Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Taking the Plunge and Falling House Prices

I hate fundraising. Hate asking for cash. Even in a good cause.
But I've agreed to step off the roof of Belfast's Europa Hotel in celebration of Habitat for Humanity, who bring communities together to build houses and communities where once people like us burned our/their neighbours out.

I know house prices here are falling, but have you heard this? The average cost of building a Habitat house in the developing world is... £1250. There must be quite a few people around here paying that monthly. The world is "ill-divid". I wonder how many folk spend that on a holiday... or one of several holidays...

The Europa was (for 25 years or so, according to urban legend in my youth) Belfast's most bombed hotel. Europa Hotel Belfast
Now, it's probably one of the safest buildings in Europe. On the inside anyway. I'm counting on the abseiling instructors knowing their stuff to make my Spiderwoman descent a thing of beauty, and not in the way that strawberry jam can be beautiful. (No more bombing in Belfast, right?)

Oddly though, I know the hardest thing about this whole process is not stepping off a building, relying on a string or two. It's asking for people to give. But unless YOU want this blog to become a place for my psychotherapy, I think I'll ponder that one silently for a little longer. (Meanwhile, if you want to ease my angst, click on the widget over there... to the right, and make a donation to Habitat!)

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Big Ian at the Boyne

The times, they are a-changin'...

Ian Paisley's speech at the Boyne seems to be reproduced here, and makes interesting reading.

I also caught a snatch on Radio Ulster one morning this week of his speech with Martin McGuinness to American business delegates to NI. "Who would have thought..." was his refrain.
Indeed. The mystery remains.

But my guess is that despite his use of the word "miracle", this miracle is not entirely mysterious. There's plenty of human agency at work, sordid turf-wars and treachery within each "side", to the extent that the "war" was no longer sustainable or winnable. That's not to deny that these more positive days are not, possibly miraculous. If the prophet Isaiah could claim that the tyrant Cyrus the Great was to be God's servant, then why not Ian and Martin? Outrageous. Unacceptable. Unreasonable. Unthinkable. And yet, scriptures seem to insist that despite the religious authorities' objections, God persistently uses unlikely candidates to achieve preposterous salvations.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Streamvale Delights

What a gorgeous day! And we really made the most of it, by heading up to Streamvale Open Farm this morning. Despite the sign which said it opened at 2pm (which is true for weekdays, but not weekends and Bank Holidays) things were really getting started at around 10.30 when we arrived. The regular animals were doing their thing. The cows were mooing like a philharmonic choir at the heifers who'd been popped into the next field. The poultry were cockadoodledooing with delight at the sunshine (or so I told myself), and happily swarmed round our feet to collect the grain Littlun dropped for them. It has to be said, for some of the toddlers, chickens and cockerels are just a bit too big - and those beaks a bit too pointy-looking - for comfort. The piglets have grown, but they are still tiny in comparison to their mum. Littlun LOVED holding the bottle to feed the wee black-faced lamb. And its wriggly waggly tail was a spectacle in itself. I still love the kids - but think it's a shame they have to grow up into goats!

Pony rides, tractor rides to feed the deer, and the new barrel-ride train-thingy all look fun... though ours is disappointingly unimpressed by such things just yet. Patience, patience.

Rabbits to feed with carrots, and baby rabbits to hold in baskets (Better-Half has some cute photos...) pander to the adults' maternal instincts, if not to my daughter's! She preferred the straw-bales and toy tractors... and not a pink one in sight. Hurray!

The climax is a simple lunch, a really good cuppa, and Streamvale's delicious homemade icecream. The chocolate-covered brownie served with ice-cream is a luxury only fully enjoyed if you know you're sharing it, and the calories. Really too good altogether!

Verdict: A really good day out. If you had been staying away because of recent media hype and paranoia, stay away no more!

[The place was only closed for two days, as a precautionary measure, and given the all-clear. If you're cautious, bring wipes and use the hand-washing and alcohol-dispensing facilities on site.]