Archive for the 'Beer' Category

Old old fashioned

Some of the more wonderful people in my life bought us a wee holiday to celebrate our marriage.

This was all planned some time back before the wedding and I knew we were going somewhere but knew none of the details.

We had a little brown envelope with spending money, directions and a USB drive with details and a 2 and a half hour podcast from the gents themselves to keep us entertained on the drive. This was above and beyond the call of duty.

It was so good in fact that I didn’t want to pick up a gun and murder someone when Lady in Red came on.

Our destination was here.

The wonderful Hay-on-Wye.

Despite the misleading advertising above, the town is quite simliar to other towns and has houses made of bricks and mortar as opposed to books. You can tell I was disappointed.

And despite the sign saying welcome to Wales, this is one of the most English-feeling towns I have ever been in. It even had a Conservative Club with a portrait of Winston hanging in the hallway.

The pub we had dinner in had a portrait of someone who just may have been Maggie Thatcher but seen in a good light through beer goggles.

Maybe it’s a fair statement that all the best bits of England are in Wales.

They must get a bit pissed off being lumped in with the English all the time. Every time there’s a national report on the state of whatever it’s always for England and Wales combined and Scotland gets its own report and our esteemed leaders in the North haven’t agreed on anything long enough to even do the report.

Seems a bit of a shame for a country passionately pursuing a Welsh culture and language to be amalgamated at almost every level.

We stayed here which was absolutely bloody lovely and comes highly recommended. Incidentally its Sandy Toksvig’s favourite B&B so we’re in good company.

It’s so authentic as an 18th century house that the floors and the ceilings aren’t entirely level. There’s even a tiny door in the wall that opens into the greenhouse for ventilation which has a little figurine inside it.

The bedroom felt a little like the inn in The fellowship of the ring when the Nazgul come in and stab the pillows in the beds.

Hay-on-Wye is famous for its book festival. So famous in fact that i had no idea till someone told me.

There are 30 second-hand bookshops in a fairly tiny space.

There were even “honesty” book shops which were just shelves under tarpaulins where you could just leave 50p and walk off with such a high quality book such as:

But when you’ve got one you may as well get the sequel:

Second-hand bookshops are wonderful places but you have to realise the sheer staggering amount of trash and nonsense you have to browse through to find a gem like the obsucre Vonnegut you were looking (Goddamnit you gotta be kind…) or the third copy of Gilead that you really need (it was only £1.50…).

The shops themselves are fairly intriguing with lots of old broken down sofas, often with a cat asleep on them.

There were of course other attractions like this:

and this:

But I was mainly excited about getting a go on this:

Which I duly did:

All in all a cracking wee holiday. Cheers muchly lads.

Postcards from far away part 2

Last post was on the ferry right?

Lost of driving to Edinburgh. Lots of sleeping done by the boys in between choosing songs.

We have a fairly standard system in place. Everyone chooses 3 songs in the ‘on the go’ play list on the iPod. 3 songs. No more no less.

Generally no repeats in the same day allowed. Spuddy always tries to get as much as possible by choosing obscure U2, 10 minute b-sides.

Passes the time at least and keeps the bitching to a minimum.

Edinburgh is a simply lovely city. On only my second time there I love the place. Good buildings. Good parks. It has a bug hill in the middle and a castle with a few of the sea. What more could one ask for.

Cities like Edinburgh make me want to live in a city.

Good restaurants with pretty waitresses and nice parks and a functioning (though debatable) public transport system.

We went to the royal college of surgeons museum to look at brutal dental instruments and stare at obscure bits of pathology before penicillin and CT scanners and the germ theory. Fascinating stuff. Highly recommended.

Met up with young Miss Quinn who kindly fed us and provided us with profiteroles and a walk along the beach.

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Stayed the night with the Orrs in their wonderful almost Dickensian house with the great old grandfather clock and the mice (who failed to make an appearance).

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The hospitality was of course exquisite. I am always amazed by the way people will go out of their way to provide for us bums in the midst of busyness and jobs and all that. Rest assured it was much assured.

Bed was taken to with great gusto.

Today was originally intended to be a day in the hills helping Dave bag another Munro. Unfortunately the Scottish weather had other ideas and made us give up at Crianlarich and sit in the restaurant trying to come up with a plan B.

Plan B was drive back down the road to Perth to go to the cinema and watch gran turino. There were limited options.

Going to matinees always makes the day feel much later than it really is.

Found ourselves a B&B and a decent Italian restaurant to fill the bellies. Poor sparky had been struggling all day with a good old man-flu but managed to have a good go at a steak and crawl off to bed.

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Dave made his way back to Edinburgh and me and spud headed out to see what Perth had to offer.

Turned out that was a pub ran by a guy from Newry. All very pleasant really

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So far road trip has been most productive and positively social having managed to catch up and put the world to rights with two very good friends who I don’t see nearly enough of.

However there has been a distinct lack of reading with the feet up and a very definite lack of sunshine. The former at least is soon to be corrected.

A day in the life

Originally thought I could do an April Fool’s blog and fool you into thinking that I’ve done something mad or crazy, but then realized I didn’t quite have the imagination for that kind of thing. And I have this nagging inability to lie convincingly. Especially when I know I’ll have to admit it. When it comes to lying over petty things with no chance of discovery, or lying in the face of plainly obvious facts then I’m your man.

So instead you’ll get a ‘day in the life’ thing, but not quite like the Beatle’s song, if only cause I didn’t ‘roll out of bed and drag a comb across my head’ – there not being enough hair, and me not owning a comb.

Got up at 8am. Standard morning time at the weekends. I tend to get up at 6am on the weekdays, but I go to bed at like 10.30pm here so it’s no sacrifice.

Made it to church for the first time in two months. And before I’m cast down as a heathen I was in the south island for the first month and have worked 3 out of the past 4 weekends.

It was cool to be back. In no way have I made relationships in the place that I could in any way compare to home. Maybe I expected more but perhaps I was unreasonable. In some ways it’s weird, cause there’s only about two other people my age who go there. It’s mostly older couples and their kids. But they’re a good bunch.

I was playing bass, which got me out of having to actually talk to people. I still find stuff like that a bit tough. I think I find church easier when I have a role, something to do. Now of course chatting to folk and enjoying their presence and sharing their burdens is, I imagine, immeasurably more useful than playing bass but hey…

Coffee and hot dogs after church, in church in fact. We (I?) could definitely learn a few things. The homeless guys who come to the church regularly always get served. Perhaps another lesson we could learn.

From church I made it home to sit on the sofa and write a few emails and check if there was any one on Skype. Though it was 1 am back home by that stage and the only one I saw on was Bart and I’d spoke to him the day before and I thought he might be a bit tired!

I had to be in Havelock North for a footy match for 2.30 pm, which I made it to for 3pm! I started at centre-back and was instantly knackered. This, despite running three times a week for a few weeks. The fact that I’m only 25 for a while longer is hitting me. Somehow that one extra year seems to make all the difference when I think about it.

I’m part of the Division 1 team for Havelock North Wanderers and we were playing the Premiership team for the same club. Makes it all sound very professional. But when you realize that I’ve been brought in as an outfield player as some kind of ‘star player’ then you’ll know the type of level we’re at.

We got thoroughly trounced, mostly due to fitness but also due to a lack of basic understanding in how to move the ball about the park. Every ball was a panicked long, over the top ball, straight to their feet. I managed to get a couple of triangles going at one point of the game, which was a wonderful idea but poorly executed due to my complete lack of ability. They were not so much triangles as straight lines. Barely straight, at that.

I always wonder how much of stamina and endurance is actual physiology or is it all just psychology. If I’m optimistic I favor the former, but if I’m honest I’ll concede it’s probably more the latter, and all this running about seems like a lot of hard work to me.

So, spurning the offer of an after match beer in the club house (apparently free – what a bizarre concept, would certainly have the punters piling in at home), I headed home to quietly expire on the floor.

However it was a sunny day, and everyone knows I’m a sucker for a sunbeam. So instead of heading north I went west, over the hills to the beaches, with John Piper on the stereo. The drive remains one of the loveliest round here. Through vineyards, orchards, over the Tuki-Tuki (following the Maori tradition of naming things twice, eg Onga-onga and Auckland-Auckland…) river and with views of Te Mata (pronounced ‘tomato’ in Belfast accent) peak and over the brown hills of hawke’s bay.

Ended up at my favorite beach (Ocean Beach) that I’ve waxed lyrical about before. Unfortunately it was a nice day, which meant it was full of humpy, flippin people enjoying themselves. Always ruins my self-obsessed melancholy…

Dandered up the beach and lay down (or rather collapsed) in the sand dunes with the setting sun over the hills keeping me warm. Simply glorious. In fact I’ll withdraw the self-obsessed melancholy comment, it was more of a sense of perspective and gratitude that I get to live here, that I’ve been given the life I have, that I’m in possession of a righteousness and heir to promises that I neither earned nor deserve.

Stopped on the way home for fish and chips – the joy of exercise is that it justifies fried food and sat in the flat loving it and watching the BBC news podcast.

All this left me with this moment. The time to write this. The time to get another few cups of coffee down my throat. And I’m at peace. Which is a tricky bird to catch. And I’m not sure it’s the point anyhow, though it does seem very attractive as an end in itself. And I’m not even sure that I could reproduce the same peace given the same set of circumstances.

For example. I could say that the following has given me this contentment: a full belly, some coffee, my usual Sunday evening run through of the Duke Special catalogue (mercy me and mercy you, you’re still in love in spite of me… I’ve forgotten how to feel, it’s easier to fake it… I could go on…), my emails before me, the flat freshly vacuumed (yes I’m that anal…) and a new book in my hands (another bloody love letter, by Anthony Lloyd, the reporter recently kidnapped in Palestine, a great story of catharsis, addiction, self-loathing and life at the extremes. No surprise I like it really…)

Though the above list sounds a little bit of a ‘happiest when’ section from Bebo or Myspace or something. I could make a lot of lists like that but I don’t think I could follow them. I mean I don’t think they’re reproducible as a quick fix, five step plan to contentment for ‘my so called life’. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the point. So I’ll take it with a pinch of salt (whatever that means), enjoying the moment for what it is but being careful not to get too comfy.

The Big Trip – Day 14

Mostly listening to: dave matthews band, the frames
Sleeping on/in: same place as yesterday. Though have moved inbetween.
KMs: not much more than what is was
Coffees: two. Hadn’t had one by lunch and was getting a sore head
Weather: sunny

Dunedin is famous for speight’s beer. One of the top points in the lonely planet was the tour of the brewery. Always up for trying anything.

Facts learned. One: hops comes as pellets resembling dog food. Two: breweries have a tendency to explode.

Spent the afternoon at tunnel beach. Aptly named. Some guy in the old days (insert historical date as appropriate) liked the beach so much he got his servants to cut a tunnel from the cliff down to the beach so that he wouldn’t have to take a boat there. I need to get me a title and some servants. Seems like the way forward.

Spent the evening reading. Well me and ruth did. Si spent the day unsettled that there was no one to play with him.

We’ll put that down as a quiet day.


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