Well, in amongst all the travail and turmoil there has actually been some vacation taken in 2007. It seems like an absolute age since I had some quality time off, but I did manage it in the last couple of weeks!!
Friday week ago, I travelled off to Riga in Latvia… as you’ve probably guessed by now if you know anything about me, it was football related, as NI were attempting to keep up their run in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. Anyways, before I come to the football, a little bit about Riga itself. I found it to be a fairly plesant city, with a well maintained Old Town and plenty of open parks and lakes. One park in the centre in particular was amazingly cared for. The tram system gave it that old European feel as well. That said, the people in Riga didn’t come across as welcoming as perhaps they could have. Now I’m not attributing all the blame to them… RyanAir have been partly responsible for making it the premier stag location in Europe and I guess after four of five years, it can get a little boring having rich westerners come over to a city to use it as a drinking point. There were several arrests, many justified and quite a few not. That said, I guess I’ve now been to enough of these cities in these environments to know when to get offside & we didn’t actually see any trouble at all. I think I’d like to go back in a small party of 2 or 3 to see the place mid-week.
Anyways, to the football. It was awful.
So back on the Sunday, work on the Monday and it was the leaving party for Debs – the Summer Intern. Debs is a Philosophy student in Manchester University who decided it would be a good idea to do a Summer Internship with LTSB. I think in fairness, she took alot away from it… but ulitmately I think she got stung by poor process, and on our part, probably some poor management from some of the people she was working with. Debs was terribly good fun… extremely middle English in many ways with her crisp Queen’s English accent… and constant use of the word "one" when referring to individuals (argh!!)… and yet one of the most interesting backgrounds I’ve ever met. Deborah is of Morroccan Jewish heritage. She is extremely close to Israel in a way I’ve never known anyone to be… it was very interesting to meet someone from an extremely different background yet to have so much in common in terms of upbringing – particularly around belief systems. Anyways, LTSB didn’t give her a referral, hacked her off in the same breath by referring other interns (allegded nonses). Still, all being well we’ll keep in touch & fight the good fight with each other’s support.
And so to vacation number two… yes, I know… I go 7 months without one and two come along within the space of a week of each other!! So it was off to Iceland this time & to Reykjavik the capital. An extremely interesting island with loads to do as the tourist brochure pointed out on the plane… now I know I shouldn’t give so much creedance to the brochure, but the things in the mag actually interested me. There was whale watching, spa days, golf days, geysers, lagoons, skidoos, ice & snow. As well as all that Reykjavik is a really interesting wee city. It’s got a village feel to it the way it’s built on a few wee hills and has few tall buildings above 5 stories in the centre. Loads of wee restaurants and shops and bars… very cool. On the downside, it’s got a reliable summer weather pattern which Northern Ireland can relate to… and it’s bleedin’ expensive… and I mean seriously expensive. Da & I had fish & chips, two diet cokes and a hot chocolate without much change from £40stg!! Mind you it was nice. But food & drink as a rule is expensive out there… the 12" sub and small drink came in about £8stg. But I seriously would go back.
And yup, I was there for football again… and it was slightly better than the Latvia game… but still fairly rubbish.
So having lost games we needed to win to qualify, Northern Ireland have blown the best chance in my adult lifetime to qualify for a major tournament since 1986. Still, it was nice to believe whilst the hope existed. I guess I’m being pestimistic as we still could qualify but we’ve got our hardest games to come… if we qualify now, the words miracle and glorious will be used again & again over the next three months. I guess I’ve covered all angles as I’ve booked off June next year just in case… hehe.
Anyways, I guess I’ve gone on a bit here… behave yourselves.