|Norn Iron - Sept 03|
I'd got home between half twelve and one the night before, drank a few pints of water, apologised to the cats for waking them up and crawled off to bed. Friday morning came around all too soon. When the alarm went off at normal get ready for work time, I started to question the wisdom of our breakfast arrangements. Still, I struggled bravely on, got ready, had a cuppa and headed into the morning rush hour with Geoff. He dropped me off and headed off to his regular Friday breakfast "meeting" and I wandered in the general direction of James' hotel. I'd remembered how to use my phone ok this morning and managed to establish that James wasn't quite ready to face the world yet. So I wandered the sunny streets, feeling not at all sorry for all those rat-racers charging off to work.
James arrived, checked out and joined me at a small and noisy coffee shop whilst we tried to track Paul down. I got fed up with the non-stop stream of people walking past and suggested we head over to the Delaney's where we'd meet Paul. They were just opening when we got there, but had somehow managed already to generate a restaurant full of greasy food smell. James and I just had the tea, and as I drank it I felt the first twinges of a headache coming on. I went to the loos to take some anadin (and get away from the greasy smell!). And that was where my morning went wrong when I almost choked on the second tablet. Headlines flashed before me "cleaner tidies plastic fern display in cloakroom and finds customer dead and buried beneath it". I know I'm not great at taking tablets, but this was ridiculous. Even after the choking had subsided I was convinced I still had the tablet stuck halfway down my throat.
I was delighted to find the guys had changed their minds about breakfast in Delaney's, so we drank our tea and headed out in search of murals. I couldn't help passing up thanks that we hadn't been in Bar Bacca in time for their two-for-one cocktail promotions. The text from Glenn warning me about the dangers of daiquiri would have been a lot more welcome the night before! A bagel for James, and a quick chat to a chemist (and some pink stuff) for me and we were off again. I slugged some pink stuff, bagsied the back seat of the Gordonmobile and settled in for a doze. Paul started off his Belfast tour with a trip up the Falls Road and back again, pointing out the murals to an unusually-quiet James. I woke up enough to wipe pink drool off the car seat and suggest a quick trip up to Ardoyne (scene of the Holy Cross riots). We drove ourselves into a dead end, turned round and headed towards Ballysillan Road for some murals of another persuasion. The final part of our "wall art" trip took place across the Westlink, in the east of the City around Newtownards Road and Dee Street areas. [all links are to murals we passed]
By this stage of the morning I'd had enough of both the murals and sleep, thankfully our driver was more than happy to take up my suggestion of starting our coastal trip. We scooted up the motorway to Carrickfergus, stopping off at the Castle to admire the midget King Billy. (This reminds me, I've forgotten to look up the sign ?bagni publici? and see what language it really was). I dragged the guys into Maud's, because ice-cream seemed the sensible thing to do when you're beside the sea and the sun's shining.
We left Carrick and headed towards the Coast Road, passing through the tiny village of Eden on the way. Somewhere along this road James caught my headache, but being a bloke refused to suggest stopping off anywhere for medicine. I offered to see if I could hoike up the stuck tablet but he didn't seem keen. Just as well since the pink stuff had done the trick by then. We stopped in the shade of the Antrim Glens at Cushendall where the air was thick with the smell of turf fires and the Spar shop was happy to sell us crisps, lemonade and headache tablets. It was like something out of a Famous Five adventure, except there was 3 of us and more drugs involved. Paul demonstrated his driving skills by negotiating some interestingly twisty roads whilst drinking diet coke and eating crisps.
We survived the roller-coaster stage of the journey and made it to the Giant's Causeway all in one piece. The sun was still splitting the stones here, but there was a wind that would take your breath away every now and then. There weren't many tourists at this late stage of the season, but there were enough to make James complain that he'd hardly heard a local accent since he got here. As punishment for this we made him walk down to the causeway, up to the Giant's Organ and all the way up the Shepherds' Steps to the cliff path. Walking in the wind and the heat soon had me fantasising about lemonade and National Trust teashop buns. So it was a great relief to get to the end of the path, even when I saw the sign which said "We don't recommend you use the cliff-top path today because of the strong cross-winds". Can't help thinking it would have been more useful at the bottom of the steps instead of back at the tearoom. The Thursday night kitty was still going strong on the Friday - hmm, we should probably have bought Noel a stick of rock to make up for him not being there for lemonade :)
Paul and I thought it was time James saw a less picturesque view of Norn Iron so we headed off to Portrush in search of food. Preferably food involving chips. It's a good drive from the Causeway, you pass Dunluce Castle and some lovely beaches before arriving at the scaled down Blackpool that is Portrush. I had some sneaky plans of going to a nice wee restaurant with a tacky nautical theme (they've got half a boat built in the middle of the dining area!), but our early arrival scuppered that. So instead we ate in a very small caff on the ground floor of the Methodist Hall. The two Ulster Fries and one burger and chips went down well with all. I've still got a wee burn on my lip from the scalding tea though. If I was an American I'd have sued them. We were too late in the season for the great Portrush tradition that is Barry's Amusements, but James managed to strike it lucky in Phil's winning almost �1.50 on 2 slot machines.
On the journey south again Paul suggested detouring to the Knockagh Monument to give James a panoramic view of Belfast and to fill in as much of his time here as possible. It was a very good call - I can't remember the last time the view from Knockagh has been clear enough to show the Mourne Mountains.
And then suddenly it was time to head to the airport. To judge from the flow of increasingly annoyed texts later that evening, it wasn't quite the end of the meet then. I gather James didn't make it home until after two in the morning and will never, ever be flying BMI Baby again. Hope he enjoyed himself in spite of the travel troubles.
This page was last updated on 28-Sep-2003.