Saturday, November 14, 2009
Ocean Warriors To The Rescue
One, I'm playing catch up here (again) and two, that isn't just a gratuitous flesh photo. Read on and all will be revealed. It's been absolutely ages since I sat down and threw more than a sentence or two at this blog and that fact, for reasons I haven't analysed, niggles me more than it should. I'd like to think that there's a bit of "those who can, do, those who can't, blog" behind this hiatus - my oh so busy life - on the other hand, I've rather regularly found myself slumped in the sofa after a swim session wanting "guns and whiskey" more than this.
I digress. A few weeks ago I was back in N.Ireland visiting family and friends. It's been a bit of an annual ritual to go back at October half term - the Nipper's cousins are off school and that week usually coincides with my birthday and wedding anniversary. (As befits a synaptically challenged Beach Bum, I got married to the long suffering Sea Nymph on my birthday so I'd have no excuse to forget wedding anniversaries - and barring one year in the last 19 - that wheeze has worked.)
It's also a tradition to motor up the North Coast for some beach time at Portstewart, a cappuccino in Morellis and a big feed at the (Giant's) Causeway Hotel. We'd hawked our wetsuits over from Cornwall and, bugger me, if I wasn't going to try and catch a wave or two whatever the weather/ conditions. Well, as you can see from the sunset shot, the day we picked was the best of the bunch in what was otherwise a blustery, grey old sock of a week. A couple of hiccups though: no surfboard, no waves...
...no problem! A few years earlier, on a similar jaunt, I'd had occasion to pop into Ocean Warriors to check out "Portstewart's Oldest Surf Shop" (this leaves me feeling positively aged as "back in the day" I don't recall any surfboards for sale in town let alone a fully fledged surf & kite store). I'd been fortunate enough to bump into store owners Chris & Rosie and a conversation kicked off over the sale of a Plain Lazy T shirt when I'd commented that I'd only ever seen this brand in a shop in Perranporth. Turned out Chris knew Cornwall well and had been at college with, and was a mate of the brand's owner. Small world and all that. Chris, being the gentleman that he is, said to make sure if I was back this way to call in and "grab a board".
So two years later when I drove round to his house after finding the store's hire gear all stowed away for winter, if he was surprised he didn't show it! Chris opened up his garage, surfboards stored and stacked like so many sardines, and hauled out the sticks. They were big, they were spongey but for Nipper 1 and me and the 2ft of surf on the strand, they were exactly what the surf doctor ordered.
Back in Belfast that new shrine to consumerism known as the Victoria Centre had sun-bed bronzed, shaved and buffed boys in board shorts teasing teen totty into the new Hollister clothing shop. Whilst the queue might have wished they all could be in California, round at Calvin Kleins, two rather shapely, near naked models posed in lingerie and had more mobile phone cameras clicking than a voyeur's with a Nikon at a nudist camp. It wasn't Jamie Dornan though, the Belfast boy who's been modelling for CK here there and everywhere. (Yes, that's him at the top - there is method in my madness.) How times have changed. In the bad old days, Paisley and friends would have been out saving Ulster from Sodomy and other miscellaneous "deviations" of the flesh.
Now there are buses taking tourists to euphemistically described "trouble spots" infamous from when a day out in Belfast wouldn't have been complete without a bomb scare and a frisk at a security gate. Perhaps that's why many of the murals look as fresh now as they did when I used to bus past them to school in the heart of the city...
For all you tourists who go to Ireland and never step north of the border, why not go discover Northern Ireland and if you're up Portstewart way say "hi" to Chris and Rosie for me.
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