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My Accent

Its really very strange. I will go months and months without a single person asking me where I am from. And then 10 people will ask me in two days.

I don’t really have an answer to that question. I mean, obviously, I am from the United States. But then people ask me what part. The real true honest answer is:

I was born in Massachusetts. I grew up in Connecticut. I went to Boarding School and 1 year of University in NY. I finished University in Iowa. I lived in California for 7 years. I’ve spent several summers in Ohio. I’ve also spent several summers in Maine.

I usually just give the shorter answer: Connecticut, but I lived in California for 7 years before I moved here.

And then I get asked where ‘home’ is. If home has to be in the US, then home is California, hands down. San Francisco Bay Area, to be specific. Where my brother and his wife and my two nieces live.

So what I really want to say when I am asked where I am from? Belfast.

And what is home? Belfast.

And I really don’t see myself ever going back ‘home’ to the US.

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More About Me

So, as I am pushing this thing all over the internet, I thought I’d tell y’all a little bit more about me.

I was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Connecticut and have lived pretty much all over the US, with the exception of the deep south. I visit the deep south on occasion as my father lives on the Panhandle of Florida, or, as the locals call it, Lower Alabama. But I have never lived there full time.

I went to University at University of Iowa, graduated in either ’94 or ’95 (and you’d think I’d know, since I just uncovered my degree in the Great Flat Clear Out of 2008, but I can never remember. I suppose I could check my CV…) with a BA in Liberal Arts, Theatre Design emphasis. This is why I am now a Personal Assistant. And because when I got done with the damn thing I realized how much I actually hated working in the theatre. Well, I did then, I got over it a little later, but I really didn’t want to do it professionally.

I have gone through a long long process of medication and therapy to get to my current diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder and Borderline Agoraphobia (which is: an abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas, sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks. In case you weren’t sure which phobia that is! Thanks I can and do go out in public, but I would be perfectly content to never leave my flat again. Or ever talk on the phone again. If I could, I would live my whole life right here and use the ‘net for everything. I am not currently on any meds, and except for some insomnia, am feeling good!

I live in Belfast (well duh!) with my husband Simon. We’ve been married for 3 years. Our anniversary is 4th September 2004 (which I did not pick for the symmetry of the date (04-09-04) but I do like the symmetry of the date!). No kids. Yet.

Oh and in 12 days, I will be 39 years old. That’s 5th February, in case you want to send me a card or anything. 😉

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Things you probably didn’t know about Belfast, Part 1.

Did you know that the HMS Titanic was built here? Yup, she sure was, at the Harland and Wolff Shipyards, which still exist today.

The Titanic’s final work was done at the Thompson Dock and Pump-House, which also still exist today, although not in great shape. The Thompson Dock and Pump-House are now ‘owned’ by Northern Ireland Science Park, for whom I work (and no, I am not afraid of being dooced, as I am the Web Mistress from the Park and the only one who knows how to check our referrer logs!!).

NISP is currently refurbishing the Thompson Dock and Pump-House. The first works were done over this past summer and more work is being done now as I write this. We are trying to make it a tourist attraction that will be self supporting. The only way we could get it fixed up was through grants from Environment and Heritage Service, Belfast City Council and Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Our remit is as a Science Park, so it took some convincing of our Board to let us do it at all!

So, there you go, a small fact about Belfast that you might now have known. Don’t worry, there are more coming!

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Moving Sucks

So Simon and I spent the day packing.  Its maybe 60% done at this point.  Most of the books are in boxes, with the rest scheduled for tomorrow.  Then I want to pack up the kitchen and use the stuff that came with our (furnished) flat so it will be done and dusted.

I predict it will all be packed by the end of next weekend.

I am totally shattered.  I usual nap on Sunday afternoons but didn’t get to today.

Think it will be an early to bed night.  So I’ll probably be up at 5:30.  Yay!

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Living at Belfast City Centre

Simon and I have a flat in City Centre of Belfast. Our new flat is only one street away from our current flat, so we will still be living in City Centre.

We don’t have a car, so living near the shops is very handy. It takes about a 5 minute walk to get to our local Tesco and all of the other High Street Shops that we like.

A lot of people ask if we live down here because we enjoy the pubs and other nightlife, and we do. But we don’t go out every week or even every month. We are very much stay at home people. When we do go out, we enjoy it, we just don’t go out very much!

What I like about City Centre is the atmosphere. The people wandering the streets. The shops. The diversity. From what I can tell its the most diverse area of Belfast.

But don’t quote me on that, as I don’t really go anywhere else other than City Centre very often!

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A Study in Contrasts

That’s what Belfast is.  Now, this may be true of all modern European and British cities, but Belfast is the one I know well, having walked her streets (we don’t have a car) for the past 4 years.  (Actually, Belfast is the really the only one I know at all. Well, I’ve been to London twice.  But I have never been on The Continent.  That will change when I get to go to Tuscany in September for Simon’s Sister’s Wedding.)

Belfast has been around since the Bronze Age.  That’s a long friggin’ time.  And parts of it are very old worldy, with narrow winding streets and buildings made of stone.  Other parts of it are very new worldy, with wide boulevards and buildings made of metal and glass.

Then there are the streets that are both.  Where we currently live, there is a church that was built in 1844.  And a block of flats that were completed about 6 months ago.  They are building ‘Belfast’s Tallest Building’ (which we locals joke will be 4 storeys) next to Queen’s Bridge, built in 1849 (named for Queen Victoria, BTW).

Everywhere you go there is a mix of the old and the new.  The current and the past.  And quite a lot of the future, as construction cranes go up all over town.

I, as an American who grew up in a town where I think the oldest structure was from the 1950s, find this fascinating.  I love old architecture and marvel at it. I marvel at the fact that our local Marks and Spencer is in a building that, in the US, would hold a bank, and would have been built to look that old.  I marvel at the fact that our local Tesco is in the former home of Allied Irish Banks and has the most amazing arts and crafts style ceiling.  You should see this thing, you’d be amazed that you are in a supermarket when you look up.

So Belfast is a study in contrasts.  And I love (nearly) every minute of it.

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I had a really weird experience on the bus home from work the other day.

I was, as I always am, reading a book as we are heading towards City Centre from work when I glanced up to see how far we were. I said, in my head ‘ah, Queen’s Bridge’ and started to turn back to my book. When the Belfast Wheel caught my eye. Now you can see this thing from far and wide around Belfast. But if I was on Queen’s Bridge, the wheel was in the wrong place. “Had they moved it?” I seriously thought. “I mean, if the bus is just crossing Queen’s Bridge, which I know we are, then the Wheel should be to my left. So why is it on my right?”

I seriously sat there and thought about this for about a minute. Until we made a right hand turn and were *actually* on Queen’s Bridge, and not the Syndenham Bypass we were actually on and the wheel ‘moved’ to where it should be.

If someone had held a gun to my head right then and said “Where is the Bus?” I would have told them, no doubts, that we were on Queen’s Bridge and they must have moved the Belfast Wheel during the day.

Perspective. Its a weird thing.

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The Hussies

The Hussies are my group of internet friends.

There are 16 of us, 15 women and one man. We met, gosh, must be nearly 4 years ago now, on a now defunct Etiquette Board, which shall remain nameless. We named ourselves The Hussies after it was posted on the Board, by who the hell remembers, that anyone who a.) lived with their partner before marriage and/or b.) wore a strapless wedding dress, was a Hussy. We were all (or mostly all) in the chat for the board that night discussing this and realized we were all hussies (I didn’t wear a strapless wedding dress, but I sure did live with Simon before we were married!).

We’ve since opened our own Etiquette Board (Modern Etiquette and Manners) and spend a lot of time chatting and being friends. We don’t always agree, but we are always friends.

We live in the US. And Canada. And Prague. And England. And Northern Ireland.

We are Lawyers. And Personal Assistants. And Stay at Home Moms. And Librarians. And IT people. And Shop Assistants. And PhD candidates. And Personal Trainers.

We knit. We embroider. We cross stitch. We make clothes by hand.

We have kids. We are childfree. We are trying to have kids.

We are the Hussies. Forever and ever. Amen.

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The Saga of the Flat

So Simon and I are getting ready to move.  We’ve been looking for a 3 bedroom flat in Belfast, to upgrade from our tiny little 2 bed.

Just before Christmas a few flats came up on Propertynews  and we figured no one would look at them before Christmas, so we waited and called as soon as we got home from our Christmas at Simon’s parents.

We went to see one flat, number 604.  Only when we got there, 604’s keys were not with the estate agent, so we saw 606 instead, which was ‘exactly the same’, but already had a let agreed.  We loved it.  3 big bedrooms, large lounge, the kitchen I practically dream of, DISHWASHER!!!  So when can we see 604?  Monday.  Great, here’s our application and fee.  So I tell boss I’ll be in late Monday so I can see flat.

Get there Monday, still don’t have the keys for 604, do you want to see 606 again? Sure.  So we saw it again, with another bloke who was interested in it, only he needed to bring his partner back to see it also.  So when can we see 604? Tuesday.  For sure? We’ll call you to confirm, but pretty much yes.

I get to work, tell boss I need to be in late again Tuesday.

Tuesday, we’re waiting for the Estate Agent when he calls Simon to tell him he still doesn’t have the keys to 604.  We’ll call you.

Robyn has a hissy fit in the middle of the street.  Just *so* typically Belfast.

Thursday, Simon gets a call.  Application has been accepted, only landlady has decided to let flat to her brother.  But 606 is *still* available.

We go see it again.  We still love it.  We wrote them a cheque.

We move in 2nd February 2008.

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What an American thinks about Belfast…

Overall, I really really like it.

I’ve pretty much liked it from the moment I moved here, with a few exceptions. I am totally *not* enamoured of the lack of customer service (although that is getting better), especially compared to what I was used to in the US. I can understand the apathy, based on Belfast’s history. There was so much tension for so very long, its hard to be cheery to customers, I guess. And I am not really asking for cheery. I am asking for (and this just happened about 2 weeks ago) the tills to be ready to accept payment 45 minutes after the store opened (although that might have been because of the snow we got) and someone available to take my payment at the tills (which happens *all the time*).  Grant the ‘finding someone at the tills’ thing happens in the US.  But I don’t get a face made at me when I ask for help in the US.  Well, not usually.

I think another part of it is that people don’t expect it.  They have received bad service for so long, they just go along with it. And until people complain, nothing will change.

I do really like the people here.  Bus drivers call you love.  People really do say ‘crikey’ and (and this is *very* Irish) ask you what the craic is.

Sometimes you have to watch what you say.  If someone is going to England for something, they will usually say they are leaving the country, even though, technically, they aren’t.  And please please please please make sure you call it Northern Ireland.  Ireland, or the Republic of Ireland, or the Republic, or ROI, is a totally different country to the south.  Some people are still hoping for a united Ireland, but I doubt it will ever happen.  And at least we seem to be past blowing each other up over it.  For the time being, at least.