February 26th 2015 – Botanic Avenue, Belfast
“In Japan,” he says, “they have hair Ninjas in green suits who stalk unnoticed through shampoo commercials, flicking the fringes and throwaway cowlicks of hair models.”
You are unconvinced but compelled to tell us about Japanese Kabuki theatre. “The stage hands are dressed entirely in black,” you say, “and traditionally considered invisible.”
You know all the correct terms, though later I Wikipedia the genre and find you have neglected to mention, “kuroko,” the technical name given to invisible stage hands. Secretly I am pleased to know one thing, in an ocean of infinite facts, which you have yet to learn. You are only twenty two years old. I imagine your mind at forty and forty one, adequate and inconsolable as the British library.
February 27th 2015 – East Belfast
Matt and Dianne Minford
What we talk about when we talk about love:
- The dress you used to fit into and can no longer accomplish.
- Children, grandparents and friends who hover round our peripheries like anxious fruit flies.
- Burial plots, bin days, bills, (electricity, gas, internet insurance – both life and house).
- Former lovers and their wilder lives.
- Saturday night Chinese.
- Things you can write inside a birthday card and honestly mean.
- That one time you stood over your mother for me.
February 28th 2015 – East Belfast
On her fiftieth, for a surprise, Michael arranged to have an entire orchestra perform inside her house. He had not thought this plan through fully. The cellos were cramped inside the kitchen. The violins, stacked one on top of each other, in the downstairs bathroom, could barely raise their bows. And the brass section lost the run of their music in the second bedroom, their faces mirrored back at themselves in polished metal were the faces of small children wakening from a bad dream.
Leading her from one room to the next they could only hear the symphony in thin, disconnected slices. Placing the living room sofa on the front lawn they could finally hear the music in all its fullness but it was, he admitted, an awful lot of hard work for something which would sound better on cd.
March 1st 2015 – Connswater Tesco, East Belfast
There are four medium sized dogs tied to the litterbin outside Connswater Tesco. Two are terriers, the third, a poodle and the final dog, a mongrel of unspecific breed and temperament. It is beginning to rain and, under the mistaken assumption that they have been abandoned, all four dogs are howling at once. The noise of them is children keening, in a barrel. They tug this way and that, leads crossing like maypole ribbons. The second of the terriers is tangled in the first. If they all chose to pull at once, in the same direction, no litterbin in East Belfast would be bold enough to restrain them. They could run away to Newcastle or rush the meat aisle of Tesco, mad for minced beef and pre-packaged cocktail sausages.
March 2nd 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
He had always been deaf in his right ear. By the time their twenty third anniversary rolled round she had grown profoundly deaf in her left. They could just as easily have continued on the same path, never quite understanding each other fully, but he chose to instigate a switch. If she stayed on the right side of the bed/sofa/pavement/pew and he contented himself with the left, they could be the most perfectly pitched and suited couple this side of the Newry border.
March 3rd 2015 – Whiteabbey
Three writers and a much more useful person gathered for a dinner party. They ate aubergines and couscous impregnated with tequila. Like Jesus, they kept the good wine for pudding and bookended their evening with Bob Dylan and cheese so ripe it might have been shoes. There were, of course, anecdotes enough to fill four hours; most humorous, occasionally grim. The three writers could not keep themselves from catching and filing the best of these stories.
“For later use,” they thought, “in poems and slim novellas,” and were, in this instance only, rivals dashing to be first pen over the finishing line.
“There should be a word,” said the useful person, “for calling dibs on a good idea. But then again, there are so many ways to write a good idea.”
He was not even thinking about foreign languages.
March 4th 2015 – Lower Shankill, Belfast
Advice to tourists and non-resident motorists, attempting to drive from one side of West Belfast to the other:-
Leave plenty of time for your journey; a decade should suffice, possibly two.
While the Peace Walls first descended upon Belfast streets in August 1969, predating cellular telephones and those in-car navigational tools now widely available to civilian drivers, and though they have persevered for eighteen years longer than the Berlin Wall, spidering across the cityscape so they could not possibly be missed, even from Space, satellite navigational systems in most cars are still in denial of the Peace Walls’ existence.
Trust your instinct rather than progress; even the most bloody-minded man will not make it through a sheer brick wall.