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It’s Sunday night and I’m sitting down having spent most of the day with my daughter Ivana and her friends at the Ninja Master Course at We are Vertigo in Belfast. It was Ivana’s 8th birthday whilst we were on holiday and this was the first chance to have her party. She had a ball, as did her friends. They were hyper. That is, of course an understatement. The screams where incredibly loud at our house, at vertigo and in the car, to and from the party. It’s amazing watching my little girl grow up and I keep telling myself that I have to enjoy these moments. We are at a stage when she is not embarrassed to be seen with her Dad and to hang out. I’m sure that will change in time. It was a brilliant trip to the ninja master course which I can highly recommend. The Ninjas were treated to pizza, cake and ice cream in one of their party rooms after burning themselves out for an hour on the obstacle course. The staff really looked after the kids and their coaching got all of the party through albeit the wall at the end proved to be fun but frustrating and another reason to visit again and beat it next time. 

Ivana is 8

This week has been mega fun. I hosted the JMC restaurants McDonalds awards on Saturday night at Titanic Belfast. The company has 6 restaurants in Northern Ireland and the awards were a celebration of the great work their staff have done and the success the business has achieved over the past year. It was a brilliant evening with numerous awards handed out culminating in ‘the’ restaurant of the year being announced. Each restaurant’s manager had been involved in carpool karaoke style videos which were screened at intervals throughout the night. They were funny, insightful and showed that the business was a fun place to work and invested in their people. Great food and a brilliant band added to what was a superb evening. 

I was at Titanic Belfast again on Wednesday of this past week to see the top 100 hospitality businesses announced. Hospitality Ulster put on the evening and it was the second time this event has taken place having replaced the ‘Pub of the Year’ awards a couple of years ago.  It was an occasion to catch up with many familiar faces from the hospitality sector and also to hear rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll chat about his career, the current Irish rugby team and how he is settling into life as a rugby pundit on TV. Fascinating stuff.

A few familiar faces alongside two former Irish internationals.

On the subject of rugby I had a late invite to Malone Rugby Club on Thursday to hear the Irish Rugby coach Joe Schmidt in conversation. What a man. His attention to detail, his thoughts on team building and trust were inspiring. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak my advice is to grab the opportunity. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the ‘Empire’ in Belfast.

The highlight of the week however came when I was asked to welcome and usher the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge around ‘the Empire’ music hall in Belfast midweek as they flew into the province for a two day visit. Their trip concentrated on seeing young people and highlighting their journey growing up in Northern Ireland. On the evening over 100 inspirational young people filled the Empire and my role was to introduce the Royal couple to the many groups, awards winners, sports stars and entrepreneurs who were asked to be there. They were both lovely as you can imagine, easy to talk to and had a genuine interest in each person they spoke to on the night. Prince William and I discussed football, the legend that is Pat Jennings and what he learnt from his visit to Windsor Park earlier in the day plus the great work of the Prince’s Trust which I am an ambassador for. The Duchess and I chatted about their kids, her love of hockey and how she has recently acquired hockey sticks for them. The evening went past in a flash. It was a huge honour to be involved in the Royal visit and an evening I certainly will never forget. 

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