How to dissappear completely – part 3

I take it all back. Tents are great places to sleep.

Lights out at 2230 last night and after a few pages of Winston I was out like the light. Woken only by a car alarm going off at 0130. Simy looked up briefly and mumbled a confused “but I don’t have a car” and rolled off to sleep again.

Morning refused to bring with it the long promised rain but did bring a brisk easterly wind and a dank grey morning.

After a quick brekkie and clear up we paddled out of the harbour at the marina. After some water over the deck and a shift of 100 yds towards shore wisdom got the better of valour and i made the gentle suggestion to simon that maybe we don’t do this at all. This was followed by a hasty “I concur” and we headed back to the harbour with our paddles between our legs. (now that would have been most impressive…)

A full 10 mins canoeing we got in. All just to go 3.5 miles across the top of the Lough and we couldn’t manage it.

We could have done it. say if I was carrying vital plans to destroy the death star or there was a man with a pointy stick chasing me then no worries, I’m your man in a canoe.

But since “the incident” we’ve both grown rather cautious. Too scared of the newspaper headline – “idiot brothers die in stupid frigging canoe accident leaving behind distraught family members and pretty but entirely unaffected black Labrador”. I can see them already.

Seeing as the Neill family is already down to 3/4 strength (well maybe 4/5 if we count morsies, or maybe it should be 5/6 if we count the dog, maybe I’m just confusing things…) I would feel mighty silly if we lowered the ratio any further.

I have, over some 28 years, become really quite attached to the older brother and would be really quite upset to lose him at this juncture.

So with all that going through our heads I think we made the right call.

That left us in Ballyronan with no transport and having to wait 3 hours for Simon’s most wonderful of wives to come pick us up and drop us in the river at Portglenone so we could continue the trip.

It’s not that Ballyronan doesn’t have it’s charms (the mace, three pubs, the arch that was put up special for the twelfth, the LOL, the filling station) it’s just not really a place to spend a wet and windy Saturday morning.

Now normally I’d be as happy as a pig in it’s own excrement to sit in a pub and read the paper but at 1030 in the morning even the punters in Ballyronan haven’t the stomach for a pint and watching the horse racing on the telly.

I walked round it twice. Bought the paper. Went down to the marina and tried to read a broadsheet in the wind with predictable results. Made some coffee. Tried to find somewhere out of the wind. Simon kept trying to entice dogs over so they might play with him, like he was the dog whisperer. Listened to some radio 4. Went to the mace again to buy ham and bread and lo and behold morsies has arrived. Wa hey.

Not wanting to give up on the day entirely we went back on the river at Portglenone where the wind couldn’t get at us. It still gave us half a days canoeing in one of the prettiest bits of the whole river.


Just before our last stop we came to Portna locks. One of five lock canal and lock gate systems on the lower bann. Put in the fifties to allow boats to get up and down the bann avoiding the positively lethal flood gates and weirs that were put in to control the level of lough neagh.


Even the sight of the lough gates makes me think horrible thoughts about getting sucked under them and pinned against a tree or something. We asked the guy at the lock had that ever happened and he said no but every now and again you get the odd cow pulled in.

The whole system seems a bit lethal if you ask me.

No doubt some mentalist kayaker has ran them before. I must check YouTube.

But anyhow. Now in the Portneal lodge in Kilrea. Some kind of odd travel lodge type place that happens to have a jetty at it so we can just stop and lift out the canoes and book in.


We stayed here two years ago when it was pissing down and we were looking for somewhere to camp and then out of the storm this place appeared like in a vision.


It’s pissing down again here so I’ve maybe not got pleasant things to say about Kilrea.

We dandered into town to find some where to get some food and found two chinese take aways and a chippy and a variety of pubs. The whole place was a bit empty

There was a police land rover sitting in the square and seemed to be overlooking a group of about 15 men putting up a few union jacks around the war memorial. I’m pretty sure you don’t normally need 15 men and a police land rover to put up a few union jacks but when there’s a sinn féin and SDLP office staring at those flags then maybe you do.

Back in the travel lodge we are still the only people staying here. As we were two years ago. I have no idea how this place stays in business. As the rain lashes the window I am terribly glad it does.

Spent the evening watching T in the park on tv (I know, crazy isn’t it) and I now feel culturally relevant as I could pick katy perry out of a line up and I know who Calvin Harris is. I could still punch lady gaga in the face mind you.

2158. Both boys tucked up in bed. Rock on.


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