Friday night saw the completion of Phase 1 of The Asterisk Years Project. It took place in Larne and, to the amusement of the locals, I did get plenty folk raise eyebrows at the prospect of me going there. I flew over on Friday tea time and got picked up at the airport by Gary Bergin. It felt like I was flying first class as, for the first time since 2011, I flew something other than Ryanair.
We sped off in the direction of Larne and upon arriving there were met by something that anyone who has been to Larne recently will know: A massive Crown. Maybe the doubters were right. Pretty soon we were off to The Station Bar and I must say now the set up and hospitality was superb. My book was advertised on the tables like a menu, they had a projector for the show and I soon realised that everyone in the bar was there to see it. I ended up speaking for about three hours and really enjoyed it. These are solid Tims.
We went on very late and probably got back to Gary's about 3am. Gary is as good a host as you'll find anywhere and up were up for 9am to sample an Ulster fry in the shadow of Sammy Wilson's constituency office. That felt good.
The Bhoys in Larne were different class, particularly Stevie and his staff, Martin, the future mayor of Larne, Billy, Kevin and Connor.
Fully fed, we drove to Belfast and although I love Larne, it was nice to see a tricolour again. We parked up and immediately met the Sinn Fein mayor of Belfast, Mairtin OMuilleoir, and have a craic about the book, Amsterdam and flags. We then went to.the Irish Republican history museum at Conway Mill. Built by Eileen Hickey and run by her sister it was a real treat and was also great to see so many tourists in there. After this we took in a few memorials before heading to the Sinn Fein shop. Great craic there too and I got myself a copy of The Escape by Gerry Kelly which has me captivated already. We then headed for a pint in The Rock Bar before heading to the RVH to visit someone who hasn't been too well recently and was currently a patient. This was a really inspiring and humbling experience for me as he had read all my books and was Celtic through and through. We talked for two hours in the ward. I could have sat there two days.
Then it was off to the airport and to start on the Gerry Kelly book. That got me a few stares and a secondary search.
As I said at the start, lots of folk thought I was mad for going to Larne. You should know by now I'm mad minus the trip.
And what a trip. Massive thanks to Gary for everything and it was a trip I will never forget.
The Crown in Larne looks a bit of a relic to the past. The people in Larne provide a great path to the future.