Dec 05

It’s a strange feeling when you move. At least it was for me this time.

When I was younger I moved a lot. I was constantly shifting now I think about it, when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I lived in different cities in England, and I lived in different homes in those cities. I had a couple of suitcases and not much else, I didn’t even have a laptop until the mid-nineties.

I moved back to Belfast and bought an apartment in Holywood in 1996, and we lived there until we emigrated to the USA in 2004. When we first arrived in New Orleans we rented a place, and stayed there for about seven months, then bought a house around the corner. So that Creole cottage (kind of… strictly speaking it was a condo) was my home from February 2005 until November 2018. Nearly 14 years, by far the longest place I’ve lived as an adult.

But time marches on and circumstances and relationships change. That’s life. You could fritter away your whole life looking back, considering the what ifs and the maybes. Better to accept and embrace what’s ahead.

But I did feel a wee tinge of sadness when I walked out the door for the last time, only because of the memories I have of raising my daughter there. She grew up there, it’s where she took her first steps and spoke her first words, and all the other things that are special to parents. But that’s fine: they will stay locked in the memory bank until I’m old and grey.

So here’s to the future. Let’s see what lies ahead and what life has in store for me. Upwards and onwards, right? Until next time…

Nov 02

We are selling our house. If all goes to plan, I’m out of here in a little more than three weeks.

It feels strange and everything happened very quickly. Back in the UK it can take months for a sale to go through. From us signing the paperwork until the sale, this will be about a month. The buyers want to move quickly it seems, fine by us, although of course it adds to the stress and such of trying to get everything sorted in time. In my classes I teach about how putting in a ticking clock, a deadline, adds tension to a story. I never meant to do it when I’m involved and selling property however.

We bought this house – a condo officially I suppose – more than 13 years ago. We have been through a lot here, Katrina, the birth of my daughter, lots of other stuff. I’m sure it will feel strange when I walk away later in the month. But at the same time I know that life goes on. “Baby, baby don’t look back,” as Fine Young Cannibals once sang.

Ironically, the day the buyer wants to move in is my birthday. Is it a sign? Will it be a double celebration? I’ll be entering my 50th year after all. Lots of emotions swirling around I’m sure, lots of competing feelings, good and bad memories. But life goes on. Here’s to the next chapter, and home, in my life.

Oct 03

This week I’m crossing the Pond again, even though it’s less than three months since I came back. Twice in a quarter of a year is a phenomenal amount of trips for me.

I once went three years without going home. I can’t write for certain, but I’m pretty sure it was between 2008 and 2011, while my daughter was young. The last few years I’ve made it a point to go over every year.

I was in Spain, England and Northern Ireland in June and July, and this very week 12 months ago I was also in England funnily enough. The summer is a much better time to visit: the weather is nicer, the days are longer, and my friends’ kids are off school. But the autumn / fall has advantages too of course, everywhere is less crowded and some things are cheaper. When you are travelling without children you don’t need to worry about pesky school holidays / vacations.

I’m probably most excited about visiting a new country. I ticked off two this year already when I was in Central America, and now I get to add another to my list in the form of Montenegro. I’m guessing it’s been 14 years since I last made it to three new nations in one year.

After that it will mean I’ve been to 52 out of the 55 UEFA members, with only Moldova, Kosovo and Kazakhstan left to conquer. You know, the biggies. I’m leaving the best til last obviously. We are hitting seven countries in 14 days. Very American.

Next month I’ll let you know how I got on. If I don’t decide to nip to Chisinau instead.

Sep 04

I’m writing this as a storm is heading towards New Orleans. It may be a hurricane by the time I finish. Hopefully either way, it won’t be too serious.

I’m in Gastonia, North Carolina, visiting my daughter for a few days. I flew out of Louisiana this morning at 7am, and it did feel a bit strange. Schools closing, the government shutting down, warnings to hunker down and buckle up… it all felt a bit familiar. But it’s been a while since we have had a serious storm or hurricane hit us I think.

The last serious one was about five years ago I believe when we evacuated to my friend’s beach house in Florida. Oh, the humanity! There is a definite feel in the Crescent City I think, having lived there for 14 years, that there is a distinctive way of dealing with an approaching storm. You want a hurricane to be heading towards you because then you can park your car anywhere you want, you can have a party with your friends and not have to get up early, and you get a day to laze around the house or go to the pub.

But obviously you don’t want anyone to get hurt or anything to get damaged. So we need it to blow itself out just before landfall, or dissipate and die or collapse on itself or something. Then everyone gets a lovely little unscheduled holiday.

So I hope Tropical Storm (or Hurricane) Gordon, does not cause any real damage to ourselves or our neighbours to the east like Mississippi or Alabama. Fingers crossed that this latest event amounts to nothing more than a day or two off work and off school for the populace of New Orleans, a city whose residents are well experienced and practiced in dealing with impending weather disasters. Hopefully there will be nothing serious for them, or anyone else on the Gulf Coast, to deal with. In this case, the lack of drama is a good thing.

Aug 09

It’s still brutally hot here in New Orleans, but it does feel like summer is winding up. Metaphorically if not physically.

It’s a million degrees and hot, humid and oppressive, so it’s more of a perception than fact. I guess that’s all to do with the return of school.

I’ve had a fabulous summer because I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter. She lives in North Carolina these days so I only get to see her once a month. Often it’s just a fleeting visit, a couple of days here and there. But I got to spend a good bit of time with her in June and July, then had her here with me for a couple of weeks in Louisiana as well. I’m taking her home at the weekend, so tomorrow will be our last day together for a while.

I worked at her school for six years, then last year I worked at another school, so I suppose I’m tuned into the academic year much more than I ever was in Belfast. I’ve friends who are teachers, I’ve mates with kids getting ready to go back… it all feels like we are about to move into Fall. But of course on the face of it that is crazy, and August I’m sure has temperatures that are as high as June and July.

I won’t feel like we are truly into the Autumn / Fall until we hit September. Indeed I think it’s crazy that kids stop classes around the 20th of May for three months – if it was up to me, I’d have them stay in school until the beginning of June and go back at the start of September. That’s what we do in the UK, and our weather is nothing like it is over here.

But, like, whatever dude. As the Americans say, “It is what it is.” And I don’t care what month of the year it is, I’ll just enjoy being a full-time father again.

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