Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mama Mia

My mum and dad went to see this musical when they were in New York last year with friends, and they haven't stopped talking about it ever since. Mum wanted her grandaughters (and their mums!) to have the chance to see it, so yesterday we went to see it in Belfast.

I have to admit here that in my formative years I was an avid ABBA fan and so yesterday I was just in my element. I knew every song - no ... I knew every word to every song! Dolly had been force-fed a diet of ABBA music whilst we were in the States in preparation for the event, but even though she didn't recognise all the music, she loved the dancing, especially when the boys did a bit of Irish in their flippers!

I highly, highly recommend this musical to anyone; the music is great, the dancing superb and the story a good one. At the end of the show the whole audience were dancing in the aisles. Nancy Mon, I believe you would particularly enjoy this.

Don't waste your time waiting for the movie to be released later this year (although the movie does have Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth in it, yum yum!), splash out and go see the real thing!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Can you remember what you were doing 12 years ago today?

I can. The events of the day are stamped on my brain with indelible ink. Mine and a few other people's as well, a few hundred other people to be precise!

12 years ago today, for the very first time ever in my life, I fainted. In front of a church full of about 200 people. And then, about 8 minutes later, I did it again.

I know you can tell I'm leaving something out in the detail here, and that would be right. Because Friday 29th March 1996 also happened to be my wedding day, but what transpired to be a nasty dose of vertigo turned what should have been a serene day into a bit of a pantomime.

For context: Vertigo is the sensation of spinning even when you are standing completely still. Your surroundings appear to be moving either vertically or horizontally. Some people feel that they are actually spinning. The effect may be slight and only just noticeable, or it may be so severe that you fall to the ground. That was my type.

So we're all standing at the front of the church during the first hymn, Be Thou my Vision, when suddenly I find myself sitting on the front pew. Apparently I had blacked out completely, had been caught on the way down by my (not quite) husband and placed there whilst everyone else sang on, mostly oblivious to what had happened. Half the bridal party, though, had disappeared in different directions to try and secure a glass of water, smelling salts, towels and hot water or whatever people look for in an emergency!

The Elder from the church who was marrying us (I attended a Brethern assembly at that time, hence no minister) made the sensible decision to carry on as if nothing had happened which was exactly what we wanted to happen.

And we did, until we got to the first set of vows when I did it again. Only this time my (not quite) husband shouted 'Oh Shit!' (he was Presbyterian at the time) into the inconveniently placed microphone for the whole congregation to hear. (Our church spilt not long after we got married. I don't believe there is any direct correlation between the events, but ...)

At this stage, the Elder decided we should retire to the vestry. How I got there I'm not too sure. I have a vision of me being carried arse up over someones shoulder out the front of the church. The photographer didn't get that shot.

I was very well attended to in the vestry; luckily we had a neurologist, a cardiologist, a psychiatrist, an orthopaedic surgeon and at least three GPs attending the wedding, and actually after a few minutes break, we continued with proceedings, said everything we were supposed to say and got married.

Or at least, that's what we told the guests when we returned to the church some 10 minutes later to a standing ovation. Who can say for sure?? ;-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Skiing at Stowe

So, we are home!

We've had a great holiday, St Patrick's Day in Boston was special, and the skiing at Stowe was brilliant! This is the kids first time skiing and they absolutely loved it and took to it like ducks to water.

This little clip shows Michael running his dad off the mountain, and there's a guest appearance by Jill the 'skiing marshmallow' at the end of the clip!

Pleased to report no major accidents or incidents, just one very bad chest infection (me), a couple of bad coughs and four lots of dry lips to prove we were even away.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The flight over adled my brain

That's the only way I can explain the fact that yesterday afternoon I was found standing outside in the snow in my bikini.

OK, so there was a heated outdoor pool involved in this story as well, but all the same ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St Patricks Day

Blogging from America!

Just a quick post from Boston, wishing everyone a very happy St Patricks Day. We had an eventful journey over, maybe more on that after our return, but here we are.

Spent yesterday afternoon at the St Patrick's Day parade which was great, very different to anything we are used to here. We then met up with some friends from the Boston area for a meal and some great craic in the Cheescake Factory (I've NEVER seen portions as big :-s) It was super to see these friends again; we met on honeymoon 12 years ago and have been in touch ever since.

Bob & Rose, if you're reading this, it's time you came back to Ireland!

Friday, March 14, 2008

My three greatest 'Irish' moments: in 1st place

In the Autumn of 2003 England won the Rugby World Cup. Or, to be more precise, Jonny Wilkinson had an exceptional run of matches, scored a load of points with the boot and won the Rugby World Cup for England.

Will the rest of us ever be allowed to forget it? No. Never. Not a chance.

Ireland's performance in the 2003 World Cup was a disappointing affair, although we did manage to get to the quarter-finals, where we were fairly comprehensively hammered by the French and that was the end of that.

After their victorious return from Australia with the Webb Ellis trophy, England had met and beaten both Italy and Scotland in the 2004 Six Nations. Both had been away games. Against Ireland, the English Champions were playing at home, in England for the first time since lifting the cup.

The English (and in particular the English press) were buzzing. For weeks before it, the hype was hyped. A carnival was planned for the day of the match, it was arranged that the RAF would do a fly-by, the trophy would be on full display. The papers talked of nothing else, we were reliably informed that God was an Englishman and the word 'champions' was gravely over-used. You could have been forgiven for thinking the English were the only team taking part in the Six Nations that season.

And the Irish sat quietly in the corner, picking the bog out from between their trotters and watching the pig in the parlour.

Saturday 6th March. 4pm kick off.

Now, I usually shout at the TV when there's rugby on, but this day was inordinate. When D'Arcy made his break I remember standing two foot away from the box guldering at the screen. By the time the ball was passed to Howe on the second occasion, I was on my knees on the floor, peeping through my hands, crying. And when I finally drew breath and looked round, my dad was crying, my mum was crying, my hubby was crying, the kids were crying - the whole flippin country was crying!

Final score: England 13, Ireland 19. Fan-feckin-tastic.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My three greatest 'Irish' moments: in 2nd place

In March 2003 the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment were preparing to move into Iraq from Fort Blair Mayne desert camp, 20 miles from the Iraqi border.

Before they went, their commanding officer, Belfast man Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, gathered them round in the compound and gave this off the cuff pep talk.

Amazing words.

Having heard it reported back in Britain by a journalist from the Mail on Sunday who was shadowing the regiment, the colonel's speech won high praise in a personal letter from Prince Charles, while President George W Bush is understood to have requested a copy for the wall of the Oval Office.

If you get the chance, and feel that way inclined, I recommend you read Collins' book Rules of Engagement for an honest, gritty insight to the war in Iraq.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My three greatest 'Irish' moments: in 3rd place

Every year we endure an event called the Eurovision Song contest. This is broadcast live around Europe and the basic format is that each country performs a song specially written for the competition and then, after everyone has performed and during an interval item, expert panels from each participating country award points for their favourite song and the country with the most points wins.

In 1994 Ireland had the dubious pleasure of hosting the final of the contest in Dublin. The songs were the same basic Eurotrash rubbish we'd come to expect (but love) over the years, but this final stood out because of the normally insignificant interval item. This was the night that RiverDance was first performed to an audience anywhere in the world, and what was intended to be the 'half-time entertainment' turned out to be the show stopping winner.

I was watching it with a crowd of friends and gradually the chat in the room stopped as we were caught up in the magic of the spectacle unfolding in front of us. Frankly, it was the most amazing thing any of us had ever witnessed and mouths were literally hanging open as we watched.

Two things I still remember very clearly about that night;

1: the noise of the cheer from the live audience in Dublin when it finished, and
2: the complete silence in the room as we were all completely and utterly lost for words afterwards

This is a clip of the first and original performance of an Irish phenomenon that has, and still is, sweeping the world 14 years on.

Listen for that cheer.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Undergoing essential repairs

I lost my voice yesterday. Mid lesson. It just sort of slowly disappeared to the point where I had to bang the table with a wooden spoon in the middle of a practical lesson and mime! Made for an interesting lesson anyway.

For only the second time in my life, I was rendered completely speechless. The first time was when I lost my voice the week before I was due to sing in church. There's testimoney to the power of prayer.

I lost a crown this week too. It lost its bearings as I munched my way through a bowl of icecream adorned with jelly tots and M&Ms on Mothers Day. Luckily a trip today to my (NHS) dentist and £25 soon saw me right on that one.

Getting my voice back should be cheaper, but will probably take longer. My husband was loving it, up until the point I was able to remind him that communication can be both spoken and written. Don't you just love Post-its?

Sunday, March 02, 2008