And just like that, it was the end of our Belfast Smarter Cities Challenge.  On the last day, I went to prison (which rightfully deserved its own post), had meetings with the local IBM team and had lunch with our dear friends from Belfast City Council.  It’s funny how attached you can grow to people in such a brief period.  The Lord Mayor invited us for parting words in his chambers at City Hall.

I awarded the coveted Golden Elvis Sunglasses From Memphis to Peter McNaney, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council.

Why, you ask? 

Because every Chief Executive needs Golden Elvis Sunglasses, that’s why.   (To be honest, I was bummed I didn’t bring 2 pairs because the Lord Mayor really needed some as well.  I hope they’ll share.)

The first of the team to say farewell was June, who I came to respect and adore for her sense of humor along with her open heart.  The fact that she has that deep Scottish accent with all kinds of glottal flaps and trilling [r]s just made her a lot more fun!  My favorite was listening to her imitation of American English.  Sounds like she’s talking out of her nose, hysterical.  Unfortunately, my Scottish imitation sounded… um, not Scottish.  Probably not even English, in spite of years of imitating my British father, sister and niece Linzsigh.  I need more practice.

Linguistic Geek Moment:  a glottal flap is produced by banging your vocal folds together while simultaneously stopping airflow.  In the word “bottle,” most Americans would produce the middle [t] sound, while Scottish and other UK dialects would produce a glottal flap. 

Having all these glottal flaps around was like seeing an endangered snow leopard in its natural habitat.  Love that!  Also, the UK dialects have a lower, more laryngeal resonance focus than American English, which is more anterior and nasal.   All this was discussed with June and Nick (from Preston), both of whom claimed to speak English, instead of whatever it is that we speak in the U.S., a point I obliged by calling ours Americanish.  Many imitations ensued.  Man, do I love linguistics.

We now conclude this Linguistic Geek Moment.

Deirdre, our amazingly awesome local IBMer, who was not only responsible for the original idea of a Belfast Smarter Cities Challenge, but clucked and cooed and kept us all in line the entire time in her motherly way, suggested we conclude our last evening with a pint of Guinness at the very posh Crown pub.  I got the “half pint,” which I inadvertently referred to as a “baby pint” and was quickly reprimanded.  Apparently a baby pint is a different drink entirely.

I can’t keep up with these Irish people. 

In any event, in spite of my mostly-non-drinking-and-severe-beer-disliking status, I actually didn’t mind Guinness.  It was sweeter and more caramelly than I was expecting (um, considering it looks like oil), except it was annoying that it had to “settle” for a few minutes.

I dunno, there are so many RULES.  Drinking in Ireland is complicated.

It ended up we were so tired – yes, the post-project crash was definitely setting in – that we headed back to the hotel in short order.  Hugs all around on our now-familiar 11th floor of the Hilton and then I crawled into bed, listening to the deep chimes of St. Anne’s Cathedral.  #smartercities Challenge