Northern Ireland is accustomed to Secretaries of State who can't wait to catch the first plane home when their time is up and never set foot in the place again, but not this one.
A year ago today, Julian Smith was appointed to the job, only to be spectacularly sacked 204 days later. Now, he's on his way back.
Much to the disappointment of his legion of fans across the divide, it won't be to return to office in Stormont House.
Rather, Smith will drive next week from his North Yorkshire constituency to Scotland, where he will board a ferry for a week's holiday on our shores.
Not since Mo Mowlam has a Secretary of State actually fallen for this place.
"I genuinely love Northern Ireland and I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself with its people, restaurants and bars," he says
"(And) enjoying a few Ulster fries and tray bakes.
"I'd have been back far sooner if it wasn't for Covid."
Smith traces his affinity for this neck of the woods to growing up in Fintry, "a fantastically beautiful Scottish village with a big and strong sense of community".
Appointing him Secretary of State is widely regarded as the best thing Boris Johnson has ever done for Northern Ireland, and removing him the worst.
Smith didn't have a hard act to follow in the hapless Karen Bradley.
It's not just that he brokered a deal in January to restore devolution at Stormont after three years of deadlock.
His whole style of doing business was different to his predecessors of the previous two decades.
Immediately after his appointment on July 24 last year, he hired two twenty-something special advisers, Ross Easton and Lilah Howson-Smith.
"On our first trip to Northern Ireland, Lilah mentioned how excited her mum was that we were going to a place where someone as passionate as Mo Mowlam had worked," Smith tells me.
"That got me thinking about the approach I wanted to take. Mo had been extremely hands-on, very direct and personable. She had focused on building relationships.
"I felt that the Secretary of State position could be quite activist and maybe a bit less formal than it had sometimes been."
Smith first visited Northern Ireland is his childhood, when he was a junior international squash player.
He came to the job knowing the DUP inside out from his two years as Theresa May's chief whip in the House of Commons.
Addressing its party conference in 2017, he had heaped praised on its MPs and said his door was always open to them.
Those remarks wrongly led to him being labelled a DUP stooge.
He had never met a Sinn Fein politician before becoming Secretary of State, he admits.
A "committed unionist", he was still determined not to be "an archetypal sort of Tory just understanding one perspective". I wanted to work hard to understand them all," he says.
Smith set out to build constructive relationships with nationalists.
He first met Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney at a very formal event in Hillsborough Castle, where they were surrounded by their officials. As business concluded, he asked Coveney: "Will we go to the pub?"
They sauntered down to the Hillside in the village.
From that ice-breaking moment, they built a strong relationship, which paved the way for New Decade, New Approach.
Smith thinks politicians perhaps "don't spend enough time having a meal, having a drink, staying that extra night to get to know the people they're dealing with".
"It helps if you've broken bread together," he says.
"It doesn't mean that there's full agreement on political issues, but it allows room to tease out the common ground."
He put in more time in Northern Ireland than any of his predecessors.
Instead of heading back to his constituency, his wife and seven-year-old daughter would join him here at weekends.
There were trips to the Clip 'n Climb and We Are Vertigo adventure centres, and visits to local restaurants and pubs.
Did he ever worry about the dissident republican threat during these trips?
"No, not at all," he says. "There are more security issues in Northern Ireland than in any other part of the UK, but I felt completely safe with PSNI support."
Uniquely for a Secretary of State, he'd tweet pictures of his leisure activities, aiming to break out of the Stormont bubble and make a connection with ordinary citizens.
After the "relentless, behind-the-scenes Brexit years", he says that he enjoyed the opportunity to be "in a front-facing role as a Secretary of State able to drive policy".
Smith lost every key Brexit vote in the Commons, but in Northern Ireland, his skills and strategising reaped significant rewards.
By publishing the text of New Decade, New Approach on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, he and Coveney effectively bounced local politicians into signing up.
There were no shocks in the document, he insists, saying that much of the text "had been discussed for at least a year, if not longer" by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Days before the deal was due to be published, he vented his frustration at the lack of progress.
"We've been effing about at this far too long," he told the politicians in front of him.
Six months after the restoration of power-sharing, the gloss has well and truly worn off the Stormont executive.
The fall-out from Bobby Storey's funeral means that Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill have stopped holding joint press conferences.
Smith, however, remains determinedly optimistic.
"Everybody needs a bit of a break over the summer," he says. "Clearly, there have been some significant ups and downs, but I hope there'll be an opportunity to refresh and move forward in the autumn.
"There is no alternative to power-sharing."
He stresses that it's essential that the Executive urgently focuses on drawing up a programme for government and ensuring that the pledges made in New Decade, New Approach are delivered.
He says that he found Foster and O'Neill "easy to deal with" and both "had a good way with people".
Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann is "a very under-stated politician" who is "really proving himself as Health Minister", he adds.
Alliance leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long, meanwhile, is "extremely focused", and SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is "massively dedicated".
Of all Stormont's politicians, he also singles out as noteworthy SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole and two special advisers in The Executive Office - the DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly and Sinn Fein's Stephen McGlade.
He thinks it important that "the next generation of MLAs get to know the key players in London and Dublin and build a network of relationships with those who could help them in future".
Last year, MPs at Westminster voted to legalise same sex-marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland in the absence of devolution.
The DUP expressed its anger at the move, but Smith thinks it was "the right thing for Parliament to do".
It means Northern Ireland is "in a better position regarding social reform"," he says.
There is no longer any significant opposition to equal marriage here, he adds.
He sees abortion as "more controversial", but believes it's appropriate that "rights in Northern Ireland are in line with (rights in) London and Dublin".
Smith is most proud of his role in fast-tracking legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional child abuse.
The impact of his first encounter with them on becoming Secretary of State was powerful.
"I met this group of people, some getting on in years, who were extremely frustrated. (These were) people who had the most horrendous experiences and had been sent from pillar to post," he says.
"The impact these crimes had on their lives was stark, compelling and upsetting.
"I felt very strongly that they'd waited too long.
"It was an incredible privilege for me to able to help them.
"It was without doubt the most important thing that I've ever done.
"I found it extremely emotional and a huge honour to be part of their journey."
Victim Margaret McGuckin was impressed: "My experience means a lack of trust for the authorities is inbred.
"We were let down by so many other officials and Secretaries of State.
"Within minutes of meeting Julian Smith, I knew he was a good one.
"You always feel these government people are looking down on you.
"With him, it felt we were on the same level, or even that he looked up to us a bit."
A passionate Remainer, Smith was axed by the Prime Minister just a month after New Decade, New Approach.
His sacking was linked to a Brexit-related tweet four months earlier which was interpreted as a put-down of Dominic Cummings.
He maintains that he is not bitter.
There has been some speculation that, in a post-Cummings era, Downing Street could come calling with the offer of another Cabinet position.
"The right to hire and fire lies with the Prime Minister," Smith says.
"Boris Johnson has my full support at one of most difficult items in recent history. I am enjoying life as a backbench MP.
"I hope to remain actively involved in future in supporting Northern Ireland, its people, businesses and charities, without, of course, stepping on the toes of my successor, Brandon Lewis, or the devolved administration at Stormont."
Smith's TV producer wife Amanda Wilson helped develop Strictly Come Dancing.
Could an appearance on the BBC's flagship Saturday night show loom? "Absolutely not," he laughs.
"I'm so bad at dancing, it's embarrassing.
"I've been strongly encouraged to take lessons even to pass myself on the floor.
"They would have to be extremely desperate to contact me.
"That's one phone call I'm very unlikely to receive."