Friday, 13 November 2009

'What do you get if you cross a Hollywood movie star, an Irish pop singer, and a BBC TV series? A fantastic break away in Dublin...

I’ve just returned from a well earned (even if I do say so myself!) break in Ireland. Both my husband, Jim and myself were working really hard before we left. Me, trying to get all my edits finished on my novel, which I’m pleased to say I finally completed just a few days before we left. And Jim was working mad hours (as he often does) to get various different jobs completed. Jim runs his own business called Jim’ll Fix It property maintenance services. He specialises in tiling kitchens & bathrooms, but really he can turn his hand to any sort of DIY job you can think of. And since he’s constantly in demand, he’s pretty good at what he does.
As I’ve mentioned on here before, every year Jim and I try to have a break away, just the two of us without our children. This year we chose to stay just outside of Dublin for a few days in a beautiful coastal town called Malahide.

I’ve been to Dublin many times, and for quite a few of those trips I’ve stayed in Malahide in a hotel called the Grand. It’s a lovely hotel and this was the longest I’ve ever had the joy of staying there.We had a lovely relaxing time, just walking along the coast, going out for meals and generally just chilling!
In fact the only time I ventured into Dublin city centre was once to go shopping (minus Jim – he went to visit some of his relatives for the day...) and once to go to the Marie Keating foundation’s Pink Ribbon ball. But more on those two events later, because firstly I must tell you about the two young chaps sitting behind Jim and I on our flight over there...
We were just settling down into our seats, buckling ourselves in etc, when we quickly began to regret our choice of seating. (it was Ryan air so we were able to choose where we sat) Because behind us two studenty types in high volume had begun to voice all sorts of ridiculous pretentious opinions about the state of the world and the young people of today (they were hardly OAP’s themselves!) Jim and I just looked at each other and rolled our eyes – great a whole flight of this! But after the air stewards had given their safety demos, counted the passengers, and tried to sell us condoms (ok they were smokeless cigarettes, but they looked like condom packets – when did they start selling those?) and the plane began to taxi down the runway, suddenly all fell silent behind us. Were these two gobshites nervous fliers I wondered – holding each other’s hands while silently saying their prayers?
No, it turned out they’d just fallen asleep! But that’s not the end of the story. They stayed asleep (to our joy) for the whole flight, until the exact moment the plane hit the tarmac on the Dublin runway. And then, like Jack in the boxes released from their confinement, up they popped again – mouths turned on full volume and full speed just as though someone had suddenly re-connected their power supply – which had kindly been disconnected throughout the entire flight.
It was a trip of missed celebrity spotting too – ie everyone else seemed to bump into them and not me! While I was shopping in Dublin, an assistant came rushing into Boots to start her shift announcing to her colleagues that she’d just shook hands with Jack Nicholson in Captain America’s ( like an Irish Planet Hollywood only better) in Grafton Street!! The boys from Westlife were staying in our hotel while we where there – they were spotted by a friend we met up with for the ball. And during the ball itself my husband spoke to Gay Byrne, who some readers will know as the former presenter of the Late Late show in Ireland. Why was it always me in the wrong place at the wrong time? I didn’t see any of them!
But I wasn’t in the wrong place when it came to the Marie Keating foundation’s pink ribbon ball held annually at the Burlington hotel in Dublin.
This was the fourth time Jim and I have been lucky enough to attend this fundraising ball, and as always it was a fabulous evening organised by Linda Keating and her dedicated team.

Me posing in the hotel room before we left.
This year we were booked to be on a table with lots of friends old and new, so we knew we were in for a good night.
We arrived at the reception with our two friends Charlene & Davy, who had driven down from Northern Ireland for the ball, and were immediately offered glasses of pink champagne – my favourite! Luckily for me not Jim’s, so I managed two glasses ;-)

Then after finding where we were sitting on the seating plan, having some photos taken and chatting to a few people, a bell rang and it was finally time to enter the ballroom.
We found our table and seats – complete with large pink gift bags full of goodies, and settled down for our meal and night’s entertainment.
After Lillian McGovern the foundation’s Chief Executive had welcomed us, and the MC of the evening was introduced - Irish radio’s Tony Fenton, then it was Ronan Keating’s turn to step up on to the stage to say a few words. Apart from talking about the foundation’s work, he thanked everyone for coming – pointing out that so many of these types of events were being cancelled these days due to lack of support. He also talked about how he had only just flown in from a promotional trip to Australia about 4hrs ago, and how he’d had to bring his children with him tonight because they’d wouldn’t have allowed him to just walk in from a week away and walk right back out of the door again! How this year had been one of mixed emotions for him, and unusually he talked about what his future plans were professionally, which is something he normally wouldn’t do at the ball. But I think everyone was so aware of what had happened recently with Stephen Gately, it would have seemed strange not to mention him. So in a very emotional few minutes Ronan talked about Stephen, and thanked his family, friends and the public for all the support they had given him over the last few weeks.
During dinner Ronan visited all of the 40 tables in turn, talking to people and posing for photos if requested. In past years I’ve always managed to have a bit of a chat with Ronan at this point. But tonight I’m not sure why I didn’t begin to babble on to him like I usually do. I think I was very aware there were other people waiting around the table for their moment and photograph with him too, so instead when he smiled as I approached and said ‘Howrya it’s good to see you again.’ I just smiled back and said ‘Yes it’s been a long time.’ Then, as he put his arm around me for a photograph I looked about desperately for Jim – where was he? ‘Now where’s my husband?’ I said wondering where he could be. But Ronan knew where he was. What’s always quite amusing to me is that Ronan now recognises Jim as well as me when we’re at an event or a concert – he usually gives him a manly wave or nod of the head. As if to say ‘has she dragged you here again!’ ;-) So pro that he is, as the crowd parted Ronan was already looking in Jim’s direction as he held the camera up to take the photo. The problem had been Jim was still sitting down to take the photo at the table, which is why I couldn’t immediately see him. Something I was cross at him for doing afterwards (everyone knows the worst angle you can take people’s faces at is from below!) but actually the photo came out quite well in the end. (& yes I did apologise to Jim afterwards!) I thanked Ronan for the photo, and then he thanked me for coming, and said ‘It’s good to see you again.’ There was so much I would have liked to have said to him that night about all sorts of things – including the novel. But as I said before it just didn’t seem the right time, and I’m sure they’ll be others. And anyway when Ronan Keating puts his arms around you and says ‘It’s good to see you again.’ twice in one evening, what more can a girl ask for?! ;-)

After the meal we danced the rest of the night away to James Walsh formerly of the group Star Sailor, Ronan himself for a couple of songs, and then a DJ until the wee small hours when we finally returned tired but happy to our hotel.
A big thank you to Carol & Lizzy for organising everything this year
& thanks to Lucy C & her crazy camera for this photo of me!

On our last day in Ireland we took a drive down through the Wicklow mountains, a pretty area we have visited before, and look what we found there – Ballykissangel! Well it’s really called Avoca, but this little town was where they filmed the BBC TV series that ran for 5years. I never watched it the first time around, but as part of the research for my new novel I’m writing about an Irish island, I Sky+ed the whole series at the beginning of this year on ITV 2 to get a feel for the Irish language and humour, so I knew this little place like the back of my hand. But what was really surprising considering the series ran from 1996-2001 is that all the places like the pub and the shop etc are all still called the same names as in the TV series. So there’s Fitzgeralds pub, Kathleen Hendley’s shop etc etc.
So apologies if you’ve never seen Ballykissangel, but if you have or remember it, here’s a few photos of some of famous places from the show. Fitzgeralds Pub, the bridge leading into the town where the characters always went to do their 'thinking', and the church.

So that was our break away in Dublin. Eventful, relaxing, yet very very enjoyable.
More photos on my facebook page of Malahide, the ball & Ronan perfoming on the night. Just add me as a friend if you can't see them.

This must be a record breaking length of a Blog - even for me! Thanks for sticking with it to the end ;-)
Until the next time,
A x