Day 9 – What do you do after a wedding in Ireland?

Well folks, what you do is listen to whoever is in charge, don’t complain, because whoever is in charge is going to be tired from having to organise everyone around them on the day of the wedding, bearing in mind that she has no official duties and aren’t a parent of the bride or groom,

Decision made – we’re breakfasted and off to Derry for the day. Lovely drive to the beautiful old walled city of Londonderry – but please call it Derry. Derry has along history that involves being a strategic port on the Foyle River which is linked to Lough Foyle on the north Ireland coast. A militarily strategic location, not just now but for hundred of years.

We arrive in Derry, and the traffic is very light, a car park is found right near the Guildhalla d we walk up to the old walled area and explore a full lap of the wall, reading of the siege of Derry by William of Orange. We then do a Hop on Hop off bus tour of Derry, the violent bistros is all so very recent, the Sunday Bloody Sunday slaughter of 28 unarmed peaceful protesters in 1972 in the Bog area made the world stand up and take notice and inspired the U2 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. A lunch at the Guildhall near the Foyle River, then we drop some of Tim’s ashes into the river.

Time for home via a stop at the Beaghmore Stone Circles, a series of large stones arranged in circles some 2500- 3000 years ago.

Back at Coagh we have visitors, Marie, Jane, Pauline, Phamy, Ken, Dale and Mudge so dinner is organised at Hanover House, our hosts restaurant. Food is great, in large quantities.

We retire to get ready to leave here tomorrow and head for Galway.

Happy birthday today for Alison and tomorrow for Simone

Ciao from Coagh in Northern Ireland for the last time




Day 8 – The Wedding – Extended version – Saturday 18/8/18

So, what kept you busy today?

Me, well I had a wedding to go to in Northern Ireland, a big Catholic church in a small Irish village, out of town in skinny hedge lined roads just barely wide enough two small cars.

We arrive early, not by accident but let’s not say what causes this. It’s now Sunday evening and after 3 Jamesons and a Guinness I don’t feel like I need to tell the truth, for some of you it may be obvious why!

We’re about reasonably early for a Saturday, especially for me anyway, then w short drive down to the shores of Lough (Lake) Neagh at a small village called Ballyronan. It’s all of 10 minutes drive, Mark is driver today and has to deal with a direction awareness deficit disorder suffered by one of our fellow travellers, she shall remain nameless. Your Honour, the evidence is irrefutable, and damning, I rest my case.

Lough Neagh is a large freshwater lake that lies west of Belfast, near Belfast International Airport. The lake was once a major way of transporting goods to Belfast but that changed early last century and now Ballyronan is a tourist village, quite pretty, and pretty quiet.

Back to Coagh, get dressed and one traveller is struggling with the time constraint, I did tell her the time for the Church was 12 midday, but I did know that it was 12.30, this was so she got organised in time. It worked until she hopped breathlessly out of the car when we got to the church and said to Robyn, Mother of the Groom, “sorry we’re late, where is everyone?” . The response is ” don’t panic you’re early it’s doesn’t kick off until 12.30?” I stay very low.

We catch up with most of the Cobar clan at the church, the Irish backdrop of rolling green hills, emerald green hedge rowed paddocks, and a grey foreboding sky as a backdrop, a fantastic opportunity to experience something different in another country in another culture.

The church service is long, a Nuptial Mass, but the time passes quite quickly. The Groom and groomsmen are decked out in green suits ( looked blue to me but I’m colour blind); with RM Williams boots, looked very cosmopolitan but Australian, there’s no mistaking RM’s for Aussies. The girls were in cream coloured dresses, all pretty stunning looking young women and the bride in a pretty spectacular dress with a long train. How’s that for fashion reporting you lot!

It’s warm and humid, the weather is dripping but not quite raining, hopefully something we’ll experience when we get home if it hasn’t happened before that.

The drive to the reception at Larchfield Estate is over an hour down the M2, we’re the first to arrive and as I’m MCing the show I need to get organised and meet the team at Larchfield anyway. We’re first to arrive and the first to get a drink. The place is stunning, beautiful gardens, beautiful old buildings, the reception area is the old stables of a sort of Manor House working farm set up. The crowd arrive in cribs and drabs, the event gets underway a little late but we pull it back into order and on time, even though the crowd are very irresponsible to my requests to move inside and sit down. All they want to do is talk and drink, don’t they understand that I’m trying to look like I’m running the f….g show and am nervous for things to start which means I’m closer to the end when I can relax a bit, hopefully without somebody hitting me or abusing me.

The speeches go well, the 2 fathers speak briefly but well, from the heart, the Groom has a lovely from the heart speech prepared and delivers with passion, the Best Man despite not having anything prepared at the church is prepared by the time of the reception and does a great job, the Chief Bridesmaid adds some lovely words and the groomsmen run the Chair Game which is a lot of fun. Well done to everyone. My job is done on time and hopefully the Carrieann and Jim and the guests enjoyed the reception and what we did, fingers crossed.

It’s a fantastic evening but by 11 I’m feeling pretty weary and by 11.30 or so we leave in the solid rain to drive back to Coagh. Mark pilots us home efficiently and quickly, one drop off of Cherie Martin in Magherafelt.

I think we’re all pretty busted by the time we got bed about 1 in the morning.

A great day, great fun.

Below are 2 poems I wrote and read at the wedding ;

“Secrets – North and South”

Wedding bells were ringing in the northern Ireland town

18th August 18, place is full of Aussies letting their hair down,

On the other side of the world Saturday has passed

Sunday in Cobar, cool morning and sunshine that will last

Today we hear no secrets

And the time will go by pretty fast

She was from the North, he from the South

From opposite places, same words sound different from their mouths

She knew it was good and he knew it was too

It was real, and in the hot Cobar sun it grew

You were each others secret

Until somebody picked up a clue.

Island of rain, villages and fields of green

Fun people, past troubles, Guiness, it is what it seems

Large island of deserts, jungle, fire and soaking rain

Snakes, spiders, sharks, things that give pain

Were you really each others secret?

Not in Cobar, some things we need to explain

Old house that needs money and paint

Moved in together, hope the leftfooters and do gooders don’t faint

Shared breakfasts, rules and front door key

Keep the curtains closed don’t let the locals see

Don’t let everyone know your secrets,

Even when they tell you “it’s safe with me”

Two minds, two halves of the same

That’s marriage, sort of like a like a ball and chain

A shared future should hold no fears

Be ready for the whirlwind of life condensed over years

And don’t let your secrets see daylight

Keep them away from dangerous ears

Live life fully, lessons from family passed and two Tim’s

Follow your own dreams, and not others whims,

Jim & Carrieann, work hard on being best friends

For the trip of life has many bumps and more than a few bends,

Trusting each other with your secrets

Is just one thing on which the future depends

“I Rely On You”

I rely on you like a sports car needs suspension,

like the aged need a pension,

Like a trampoline needs tension,

like a bungee jumper needs a little apprehension

I rely on you like a camera needs a shutter

like a punter needs a little flutter,

Like a golfer needs a putter

And like a buttered scone really does need butter.

I rely on you like an acrobat needs a cool nerve,

like a hairpin corner needs a really drastic bloody curve,

Like a rugby centre needs to run, pass and swerve

Like a flasher really does want you to perv,

I rely on you like a handyman needs pliers,

Like an auctioneer needs buyers,

Like a Laundromat needs dryers,

like Air Lingus wants pilots who are reasonable flyers.

I rely on you like Bears farm needs water,

Like Eamon and Teenie’s brick house needs mortar,

Like Robyns heart really needs an aorta,

Like Jim ain’t married, without the O’Hagen’s daughter.

I rely on you

Cheers from Coagh in Northern Ireland


Day 8 – Saturday – the Irish Weddingz

Well it’s 9.45pm in Ireland and my MC duties have finished. Nobody threatened me, nobody punched me, and I think it went off really well. The church was in the country, down little lanes, a real Catholic Irish weddding, nuptial mass, the works. The band is playing, the crowd is drinking, and after a warm humid day it’s drizzling rain outside. A second Jameson’s is easing me into relaxation, but not relaxed enough to dance. There will be some photos and a more detailed blog tomorrow.




Day 7 – 1 week since we left – what have I learned?

Not f….ing much really! The week has gone quickly, that means that travelling has been fruitful and enjoyable , mostly anyway. So what have I learned;

  • Chinese food in a Ireland ain’t that flash
  • It’s easy to drive, but modern technology is a big help ie a gps can prevent major conflict, even divorce.
  • Guinness is the national drink, no exception.
  • People are friendly, maybe the odd exception, but I reckon Aussies get a pretty fair crack
  • Get off the main roads, and explore the villages and pubs. It’s fun, the pubs are friendly, and you don’t get beaten up
  • The “troubles” are over but just be careful talking about politics, religion, the British etc to anyone over 50.
  • Run over foreign tourists who park where they aren’t supposed to.

So today, just to get that out of the way, was pretty boring travel/ tourism stuff, we got up and got away at about 8.30am, too late for Genelle, too early for me, but I don’t count, apparently. But I’m big enough to let that one blow over my shoulder, or am I ? Therapy might help me resolve these issues I have!

My turn to pilot the Peugeot, so we’re off to Giant Causeway, the drive is uneventful, we’ve been there yesterday, but when we get there I miss the turn, much glaring and vitriolic words result in my humble u turn and drive into the car park. It’s freezing, the rain is blowing sideways, and there are tourists everywhere and it’s only going to get worse.

TIP – don’t park in the Giants Causeway car park, or if you do drop your passengers before the car park, pay £11.50 for 1 x car park and walk in through the tunnel. The entrance is a rip off at £11.50 per person, the local Irish are up in arms about it big time, it’s chasing people away. Look to park outside the car park and walk in through the tunnel beside the car park for free. That aside the rock formations are spectacular and worth the walk in.

Just to make this longer and more boring, there is a story to Giants Causeway, the reality is that it’s a World Heritage site, a 60 million year old result of cooling and shrinking lava flows that result in over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. The legend though is based on a mighty Irish giant called Finn McCool, who carved out this coast line after a battle with a giant from Scotland. This is the Northern most point of Ireland and pretty much the closest point to Scotland.

We leave, frozen to the core, and head for the Dark Hedges area from Crown of Thrones fame. It’s great for photos but only if all the tourists would f… off and the selfish pricks who park in the road where they are told not to would f… off and park where they are meant to so we can get better access and nicer photos. Today I detect a lot of the recalcitrant parkers have German accents, may I don’t have enough mongrel in me!

We drive back via Antrim, through Belfast to the wedding reception area ” Larchfield Estate” – google it – to meet the bride and groom and check out the plans and venue for the wedding seeing I’ve got a little job to do at the reception.

Hanover House Restaurant at Coagh for dinner, we’re listening to American country music in an Irish restaurant, drinking Guinness ( at least I am), the potato crops failed, the farmer kicks the dog and his daughter is leaving for Australia and meets a bloke in the outback working in a mine with a dog you don’t need to kick. Is there a song in that? Check with me when I’ve have less Jameson’s and Guinness!

Just sayin’ but Irish food doesn’t rate as a culinary style, it’s solid food, the specialty being taties, but it really isn’t that special. Tonight Mark had a pasta bake, Genelle a chicken dish and I had a pork dish with Champs ( spud chives garlic). My pork is dry, the seasoning ok but the champs is very nice – with butter. The Guinness is iron in my diet, very nutritious.

let’s leave it at that for the day, tomorrow is a wedding and it’s going to be fantastic, 47 people I think from Australia

Ciao from Paul in Coagh, Northern Ireland


Day 6 – Belfast

At 6am I hear rattling, a light comes on and swearing starts. Genelle thinks our Irish Mobiles have chewed up all our data by updating BUT when I check it out it’s a false alarm, so much angst!!! Sleep doesn’t really return.

Breakfast is an all in job at the hotel, £6 each for a full hot breakfast, pretty good value really. We get Hop On Hop Off bus tickets and head down the street. It’s a great tour around Belfast, covers stuff we saw yesterday but a lot of new stuff and we really get our bearings. There is a lot of development going on, a lot more money being spent than 10 years ago.

We’re back at the hotel, bags packed, checked out, Mark has the keys and is piloting the Peugeot with today’s navigator Genelle. The competition for today is Genelle v Tom Tom GPS, one has logic the other doesn’t, one has emotion the other doesn’t so when Tom wins he really losses. Good luck Mark.

Mark gets us safely out of Belfast, the rain pissing down, we’re heading North on the M2 for Ballycastle

We walk back to the Ibis Hotel, pack up and get the car out of the parking over the road. Marks the driver today and the gps is set and off out of Belfast heading for Ballycastle, Giants Causeway and a few other things before heading back down to Cookstown for our lodgings for the next few days.

The drive north to Ballycastle at the very top of Ireland is pretty quick, Genelle wants to see the countryside rather than the motorway, she finally gets to see it.

We have a look at Carrick-a-Rede, the swinging bridge on the Antrim coast, then around to Giants Causeway and then back through the middle down to Coagh where we are booked into a house for the next few days. It’s a lovely house, gardens run down to the river, 2 storeys, 3bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, well fitted out.

A short walk to the shops and then a Chinese feed in Magrafelt with all the rest of the family here for the wedding. Crappy food really, fancy that a crook Chines in Ireland.

Tomorrow we’re off to Giants Causeway, tonight we rest. I think I have to resurrect yesterday’s blog as it’s gone missing from my draft documents, bit of a bugger that, especially after delaying it because I was pretty tired.

Ciao until tomorrow



Day 5 – Dublin to Belfast

Breakfast at Keogh’s in Dublin, porridge, toast, coffee, we’re fuelled up ready to go.

A walk down the the Liffey to do the traditional spreading of Tim’s ashes off the old bridge, Genelle and Mark do the honours. We now travel with a little container of Tim’s ashes and when there is an opportunity and water, mostly water, we leave a little pinch of ashes so that he travels the world with us in spirit. It’s always part of our travels these days.

The quick walk through the Temple Bar back to Blooms, a quick Checkout and the cab we ordered has arrived. We’re ready to leave, head to the airport, pick up out rental car and head to Belfast. Not a bad jalopy, a Peugeot wagon is what we end up with, very comfy. WFirst stop is going to be Drogheda, site of the Battle of the Boyne and the ancient mound tomb of Newrange, it’s 5,000 years old and a World Heritage site. All up there are about 40 mounds that make up Bru’ Na Boinne. Not far away is the Battle field of The Battle of the Boyne in 1690 where William of Orange ( a Dutchman) who married Mary II and James II (deposed as King of England) had a serious scrap over who might have a chance for the English throne.

The stone hallway and central cavern of the burial mound are very interesting, but not enough to keep us so we move on towards Belfast, more stuff to do. The M1 motorway is a dual lane road with 115kph limit mostly, which the Peugeot does easily. The gps gets us into central Belfast but then the difficult part of trying to find the hotel and car park, lots of advice from the backseat – there’s a saying that fits this but I just can’t think of it – something about immovable objects, anyway the advice is not practical and not taken, we do find the car park and the hotel but it means a few laps around one building risking arrest for contravening “No Right Turn” signs and cutting across lanes in a major way. The IRA and the Provos’s don’t detect the illegal activity and we’re safely in the hotel.

We take a punt and get the hotel to get us a Black Top Cab, he turns up in no time, Stevie is his name, a slightly built, short grey hair, swarthy skinned, with an ear ring, a very Irish looking chap, he’s part of Cab Tours Belfast ( phone 07713 640 647 £15 per person for 1 1/2 hour political tour of Belfast. This turns out to be a well spent 15 quid, he’s fantastic, a real character and you really struggle to work out whether he’s Catholic or Protestant, we have to wait until the end to have a guess and see if we’re right. The Shankill is the Protestant and Loyallist area, it’s just after the marching season so there are Union Jacks and other flags everywhere. The mural have been updated and this time Genelle doesn’t get hit up by kids to hand her mobile phone over. It’s a poor working class area, council estates, small houses, it feels bleak. The Peace Wall is still the same, lots of murals, gates that still get shut at 6 at night, all to keep the Catholics and Protestants apart, even now there are still riots if the kids find a chance to burn or stone something. The Catholic side is similar but has a different feel, the murals are about the hunger strikers, Bobby Sands, the Bombay Street riots and its sort of sobering how recent it all is and still feels. Steve shows us the rubber bullets the British fired at rioters, they are the size of a small can of deodorant, hard as the rubber in a truck type, they are meant to be fired at nobody closer that 40 metres.

At the end Stevie asks us to guess what he is, I go Catholic and explain my reasons, Genelle goes Protestant, and Mark Catholic. He tells us he’s Catholic, the signs are his wedding ring with Celtic design and an emblem on a chain around his neck that says ” Ireland Forever”. But he was also part of “activities” he was shot with a rubber bullet when spearing a metal rod at a British Army tank – documented in a photograph in the press. These days he started the company that has 4 partners 2 Catholics, 2 Protestants , he lives in a non sectarian area, sends his kids to non segregated schools, he believes little bit by little bit things are getting better but it needs people to move on.

Dinner is at the hotel, a pizza, a drink and then a rest, ready for a new day. Our feet and ankles are swollen and despite a co traveller’s concerns that we aren’t doing enough I close my eyes, take a deep breath and say nothing, hoping that sleep will come quickly.

Ciao from Belfast



No blog today, time has got away!

Yesterday’s blog is on the way, just too weary to finish last night after the drive from Dublin to Belfast , dealing with backseat drivers and walking the streets of Belfast. Ahhh Belfast, a lot less tourists, still edgy but progress since we were here 10 years ago.