The two and a half weeks since the last exam of my second year of university have been full of both everything and nothing. First there were a few days of photosynthesizing in the back garden/Eaton park, various occurences in Norwich like a visit to the Castle, several nights out, dinner parties etc. I've spent a few days at home in Leicester taking it easy and a few more days out and about doing things with church, catching up with friends and spending time with family. I am only just getting used to not feeling guilty about doing nothing! I begin this blog from the sofa as I sit alongside my parents who are watching the film version of Dan Brown's 'Angels and Demons'. The Soundtrack is quite good but I'm not sure what is going on in terms of plot.
Last weekend I took to the air on my first solo flight, as in I took the whole journey by myself! This was surprisingly fun, although it is incredible how much stuff Ryan Air try to sell you within the 40 minutes it takes to reach Belfast. I went over to stay with Conall, a friend from uni, who promised myself and another friend visiting from England a good time in terms of experiencing some real irish culture. It was a whirlwind of a fantastic weekend. Having arrived on Friday afternoon and joined the party, which was led by Conall's dad. We drove up along the coast road towards Ballycastle, stopping at various spots along the way, including Glenarm, one of the nine Glens of Antrim. Although the weather was dull, the scenery was stunning and I sampled my first real taste of Guiness; well, we were in Ireland, so it had to be done! On reaching our destination, Ballycastle, late in the day, we stopped off at a cute little restaurant for dinner before arriving at the home of a couple who kindly housed us as their guests for the night, providing tea, a guide to the experience of Ballycastle by night, a super-comfortable bed and a cracking cooked breakfast in the morning. On saturday the sun shined gloriously as we took a relatively early drive back down to Belfast, stopping off for some beautiful sights along the way. I almost took several tumbles scrambling over rocks as a result of inappropriate footwear but very much enjoyed the light sightseeing experience. I think I would like to go back to all of these places and spend some real time seeing the Giant's causeway, and the ropebridge. That's one for another year though. On returning to Belfast, Conall and Danielle showed us the sights of the city. We jumped on the open top sightseeing tour bus, and although I caught the sun a little bit (it was bright and very windy up there!) this too was brilliant! It was really informative and gave great views of all sorts, including Stormont (their parliment building) the apparently leaning clock tower (which leans 4ft backwards), the big yellow cranes in the docks, there since the building of titanic, and the school where C.S Lewis and Samuel Beckett learned and taught. As I expected, we saw lots of Belfast's famous murals and peacelines. When driving north too the remaining divison between communities was explained to us as we could see flags, (union jack and green-white-gold respectively) marking out areas as we passed through. Although the governing disposition of Northern Ireland is now one of peace, my surprise that this division remains could be put down to naiivety. However, many of the walls in the city now display messages of peace, and not all of the murals are political, from the top of the bus we saw one displaying picturs of the lion, the witch and the wardrobe! On the Saturday night, the Mulhern's held a traditional music session in the house before we headed out to experience Belfast by night. Very gifted musicians turned up from all over the place, and it was truly fantastic! Sunday brought a well deserved lie in and a walk around apparently the largest park in Europe, before I boarded the flight home.
The following monday marked my turning twenty! My Nanny had been staying over the weekend and hung around for a family trip to Calke Abbey and dinner out before heading back to Luton the next day. It was a lovely day. Even though I usually hate going round stately homes, Calke Abbey is pretty good, my Nanny clearly loved it's history and I enjoyed the sun, and purchasing a hat from the gift shop.
On Tuesday last week we hit the city of Leicester by night, a birthday celebration of sorts, and a general reunion of old school friends in perhaps leicester's finest/grimy-est night time establishment, Mosh. First there was cake and coctails, followed by a trip to Soarpoint and much dancing downstairs in Bar Gauds. Finally, and inevitably, we went to Subway before a kind taxi driver drove us home for a bargain price.
Wednesday and Thursday passed in a bit of a blur; I know there was tea involved. On Wednesday, I think I spent too much time on social networking sites, caught up with Deb and popped in to Revelation, my old youth group, to say hello. On Thursday, ther was some last minute holiday shopping, and a trip to Pizza Hut with some of the girls under the guise of 'holiday meeting'. I turned up at Dad's office to sneak a lift home because I was too cheap to buy a return bus ticket. Tragic.
On Friday, my parents and I had booked day tickets to The Big Session, an annual folky festival held at Demontfort Hall. Having seen Steve Earle, Allison Moorer and Seth Lakeman on the main stage a couple of years ago we thought it would be worth the craic (pronounced 'crack'), as the Irish say. Despite arriving perhaps too early, and in the rain, with two radjy parents in tow, which was a bit gloomy, things brightened up and it was a good day! I didn't think the line up was as good as when we'd been before, but then to top Steve Earle is a tall order. We saw loads of bands, my favourite being 6 Day Riot, and brilliant headliners The Proclaimers (see below). I was pleasantly surprised to realise that this band have many more songs I recognised asides the classic '500 miles'. Overall the quality of the acts on the bill was great, although we seemed to catch more of the mellowed out and less of the get up and play your rainbow coloured tambourine acts which I favour massively. Nevertheless I have conspiculously been playing the tambourine on and off for the last few days. I was pleased to catch the end of Joel Owen's set - a leicester boy apparently, definately with the get up and go factor.
A weekend planned quiet turned out to be quite busy. Saturday brought 'The Big Day Out'. Headed up by Deb and Fiona off of Midlands Urban Saints, a fun day was held for the primary age children for youth groups in the area. I was roped in for fun with giant jenga, setting up gazebos and general singing/dancing along to classics such as 'Oi Oi We are gonna praise the Lord' and others. It was great, even when I forgot about my facepaint walking round town all afternoon.
On Sunday morning, yesterday, I was feeling pretty rough- apparently due to hay fever! Despite this, it was essentially the perfect Sunday. I rolled out of bed just in time to make church, where it turns out we aren't getting the new minister we hoped for after all. Still, God is in control. Soon after this, I ate loads of home cooked sunday dinner, before falling asleep for a couple of hours. On my awakening it was time to head off to St Phillip and St James Church, where the monthly 3rd Sunday Evening youth service was took place last night in the form of a BBQ praise party in the open air outside the church. With loads of the usual musicians busy revising for GCSEs and A levels it fell to James, myself and Dad, pulled in for extra volume, to help out leading the music group. This is always great fun but particularly so in the open air, where the risk of sunburn and music flying off in all directions makes everything slightly more exciting! The evening was pretty informal with lots of singing, and the young people sharing stories about how God has been doing exciting things with them over the last 6 months. It was really encouraging to hear and see how much these guys have been learning and growing up in grace over the last few months, and how God is using the youth work in Groby and the surrounding area. It was also great to hear from visiting group LOL4J (that's 'Living Our Lives 4 Jesus' to you and I - genius!). Being the perfect sunday, we enevitably ended up at The Stamford Arms, engaging in the pub quiz. There was some Urban Saints related comedy, and it was great to spend some time with Megan, James, Deb and fellow youth workers Chris and Jackie.
This somehow, amazingly brings me right up to date. Here I am, now sitting in my room amongst loads of mess, half packed for heading off to Ibiza (!) tomorrow. Ryan air baggage allowance is causing me strife once again. Has anyone called Ibiza to warn them I hear you ask? I hope all seven of us come back in one piece, but I know it will be wicked. I am most looking forward to just spending quality time with some of the groby girlies.
This afternoon I've been out for a jaunt with friends, armed with the factor fifty, to Bradgate Park. Sat around in the sun, and paddled in the stream. I love the summer holidays!