I’ve never made a huge secret of the fact that I’m not overly fond of Northern Ireland.
And yet there are some things about the place that are making me really, really look forward to going back for a week or two in May. Having just spent the past five minutes gazing dreamily at this post by English Mum, I now find myself inspired to write about Northern Ireland: The Good Bits.
Family and friends come in at the top, of course, because they’d be seriously pissed off if I went with my original first choice of Kat the Cat. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been great at keeping in touch over the past year, but I seem to still have a number of close relationships at the end of it, happily. Facebook has been a great way of feeling constantly connected with friends I haven’t seen for ages, and my blog allows me to keep friends and family updated with the latest from wherever I happen to be. But those things are no substitute for going for coffee and a chat with a friend, or out for a few drinks with the family, and seeing everyone in person again. I’ve never really been homesick at any point since I’ve been away – but if I have felt a tad weepy (on occasions such as Christmas Day), it’s been because I miss people rather than places.
People… and animals, obviously. Yes, I shall be reunited with Kat the Cat, who has not laid eyes (nor claws) on me for a year. There was a somewhat tearful goodbye in the kitchen of my old house while The Sister tactfully looked away. Kat did not look terribly bothered, it has to be said, and wandered off to chew on a doormat as I left the house for the last time, sniffing dolefully, my poor heart breaking. Actually, the wee sod doesn’t seem to have missed me at all, and is now very fat and lazy, living a life of luxury with The Parents, who claim to find her a nuisance but whom I suspect are secretly in love with her. She won’t remember me at all, I fear, but will be forced to spend large amounts of time being cuddled by me in spite of this. I have really, really, really missed my cat.
Then, of course, there’s food. I mean specific foods, not food in general. Things like Tayto Cheese and Onion crisps. Bagels. Sausage rolls from Iron’s Bakery. Curry and onion rings from the Golden Bamboo, and the Happy Villa, and Jade House – heck, any Chinese in Ballymena. They’re all great. Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. Mum’s Sunday dinner – she doesn’t know yet that she’s making me one of those, but she is. Mature Cheddar cheese. Heinz baked beans. I could go on and on and on, and it could be argued that I already have…
There are even specific places that I miss. The Parents’ house on a Saturday night, having drinks and snacks and fighting about the answers on TV quiz shows. The McLovely household and its utter craziness – you know, once I was there and a small child wandered in, introduced me to his pet snail (Gary) who lived in a portable plastic tank and was most likely dead, and then started walking up the walls (the child, not the snail). The BT Club, home of Saturday afternoon blues music sessions. Starbucks. The coast – say what you will about Norn Iron, but I have yet to find a coastline more beautiful anywhere else in the world.
Yes, I’m loving my new life as a nomadic wanderer… but it will be nice to go home for a little while.