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A welcome break with family before Spain trip and three weeks on road

We (Gerry and I) were lucky to fly the Airbus A380 from Hong Kong to Dubai; it's so quiet that you can sleep for most of the 8hr 30.  When we got to Dubai Gerry asked for an exit row to Dublin, instead they upgraded him to business, lucky boy.  Emirates are good at looking after frequent flyers; we spend so much money with them they upgrade us a lot.  I was flying to Birmingham, part of my return journey, then on to Belfast City.  It worked out more expensive to fly from Dublin which was strange, although when Emirates start the second flight a day from Dublin in the autumn it should help us.  It was the 777 to Birmingham I managed a couple of movies and 7hrs later arrived with 3hrs to wait for Flybe to Belfast City. 
 
It's great in Hong Kong as you can check in for your flight at the train station so essentially getting rid of your bags if you want to be a tourist for the rest of the day.  I wish more cities did this, mine were checked through to City - RESULT!  When you have 50kg including clubs it saves a lot of hassle.
 
The Flybe flight was almost on the runway when the captain came on saying the rear door light was on, meaning it might not be fully closed so we had to taxi back in, get the engineer to fix it, 40 mins later we took off, not bad but it was becoming a 20hr trip.
 
The weather was awesome at City, 18 degrees and sunny.  I had missed some nice days, hopefully it wouldn't stop now that I was home, it normally does.  Dennis Pugh says I was born in 2 sets of waterproofs and make the rain where ever I go! Bev was walking Erin to the airport in her first shoes, bless her, she was flying about, so much energy.

To keep up the Asian trend it was an Indian takeaway as my flight had arrived bang on dinner time, then to bed at 9pm which is 4am in China.  I woke at 530am because of the time difference but Erin gets up at 630 so I had company.  I just feel like a zombie for a couple of days from long haul, it's tough, and it doesn't get better the more often I do it.

Bev took me to visit her school friend Andy's farm.  I hadn't been to one for 20 years and it was cool to see where your food comes from.  I used to think it grew in supermarkets.  One of his cows calved as we were stood outside the shed.  It was amazing!  I saw rams and bulls and even got a go on his quad bike which was rapid.  Erin liked his dog she reached for him but got shy and turned away at the last minute.

Thursday was the launch of the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm. It was a great day meeting, Arlene Foster, the Mayor of Ballymena and all the media and sponsors.  I must offer congratulations to the Press Society from Ulster who were victorious in the Press Society Inter-pros.  Galgorm had hosted the annual golf comp the two days before the launch.  Paul Kelly was tearing the course apart I heard, 50 points both days, that's some shooting and deserves a handicap revision I think. 
It's hard to get new tournaments on Tour and the long list of sponsors Galgorm have amassed is key to running a successful event.  The backing from Stormont is crucial and Arlene Foster has helped to drive the event.  This year it will reflect more of what Northern Ireland has to offer with a food festival being held on site at the same time.   The Challenge Tour boys will definitely be tucking in and telling their friends and family about our tasty cuisine.  No doubt this all helps the golf tourism which the Minister explained contributes 22 million a year to the NI economy.  I think it's hard for non-golfers to understand but when I played college golf in the US so many people asked about Ireland and the great courses and were planning trips here.  These people aren't short of cash, like it or not we can really benefit from golf tourism and the Northern Ireland open will help.

For me these days are not that easy I have to try and say the right thing, I had a few interviews and sometimes you're stuck for a word and just make a mess of it, it takes practice.  There was a question and answer at the launch and Joel Taggart asked some funny questions he ended up getting me to talk like Harrington, which they all think is funny.
 
It was straight to the airport for Bev and myself leaving Erin with Audrey (my mother-in-law) we had booked a check-up with my nutritionalist in London and this was the only date available. I've had enough of airports for a while but we had to go.  Barry McGuigan was there and I got talking to him about nutrition and training, he's a total expert.  He was saying that golf is a lot less strength and conditioning than boxing but it's becoming more so. He's a very sharp and positive guy and does a huge amount for charities here in the province.
 
We booked a hotel in Paddington Station our base to get the tube from.  We got over to the Regents Park area for a 645pm appointment and had to wait an hour to be seen, he is always late. From blood results we sent a month ago he reckons I have to try to stay gluten free, which I've done mostly for a year, no pizza or pasta so it's been tough.   I need to investigate my lactic acid levels in SINI, who have great sports science facilities.  I might need to exercise at a different heart rate to train my body but I'm prepared to try and improve. I think the dietary changes have helped so far so we just have to keep going.

I treated Bev to dinner in a Gordon Ramsay's restaurant - Bread Street Kitchen.   I couldn't have been less excited, with the jet lag I was half asleep and just wanted to eat and leave not caring for the nice ambiance or even the quality of food.  Bev got me some wine which perked me up and made me bearable.  The food was great but had too many sauces and was very rich like all restaurant food tends to be.  All we wanted was beans on toast and bed as it was after 9 when we got to order.  It's amazing how many people eat out in expensive restaurants in London all the time, it's a different level.   It doesn't appear like the recession has had any effect around St Paul's!

Friday was a tourist day again, twice in a week was too much but it was nice to walk around Hyde Park, Green Park and St James' Park.  The only place we went to was the National Gallery it was good.  When you get older you appreciate this stuff more.  We had lunch in China Town and I was happy with that, then the express out to Heathrow again for our 6pm flight home.  Straight up to Portballintrae for us on the road again and a nice couple of days walking around the causeway and Portrush. 

Matt McAlpine kindly got us a table in the busy Ramore wine bar and I had my favourite duck dish.
The pink colours for the giro look good, we are planning to watch a bit next weekend as the tour moves out of Belfast, I've never been to see cycling, but I've read some of the books.  It's a clean sport now and must require deep reserves for 7 hrs a day on the bike.  Matt has been playing some euro pro tour events on the mainland, it's a tough old grind to make a few quid but he's committed to giving it a go for a couple of years.  I guess he has the restaurant business to fall back on which a lot of the guys don't have. 
 
I played a few on Royal Portrush with Johnny Foster (my coach) and Andrew Snoddy, the weather was good and the boys were hitting it well.  It was the first time since the Irish Open in 2012.  Scary!
I saw Johnny again this morning just chipping away at the constant stuff we work on, set up, tempo, balance in the club and combating old tendencies which even though you reduce them don't leave you totally. 

I'm off to the sports institute at UUJ 730am Wednesday for our golf training program, it's a great set up and in on Friday again.  It's really just making the most of the next few days as they will fly in before Monday when the Spanish Open starts and a big run of 3 weeks on the road.