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Is it possible to celebrate in style on a budget?

With just under a month to the big 3-0, I thought it was time I organised somewhere to have a small celebratory gathering.

Unlike my last milestone 21st party, there will be expense spared, and it's not because I am paying this time and not my parents. Okay, maybe that has a small bit to do with it.

My little bro, Nathan, happens to have his 21st the week after my 30th and when I heard how much it was costing (room hire, DJ, bar extension) I nearly spluttered my tea in his face. But then I had forgotten how you go all out for this youthful celebration (look at me -- I'm 21!) and by the time it comes to ringing in the end of that decade, everything has shrunk: your budget, circle of friends, hair, and so you want something a bit more low key, and, more importantly, low cost.

I have my eye on a sophisticated little bar that would be perfect, but it's unnecessarily pricey so I have put my haggling hat on and am trying to negotiate a better deal (get me!). If that doesn't work I might just go down the nostalgic route and reserve a section of McDonalds -- Ronald is always welcoming.

For several reasons (lack of cash, bad weather, general laziness) my 'see more of my own country' task was hard to get off the ground. That was until this week when I insisted the Scot take me on a scenic drive (he won't yet let me behind the wheel while other motorists are on the road), so armed with our Lonely Planet Ireland, sandwiches and flask of tea (I am not kidding), we set off for beautiful Glendalough.

Despite living less than an hour from Co Wicklow, this was, shamefully, my first visit to the Upper and Lower Lakes and the medieval monastic site of St Kevin. It was a perfect Irish day -- cloudy and rainy with intermittent rays of sunshine splitting the sky. We even took our camera, like proper tourists, and got some lovely scenic photos.

It was a nice relaxing day, the calm before the storm of the decluttering mayhem to come.

I think I was a bit naive when I decided to clear out my (almost) seven-year-old niece's wardrobe. 'How hard can it be?' I thought as I peered into her floor-to-ceiling mountain of High School Musical-themed clothes.

There were some funny moments, too, when she asked me if it was okay to keep some of her baby clothes as mementos.

"Of course," I said wondering, not for the first time, if she was really 40 trapped in a little person's body. Several hours, three black sacks and many promises of new Disney attire later, the job was complete. Exhausting but utterly satisfying.


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