Jun 02

Three years ago I went with my friends Gordon and Paul to the football / soccer European Championships in France. It was a fabulous trip and I had the time of my life, heaps of football, wonderful food, lovely wine, lots of laughs.

I’m going back next week, this time to watch the Women’s World Cup. We are only there for three nights but I’m looking forward to it. We have tickets for one game, the USA v Thailand, but it’s in a city called Reim, a place I’ve never been to before. It’s a medieval town in the Champagne region of the country, so there are a couple of extra benefits as well.

But before that, I’m headed to Dublin for a couple of nights to see Metallica. I’m not the biggest fan in the world but their show is spectacular and it will be fun I’m sure. Then it’s off to Paris, before ending our trip with five nights back in Belfast.

It’s always good to get home, and this will be extra special hopefully. We have arranged a bit of a get-together for those of us who are turning 50 soon, and I will get to see some guys I haven’t caught up with in years. A few I see regularly when I’m home, others the odd time, but the rest… well, it may have been more than 30 years since I’ve chatted with them, all the way back to 12988 when we left school.

So lots of look forward to in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to escape the 95-degree heat in New Orleans. It’s probably going to be even warmer when I get back of course. Til then, enjoy your summer.

May 01

May is a crazy month for me, maybe one of the busiest I’ve had since I moved to the USA almost 15 years ago. I mean that both socially and professionally – well, as professional as things get with me.

As far as work goes, I’m teaching writing classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The former has been held in four different locations around the city, the latter has found a temporary home in the CBD. But I still need to secure a permanent venue.

As well as those, I will be teaching a four-week writing session for the New Orleans Public Library. It will be the second class I’ve led for them, although this is at a different location.

There are a slew of concerts coming up this month, maybe the biggest concentration of live music I’ve had since crossing the Atlantic. I’ve the Cult and John Fogerty at Jazzfest. Then in the space of four days I’m going to Bryan Adams, Garbage and Collective Soul. The following week is Paul McCartney, the first time I will get to see (and hear) a member of the Beatles live.

Then there is a mixture of business and pleasure, with Chelsea coming to the States for the first time in three years. I’m flying up to Boston to see them play the New England Revolution, and I’ll spend a couple of nights up there. I’ll enjoy seeing my team of course, but I’ll be hoping to get some more writing work out of the trip as well.

There are a few other bits and pieces in there as well, but that’s enough to detail for now. See you when I come up for air in June…

Apr 09

I meant that metaphorically. But not in the sense of it being a metaphor for danger, just that things are hotting up. Literally, not metaphorically. None of this makes any sense.

You see, I’ve just spent nine days at home,and although I was glad it barely rained on me, it was still a wee bit chilly. Even though it was the end of March – and indeed, the news was full of stories about the balmy weather – it’s still a shock after 15 years in Louisiana.

Now I’m back in New Orleans and the summer is lurking at the door, stamping its feet and rapping on the window, begging to get in. We will be well into the 80s this week, and for the next four months or whatever it’s only going to get worse. Or stay the same. But not get cooler anyway.

I had a great time in Belfast. It’s always good to get home and see your family and friends, and, even, better, I got to see Northern Ireland win two games! I saw us win back-to-back competitive matches, something I hadn’t done in ages. So I researched how long it had been. You know when it was? November 1984! Almost 35 years! Isn’t that incredible? Admittedly I’ve lived over here for close on half that time, but still… worth the journey home in itself probably.

As it happens, I’ll be back again in June. Two visits in the space of 10 weeks or so, when I once went three years without going home. Times change I guess, just like the weather changes from Northern Europe to Southern America (I thought I’d end on a laboured, tangled analogy just to tie everything together).

Til next time…

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…

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