Saturday, 4 January 2014

Did Christmas, next Dublin

Diane thought that planning lessons could be likened to planning a holiday. Am I the only who will do the former, but not the latter? This time last year I was up and down from London, getting my visa to visit Moscow, arriving New Year's Eve at a freezing, snowy and deserted Sheremetovo Airport, armed with some roubles and the Rough Guide.

Diane contended that not planning, or rather not over-planning could present nice surprises. Well indeed there were, but the stress of finding the relevant Moscow train station and converting an email print into an actual ticket on one of the only two days in the year when the Russian ticket offices were closed . . . .

Meanwhile back in 2013, I surprised myself by doing it all again. Told the family on Friday I was going to Dublin, and by Saturday evening I had booked trains and ferry and two hotels [including one for New Year's Eve]. Nipped downtown for the Rough Guide; Lola and I made buns and mince pies.

Then the ferry company texted me with news of the cancelled 5.15. Luckily my train ticket were usable all day; unluckily I now had to catch a much earlier train.

Great mirror on the boat steps, waiting to find out how to get off. [See first photo.]

I asked the bus driver if it was a stupid question to ask him if he was going into Dublin. He agreed it was. And while I struggled to work out what 3 euros looked like, he said that Ireland had "feckin' stupid currency". I thought they only said that on Father Ted.

I found my first hotel and stayed there. Exhausted by the journey, but loved the journey.

Next day I took a walk down town, down O'Connell Street, and jumped on Dublin tour bus. But all the places I fancied getting off at had queues, so didn't do anything cultural. Stopped briefly at the Jamieson factory and took a pic of the Christmas Bottle Tree. Used the Rough Guide to advise on a place to eat [the IFI], then moved onto to the glorious Portobello. And met the glorious Valentino.

 By now I have been in email contact with Dee, a friend of mine from ages ago in Blackburn, and who now lives in Dublin. And we are to meet.

There's a knock at the door. It's Dee.

It's been 33 years; I'd recognise her anywhere. Tea in my room; then Guiness in the bar; I see why Dee won't drink the black stuff except in Ireland. It's a whole new taste. She takes the tram back to Dundrum; I sit and muse over another pint.

Dee takes me round the Dublin coast the next day, and we watch people swimming in the Irish Sea on New Year's Eve. Bonkers! And we see a fox. I jump out of the car and several shots of Reynard. Here's one.

I took a chance on Dee being in Dublin when I was, but it worked out great. Phew. Not waiting 33 years to do that again!

In the evening I found a good curry house on Rathmines Road, spend New Year's Eve in the bar, asked the barman to do me a photo.

A random bloke jumped into the picture. As this made me look as if I was having more fun than was actually the case, I thought, why not. Though actually I loved sitting in the Portobello bar reading and ipadding.

With a cautious eye to the weather I booked a plane back home for New Year's Day. That gave me a day to check out Oscar Wilde's statue in Merrion Square, photograph various birds in Stephen's Green, and consider the bridges over the Liffey [the only part of Dublin that I remember from my visit aged ten].

The Rough Guide recommended a cream tea at Gresham's on O'Connell Street while I waited for the 747 to the airport. I duly obliged, but the building in side didn't really live up- to its impressive exterior - there was of a bit of marble but otherwise it was quite lacking in character or atmosphere.

Then after a plane phobic lifetime I got on Aer Lingus whatever and arrived in under an hour in Manchester, without ever doubting that  I would.  

I was also perfecting the art of the selfie while away. Here below is my best effort.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Foxwood Steel and East Steel at Tropical World last night.

Well Debs, it's the last lap and here we all are: you, me, Vicky, Bex, Sarah, Sophie and now Charlotte. What happened to the trio! Hey, I am not complaining!

Now we have not only banned Little Donkey this year, but Last Christmas is about to have its last outing. All right for you lot on tune, but there's only so many times you can play C, Am, Dm, and G before terminal boredom has set in. Despite Bex's (as it turns out, correct) misgivings, we attempt to sight-read Sleigh Ride in the semi-dark again. Debs and I do our best to go wrong in different places.

Next East Steel  Mark 2 arrive. This is Wendy, Jeanette, Becky, Cathy, guesting as himself: Peter, me, Bex, Vicky. Shortly after take-off there's a terrible noise of metal on metal as someone's torch drops over the balcony onto a soprano pan. We all feel sick, but it seems to have not hurt any of our beloved steelpans. However Bex refuses to give back the torch until its owner is on the same level as us.

And here ends our steelband year.