January 22nd 2015 – Belfast International Airport, Aldergrove
A man in the line for Edinburgh has three inflatable worlds in a plastic bag. He is stopped at the departure gate by an Easyjet representative.
“What have you got in the bag?” she asks. It is seven am, too early for lipstick, but she is wearing a thick gash of it; fire blood red
“Three worlds,” he replies, and removes them one at a time, clamping them between his feet, for the world is shaped like a soccer ball and inclined to roll if permitted to do so.
“One item of hand luggage only,” she states mechanically, already eyeing up the next offender.
The man proceeds to demonstrate how, with great determinations and a little pressure, the world, (and all those back up worlds to come), can be contained within an overhead luggage locker.
January 23rd 2015 – Edinburgh
All the lonely artists have gathered in the basement for the spring mixer. Each has come alone for they are, by nature, solitary beings, preferring the company of easels and chalkboards and modelling clay to actual other people. Kathy stands to the side hunching over a radiator as she clutches a gin and tonic. She is unsure how to begin a conversation which cannot be rendered in acrylic. Francois, overdressed in a black belt tie and shirt, feels naked, wishes he’d accessorized with a paintbrush. And in the corner by the sandwiches, Patrick cradles a plateful of cheese and pickle and wonders when it will be acceptable to dispense with the niceties and begin sketching each of the attendees in nervous biro.
January 24th 2015 – Edinburgh
Portobello beaches hesitates between blue and deeper blue. The cold is clawing through our coats.
We pause on the threshold of the Amusement Arcade, removing scarves and hats and home-knit mittens, still vinegar sharp from this afternoon’s chips.
We read, “the Golden Rules of playing Fruit Machines,” etched like a last ditch disclaimer on the glass between beachfront and all those blinking lights. “Playing machines is buying fun, not investing money.”
This is fun, we tell ourselves, wasting three pounds, ten five on the two p machines; still fun as we swap our hard-earned tokens for a single packet of Parma Violets; an investment of sorts to admit this 3D picture of Elvis Presley has cost us fifty pounds worth of two pence pieces, an entire weekend indoors.
January 25th 2015 – Edinburgh
In 2004, working primarily in pencil and ink, the Scottish-born artist, Charles Avery began an ambitious project entitled, “The Islanders.” The natives of Avery’s fictional island are known as The If’en and enjoy their own peculiar customs, gods and culinary habits, entirely distinct from regular Scots folk.
“View of the Port” (completed 2010), is amongst Avery’s largest pieces. Measuring over five metres in width, it depicts the bustling port of Onomatopoeia. Central to the scene a stout man appears, arguing with a well-dressed lady. His shirt is printed with the slogan, “I counted the gods and they are finite,” or perhaps, “I counted the gods and they are infinite.” Interpretation depends entirely upon what hides behind the parted curtains of the man’s jacket.
From the artist’s perspective both fears seem equally probable.
January 26th 2015 – Edinburgh
There are four thousand seven hundred and ten individual names printed on the stairwell of the Scottish National Museum of Modern Art. These names represent every person, the artist Douglas Gordon can remember meeting. Damien Hirst is up there, also Bono, and a number of imminent artists from here and foreign places.
Four thousand seven hundred and ten individual names yet the eye falls first on a boy you once knew in Sunday School and you are unsure if this name is common or evidence of a man who managed to slip his hometown skin for long enough to be remembered.
January 27th 2015 – East Belfast
Most mornings now a human statue boards my bus at the corner of the Holywood Road. Usually he is Napolean, occasionally when the weather is more inclined towards togas, Julius Caesar. Beneath his concrete pallor it is impossible to guess his age, ethnicity or political affiliations. He carries his lunch in a Family Circle biscuit tin. He is no more nor less still that the average commuter. However, when he pauses before sitting to lay a Sainsbury’s bag across his seat –protecting the bus’s mottled upholstery from his own painted backside- he is statuesque like a Saint or a Matador casting his cape in the air conditioned wind.
January 28th 2015 – Connswater Tesco, East Belfast
There are tiny mythical creatures living behind the muesli boxes in the cereal aisle of Connswater Tesco. Confident that their cover will never be blown in a supermarket which does not stock couscous, avocados or fresh herbs of any kind, they have been hanging out behind the raisin bran for years, watching the slow parade of trolleys and senior citizens and pajama trousered teens deliberate between coco pops and crunch nut.
At night, when the store falls silent, they sing their mythical hymns and play bingo with the cornflakes, and recount legendary tales of their brave offspring who ventured past the check out girl and through the electric doors and into East Belfast proper, hidden beneath the polystyrene base of an oven bake pizza.