Aaaah, a new day and things seem a bit brighter. The work situation still isn't great but it looks like my organisation may have been granted a stay of execution in so far as it seems like there are no immediate plans to disband us. I suppose I always knew that a quango was a risky place to be in the event of a change of government but I like my job and really hope I don't lose it! Anyway, that's the update there - I won't be signing on just yet.
Well, it's time for me to write about what I've been up to. I have some ground to cover so don't feel like you have to read this whole thing...I'll try to break it up with some pictures anyway to make it less boring.
So...I broke up work for my holidays the Friday before last, the 14th May. I had to be in our London office for an important handover of materials. I don't like going to London on a Friday, because of the way it prolongs my work day, but I had a really nice day. I was feeling a bit demob happy, I think, and the sun was shining, and I had a pub lunch with some of my colleagues which was all good. I caught the nice train home and then had an evening in the pub with good friends.
On Saturday Nic had a surprise planned which turned out to be another boat trip! We went over to Birmingham in the morning and spent the morning pottering around. We had lunch in the Mailbox and discovered that BBC Birmingham had some exciting Doctor Who props:
It was very cool, apparently they'd only had them in for a few days and had lots of people stopping to have their photo taken like we were. Nic and I are going to go on a tour of the studios soon, it's where The Archers is recorded! Anyway, after that we headed down to Gas Street to go on a barge trip around some of Birmingham's canals. It had been organised to mark the beginning of Birmingham Jazz Festival and, as such, entertainment was being provided by the trumpeter Digby Fairweather. He was really marvellous, a beautiful trumpet player and a gentlemanly performer. The weather was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
News that the volcanic ash cloud was closing Northern Irish airspace didn't worry me unduly on Saturday evening but I woke up on Sunday morning to find that our flight that afternoon had been cancelled. I was so disappointed, I can't tell you. I got on the phone to our airline, who booked us on a flight for the following afternoon but of course there was no guarantee that it would fly. I spoke to my parents, who told me to try to enjoy the day and let them know what was happening. Nic and I did try to enjoy our Sunday, but I was utterly exhausted and pretty miserable about not being able to go home. We had a potter around the continental market that was being run on the Parade, and read the paper in the garden of Cafe Corleone, and had dinner with an episode of Morse. Airspace was still closed when we woke up on the Monday morning and if anything, I was less optimistic about the prospects of getting home. I was starting to make plans in my head around going back to work, and taking my leave at a later time...and the thought of doing that was making me want to boke. As I couldn't get through to the airline on the phone, and the Birmingham airport website wasn't working, Nic and I decided to go to the airport. Airspace opened again at 1, our flight was at 5...and as you know, I did make it home. It was only a minor delay, and I know lots of people had suffered far worse, but it was an additional layer of stress that I just did not need.
It was amazing to be greeted by my parents at the airport, though. The big cuddle I got from my daddy made up for the stress, and that evening he rearranged our return flights (we had planned to return on Friday but he booked us new flights to come back on Sunday instead) and it just felt so nice to be home.
Tuesday morning dawned bright and sunny, so we took our cups of tea out to the pond in the garden to enjoy the sunshine:
After a leisurely morning Nic and I took a walk down the road to the nearby Black Lough. As loughs go it's a little one, but I love it down there. My dad and I took Nic down there for a walk on his first night in Northern Ireland a few years ago and ever since then, he's loved it too. The view you get of Dungannon from there is lovely - it looks so pretty all nestled in the hills:
We dandered around the lough and then my dad collected us and took us over to Aughnacloy to have lunch in my sister's cafe, Coffee Bean. From there we headed over to Cookstown and had a look around the shops there. Nothing too exciting, but it just felt so nice to be at home!
On Wednesday Daddy had an appointment in Omagh, and asked if Nic and I would like to spend a few hours there while he was working. Nic had never been, and I hadn't been to Omagh for a fair few years, so off we went. It was very nice - we had lunch in Serendipity Cafe on Bridge Street, which I can highly recommend. We visted the Garden of Remembrance that was built in memory of the victims of the Omagh bomb in 1998, and had a walk along the river Strule. I was surprised by how upset and emotional I felt in the Garden of Remembrance. I had been in Donegal at the Gaeltacht on the day the bomb went off - it was our last day there and we found out as we were getting ready to go out to the ceili on the last night. Our coach home to Dungannon went via Omagh, and being on the coach home with people from Omagh, and travelling through the devestated town the following day is something I'll never forget.
Anyway, that evening Nic and I had made plans to go out for drinks with my good friend Paul. We met again in Hagan's Bar in Dungannon, and despite my plans to be good and get to bed early, we ended up staying until closing time. Again, we had a brilliant night and I must say again what a good bar Hagan's really is. At the end of the night, when we thought we might not be able to get a taxi home the barman Dessie offered to take us home! As it was he was able to get us a taxi, but that's the kind of bar it is. It was amazing to spend time with Paul again and I had a thoroughly enjoyable night.
We were up early on Thursday morning to catch the bus to Belfast. Nic was somewhat hungover (as a result of switching from Guinness to Morgan's Spiced and coke partway through the evening, I think) and he did not enjoy the bus journey! Once we were out into the fresh air he was fine, however. First stop was the waterfront, or the Titanic Quarter as it has been renamed. I was very tickled by the offer of a 'Titanic Boat Tour' of the River Lagan (er...no thanks!) and even more so by the slogan She was fine when she left here! Nic met the Lagan Big Fish:
We had a potter around some of the vintage shops, and Nic abated his hangover by getting a slice of pizza from Little Wing Pizza, which was delicious. We went up to Botanic Avenue for a cup of tea and a browse around No Alibis bookshop before having lunch in Cafe Renoir. Then we enjoyed the sunshine in the Botanic Gardens before spending the rest of our afternoon in the Ulster Museum. I haven't been in since it was closed for refurbishment, and have been wanting to take Nic there ever since we've been together. We had an excellent afternoon, and I especially enjoyed all of the Natural History section. We walked down University Road to get back to the bus station and stopped into Bookfinders Bookshop and cafe for a cup of tea and to rest our tired wee feet. It was the perfect way to spend the day in Belfast! We met my parents back in Dungannon, they were shopping in the Tesco next to Beech Valley Bus Station:
Nic was a bit surprised to meet Holmes and Watson in Dungannon.
Tayto! You can understand why I'm looking so happy in this photo.
Friday was a very lazy day - our only lie-in of the whole week, and we didn't do much except walk into Dungannon for an ice-cream and a look in the shops. On Saturday we went back over to Aughnacloy to spend the day there. My dad is involved with the development association in the town, and Saturday was the grand opening of the McCready Mill Gardens. The development association entered a UTV competition called Glorious Gardens last year, to have a neglected space turned into a garden. They won one of the places and TV gardener Eugene Higgins designed a garden at the end of last year. UTV filmed it in October and they were there to film the opening on Saturday. My sister's cafe was providing the lunch, and the mayor gave a speech as did one of the members of the association. It was a bit like a village fete, and it was lovely. Nic and I helped with setting out the tables and making the drinks and suchlike, and sat around in the sun enjoying ourselves. I'll let y'all know when it's on TV, you might see us lurking around in the background. Afterwards we stopped by to see my aunt and uncle and some of my cousins, before heading over to see my grandmother. On Saturday evening we had planned to go out with my siblings, back to Hagan's bar. It took my sisters a while to get ready but it was worth it - Colleen cut my hair and blow-dried it, and we were good to go:
My siblings and I by the pond, with a wee blow-in. Daniel, Kelly, me, Colleen and our friend Mary
We had another lovely night - Hagan's was much busier, but just as nice. There were a big crowd of us, including our cousin Brian, and we had lots of fun. Paul came out again as well, which was an extra treat. Despite getting home early, we got to bed very late and I didn't sleep well. We had to get up early as we were flying from Dublin this time, but I had a nice sleep in the car on the way down. I was sad to say goodbye to my parents, but glad to have had such a lovely week and very grateful for the opportunity to stay a little bit longer.
We got back to Leamington early enough to enjoy some of the sunshine, so Nic and I took ourselves down to the park to sunbathe. We were lucky enough to run into Tom, and spent a very pleasant afternoon there with him. I had planned to go to the vintage fair that was being held in the Pump Rooms, but all things considered I'm glad that I didn't. It was better to be in the sunshine, I think. I took myself to bed early and Nic and I caught up on Doctor Who (pretty good, although the new Silurians do look crap) and The Junior Apprentice on the iplayer. Of course I was distressed midway through by the news about the cuts, which somewhat marred the end of my holiday, but I suppose I've been through that!
Anyway, that's the update on my adventures in Northern Ireland! I hope I didn't bore you all too much with it. I think this week is going to be a quiet one - I'm going to see Sugar Plum and Martha, and hopefully Lauren as well. I hope to get through some laundry so that I have clean and ironed clothes to take to Paris, seeing an old friend on Saturday and hopefully not getting any more stressed out by work. Well, we'll have to wait and see on that last one I suppose!