The weekend just gone was really fun and fulfilling… even if I feel rather weary after it. I spent quite an amount of it away from home. The title I suppose is a play on words… as much of my social life outside of my closer friends revolves around ‘events’ that are organised by people on the Meetup Groups that I am a member of.
Saturday morning I tentatively drew the curtains, half-expecting a miserable morning after the dreadfully bad weather of recent days… but it was a brilliant blue sky and a bright day, and I was up like a shot, eager to get ready for the latest walk of my main Meetup group. By 11.00 I had driven over an hour, stopped twice to go to the toilet, and was pulling into the car park on the coast at the pretty coastal village of Whitehead where the walk was to start. Out of the car I said Hi to a few people and we had a chat for a while as we waited for the group leader to arrive… and waited… and waited; a married couple who I had not seen for many walks said “Hi Andrea” and asked how I was, and it reminds me how nice it feels to be addressed by my lovely new name who know me as nobody else. Eventually the leader arrived, well over a quarter an hour late, and a few minutes later we set off, and I was soon chatting at length with a woman called Mags who I had met a couple of times before… who before long suggested that if I wanted a friend to go on holiday with, then she would be agreeable to it. We walked up the hills and along the cliffs to the Whitehead lighthouse, and I talked to quite a few women as we went, all enjoying the fabulous sunny weather. Past the lighthouse we descended to a metre or two above sea-level, and then turned back south and talk the lower coastal path back to the car park, and then beyond along pretty Whitehead promenade, past pastel-coloured houses, to an old tea room where we had freshly baked scones, tea, and more good chat with the ladies. As it became time to leave, the weather was still lovely, and Mags showed some interest in doing something else, so the two of us decided to head a little way north as she fancied showing me some of her old walking venues. I followed her car onto Islandmghee, a strip of land joined only by a roadway causeway to the mainland, along pretty flower-lined roads, and did two walks together, a lovely coastal walk from Browns Bay and another shorter circuit walk at Port Muck, from a harbour to view a little bird-populated island off the coast. We had much good chat and were so lucky with the weather, which finally broke into torrential showers about five minutes after we had returned to our cars and set off home.
Sunday morning was not nearly so promising, with rain pelting the windows as I got ready for my next Meetup event, a tour of Hillsborough Castle with a different group, that included my best friend Kirsty; Hillsborough Castle is an official government residence in Northern Ireland the official residence in Northern Ireland of the Queen and her family when they visit the region, as well as a guest house for prominent international visitors. I met Pam, the organiser, and a French girl called Christine at a café nearby called Humble Pie at 12.15, by which time the rain has amazingly paused, where I had previously eaten apple pie with Kirsty. We made our way over to the tourist office to wait for other group members, and Pam showed us the old court rooms where another Christine, her 10-year-old son Benjamin, and a guy called Ricky soon arrived – Ricky soon explained that French-Christine and I were “two ladies that he had met on a previous walk”. Kirsty arrived MUCH later (well, a minute or two) and we started our tour, first going through a not particularly thorough security gate where we walked through a metal detector while our handbags (potentially filled with hand grenades and other weaponry) were simply put on a tray to be picked up once through. Then we walked to the house and began our tour, conducted by a lady full of interesting information and anecdotes – we saw several different rooms, including the main dining room, a drawing room, the throne room, and a sitting room… and the great thing was that pretty much everything there was in use, we were able to touch things, and even sit on chairs. There was an amusing anecdote about women in Bavaria, and the guide singled out Ricky as the only gentleman in the tour, while Kirsty, myself, and the other two ladies enjoyed the story. At the end I asked about an interesting painting that I had seen on the wall and the guide went off to find out; after hearing the information we left the building and thanked the guide for such a good tour. We had a short walk around the gardens of the castle in a windy day and, after bidding farewell to French-Christine, entered the Hillside Inn for a good old-fashioned pub lunch… and were there for almost two hours! The food was delicious and we all had such good chat, and several times enjoyed being addressed as ladies – Pam asked “Did you two girls meet on Meetup?”, Benjamin complained quite a few times how rowdy some of the group were but said, pointing, “those two ladies” (Kirsty and I) were ‘fine’, and Ricky said “That’s coz those two ladies haven’t been corrupted yet” (by the midweek mingle get-together events). As we left Ricky was in front of me, but then stood aside and said “ladies first”; ah, what a gentleman. At the top of the road Kirsty and I said goodbyes, Christine said it was really good to meet us, and then Benjamin bounded up to me with his arms out and said “Hugs!” and then hugged Kirsty; ah, how sweet! Kirsty and I spent the remaining hour and half shopping, first at Sainsburys and then M&S, and said goodbye in the car park… very much looking forward to the next time we meet. Once home I had a nice conversation on the phone with my parents, and finally started to tackle my ironing – oh how I hate it!