Saturday 17th Jan I anticipated would be quite a full day… but I was on the go, in a good way, and out of the house (as Andrea, of course) from 9.40am until after midnight!
My latest event with my walking group was at yet another new place for me, walking through Redburn Country Park, east of Belfast. I set off from home at 9.40, prepared for quite a cold day, though it was nice and sunny; alas as I got to Belfast I was met by rain and snow flurries and I wondered if the enjoyment of the walk might be tempered by the wintry weather. After an emergency toilet stop nearby I arrived at the packed car park and it was thankfully dry again so, after donning my woolly hat, I joined the group and immediately started chatting to some of the girls I have met before. As we set off I ended up chatting to a girl called Elaine who has apparently been on some of the walks before, though we have never spoken; she has a hairdressing business and is lucky enough to only have to work three days a week. I spoke to her for a good while, interspersed with chat with some girls I have met before, such as Siobhan, Lesley, and Martina, and brief chat with a few others. The start of the walk had a bit of a climb, and the paths were rather muddy, but I delicately navigated them without getting too muddy and the views from the top were splendid. We got back to the car park about 90 minutes later, and I was warmly greeted by a retired man called Robert (who I had met on the Xmas day walk) who gave me a hug! Some nice chat with him ensued! As we prepared to leave some of us hinted at meeting up for a coffee, so we agreed to meet at a place in Holywood, so I followed Siobhan into the town as I had never been before.
It was not easy to find multiple parking spots – Siobhan ahead of me nabbed one at the side of the road but, further into town it looked very busy, and so I turned around, pulled over at the side of the road, and Siobhan and I exchanged mobile numbers so that she could tell me which coffee shop they ended up in. I drove a couple of minutes away from town and parked by a playing field, then put a thick coat on, grabbed a change of clothes, and, upon instruction from Siobhan, went to a café called the Coffee Yard. I joined a rather large queue, slowly inching towards the counter, past some really delicious looking cakes… which I was good enough to resist, ordering their spiced carrot and coriander soup and a mocha. They gave me an order number, and I went upstairs to join the walking group members, of which there were about 8-10; Alan, my flattering-but-unwanted admirer, stood up and offered me his seat, but I said I would grab a nearby one and so he made space for me to squeeze into the group. Presently my soup and coffee arrived, and I slowly ate while chatting away to several of them. After a while I went to the ladies to change out of my walking gear as well as go to the loo; I had to wait, a while as there was only one toilet-per-gender, and then a lady came up behind me with her little daughter, so I let them go ahead of me too. But eventually I was changed, sat back with the group… and Siobhan complimented me on my woolly cardigan, which is a lovely duck-egg blue with sequins sown in at intervals – she said I “had brought sparkle to Holywood”! I had a nice chat with her and Karen, who is also a member of some other Meetup groups… including ”Yoga for vegetarians”! Eventually it was time to go and, after a browse around the adjacent picture gallery, I left.
I had never been to Holywood, near Belfast (not L.A.) before, and so as I had plenty of time before ready-made plans for later, I decided to explore. I walked down the main street, soon popping into a charity shop where I bought a gorgeous camisole top for £1.25! Then I headed onwards, all the way down one side of the street and up the other, popping into a few shops, and then went for a diversion down to the waterfront where there was a very nice view of the coast to the north of Belfast. After browsing one or two more shops, and stopping outside a wedding dress shop for a quick dream, I returned to my car.
After a few minor make-up repairs, I headed back to Belfast… and soon saw signs for a retail park so, with plenty of time still to spare, decided to have an explore. I went into a huge sports shop for a browse, then into a big BHS Home store where I bought a lovely girly flower duvet set… which has given me much inspiration for turning my spare room into a girl-heaven bedroom! Then I drove to a shopping centre where I bought a couple of tops with one of my e-giftcards from my parents, and drove onwards to Sprucefield, where I entered the ladies to change into my evening outfit; I emerged 15 minutes later in a black and white flowery dress over a white, square-neck camisole top, and heels.
A while ago I had agreed to meet my, now-former, IPL lady Lynda for an evening out, and the first element of the evening was a meal at the Parsons Nose in Hillsborough at 6.00pm. I parked nearby after seeing her car, which was empty, and tentatively stepped inside, wondering if Lynda was already there. A barman said “Do you have a booking, Madam?”… and I/madam replied that she did, and so I was directed upstairs and a lady showed me to my table where Lynda was already seated. We had a little hug, and then I sat down and we started chatting – it was lovely to see her socially, with her hair down. We were able to order form the early-bird menu – I had a chicken parfait starter, local sausages on mash with a red wine sauce, and a brioche bread and butter dessert – and for the best part of two hours we had a lovely time chatting away like old friends, discovering that in quite a number of ways we are quite similar. I asked for the bill and, after some maths, worked out how to split the bill, and we left… for the rest of our social evening, coffee and a trip to the cinema. Lynda followed me there, and we drove around quite a while looking for a parking spot. I popped to the cinema to collect our pre-ordered tickets while Lynda queued up at my familiar Costa outlet, at Lisburn. Once Lynda had paid she suddenly had a worry that she might have left her car unlocked and so she rushed out while I carried our coffees to a table; she returned apologetically, and I said not to worry… because that is something I do all the time!! After nearly half an hour of chat we headed over to the cinema, and were soon seated at very good seats… and I was SO pleased, because this was another first – as Andrea I have never been to the cinema before, and also I have not watched an adult-film on the cinema in nearly 10 years! We watched Taken 3… and it was a good choice because we both enjoyed it, and Lynda rather likes Liam Neeson too!
As we left the cinema the queue of cars to leave was massive, and so Lynda suggested we sit in her car until it dispersed… and we must have spent 45 minutes there, chatting away, catching up on more events of recent weeks, including my news around my parents and my old friend in Wales; she thinks I have handled my coming out to everyone as sympathetically as I could. At about 11.45pm she said that she had really enjoyed our night out and would like to do it again… and of course I was SO pleased that our first event as friends had gone so well, and so I said I already had an idea for our next meet, a classical concert (which I had wanted to do in 2014 as Andrea) and meal… and so it is agreed for end of Feb! She drove me over to my car, I gave her my Taken 2 DVD (which she has not seen), and we hugged and bid each other good bye.
Once home I had a text from Lynda saying that she hoped I was home safe and what a lovely evening she had had – I replied that I had had a great day, a lovely evening with her, and was going to bed happy… though that is a bit of an understatement – I have never felt SO alive as I do now, and it is such a joy!