Last week, for the first time in four years, I left the British mainland destined for Belfast. It is a city I have long been fascinated by and with a few days of annual leave remaining, I decided to take advantage.
What I hadn’t bargained on was the disruptive nature of my travel companions Dudley, Eunice and Franklin. For the benefit of people reading this in the future, I should clarify that Dudley, Eunice and Franklin are not members of a 1960s Scrabble club but severe Storms (in fact Storm Eunice brought the strongest wind speeds in 30 years).
On a side note, the next two storms are apparently going to be named Gladys and Herman completing the roster of names you don’t hear anymore. I wonder how historic we are going to get with storm naming, are we to plan for Storm Ethelred? Will we have to evacuate our homes for Storm Canute? Only time will tell.
Anyway, back to Belfast. As I can’t deal with airports, I took the ferry over. It was an eight-hour journey and I spent an extra £30 for a cabin so I had my own space to relax. As it happened, the ferry was deserted. We were given numbers to embark the vessel and everyone there was in group one. I ordered lunch from the café and was given double portions as the man behind the counter said most of it will have to be binned due to lack of customers.
The reason for this is that night, Dudley was to arrive. It was already very wet and windy, the ship didn’t bounce too much as we sailed by the Isle of Man but the time flew by aided by the in cabin films and the wi-fi which allowed me to do some work. Our arrival into the (so called) City of Sanctuary was met with the news the terminal was shut, so a bus would be needed to take me to the bus stop where I would need another bus. Oh good.
Of course, with it being dark and the rain so heavy it was impossible to see the landmarks, I had no idea where my stop was so I missed it. I was deposited at the terminus. I asked the driver where my hotel was but he said he ‘hadn’t heard of it’. Oh great.
I then spent an hour wandering about in the heavy rain trying to follow maps around a city I didn’t know. This was one of those rare occasions, I realised that having data on my phone would have been a benefit (despite this experience, I still have not topped it up). Eventually, I found my final destination and was met by a horrified receptionist who asked me to leave my wet coat and bags by the door ‘I’ve only just had this floor mopped’.
My hotel room was fine, I got an apartment. I have discovered they are generally the same price as a hotel room and give so much more space, plus cooking facilities. I was on the seventh floor and since the hotel was next to the river, I had hoped for a lovely view. Instead, I got some tower blocks and a motorway. Not that it mattered, I was going to bed and stay there until Storm Dudley had passed.
What I didn’t yet know was that (rather like Dickensian ghosts) Dudley was to be the first in a trio of storms that would come to visit me this holiday.
To be continued…