. She loved to jump and hated flat work- so did I, though we grudgingly worked at it.

We didn’t know very much about competing when we bought Morning- but through my teenage years, we had huge success in the fields of eventing and showing. She was so beautiful, and so clever. She also could be a complete bitch if her mind wasn’t on the job, or if she felt like taking the piss.

We had a lot of success, and I owe her a lot. I’ll always remember her most for her sense of adventure, though. We’re going to Donegal in a few weeks and the beaches there will be filled with the ghosts of Morning, my Mum and our dog Jamie. May they all be running together somewhere better.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The kids are gorgeous; I am so, so lucky, even though they make me crazy sometimes. Rob’s speech is spectacular, for a two year old, and he’s hilarious. Ricky is just sooo beautiful, and boy, does he know it!

Here are a few pics, from St Patrick’s Day. We took the drive up the stunning Antrim Coast Road and stopped at Ballintoy Harbour, which has chalk stone on one side and some kind of igneous rock on the other- the world famous Giant’s Causeway is only a few miles down the road and you can see the similarity in the rock formations (finished Suzy, lamely, having forgotten all of her 3rd form geography lessons).

Photobucket

Nice-

Photobucket

Nasty-

Photobucket

You can nearly feel the lava below the surface there!

Photobucket

Photobucket

They’re pretty good kids. ๐Ÿ™‚

Photobucket

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a new website, I’ll share it in due course, though most of you know about it already. It’s still in development, but I am very excited about the year that’s to come.

Love to all of my friends out there who have been horrendously neglected recently. I am truly sorry.

21
Dec
09

Recent news

OK, enough from me in the whining “but this time I really am going to post more often” tone that you’ve all come to loathe, and that I hate myself for later when I break it. Let’s just take it slow and see what happens, ‘kay? ๐Ÿ˜€

The last number of weeks have been incredibly busy, I’ve hardly had a second to think about anything except for work and family.

Work, by the way, is now officially my ebay business. I left my job as engineering controller for a telecoms company about three weeks ago. It has felt a little like taking a running jump off a cliff and not really knowing if there’s water or solid ground below you for you to land on. I’m absolutely terrified by the fact that it’s not a hobby or an evening’s pastime now- I have to make it work. Signs so far are encouraging though. I’ve just achieved Powerseller status and also gained a Top Rated Seller badge- this was an amazing amount of hard work on my part, and maintaining that badge will be even harder. The standards required are incredibly high and it only takes a couple of assholes for you to lose it. We shall see…however, all is going (touching a whole great chuffin’ FOREST) pretty well on that front.

Me and Robbie have been home alone in the mornings since I left work and it’s been fairly harmonious. I have targetted myself on getting ten listings done per day. He’s quite happy to play in the background while I photograph the clothes and take measurements, and there’s lots of time left for snuggles in between. He is the most gorgeous child (not that I am biased at all) and very easy to live with.

So, that’s my mornings at the moment. Me and Robbie go and collect Ricky at 1.30pm and then we do something fun in the afternoon. It doesn’t have to cost any money- in fact 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t- we go to the park, for a walk or to the museum. I’ve had some really memorable afternoons with them already.

One afternoon in particular (I will curse myself for the rest of my life for forgetting my camera) it was an incredibly still and perfect, clear winter afternoon. I had made a chicken pie the day before and left my Dad in some of the spoils, before taking them to one of the many beaches near his house, at Kilclief Bay on this beach. We spotted seals on the rocks and in the water, examined the rock pools, and, despite the cold temperatures (though it was pretty mild), the kids waddled in the completely flat calm sea in their wellies. Of course, they both ended up totally drenched. It was truly one of those Calvin Klein-ad, perfect, afternoons, and it made me realise that there is NO comparison and that everything I am doing is for the right reasons at the moment. I will never get this chance again, and I don’t ever want to be able to look back at my life and think “what was I doing?” when I think of their childhoods, and my lack of involvement in it.

As you know, Robbie is now 2 1/2, so I’ve already missed years of that time. I’m not taking anything away from mothers who work- I did it myself and never thought anything would change that- I was very settled in my job (until June this year) and had no plans to leave. A variety of circumstances changed that. I think maybe dealing with cancer HAS changed me, and HAS changed my outlook on life and my priorities therein. So whilst all of this has and continues to scare the living shit out of me, the cancer has taught me- in no uncertain terms- to feckin’ well grow a set and live out my life as if every day was my last. I don’t spend nearly so much time these days worrying about what other people think, that’s for sure. Though I do still spend some time worrying about that. Old habits die hard.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve become a domestic Goddess since leaving work- that’s not going to happen, I don’t have it in me. However, I am definitely making slow inroads in terms of the house, and the kids have been helping me cook every day, which is both fun and frustrating at the same time. I’m fairly competent in the kitchen and a bit of a Prima Donna, so I am having to learn new levels of patience with them. Their enthusiasm is wonderful, though, and Robbie loves to clean too, so his job is hoovering the living room every day, ha ha! He actually manages to do a fairly good job, mainly because I let him have at it the whole time I am cleaning the kitchen… ๐Ÿ˜› Maybe Robbie will be a domestic God. There are too few of those in the world.

I never saw myself as being much good at the stay-at-home and keep house and kids kind of thing, but it’s just “right” for now. Maybe I won’t be good at it. Certainly, doing this is MUCH harder work than my job was. I feel good that I am still bringing some money in whilst I do this.

The whole thing is a massive life change, and while it’s really, really scary, it’s also exhilarating. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. That said, I’m grabbing it with both hands.

24
Aug
09

Open day at the Ulster Aviation Society

We were invited at the weekend to attend the Open Day for the Ulster Aviation Societyย which was held, rather bizarrely, at what used to be the Maze Prison but which is now a demolition/regeneration site. I’ve (thankfully) never had cause to visit the prison before, which closed some time ago. The closest I ever got before was driving past it, ominous on the horizon, on the Motorway! It kind of epitomises the “Troubles” here- I actually hope they make some kind of museum there because it’s a part of our heritage and historyย that should be preserved, sinister and unpleasant though it is.

ANYHOW- it was a bright sunny day, and only the watch towers and some high walls seem to remain!

Photobucket

Our day was centred around a cleared area and some aircraft hangars outside the old prison walls. I have to say, it was a very surreal atmosphere in which to have a fun family afternoon!

Ian used to be in the Royal Air Force, and can fly a small aircraft. He’s flown in helicopters before, so the afternoon was probably particularly of interest to him. However there was much for all the family to enjoy!

Around sixteen helicopters flew in from all over the Province, of varying sizes and styles (can you tell I know absolutely piss all about helicopters!!!!!)

Photobucket

It was actually very exciting watching them come in to land- hearing them first, having the kids guess where they would appear (they were coming from all directions!) and then watching them come in to land.

OK, OK, so my only proper landing shot picture, I royally ballsed up. I hit the off button on my camera instead of the take picture button, and it was pretty much too late by the time it was back on, but whatever. You’re all used to my substandard photography by now, ha ha!

Photobucket

We all had great fun inspecting the various helicopters. I have to say- can you SAY “rich man’s toys” in a lot of incidences, but it’s nice to see how the other half live from time to time! Some of them were the height of luxury- as big as a limo and with soft looking leather upholstery and loads of legroom. Some looked more like your average family saloon- empty crisp packets, half drunk bottles of water and crumpled looking maps- and one, I kid you not, looked barely flight worthy, I was nearly scared to exhale near it in case it fell apart (though I am sure it is someone’s labour of love and is of extremely sturdy construction!!!!)

Photobucket

Highlight of most people’s afternoon was the helicopter of the PSNI- it drew the biggest crowds of all and the policemen who fly it were inundated with questions about what they did and how all the vast array of gadgets worked!

Photobucket
Photobucket

The nearby hangars housed a fantastic display of WW2 memorabilia and aircraft, and was, for me, the highlight.

Photobucket
Photobucket

I haven’t taken pictures of some of the displays because they related to many of the fallen soldiers who had lived locally- their relatives were there to look at the displays and it was very humbling to witness their pain even after all these years. I didn’t feel it would be respectful to take photos.

It really brings it home that WW2 was NOT that long ago- and that really we have forgotten the horrors that those soldiers went through to ensure all of our futures. I learned a lot from the displays, and was grateful for it.

The kids loved looking at the various aircraft on display and it was a fantastic day out. Thanks to Ian’s boss, Garry, for inviting us!

Photobucket

01
Jun
09

Race for Life 2009

Well, it’s done, and we had a great time!

Leigh and I completed the Race for Life at Stormont Estate yesterday. It was a very warm day without a cloud in the sky, which was great in one sense but I think we could actually have done with a bit of drizzle by the end! Next year we should bring water pistols!! ๐Ÿ˜€

When I got to the site and realised the sheer scale of the event, it was a bit of a surprise. I knew it would be well attended but there was just a sea of pink everywhere you looked. You have to pin a sign on your back saying who you are running for. I have to say, this aspect of it was very moving- the people standing next to me as I waited to meet up with Leigh were running for a little girl with leukemia, and nearly everyone’s shirts mentioned someone close to them. The scale of the effect cancer has on society is really impressed on you and it would be a stony heart indeed not to be moved by seeing those shirts.

Leigh and I met up about an hour before kickoff. An Australian lady was giving a bit of an irksome pep talk over the loudspeaker. I kind of wished they’d gone for someone Northern Irish, she seemed rather out of place, but she seemed to be enjoying herself!!

Next, a Scottish lady who was one of the main organisers came on to the stage and she really was inspirational. She reminded us all of why we were there, but in a fun way.

Just before we set off, we had a warm up in the shape of an aerobics instructor who reinforced my belief that I can never take part in an aerobics class due to my slow wittedness and inability to follow basic instructions. My lack of coordination will probably appear sometime soon on YouTube, courtesy of another participant! ๐Ÿ˜›

Photobucket

The route itself went all round the Stormont Estate. Regular readers will know that Leigh and I have struggled a bit with the dreaded Stormont hill- which is bloody steep! You find yourself fixated on the sight of the Carson Statue at the top, because he’s right at the top of the hill! ๐Ÿ˜€

Photobucket

Photobucket

I have to say, I think we kicked that hill’s ass yesterday. We veritably strode up it and I was only a little bit puce in the face by the top. In the past we’ve both practically needed a lie down when we got to Lord Carson!

My Dad and regular commenter Bernadette had walked up the hill to try and see us on our way past, but somehow in the crowd we didn’t spot each other, which was a shame. Next year we should plan things better!

Photobucket

I think everyone felt a real sense of achievement at the end. This is such a good cause- to date I have raised almost ยฃ800 for Cancer Research UK and hope to get close to ยฃ1000 by the time I am finished. You can still sponsor me online if you have a few pennies to spare.

Photobucket

I feel very privileged to have taken part. I am also very lucky to have been well enough. The past year has been rough, but I am still here, fighting fit and taking no prisoners! Next month marks the anniversary of my diagnosis, and it seems amazing that it’s been so long.

And Leigh, we WILL run it next year!!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Photobucket

27
Apr
09

Dinner & Danny Schmidt at Crusoe’s, Castlerock

I’ve just had a lovely weekend staying with my Aunt in Coleraine. I mean, it may be some time before my pickled liver recovers, but it was most definitely worth it!

I had been invited to go with my Aunt to Crusoe’s Cafe in Castlerock for dinner, with the added bonus of music in the form of Danny Schmidt.

Crusoe’s is a new place to me- but came very highly recommended. They are mainly a daytime destination, and I understand that they make the best cappucino in the world! ๐Ÿ˜€ They run special evening events from time to time, and this was one of those. They provide a gorgeous meal, wineย and music. I gather that these evenings are heavily subscribed and eagerly awaited by the population of the North West!

My first impressions of Crusoe’s were of the warmth of the staff. You almost feel like you’ve arrived at a friend’s house for dinner, they are so welcoming. We were seated at a very pleasant table in the corner and brought some wine.

Photobucket

The room itself has a strong nautical theme, lots of great big windows and a very high beamed ceiling. The room is, however, dominated by the kitchen, which takes up a corner of the room and looks very homely. I really like the notion of being able to watch my food being prepared, and it says a lot about the team that work there that everything seems so calm, efficient and amazingly quiet in there!

Our starter was lovely- fresh, warm bread rolls served with little pots of seafood cocktail, foie gras and a gorgeous tapenade which had both black and green olives in it, as well as sun dried tomatoes. All of this was outstanding, especially the tapenade (which, by the way is somethingย I’m quite fussy about, as it consists of all my favourite ingredients!), and I was excited to see what would come next!

I wasn’t disappointed. We were served with the most delectable venison pie, slowly braised with, I believe, chocolate and chilli in the sauce. I’d never have put chocolate in something like that, but am absolutely intrigued now because the sauce was absolutely out of this world. This was accompanied by perfectly cooked root vegetables and some tasty cauliflower cheese. It was seriously one of the nicest main courses I have had for a while, and I am, as you all know, not all that easy to please! ๐Ÿ˜€

Pudding (though I was already struggling!!) was a cup of coffee flavoured caramel topped with chocolate sauce, not overpoweringly sweet, which was a good thing, and really delicious. It was served with homemade shortbread which I was devastated not to have enough room for! I should have asked for a doggie bag!

Just when we thought we’d burst, they then brought out a cheese board! They source their cheeses from the Fivemiletown Creamery and they were perfect, but I couldn’t possibly have finished! The cheese was served with delicious home made pickle.

I have to say it was one of the most yummy and satisfying meals I have had in a long time, plus mind blowingly good value for money. If you picked this place up and set it down in Belfast, the queues would be out the door and down the street. If you’re in the region, it’s most definitely worth a visit!

One of the things, however, that really made the evening, was the quality of the live acts who played. Both of them were quite a lot in evidence before they played and seemed like very cool and relaxed guys, so I was able to check if they minded me taking pictures of them for my blog. Kindly, they both agreed! I’m a terrible photographer as regular readers know, so I hope they won’t get too pissed off if they ever happen upon these! I was using Ricky’s camera and couldn’t work out the settings, so poor Al unfortunately got hit with the flash once before I managed to change the settings. Ironically, that was the only photo which really came out… ๐Ÿ™‚

First up was Al Brition, who hails from Coventry in England. He had such a sweet, melodious voice that the whole audience was captivated by the end of the first few bars. Simple, soulful music that was perfect with the relaxed atmosphere. I very much enjoyed the subtlety of his guitar playing too. Really beautiful. Inexplicably, I can find no reference to him online at all, and I wonder if I have got the spelling of his name right. If anyone out there can correct me, please do so! ๐Ÿ™‚ He is definitely someone to watch!

Photobucket

Danny Schmidt, hailing from Austin, Texas, was the main act, and he took everyone’s breath away. It’s not just his gorgeous voice and guitar playing, but the lyrics of the songs too. I was particularly moved by his song “This too shall pass”, which he told us was about a time a few years ago when he’d been unwell, and a friend had made him a ring with those words enscribed. From listening to the lyrics of the song, I hope I’m not inferring incorrectly that he must have been suffering from a cancer of some kind back then. Obviously, having been going through my own battle recently, this really touched me and the words will resonate with me for a while to come. Haunting. Other songs had an irreverence which I think unfortunately may have been a little over the heads of some of those present, but I really enjoyed all of it. I will definitely be going to see him again next time he’s in Northern Ireland.

Photobucket

All of this added up to being a really special night out. The evening was ยฃ35 per head including wine- stupendously good value. Thanks so much to my aunt for inviting me, and to both Crusoe’s and the musicians for making it a truly memorable night.

26
Apr
09

From the journey home…

I had a gorgeous weekend with my Aunt, and have a post ready to go for tomorrow about our evening out, which was fantastic! I just need to finalise a permission or two and it will be good to go! ๐Ÿ™‚

I got a mixture of bus and train home today. I sat at the top of the double decker bus, and the view was wonderful though the day was cloudy. We were diverted up this little back road, though, and to say it was bumpy was the understatement of the year! That road was not designed to take a bus!!

The mountain you can see in the distance is Slemish, where St Patrick allegedly tended sheep in his formative years-

Photobucket

On the train, coming into Belfast- the Cave Hill is in the background (can you guess why it has it’s name? Someone must have spent YEARS naming that place. So original. ๐Ÿ˜› )

Photobucket

Belfast is really a city on the up- as you can see from all the construction that’s taking place. The city is almost unrecognisable from fifteen or twenty years ago, when pretty much none of the buildings you can see here existed. Lagan Weir is in the foreground.

Photobucket

More building work! You can see the Albert Clock on the right hand side, which dominated the area when I was a child, and was a local hang out for hookers… ๐Ÿ˜€ It now looks so tiny, but it’s about the only non modern construction you can see, as it dates back to Victorian times and is named for Queen Victoria’s husband.

Photobucket

Could this post BE any more random?!

Better things to come during the week, I promise! ๐Ÿ™‚

04
Apr
09

NI Hospice Walk at Castle Ward

Today was the annual charity walk in aid of the Northern Ireland Hospice, so I met up with various family and friends at the Castle Ward Estate to complete the 5 mile walk. It was so much fun! I had a lovely day out. I took about ten thousand photos and can’t begin to post them all, but there are some below. In fact, I may be spamming you a bit today!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Castle Ward is owned by the National Trust and is set in stunning parkland sweeping down to Strangford Lough. The 18th century house itself is really interesting, as the Ward family who built it couldn’t decide what style to make it- the lady of the house wished for Gothic style of architecture whilst her husband preferred Classical. In an unusual move, they made one side of the house Gothic and one side Classical, and even the rooms on the inside are split in this style. It’s a lovely place to visit if stately homes are your bag. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sadly, the walk didn’t allow me to really get any good pictures of the house itself, to my irritation!

Photobucket

I brought the kids, and my brother Brian and friend Heather, in the car, and Ian followed us down on the motorbike. He was to look after the kids while the rest of us did the walk. We were also accompanied by my Dad and some of his friends, not to mention my Dad’s dogs Sophie and Bonzo, and a very special three legged doggie called Archie who is getting on a little in years, but who completed the first half of the walk with great enthusiasm!

Photobucket

The first loop of the walk took us in front of the house, and through the woods, with lovely views of the surrounding countryside. It was quite a clear day, so you could see across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and Scotland, and see over to the Mourne Mountains which aren’t too far away.

Photobucket

When we got back to the start, which you had to go past to complete the second part of the walk, we were met by Ian and the kids, who had apparently wanted to come with us a little of the way.

This turned out to be a bad move- their little legs wouldn’t take them very far and Ian ended up with Ricky on his shoulders (he is big for his age and weighs a ton) pretty much all of the 2 1/2-3 miles…Robbie went mostly on my Dad’s shoulders and some of the time on Brian’s. ๐Ÿ˜€ Needless to say, they were all totally knackered by the time we finished!

My brother Brian with Robbie on his shoulders, and my partner Ian with Ricky weighing him down-

Photobucket

I don’t know why Dad, Brian and Heather are all looking at me like I just jumped out of a hedge with a knife, but they do…

Photobucket

The second loop of the walk took us around Temple Water, a man-made lake, and then down to the familiar woods and 15th century towerhouse at Audley’s Castle- regular readers will know that it’s a favourite haunt of mine.

Me and Heather at Temple Water-

Photobucket

Some from the woods at Audley’s Castle-

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

We then skirted the shoreline until we got back to the estate itself and climbed the hill back up the house and cars.

My Dad then treated us to a gorgeous meal in The Cuan, Strangford, and I had lovely crab claws and mussels.

I really enjoyed my day out, got lots of fresh air and exercise, and contributed to a really worthy cause. Thanks to everyone who walked with me for making it such a wonderful day!




Site Visitors

Calendar

May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Blog Stats

  • 84,462 hits

Contact Me

copingwithchaosblog AT gmail DOT com