January 15th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
In 1898, the Belfast-based illustrator Joseph W. Carey was commissioned to paint a series of thirteen oil paintings. “These paintings,” he was instructed, “should look best when viewed from a distance, through a fog of cigarette smoke.
Insulted, but incapable of refusing a well-paid job, Carey painted one dozen scenes of a fading city and a thirteenth, depicting the toll road to Dublin, snow-covered. On the right edge of this canvas –invisible at any distance- he added a coiled fist, the sleeve and trailing shoulder of a man who’d already turned his back on Belfast; a man with eyes for other, more honest cities.
January 16th 2015 – Ormeau Road, Belfast
Between the years of 1981 and 1982, almost 10,000 DeLorean cars were manufactured in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland. While it was later proven that these cars could trip the space time continuum, scuttling between pasts and reasonably distant futures, they were not without their problems. Entire sections of East Belfast, blessed as they were with streets no wider than an average pavement, became no-go areas for local DeLorean owners. Those foolhardy few – racing boy Billy’s and Kevin’s with an eye for the ladies- found themselves wedged between the terraces, one winged door jammed against an odd house, the other against an unyielding even like some great metallic chicken, caught in the notion of flight.
January 17th 2015 – Linenhall Street, Belfast
On Linenhall Street it is beginning to snow. This same snow has been beginning for three days now. Like shampoo scum it settles on the wet slabs, damps and disappears before it could be called a blanket or even dusting sheet. A child of around five years has raised its head to the sky. It lingers, open-mouthed, outside the breast-screening clinic. It is expectant as any disciple. Five individual snow drops descend and melt on to its outstretched tongue. It is pinker than any child should be. Beneath the hat and hood and woolen clothing it is boy or perhaps girl. The passing stranger is not privy to gender nor the hymns which come whittling out of that cold little mouth in Polish or perhaps Romanian.
January 18th 2015 – Botanic Avenue, Belfast
In the window of Oxfam a volunteer is undressing a red-haired mannequin. Embarrassed, or perhaps complicit, she looks upwards to the right, eyes blued aquarium blue. Her mouth is beginning to peel.
The volunteer lifts her dress gently, slips it over the place where the leg section slots into her torso. A gap the size of an HB pencil circles her hips like a low slung belt and he is careful not to upset her further. Upwards then, over a navel-less belly, breasts set and coloured like two free range eggs.
“Easy does it,” he says, as he begins to negotiate her neck.
Even through the glass you can see he’s enjoying every awkward second of this until her arms unlock, coming away in his hands like a semi-detached hug
January 19th 2015 – East Belfast
During the final week of winter all talk of the weather was banned. We were beside ourselves with the cold and the constant discussion of it. The wind was all we had in common, and the snow, which we hoped and dreaded in equal measure. We felt quietly jealous of those who lived in higher places where the white could linger deep and undisturbed for a week or more.
“Let’s talk about something else for a change,” we said. “Art or football or all the shouting up at Stormont,” and in the end could not agree upon a single topic and like errant alcoholics slipped back to the old ways: the rain, the snow, the universal wind.
January 20th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Last year, for Halloween, our children were Lego men. My wife found a template on Pinterest and spent hours in the spare room with scissors and taping. Once costumed it was almost impossible to tell the older child from the younger for she’d given them matching yellow shoeboxes as arms and legs, claws for hands, and a perfectly squared Ikea bag in lieu of a torso. From a distance they were indistinguishable ; equally easy, or perhaps difficult, to love. At five feet I could tell the younger by the way he held his arms, indecisively, like a dropped stitch. I could not remember how his face was and wondered if there was anything to be argued for keeping that sun-faced helmet on all year round.
January 21st 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
The chairs left easily and the desks, with some tight cornering, followed after. The people, though reluctant, were easy, for they had legs and on the end of these legs, feet, for stepping. Pens, paper, staplers and sellotape dispensers were hardly worth noting for they left as they’d first arrived, unassuming like the first sleight blush of a snowstorm. The stationary cupboard would not fit through the door. We stood at a distance admiring its stout rebellion, commiserating, (though we did not mean it), with the movers as they shoved and forced and tore shrewd chunks from the doorframe.