Mar 06

It was Mardi Gras here in New Orleans yesterday, and I had forgotten just how nuts it is. I don’t know why, I’ve been through about 15 of them and you think I would know by now. But it still takes me by surprise.

We wandered around the French Quarter and took photos of the crazy costumes and watched some of the walking parades and had a few drinks and generally just, well, enjoyed ourselves. It was cold but sunny, much more preferable to it being mild and rainy.

Now that it is over, and the parades are done and dusted – at least until the St Patrick’s Day parade next week! – it’s time to get back to the grind. Mardi Gras was so late this year that it has thrown everything out of whack. My writing courses are usually about to start, this year I probably won’t be able to get them going until April.

And just to add to the mix, I’m taking my daughter home for 10 days this month. Right before they start. So something else to throw into the mix to deal with.

Still, not complaining. May you live in interesting times, right? Anyway, I feel the fog of yesterday lifting. Time to do some work. Til next time…

Feb 11

Now that headline would mean something else back in Northern Ireland. But here in New Orleans, it’s a good time of year.

Back home the “marching season (as it’s usually referred to)” applies to the summer. From late June until August there are parades by the Orange Order around the province, and it’s a contentious time of year. Violence often flares and there are flash-points at interfaces between rioters of both religions intent on fighting one another.

Here in Louisiana though, parades bring less trouble and a lot more fun. It’s the start of Mardi Gras – well, officially it’s the beginning of Carnival as the term we translate as “Fat Tuesday” refers to one day strictly speaking – and a time of rejoicing and partying and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking.

This will be the first time in 15 years that I don’t live only a couple of blocks away from the main parade route. I think it will be strange, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I enjoy the atmosphere and always have a great time on the footpath / sidewalk watching the floats and the dancers and the bands, but I’ve seen hundreds of processions. I guess if I never see another it’s hardly a disaster.

I know enough locals who live close by that I’ll be able to nip back for a bathroom break if I need it I’m sure. And maybe not always needing to leave the key in the mailbox will be a good thing, right? Relieve the pressure on me to always be the host or something?

I’ll let you all know how it goes next month. If I get a chance, what with the St Patrick’s Day parade and all…

Jan 04

That went quick. Hard to believe 2018 has gone already, it really did fly by. Of course they say time speeds up as you get older anyway, right? I’ll be 50 this year, and I still feel like I’m in my thirties sometimes. Of course other times I feel like I’m 180.

I went up to see my daughter in North Carolina over Christmas and that was great. I got to spend 10 days with her and it’s been five months since I was able to do that, so that was great. I flew back the day before New Year’s Eve, and this week I’ve been getting back on track, much like the rest of the world I guess.

I’ve two short writing classes starting next week. One for the New Orleans Public Library which is a first for me. I’m not quite sure how it will go, and I keep changing my mind as more writers sign up, but it will be something different no matter what. I’m also doing a four-week session with my regular authors that runs until the end of January.

So between those, coaching, and desperately trying to lose about a stone (14 pounds), this month promises to be busy. I’ll let you all know how it goes. Wishing you a wonderful 2019.

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.

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