Forget festival fever, I prefer lakeland heaven
I'm writing this week from one of the most idyllic settings in Northern Ireland. As I tap away on my laptop, the sparkling waters of Lough Erne are lapping below my feet from the rippling wake of a passing mute swan and its ungainly brood of cygnets.
A few minutes ago a brilliant flash of colour had caught my eye for a split second as a kingfisher darted past, skimming the surface of the lake and reflecting a streak of vivid turquoise, blue and gold onto the murky depths.
Meanwhile, a few feet away from me my two sons are chatting and laughing like buddies as they cast and flick their fishing rod lines in and out of the water from their vantage point further along the jetty.
We've just arrived for a break that I booked at very short notice — virtually the last minute — because I'd got sick and tired of watching the boys play on the Xbox for weeks while the unforgiving weather wreaked its havoc outside. The summer holidays were coming to an end — washed away before our eyes by the torrential rain — and I wanted to do something special together as a family before they were over.
Not least because Luke, my elder son, will be leaving home soon for the first time in 19 years to go to university in London and I was painfully aware that time was running out for us to get out and make a few last-minute memories.
So, here we are, in a cottage in the grounds of the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen. It's a place I'd passed through so many times on my way to somewhere — Sligo, Bundoran, Galway — but never stopped and stayed just here, simply because I didn't know what I was missing.
Now I do. It's absolute bliss and I'm so happy I thought of this I can't even put it into words.
I couldn't have chosen a better week either. Belsonic Festival was in full swing, Tennent's Vital was about to kick off, but we'd all missed out on both of them due to lack of funds at the time the coveted tickets went on sale. Fortunately, by the end of summer, I'd scraped together enough for a cut-price getaway somewhere close to home, so as the cool people were heading into Belfast for the Foo Fighters and the Stone Roses, we headed out of town for a three-day gig of our own.
Of course, the weather isn't any better here in Fermanagh than it is in the water-logged muddy bogs off Boucher Road, but it doesn't really matter. Our chalet is right on the banks of the Lough and the soft rain is only just filtering as a fine mist through the heavy canopy of an oak tree.
Salmon and perch are leaping out of the water all around us and yes, before you ask, we do have a permit. So now all that remains is for my two teenage alpha males to get on with the hunter/gathering in time for tea.
Now this may be overly hopeful, but there's an ostentatiously empty bucket sitting on the deck, ready to receive any number of fish. And we also have a disposable barbecue on stand-by, waiting for the bounteous catch ... when or if it happens. Heck, I've even brought sachets of tartare sauce and slices of lemon on the off-chance. So who knows? So far no good, but the day is still young and the craic is flowing as quick as the current all around us.
Besides, if all else fails, I did notice a chippy on my way into Enniskillen ...