As soon as I read that Derry in Northern Ireland held the largest Halloween festival in Europe, I knew that that was where I wanted to celebrate my 21st birthday. It sucked being born on Halloween and not being able to celebrate Halloween in Australia! The most I was able to swing back in Australia was a witch birthday cake and one night's worth of trick or treating (the poor souls in Kingaroy we had pestered that evening had no idea what my friend Emily and I were on about! We ended up with lots of museli bars, which was a bit of a let down). So Derry it was!
After our gas-bagging trip from Belfast, we arrived in Derry around 7pm. With explicit instructions from our new Irish friends, we headed up the hill to find our hostel for the next three nights, Derry Independent Hostel. And guess what greeted us (apart from a plethora of Australian accents)? PUMPKINS! THEY WERE CARVING PUMPKINS! All my life I have dreamed about the graceful art of gouging out the innards of a pumpkins before designing a scary face into its flesh, lighting a candle inside its hollow and placing it in the window to frighten small children. What a wonderful idea. Why don't we do that in Australia!? But before I could gouge away, we first had to purchase the lucky pumpkin on whom I would unleash my creative genius.
Considering that Derry was my last stop before spending two months in Eastern Europe, I planned to devour all the Asian foods I possibly could before spending two months eating potato goulash (oh so yummy). So while I ran to Tescos to buy my beautiful orange gourd, Mum headed to the local Chinese restaurant to pick us up some dinner. Chopsticks and pumpkin in hand, we pretty much ran back to the hostel to begin the carving (well, I tried to make Mum run...).
Oh, I love pumpkin carving. It was glorious. And the smart people at Tescos had even designed pumpkins that have minimal innards, thus making the life of the pumpkin carver a lot easier (while also appeasing Irish grandmothers who might otherwise despair at the waste of good pumpkin flesh!). While the other guys at the hostel had decided on the classic 'ooooh I'm a scary pumpkin!' look for theirs, I decided to make my pumpkin a bit of a hillbilly (what is more scary than that?! HA!). Complete with crossed eyes and gappy wonky teeth, Cleatus was truly a masterpiece. I wish I could have brought him home with me. I wonder where he is rotting now?...
The next day was the 21st anniversary of my birth! Happy birthday to me! It was quite an emotional morning. As excited as I was to be spending my birthday Halloween style, all the costumes and festivities couldn't replace my friends and family who I would have loved to have been celebrating with. I received a phone call from the family, with the traditional Horne Family telephone group rendition of the Happy Birthday Song (which, as lovely as it was, made me feel even sadder). Mum had brought from home some birthday cards from Mum, Nan, and from Aaron (who enjoys selecting cards that on the front cover appear to be of lovely sentiment, but when you open it up and read inside it's a humorous kick in the guts!).
My birthday day would be dedicated to costume and bangle shopping, I had decided. Considering how fricken freezing Northern Ireland was, I came up with the brilliant idea of dressing up as a black cat, which would allow me to wear a full set of thermals underneath some tights and a long black shirt, thus allowing me maximum warmth! Genius! Mum hadnt quite decided what to go as yet, so we set off to the costume shops that the hostel manager had marked on our maps in the hope of some inspiration. Costumes were actually more expensive than we had originally thought! After wandering around for a few hours comparing get ups and prices, I finally selected a set of gold ears, tail and bow tie, while mum chose a pirate's had, hook, knife, and a blow up parrot parrot (which turned out to be enormous, about five time the size a shoulder parrot should realistically be!). I had decided that for my 21st birthday I would like a gold bangle. We had seen one in Brisbane last year, but as luck would have it the day Mum went to buy it, it was gone. So we'd decided that it might be nice to look around overseas for one, but so far we'd had no luck. Gold bangles just didn't seem to exist in Europe! After finding a store that stocked a few, we went in to try them on. Turns out that the oval shaped bangle I had in mind doesn't work on my puney little wrists - it spins and turns and looks most unsightly. Mum even suggested that I try on a children's bangle, but that was just far too small. It felt like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears - 'This one is too big, this one is too small'. But where is my 'this one is juuuuust right'? We decided to look for a completely round bangle instead, which could spin around as much as it wanted, while also allowing for a custom fit. So the search continued...
I really wanted some Indian or Thai food for lunch on my birthday. But as strange as it sounds (Ireland being a Western Country and all), there wasn't any Thai or Indian food to be had! We ended up settling on a nice cafe that overlooked that Walls of Derry, while sharing some lovely red wine that I picked (how very grown up of me!). We then headed back to the hostel for a nap before getting dressed up for the festivities that night!
While we the majority of the hostel guests were Australian, there ended up being a few American boys as well - or should I say, American ladies? They had these fantastics wigs and enormously fake boobs, and had perfected the perfect 'young ladies' voices. They made me laugh all evening with their antics - picking fights with other 'slutty tramps', cracking onto boys and each other, and generally having a wonderful time just having boobs to play with! Other characters in our group included a murder victim, a mermaid (who also had huge fake boobs), a Chinese samuri, some pirates, and a nurse.
It was a great night! Firstly, we went down the road and froze our tails/fake boobs/parrots off while watching the awesome Derry Halloween parade, and then the amazing fireworks display. We then headed to the hostel's local haunt (what else but a traditional Irish pub) and drank, sang and giggled the night away (the 'young ladies' endeavoring to make me pee my pants with laughter the entire evening!). Mum and I met heaps of interesting people - lots of Jokers ala Heath Ledger, some Australians, some Bananas in Pajamas (who knew they had that over here?!) and plenty of people who wanted to buy this black cat a birthday shot (come to think of it, I didn't buy a drink the entire night!). Around midnight, our group launched into a drunken rendition of Happy Birthday, to which the entire pub joined in. It was particularly funny when they got to the 'Happy Birthday dear Hayley' part - it ended up sounding like 'Happy Birthday dear mmrbmrm,'! Oh well, it was one of the best Happy Birthday songs I'd ever received (aside, of course, from the Horne Family rendition!). I've always felt a bit awkward when people sing me the Happy Birthday song - what are you supposed to do? Stand there grinning? Join in singing? Skull your drink? Kind of awkward!
Mum and I ended up staying out until about 1:30am, which I must say was a great effort on Mum's behalf! After Mum went to bed, I stayed up until about 3:00am eating loads of Vegemite on toast while replying to all the wonderful people who had sent me birthday messages on Facebook.
Saturday was our last day in Derry, so we figured that we better be good little tourists and actually do some sight seeing around town. We walked around the famous Walls of Derry (which seemed to be a local hang out for teenagers), took in the murals commemorating Bloody Sunday and its victims, and just generally wandered around and took in the scenery. After a dinner of delicious curry at what looked like the local RSL, Mum and I packed our things in preparation for our early but trip to Belfast airport, for our flight to Krakow, Poland.
Talk to you soon!
Love Hayley x