Being 5/12 of the way through the year, and already having sunk lots of money I didn’t quite have in hopes being a Proper artist, (not to mention, sitting in a pit of a flat, surrounded by dozens of unsold prints that were looking less and less professional by the minute), drastic measures were needed. To whit, the G-monster and I buggered off on a road-trip round Ireland, safe in the knowledge that after a whole week of fighting each other, the satnav and the weather, everything going on back home was going to look like it was made of roses and rhinestones. (Assuming, that is, that we actually made it back).
We were not disappointed. It was fabulous weather the whole drive to the ferry port (where we realised we could have driven to a much closer ferry port instead) and I had my first ever taste of travelling in First Class, where croissants and wine were freely available. The G-monster promptly banned me from helping myself to too much of either, on the grounds that if he was doing all the driving, I should be reasonably sober too. And I was on no account to do any sleeping while in the car, because if he was doing all the driving, I should be reasonably compus mentus too. Although when I wasn’t allowed to open a packet of crisps because if he…
It was looking like it was going to be a very long holiday already.
Still, I made the most of it by keeping a dedicated blog of the whole proceedings, which a) gave me a wicked motion-sickness headache the whole time and b) got deleted by the second-hand tablet I wrote it on; so much has been lost to the mists of time. However I do remember being excited by absolutely everything we saw after we de-ferried, which I was told was due to being pished, and that we made it all the way to the Giant’s Causeway, which I had always wanted to see, before the weather closed in, the G-monster decided that like hell he was walking all the way to the shore from the visitors centre and I discovered the queue to get in was going to take us till closing-time anyway.
We eventually managed to squeak onto a bus, and down to the shore where… my, the Giant’s Causeway is actually a lot smaller than I thought? Although maybe that was just an optical illusion caused by the fact that it was almost entirely hidden behind a horde of (other) tourists, the selfish ingrates. At least I got to try out my new super zoom lens that the G-monster had bought me for Christmas. (For complicated reasons, yes, this was its first outing).
So it turns out it was broken?
At least we got to the B&B before the rain came on. And then we got out of the B&B during a sudden gap in the rain, found a place doing fish and chips (and the B&B owner, also in getting fish and chips) and went down the coast a bit to watch the sun set over a ruined castle. It was amazing, but you will just have to trust me on that. And then the rain came on again, so we sodded off back and had an early night.
The next day I wanted to go back to the Giant’s Causeway before any of the (other) selfish ingrates mobbed it, but we went to the Dark Hedges instead (this is an actual place, oh yes, and has been on the telly) because the G-monster had a Plan. (To be fair, it was a Plan to photograph as much stuff as possible. I would have enjoyed it much more if he didn’t have a far superior camera that took far better shots than I, I mean, mine, did.). And then up to the coast, where you can go across a wibbly wobbly rope bridge to this wee island entirely composed of cliffs and slippery grass slopes hoping to make you end up on the cliffs. My god, I was so chuffed with myself when I reached the island, until I realised that I would have to go through the whole thing again to get back off it.
It will be fine, I said merrily. Only, it turns out the rope bridge is on a slope, and you have to go uphill to get off the island. The ‘looking straight ahead’ trick is not such a reassuring trick when you’re looking straight at a vertical cliff-face.
We did go back to the Giant’s Causeway in the end, via this wee harbour that was apparently in Game of Thrones. Much was made of this on the tourist information posters, but since I have never seen or read anything of the series (she says, risking being shunned forever) it was all lost on me. It was very cute though. I understand Game of Thrones is nothing of the sort. Anyway, this time there were no hordes on the causeway, woo, but it was still just as teeny as yesterday. (I have my suspicions that perhaps it used to be larger? The Victorian-era photos certainly made it look larger. Where has the rest gone?)
I was consoled by the nearby pub, which sells excellent seafood chowder and a good pint. Then I was consoled some more when we went on the Bushmills distillery tour, which was nice and short and included a free shot of Bushmills whiskey. Tragically, it turns out neither me nor the G-monster can hack whiskey, which is perhaps a detail one of us should have realised before we went in. Oh well.
We barely made it to our next B&B ahead of nightfall, which was a bit odd for five p.m. in June, in the northern hemisphere, but it turned out that was actually a raincloud making up for all the earlier sunshine. I recall making a joke about how that was a bit ominous, and making some more about the décor when I saw the room we were staying in, for it was almost precisely like the one in Stephen King’s 1408 (the short story, not the film; and no, nobody is going to have a damn clue what I’m talking about, because that happens with all my references. I need to go more mainstream. Game of Thrones it is).
Also uncanny was the way I almost immediately felt pretty ill, and then very ill, and then spent a couple of hours alternately thanking my fate that the room had an en suite, and wondering if I was going to die in there; and, if so, whether I could blame it on Stephen King. Meanwhile the G-monster sodded off to eat at McDonalds in a thunderstorm, both literally and figuratively, before returning to blame me mightily for it. He also told me the room is not haunted by an extra-dimensional monster that only makes it look like people died there of natural causes, and that I was banned from ever eating seafood chowder again because I can’t hack it.
We did not have an argument that night, but only because I felt too rough.
My memories of the rest of the trip are somewhat more fuzzy, because that is what happens when you narrowly escape being killed by an extra-dimensional monster haunting a B&B room. We squelched round a wee zoo-type thing in the mud, and went a butterfly house which, despite being indoors, was still soggy as anything. They did give me the most enormous serving of quiche I have had in my life, though, and it came with seven sorts of salad, so that was me happy. Well, there was no repeat of the night before, at least. There was also a further B&B, this time in a more lively town where we actually went out to enjoy the evening. True, this meant eating icecream in the ferocious, shivery gale that was coming off the sea, but everyone was doing it.
In the morning we went to the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, which was something else I’d wanted to do for ages, because I am a sad, sad bastard. For the very reasonable price of about three quid this lassie took us on a fab guided tour of the place and pointed out many things of interest about it, all of which I immediately forgot. (Which is why I had written them all down, second-hand tablet. Not that I’m holding a grudge).
Since it was time we did something the G-monster enjoyed, for a change, we went so far inland we ended up back in Northern Ireland again, all to find this pub with a wee working model railway in it. Sadly, the pub had shut. Not only that, the entire town had shut, as had the next one and the next one and… it was scary seeing how badly the economy had collapsed. The only thing that seemed to be open for miles was the cattle-mart, which was mainly selling second-hand hi-viz clothing, and we ended up eating in a charity caff that had only survived because all the staff were volunteers. I would love to say that was so sobering that we were incredibly frugal the rest of the time, but we sodded off to Enniskillen to look at a barber shop that was also a railway museum and had a cream tea round the corner from it.
At some point we also went to a proper railway museum, and a seaworld where I fed manta rays, and (on an actual day with no rain) into a cave system with a boat-ride in it. The boat-ride was off, however, because the rain had been too heavy the day before. Foiled again. In what may have been an act of revenge, but which he claims was accidental, the G-monster drove his car into a pub. It was really embarrassing, especially as the guy was outside repainting his sign and saw the whole thing, but they were very nice about it and still served me a salad so big they had to bring an extra table over to hold it all.
Then it was nearly the end of our last day, and high time to head south to catch up with me mate. With only five miles to go till we reached her place, an actual fight broke out – and over the satnav, too, so that was two birds with one stone. Her bloke very kindly put us up in a room with two beds in, in case we were still fuming about it.
And in the morning… it was suddenly all over and time to head home. With hindsight, we should have driven the couple of hours up to Belfast and taken the same ferry back, but for some reason we thought it was a brilliant idea to go across from Dublin to Wales instead, and take the long way, which took about eight additional hours.
Wasn’t raining any more, however.
Also, I got back with me batteries fully recharged (possibly, due to the fact that just once I wasn’t going to have to pack again as soon as I woke up). I swore I would do lots more art, and be bolder about putting myself out there, and practice my expressions in the mirror before I did so.
But first… we went to have a wee look at a house.