Friday, 25 May 2018

Of overs and wickets and such

A cricket pitch with a view
Having lived in the Netherlands most of my life and a stint in Norway as well, I have not come across cricket that often. In fact, never! Football (or soccer) yes. Cricket never. Even during my time in England a lifetime ago, I never came across it. 

A couple of days ago I had a bunch of school boys who were playing another school in a cricket tournament. I didn't watch it, even though I probably could have. Then yesterday, another group of school boys playing another school, but this time there wasn't even the possibility. 

Today I went to yet another school with the group from a couple of days ago and I felt it should be possible for me to catch some of the game. First of all, the sports grounds were fantastic! The school basically had the sports grounds in front of them and then: an uninterrupted view over the hills beyond! Not a bad place.

The weather was quite lovely as well: sunshine with a bit of a breeze and perfect to sit in a chair and watch a game of cricket. If only I understood what was going on!

I asked some of the boys on the bus to explain, and they did. I think. There was something about a rolling ball and four points and six points and knocking the wicket. I didn't really learn that much! However, some of what they said started making sense after a while and other things I figured out for myself. 

After the first half (I know it probably isn't called that, but that's what it felt like), my group had set a benchmark the other school had to beat. They didn't! Which meant my group had won. 

I understood it eventually. I think!
Cricket will never be my go-to-sport-to-watch, but it is quite nice. I think. With the sun shining and a light breeze and nice cup of tea...

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Getting settled

Taken on a trip to Derry back in 2008
I had another trip today. Same school again, different destination again. Tomorrow I will do another trip. Again the same school, but again a different destination. After my knock last week, it has been nice to do relatively simple jobs to ease me into the new job. 

I get to see a bit of the country as well. Which definitely helps me getting used to routes and such. Today it was Armagh's turn. I live (at the moment anyway) in County Armagh, but its capital is also called Armagh. A lovely city where the boys I had on the bus today were going to play cricket. 

Tomorrow yet another place to get to: Derry. My sister and I visited there several years ago on a holiday, but since I have the same school as today (and Tuesday and last Saturday), it is most likely to be another cricket trip. 

Another photo of Derry in 2008
For some people that might the most boring thing. But for me they are brilliant. I get to see new things, meet new people and in the end that will all help me in my new job. And as the lady in the office said: we give you all of this now to build up that confidence again and then we will slowly get you onto the bigger buses/coaches. 

For now though: I am doing fine!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Week 4

Last Monday I had been in Northern Ireland exactly three weeks. In those three weeks a lot of things have happened. I got a car, a bank account, my stuff arrived, Miss Oswin arrived and I started work.

That last thing wasn't without its problems however, as you have probably read last week. I must admit, it really did knock my confidence for six. I knew it was going to be the hardest thing of driving here, but I never thought it would be that difficult. Everything I thought I knew about driving a coach was basically thrown out and I had to start again from scratch.

In the mean time however, I keep driving those mini-buses. They may be only slightly wider than a regular car, but they do give me some confidence in my abilities to drive and make sure people arrive safe and on time. Which was very much needed. 

There was another thing that was quite welcome today: my first pay. Well, I haven't received it yet (probably tomorrow) and it isn't that much, but pay is pay and on a monthly basis it seems to be enough to pay for my rent, electricity, insurance and whatever else. Plus I have some money still (coming) from Norway that will help tide me over as well.

Monday, 21 May 2018

En garde Mister!

The front of the school
It was an early Saturday morning for me, heading up to Belfast to pick up my load of children (and two adults). They were headed to Ireland and the Irish interschool fencing competition. The first person greeting me (good morning Sir) was a teacher who was quite shocked I was not a Sir, but a Madam. His colleague managed to keep the Sir in, just about.

I think this building was the dormitory building
The school we were heading to was out in the country side. Beautiful buildings and beautiful surroundings. Sports grounds that the average professional club would be jealous of and green as far as the eye could see. It was a boarding school for over 250 boys, but in the morning I never saw a single one!

The sports fields ran all the way up to the treeline
The boys I had with me though I did see. First I saw them running around with the other boys and some girls from three other schools. Jog, stop, run, stop, hit the floor, stop, jog, stop, jog etc. I got tired just watching them! That was however only the precursor of the actual event. All the boys and girls had started fencing last September and this was, for most anyway, to be their very first competition. I thought there was quite a discrepancy in size of children and some definitely looked older than the boys I had taken with me.

It was to be a relay competition. The first team to reach 45 had won. However, it wasn't as straightforward as all that as I soon found out. During the first fight(?) team A got 5 points and won the fight. Team B only got 3 points. During the second fight that meant that team A only needed 5 points to win, team B however would need 7! And if team B didn't catch up then, they would be chasing with a bigger and bigger margin, making it hard to win. 

Red light meant a hit and a point.
Anyway, both teams from 'my' school lost by only small margins, but they lost anyway and were now fencing for the consolation prizes. Because there were only four schools in this competition and the combined scores of both teams counted, they ended up taking third place overall. 

The way back was as unremarkable as the way in: borders are hard to see and the only thing really telling me I was back in Northern Ireland was the sign saying everything was now in miles again, Ireland having converted to kilometers about 15 years ago. A long day at work, but a good day nonetheless.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Photo on Sunday 2018-13

Just a little teaser for tomorrow!

Friday, 18 May 2018

Day two

Castle Ward
The night before my first day at work, I had been relaxed and fine. Needless to say that the night before my second day I was not. I was very much more nervous, even though I knew I could drive the mini bus fine and I would drive one again that day. I am like that. The nerves can get to me slightly. Especially since I would have to find my own way to the school we were picking up.

But I got there in good time (very good indeed) and then had to wait for the other driver to arrive. He did in the end and he gave me a cursory idea of what route we would be taking. Me not knowing much and not really knowing where we were going. Of course I lost him at the first roundabout and I only saw glimpses of him in the far distance afterwards. 

A lovely gnarled tree
With the help of a phone (a passenger, don't worry) and my short glimpse of an online map the day before, we got to our destination. About a minute after the other driver, so not too bad. Especially since I think everybody is driving like lunatics! In Norway I am used to driving 60 or 70 km/hour on smaller roads. Here in Northern Ireland (and the rest of the UK actually) they are allowed to go close to 100! That is 60 miles an hour. Madness I say!

Anyway, the children and teachers got off and after a few minutes I decided to go and explore myself. One good thing about the job as a coach driver: you get to go places and see things! And this time it was a National Trust property called Castle Ward. For those of you who watch Game of Thrones, several scenes were filmed on the property! 

The original Castle Ward, used in Games of Thrones
The weather again was absolutely glorious, in fact better than the day before. I wandered about here and there, got a cup of tea, wandered around some more, enjoyed the sunshine and the quietness. Listened to the birds, watched the scenery and generally had a lovely day as well. On our return trip I managed to keep view of the coach and we arrived together back at school. Of course, the route back was the same, so even if I had lost him again....

On my return to the depot, we took some time going over a lot of things. A driver's handbook, a contract to sign and several tips and hints about how to make my working day even better and safer (for both me and the passengers). 

A visitor during my tea break.
That was not all though: I was also told I was set up for another trip. With the mini bus again (no complaints there). On Saturday morning I have to get up early. As in ridiculously early (4.30am), because I have to pick up my passengers at 7am in Belfast. From there we will head to Ireland, which means: international!! I just got the details an hour ago and have looked it all up, written everything down and the only thing left to do now is getting my brand new satnav to work and an early night! 

In the laundry room
Mini it may be, but the job certainly isn't!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

My first day at work

On Wednesday morning the alarm clock went off early. This time not because I didn't want to sleep all day, but because I was actually off to work! It was only going to be a short trip, but still: work is work and I really wanted to get back to it. 

I arrived early and was met by another driver who would show me the way. I know hardly anything road-wise here in Northern Ireland. I am always happy I find my sister's home! So, not having to do everything on my own is good. 

I would drive the same bus (ie the mini bus) I had driven during my test-drive and soon we were out the gates and heading to the school to pick up the children. They had a school trip to a local fun farm in the area. 

Once we were there, I was given the chance to drive the big proper coach. It was a bit tricky getting it out of the parking lot (narrow and high tree/hedge), but with some assistance from the other driver, I got out eventually. Getting on to the road was again quite tricky. I immediately noticed the coach was very different to drive than all the coaches and buses I had ever driven. But with some care I managed it. 

And then... there was a mishap. I had not kept enough distance between the coach and a parked car and I just scraped past it. Literally! Mirror and bumper of the car were gone/loose and there were large marks on the coach. A ton of bricks was dropped in my stomach. 

After it had been resolved (insurance details and such), I sat in the passenger seat and we drove back. For the time being there is no way I will be driving a large coach. Mini bus it is. Just to get used to it. 

I know how to drive a coach. I know how wide they are, how they turn. I know how much space I have between me and the door. When I sit on the left side of the coach. It is so different when you sit on the right side of the coach. My spatial awareness is completely gone and that's when mistakes will be made. 

Let's hope that everything from now on goes well and I might be able to soon get on a proper bus again!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Musical weekend part 2

After a lovely Saturday evening, Sunday was spent relaxing in the morning and in the afternoon cheering for my sister and her colleagues. Choirs are big things in the United Kingdom and choirs at work are getting more and more popular. And my sister's workplace is no different and they formed their own choir last November. 

The choir from the back
Then someone thought it might be good fun to apply for the Workplace Choir of the Year. The day before I arrived in Northern Ireland they were in the semi finals and guess what: they got picked to go to the final! And last Sunday was said final. Since I wasn't doing anything else, I tagged along and listened to nine choirs singing two songs each. It was great fun, but I could definitely not say who would win. 

View from the coach
They came third. Since they only announced the winner and the runner-up, it meant that all the others ended up in third place. In my view anyway. But they were pleased anyway and there is always next year!

By the way, the competition was organised in Dublin, which of course is not in Northern Ireland but in the Republic of Ireland. Same island, different country. Quite a few music and sports competitions are held Ireland-wide, regardless of borders.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Musical weekend, part one

Ready for Eurovision!!!
Since I still haven't started work, there was time for me to do other things this weekend. As you may have guessed from yesterday's post, it was Eurovision time again and those of you who have followed my blog for a few years, know that I LOVE EUROVISION! Fortunately my sister likes it as well, although she didn't have a pen and paper ready to write down all the peculiars of every song. 

Anyway, last Tuesday the whole competition took off in Lisbon, Portugal, because last year's winner (Salvador Sobral) sang the winning song for Portugal last year. Since I live in the UK now and they go through automatically, they wouldn't sing in either of the semi finals, but they were allowed to vote. Unfortunately for us: the first one. Both the Netherlands and Norway were in the second one. 

Neither of my two favourites of the first night went through (Belgium and Armenia), although my least favourite song did: Israel. The second semi final took place on the Thursday and as I said had Norway and the Netherlands in it. This time I had three favourites: the Netherlands (not biased at all me), Montenegro and Moldova. I didn't think Montenegro would get through, but the other two did. Yea!

Than came the night itself. Which once again was filled with strange things happening on the stage. There was a coffin type thing (Ukraine), there was metal as in the type of music (Hungary), Vikings (Denmark), a former winner (Norway), a stage crasher (UK), a young and clean Catweazle (Serbia), a €65,000 dress for an opera singer (Estonia, who sang in Italian) and an updated birdy song (Israel). 

I have remarked upon it in the past and since last year's winner actually sung in their own language (Portuguese), this year a staggering 12 countries sang in their own language, not being English. And Estonia did a song in Italian. It was glorious! Both Italian language songs ended in the top 10 as well and for once France wasn't far behind (13).

Norway (15th), the Netherlands (18th) and the UK (23rd) didn't do so well. And definitely not as well as the top three! The voting changed last year and that has brought a lot of extra suspense into the competition. First we got the jury votes and at the end of that, Austria led the way, followed by Sweden, Israel, Germany and Cyprus. However, the public votes changed everything! 

Sweden was the fourth country to get the points (they went lowest to highest), which meant they were very much out of the running. Austria was the 14th country and went to the top of the board again. It was now between Israel, Germany and Cyprus. The first of those three to get points was Germany and they were just behind Austria. At the end of the scoring, only two countries were left to receive points: Israel and Cyprus. It could go either way, but in the end, Cyprus....

Lost! Israel with the funny noises and the chicken wings and the Japanese nodding cats had won! A good end to a brilliant evening (yes, the song has grown on me). Now I just need to get the cd!

Sunday, 13 May 2018