The Eleven Christmas Dinners of Christmas!

What’s the word for something for when you have a thing and do it to death?
Usual rules apply. Only posted these to Facebook. Should have done Twitter too, even though it’s a bit of a toilet these days, I could have got some good #numbers !!

#1 – 4th December – Garrick BarGarrick

Opening Gambit … In previous years my first one tended to be in Wetherspoons with an old work chum. My old work chum then got a transfer to Derry. He was going to come down too but then Wetherspoons scrapped Christmas Dinners, so nuts to that!

Not sure my old work chum would approve of my caption either…
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2 – 6th December – Acton & Sons

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Current Work’s Christmas dinner … on a Tuesday?!?!?

#3 – 7th December – uEat (University of Ulster, Jordanstown)

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I had a programming test the day after my Xmas do (I got 88%) – I came into Jordanstown early to avail of a turkey dinner. No student discount though (it was about £8!!).

#4 9th December – RGB

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Old work Christmas dinner

#5 10th December – Whose Art Café

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No mash, and gravy was like the gravy you get in a Chinese Takeaway. Poor Show.

#6 – 14th December – work

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Work Canteen – ate at my desk – Improvement on last years

#7 15th December – Sainsburys – Hollywood Exchange

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Now in it’s 3rd year, my trip to Sainsburys with Marty. Quite average.

McKay, who has reviewed these in the past, came out of retirement with a controversial:

Nope. 0/10

#8 – 17th December – My House

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One I made myself. Five years in my house, so it’s the fifth “Belfast Christmas Dinner” for me and Leona, this year we had guests too (two fussy 7 year olds). No dramas and everything went to plan (i.e. I got my timings right and the oven didn’t pack in this time).

#9 – 22nd December – Cast and Crew

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Met some friends for lunch. Was okay, but not for £12.95! Regretted not getting a burger because they looked good!

It was this one where my sister asked if sandwiches count (Nope).

#10 – 24th December – Murphy Browns

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Another staple in my Christmas dinner month! Something to do us before we hit the road 

It was here where McKay commented if I ever calculated how much my “December Hobby” costs. In short, next year I might keep a running total!

#11 – 25th December – My Ma and Da’s

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Another good year! Only three types of potato though, but at least they were the best three (roasties, champ, garlic creamed – don’t @ me)!!

The twelve christmas dinners of christmas…

Now a Christmas tradition: I eat loads of Christmas Dinners in December – and post them on the internet!!

#1 – 3/12/15 – Wetherspoons –  Belfast

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Like the Charity Shield, this is the usual curtain raiser! A Wetherspoon’s Christmas Dinner, with my old work chum, Alistair! We’ve been doing this for eight years now and this one was the best (they are usually rank)!

 #2 – 04/12/15 – Murphy Browns, Belfast
img_6362Now a regular feature, mainly due to being walking distance to my house. Not as good as last years, but last years was excellent.

#3 – 9/12/15 – uEat – University of Ulster, Jordanstown
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Oh, yeah, I went back to uni!

#4 – 12/12/14 – Coach Lane @ Donaghy’s – Sligo

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Oh aye, I went to Sligo for my Da’s birthday

#5 – 15/12/15 – Work Canteen
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It was slow start this year. Time to ramp it up!

#6 – 15/12/15 – My House
A controversial entry!img_6473 img_6474Some nay-sayers said it didn’t count because it’s a ready meal… IT COUNTS GODDAMMIT!

#7 – 16/12/15 – Sainsburys, Holywood.
img_6476The second annual “go to Sainsburys for a Christmas dinner with Marty”

#7 – 17/12/15 – Victoria’s Belfast

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Staff do. Here is where I level with last year! 5th in 4 days! Shit is getting real!

#9 – 18/12/15 – McHughs, Belfast

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Old work staff do!

#10 – 20/12/15 – My House

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4th annual Belfast house Chirstmas dinner! Yes, I had one in my house a few days earlier.. but this is a legit one!

#11 – 23/12/15 –  Madisons, Belfast

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#12 – 25/12/15 – Folks House

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12 Christmas Dinners, 11 Christmas Dinners etc etc

 

The (only) seven christmas dinners of christmas…

Still loves xmas dinner

Still loves xmas dinner

…well it could have been nine… but apparently dinners before December don’t count (see below).

I had the traditional one in Wetherspoons with an old work friend on 25th November:

(i) – Wetherspoons

I also had one before I went to Cuba on 30/11/14.

(ii) - Murphy Browns

(ii) – Murphy Browns

I wasn’t going to do “this” this year as I would be in Cuba for two weeks. But I got got a reqeust. However, apparently Christmas dinners in November don’t count – as the story goes:

With that in mind I decided to tighten up the “rules”. 1st December – 25th December only and no ‘repeats’ (i.e. leftovers don’t count).

#1 – 11/12/14 – Murphy Browns –  Belfast
I took action on my first day home with another Murphy Browns – because it was quite good the last time (and near my house)!

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 #2 – 12/12/14 – RBG – Belfast
Back with my old work chums to the same place as last years work do. Sadly this year the Christmas Dinner didn’t have any roasties! Shock!

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#3 – 17/12/14 – Work Canteen
The fact there were roasties gave it points over the last one.

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#4 – 18/12/14 – Sainsburys – Holywood
No ham! And Yorkshire Pudding was still a bit frozen. But at least it had roasties – plus first mince pie of the year.

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#5 – 19/12/14 – Northern Whig – Belfast
Again with no roasties! Up until this point Murphy Browns was front runner!

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#6 – 21/12/14 – My House
The 3rd Annual Belfast House Xmas dinner – this year Leona made it and there were no oven breaking down drama like last year. I even tasted half a sprout (wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – still not nice.). Was tasty.

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#7 – 25/12/14 – Folks House
Christmas Day – Unlike last year we didn’t have three types of potato – we had four.. FOUR.. types of potato (Champ, Roast, Garlic Cream and new addition Baby Boil)… yum yum yum.

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Only seven – but would have been eight if I counted the boxing day left overs (like I did last year) and ten if I counted the two in November… that would bring me level with last year… which isn’t bad seeing I was out of the country for two weeks.

Next year I should aim for twelve.. you know, so the pun works!

To Cuba – via London….

Nearly a year after it was booked we were finally going to Cuba. Well, first we were going to London, then going to Cuba! Thankfully the first flight was in the afternoon so we didn’t have to get up at a stupid hour.

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One problem as after nearly a year of checking the weather (nice every day) the past week was giving rain. Lots of rain. Plus a bit more of the same the week we were there. But, sure, why worry? We’d make the most of it.

IMG_4339 So we said “goodbye” to the Cat (we had a catsitter) and got a taxi to town. Then got a bus to the airport. Leona bought me a Lion bar for the bus journey. That was the best part about the bus.

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We got to the airport with nothing eventful happening. We dropped our bags with nothing eventful happening and started to go through security with nothing much eventful happening.

My stuff was going through the x-ray and one of the staff informed me they were going to do a random test on my keys. Fair enough. He got the swab, gave my keys a rub and put it in a wee machine. He came back a minute later, “Nothing to worry about, I just need to get my supervisor to do the check again. Also, could you go over there for a body search?”

Ooooo-kay. I went over, got searched. Went back. Waited on supervisor. The guy said it wasn’t a big problem, just my keys “tested positive.” In my curiosity I asked for what. “Explosives” the man said calmly. Oh right, fair enou-WAIT, WHAT?!?! So I just stood there and said “ughhhh….” confused. The supervisor arrived and cleaned the machine and tested my keys again. He came back and told me all was okay and sent me on my way. I didn’t want to enquire further so went on through to departures. That was a scary few minutes!

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Leona bought some sunglasses and we went to Starbucks for breakfast and a coffee – then for a few beers to calm down after all the excitement. We then went to the gate and boarded the plane. We waited until the end as we had allocated seating. Though that doesn’t stop the cretins queuing. I don’t like flying at the best of times and was really dreading these flights so I had a few beers on the plane too, just to calm me down. The flight was a bit bumpy but it wasn’t the bumpiest flight of the week!

We got to Gatwick, collected our bags, got the shuttle to the next terminal so we could find our hotel. To my delight (it meant not going outside) the hotel was part of the airport. Got checked in and went to our tiny room – but sure it did the job. It was quite modern – my only complaint was that not all the window as frosted meaning you could look into the WC.

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We watched Tipping Point and I had a nap during The Chase. We then had some dinner in a restaurant called Giraffe. I had a “Giraffe” burger (made with beef) with some onion rings and a few Red Stripe beers. It hit the spot. While we were eating we had to sit beside some cock American having a “meeting”, talking “business” and “deals” like he was Gordon fucking Gekko. Idiot.

We went back to the hotel for an early night as we’d to be up early for the morning’s flight.

The next morning we were up early to get checked in. There was a bit of a queue but not too bad. When we got to the desk we handed the clerk our passports. There was a bit of kerfuffle with the computer. Once it was sorted out the clerk apologised and told us the system was trying to send Leona to Oslo. Oooooo-kay.

We went through security and then went for a McDonalds breakfast. After that we walked around the shops a few times. Didn’t buy anything. We then headed to the gate and the cretins started to queue, despite seating being allocated and despite they were calling for certain rows. When we got on the plane we were handed our Visa papers. I filled that out early on (in my neatest handwriting) and kept it safe with my passport, as you don’t get a second one.

We took off and the flight was mostly okay, though we did hit a few patches of turbulence. Thomas Cook have some movies but they also have a premium selection, usually at an extra cost, though for some reason (problem with system) the premium movies were free to everyone. Yay! (for the record I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, 22 Jump Street and X-Men: Days of Future Past – all with some dodgy edits)

The meals were dead on. I had sausage and mash (was okay) , then you got a cheese dish (!), some moose and a wee bit of chocolate. Followed by tea or coffee.

Later on in the flight we were given our Customs papers. Once again they were filled out in my neatest handwriting and kept with passport. Though there was some dodgy translation on it but after reading it a few times I figured out that you only had to declare when over a certain limit – which I wasn’t.

The last hour of the ten hour flight was the worst. It was a bit stormy over Cuba so it was very bumpy on the way down – not fun, especially if a bad flyer. But soon enough we landed in Cuba. I could see through the windows of the plane that it was overcast and when the doors opened I could feel the fresh air coming in.

Because it was a tad overcast I expected it to be cool when walking out the door but I was hit by the heat and humidity – it wasn’t uncomfortable though but I was wearing jeans which would need changed to shorts soon. As we walked into the terminal there was a light shower but we missed it as we went inside.

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Once inside the (small) terminal I was adamant I could smell cigars! There were about 5 long queues for immigration already but luckily we were directed to a shorter line. I was told that the immigration process took ages and I would be brought to a room and interrogated – but none of that happened. I went to the window, was asked if I’d been to West Africa, got my photo taken then my passport was stamped and returned with half of my tourist visa.

Once through immigration we collected our bags. Read online that it would take ages but again it was quick enough. Once the bags were collected there was nothing else to do but leave the airport. Once leaving the airport we handed in our customs papers and once outside a man pointed us to our bus transfer. No sign of any bureau de change (turns out it was in departure terminal) but was happy enough to change it at hotel.

So we then waited on the bus for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, for the rest of the passengers – who weren’t as lucky as us to get through immigration and baggage claim quickly. A rep called Anabelle welcomed us to Cuba and informed us we had an induction in the morning. As soon as we left the airport it started to rain heavily. Being tired after a ten hour flight and long wait on the bus this was the last thing I wanted to see. Anabelle tried to point out local attractions (e.g. the Military School) en route to the hotel and gave us some factoids about the area. By this stage it was starting to get dark and the rain was getting heavier so wasn’t that bothered.

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We got to the hotel and the rain was still very heavy! I nearly fell on my ass getting off the bus due to the water on (what I’m guessing) was marble stairs. Despite the rain – first impression of the hotel was very fancy. We were given a mimosa while we checked in and I went to exchange my currency. For £600GBP I got 900CUC which wasn’t bad.

RAIN!

RAIN!

We got to the room, which was a bit underwhelming mainly because it was cold (I later figured out this was because the air con was on). Had a wee lie down and then ventured to get food. We found the buffet restaurant with the Cuban equivalent of a mariachi band playing. It was around this point, after the free food and beers, I had an epiphany that if it rains the whole time then at least we can drink the value! The food was alright if you like rice and beans (I do!) but it was busy and all a bit manic.

A hotel cat - getting out of the rain

A hotel cat – getting out of the rain

Afterwards we went to find a bar. In the lobby bar some fella was playing “Achy Breaky Heart” on a violin so we risked going outside to the 24hr pool bar. Had a few more beers and Leona had a piña slushie. We went to bed at about 8.30pm (1.30am GMT) as we were wrecked. I was woken up at about 10pm by someone singing “Bed of Roses” from the pool stage… Turned out I missed karaoke… Ragin’!

An Ode to Temps

I thought I would go for some this Throw Back Thursday carry on. I can’t seem to find anything online about this fine former Botanic eatery but when I found a low resolution picture on an old SD card I had to make Temps live forever via a poorly written blog post.

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Temps just after it closed…

Temps was weird. It was a tad dirty. It was dear. It had some horrible ripped sofa’s and graffiti on the walls. The food was also quite average but I still went. All the time!

I started going in 2005 (after the demise of Liberties – my former favourite post drink haunt) on the recommendation of McKay and I wasn’t that fussed at first. It was £6ish for a chicken burger meal (bear in mind this was ten years ago.. and you didn’t get many chips!). However, we got into the routine of every week going to Lavery’s to play pool then going to Temps on the way home.

We recommended Temps to everyone. Most people weren’t fussed or if they knew it already would tell us that it was actually rotten! I think we had one convert though.

It was rotten though, one night one of us had some blue mould on our burger bun. They pulled it off and continued eating. Though, unlike Esperantos, it never made me sick… or maybe it did. Though that may have been my excuse after drinking too much.

Most nights out ended with stopping at Temps on the way home. Temps after a night out was a sight to behold. Anarchy in chippy form. The place would be packed and noisy. Sometimes there’d be music. You’d make your order, you’d get a number and a few minutes later a wannabe DJ would shout your number over a microphone.

My favourite Temps story was when McKay went and the Polish clerk/cook/bouncer started to tell him about some skeet causing trouble and the bouncer kicked his head in – but then turned on the TV with the CCTV footage of the incident playing.

Sadly in 2008 the dream ended. I noticed the For Sale sign and took a photo (on a shitty old Samsung phone) for posterity. Boojum opened on that site soon after that. Mexican food? Fuck that! I didn’t go to Boojum because of what I thought was loyalty to Temps (How stupid). I had my first Boojum a few years after that. Fuck sake! Why didn’t I go sooner?! It’s far nicer than Temps!

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Nearly there..

Innovator?

It’s been five years since Michael Jackson died. Therefore, it’s also five years since I ended up in the Belfast Telegraph commenting on Michael Jackson’s death!

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His death was announced overnight and I found out the next morning on Twitter – remember this is when Twitter wasn’t that big a deal. That morning at work some colleagues snuck out for a cheeky smoke before core time started and they phoned up. Apparently there was a reporter hanging about outside work looking comments.

I jumped out of my seat and went down, with a work chum, for a laugh. I walked about nonchalantly then the journalist asked if I wanted to make a comment. I tried to look surprised and began talking shite.

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The abridged version was:

Conor Fearon (24) from Newry said his music will live on more than the scandals that surrounded him.

“I was very shocked when I heard that he’d died this morning. I listened to a lot of his stuff when I was a kid. I had ‘Bad’ on tape but it only worked on one side.

“I think he’ll be remembered for his singing and hopefully not for the tabloid portrayal of him. He was an innovator.”

The innovator line was edited slightly. I was rambling about (not the innovation of music videos) but how he had heavy guitar riffs and Eddie Van Halen play on his songs. I was talking (mostly nonsense) for about 5-10 minutes. They then took my photo as I was on my way. Note: they decided to put “Innovator” beside my name in the photo. Were they implying I was the innovator?

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The Bad on tape thing was true. We had it in the car though no one in the family seems to remember it. I’m pretty sure it was Side B as they are the songs I remember and when we got to the end of the tape we had to rewind to the start.

When the paper came out on Friday evening my work chum messaged me to tell me I was in it. I was coming out of the cinema (Possibly seeing Year One) so afterwards drove to Fiveways to get a copy! Sadly there doesn’t seem to be an online copy of it.

The next day my ma woke me up to give off to me. My auntie phoned her to wind her up and spun it as if I said we had to make do with a broken tape deck and she wouldn’t get us a CD. She believed it too and thought I told the world we live grew up in cassette squalor.

 

RIP Ghostbusters Mural

A few weeks ago I arrive at the car park as normal. Something’s not right. The wall looks different, then I realised the Ghostbusters mural (the very one in the banner above!) was gone. This made me glum

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A week later – the new mural started to take shape. With the inclusion of wolves,  tags (I think that’s what they are called) and a parchment made me thankful as I feared it would be painted over by a gaudy UVF mural.20140618-181232-65552877.jpg So now it seems to be completed and it’s a Game of Thrones mural. I’ve never watched it (due to it being on Sky, it’s probably never going to be on Netflix and doing stuff the not legal way is a massive pain in the arse) so I’m quite indifferent.

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Though having the mural makes sense seeing GOT is filmed in Belfast and surrounding area plus I think I’m the only bearded person in Belfast who isn’t actually in it. The mural also has that chair that everyone sits on in their Facebook profiles.

All in all – fair enough – but I’ll still miss the Ghostbusters. Also, it’s appeared to have eaten into the Angry Birds mural.. waaaah! But these things happen, need to evolve etc and thankfully it’s not another tawdry paramilitary one.

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