So, aren’t there any shops in Belfast?

Hi there, I hope you had a good week? The start of June is the time of year when all teachers hear is, ‘I’m sure you must be winding down!’ – nope

On Monday Morning ‘Marking Season’ will begin, it has all the tension of ‘Marching Season’ without the relief of the burger van. I’m marking school and public exams so it will be LOTS of fun.

For the next three weeks I will be holed up in the front room with the papers, every few days the kids open the door and throw in some meat and put fresh straw on the floor. Even JY has packed herself up in the hope someone will take her away from the impending horror.

With this self imposed purdah on the horizon I thought it would be nice to spend some time with Mother. I started to ponder where would be nice to go…….

During the week I was in her apartment (definitely not her flat), we were chatting when out of nowhere (please note, nothing Mother says is EVER, out of nowhere) she observed, ‘you know what, it’s ages since I’ve been to Forkhill’. To the best of my knowledge, neither of us have ever been to Forkhill.

Forkhill is a very small town nestling among the drumlins and peace loving people of South Armagh. It is a very long way to travel for a casual visit. Mother’s motives soon became clear. So.……..

Two weeks ago mother saw a picture of ‘Liz Weir the Storyteller’ on Facebook, she was receiving an honour from the Queen and had a ‘great outfit’ on.

Then last Saturday, didn’t Mother run into ‘Liz Weir the Storyteller’ at the Maritime Festival and compliment her on the outfit.

At which point, ‘Liz Weir the Storyteller’ mentioned that she got the lovely outfit in a Great Wee Shop in FORKHILL.

You see, Mother (and I) are currently in the business of looking for great outfits for a wedding in October. This is not The Bolter’s wedding – the outfit for that was locked in a long time ago.

Mother’s (only) sister recently announced her engagement to marry her partner of 20 years. We are actually very happy, but would have preferred if they had said, were getting married to protect our pensions and avoid inheritance tax. Instead they said (with absolutely no hint of irony) that they were sitting beside a geyser in New Zealand and it just came to them.

Added to this she did not ask Mother, her (only) (did I mention only) sister to be her Witness / Bridesmaid. A potential in-law has been approached instead.

A blind man on a galloping horse could see that this decision has created a little bit of tension, and the hunt for the perfect outfit began. The ‘Liz Weir lead’ set us on the road to Forkhill to find the perfect – tasteful, elegant, takes two stone off me, not weddingy, able to walk in, definitely nicer than the bridesmaid (possibly even nicer than the bride) outfit.

The day began with a nice breakfast at a local co-op. It a great place and the food is fantastic. The local North Belfast intelligentsia pitch up every Saturday morning to buy their sourdough, and feel smug (I can say that because I count myself among their number). If you are going to be a hardcore Co-oper there a couple of must have accessories.

The canvas tote and egg box for the fresh farm eggs. These are mine. The tote can’t be too new or you will look like a ‘try’. This is local parlance for ‘try hard’ as in ‘Oh my God, Sophie is suuuuuuuuuuuch a try’

The outfit is also very important. For men its a cargo short, an (old) band t-shirt to remember your rock and roll youth and a walking sandal. For women this look also works, but a fine knit jumper and , messy bun and a patterned skirt from White Stuff / Boden / Sea salt is also an option – this is worn with coloured hose and a sturdy shoe. Two weeks ago I was there with YC, she looked around and, accurately, observed, ‘sweet Jesus, everybody here looks like you!’

After a lovely breakfast – I had aubergine stew with goats cheese on sourdough we hit the road. On arrival in Forkhill the first thing we had to do was find somewhere to have a cup of tea. Mother is a very talented woman, but her superpower is, ‘Finding somewhere nice to have a cup of tea’. Two minutes in the village and a quick stop off at the local General Merchant / Funeral Director and she had sourced an actual castle which had opened a tearoom yesterday.

Fed and watered we headed back to Forkhill and the ‘great wee shop’.

This is Joy, she owns the shop – and she is an alchemist. We walked into the shop, and after a few quickfire questions (where she completely understood our list of requirements) she stuck her arm into a rack of dresses and pulled out the perfect outfit. Another half hour and Mother had a headpiece and bag to go with the dress.

By mid afternoon, we were back on the road not quite able to believe what had just happened. It was only the occasional glance at the backseat where the ‘great outfit’ reposed that reassured us that Joy had worked her magic. It would be fair to say that a nimbus of smugness had descended on the car.

By next week I shall have been shut in a room for several days thinking deep thoughts about Geography – good thing I have this lovely dress ring I bought today to remind me of the outside world. xx