Cough splutter cough... that's all I could do the last time that I went into Revelations Internet Cafe in Belfast. Recently, I have been away from home due to being placed in the back end of nowhere for my final nursing placements, which has no Internet access, so in order to log on I have had to go right into Belfast to do so, and as the university's library times are a bit up the left over the holiday period, I have resorted to using Revelations Internet cafe. It was with a little fear and trepidation that I entered Revelations, but Internet addiction will make you go to extreme lengths to get online, so I was prepared to pay the £1.00 (student rate) for 15 minutes. To me this is an extortionate amount of money, but perhaps others will not agree with me. Revelations is in the University area of Belfast, just down Shaftsbury Square ( address :- 27 Shaftsbury Square Belfast BT2 7DB. Tel:02890 320337). If any of you watch Patrick Kielty's show, he usually does outside broadcasts from just outside Revelations Cafe. As I entered I was greeted by a cloud of smoke, and a man who grunted at me as I enquired about using a computer for a period of time. He waved me towards an empty seat, made another grunt, and I assumed that this computer was free. The cloud of smoke lingered (apologies to those reading this who are smokers, but I just can’t stand smoking, especially in an area where food is being sold), as I sat at one of the 12 terminals in the cafe. Now I am used to typing on a keyboard and so pretty much know where each letter is on the keyboard, but the ones in Revelations were quite worn, meaning that someone who was not as familiar with the keyboard may have had a hard time of figuring it out. I was quite annoyed at this, after all, 15 minutes for £1, can they not afford to buy new keyboards every so often? The signs around boasted that the net access was the fastest available,
and that their computers were fast, but I found that it was not as fast as my own computer, and that it took a while for pages to upload. This may have been because the cafe was particularly full that night, or just that their connection isn't quite as fast as they like to boast. I got all my work done in the 15 minutes ( I literally flew through it!) and got up to pay - thankfully the "grunting" man had left and instead there was a pleasant lady who chatted to me as I paid, leaving me feeling that the place was not quite so bad after all. They mainly sell snacks in Revelations, with their bottomless cups of tea and coffee being very popular, but sandwiches are also available. Their opening times are: Mon - Fri 8am - 10pm Sat 10am - 6pm Sun 11am - 7pm Revelations also offer other services along with their web access, Our services include: "Internet tuition, Office software access, games access, food, soft drinks, coffee, scanning, laminating, colour prints, laser prints, fax services, live camera to allow you to email pics of yourself." (taken from their web site, www.revelations.co.uk) I would go there again, but as I said, only if I couldn't get into the University - Why pay £1 for 15 minutes when you can get as long as you like for free just up the road?!
Travelling around the UK and further afield carrying out my kinda Consultancy requires constant access to the Web and my email accounts. Usually this is not a problem. My laptop may have been well past its sell-by date when I bought it in May 1998 (486 processor with 4 meg memory), but I have upgraded it (+16 meg £65, + Iomega Zip £80, +PCMCIA card/modem £50), but it did only cost me £360 including VAT and a 3 year warranty in the first place from PC World. It has been 'bounced around the world with its PCMC1A card/modem for 3 years now and (after 2 new screens and a new power pack is still ‘wheezing’ along) So here I was in Belfast at the end of April, and NO web access from the Laboratory where i am working because of new phone lines going in. OK I thought, I can use the phone line at the hotel. Certainly I could have at Jury's Inn or from the Europa and probably from the Premier Posthouse (OK, a little more expensive, perhaps). But NOT at the Belfast Travelodge, it seems (works on a 'card' system and no modem input on the phone). OK now I know what you are going to tell me -chuck out my 'brick-of-a-phone' and get some nooo all-singing/all-dancing fancy phone model that will doo just about everything a secretary/PA would doo (except keep me warm at night and perhaps be available for other more 'naughty' services). But no, my attitude towards my phones, 'puters, and secretaries/PA’s is that if ain't broke don't replace it. Anyway, here I was - a whole week in Belfast with the only prospect of internet connection being when I was to visit the University on the Thursday (and then I would have to beg, it being a favour and all that). So, I had a brainwave - surely Belfast will have one of those noo-fangled internet cafes, wouldn't it ? So out with de Yellow pages. Sure enough, there were 2 listed, one up Newtownards Roa
d North - thus a long walk/taxi ride out of the Centre, plus just the one ‘Revelations’ in the Centre, on Shaftesbury Square, just down the road, a 5 minute brisk walk. I telephoned to confirm the hours of opening. Now I knew that there was one in Rose Street in Edinburgh that was open all night but surely NOT in Belfast ?.... Correct ! It closed at 10pm. Just time to make a swift access. No problem in getting directions and I arrived at 9.05 pm, logged on and then logged off at 9.57pm. 52 minutes ..... £4 !!!. OK, the signs were up £1 for 15 minutes, and so on, but I just got my snout in the trough and dealt with my business emails/replies/enquiries. And you can get a ‘card’ allowing you 4 hours access for £10. However, I am certian that would be cheaper than at the hotels, using my laptop .... On the brighter side, the coffee is excellent and you get 'unlimited' ('bottomless' said the menu, and the waitress certainly wasn't....) very good quality black coffee for £1. Indeed, I reckon that the 3 coffees I drank would have cost me at least £4 elsewhere. So what is it like ? Well it really is a cafe, looks just like one from the outside and inside, except that there are 12 computer terminals mounted in plyboard housings. Go to their website (www.revelations.co.uk), the photographs are good. On the downside, many of the keyboards are so badly worn that you really cannot see the printing. They say that it is 'high speed' (512,000) connection, but compared with my desktop at home (a 150 Mhz Pentium with a 56 modem) - well, I think not. Perhaps it is the Virus checker that is used, or just the number of terminals in use that slows the access down. However, there is a good ambience in the place, so I went back on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday lunchtime to catch up with my clients, see how my son was getting on with his management project, reply to emails from o
ne or two of my friends, and I even accessed my DooYoo account from there, just to see how the points were accumulating and to see what cheek had been left as 'comments'.... Anyway, ‘Revelations’, you saved my professional life that time in Belfast. And since my accommodation may well change next visit (at the end of May), we may become good friends. And you were only just across the road from that Fish & Chip shop that I had been promising myself a visit .....