Tuesday, 29 November 2011

What a Mad Couple of Months

Manchester at Dusk Like all the busy times (OK, and lazy times too) when I fail to write here regularly, I feel compelled to apologise for not sharing more with the world. But that's crazy, right? It's like going down the pub and apologising to random strangers for not being down there the day before sharing with them the story of how your day went. So as it is, this time I'll just slide past all that and onto another topic.

Which leads me to ask the question - Do I share too much online? - My thrush cream says I don't. The fungal infection on my back said I did... but the cream won the battle! I'm now 'period of low immune system fungal free', good times! and now you know.

That's just the last week or so, before the application of feminine orientated pharmaceuticals to my torso, there was already plenty going on. Here is a quick summary of what Norngirl and I have been up to besides having too much to eat...

Food Platter

And too much to drink...

Shadow in my beer

Back on the 23rd October we headed along to the Waterfront Studio to see Tony Hawks - the Author and Comedian. It was a fun night, the crowd wasn't huge but most of the audience was up for a laugh and that we did. Obviously with Tony Hawks it's going to be a little more gentle than a Jimmy Carr or Dara Ó Briain or an all out stand up of that nature. Tony tells a few jokes through stories, much like his books, and adds in some silly stuff and music for good measure. It was a fun night and well worth the entrance fee.

Talking of Jimmy Carr, a couple of weeks later we also went to see him perform his 'Laughter Therapy' at the Waterfront Hall. Prior to it we had the most deliciously affordable meal at The Northern Whig. I'd never been there for anything other than drinks, so I wasn't expecting anything amazing and the portions aren't huge but dude was it yummy. I usually hate batter on a fish but it was delicious, as were the potatoes and buttery saffron sauce that came with it. After Made In Belfast started putting their prices up, I was missing an amazingly yummy meal at a cheap enough price for me to afford it, and it turns out, it was hiding in the Northern Whig. We since went back on the day we substituted for our wedding anniversary, more on that later, and it was just as yummy the 2nd time with different meals on their 2 for 10 offer. So anyway, yes, Jimmy Carr. he talked about brownies too but his variety were scouts without nuts. As always, Jimmy Carr was excellent, crude and rude but politely so and brilliantly funny. Some of the audience interaction parts were a little bit of a let down but that was due to the audience not having any stand out characters. The picture part was the best yet, so wrong but yet hilarious. As Jimmy mentioned in the show, its about laughing before your conscious catches up to question it. As always, I can't wait until he's back to do another show.

The football has been keeping us busy too in more ways than one but it'll all be worth it in the end. C'mon Crues! Wooo! From watching games, to fundraising and from attending a testimonial dinner to playing 5-a-side in a charity competition at work, that game of kicking a bag of wind about sure has kept me busy.

In the last few weeks we also headed away for a few days, a trip to Rochdale for a wedding of one of Norngirl's relatives at Rochdale Town Hall.

Wedding White Rose

The wedding was nice and the Greek night we went to was great fun, great food too and plenty of dancing and plate smashing. If you're looking for a good place for a party in Littleborough in the outskirts of Rochdale, you probably couldn't go too far wrong at Demetris that's for sure.

I wasn't very impressed by Rochdale though, the town hall was lovely but there is not a great deal to see in the town to be honest.

Rochdale Town Hall

In the short time we were there it reminded me of Bradford but even more in need of regeneration. In the end on Saturday when we had some down time from the festivities, we went to see what the Trafford Centre was all about. I didn't really think it had much choice compared to the likes of Meadowhall, and with no Greggs, I was highly disapointed. Manchester was looking all cosmopolitan in the evening light though (see photo at the start of this post), a nice city to visit.

I mentioned before about our anniversary - it just so happened that 2 days before our actual anniversary we were both off work anyway, so we decided to celebrate early. As well as the meal at The Northern Whig, we headed along to Belfast Zoo. I know, maybe not a regular first choice for a romantic occasion but one I would recommend never the less. Though maybe not ideally on a cold November day if you can help it. We had a picnic with us and ate it by the lake before wandering around the animal enclosures.

The Cavehill from Belfast Zoo

Inside the reptile house was either a very lucky lost Peacock or, as I'd like to imagine, an evolutionary advanced Peacock with a heightened sense of common sense.

Indoor Peacock

The Peacocks wander the grounds freely but not usually indoors. I like to think he must have snook in to enjoy the warmth. I think he did as he wasn't going to move from his warm spot by the heated tanks, he was guarding his sauna space whilst being watched by the other residents like this Chameleon.

Chameleon Close up

Around the zoo, the Elephants, Giraffes and Zebra were out and about, as were the awesome Lions but most of the apes and bears were tucked up in the warmth of their burrows and heated rooms.


Sadly, the Malaysian Sunbears, the very animals that my blogger screen name is in homage to, were amongst those out of sight. I don't blame them mind you. The only animal at the top of the zoo brave enough to be out and about in the cold and with all the noise of the construction work (they're rebuilding the zoo's coffee shop at the top of the hill) was a lone hog that was frolicking in it's private mud-bath.

There were plenty of highlights in our 2nd wedding anniversary winter Belfast Zoo trip:

- Seeing a sleepy bat go to the toilet whilst hanging from a branch - which answered a great unanswered question! The trick is it wakes up enough to hang by it's 'hands' the right way around and then like a gymnast swings back into position once it's fertilised the floor below. Gravity 0 - 1 Bat.

Hanging Bat

- A giant Rabbit that made other species of rabbit look like mice in comparison.

- Elephant feeding time, turns out we might not have been the first species to find it fun to throw our food into the air and catch it in our mouths.

- Lions - RAWRRRRRRR. For a few minutes the Lionesses were just playing like my dads kittens, was hard to believe they could eat your hand off. Then the lady came to feed them and it was a quick reminder to resist the urge to take one home. Kittehs are powerful!

- Things that swim - specifically the Sea-lions and Smooth-coated otters. The Sea-lions are always a great sight, looking at them sitting still, I'd think they'd be slow and clumsy but they have more grace and agility then anyone human I know. The way they can turn and speed through the water and then leap like a penguin to clear a good few feet of rock and land perfectly, the Simpson's had the Dolphins take over but I reckon in reality it'd be the Sea-lion that took to land, it's always those you least expect and I reckon they're cleverer than they look.

Sea Lion in the water

Has anyone ever seen the Smooth-coated Otters out and about before? I hadn't until this time, I just assumed they were shy and retiring types, but nope, this time they were up close and personal.

Smooth-coated Otter

They'd been playing in the water as we approached them but then a group of birds came close to the end of their fence behind some bushes. The Otters sprang into action as if they were Meerkats, like this actual Meerkat...

Meerkat on the lookout

They were overly curious about the white feathery bird things lurking behind the fence, I'm not sure if they were on alert or just thought dinner was approaching but they were largely oblivious to two humans stood literally a couple of feet from where they had come to nosey from. Obviously we're just not a priority or deemed as food or scary to a captive Otter. Amazing creatures though, their tails and coats are something else, so sleek and shiny. Norngirl learnt a neat trick too. If an Otter is on the look out and if you raise your hand up in the air like you're doing a Mexican wave, they're distracted by it for a moment until they realise you're just a stupid human and will sit upright on their tails in a true Meerkat like pose.

Smooth-coated Otter Meerkat Impression

- There were also some fun birds who seemed as inquisitive about us as we were of them. Maybe they're plotting their take over of the world with the Sea Lions.

Curious Bird

So that was our Wedding Anniversary Belfast Zoo trip. In more recent days, we had a hectic week of preparation and local football fund-raising and since then we've been trying to prepare for Christmas.

We just had a great weekend - well, apart from the very sad news about Gary Speed – my favourite Leeds United player when I was a kid, but on the Saturday before all that happened we really had a great time at the Odyssey Arena where the Belfast Giants took on Braehead Clan (from Glasgow). It was a game packed with highlights and a nail-biting finish which saw the Giants take a penalty, ride it out then out of the penalty box flew Jon Pelle, a long cross ice pass set him on his way and he slammed the puck into the net to tie the game up at 4-4 with about 5 minutes to go, two late goals sealed a win.

If you weren't at the game on Saturday night, courtesy of UTV, this is what you missed... well this and the great company, a good atmosphere and some beer - hockey rocks!

December is looking like another mad month, this time though scattered with visits from family, Christmas parties, some more football, preparing some more for Santa and getting the house decorated, but it'll be worth it in the end. Although I'm not a fan of the whole 5 month build up to the day, I really do like Christmas. I even bought a battery powered £5.99 plastic toy train to put around the base of our tree. Hopefully, if we have enough time and I can find some model paint, it shall become a small project to Christmas it up and I'll be sure to share it with you. Maybe even a video :)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The MTV Europe Music Awards

The MTV EMAs are to be held in Belfast tonight. I'm a little torn about how much to care about it:

On the positive side:

- A major PR/marketing Boost for the city and its image.
- An estimated £10 million boost to the local economy.
- Some happy fans of highly manufactured pop music.

On the negative side:

- Some disruption for Belfast City centre.
- The principle that Belfast is endorsing what is essentially a glorified marketing/PR exercise for a major industry.

I mean, hosting the EMAs is a postive for Belfast but on the other hand, I'm not a fan of MTV and looking at a lot of the acts chosen by those MTV fans just indicates to me that they need their heads tested. So I couldn't care less of which act wins what but I will be watching anyway. Watching to see what the world is being shown of Belfast and in a guilt free schadenfreudesque way, watching to see which act makes the biggest mess up or proves that they have no idea where they are.

Sure, it's all rather egotistical and very financially motivated but it is about to happen and it should be quite the spectacle. So all considered, I'm sitting on the fence on this one.

I do hope it goes well for everyone heading along and that everyone has a good time and Belfast gets as much out of it as it can. Belfast will hopefully be the winner.


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