Category Archives: Belfast

Keeping the peace

(Never thought I’d have to do this, and probably dont have to now, but given my role, let me just say any comments made here are purely my personal ones, and I would prefer, however hard, to keep all political comments out of any replies, should there be any)

Its fair to say that my Irish ancestry has an interesting background, though given both sides of my family moved to the UK at the start of the 20th Century, its too distant (by 1 generation on both sides) to apply for an Irish passport now, if I wanted to. Interesting? Well, my father was from Irish Catholic ancestry from Kerry, my mother from Irish Protestant roots from Offaly. Yes, somehow or other, a few generations later, in the UK, they got married, and the rest is history! Well, me, anyway! It means that my first 9 years (until my father left my mother) I was brought up as Catholic, before quickly going to Protestant roots once he was gone.

So to say that to me, the Troubles in Ireland was an even more complex issue than for most, would be putting it mildly. Lets not comment too much on that, as a view from either side, as my ancestry was from the South, anyway. By the time I first visited Northern Ireland (I was about 30 by then), my look at it would be from the Protestant side, its fair to say.

Eventually, in the 90’s, the peace process came to Northern Ireland. One of the figures behind that, was Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Fein, and IRA background. To say he had a shady background would be putting it mildly, but fine, some of the Democrats past wasnt a lot cleaner, but anyway… The rest is history, the 2 sides came together, and peace was born out of the troubles. Yes, its had a few less than perfect moments over the years, but we still have peace! Yes, as you’ve probably heard on the news everywhere, Martin McGuinness has just died, at 66.

Thankfully, I have nothing to forgive, or not forgive him for, as the case may be. Others have a less easy choice, and I can understand their views, whichever way they look at it. But lets just remember one thing, without him, the peace process may not have got started as soon, and even more innocent people may have lost their lives.

Its funny, I remember back in the ‘bad old days’ being whisked around the edge of Belfast, on the ring road, as no one wanted to go into the city. Now, several times, I’ve been to Belfast for cricket, and not seen any trouble. That, at least is something. The irony, the ground is at Stormont, not a long way from the parliament building!

Having said I wont get political, there is one song that relates strongly to the events of the troubles, so it was hard to ignore.

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A look back at 2013

The personal version at least. When WordPress issue the yearly stats for this site, I will post the details here, as before, for anyone that cares?

Yes, I know, a couple of days early, but if you saw my shifts for the next couple of days, you’d know why!

I suppose the main thing that has happened this year that surprised me, is that I’m now an ebook author, and have received actual royalties for my stories. Alright, so I currently only have 4 story releases (the 5th early in the New Year), and have only sold 34 books, but if you’d told me at the start of the year that I would have made any money by it, I would have laughed at you! But its been fun, I must say.

This year has seen 3 big trips away from home, one to Belfast for a couple of days cricket (involving a lot of rain, and some cricket) so that I could see Trent Johnston play one more time, before retirement. The other 2, unsurprisingly to the US, the R’s of Rochester, and Richmond. With no disrespect to Kate, or Richmond, the Rochester trip was the special one. The chance to see where Louise Brooks lived for many years at the end of her life, and more importantly still, to pay my respects at her graveside were precious. More on her in the look forward to 2014 on New Years Day, shall we say? ūüėČ

Oh, and the other surprise event, I went to a pop concert! That had been quite a while, I promise you. Yes, I got to see OMD live in Leeds, a sort of full circle seeing that I saw them in concert in 1982, in London as well. I almost saw the Beach Boys in Richmond too, but discovered it too late to sort it all out for me and Kate. Yes, alright, about 3 hours before the concert in fact, far too little notice!

Sports wise, beyond the cricket, I had the coldest game of Baseball I ever hope to have, back in Rochester, in April. I think the official temperature was 43, but I dread to think what it felt like, given the wind chill factor too. I was glad to get a hot coffee (or 2) afterwards, in a valiant attempt to get warm again.

Beyond that, pretty much work, and putting up with Trans Pennine Express, and their awful service took up plenty of time. No comment on either.

The video, well, its not a song tonight. My best selling book (so far) is one called ‘No Place Like Nome’, based loosely around the 2009 Iditarod race, just over half my sales in fact. So the video, well, its Nome, in February 2009, the month before the race the story is about. At one point, they put up the chute, before taking it down again, but dont blink, or you’ll miss it!

Happy New Year to all my readers, see you in 2014

Thanks for the memories

Well, unless anyone has convinced him to stay on until March, for one last stand, today marked the end of one of the most legendary careers in Irish cricket. Yes, today was the last day that David Trent Johnston (better known simply as Trent, or even TJ) played international cricket for Ireland, bring to an end an illustrious career, both in standard white, and of course the famous green clothing.

As I said, thanks for the memories, there are so many.

Its funny though, before March 2007, if someone had pointed him out to me, or even more amazingly, introduced him to me, I would have asked who? Because, lets face it, like so many Irish cricket fans, they only really came flashing into the headlights of fame back then, in the West Indies.

But it wasnt the famous game against Pakistan when I saw him play, I had seen him a few days before, when Ireland had the temerity to force a tie with Zimbabwe. Yes, a few of that team, including Trent, had ‘interesting’ Irish accents, it must be said. In his case, hardly surprising, seeing he was born in New South Wales, Australia.

Even after that, I wasnt holding any major expectations, even on St Patrick’s Day, when Ireland played their next match, that now famous one against Pakistan. And guess who hit the winning runs, the captain that day, Trent Johnston. Despite going on to lose to the hosts, the 2 previous results ensured that Ireland moved on to the next stage, and that next win over a test nation, over Bangladesh.

Legend has it, that only one of the squad had bought enough clothing and things for the extended stay, no prizes for working out who! True or not, I have no idea, but I could believe it.

From there on in, a casual fan of Irish cricket (like many thousands of others) became a much keener fan. In a sense, sadly, when Ireland played cricket in the English domestic limited overs tournament, they rarely did well. But for a good reason, at least half the full strength side (even back then) were playing in the same tournament for their counties. But Trent led the team to a few memorable victories, all the same.

Since then, he’s led the country on a few occasions, though the main role passed on to William Porterfield, in good time, a fine leader himself. And more recently, Kevin O’Brien has taken over from him, when the county players arent around.

Strictly, I havent been introduced directly to Trent, but I’ve sat (or stood) next to him at Belfast a few times. The most recent being this years trip to Belfast, for the Australia A game, when he was literally stood about 2 yards from me, if not less. But no, I’m not a big one for just talking to people I really dont know, so just sat and looked. It probably would have been fine, but…I know… In fact, the main reason I went to Belfast this year was to see Trent play one last time, and I’m glad I did it.

In the recent qualifiers for next years T20 World Cup, Trent played outstandingly, with the bat, as much as the ball, and Ireland comfortably won the competition. Today marked the end of the last stand, the Inter Continental Cup Final (the multi day tournament for non test playing nations) when Ireland again beat Afghanistan. The only sad point, Trent suffered an Achilles injury yesterday, and spent today in the commentary box, not on the field. I’m sure thats not how he wanted it to end, but sadly the body said otherwise.

The nice touch, the trophy presentation afterwards. Normally the captain would go up and collect it, but on this occasion, oh no. Up went Trent Johnston to collect it, quite a fitting moment, handled wonderfully by William Porterfield.

So as I said at the start, Trent, thanks for so many wonderful memories, we will all miss you so much.

The video, something far older than both of us

PS and apology. Mr P, I know you prefer to be called Will, or Porty, but please allow for the fact I’m writing this for people who wouldnt know who I was talking about otherwise.

At the close of the cricketing year, I would also like to thank Roy Torrens, Robin Walsh, Barry Chambers and Ian Callender for their wonderful hospitality earlier this year in Belfast. I would also mention the man from Cricinfo, but I cant remember his name, so this is as good as it gets.

Just a week to go

No, nothing sensational, just the end of British summer time, thats all. Though in all honesty, summer has been over for a while now, its just that date declared by the ‘powers that be’ that this is the end of summer time, and we return to what is our natural time zone. The irony is, we spend less time in that, than we do in the artificial one created by bureaucrats, in the deep distances of the past. Ironically, a century ago, the idea had not even been contemplated, it only happening for the first time during WW 1. Hopefully it went better than the tragedy that was that war zone.

Then in the late 60’s it became a permanent thing, though the dates, and number of time zones moved have varied over the years, nowadays its 7 months of the year, far longer than a British summer will ever be! Its funny, I always begrudge the hour of sleep I lose in March, but dont seem to get the same benefit of the extra hour in October, for whatever reason. One thing is for sure, after next Sunday, I will be coming home in the dark pretty much every night for a very long time. Ah well…

The summer has been pretty good, my 2 traditional trips to the US, both to cities beginning with R, Rochester, and Richmond. Both were great trips, but alright, I’m already looking forward to next year, and getting to Kansas at some point. Other trip will be to Albany, for those who care about such things. First trip will be late, not until May, because of the late Easter, and things.

Beyond that, there was a trip to Belfast, for cricket, something I might have more difficulty repeating next year, due to some little football tournament called the World Cup! Seems England have qualified, by the way (tongue in cheek)? That will make travel complex, given I doubt we will be allowed to have holiday during that time.

Oh, and lots and lots of work…rolls eyes! Still, 4 weeks from now, a weeks break, and I’m already ready for it! Shortly after that, the office dinner, and the flapper look will rise again lol! But thats all in the future, so…

In tribute to what is about to pass, a classic song

A Belfast Air

I know, I know, the traditional tune for this is another city in Northern Ireland, but given I’ve been breathing in the Belfast air for a few days now…I could also have called it, Oh Maxy boy, but that joke would have sailed over non cricket fans heads!

Ah, the cricket. Yes, the Max is Max Sorensen, taker of 5 Australian wickets in the 88 overs of play managed over the last 2 days, most of them yesterday. We managed a whole 16 overs today before the rain came in, and blew the rest of the days play away. Mind, that has its moments too. After a short while, I went in the pavilion to get shelter indoors, and ordered a coffee, to try and warm myself up. I turn round, and almost bump into Paul Stirling stood behind me, one of Ireland’s leading players. Shortly after, Kevin O’Brien walks in, and after a while, Trent Johnston sits down at a table, literally across the passageway from me.

And before anyone says anything about only Irish players mingling, Steve Smith was seen chatting to several spectators before we got started this morning too. Maybe its the Belfast air, maybe its just natural politeness, but either way, its a lovely sight.

Anyway, about 3.00, it was clear there was unlikely to be any more play today (there wasnt), so I headed back into the city. I wasnt really shopping for anything, though I did find one wonderful shop selling vintage stuff, but didnt buy, though I might have been tempted to some degree.

Then back to the hotel, and during this evening, I got a reminder of ‘old Belfast’ when a parade of marching band(s?) went down the street nearby. Just remember, I used to be over here during the ‘Troubles’, and marching parades used to be a major catalyst for riots, and other delights. Nowadays, no one even blinks, thats how much things have changed for the better.

Tomorrow is back to England, hopefully I can get back here next year, though it may be more fun arranging dates, given the World Cup is being held in Brazil next summer. But fingers are crossed…though I may have seen the last of Trent playing, but I wouldnt put too much money on that. His form is still red hot, unfortunately his body is aging, a fact I too know only too well lol!

So, in tribute to my location, and to the bands, lets end with a song that will ever be linked to Northern Ireland. Sung by a Canadian actress, who only died 2 months ago, I was surprised to read on Wiki.

Airport security, and yesterday

Its funny how things happen, isnt it. Normally you only get to experience airport security once when setting out to fly somewhere, dont you? Unless your plane gets cancelled, and you have to go back and start all over again, of course. Mind, if you did, you’d expect the same results twice, unless…

This happened to me yesterday, I was meant to be flying to Belfast on the 3.05 flight from Manchester yesterday, but didnt. The flight was cancelled, 15 minutes after we should have taken off, for technical reasons, strongly rumoured to be the fact there wasnt enough people booked on the plane, but I have no evidence of that. But given there was a regular Flybe passenger booked on our plane, and he commented this wasnt the first time it had happened to him, for that reason, so…

Ah, the fun bit. When I went through security the first time, I was in ‘no rush’ mode, and was processed normally. I went through one of the standard scanners, and passed through first time, not a thing. Oh, unamusing point with that team, despite boobs and things (was even in wedge heels), I had to wait for a man to see me, not a woman. I wasnt annoyed, until they started letting women through, but anyway…

Second time around, because I had very little time to get on board, they put me in the fast lane, and I went through one of the more modern scanners, and set it off. Exactly the same things on, watch was in handbag both times, so…I got to do the newest body scanner thing, which I’ve done in the US before (and cleared) as well. So I get the hand scanner thing used on me, seems it was the buckles on my trousers that may have set it off, or the silver metal decorations on my shoes. But they both passed the first time! Oh, second time around, I was female, female scanned, and called madam, so I preferred them, despite everything.

Weird thing is I passed through the most modern version of body scanner in Rochester, in April, with a big metal button on my trousers, and passed! Oh, for those who dont know, this is it, though its now in use, not on trial any more

Today has been a wonderful day at the cricket, meeting up with some old friends, making some new ones in the media area today as well. I saw a century scored, sadly by an Australian. Steve Smith did look classy though, and if he doesnt play in the Ashes, I will be amazed. Back again tomorrow, weather permitting.

Yes, I recall…

Well, at least using that as the title might confuse a few as to what video it is tonight, though not for long I suspect.

On my previous trips to Belfast, I’ve always stayed at a wonderful hotel called Park Avenue Hotel, in the Holywood area of the city. This time I’m not, and in irony, in one sense, it would be easier if I was. Its nothing personal, its just that when I found a good, downtown hotel to stay at, so it seemed a chance I should take. More variety on eating outlets, maybe a chance to see some of the city centre, so…

The thing is, on Facebook, I have the Park Avenue Hotel listed as one of my likes. So earlier this week, they posted up that the Strand Cinema, virtually across the road from the hotel is showing a film tomorrow night, that I wouldnt mind seeing again. No, not a Brooks film, that would be too much to ask lol. But another wonderful, slim featured actress, yes it does, Audrey Hepburn in fact. And this is where the video clue comes in, its Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

The cinema is an amazing building, if you want to see what it looks like, go to,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strand_Cinema

and take a look. Yes, its a 30’s building, and truly, quite something. Snag is, from the centre of Belfast, its a bit of a trek, especially during the evening to get there. Even more so when I probably wont get to the hotel before 5.00, and I would have to sort myself out, eat, and be there for an 8.15 start! Mind, it needs to start on time, there are only 2 buses left back into town after the film ends, and one of those involves a short walk in an area I really dont know too well!

So yes, all in all, I’ll probably give it a miss, though I know I’ll regret doing so, both because of the cinema, and the film. It might be a sell out anyway, and I cant book in advance, because I might feel shattered after the journey, so…but I can ring, and check on that.

Oh, and thats not everything, though the other would only be viable with bad weather on Saturday, which I hope it isnt. At the Park Avenue, they’re having a vintage fair, and though they might not have any 20’s or 30’s clothing at bargain prices, well, equally they might! Aargh!

Right, the video. No, not the film, just the same named music video from 1995, which is a great song, and sprang to mind before starting this as perfect

Here comes the summer

Oh, I wish lol! its been another, cool, wet day here today, but in theory at least, from Friday onwards…no, I wont be holding my breath on it though!

At present I’m just hoping that in 2 weeks time that the weather is a lot better than today. Yes, thats when I’m heading for Belfast, hopefully to watch some cricket, while soaking up the sun. More likely, shivering in the cold and damp, but sometime I’ve got to get really good weather for a cricket trip over there.

The interesting thing this time around is that I’m actually staying in Central Belfast, as opposed to my previous place, which is out in the outskirts, on the right side for Stormont. So I’m in for a different experience this time around, but hopefully a peaceful one. I also have to find out what bus I need to get out to the ground, and from where, but I’m sure I’ll get help on that info from Cricket Ireland folk, and forumites.

Hopefully I can find an eating place or two a bit more easily downtown as well, not that I have any idea on the where, to be honest. So if anyone knows any reasonably priced places in downtown Belfast, within walking distance of the Days Inn, feel free to shout. Basically, if you work on the basis that I eat most things (other than spicy), it gives you plenty of scope. Italian, or Chinese would be nice, but suggest away… No, not McDonalds lol! ūüėõ Dinner date, purely optional, especially given I’m trans, and if you do, I pay my share, unless you really insist! Dont worry, I would wear trousers, flat shoes and a top, unless you really are brave/crazy enough to want me to wear a dress, and heels, I shouldnt think so lol!

Beyond a short period Sunday morning, I (hopefully) wont have time for sightseeing, so no need to suggest anything there. its funny, the first time I saw central Belfast was from a safe distance, for the obvious reason, it was during the Troubles, thankfully now pretty much passed.

Oh, and surrounding that, its the Derby on Saturday, Royal Ascot the week after I get back. Who me, in the Royal Enclosure in finery, I dont think so somehow!

The video, well they’re Irish, and hopefully the song title will come true too. And for those not terribly into punk, its very short too!

Looking back on 2011

Yes, I do hope to get in one more post this year on Saturday, but that will be looking forward to 2012, so call this the annual review lol.

2011 has been an interesting year to say the least. Its the first year I actually travelled on a passport that said Ms, rather than Mr, and believe me, that was a special moment. Even if due to the wonders of our ‘beloved’ passport office, I still have to show gender as male! The good news, it seemed most places I travelled, the vast majority of people disagreed with that, assuming I was, or making it very clear they thought I was female. Its another reason for loving Boston to be honest, no one would have believed my gender on my passport lol! Nowadays I use the unisex toilets at work, solves all problems for everyone, and is fine by me to be honest.

The only down side to the whole thing has been Leeds GIC, who I have now totally given up on doing anything to help my gender change, and just settling for what changes my body wants to make for itself, some of them quite remarkable ones it must be said.

I guess its not hard to work out my cricketing highlight of the year, Ireland beating England in the World Cup just has to be the one. For a while I was just hoping for¬†respectability, but Kevin O’Brien ensured so much more than that. Getting to see them play¬†live¬†in Belfast beating Namibia twice, was a treat all the same. We’ve made a good start to qualifying for the next World Cup too, lets hope that continues in the New¬†Year, as well as hopefully retrieving the Inter Continental 4 day cup as well, though it will actually be 2013 before both of those conclude.

International¬†travel wise, there were 3 trips this year,¬†1 mentioned above. The other 2 were Toronto (for the first time beyond the airport transit area) and Boston (for the first time¬†in nearly 25 years!). I really enjoyed both cities, and would love to get back to both soon, though 1 is more likely to happen very quickly (like next year maybe?) than the other, though hopefully it wont be too long before I’m in Canada again. People I met have been well covered in previous postings,¬†so just a brief thanks to Kate, James, and the people of those 2 great cities for some wonderful memories. Especially those in Boston that¬†made it clear they wouldnt have thought I needed any surgery to be a woman!

Work, well its been a pretty good year, no real hassles beyond toilet issues (now solved) and the need to find somewhere else for next years Christmas dinner, please! The staff in the shops I have to take calls from, mmf, no comment on some of them!

Life, well I’ve started writing again, though my suspicion is the current story is going to be a one off, well who knows, I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it, though I suspect the inspiration has helped on that front all the same. The one thing I have noticed is that my body is beginning to age, and not gracefully in terms of joints. The knees are beginning to give me more grief, the back definitely is, and thats why next April will be the last west coast of¬†US trip for the foreseeable future, it¬†just hurts the body too much with all that sitting still on the planes for so long. It might be daft doing one more trip, but did want to see Seattle one more time at least.

The blog however will hopefully go sailing on sweetly, at least thats the plan.

The video, well I’m told there is an artist with a very similar name to mine, so lets give her a run out here. Funnily enough I knew the Corrs version of this song better, and had no idea she had written it in the first place. So, for the penultimate video of the year (and yes, the last one will be utterly obvious) lets see what dreams we can come up with for next year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_SYjv6HxRI&feature=related

An extra hour

Yes, tonight is the night that the clocks go back, signifying the end of summertime, though weather wise I think it might already have been over! Hopefully given my comments of late about lack of sleep, and lousy shift splits, I intend to sleep through my extra hour tonight, I think I need it!

As seems to happen every time of late that we do so, there seems to be all sort of talk about moving our time zone forward one hour, a move I see as the most stupid thing possible. Maybe someone should tell our idiots in government that we are in this time zone for a good reason, it fits in with our longitude, but thats clearly far too sensible for some! They actually tried it back in the 60’s, it didnt work, or last then, and I dont think it would work now. But anyway…

In the ‘old days’ it used to be the case that people rarely left their home area in their whole lives, and I’m feeling a slight deja vu over that. Since the clocks went forward, I’ve left West Yorkshire…4 times! Alright, 2 of those were transatlantic, 1 was Belfast, and the other was all the way to Manchester! A whole 35 minutes by train lol! And given its Trans Pennine Express, that was not a high speed one!

But those 3 longer trips were all good ones, visited 3 wonderful cities, only one new one, but hadnt been to the other 2 (Belfast city centre, that is) for a very long time. Got to meet some really nice people, again some for the first time, but others I’d seen on my previous trip to Belfast (yes, then I went to Stormont ground, but not into town) as well.

Maybe I’m methodical, maybe I’m just too practical, but the 2 big holidays for next year are already settled on, the April one will be booked in the next few days too. The September one will only be a delayed booking because I need to wait for next seasons NFL schedule to sort it out. Is it terrible that I’m already thinking about¬†April 2013 lol?

The video seems apt for tonight, one of this artists lesser songs sales wise, but I do like it. Hopefully, so will you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdQY7BusJNU&ob=av2e