Discovering Northern Ireland

Well we’ve definitely made ourselves at home here in Belfast. We are starting to know our way around Whiterock now which is the area that we are staying, not by street names of course but more so by our own little landmarks like the lane full of the tiny flies that try and fly into your mouth and the infamous ‘smell your dick’ graffiti which I always read in my head as we walk through, the keep Whiterock clean mural and the dilapidated house right near our little apartment in Sliabh dubh which is Irish for Black mountain. Will never forget the first night in Belfast when we sat down to have a tin of beer at Aunt Ann’s and Kathleen’s cousin Megan sat there in her school uniform and cracked open what we thought was also a can of beer, Kathleen and I just looked at each other thinking ‘oh my god we know the Irish are drinkers but this is very liberal’ before finding out it was an energy drink.

We never really understood what it must’ve been like to live here during the troubles. The people are so welcoming and happy to talk about their experiences and the murals and memorials are like tattoos of a beautiful place that has been scarred by years of turmoil. Some of the stories we have heard since we’ve been here are truly shocking, I get a sense that it’s important for the people of Ireland to look to the future but to never forget what has happened in the past.

So we have just spent the last two days in a Kathleen’s Aunt Mary’s caravan in Cushendall, they say caravan but it was more like a gorgeous cozy little cottage not far from a small town with a few pubs, shops and one or two restaurants. We eagerly hopped in the car excited to explore more of the north, the sun and rain have been playing tricks on us the last few days and will switch themselves off and on at a moment’s notice. Driving to Cushendall we felt as though we were chasing the sun as we would catch up to it and then it would move away again. Driving in we drove past a few of Mary’s friends on the side of the road waving and we waved back as we were driving thinking to ourselves aren’t the people here friendly? It turned out they had a flat tire and they were waving for us to stop but we had a great laugh about it later that evening when we caught up with them.

The scenery driving down (I’m actually not sure if Cushendall was up or down!) was breathtaking Ireland surely must have the greenest countryside in the world and the rolling hills and valleys dotted with sheep and cows made for postcard like photo’s.

We slept really well that night in the neighboring caravan as there were a fair few of us by that stage. The fresh air must’ve really done us good. We walked around the little town and stopped by a café and that gangnam style song keeps coming on wherever we are and it’s so odd to be sitting in a café in a small town in Northern Ireland and hearing that song all of a sudden, we simply cannot escape it!

I am really enjoying myself, am drinking copious amounts of tea and starting to pick up the lingo like the locals here. Janet took us for a drive to Ballycastle which is basically a little seaside town with little shops along the promenade. I could live off fish and chips here if I wasn’t concerned about my figure. And the chip shops or ‘chippies’ they have over here sell chips smothered in all sorts of fatty goodness whereby the closest thing we have in OZ is chips and gravy but these guys have mayo, and cheese and curry sauce and taco chips and peas and gravy and onions and garlic (and the list goes on) oh and did I mention the fried soda bread yum!

The first night Kathleen and I got a wee bit drunk in the caravan and had another Westlife sing-along with Mary much to her father’s dismay. We stopped by the local pub on our quest for dinner and the locals were very friendly, especially a bloke called Paddy who was pissed at 5pm and was desperately trying to get us all to go another pub for a sing-along – the Irish love a good sing along.

We went for a walk today and came across the local farmers dog Bob who is pretty much always sopping wet as it rains a lot and he hangs around waiting for food. We threw a stick hoping he would run after it and as he walked to it we got excited but he kept on walking. Then we came across these three sheep in a paddock nearby who were really curious about us and all stopped to stare at us almost like they were posing for a photograph. We later came back and again they posed for us but they kept teasing us all the time coming closer and then backing off so Kathleen joked that we should try reverse psychology and pretend we were going to walk away and see if they would come closer and it worked! Who would’ve thought it would work on sheep.

I bought a lovely orange dress from H & M for the wedding and then got paranoid that it would be an inappropriate colour to wear to an Irish Catholic wedding but I checked with everyone and it seems that I think too much! Lots of girls here are trying to re – create the ‘Cheryl Cole’ huge bun on top of the head with the really dark drawn on eyebrows and tights and hoop earrings. They all look really angry with their eyebrows and hair pulled back severely and huge heels that look more like weapons than fashion.

Kathleen and I keep screwing up things in the apartment like first we couldn’t get the heating to work which turned out not to be our fault. Then yesterday we couldn’t open the front door – then we opened the doors leading out into the courtyard and couldn’t lock them again. The other day we couldn’t lock the front door, then we couldn’t work the oven and then the washing machine set itself to 9 hours! the latest is the toilet wont flush but we are too embarrassed to say anything just yet. We are hoping that if we leave it for a bit it will just correct itself – but the cat will be out of the bag if Bernadette reads this blog post! I really, really wish I hadn’t gone this morning (so embarrassing)

So now we’re hoping to rent a car next week to drive to Omagh where my ancestors are from and Kathleen also wants to check out the rope bridge but the weather is a bit windy for it at the moment. Tomorrow we head down south to the Republic of Ireland to visit more relatives in Shannon!

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