Sunday, 26 April 2009
It’s been a busy week, not just at work but most certainly at home. The evenings have been largely taken up sorting whatever we have. Even during the days it’s been an uphill task to get Estate agents to do their job. It’s amazing how when our Estate Agents have been looking to get you to do something they’ll chase you down when it’s not at all convenient and ask for everything to be done right away with threats of wrecking all the plans they know you’ve already set in motion. Then when it comes to you needing something from them, which should have been done before they rushed through the whole matter to get to the money. They’re not in, or can’t come to the phone, deny all knowledge of anything and of course they’ll never even apologise or admit any fault no matter how small. As Norn Girl says, they’re a shower of b*******. Even if it’s not a general trend, those I’ve happened to encounter are by far doing their best to make sure that stereotype is founded by some harsh truths. I’m not sure if it’s the pressures of the job or if it’s just that not very nice people have happened to take the job, but for an industry that affects someone’s life, the standards of customer service for us have been quite shocking at times .
Thankfully the builder representing the landlord has so far been a breath of fresh air. So kind and helpful and not at all ‘Estate Agent’ like and as such my worries about the move have subsided about 85%. There are several problems with the place but hopefully they are now in hand.
Today we’ve the fun task to eat the entire fridge freezer worth of food in order to defrost it before we take it to the new place. Many boxes have already been moved with lots of help from Norn Girls family and all the more admin related tasks have, if not done, been noted down.
Moving ourselves and our bed to the new place will, all being well, take place tomorrow and as such, it’s time to get all the electronics and guff we haven’t yet moved ready to go with us.
Sorting the guff has been the major time consuming thing. We’ve somehow accumulated so much that instead of like the last move it being a few bin bags and boxes worth, it’s now a question of can we even fit it in the new place. From documents from 5 years ago that are no longer relevant and need a good shredding to old clothes, toys and gadget we forgot we had, there’s probably a small room worth of junk we’ve managed to hide around the house until now. For that reason we’ve been sorting it and will be continuing to sort it into three or four piles. One for a refuse collection from the council, one for being kept, one for EBay/a car boot sale and another for giving to charity.
That adds another list of things still to sort after the move but it’s something that’s been put off so long we have to make this move an opportunity to get on top of it all. So far so good!
I best get back to the packing and sorting. Sorry for the lack of posts the last wee while. The time just hasn’t been there to sit down and type, but hopefully come the end of next week we’ll be settled into our new home.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
1) A security alert makes your bus veer away from its route and take off ET style down the motorway leaving you a 10 minute walk from where you were going. The same alert also delayed the football match I had hurried to get to… but I wasn't so disappointed because it meant we could take our time and relax before the game and absorb a drink.
2) You’re drinking from the tap what turns out to be non-contaminated-but-for-a-while-possibly-contaminated water before you’ve even realized there was a warning out. This is because listening to the local or national news stations has become so depressing it’s not even worth tuning in except for the comedy value. It’s now as depressing as spending a bank holiday tidying and repairing a house that you are going to be moving out of, which wasn't as tidy when you first moved in as it is now.
3) Your door mat is still regularly being swamped by a small forest worth of fast food menus, religious propaganda and various other adverts. On this subject I have a plan that might save some paper and that is to combine the first two to make a religious fast food outlet.
I can see it now… “The Holy Cheese - Take Away a slice of Heaven". Plenty of marketing opportunities for both food and ‘the word’. How about a free bible with every order over 10 pounds instead of crackers? They could d'liver and chicken normally, except only fish on Fridays within a 2 mile circumference of a peace wall and further deliverance charges may apply for every mile extra. There would be a heavenly selection of toppings for the pizzas. A special offer would always be available on the last pastie supper. Another favourite would no doubt be the special offer: buy 2 fish suppers and 5 sides, get a bargain bucket big enough to feed a family of 5000 absolutely free! Terms and conditions will of course apply, the down side would no doubt be that no proof of purchase would be availible but there would be plenty of doctrine to make up for it. As the radio ad will say... "What are you waiting for, the time is nigh! Save your soul the hard work: dial 02890-GOD-NOM now!”.
Whatever you do don’t tell that EBay power seller from my last post, they probably would!
4) You get your hopes up that the good weather has made its decade long return because the sun appeared for 2 consecutive days. Hopes are to be dashed though when venturing out without a coat or thinking about cutting the grass. For anyone who doesn't know, April showers in N.I are just general ‘rest of the year’ showers but less frequent as it rains all the time except in winter when it’s just cold. The hills around Belfast appear when it’s about to rain and are hidden when it is raining hence why barometers don’t do a roaring trade but umbrellas do. People have started to brave the beaches again though, especially on bank holiday Monday past.
5) New buildings have sprung up everywhere and your confused why The Boat is being made from glass and is going to be kept on dry land. One construction site (for The Obel) is currently looking like a giant robot when viewed from a distance. You have to wonder what some of the more modern glass fronted ones will look like in 20 years time but for now the change is good and its nice to see the developments that have been on paper for quite a while take place. Law Society House, Lanyon Towers, The Titanic Quarter and The Boat are all starting to really take shape. Not to mention the bright white main frontage of the Cathedral Quarter buildings. The regeneration websites like Future Belfast have pictures of the artists impressions of the finished buildings but I for one can’t wait to see what they all look like and how the sky line changes.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
As you might be able to tell I’ve re-found a bit of a cheerier mood, it probably helps that it’s been days without a call from an estate agent and the herbal remedy of a highly understanding Norn Girl, the odd alcoholic drink or two and a lot of sleep went a long way to bring me back to somewhere near as normal as I get, at least a cheery normal.
So Easter brought me eggs of two of the best kinds; one was of the yummy chocolate variety and other the life version of DVD Easter eggs - that is some small but fun things that bring a bit of excitement or that are just plain nice surprises that just had to be found or came out of nowhere unexpectedly. In the order that they happened between Friday night and Sunday here are the great Easter eggs of life that the worryingly mysterious Easter bunny left for me:
The first was the treat of the new episodes of Red Dwarf, episodes; Back to Earth part 1, 2 and 3 . I’ve been a big fan since I was younger, I’ve all the DVDs and although seemingly heavily influenced by the new financial backing to make it possible, it has not disappointed me. It’s almost as if Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Joules and Robert Llewellyn never left my screen. Kudos to the makeup department. Saying that it probably wasn’t too hard to get Robert Llewellyn looking like his good old Kyrten self, though no doubt it was still a gruelling plastering of prosthetics. I’ve still not seen the final episode, I had to save that for the repeats on Monday of all 3 episodes back to back. I’m still in hope that no matter what the ending, there might still be life left in the show and it’s not just the swansong the cast wanted to make as a movie for the last few years.
On Saturday another smile hijacked my face after Norn Girl pointed me in the direction of a listing on Ebay. To begin with the seller’s listings are as normal as any. The odd thing is that this Ebay power seller goes, well, a little ‘religiously out there’. I know the value of many of this sellers item’s to be at least ¼ of the prices being asked but 7k sales must mean it works:
“We are happy to ship your package anywhere in the U.S. We ship to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam with no problem. If you are from one of the U.S. Territories you will need to pay for Priority Shipping, so we can print your label.
Invite Jesus into your heart today. His love is everlasting.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
Check out my other items! "
I’m still trying to decide whether taking Jesus into my heart is a good free gift and a deal clincher. I rather suspect the person ‘religiously selling’ is psychologically relating to their target market. The alternative is it’s an extra payment as they’re spreading the word and therefore helping themselves to that spot in heaven, sure, what price for eternal happiness?
Sure at least the religious message relates well to a bigger picture. That being the willingness to trust a person/institution with a monetary interest who is providing a message that can’t be proven. People with the same beliefs must no doubt be willing to pay the extra $10 an item to this seller. Ethical? I dunno. Not exactly appropriate at any rate, but it’s a marketing dream! I tried to tie this legally into the listing in my mind. I was torn between the toys being sold actually being named Jesus and that in this fantasy if you believe in the toy, God will bring you ever lasting life. I thought that was a rather ingenious back story though it must get boring having every toy being given the same. The other option was that it was an endorsement from the manufacturer. That though raised the question that if we’re all God’s children, but Jesus was his only son, can we only conclude that we must be adopted. I didn’t want to start to have to draw a family tree going back through evolution to find out who left us in a Moses basket by the cave door.
Moving away from religious oddities, the next Easter egg was on Saturday afternoon when we spotted a few Bees’ buzzing about the place. A sign spring is truly here.
The next came at Seaview in North Belfast, where Crusaders drew 1-1 with Lisburn Distillery. It wasn’t the game itself that spawned this egg; in fact the game wasn’t a great advert for the Irish League, largely due to the standard of refereeing on display - very stop start. Saying that I have seen worse English premier league games on TV this season. This Easter egg involved the Linfield manager David Jeffrey. He had come to Seaview to watch two of the teams that his Linfield side is due to play in forthcoming fixtures. The funny moment came as he walked into a room of Crusaders and Distillery supporters and received the appropriate badinage. No bad language, just enough friendly taunts to bring a smile to his face before he started chatting to the folks about the place. It reminded me again why the local game here has an edge over the big money game over the water. You wouldn’t see Alex Ferguson wandering into a room of Arsenal supporters at an Arsenal Vs Chelsea game and everyone enjoying the moment.
An actual chocolate Easter egg wasn’t far behind; though I only ate one of the two I’d been generously given by Norn Girl and her mum. The other will keep my sugar levels up over the next week that will involve a lot of sorting and packing.
The next non-edible Egg came in the form of Dr Who, the episode Planet of the Dead managed to go the way of Stephen King’s The Langoliers meets Back to the Future but without actually going back in time. Lee Evans and a Welsh accent made for some good comedy moments but as always it was just quality entertainment without adverts that made it such a treat. Another TV related gem came in the form of Aston Villa Vs Everton, a 3-3 thriller and some good points on the online Fantasy Premier League game.
To complete the box was a trip to Norn Girls mum’s house and a lovely meal. This was followed by some Supernatural and me being a big kid again. Norn Girls younger brother pulled out a box of Lego. I used to spend hours with the stuff as a kid and tonight I regressed, much like the cast of Red Dwarf, as if I’d never been away. It became an intricate improvised construction but here is a land/water hybrid vessel with several movable parts, including a multi directional rotor blade. Who doesn’t love Lego?
Saturday, 11 April 2009
Before I begin, I realise at times my largely trivial problems in life pale in significance to many situations people find themselves in on a day to day basis. I do understand how lucky I am and I generally hope I appreciate what I have. Having a roof over your head after all isn’t a given but...
Norn girl and I rent. We would love to own our own place and have dreams of doing so but we’ve not a hope in an afterlife turned bad to be able to afford to do so for a fair wee while - especially with our wedding approaching. We both work full time and although our nearest and dearest are very supportive we have to work hard and prioritise for most of what we have. Like many our age we took out our own student loans – are in lots of debt due to it, we pay our rent and all our bills but we still manage by and large to live what we would describe as a comfortable lifestyle.
The problem of renting is that due to the short term nature of it, at least in our case, we end up moving a lot and giving away a lot of money just for the pleasure of being tied to a contract that’s made to make the landlord money and bring the estate agent commission... and its frickin annoying.
Except for those in the same predicament (a constantly increasing number of the population) I don’t think many people truly understand the pressures this puts on people making their own way in life. It’s something people know about all too well in many major cities like New York, London and Dublin, where short of a life changing sum of cash you're renting for life or moving somewhere to settle down. The majority of people in their early 20’s today who are able to buy have either saved since they left school, or as seems to be the annoying case, are helped out (keeping their heads in fantasy land) conveniently by the bank of mum and dad. For those of us trying to make the best of being stuck adrift of the bottom rung on the ladder, we dream of things like being able to paint the walls without asking, being able to keep a cat or not having to rely on someone (who only see’s you as figures in a bank balance) doing as cheap a repair as possible to somewhere you have to live. If I ever go even more crazy than I did this week and go into politics, my manifesto would include restrictions on limiting the amount of houses one person can own. Surely when something is in short supply, it has to be managed properly and not just left to the whims of markets seemingly left to be controlled by those with no vested interest in the well being of society?
The looming move was partially our choice initiated by Norn Girl and as a chance to reduce our outgoings. In the end it was largely forced by the estate agency and their seemingly non-legally trained staff. Who, from recent experience, don’t understand the terms of the contracts they are advising us to sign. Hence, even though we’ve moved house more time in the last 10 year than the average cat owner could go through hamsters and goldfish, we were technically at fault when it came to notice periods. It’s amazing how manipulative the service we had was. If ever you’re in a position to re-sign a lease, and it’s in a declining market like now, I would advise you get in early and haggle. As much as they lead you to believe you’re in no such position, we ended up unwittingly calling their bluff by actually wanting to move. It’s amazing that something that was to be no lower than the current rental 2 days before, could suddenly have dropped £30 a month less than the current price. Then after terrible service we hold our ground as we actually now want to not have to deal with them anymore and the rent suddenly drops to £55 a month less as a last gasp attempt to try and hold onto you. In the end we’re probably going to spend more than it was worth for the pleasure of moving but it’s the right thing to do, I do believe we’ll be happier in the new house.
So from what can only be described as voluntary stalking from the estate agencies over the start of the week. This was followed by a similar non-stop barrage of madness at work. Evenings were all spent with twisted plans of how to go about clearing space, staring at the mess in our house at the moment (wondering where to start) and trying to not forget birthdays. It’s been one long tiring, emotion sapping and brain tangling time.
Thankfully it’s an extended weekend with lots of football and more importantly with the weekend comes a sleep in. Like it has recently, the sun might peek out from the clouds and we might be able to be outside to enjoy it. Not only that, there’s new Red Dwarf on Dave to bring a smile to the face and as seems to be the tradition on the Easter weekend, some mood enhancing chocolate shaped eggs might be consumed. Therefore the good news is that although time is in short supply and there is so much to be organised, the little distractions we work so hard to keep might just let us sustain a reasonably positive state of mental health. What more can you ask for?
Monday, 6 April 2009
The point being there is a huge difference in what as a fan you receive back from supporting a club where every fan matters and where you’re not just a faceless number.
Thankfully my first miss understanding didn’t deter me. The positive I took from what would have been not even a full first team playing at Seaview that day was the connection the fans had with the action on the pitch. It reminded me so much of the time I was supporting Leeds in a pre-season friendly away at York City. The game there also ended 1-1. It was also by no means a classic but the one thing I do remember so clearly was that same connection with the players and staff. When the ball came over the fence before the game and at half time we all played volleyball and throughout the time on the terrace we were singing and cheering. The players, many of whom weren’t in the first team responded to the fans and it made cheering them on through the game like cheering on your relatives, you could mock them in good spirit or cheer them on until you lost your voice and they appreciated it and it positively impacted their performance.
So after a night of anticipation waiting for this Saturday to arrive we got dressed up in our shirts, scarves and hats and picked up our flags. Just after 1pm we arrived outside Seaview on the Shore Road and were guided to our bus by one of the supporter’s club members. Many other coaches joined us and we were on our way up the M2, destination Ballymena.
We arrived at 2.45 and made our way to the gate of the Warren St Stand. Unlike the impersonal frisking at many English Premiership grounds the security searching us were apologetic for taking up our time and we were soon inside the ground buying a program and some half time draw tickets and a bite to eat. The supporters groups had got together to ensure a great atmosphere for the game and over a hundred flags were being waved when the players lined up on the pitch.
Although there weren’t a huge number of Institute fans who had made their trip down from Derry those that had made the trip were also in high spirits.
It’s important to understand that Irish league football is frowned upon by many so called football fans here in Northern Ireland. We all know many so called fans who would rather pay through the nose to a digital TV station to sit at home and watch their favourite English Premiership top 4 side than head to a live local game for a fraction of the cost and a more interactive form of entertainment. So for the Irish league clubs who have to survive on a shoe string (even Linfield who do have an advantage over the rest of the league with a lucrative deal for use of their stadium for International games with the Irish Football Association) a crowd of several hundred is a decent attendance.
The match soon reached a high tempo and within 10 minutes we were 1-0 up thanks to a goal from Jordan Owens that would have had the pundits purring. That is if there was actually a highlights show other than 5 minutes of highly selective footage before the schools rugby at 5pm on a Saturday when no fan is even home to watch. The goal came after Martin Donnelly played a lifted ball down the left wing to Mark Dickson who’s first time looped cross to Jordan Owens was volleyed into the bottom left hand corner from just inside the area. We all went crazy and the red and black chequered flags filled the air. Goal number two arrived before we had chance to breath. Again a cross from Dickson found Owens whose header was parried by Allan Ryan in the Stute goal and it was scraped over the line by Eamon Doherty. The stand erupted again and the chant I really don’t like of ‘easy, easy, easy’ rang out. It was a solid performance by the Crues players who like their counterparts put their own livelihoods on the line each week giving their all for the club for very little financial reward.
After a half largely dominated by the Crues but with the odd moment of nerves in front of our goal the tie was made all but safe when Aaron Black made it 3-0 after being slipped through by Davy Rainey, it was a great finish that almost seemed to settle in right hand corner of the goal in slow motion. We were in dreamland and well on the way to the clubs first Irish Cup final in 29 years. I don’t think anyone expected such a clinical first half with the other 3 games this season between the sides having being so very tight.
Half time came and went and the second half saw another goal for each side. First Stute were awarded a penalty for a foul in the box that was calmly converted by Kevin Ramsey. Then after several substitutions, the game was put beyond any doubt by a fortunate if not quite spectacular own goal. A diving header sent the ball up in the air, crashing against the cross bar and over the line before bouncing out again.
As the whistle blew the emotion from Stephen Baxter (manager of the Crues), the staff and the players showed that it meant as much to them as it did to us. They came over and applauded and celebrated with us as we them. Unlike the usual crowds you see across the water, it was not only the Crusaders fans applauding our team but also those Institute supporters who had stayed behind after the whistle. Our players returned the applause to them as they made their way off the pitch and down the tunnel. Moments like that never get noted by the press as they like to focus on any minor negative event that might occur at such occasions but it’s the nice moments that stick in my mind.
A noisy but enjoyable ride home followed, the adrenalin still rushing through our veins and the prospect of a televised final against either Linfield or Cliftonville on May 9th to look forward to. With 5 matches in the league to go before then and with the weather improving, we’ve over a month of great entertainment ahead.
Although televised here in Northern Ireland, if anyone wants to join the Crusaders support at the final, you’ll be in for a treat. We’ll be singing our hearts out and waving our flags and willing our wee club from North Belfast on to win the cup. The atmosphere if past finals and semi finals of other cups are anything to go by will be electric.
Win or lose the players will do us proud and sure it won’t be the polished silky skills of the English Premiership on show but the difference won’t be too far short. Hopefully the financial side for clubs will improve soon which will enable to clubs to improve the skills on show. With the Crues, a cross-community project with Newington FC to relocate to a new stadium is in the pipeline to try and secure that future and benefit the community further than it already does.
What is lacking in precision within the game here is made up for with passion, honesty and excitement. After all in the Irish League it’s pride and the love of the game that drives the fans and clubs to stay afloat and the players to give their all.
C’mon Crues, you can do it!
Friday, 3 April 2009
Midway through the week and still getting used to the clocks set forwards at the weekend. I woke up to Radio One and the Chris Moyles show. Like any start of the month with an ‘R’ in the name, I forgot to perform the superstition of saying white rabbits 3 times. So some noticing of unfortunate events was bound to come my way, such is the way these things get in your head.
So after listening to Chris Moyles wind up the team with April Fools from 6.30am until I got up, you would think that this (like anything else I hear subliminally on a morning whilst semi conscious) would have been at the forefront of my thoughts. It wasn’t though because a busy schedule at work required me trying to psych myself up for the onslaught of to-do’s I had ahead of me. Well, that and day dreaming out of the window with my eyes still thinking they’re inches away from our comfy foam mattress.
I sat down at my desk as per normal, unlocked my draws, pulled out my notes and a pen and logged onto my machine. I got through my emails and had started to make some progress with the order of the day.... when all of a sudden I get a call out of the blue from Norn Girl that went a little something like this;
“...Hiya, now don’t be mad at me but, you know that house we were looking at, well I went to view it and yeah, they said if I signed the lease there and then they would waive the deposit, so yeah I did”
“uh...*silence*.........(at this point head is trying to work out a million things at once, trying to comprehend - one, that yes she probably would do that – two, we’d already decided not to, why the heck has she done that - 3 what the beep!)......”
Before I had chance to try and somehow make any sense I had made of this rather huge decision about our living accommodation, Norn Girl informs me that I am indeed a fool, and indeed that I was. I got so well had that I was more owned than a child from Malawi with Madonna in town. The delivery was perfect; Norn Girl really missed her calling in amateur dramatics. Going on that performance she wouldn’t be out of place as a member of the New Lyric down at the Opera house, can you volunteer people?
2. Inflicted a blow to the Fibula that has caused said man on a stationary bus to stumble forwards as if a moderate Earthquake of 5 on the Richter scale had localised in the vicinity.
3. Has caused a person stood still to cease their ATM transaction to see if they’re being mugged by a dwarf gnawing at their leg.
Politeness maybe passed them by at some point or maybe they’re in a trance, but I wish they’d at least flinch or show some sign that I existed. After watching the lady just walk on after number 3 she continued to trail her bags around the back of my ankles and her arm was bending backwards to compensate the drag... what did she think was causing the resistance? Even when for some crazy reason I apologised, I still didn’t get even a glance and I was the one with the earphones in at the time.