Belfast is a hard wee city to leave behind. I’ve been winding down for the last week or so, making piles of clothes and travel books on the bedroom floor, printing plane tickets, stocking up on miniature bottles of shampoo and saying goodbye to lots of people I really love. I actually quite like leavings. Over the last fifteen years or so I’ve had more than my fair share of them. I’ve moved house, city and continent with the kind of frequency most people reserve for haircuts. More often than not I always find myself, in the final instant, ready to go and also blessed by the honesty friends dole out when they realise you’re not coming back for a very long time. In my experience, a good leaving will provoke the same sentiments which usually circulate at funerals, with the added bonus that the leaver is still alive and able to receive these lovely compliments. Belfast people are particularly good at leavings. Leavings here are accessorised with cards and mix cds, wee presents and pints. I have felt extremely loved and well sent in the last few days. There’s something deeply comforting in beginning a journey, knowing that there are good people waiting upon your return.
The last season has not been the easiest for me. I’m tired and more than a little weary as I head off for almost two months travelling around the United States to promote Malcolm Orange Disappears and carry out research for my next novel. Emotionally, creatively, spiritually, I’m ready for something new. So I’m officially drawing a line beneath the summer and heading hopefully into the next chapter. I have so many expectations for this trip and so much excitement bubbling up as I stuff every item of black clothing I own into my one small suitcase, (have decided to look authorial throughout my adventures). I’m excited about meeting new creative people. I’ll be keeping record of everyone I meet and if there’s anyone you think I should grab a drink with in any of the towns i’m visiting please do put us in touch. I’m excited about buses and trains and planes and the space for reading afforded by travel. I’m excited to complete the manuscript for Roundabouts on the other side of the world, where I’m hoping distance will give me a fresh perspective on 1980s Northern Ireland. I’m excited to spend time with old friends and heal up in the company of people who know me really well. I’m excited to introduce Malcolm to some Americans. I’m excited for all the new art, music, literature and film I’m going to encounter during my travels. And I am, more than anything, excited to scare myself a little, safe in the knowledge that Belfast and all its good, good people will be waiting for me at the end of October.
I leave on the 7am bus tomorrow and I won’t be back ’til almost Halloween. There will be photos. There will be postcards. There will be almost daily blogs. Keep in touch. Keep me in your thoughts and prayer. Let the adventures begin.