As Weekend celebrates its first birthday, four Northern Ireland people on why they’ve had a great 12 months, too.
We’re getting married and buying a home
The past year has proved very special indeed for Portadown office manager Ruth Hutchinson. Not only did the man of her dreams, Simon Cranston propose to her on bended knee in June, but the couple have just bought their first home together.
“It’s all been very exciting and so unexpected,” says Ruth (25).
“I wasn’t expecting Simon to propose, never mind buying our first home together. It’s all happened so quickly and I couldn’t be happier.”
Ruth and Simon, who is a postman from Lurgan, were stunned to discover shortly after they met that not only were they born on the same day in the same year, but also in the same hospital.
“It was a bit freaky and just an unbelievable coincidence,” admits Ruth.
“Simon was born around noon in Craigavon Hospital and I came along that night at 6.50pm.
“We would have been in the same ward and we’ve had a good laugh at it. It is fun celebrating our birthdays together.”
How the young couple met was another coincidence.
Ruth explains: “We both started to talk through Bebo and had been chatting for a while before we realised we had mutual friends. That’s about two years ago.”
Ruth says she knew immediately upon meeting Simon that he was going to be someone special in her life: “He was just so different from any of the other guys I had gone out with.
“We are actually very different, we like completely different things. Simon has a great sense of humour and is really easy-going. He is definitely my soulmate.”
The couple had talked about buying a home of their own as an investment before Simon popped the question in June.
“We wanted to put our money into something and because property is so cheap at the minute we decided buying a house would be a good investment,” says Ruth.
“When Simon proposed on June 28 I was gobsmacked. I always thought we might do it but saw it as being way down the line so it was a lovely surprise and I was delighted.
“We found a house very soon after. It’s a four bedroom semi in Portadown. We are due to get the keys in September and I can’t wait.
“This will always be a very special year for both of us.”
We had our wedding bash in our house
PR supremo Cathy Martin says she has the Belfast Telegraph to thank for making 2009 a very special year for her.
The director of Belfast Fashionweek enjoyed the perfect day when she married fiancé Julian Jordan in May.
The newlyweds celebrated with 150 guests in a marquee at their home in Helen’s Bay.
And Julian’s very romantic proposal 11 months earlier had been prompted, according to his new wife, by a feature in the Belfast Telegraph.
“I had done an interview about being very happily married to my job, which really was the spur for Julian to propose.
“I think he was a bit miffed by all my quotes on being single and independent.
“Shortly after the article appeared he told me to get my passport as he had booked a surprise trip away.
“I had no idea where we were going and he took me to a gorgeous five-star hotel in St Tropez.
“He had booked a lovely meal for the Saturday night when he had planned to propose.
“I think the ring was burning a hole in his pocket because he couldn’t wait and just got down on bended knee on the Friday night and proposed.
“I was absolutely ecstatic. I kind of thought it might be coming but wasn’t expecting it then.”
As the person behind the very successful Belfast Fashionweek, Cathy (35) had no shortage of style experts to lend a helping hand to make sure she was truly radiant on her big day.
She wore a traditional full-length gown by British designer Alan Hannah from Blush Bridal Salon on Belfast’s Lisburn Road and a string of pearls that she had specially commissioned from local designer Catherine B.
“My only regret was that we couldn’t invite everyone to the wedding as we were strictly limited to what we could afford,” says Cathy.
“The weather was great, which was a big plus for Northern Ireland.
“It has been a very special year for me. A lot of things in my life have changed — my business has changed, I’ve grown and changed and got married.
“I’m also now officially a stepmum to Julian’s three children, who are a joy.
“I’m very honoured that I didn’t just marry Julian but that I got three lovely stepchildren, Sasha (14), Johnny (10) and Elisa (9).
“Married life is different. I’ve never worked in a 9-5 job and never will and my husband tries his best to understand it.
“I wouldn’t give up my job for the world but I would eventually like to have kids of my own.”
I won the lotto jackpot... and gave £2m away
When it comes to cause for celebration, it doesn’t get much better than becoming a lottery millionaire.
One month on from scooping a dream £4.5m jackpot with a £1 lucky dip, Co Londonderry’s Seamus Duffy (49) says it still hasn’t sunk in that he is a multi-millionaire.
The unemployed father-of-six from Greysteel had vowed immediately after his win to make sure his children, elderly parents, five brothers and three sisters were all taken care of.
True to his word, he has already given almost half of his winnings — £2m — away to family members.
And there has been no splashing of the cash for this down-to-earth Greysteel man whose only treat to himself so far has been his dream car — a Range Rover Sport which he took delivery of this week.
Seamus says: “If you saw me you wouldn’t think I had won anything.
“Apart from the car, I haven’t been out buying anything.
“I wanted to make sure my family was taken care of first and then see what I have left.
“I’ve given each of my children a good lump sum to set them up and give them a good head start.”
Even though he has been generous with his family, Seamus says his main priority is ensuring the bulk of what he has left is invested so that it can continue to grow, enabling him to leave it for his children to benefit from in later years.
“I’ve bought a couple of properties already as investments. I want to make sure I can leave my children with something,” says the caring dad.
Not only has Seamus been restrained when it comes to spending his windfall on himself, but partner Carmel Robinson is just as unaffected by their newfound wealth.
“She’s like me, very set in her ways,” says Seamus. “I’ve asked her what she wants but apart from a wee necklace there isn’t anything.
“She just wants a place to call home like myself. We’ve moved about a lot and lost everything over the years and so we want a home of our own.”
As well as designing and building his dream house, Seamus is looking forward to booking his first holiday abroad next year to Australia and America.
“I’m just a normal country person who would happily go out and do a day’s work,” he says.
“The bank manager asked me how much I was giving away and when I told him £2m he said that was very generous.
“But that’s the type of person I am. I would help anyone who needed it. Most people around me know I am generous and they are telling me to catch myself on and treat myself.
“Maybe if I am still here next year I will take a run to Australia or American.
“So far it’s just been great to be able to allow my family to be provided for. That to me is what matters most.”
I landed my dream job as a beautician
For as long as she can remember Lisburn girl Jenna Loughran has wanted to be a beautician. “Even as a child, it’s all I thought about but after getting my NVQ levels 2 and 3 in beauty therapy, I couldn’t believe how hard it was to get a job,” admits the 22-year-old.
After five years of applying for every vacancy going and approaching salons in her home town, Jenna finally got the break she needed this year when she started as a beauty therapist with Trim Tone Tan.
“I’ve worked in shops and offices doing any fill-in job I could while always knowing that beauty was only thing I wanted to do,” she says.
“Every job I applied for, I was turned down because I didn’t have any experience. How was I to get that experience if no one would take me on?
“I was starting to despair when I saw the job advertised earlier this year with Trim Tone Tan.
“I wrote in my application that I really would appreciate being given the chance to prove myself.
“The interview itself was pretty nerve-wracking as I had to do a skills test on the head therapist and give her a manicure, pedicure and wax.
“When I was offered the job I was ecstatic. It was brilliant; I couldn’t believe I was finally being given the chance to do what I always wanted to do.”
Trim Tone Tan is a new chain of ‘wellbeing centres’ where the focus is on offering men and women the chance to lose weight, tone and indulge in a range of beauty treatments and non-invasive cosmetic surgery procedures.
Jenna says: “The fact that the salon is new and very different from most beauty salons has made it even more exciting for me.
“Trim Tone Tan has been trying to break the mould by making health and beauty treatments more accessible to the ordinary nine-to-fivers and I really like that approach.
“It’s such a friendly atmosphere and I like the fact that it isn’t just pampering but there is a lot more on offer for clients. People of all ages are coming in.”
So what are today’s men and women treating themselves to?
“My clients are booking in for everything from manicures and pedicures to massages and spray tanning.
“Ilipo, a non-surgical alternative to liposuction, is very, very popular with women of all ages.”
And after dozens of rejections and years of waiting, how does her dream job measure up?
“It’s everything I had thought and hoped it would be. I am just loving every minute.”