There was once a man who laminated his wife. It was a dreadful nuisance squeezing her, toes first, through the thin mouth of the laminating machine. However, by the time her knees disappeared momentum had caught hold and the upper two thirds of her body were relatively easy to process. The man laminated his wife in her wedding dress for this was how he liked to remember her first thing in the morning and whilst separated from her on European business trips.
There were, the man soon discovered, downsides to laminating your wife. She had not survived the process. Her dress had frozen, plastic solid, in most undignified arrangement. The laminating sheets had cost the man a clean fortune. However, he consoled himself with the knowledge that his wife was now wipe-clean and easy to maintain as a Tupperware lunch box.
March 6th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
George and Georgina Allen
The militant suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst was, amongst many things, an accomplished artist. Trained at the Manchester Municipal College of Art she designed badges, banners and flyers for the Women’s Social and Political Union. Her paintings often depicted women at work in the home and commercial work place. Even whilst incarcerated, Pankhurst found time to sketch her fellow suffragettes in the most dreadful conditions.
Pankhurst’s artistic career was cut short by her political activities.
In 1914 the First World War began. Sylvia Pankhurst was thirty two and rarely painting. In March of the same year Mary Richardson entered the National Gallery and slashed the Rokeby Venus six times with a chopper. She hoped to draw attention to the Suffragettes’ cause.
This act must have seemed nothing short of self-harm to the young Sylvia Pankhurst.
March 7th 2015 – Royal Avenue, Belfast
Having afternoon coffee with a young lady who once spent a summer guiding tourists and belligerent scouts around the butterfly enclosure at the Smithsonian, you discover a number of things you did not previously know.
Emerging from its cocoon the butterfly must spend a short period of time hanging upside down as various chemicals descend from one end of its furled body to the other, allowing the wings to harden in anticipation of flight. Butterflies which cannot or will not wait to acclimatize to the outside world will be permanently deformed.
Two butterflies upon finding each other on a wall or branch will appear heart-shaped during the mating process.
The world outside the cocoon is a kind and cruel place.
March 8th 2015 – East Belfast
It was not a complicated murder and Miss Marple had nailed perpetrator, method and motive within half an hour. She said nothing to any of her fellow characters, even the young lady who had become her particular confidante. She was well aware that the viewing public expected a further hour and ten minutes of subterfuge and clipped musing before the suspects could be gathered in a 1950s living room, and enlightened.
(She’d taken the liberty of subtracting the time now devoted to television advertising breaks).
Miss Marple was not perturbed by the wait. She held her revelation like a clutch handbag and relished every glass of sherry, every cream tea and matchmaking opportunity afforded by a feature length episode.
After the second series she’d begun to see patterns emerging within Christie’s plot lines, to suspect there were only so many way to commit an English murder.
March 9th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
After her children had grown and left home with the expressed intention of acquiring children all of their own, the old lady began to find the shoe a little empty. Where she’d once loved the novelty of living inside a house shaped like an old-fashioned brogue she now felt foolish and overly aware of the neighbours, staring each time she unlaced her windows. At the ripe old age of seventy two she put her shoe up for sale and moved into a two bedroom semi on the edge of town. This new home smelt of cleanliness and double-glazed windows. The old woman missed the fleshy stench of damp leather and the floor which had sprung underfoot like an air-conditioned sole. When the children came to visit, dragging with them their own reluctant children, there was nowhere to put them all. The old woman complained about the nuisance and secretly relished the familiar pleasure of so many children, and not knowing what to do.
March 10th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
During her lunch break she bought a handful of unopened daffodils and slipped them free of the elastic band which bunched them together like hair or common vegetables. She placed the daffodils, feet first, in a bottle of Ballygowan water and set it on her desk by the printer.
Even after a week they had not opened or yellowed slightly. At first she blamed the air conditioning and then wondered if she’d bought a trick of broken daffodils; if perhaps they were shy or scared to open their mouths in public. At last she decided that spring was not scheduled for Belfast this year, and summer might also go missing. In a sullen rage she binned the daffodils. She had never quite come to terms with winter.
March 11th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
“I’m not going in there,” she says, and takes the stairs.
She has had a righteous distrust of elevators since the lift at the Mater, (to rhyme with latter, not later), hesitated between first and second floors. Temporarily incapable of either gravity or progress it hung there for one hour and forty minutes. She was in the back left corner by the buttons.
The doors wedged open on the second floor revealed a slice of shoes and trousered ankles and on the first, a similar slice of foreheads and feared eyes, peeking over the lift’s edge like meercats or trench-time soldiers. No one, praise God, was imminently pregnant; no one prone to turns.
“But there were ten of us in there, jammed together like sardines,” she says, “and the heat nearly done for us.”