King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Thursday, January 7

Tales of Murphy and Co

I thought I'd tell you about my trip to the fair isle of Ireland (Note to self: does that mean the Isle of Ireland's an island? *ack*). John and I were due in Bristol about 5-6am, so we'd decided we'd get 5 hours sleep the night before, getting up at 3. Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men, we both woke up at 1am, excited, nervous and apprehensive. After tidying the house etc, we left shortly before 3 to meet Sharon at his work, so he could drive us the remainder of the journey. "Don't worry," he said the day before, "I'm always there by 3:30." His watch must be broken, because he turned up at 4:25. Still, we hadn't lost much time anyway, so he drove us up to a heavily fogged Bristol Airport (great, more for me to worry about). TDT was now alive and texted merrily "Are you at the airport," "text me when you're through security," "having any breakfast?" etc. Sure enough, bang on time we took off just as the sun rose, and headed over Wales, down over the Irish Sea and over the bottom or Eire and into Shannon and the welcoming arms of TDT and her less-then-happy-to-be-up-that-early teenage niece Meg.

The first few days were going to be very plain and boring. TDT had work to go to, and was less than impressed on the first morning when I made a star shape on the bed because she wanted to phone in sick, and I insisted she went to work. By the Friday however, things had taken an interesting twist as we woke up to a crystal white scene. Unlike the rest of Europe however, it wasn't snow but frost.
Icy was not the word, and John and I took a walk to the local shop for some bits and I nearly came a cropper 3 times. This had John in hysterics. I then pointed out that if I fell over he'd have to carry me home, so suddenly it wasn't so damned funny. TDT returned home early (POETS day) and she took me on my first sightseeing of the city of Limerick, aka "Stab City," so we could finish up Christmas shopping for pressies. Admittedly it was dark, it was cold and it was busy, but I was impressed. I could see it's a nice clean city, the people are friendly and the shops were full of choice. I would visit another 3 times over the duration, but for different reasons.
Christmas Eve and I thought I'd treat us to a trip to a pub for lunch.
"Lunch is on me. Where's good to eat?" I ask.
"Erm, dunno" was the slightly unexpected reply.
We ended up in a delightful pub/restaurant designed to cater for American Tourists, next to Bunratty Castle, called the Creamery. The staff were friendly, the food was good and the company was sublime. Finally, I was starting to relax. John asked for a pint of Lemonade, and got the unexpected reply "white or red?" Not surprisingly, he said "no. Lemonade. Not wine." and I looked oddly at the waiter. "Have you not tried red lemonade?" he asked. "Never heard of it," said I. So a pint was duly ordered, and I was subjected to my first taste of red lemonade, which if I'm honest, isn't anything more then Tizer. But we'll let that slip by.

Returning to TDT's Mum's we'd offered to help with the cooking for the following day, so a quick cuppa and we returned home with some veg and half a dead pig. 8kg, or 18lb of prime Miss Piggy for Christmas Day, which had to be boiled 3 times to remove excess salt. Our biggest problem was the size of the pot, followed by the size of TDT's oven, followed by the fact the oven has two temperatures, hot and room temperature. This meant the initial attempt at roasting it turned it from a lovely pinky colour to bright black. I managed to salvage it, and finding I could move it around the oven to change the temperature meant that I then set about roasting it for 4 hours that evening whilst I prepped the rest of the veg for the next morning.
We rose fairly early, just before 9 in fact, and laid into the presents. John got to play on his Wii with the new Mario cart, TDT played with him and Meg went on the PC to watch her American Harry Potter DVD. I, meanwhile, returned to the half baked pig in the oven, and got the rest of the veg etc cooking. Even 4 hours later, the ham was still not completely cooked, so I carved away two plates of meat which we took with us shortly after 2pm. Meany (TDT's brother) had had a mishap the night before, falling out of the attic (stop laughing at the back) and had a nasty discoloured lump where his ankle used to be, so he was sat in the lounge to eat his, leg in the air on the settee.
Boxing Day was to see just TDT and me return to Limerick to try and get parts to repair her Microwave etc, so imagine my joy at finding the most spartan Maplin in history on the outskirts of town. We also picked up more 6-way power strips for her, and then went for a Pizza Hut (oooh, I spoil her, I know). That evening we were sat in the house, and BLS phoned. Halfway through the conversation a loud bang in the hall told me the Meg was probably home, but I was greeted with a stranger's face at the lounge door. "Shhhhhhh" said John. "Don't you tell me to shush!" came the reply. TDT took our new visitor out to the kitchen so I could end BLS's conversation, and then they both came back in. TDT introduced me to her cousin, half cut, in Pyjamas, and needing a bottle opener. That was her excuse, but we both knew she just wanted a nosey at me. This tickled TDT immensely. Then, a few hours later (2:15 to be exact), TDT and I were playing each other on Mario Cart and there was another hammering at the door. Meghann's friend Heather had had her phone nicked, and it was her Mum to let us know.
"Heather's had her phone nicked," she said. Promptly followed by "Sooooo, you're the new other half are you? Pleased to meet you."
Again, TDT's convinced she only came over to have a nosey.
The next day and we took a trek some hour and a half down to the back of beyond. I thought it was rural where I lived and this place was a close second, requiring directions like "when you see a house, turn left," or "turn right at the second sheep." We were welcomed with open arms to TDT's colleague and family, who had laid on a huge superb lunch for us. Afterwards we sat at the table, munching on after eights and peanuts, and talked about anything and everything. Stories of oil rigs, cooking and the local council were unsurpassed in interest and humour, before we finally left in a serious -8c (18f in old money), just after 9:30. TDT doesn't like driving on ice at all, so she was relieved to get home just before 11.
We had planned to visit a few other places, but to be fair the weather wasn't the best for driving miles and miles. We'd planned to visit Lahinch and the Cliffs of Moher, but a drive on poor quality roads with such ice, I can understand why TDT didn't want to. We also took one of the few free days we had to take her brother to the hospital to finally get his broken leg (yes, it was broken, and it took 6 days to find out) all sorted.
Finally, we returned to Shannon Airport on Saturday morning in freezing fog. The flight was uneventful, the highlight of which was using the sat nav which reported our altitude as 6km and speed as "high." We did briefly get a flicker of the map and we passed within miles of here which was cool. When we arrived at Bristol a sharp frost had again reduced the roads to a skating rink. Dodging one bumped into car after another, we returned to the sick Chemo in Bridgend, got some essential supplies (bread, milk, cheese, beer), and finally got home just after 2pm.
In summary, I had a great time. The weather was unfair, but we shouldn't expect anything less in December/January, and spending so much time with TDT and her family was more then enough. I'm now planning a return trip in February.