Sitting in work. It’s 2pm. “Go to Strabane” rang in my head for a few minutes before I worked out exactly where Strabane is. Half an hour later I was on the road, travelling up the west coast with the aim of avoiding all that snow/sleet/ice that’s plauging the east of the country at present. Limerick, Ennis, Galway, Tuam, Sligo; they all flew past as my eyes got heavier and heavier. Originally the plan was to head for Letterkenny (a bit north of Strabane and in Co. Donegal), primarily because I know of a nice hotel up there where I could balm out and have a nice evening. “Hmmm” I thought to myself in a kind of don’t even think it… kind of way. “What if I drove through Fermanagh and Tyrone instead?” The whole crazy buzz of driving over border into northern Ireland and all that. Yes, I don’t get out much anymore so I have to take my thrills where I can get them. So instead of heading further north to Donegal and Letterkenny, I turned off at Sligo toward Enniskillen. I hadn’t even got as far as Enniskillen when the whole mad buzz of driving in “the UK” wore off. Quickly.

I’m hugely paranoid Ted. I’m also very sheltered, down in my nice comfy existance on the outskirts of Cork city. The police stations up here look like something out of bloody sci-fi horror films. Huge cement walls and more barbed wire than you’d find in the whole of 1960′s Veitnam. The driver up here are out to get me. I’m certain of it. Maybe when they see a car registration from the republic, some of them take an instant disliking to it. I had a couple of serious assholes in the 50/60 miles leading up to Strabane and not one in the 220-something miles in the republic. They don’t like being overtaken. Even when they’re driving at 40mph in front of you.

Got a text from Eoin asking if I fancied a few pints. At that stage I was well over half way up the country so it only made sense to decline. When I said where I was (going to) he said I should do a pub review. Knowing my luck and in-keeping with my current level of paranoia, I’d probably end up strolling into an IRA pub. Then this innocent Catholic lad from the very south of the land would be seen no more. Yes, I’m that paranoid. Suddenly driving back down the country the same way I came doesn’t seem like too much of a wonderful idea. Better to take a jaunt across the border into Donegal and travel down from Letterkenny. At least that way I’ll be back in my own country sooner. I bet that sounds as stupid reading it as it sounded to me in my head. Given that I was born in England and have lived in Ireland for the past 21 or so years, I think they’re both my country.

There’s just something about being north of the border I don’t trust. So, I left Cork at 2:30pm and to my utter disgust, only arrived in Strabane at a bit past 11pm. That’s almost a whole day’s work just driving. But now I’m here, sitting in my adequate hotel room, trying to decide if I want a cup of tea before I go to sleep and happy that when I look at either of my phones, they both say “IRL Vodafone” and “O2 – IRL”. I may not be in Kansas anymore, but at least my phones think they are!

Message of the day has to be “Don’t chase your dreams, you’ll only end up disappointed in the end”. Theres a “Steakhouse” just outside Tuam that I have been passing for the last few years now, always meaning to go in there and have a whopper of a meal. While passing there at around 6:30pm tonight, I decided to bite the several year old bullet and have my dinner in there. Overall, it was a hugely disappointing experience. I had a half bowl of watery vegetable soup for starters. Presumably, by the appearance of the dish when it was served to me, the rest of it had spilled over the edges of the bowl in a vain attempt to escape. Given that I was in a stakehouse, I naturally had to order a steak. Grilled minute steak, chips and salad to be precise. I was expecting something of the magnitude I was served in Clonmel some months previous. An immense oval shaped plate filled beyond the brim with onion rings, salad, chips, onions, mushrooms and topped with the side of a cow. THAT was good eating. This however was the same sized plate, with a spoonful of onions and mushrooms which taste as if they were cooked, nay boiled in water. No taste, all mush. On top of the mush sat a thin, short slice of steak which although sparse was cooked just the way I like it. No pink at all once cut into and ever so slightly burned on the outside. The salad seemed to have joined my half bowl of missing soup in it’s tunnel digging effort, leaving me with only a half cherry tomatoe, about 5 pieces of lettuce, each no larger than one half inch squared. Some tiny pieces of mixed pepper and a hugely economical portion of cucumber. Insult to injury, the chips needed a few more minutes in the deep fat fryer or a few more minutes defrosting. Either way, they were only half cooked inside. 16. I won’t be going there again anyway…

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