|Belfast City Hall and the Continental Market|
Well, 'Where've ye bin?' I can hear yez all askin'! Which, incidentally, reminds me of the old, old joke about the Chinese guy in Belfast, who, of course, has been selling Chinese carry-outs till about 4 the previous evenin'. About 8 o'clock in the mornin' he gets rudely wakened up by someb'd'y blattherin' at his back gate. He opens his bedroom windie and spys a boyo in a donkey jacket - from the Belfast Corporation Cleansing Department. He sticks his head out and shouts down, 'What you want?' This helpful character shouts up at him, 'Where's yer bin?' The Chinese guy looks a bit baffled, and then replies, 'I bin to Hong Kong'. 'Naaah!' says the binman, trying to be more explicit, 'I mean, 'Where's yer wheelie bin?' The Chinese guy look even more perplexed and then answers, 'I wheelie bin to Hong Kong!'
Well, I haven't been to Hong Kong - although I did visit Beijing back in 1999. I've been doin' two things, really. My wife, Gerry, whom I mentioned earlier, has just had her first novel published on Amazon.com - so I've been helping with the cover design and all the publicity for that. Gerry's been doing a few radio interviews and we had the official launch just last week in Belfast.
Then, of course, I've been trying to get some more work done on this wee property in Co. Down that I've mentioned before - weather permitting, that is! At the moment, I'm rebuilding a stone garden wall at the back of the building, working in a very confined space - there's only a foot, or so, between the wall I'm building and the shed next door! This wall is about 28" wide, with stone on both sides and a blockwork cavity wall in between, so it takes a bit of time to build.
It's very therapeutic, though - even in these cold winter days when you're working into the darkness. And, quite often, one or other of my neighbours'll call in for a while and have a bit of a natther. A friend once asked me, 'Do ye not get lonely workin' away there on yer own all the time?' I said it was never lonely when the world and his brother came past most days and stopped in for a yarn. That's one thing about being out in the country - everybody speaks to you, and they toot their horn and wave to ye as they drive past. Then there are quite a few strangers - who are lost and trying to find their way to somewhere. Because our place is at a wee crossroads, it's the ideal place to stop and ask me for directions.
This bein' wintertime, we've started a brand new tradition in Belfast - the Continental Christmas Market. Now a market isn't exactly a new idea, but this is a European Market - so there are stalls selling French crepes, Spanish paella, wee Dutch pancakes with liquers added, Weiner Schnitzel, bratwurst and German beer; African woodcarvings, Asian food and all kinds of jewellry, crafts and gifts.
It's great to wander around in the cold looking at the stalls and eating some hot spicy food and drinkin' hot chocolate or mulled wine. It's like being in Prague, or somewhere else in Europe. And, of course, there are a couple of pubs set up inside large marquees, so you can have a pint of Harp, or Guinness, or whatever right there in the middle of it all. This is all set up in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, so it's right in the city centre, with all the big stores just across the street - handy if yer doin' yer Christmas shoppin'.
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