I was looking forward to returning to London. The cheeky street urchins, the streets paved with gold, the big kittens pushing over Telecom Tower. I've missed them all. But Northern Ireland really is a brilliant place to visit and, if I could, I would hold you at gunpoint and scream at you to visit just to show it's not all anger and violence. Here are my very favourite things about it:
Visit Newtownards. A while ago I actually made a list of all the places that I've been sick in Newtownards and I'm thinking of selling it as a tour. It would be a lovely chance for tourists to visit cafes, bars, canals and grit bins. But walking up Scrabo Hill is my favourite thing to do in the town (also, I've been sick there). It overlooks the town and right at the top is a spiky, gothic looking tower that dates back to 1857. It's an amazing looking building that has lost only a bit of it's appeal since I found out that my house is 5 years older than it. Castles shouldn't be younger than your house. Really makes me feel old.
I walked up Scrabo on my own one day and about a 5th of the way up I thought I was going to explode from exhaustion. I'm not that fit, I'll be honest. In fact, I was about to give up when I saw a slightly hidden path that I completely forgot existed. Of course, I'd forgotten it. I haven't properly walked up Scrabo since I was about 13. This wasn't just an ordinary path...it was a TIME TUNNEL. As soon as I started walking up it the memories came galloping back. I used to walk up these tiny, hidden paths all the time. How could I have forgotten these places I'd spent so much time in? It was completely amazing. I recognised trees that I've climbed, hills I used to roly-poly down...I'm telling you, I actually recognised some of the puddles there. I haven't seen these puddles in 30 years but I'd know them anywhere. There are people I haven't seen in decades that I feel sick about seeing again and yet, here I was, greeting these long lost puddles with open arms. I regret that a bit now but it was still utterly mind blowing to see them. I even saw our old hut. Me and my little friends used to play in that hut all the time. I say hut, it was a hole. But we loved it. Me and my friends, our little gang together. Just standing there, basically in a grave. Good times. I was sick in that once.
Hey, just get to the top of Scrabo. The view is utterly incredible.
Go to Lidl with my Dad. Admittedly, this might take some organising but you should definitely do it. I didn't want to at first but I'm glad I made the effort. My Dad is slightly obsessed with Lidl and wants to walk there every day. He asked me to join him EVERY DAY. Eventually I gave in and reluctantly went to Lidl with my Dad. I begrudged the whole journey to the shop but Dad made it all better by saying "I have to get a hammer and some grapes". YAY! Dad's making Angry Wine. The trip was only made better by Dad then saying "Oh, before I go. I better just get a bag of German bird balls". GO TO LIDL WITH MY DAD.
Go to Belfast. It's the best. Go to The Black Box, The Spaniard, The Duke of York, Muriels...there's a lot of good bars there. And fuck the dicks who want to throw bricks at each other. They're very far away.
Hang out with my brother. Again, might be tricky to organise. Not as tricky as my Dad though because my brother is one of those nice giys that talks to anyone. Ask Cat Deeley. On Friday, I vaguely remember him being angry at tuna fish because of all the money they have. Definitely hang out with him.
Go back to Newtownards. There's a bar there that I've only just discovered and I love it. Don't know why I never went there before. It's 300 years old and when you walk in you're suddenly hit with how quaint and lovely it is. Also, it's about 8ft squared. It's basically a shelf with booze on it. Luckily, the barman is always there with a friendly dirty look and a sighing "What do you want?" as soon as you walk in. Don't get me wrong, I think he's brilliant but I don't think he'd last long working the door at the Disney Shop. My friend Dotes introduced me to the wonder of this bar and the cheeriness of it's owner. Dotes, a fairly grumpy man himself, even tried to be nice to him. "How come your Guinness is the best in the world?", said Dotes. "I don't fucking know" was the reply. Brilliant. I asked him how many the bar holds and with a heavy sigh he said "We had 30 once". This bar is called The International.
It's a great place but as soon as I landed in London I felt it was great to be back. Ah, England. So much more reserved and buttoned-down. A place of quiet respect. I got on a train and after 10 minutes I had to ask someone to turn their music down. She gave me the finger, I called her a cunt and a woman next to me said to her friend "That's the song Glen likes to shag to. He wrecked me to that once".
London. My hometown.
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