“Til death do us part”

I love New Year’s.

As a serial resolutionist any calendar event that promises the hope of a fresh start, a new beginning and a lethal cocktail of drunk friends, Jools Holland and copious amounts of confetti, well that’s my kind of celebration.

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I’m back in Liverpool and everything seems the same same… but different.

Just as beautiful of South East Asia... but a tad chillier.

Aughabrack, just as beautiful as South East Asia… but a tad chillier.

Yes I have returned from South East Asia, and yes I have been dying to use that little wordplay since I first left.

But don’t let the title fool you, I’m not in Liverpool, I’m staving off the post-travelling blues by travelling to the slightly less exotic destination of Aughabrack for some home comforts.

I did return to Liverpool, and reality, with a bump (quite literally) nearly one whole month ago and must confess since then I have been suffering with the dreaded post-holiday blues. Reality, the mess of a bedroom, lengthy To Do List, mountain of washing and financial ruin which I returned to, really did hit me with a bump, as waking early (thank you jet lag) feeling rejuvenated, invigorated and determined to start off on the right foot I decided to kick-start with a morning run.

And it all started so well, powering up Parliament Street I had a whirlwind of ideas in my head, all sorts of plans and good intention to put things back in order. Writing ideas were tripping over each other in a bid to grab my attention, I was suddenly full of confidence and determination to get back on the job hunt, and most importantly, I was intent not to dwell on the fact that I wasn’t spending my morning lying on a beach. Sadly, that all that power cut out halfway back down the other side of the Anglican Cathedral and that right foot that I was sure I’d gotten off on caught on a loose paving stone and turned me and all my good intentions upside down.

It was one of those slow motion falls, you know what’s going to happen, you can see it unfolding as though you were a third person detached from the actual movement, stifling a giggle. It’s only as the ground makes angry contact with your hands and knees that you remember this isn’t some comedy fall you’re watching from the comfort of the sofa, that’s you right there going crash bang wallop outside one the city’s biggest tourist attractions, right across the street from your place of work. Not so funny now is it?

Lying flat on my back, staring up at the clouds I decided to focus on the silver lining – at least it’s early, too early for tourists, at least it’s the summer, no LIPA students around to revel in my literal downfall, and at least my only witness was a very kind-hearted taxi driver who offered to drop me home for free.

I gratefully declined, and hobbled home with blood-soaked hands and knees to curl up on the sofa and feel sorry for myself.

My mind might have thought itself fighting fit, but my body obviously wasn’t ready to get off the sun lounger and go back to porridge. I was tired, severely sorry to be home, and criminally skint. Fuck good intentions, I’m going back to bed.

Take me back to the islands!

Take me back to the islands!

Of course the wallowing passed with just the right amount of comfort food, a few convalescence trips to the pub with dear friends, and a brave venture back into the ugly world of freelancing.

Just as I was getting back on track, the tracks were yet again ripped from under my feet with the very sudden upheaval of my living circumstances and another financial punch in the face. But that is a rant for another day (watch this space).

Thankfully, the jet lag wore off after about a week, the home comforts have done wonders for the post-holiday blues, and my knees have just about healed, though they’ve left some unsightly patches in my tan. With a dreaded return to porridge and working life this weekend, it’s about time I gave a second attempt at knuckling down, starting afresh and getting off on the right foot… with eyes peeled for any bumps in the road, and maybe I’ll invest in some knee pads.

Before...

Before…

and After

and After

 

If Benjamin Franklin said it, it must be true…

So despite all my good intentions, I’ve done it again, I’ve left my beloved little blog unattended and neglected, cold and unloved for far too long yet again. Here I come, crawling back to my one true love after flirting and sowing my writing seed elsewhere (here at Yuppee and here at Get Into This if you’d care to indulge).

I am quite used to making up this kind of ground. I am chronically late to meet friends for lunch, the clock at work runs five minutes fast, mine runs twenty minutes late, I always forget to ring my mum back, I push deadlines to the absolute limit, I get distracted by shiny things and You Tube videos of cats, I plan on being late for my own funeral just so friends and family believe that is actually me in the coffin.

Of course I could reel off the twenty-seven thousand excuses I have to hand, most of them fairly substantial, as to where I’ve been recently, but rather than relying on embellishment like a true writer I will be perfectly honest in a brief history of the last few weeks. Since the beginning of March I have been operating as a one woman Mothers Day Card production line, getting coerced into drinking into the early hours by a dear friend back from the desert for a gin-soaked weekend, going to loads of gigs, rejoicing in the misfortune of others (cruel but infinitely satisfying), finally finishing Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, catching up with old friends, mourning Ireland’s performance during the Six Nations, doing St Patrick absolute justice by partying for as long as my body could physically stand it (my voice gave up after three days), and then suffering with unimaginable fear, having my ego rubbed and then beaten to a pulp, and going against my better judgement to play, as always, the romantic fool.

You may not believe it, but in the pursuit of a career as an actual, real, grown up writer, I consider all of the above research.

For my birthday last year I received a notebook in a huge bird-themed group of presents from some very dear friends, and in this notebook all my pearls of wisdom get scribbled down, usually, frantically, by the light of my phone thirty seconds after lying down to sleep. Full of good intentions I romantically noted one of my favourite quotes on the opening page, from Benjamin Franklin:

“Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing”.

You see, like I said, research.

At the raw age of twenty-four I will not pretend to have anything of universal importance to write about just yet, although documenting my life and times as a bar wench may prove otherwise. But in the meantime I must go out, be merry, grab life by the proverbial balls and live it up, which is why another favourite quote of mine is ‘no good story every started with a salad’. So in Lena Dunham fashion I have been dedicating every hangover and heartache to the pursuit of my writing career. Eventually it will all pay off.

In the meantime, I promise not to neglect you my darling little blog.

At least not until the next drink-fueled religious holiday.

The Old Romantic rises it’s ugly head again…

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I have never bought into the whole Valentines thing, partly because I’ve been working in the hospitality industry since I was 17 and it has always been much more lucrative to serve the candlelit tables than to book them.
But I won’t be so coy or bitter as to belittle or deride the most romantic day of the year, because the truth is, and regular readers will know this, I am an old romantic.
Yes, St. Valentines Day has become a multi-billion money making machine. Yes, we are all sick to cynicism with all the inflatable hearts, teddy bears, over expensive bunches of flowers and the pink and red everywhere. There is always a sickeningly sweet rom-com to see, a cheesy compilation CD to provide some romantic background music over the aphrodisiac-fuelled five course meal costing five times as much as it would on any other day of the year. And the evil capitalist world we live in will guilt trip you into buying into it all, because if you don’t you clearly don’t love your other half enough.

We all know it. We joke about it, we scoff at it, but it is still the big pink, fluffy elephant in the room with a heart on its chest and says “I wuv you” when you squeeze it.

But beneath all the confetti and rose petals and poorly named online greetings card companies, beneath all the cheesy, tacky rubbish and decaying flowers, at its simplest, purest, most basic being, Valentines Day is a very beautiful, very lovely thing.
To show the one you love, adore, like or just fancy the pants off, how you feel, whether it’s through heartfelt declaration under a bedroom window, holding a boombox above your head, or the extravagant spending on chocolates, flowers, dinner, a movie, the whole Valentines package. However you say it, at least you’re saying it. People may buy into multi-billion money making side of Valentines Day but if the simple, pure, basic feeling is at the heart of all the spending, is it such a bad thing?
Speaking as someone who has served those candlelit tables for so many years, I can tell you it is no bad thing for all the struggling restaurants who have felt the recession the hardest.

Valentines Day aside, the idea of romance and all things love and heart-shaped has been heavy on my mind of late.
I have been single now for two years, and romance has been far and few between, not that it was such a big part of coupled-up life either. However, that is another long and arduous story for another day or another paperback chick-lit coming to an Oxfam near you.
The lack of romance in my own love life hasn’t blinded me to its presence elsewhere.
Almost all of my dearest friends are happily coupled-up, and while I try not to hold it against them, it can be frustrating to see my friends take their significant others for granted, to sweat the small stuff, to not treasure each other as they should. But that is real life. Work and family and friends get in the way of even the greatest romances. Candlelit dinners must give way to washing your significant other’s pants. Red roses have little time or place amid the dull monotony of day to day life. Which is why I’ve discovered a newfound respect for Valentines Day.

I will be spending the most romantic day of the year at work, plying the lonely hearts with cheap booze in which they can drown their lonely sorrows, but I hope all my coupled-up friends will indulge in some cheesy, tacky, rose-petaled romance.

But just for this one day, you can feck right off if you think I’m third-wheeling it with a bunch of dreamy-eyed lovebirds for the rest of the year.

A Very Irish Year.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

It’s safe to say that 2012 was a very British year. Between celebrating the Queen’s jubilee and show boating British achievements at the London Olympics, the Union Jack bunting wasn’t taken down until the Christmas decorations went up. And all hell broke loose in Belfast.
But Loyalist riots aside, in the interest of balance, 2013 seems set to be a very Irish year.

North of the border, Derry/Londonderry is celebrating its title as the first UK Capital of Culture – a city with such a rich history and diverse culture that it still can’t settle on a single name by which the rest of the world might get to know it. Perhaps the city council should consider adopting the celebration’s hash tag as a more permanent fixture on road signs, after all with a name like LegenDerry it would easily become the UK capital for stag and hen parties in no time. Jokes aside, it is wonderful to see the city of Derry being rightly celebrated by the occupying force who choked the economic life out of it for so long. And the goodwill doesn’t stop there. David Cameron is delighted to showcase the natural, rugged beauty of Fermanagh to the world when it plays host to the G8 summit later in the year, a place so unappreciated, almost prehistoric in its unspoiled (or underdeveloped) isolation, you might say, a world away from London or any other grand city where protests might cause inconvenient disruption to traffic and policing levels. Cynical maybe, but it will make a grand worldwide stage for the fleg protesters should they stick it out until May.

The Republic have also been doing their best to put our little troubled isle back on the map, dedicating the whole year to the tourist board’s latest initiative to attract big spending Americans, The Gathering. I really don’t mean to sound cynical about this, because its an idea that truly warms the cockles of my heart. In a series of events and celebrations throughout 2013, Ireland will “open its arms to friends and family from all over the world, inviting them home”. All its scattered sons and daughters are to be welcomed back to the emerald isle and shown a good time to remind them of the ‘town they loved so well’. Doesn’t it just tug on the old romantic heartstrings? Of course, its convenient that they are coming to visit now when Ireland has so many empty beds since the young’uns all took for Australia, America, and Canada. In fact, the visitors will probably pass them in the airport, waving to each other across the Arrivals and Departures lounges. They will be welcomed home, but best not get too comfortable, when the party’s over, there still doesn’t seem to be much worth hanging around for.
And while the tourist board might be rolling out the welcome wagon for the ex pats  its appears that others won’t be offering their céad míle fáiltes so easily. This week a Facebook page titled “Irish Abandoners” caused outrage among Irish emigrant workers when they were accused by little more than 50 Facebook fans of deserting Éire in her hour of need. According to this, frankly ludicrous, Facebook page, those who had fled Ireland on the promise of work elsewhere until the economic climate improved would not be welcomed home to “reap the benefits of the crops we are sowing now” when the country begins to enjoy more prosperity in the future (touch wood, fingers crossed, God willing, etc.)

And what should we expect if and when we return, the prodigal sons and daughters of Ireland, for our fathers to slaughter the fattened calf and bring out the best wines? …I mean, it would be nice…
Because I suppose I am an ex pat. I have been living in Liverpool now for almost six years, a quarter of my young life. I came here to study and never returned, much to the disgust of some family and friends, and to add insult to injury I am still only working in a bar, a job I could easily do in my home town, granted for a lower wage and fewer perks, and the distinct disadvantage of cohabiting with my parents.
And after all, I am happy in Liverpool. I have a good job, a comfortable home where I can lay my head, a variety of pubs and clubs where I can let down my hair, and a kind of patchwork family I’ve stitched together from friends old and new. They come from all over, England, Scotland, Wales, and yes, a lot of fellow ex pats, friends from ‘the old country’. People like us, the Irish abroad, make up the Fifth Province, the Irish Diaspora. And most of us, welcome or not, still intend on returning home someday. We see the men in the Irish bars who came here in the last wave of emigration, who always thought they would go back home when the tide turned, but they settled, they married English wives, had children with English accents, and they’re still here.
As students we could always give our home addresses, make it known that we were only visiting, hanging our tricolours in student halls, filling the Irish bars for the All Ireland, leading the celebrations on St Patrick’s Day. But what now? We still lead the St Paddy’s Day celebrations, laugh soccer fans out of the Irish bars on All Ireland Day, hang our tricolours up in our flats and apartments. But we have English addresses, how harsh Hardy Street sounds compared to the dear old Rouskey Road. We open English bank accounts, work in English offices, fall in love with Englishmen and become evermore terrified that someday in the future our children will speak with English accents.

The idea of The Gathering really does warm the cockles of my heart, but it brings heartache as well because as long as people continue to leave Ireland in droves it’s difficult to imagine returning home any time soon. For 2013 at least, there will be little need to slaughter the fattened calf for us.

Realistic Resolutions? Yeah right…

Well that’s that then.
The excitement of Christmas has subsided, the Quality Street have been devoured, the countdown is over, the living room floor is collecting pine needles and a breakfast of chocolate and wine is no longer considered perfectly acceptable.
The media have been busy with end of year reviews reminding us of all the must-see films we didn’t get a chance to go see, the must-read books we still haven’t gotten around to reading and the year-defining albums we’ve never even heard of. The shops have very swiftly put to bed their ‘Eat, drink and be excessive’ mantra, filling their shelves instead, with fitness DVDs, exercise equipment, dieting pills and nicotine patches, while casting a judgemental eye on the extra pounds we drag along the aisles, and the fewer pounds we have to spend at the tills.
It’s January 1st. Everyone is skint, sick of turkey and ham sandwiches, and full of unrelenting optimism for the year ahead… Isn’t it wonderful?
2013 is here, and so far I’m impressed.
My Les Miserables anticipation is at breaking point, travel plans for the summer look promising (in that they might actually happen this year) and despite a potent combination of rose wine, Polish vodka, four hours sleep (a nap) and a roast dinner I actually don’t feel all that dreadful. You’ve gotta love New Year’s positivity! Look at this year, all shiny and new with the wrapping still on, so full of possibility and potential…
This will be the year! You watch, by this time next year I will be a millionaire! I’ll have the body of a Goddess, I’ll speak two new languages and will have successfully finished and published my first book. No problem.

Clearly, realism is not a friend of the resolution.
So to give myself more of a fighting chance with the New Year’s hopes and dreams I’ve put together 13 more realistic resolutions to tackle in the coming year.

1. Learn how to bake bread.
2. Make more soups.
3. Be a good gig reviewer and actually keep up to date with new music so that when it comes to the best of 2013 lists I will not be left wondering who all these young pups in the top ten are.
4. Give blood (finally).
5. Get my ears pierced (finally).
6. Watch more classic films so my common response to the mention of any critically acclaimed movie will no longer be “Never seen it”.
7. Spring clean the extensive collection of utter tripe on my Media Player and iTunes.
8. Remove Tokyou as the default response to the daily wondering ‘What will I have for dinner?’
9. Visit London (finally).
10. Learn how to like coffee/red wine/Guinness.
11. Learn how to combat hangovers with something healthier than a giant bag of Heatwave Doritos.
12. Find the ultimate Little Black Dress.
13. Break the bad habit of a lifetime and stop becoming so emotionally attached to fictional characters… except my own.