Since the beginning of 2017, there have been but a few opportunities to meet with my dear friend Kirsty. The principal reason being that due to commitments her free nights do not often coincide with mine. So it is always a delight when we can meet up. A few weeks ago Kirsty announced that she would be available to meet if that suited my timetabke on Wed 26th of April, possibly even in the afternoon though that was a bit up in the air due to her potential family commitments, but the evening would most certinly be on the cards. Consequently I decided to book myself a day’s holiday from work to be ready in good time and to spend some welcome ‘me’ time in the afternoon before we would meet up. As the new support group temporary premises are now located just off the city centre in Belfast whilst we seek a replacement for those in Lisburn, a meal in Belfast city centre would be an obvious option. I asked would Kirsty mind choosing a restaurant as she would have a much better knowledge of both where might be available and just as importantly where might be a good choice. I think Kirsty was a little bemused by my faith in her choosing somewhere, but I have little knowledge of the scores of excellent restaurants that exist in the city. The only time I am dining there is normally with her and she knows the city so much better than I. Anyhow she did come back fairly quickly to me to say we were booked for 18.45 in a restaueant called HOME in Wellington Place for the 26th. I had to bring up Google maps to find out where that was. Ah! So that’s where it is! Close to the City Hall. She assured me that on street parking would be possible close to the venue. She was right, but I shall come back to that later.
So I got prepared that morning and made the 80 mile journey from home to ‘the big smoke’ arriving at the premises where I store my belongings shortly after midday. So what to do for the afternoon? Several ideas ran through my mind. I could, after getting ready, travel over to the town of Ballymena some 30miles north of Belfast. I know Ballymena quite well having worked in it off and on as Bob these past 34 years and it is an excellent shopping town with an array of both big chain stores but more importantly a good variety of local independant retailers. Ballymena is also famous for being the centre of ‘The Bible Belt’ in the North of Ireland. I did make a trip there last week but that was mid evening and although the main shopping centre (The Fairhill) was open until 9pm, at least 50% of its’ stores were closed from 5 or 5.30pm. But even though it was nice as a venue change. Alternativly I could simply head for Belfast City centre. Another thought, and something I have been intending to do for over a year now, was to make a trip to The Ulster Museum in the Queens University area of Belfast, but given my probable time of being ready was going to be around 2pm, three hours to properly visit the museum might be tight, if I was to take in all on display. The museum did however appeal to me as I really wanted something apart from simply shopping for clothes or shoes which really I don’t need. Finally there was the formerly named Junction 1 outlet in Antrim town. (Now just called The Junction). As it turned out this was where I travelled to. Being as it is less than 30mins drive away and returning into Belfast around 6pm should be relativly easy with respect to traffic as much of the traffic flow will be out of the city and not into it.
So at approximatly 2pm I made my way to The Junction. These past few years this outlet shopping area has been in a decline with at least 50+% of its stores now closed down as one after another large retail chain folded during the recession. It has recently come under new ownership hence the subtle name change and there are plans to have it restored to its former glory days. I shall not hold my breath but who knows. There was nothing I had in mind to buy but I was content to browse and mingle with the shoppers there and I did spend a very pleasant few hours which included a nice coffee break. What I did finally purchase was a card for Kirsty to congratulate her on a very recent momentous purchase. I shall leave it to her to spill the beans on what that was. The card may gave been a tad premature, but as we meet infrequently I reasoned that now was as good an opportunity as any. I also had a second card I needed to get for my nephew’s 21st birthday which is this weekend. Now a 21st card you would consider to be an easy buy, but what was on offer I felt was not the wish I wanted to convey. The majority were about getting drunk or similar things. Why…. Why is that acceptable? So his card had to wait.
So armed with my huge purchase of a card for Kirsty, I left Antrim town and made the journy back to Belfast for a quick change of skirt, top and heels and ventured to Wellington Place and our meal at Home. I found a parking spot almot too easily and too convenient to the restaurant. It was marked ‘Loading Only’ but as it was 6.30pm I reasoned that that applied to business hours. I was about 12 mins ahead of schedule so I sat to wait on Kirsty. Two mins later she drove by so I kept my sights on the restaurant entrance some 60mtrs away. Five mins later Kirsty drove past me again. I got a text a few mins later saying she could not get parked nearby and she had parked at least 5mins walk away. As it was the time that our meal had been booked for I replied that I would head on in and meet her inside. So in I went and our waitress showed me to our table. I explained that my friend was still finding a place to park and would be in shortly. Sure enough about five mins later I glimpsed Kirsty passing by the window, however it seemed an extrodinarly long time for her to eventually enter. As it happened she had met a friend outside. A few mins later in came a smiling Kirsty. When I told her where I had got parked she informed me that the loading bays in Belfast are 24hr and I might wind up with a ticket. Our waitress confirmed this. So on with my coat and out to the car I rushed, Thinking it may be maybe 15 mins at least before my eventual return, I told Kirsty what my order would be. Luck must have been on my side because I found a safe and legal parking spot even closer to the restaurant and was back within 5 mins. Result indeed.
Our meal was very nice indeed. I opted for grilled whole seabass, not thinking that would be exactly that. The whole fish, head bones and all. However it was delicious despite having to negotiate the bones. We both had a lovely conversation and a good old catch up on what was happening in our lives, though Kirsty’s I must say is much more interesting at present. We spent a lovely two hours in deep conversation, enjoying the excellent food, before leaving the restaurant and Kirsty accompanied me back to the Belfast Butterfly Club meeting place for the remainder of the evening where she did a dry run on us of a quiz she had designed for a family get together she is to have soon.
As always an enjoyable day seems to pass by all too quickly and by midnight I found myself in my ‘Bob disguise’ on the road back home. Normally each week the long drive home is quiet with very little traffic, but on this occasion I met at least six convoys of heavy vehicles driving over the Glenshane Pass heading in the direction of Belfast. Each convoy consisted of an average of 10 HGVs and caravans. Tom Duffy’s Circus was on the move to yet another town to entertain those who want to see them.
And so good people, that is it for the moment. Nothing spectacular is happening in my life. Life is good and I am content. I am also very happy for Kirsty in how progress has been this year for her and you can read all about it in her excellent blogs.
As always thank you for reading and always remain true to yourself.