A star is born..
Homeward bound

FORRRTY

Last weekend we went to Belfast to stay in a nice hotel, go to a Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture and celebrate my cleverness at staying alive for so very long. 40, that would be. ImPRESSive. Clever of me, I think you'll agree. The buses I have dodged, the cigarettes I haven't smoked! the bottles of gin I haven't downed! the heroin I didn't mainline! You have no idea.

Belfast is always interesting to me. It is a strange discordant mix of familiar and foreign - of grand Victorian architecture stamped on the wild Irish landscape. The differences between the two sides of the border are evident - it's clear that there has been no boom there as there has in the Republic. The building sites on every corner are lacking, the bursting optimism, the wild energy, the rampant materialism, the immigrant workers. Instead you can see the signs of an old prosperity from times gone by in the redbrick houses and the grand squares, and there is a quiet charm - people really do seem glad you came - but as someone who grew up with a horrific story on the news every night of sectarian murders it is hard not to feel a shiver when you see graffiti that supports one of those sides, or when you walk through an underpass, not to think of it as a murder scene. But no doubt I am being a naive and loose-lipped southerner.

As for the Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture, I think a veil might be drawn. We were there for 6 hours and it didn't break us. Hah! Take that Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture! Oh, but for one thing. We left so late that the last bus had gone and we set out wearily on foot to find a taxi or a bus. Half an hour of trudging along the dual carriageway later, and by some devilish Swedish trick of design, we still had not left the Certain Megastore that sells Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture. It still loomed immensely to the right. Quite unworldly, it was.

The hotel was pleasant. Worn out from our endeavours we slept for hours, and when I woke I went for a swim. Ah yes, now I remember the point of all that - the steam room was wonderful. It was in a countrified area outside town (which though grand in scale in the centre, out of town it is strangely stunted, by its troubled history, I suppose, and has none of the suburban sprawl you get in Dublin). There was a strange hall in the local village. It seemed immediately wrong - almost sinister. There was a slogan over the door: Vene, Vide, Tace. Which if my Italian serves me, means He came, he saw, he remained quiet. Stayed quiet? How can that be something to live by? Unless you're in the fecking Mafia, of course.
(It was a Masonic hall, we later discovered.)

Speaking of Italians, a certain ex-friend was in touch for my birthday. Said she: Even if we don't talk, I remember [your birthday]! I hope you have a good year, not like the bloody awful one I had. (Translation my own. I love using those square brackets.)
I took the advice of the Masons, and stayed quiet.
And then, (bloody global community, I heap curses upon you) she found me on Facebook, and asked, in fake American this time: do you wanna be my friend again?
The word NO springs to mind. But you know, in fairness and maturity (see above for shocking number of years I have been on planet) I think I'll just tell her why I was upset, (for unbelievably I don't think she is aware of the degree of her soul-sucking negativity), and leave to her to decide what to do about it.
More on this later, no doubt.

House is coming together beautifully. We are painting and cleaning like the wind (and by we I mean, JB is painting and I am cleaning. I remind myself of Anne in the Famous Five. JB would have to be Dick, I think.) in time to move in by the 10th. It is so exciting to get acquainted with this new and exotic part of town. They have all sorts of parks and whatnot to explore and the neighbours! they speak to us! and everything! One even wished us good luck in our new house and hoped we'd be happy in it.
'Tis quite the thing.

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