March 12th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
There are two perfectly round blisters on the palm of my right hand. They are five days old now and beginning to peel away from themselves like the onion paper which drops from a just bloomed flower. The blisters interrupt the upward and downward strokes of the creased M which has always been etched into my right, but not my left, hand. They are still raw almost a week after the incident and occasionally bleed. I have always believed that this purpled M striding across my palm from thumb to pinkie, represents marriage. Now, I can no longer recall where this belief came from and the blisters catch on everything I touch.
March 13th 2015 – Dundonald Ice Bowl, Belfast
Urban legends associated with Dundonald Ice Bowl:
- Enormous carnivorous rats are breeding undetected beneath the primary-coloured surface of the Indiana Land ball pool. (Untrue).
- A young girl from Ballybeen was once scalped after her ponytail became inadvertently tangled around the ball feed serving the thirteenth and fourteenth lanes of the ten pin bowling alley. She later died. (Untrue).
- At least half a dozen amateur ice skaters have had their fingers severed by skating strangers incapable of bringing their blades to a timely halt, (Untrue).
- During the winter of 2003 a zealous young youth worker verbally coerced two teenage boys from another youth group on to a coach parked outside the Ice Bowl. She thought they were two of hers. They were all wearing tracksuits. She only discovered her mistake some twenty five minutes later in Newtownards. The teenagers belonged in Coleraine. (Impossible to verify).
March 14th 2015 – Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
James insisted upon writing his novel on an ancient typewriter. It was blue, duck egg blue, and came with its own case. He carted it round town like a first aid kit.
“I can’t stomach computers,” he said. “They make me feel so very removed from the words, as if they don’t exist anywhere properly. Sentences are so much easier to believe in on paper, don’t you think?”
She agreed in principle, and agreed again as they entered the coffee shop and could not concentrate on her crossword when he began clunk, clunk, clicking at the typewriter keys and everyone in the room turned to stare.
“What about using a pen?” she suggested. But pens were not ostentatious enough for James.
March 15th 2015 – St Georges Church of Ireland, Belfast
During the sixteenth century it became common practice for people to return to their mother churches on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Later, this tradition was extended to include servants of all types. For one Sunday per year these hard-working individuals were given grace to be with their own families and hometown congregations. This day became known as Mothering Sunday. Journeying from new home to old, children and young people “in service” would pick wild flowers as gifts for their waiting mothers. The idea of greetings cards had not occurred to them yet, neither had Marks and Spencers’.
March 16th 2015 – Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast
We were not a dog family. We kept chickens for the eggs and, from time to time, a goldfish or two in a cheap, plastic bowl. Neither were we close to any families who did dogs. Consequently all my assumptions about dogs have been drawn from Disney movies and Enid Blyton and those individual dogs –mostly Jack Russells- I’ve encountered, anchored to the Belfast Telegraph sign outside the VG. Therefore, when the yellow dog approached me in the park, its gums exposed, pink as cooked ham slices, also its teeth, I assumed this dog’s mouth to be smiling in a peculiarly doggish fashion and extended a friendly hand, which I still miss and, in missing, regret the fact that we were not a dog family.
March 17th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
St Patrick, returning to Ireland centuries after his last great departure, was horrified to find himself, and not holy God, the centre of attention. The statues he could stomach, even the fool tales of Satan defeated from Slemish mountain and snakes driven belly first back into the sea. But the 17th of March was an ongoing mystery to him. What, Patrick wondered, did Leprechaun hats and endless pints of gloss, black Guinness and bloody green everything, have to do with the sanctification of Ireland? Left to their own devices all the sinful snakes had slithered home, sunk their teeth into Irish soil and held on.
March 18th 2015 – East Belfast
Todd, Joe and Gillian McEvoy
It is a little known fact, rarely alluded to, that the postboxes of East Belfast are connected one to the other by an elaborate network of underground tunnels and chutes. The postmen of East Belfast, despite their hats and luminous jackets, are not real postmen but rather volunteers, employed by the Postal Service, to go from one postbox to another shouting encouraging sentiments through their open-mouthed slots.
“Godspeed you brave envelopes.”
“Keep trucking little postcards.”
“Be not so fear ye bills and payment slips.”
Thus encouraged the post of East Belfast speeds backwards and forwards beneath the pavements, arriving by magic, by sheer force of will, in the letter boxes of Sydenham and Orangefield and Ballyhackamore. In East Belfast postage stamps are a mere formality, like neckties or grace before dinner.