Just like the title of my blog the first half of May, which this post covers, had some nice ups, and some rather deflating downs. The ongoing issue with my leg was one of the downs but I’m not going to go on about that again… well, at least not to actually moan about it.
Anyway, the main ups in the period were due to time with friends, and the first one is a bit of a cheat as it was on 30th April so it doesn’t quite scrape into May… but it’s my blog and so I get to make up the rules. My friend Michelle and I had tentatively agreed to meet up on this day though the activities were, as things often tend to be in the inclement country of Northern Ireland, dependent upon the weather. In the morning I had, as recommended by my physio, an appointment with a podiatrist in Newry in a latest attempt to nail the issue with my legs making little progress on the road to recovery… and this is detailed in my previous post. In the afternoon I met Michelle at around 1.30 at the small town of Hillsborough where I jumped in her car and we drove to Comber, albeit on a round about route, which was to be the start of the afternoon’s activity, a treasure trail, on foot and by car – the long and short of it is that this activity involves following instructions trying to solve a number of clues in different locations, some of which involve quite an amount of searching… and even, as it turned out, me wiping dirt off a metal tourist information sign with a tissue in order to reveal one of the answers! Michelle has detailed this event in very good historical detail so I will say no more than that it was a fun afternoon where in a good joint effort, without any competitiveness, we solved all of the clues, ending up at the ruins of Inch Abbey from where is a good view of Downpatrick and its cathedral. Along the way we traversed a number of roads unknown to me, with some pretty scenery and bluebells lining the road at times, around the inlets of Strangford Lough, of which the picture shown is one of them.
The weekend afterwards I had little enthusiasm for any outings, especially as no friends seemed to be available and there were no meetup activities occurring that didn’t require too much activity from my achy legs. But on the Sunday I had a text from Kirsty indicated she might have a hole in her busy social schedule for a bite to eat, so I perked up and decided to make an afternoon of it with a shopping excursion into Belfast in search of comfortable shoes, particularly from the manufacturers recommended by my podiatrist; it was a lovely, warm afternoon, and for a change I was able to go outdoors in only a light top and cardigan. I parked on the outskirts of the centre and walked about a mile to the shops. One of those I went into was Ecco… which soon turned into a huge disappointment, lots of truly awful shoes falling mainly into the categories of either ‘very plain’, ‘truly awful’, or ‘decrepit granny attire’; one thing they all had in common was a rather expensive price tag… and another issue was that the staff showed no interest in wanting to assist me, or the other customer. The other shop I went into was Hotter which was somewhat better and while some of the shoes on offer were also much beyond my age bracket a few were acceptable; the staff were very pleasant and helpful too… and so I tried on a few pairs and after trying different sizes (they have half sizes too) I eventually plumped for what seemed like a more supportive pump style and another pair with a low, supportive heel in the sale; hardly a steal at £121 for the two pairs. After popping briefly into Next I returned to my car and drove a short distance to meet up with Kirsty and her new friend Alison who had spent the whole afternoon drinking coffee and eating frozen yoghurt. Kirsty and I went to a nearby hotel for an early dinner before she had a book group meetup; I treated myself to a roast dinner (which I never have at home as no point cooking it for one) which, after sending it back to the kitchen to be heated up, was very enjoyable… as was my afternoon shopping and Kirsty catch up.
The very next day was a real downer – it all revolved round the changes made to our office restaurant. In essence, a new provider is offering the services for our company, and compared to previous more minor changes this also involved a change to the payment system, thus one had to register with the new system with the provider and they would transfer the monetary balance from the old system onto the new one. So I went to them with my access card to do this transfer, and they looked up ‘Andrea’ on the old system and couldn’t find me. I said that’s not right, because I’ve been using the canteen for ages… and then they searched on my surname and found an entry… and it was in my old forename. Ugh 😦 They said “there’s no Andrea’s at all”, and only one entry under the same surname… and so I had to take him with his laptop to a quiet corner of the canteen and explain the situation about my change-of-life circumstances; he was quite alright with it, and changed my name there and then… but the point of this situation is to emphasise to anyone in my circumstances that don’t be surprised if a long time after you go full-time as new-and-happy-you that your history comes back to haunt you.
A couple of days later I had another downer, perhaps even worse than the aforementioned one. I ended up chatting to this South African guy in my office who, like pretty much everyone, is fine with the new me… but then we got onto the subject of my injured leg and my jogging that might have caused it and he said “What were you wearing to run? Was it men’s runners or….” and my head was screaming “WHAT THE **** DO YOU THINK YOU I WAS WEARING, YOU INSENSITIVE *****!!!” but all I said was “Ladies jogging trainers, of course!”…… but it really rather upset me because I was in a situation where once again the history I am forgetting essentially came back to haunt me.
The rest of the week was okay, lots of situations where I was addressed or treated as a woman, the only other disappointment being that wearing my new navy shoes from Hotter proved to be a disappointment in that by the end of the day my legs were probably worse than they had been when wearing my Clarke’s ballet pumps avec arches.
On the Saturday mid-May I had a really nice Saturday out with Michelle again. I was picked up at Hillsborough and we drove around the north shore of Strangford Lough to a National Trust property called Mount Stewart, a splendid manor house with a very elaborate and extensive garden; it was the perfect time of year to go with grand displays of rhododendrons and azaleas as well as carpets of bluebells. After a tasty afternoon tea with a freshly baked (after a wait) scone, we walked around the big lake in lovely sunshine visiting various areas of flora and fauna, including a family burial ground, some nesting swans, and eventually the Italian Garden (see right, and lake view below). A couple of hours later we returned to Hillsborough where I headed off to do some food shopping and then met up again at one of our favourite restaurants, The Plough – I had a lovely duck starter, we both had the special duo-of-fish dish with a lovely hollandaise sauce, and shared a selection of desserts… and I was pretty stuffed but satisfied by the end.
So a mixed set of events over those couple of weeks… proving that fun times with friends matter but it is not always easy to shed the past that one wished had never happened.