Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Visit to Portrush

When I was a child we went on holiday and days out to Portrush, or The Port as we called it, on the north coast of Northern Ireland.  I returned there couple of weeks ago with my sisters and our families to find that some things had changed but much had remained the same.  I was pleased to see that this building the Arcadia, which seemed very glamorous when I was little, has been restored and is now an art gallery, cafe and wedding venue.  I remember going to a 'disco' there in the 70s (What ever happened to discos?) and apparently The Stranglers played here in 1978 supported by The Undertones.  Would like to say that I was there but really I had no idea about this until I googled it a couple of minutes ago.

Don't be fooled by the blue skies - it was fairly chilly the day we visited, as it nearly always was.  But just as we had often braved the freezing Atlantic water, our children - well the smaller ones anyway - were right in there paddling and getting wet as soon as we got onto the beach.  It was really busy too, everyone determined to enjoy themselves and defy the weather. 

After a while on the beach we headed for Barry's Amusement Park, where we spent much of our days on damp Sunday School excursions. I loved it then: my favourite rides were the cyclone and the Ghost Train and I loved playing the arcade games where you could race little horses or win money by making the coins tip over the edge.   I was brave enough to try the Big Dipper roller coaster a few times as a teenager, but was never that keen.  Now there are more rides outside, but my favourites are still there and the Ghost Train doesn't seem to have changed at all in nearly 50 years.  The actor, James Nesbitt, worked there once and seemed to share my memories as you can see on this You Tube clip.  Sadly the man featured in the clip, Colm Quinn, who worked on the Hobby Horses all his life until he was 79, died earlier this year.

I brought my daughter here when she was little and she rode on the hobby horses just like I did.  This time, though, I found it a bit too noisy in Barry's so I left her to take her little cousins on the ghost train and went for a more peaceful walk around Ramore Head with husband and dog.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Five on Friday: Sisters

Sisters on the Strand in Portrush 
I am one of five sisters and last week we were all together for a few days in Northern Ireland, a rare event as Sister number 4 lives in New Zealand.  She returned for a visit this month and we all gathered for a reunion in our family home in Ballyronan.  With husbands and 8 of the 11 children we have between us, that made for quite a large party and it was a bit of a squeeze.  We hired a holiday home in Magherafelt, aptly named Ronan Cottage, so my husband, accompanied by our dog also called Ronan, could, at times, escape the smaller children and watch the Tour de France.

We had a lovely week.  The weather wasn't great but there were still plenty of walks to the lough, the playground and the little beach at Ballyronan marina.  Our children range in age from 6 to 23 and while the older ones were either working or travelling the world, the others enjoyed seeing each other.  I hardly saw my daughter all week as she stayed with the cousins in Ballyronan, entertaining the little ones and hanging out with 12 year old cousin Sarah from New Zealand.  There were also football games and Mario Cart battles with the big boy cousin, Callum.

We also saw some of the extended family and invited cousins to a barbecue one evening - the sun shone even though it was a touch chilly and it was good to see everyone again and welcome them to the house which was always full of visitors when Dad was alive.  And another relatively sunny but chilly day, we took a trip to the seaside and visited Portrush, where we used to go for holidays and Sunday School excursions.

When I get together with my sisters we tend to revert to our childhood family roles. This is not something I was aware of until my husband pointed it out.  This picture of three of us taken in Portrush in about 1966 kind of illustrates this. I'm the good girl, always keen to please: look at my smile and neatly folded arms, whereas Sister 2, is the cheeky one with her tongue out.  So it was no surprise then when last week she avoided the cooking and the washing up and chose instead to entertain her small nephews by playing Dragon Trail on the Ipad with them.

Sometimes people say we are similar and I suppose in some ways we are. I'm more aware of differences than similarities.  I'm the only teacher and the only Arts graduate, most of the others leant more towards Science or Maths. Two are opticians(or optometrists, the official term) but are very different personalities. The other two are very organised (unlike me) and have the kind of managerial jobs which require them to travel abroad at times. One sister has a very lively social life, I prefer a quieter life with some time on my own, just as I did as a teenager when I was the only one to have a bedroom to myself. Three of us read similar kinds of books, recommending writers to each other; one prefers fantasy- Game of Thrones type stuff, and one doesn't read very much at all.  I could go on....

When we are together, it is very loud.  Husband says we all talk at once and shout each other down. There was quite a lot of that last week - sitting around drinking wine after dinner and talking.  There was also a bit of bickering over the chores and other stuff - as there always was - I'm not painting a picture of a perfect family here.  But we don't fall out for long.  I love my sisters and count myself lucky to be part of a close family.

Linking again with Amy at Love Made my Home.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Catching Up with Myself.........

Ramore Head, Portrush, 15th July 2015

 I seem to have had an unintentional blogging break - no posts for a whole month.  Where have I been? What have I been doing?

Where does the time go? Does anybody know? (That's a line from a song which has stuck in my mind.  Might be Julia Fordham, but will have to check with husband who will know this)

I think that's the reason I blog - for the record.  To capture and remember the things I do.  An online diary really which I share with others.  I'm getting braver too, telling people I know, including relatives, about the blog. This has pros and cons.  If I know my readers, I tend to self-censor in case I cause offence or reveal something embarrassing.

So what's the craic...

Yes, I've just spent a week in Northern Ireland and so have rediscovered dormant vocabulary.  I was foundered all week as the temperature was a coolish 14 degrees. But that visit deserves a post of its own. And now I'm back, and it's the school summer holidays, there's plenty of time to hang around in pjs writing this instead of doing housework.  (I've just had an embarrassing encounter with an Amazon delivery bloke who turned up at the open back door to discover me in my grotty pjs; husband's instructions said leave parcel round back!)

But I digress...

I've not been blogging because I've been...

Celebrating birthdays...

 My own last Saturday, husband's at the beginning of July and my friend's 50th at the end of June.  For my friend's birthday I organised a spa day for six of us at a local hotel.  Good fun hanging out in their pool, chatting and drinking fizz all day though I'm not so sure the treatments are worth it.

My birthday last Saturday was a non-event since we spent most of it travelling back from NI via Cairnryan, but we did go for a meal on Friday night to celebrate in advance.  We ate in the Church Street Restaurant in Magherafelt which I think is in the building that once housed the shop where Mummy bought our Clark's shoes.   Times have changed and I could hardly believe there was such a posh establishment in Magherafelt. We were even served an extra mini course of fennel and potato soup in tiny coffee cups - just like a Michelin starred restaurant!  A lovely meal and a lovely evening, though missed my girl who wanted to spend the last evening of her holiday with her cousins.

Saying goodbye....
To Songsmiths, my choir and specifically Rick and Dawn Smith who have lead the choir for the last eight years but are now moving abroad to teach in Brunei.  We had a final concert on the 6th July, many of us getting a bit emotional as we sung 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' and  'Tell me it's not True' for the last time.

Songsmiths at Eaton Hall, Christmas 2012
Another goodbye..
We also said goodbye to my wonderful colleague, Louise, at school.  She has been such an inspiration to me and my daughter and will be greatly missed.  She is leaving teaching to pursue her interest in the United Nations, doing voluntary work for them and helping to set up more model UN conferences like the one we attended in Holland. I organised a small party here in the last week of term to show our appreciation of her.

Going on school trips.....
To London with Year 11 for a tour of the Houses of Parliament, a visit to the National Portrait Gallery and a wander round Covent Garden.  I went for a walk in shady St James Park at lunch time while the rest of the staff and the kids sat in the sun in Trafalgar Square.  I'd not been there for years and had forgotten how beautiful it is.

St James' Park, London, June 2015

Some of the reasons I've not been here.  More catching up soon so watch this space.  And welcome new readers, especially cousins!