Our grand anniversary adventure

It was our wedding anniversary at the weekend, and with nothing organised it seemed like a good idea to go away for the night to celebrate.

We had left it to the last minute to book, and so most of Ireland’s best hotels were fully booked. But here was this one particular hotel in Mullingar, Westmeath, that had availability – and more to the point, it bore the same name as us – the Bloomfield House Hotel.

The decision to go seemed obvious, if a little contrived. Our grand adventure would be for the Bloomfields to stay at Bloomfield House, and it would would be glamorous and hilarious – well that was the plan.

Sadly the Bloomfield House Hotel didn’t quite live up to its advertised 4-star billing, and our visit wasn’t nearly as glamorous and hilarious as we first imagined.

The hotel itself is the product of various expansions and extensions over time, and as such the layout is somewhat haphazard. To get to our room from reception, we needed to head along a corridor, through the entire length of the bar (dragging our suitcases behind us), passed the queue for the carvery, through a couple of doors, down a ramp, and then up the slowest lift on the planet.

The room itself was… OK… but quite dated. The food was… OK… but the chef clearly didn’t know how to cook a steak properly. The bed was uncomfortable. The hotel was over-run with noisy children who never seemed to go to bed (which admittedly is not the fault of the hotel). The adjoining door to the next room was paper-thin – so much so that we could hear what they were watching on TV. And the wifi? Oh My God – I’ve never used something so unreliable and slow.

All of which meant that our grand adventure wasn’t that grand, or glamorous, or hilarious after all.

But still, we managed to have a nice anniversary.

I’m just glad we didn’t book for the second night!

Dubliniversary

Today (18th April) marks the one-year anniversary of me moving to Dublin… an event that I’m choosing to call my Dubliniversary. Not that I’m planning to celebrate the day in any particular way – except perhaps for a couple of drinks after our concert this evening.

I arrived in the city last April in the middle of an abnormal heat wave, with nothing more than a suitcase and the promise of a singing job in the cathedral choir. I had no place to live, no friends, and no day job. I was also leaving behind a very comfortable life in Edinburgh that I had established over the proceeding 12 years. And for what? Why had I quit a well-paid job, said goodbye to all my friends, and moved out of my lovely flat? Was I having a mid-life crisis or something?

Basically I had only one reason for coming to Dublin, and that was to try out the cathedral lay clerk lifestyle. It had been something that I’d always wanted to try ever since, as a boy treble, I had visited and sung in some of England’s finest cathedrals. I had missed the chance of being a cathedral chorister, but I could always dream of singing at the very highest level one day as an adult.

But why come to Dublin in particular? Wouldn’t it have been easier to go for a lay clerkship in Scotland or England? Well, I did enquire about becoming a lay clerk in Edinburgh, but was told there were no places available (interestingly, now, a year later, they have just issued an advert for a tenor), so I had to look further afield. And the problem with a lot of English cathedral roles is that the weekday Evensong services typically start at 5.15pm or 5.30pm – with call times for the choir being between 4.45pm and 5.00pm. So unless you have a day job with flexible working hours, or you happen to be a school teacher, then the start times can be a bit of an issue.

In Christ Church, however, our weekday Evensongs start later in the day at 6.00pm, and the choir warm-ups begin at 5.20pm. And that later start time, coupled with the fact that the choir only sing on Wednesdays and Thursday outside of the weekend, means that the singing role is a lot more compatible with a career.

So that’s why I’m here in Dublin. But what has the last year been like? Well, I’ve really enjoyed it. It was a big upheaval to start with, but it helped a lot to have a ready-made group of potential friends available in the choir. I’ve also grown to love this city and the Irish people, and have started to feel much more at home. The job market for IT people is also quite buoyant at the moment, so I’ve not had too much bother finding work. I’ve also got a rather cool, if quite pricey, apartment that’s only about a 10-15 minute walk from the city centre.

As to how long I’ll stay here… who knows? At the moment, it’s quite open-ended. I’m certainly planning to be here till at least the summer of 2009, and then I’ll have a think about what I want to do next. That might mean moving back to Edinburgh, going elsewhere, or staying here in Dublin. When I first moved to Edinburgh, it was only going to be for 2 years, and I ended up staying for 12 – and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility for that to happen again.

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