Sunday, December 23, 2007

Doing it for the Kids

Today we joined up with a couple of hundred other bikers for a Toy Run - a charity ride where all the scary bikers turn into Santa's Little Helpers by strapping a toy of some sort to their bike and riding to, in this case, a women's shelter to deliver Christmas presents to kids who may not see any other sign of Santa this year.


We must've been doing a good thing because the Weather Gods were smiling on Dublin today. The overnight ice on the roads had pretty much melted by the time we set off, and the day remained dry and sunny. Well over a hundred bikes gathered in Dorset Street, where a van liberated us of the toys so that we could get down to the serious business of the Mass Ride. It was very late in starting, as Santa himself was over an hour late in getting there and we couldn't very well start without him. Eventually he arrived, all red and jolly, sitting in a sidecar, chauffeured by what appeared to be a Russian (?!) officer, complete with medals on his chest and a furry hat.


The ride took us through the center of Dublin, down O'Connell Street, around the block and back over the River Liffey onto the Northside quays, up past Dublin Port and along the coastal road to Howth. The procession caused chaos in the traffic - in order for hundreds of bikes to ride together the rest of the traffic, unfortunately, simply has to wait. While the car drivers cursed us, however, everybody else seemed delighted to watch the spectacle.


I always get a kick out of waving at the kids when we do these mass rides but today I had to relinquish my waving duties to young Cinderella, who was perched on what used to be my seat on the back of Hubby's Blackbird.

Because you see today was the first time I Drove My Own Bike in a mass ride - that's me, below, on the right :-)

Oh and in case you hadn't figured it out yet, the perch on the back of Hubby's Blackbird comes with the added job of being chief photographer.

We stopped at the top of Howth at a pub for some coffee and a well-needed potty break and then the procession headed back into town to its final destination.

Hubby and I didn't complete the trip for logistical reasons - said final destination was on the other side of the city from where we were, and even further from where we live, and it was already heading to sunset by 3:30pm. By the time we got home we were really pleased we'd made that choice - as the sun sank so did the temperatures and we were all shivering through our layers of bad-ass biker clothing when we finally came to a slippery halt outside our front door.
But it sure was a great way to spend a day. Bikers to the bone - always have been, always will be, and wouldn't change it for the world!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Year That Was

So here we are, only 5 days 'till Christmas and then poof! It'll be a whole new year again.

We're hosting Christmas at our house again this year, just with a different set of guests. Our very good friends were with us last year, but since then they have left Ireland and gone back to South Africa, having added the pitter-patter of tiny feet (and the occasional 2am howl) to their little family. So they won't be joining us.

Instead, Hubby's sister and her family have moved from South Africa to Ireland and they'll be driving up to spend a few days with us. My li'l sister will also be over, from London. It'll be good to have family around. It'll be a full house all right, but everyone will have a spot to sleep - I'm really glad we had our attic converted!

With all these guests arriving, there is a ton to be done this weekend, and I don't see much blog-time for myself. So I thought I'd do the reflecting-on-the-year-that-was bit now.

It seems to have been a year of reconnecting with the past.
I took a trip back home to South Africa, only to discover that it doesn't feel so much like home anymore. It's not the place I left 6 years ago, and it's definitely not the same place as the one where I grew up. That place is gone for good, I fear. As heartbreaking as it was to realise this, it was actually a good thing. I think what I got out of that trip was what the experts (?!) call Closure. And it turns out I'm OK with that.

My past caught up with me in another way, too.
In the first quarter of this year, a received a phone call from an old friend: someone I hadn't seen or spoken with in something like twelve years. She'd bumped into my sister in SA - both of them were there on holiday, from London! So she got my number and called me up to say hello. It was fantastic! Unfortunately I lived up to my old habit of leaving things till the last minute, and when I finally got around to phoning her back, she'd left London and headed off to parts unknown and now I've lost her again. Something tells me our paths will cross again, though, sometime in the future.

What's bizarre, though, is that this happened again a few weeks ago. One of my best friends from high school called me up out of the blue. I think the last time we spoke was at our high school reunion, 8 years ago. She, too, is living in the UK. This time I was smarter, and I now have phone numbers AND an email address for her.

I was simply astounded at how easy it was to slip back into conversation with these women, after all the time that had passed. I guess it's true - the friendships you make in your teens are the ones that are there for life.

There was another thing, too.
I had to trawl back through my archives to check this out: 7 months ago, in May, I wrote a post about a dream I'd had about a guy who'd been a good friend of mine throughout primary and high school. At the time I wondered about trying to get in touch with him but decided against it, as the lengths I would have to go to would have bordered on stalker-ish. But today I was reading the local newspaper from my home town, online (I do this occasionally), and I happened upon an announcement in the Classifieds, congratulating him and his wife (I presume) on the birth of their daughter. And in the announcement was his email address. Well I couldn't really not, could I? So I emailed him today, just to say congrats, and Hi. I figured I enjoyed my 'blasts from the past' so maybe he would, too. He's in a way different time zone though, so I have yet to hear back from him. Or not. Either way, that's OK.

And then there is the dreaded F-word.
Facebook. (You thought I was going to say something else, didn't ya?! HAH!)
Talk about reunions! Y'know, it turns out there are some people I actually don't mind finding me. In fact, I've found one or two myself.
More old friendships rekindled - across continents and after years and years.
So we send each other virtual hugs or fling chocolate cakes (or sheep, etc) at each other.
I'm still not completely enamored with Facebook but it is nice to know that people are thinking of me occasionally. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
You know - to counteract the spitting irritation I feel the rest of the time 'cos there's too much stuff on it that I don't know what to do with.

But I digress.

There's more on this Old Friends theme.
In October, we had a visit from my ex-boss from SA. He and his wife also happen to be old biking buddies of ours from way back when. They were only over for a few days but it was fabulous to see them... plus, it was a good excuse for me to get to eat out at my favourite Greek restaurant.

And finally, a few weekends ago, we had visitors over from Holland. He and Hubby go way, way back - they left SA just before we did. We stopped in to visit them on our trip around Europe last year, and now it was their turn to visit us. We had a blast - went off to watch the SA / Wales game in a pub in town, a drinking session that lasted way longer than it should have but we were having too much fun to care!

So what is the moral of all this rambling?
There isn't one.
If you were looking for deep and meaningful, you've come to the wrong place.


Well OK then...
I've had some ups and downs, and even seen a bit more of the world this year (remember Barcelona and Paris?) Most of all, though, I have come to appreciate just how much family and friends mean to me.
And that includes all of you guys.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The loop-de-loop

You know that feeling when your tummy does a flip-flop, like when you're passenger in a car and you're not paying attention and suddenly the car goes through a dip and it feels like your stomach got left behind? Well I feel like that's been happening to me, only it's not really my stomach but something less physical and more emotional, but in more or less the same place in my body. I'll be quite happily going along, doing my thing, living my day and all of a sudden I'll get one of these moments, where it feels like I'm on a roller-coaster and if I carry on going my emotions are going to dive, dive, dive submarine-style into the murky depths... at times like these my loved ones are my salvation. I will stop typing whatever command I'm busy with at my computer, pick up the phone and ring Hubby just to hear a voice and gather some sense of normalcy. Or I'll write a 2-line nonsensical email to my mom, or a friend, or a sister.
You see the last few months have been tough going, again. If I'm honest, I never really recovered 100% from my last extended period of depression - I had short stints of normalcy but I think it takes a long time to get past it completely and I feel like it's still so fresh in my mind that it doesn't take much to send me back there, and then it's such a hard fight to come back again. I'm back at the moment, for the most part. That is, I have a handle on things and am able to keep the niggling shadows at bay. Today I went to lunch with a large group of people from work and found myself sitting with two women I don't know except to nod hello at in passing, since we work in the same department. And I made it all the way through, making conversation and being a veritable social butterfly. I'm a tad exhausted now, but I feel a sense of accomplishment, although I'm not sure exactly when being sociable became such hard work.
I can't help but wonder will there ever be a time when being normal1 will be the natural order of things again - or will I be fighting like this for the rest of my life..? I don't want to be on the rollercoaster anymore, I just want to live, and enjoy life. These pesky emotions are becoming a real pain in the ass, I tellya.
I suppose it's that time of year. 'Tis the season and all that - there's excitement in the buildup to the holidays but also sadness as we miss absent friends and family.
I mean, I know emotions are what make us human and all, but wouldn't it be nice if we could just take a break from them, occasionally?


1 Yeah, yeah, I know - It's a relative term..!

Monday, December 10, 2007

winter wonderland

I'd forgotten how cold it gets in this place in Winter. It was probably around 3 degrees outside when I rode to work this morning; in fact I would guess that would be optimistic. I only started riding a motorcycle last winter and because I was still learning, I was only going as far as the train station and back. The full trips into the City only started in about April, when the days were longer and the weather relatively warmer. I have been loving the freedom of having my own transport, being able to come and go as is convenient to me and not being a slave to train timetables.
This morning, though, I began to seriously consider returning to my old ways of driving just the kilometer or so to the train station instead. It could've been my imagination but I thought the road felt just a tad more slippery this morning than it should have. Could it be the days of black ice are almost upon us? I just don't know if I feel up to facing 25km each way on roads that could turn into a skating rink without warning. It's been pretty tough the last few weeks anyway as it's now always dark on both journeys, to and from work. It has been aggravated by stupidly strong winds and lashing rain, at times; not exactly optimal driving conditions, to say the least.
All credit to my biking gear, though, I can honestly say the cold has not been a problem... except for the hands. I bought thicker gloves a while back but this morning I may as well have been bare handed and by the time I got into town and finally came to a stop at a red light where I could drop my hands down to warm up next to the engine, they were completely numb from the cold. Not fun.
So as much as I don't want to, I think the time may have arrived for me to choose discretion over valor and return to the trains for a while.
Yet another reason for me to hate winter in this place!

I think that's why people go so overboard with Christmas decorations. It can be so bloody miserable here, but the pretty lights and various baubles do go a long way in brightening things up. Even young Cinderella has twigged on this now - yesterday morning she and Hubby took it upon themselves to dig out all our Christmas decorations from their hidey-holes in the attic and haul the whole lot downstairs. She then proceded to find our "Christmas Greats" double CD and enthusiastically took the lead in decorating the tree while singing along to all the Christmas hits that are currently playing non-stop in shopping malls and on radio stations everywhere. I was unfortunately under the influence of some serious painkillers in an attempt to rid myself of a migraine (not induced by coffee this time - where will it end?!) so I had a hard time keeping up. It was like sharing a house with two Tazmanian devils... Hubby even had the hammer and nails out and we are the first house in our cul-de-sac to have icicle-lights strung from our little porch. Not only that, our front door is now also sporting a pretty and festive-looking Christmas wreath.

It's a far cry from last Christmas, where Miss Muffett wanted to cringe at the very thought of anything other than just a Christmas tree, using words like 'kitsch' and such like with a look akin to horror on her face.
Yep, someone has discovered the joys of Christmas spirit.
I wonder if that will extend to helping out with Christmas dinner..?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

undeserved award

Despite my posts being somewhat erratic lately, it seems some people are keeping the faith. Which is good, 'cos I gotta say mine is a little shaky at times.
Angel, who has been a regular reader here for ages has seen fit to create her very own special award - and I am one of the lucky few first recipients!

Angel, you're a peach :-)
Thank you for not giving up on me and for the many hours of entertaining reading you have given to me in Blogland.


And in other news:
It's cold. Really cold. Probably as a result of it being Winter again. Sheesh, I was still holding out for the Summer that never really arrived and BAM! Here's Winter.
Not only that - it's only something silly like three weeks till Christmas. I found my weekly groceries peppered with things like mince pies and Christmas crackers this morning. As if that's not enough, I found myself pumping up the volume on the radio while I was packing said groceries in my kitchen afterwards, when one of those super-spicy energetic Christmas songs came on.
Hubby and Cinderella were completely unfazed by this little display of festive spirit, staying safely tucked away with their respective computer games / movie watching and leaving me to prance around like a reindeer on speed all by myself, with nothing but Cornflakes for company.

As images go, that's not a great one, I'll admit. So I'll leave you with this one instead - they've decorated the trees along the quay with purple and blue lights and it just looks so darn pretty as dawn is breaking I simply had to stop to take a picture.