Photohunt Magical

My daughter’s idea of a magic kingdom….

So, that year in summary…

Welll… I’d said it was probably the toughest year of my life. And possibly also the best. Here’s a photo montage of some of the highlights.


The Gambia, Calum’s Road, leaving in January in heavy snow, heavy laden bike, The Butcher’s Shop restaurant (where we got food poisoning), and a return to the original road on Raasay.

Severe weather conditions, but spring arriving!

Volcanic ash disruption, and alternative ways home. Prince Charles waving to me, and Meet the Meat.
New iPhone!

New abode – planes trains and automobiles.

Bad bananas and mad dogs.

Talented daughter and bf.

Pangalactic gargleblasters on 101010.

Parking fine and flat tyre.

Major work to the Beahive – shed, bathroom, boiler, furniture from IKEA, where I’m now on first name terms with the staff.

The many aspects of me – new hair, new bag, my Trilogettes, dressing up as Doc for a Back-to-the-future-a-thon, Beatrix, working out measurements in the Numbers room, balloons, bingo by the pool, dancing with Chris Hollins….and getting engaged!

I’ve ended the year 1/2 a stone lighter than I began, and I hope 2011 will be as full of adventure and fun !

One week later

Last Saturday, having a bare necessities of a working loo and a fridge, I slept in the new house for the first time. So I’ve been here now one whole week.

The to-do list has shortened from eleventy-million items to a mere handful, and I’ve slept really well every night – despite the noise from the nearby planes trains and automobiles! But trains only run between 6 and 11, and planes between 6.30 and 10, so the only continuous noise is the traffic on the bypass, which is distant enough and constant enough to be almost a white noise background.

a plane landing against the setting sun

Planes and cranes

The most striking thing is how quickly I felt at home here. OK, I’ve lived in lots of different places, but I’ve lived in Belfast longer than anywhere else – East Belfast in particular. I love being so close to shops, that an Indian takeaway can find the address easily, that I can just walk across the footbridge to Victoria Park, that I can see the sunset from my back garden.
Had a real houseful on Friday – cousin Karen called in as she lives nearby, a friend M was staying the night, daughter and bf were also staying as they were heading to Dublin first thing on Saturday, AND I was looking after Max for the weekend. I was in my element with the place being full of life and chatter. Karen reminded me that it was 11 years since the France eclipse, and so we dug out the video tape of Jem’s 6th birthday in Disneyland Paris, and had a good ole reminisce…

In my dreams…

I’ll apologize in advance for the self-indulgent and wallowing nature of this blogpost.  I know I’m peri-menopausal, and I can feel a bout of depression about to descend.  And I feel myself yearning for things I know I cannot have.


this apartment for instance.

Affordable, certainly, but impractical without any Max-factor.  And yet I so want to view it.

And then there’s
this car.

Again, impractical, but I want it.

And I’m toying with some faux self-analysis – why do I want these things? Do I only think I want them?  Am I mourning the fact that children and dogs are compromising my choices? Why do I need a wow-factor in my life..sorry..possessions?  Am I that shallow?

I suspect that living alone will precipitate more of these navel gazing type considerations.

But for now, I’m going to go view that apartment. No harm in looking!

Everything Could Change

After Thursday, everything could change.

jemima in front of the just dance dome in Edinburgh

Firstly, Jem has her audition with Doreen Bird College.  She quite likes Bird, having attended a course there last Easter and being awarded the certificate for Hardest Working Student. But just getting a place isn’t enough: without a Dance and Drama Award (DADA) there’s no way we could afford it.  Even with a DADA it would be tough – living costs in London are eye-wateringly expensive, and as this would be higher education, not further education, she wouldn’t be able to get a student loan.  So all costs have to be funded real time.  The plus side is that when she qualifies she wouldn’t have a student loan to pay off.

I still feel that at barely 17, which she’d be in September, she’s too young to go off to London on her own. And she’s quite amenable to waiting for another year.  Her bf has 2 more years to do at Uni here, and she could start her Diploma at Belfast Metropolitan College, which has a good reputation for dance, particularly contemporary.

At exactly the same time as her audition, Rog has a hospital appointment to look at his heart.  If you were making a movie of my life, you’d be doing cut-away shots between the both.  I know he’s very anxious about this, and what it might mean.  Though I do think that anyone really worried about their heart should have an incentive to stop smoking. Anyhoo, concerns about his future are making it awkward for us to discuss our  future.  Having lived apart now for nearly 4 months, I prefer it this way, so if I’m going to find somewhere new to live I’d really like to start planning that sooner rather than later.  Though I suppose it could wait till we find out the result of J’s audition.

And it’s no surprise that I’m writing this in  the middle of the  night!

It’s not untidy!

A friend had been admiring the pictures of my new flat BEFORE I’d moved in, and had asked if it was still that tidy.  Well here’s how it looks this evening.

A living room with lots of items scattered around it

My lounge, my life.

I think I taught myself to look at untidiness a different way when the kids were younger – instead of seeing mess, I chose to see evidence of painting, homeworks, reading, music making etc.

So this isn’t untidy.  In it I can see:

1. Lovely tasty lemony olives as snacking material while I cook.

2. A Stig soap on a rope – bargain at the supermarket, early birthday present for Harry.  Stig themed presents are a long standing joke.

3. Dance Direct catalogue – for Jem and I to pore over all the lovely leotards. Next audition for Bird College in April.  Booked cheapo Ryanair flights today – under £90 for 3 of us.

4. Champagne – to take to my sister’s tomorrow for my niece’s birthday, where my parents will also be.  Sis is now a short bus ride away.

5. Cardboard boxes for when I move on again!  This place is a 6 month rent. which gives me time to sort out what the future holds, and do some unhurried property hunting.

6. Chief, our cuddly dog.  One of Matty’s presents to Jem – soppy gits the pair of them!  It’s no substitute for Max, but he’s quite nice to cuddle up to of an evening. Without a TV we watch quite a few DVDs together, which is so lovely, even if its only on a teeny pink portable set.

7. A fruitbowl containing both plastic and real fruit.  The plastic fruit was acquired from eBay to make a Carmen Miranda style hat for Jem doing a Caribbean number, where she sings “At the Copa, Copacabana, the hottest spot north of Fermanagh”.  Ah how we laughed!  And I’m always encouraging the children to eat more real fruit…

8. The balcony.  Well, it’s what estate agents call a “Juliet balcony”, meaning it’s patio doors with railings, but no actual outdoor space.  Having said that, I did open the doors this evening to enjoy the dusk falling through the trees, while I enjoyed a chilled white wine leaning on the blacony rails.

We’ve been here a month now, and it’s just so stress-free.  Jem, Matty and I all get on really well together, and no-body’s overly bothered by the odd bit of mess.  I’m re-learning how to cook for myself, so shopping trips aren’t totally smooth yet, but we’re getting there.  Jem seems to live on cheese, bread, ham, bacon, potato waffles, pasta and tomato sauce.  Could be worse, I guess!

Have just asked them what they think.

Jem: ” I love it – it’s just so calm”

Matty: “Amazing!”


The door of an underground car-park, stuck 2/3 way down

I’d just been congratulating myself on being such an efficient Little Red Hen: having to move all my stuff from the big house to my new apartment, and pack every box myself, carry it down 3 flights of stairs, load it into my tiny car, and then carry it up 3 flights of stairs in the new place…

To be fair, Jem and Matty have been wonderful, M especially as he can carry the heavy boxes, and also being 6 foot 5 is great for fixing lightshades etc 😉

Anyhoo, went over today after lunch with the penultimate (I hope!) lot of kitchen jars, all the bits and bobs off my desk, and my concertina file of documents. (And my Scrabble dictionary, so all my opponents should make the most of this opportunity!)

The underground car park door opened OK with my remote, I unloaded all the boxes, a passing resident asked if I needed help, I smiled sweetly and accepted his offer with the heavy stuff, and he introduced himself as Tommy, from a flat 2 floors down.

All the boxes safely inside, I set about unpacking and re-arranging. Jem, as I said, has been an absolute star, and donated her iPod base unit to the communal living area, so I slotted in my newly re-found big iPod (the Shuffle lives in my handbag) and the first song it chose was “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing”.

I sang along as I hammered the feet into Jem’s computer desk, and re-arranged the position of the shoe rack in my bedroom, thanking my lucky stars yet again fro finding such a beautiful and LARGE apartment.

Still singing, I stacked some empty boxes to take back with me, and went back down to teh car park.  The roller door was stuck about 2/3 way down.  I pressed the remote button.  Nothing.  I got out and pressed all the buttons by the side of the door – no response.  Luckliy, I’d recently imported all my contacts into my new iPhone, so I called the owner of the apartment (no reply), and then the letting agent.  They in turn got the maintenance people to ring me, who asked if I’d pressed all the buttons.  Ok, they’d send someone out but it might be an hour before they got to me.

Time passed.

I listened to the radio – Dermot O’Leary was on.  I thought I’d send him a text about my predicament just to pass the time.  He played me a dedication! Paulo Nutini, too <wow>

Time passed.

Tommy re-appeared, leaving out some rubbish.  He tried pressing all the buttons, too, and nothing happened, though we had a nice little chat.

Time passed.

Another resident appeared, and started putting a suitcase into his BMW. I explained that the door was stuck, but he said “Oh it’s done this before, I managed to get it to open” and he proceeded to press all the buttons…and to my amazement, the door opened!  He wasn’t able to tell me what the magic sequence was, sadly, but Freedom!

I’d been planning on taking Max for a last walk together.  It is undoubtedly strange being in this position: tonight is quite possibly the last night I’ll spend in the big house.  And while I’m pretty sure I’ll see Max again, and take him for walkies, we don’t really know what shape the future will be.

Jem is sooo looking forward to leaving the big house, and absolutely adores the new place.  I feel sad that she feels no regrets at leaving the big house – doesn’t want any reason to come back her and doesn’t want to see Roger again. But am so impressed at her positive attitude to moving, fresh start, her helpfulness and cheerfulness.

The owner’s just phoned me as I’m typing this, very apologetic about the inconvenience.  He’d just been round himself and apparently the door is stuck again, so maybe he can put some pressure on to the maintenance crowd to get it sorted.

Meanwhile, I’m off to The Gambia tomorrow, where it’s currently 40 degrees!!!

Still singing “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing”….