April 2nd 2015 – Ballymena
Noah and Katie Locke
Tonight we are examining a family portrait taken to mark the exact moment at which my grandparents’ marriage turned forty. It hangs in the living room, bookended between pictures of previous cats. Note, if you will, the spider plant pedastaled behind the group and recently replaced with a plastic replica. Also my uncle in unfortunate black V-neck, his head floating like a ghost balloon against the dark brown backdrop. My mother, three years younger than my present self, in knee length tartan and blouse, perhaps borrowed from Margaret Thatcher, and my brother with scuffed knees and tight smirk barely concealing his absent front teeth. The carpet, which was all autumnal hues and hexagoned like a dead snakeskin; my hair, which was a helmet, even then. My younger cousin, in white summer frock, her guillotine black bangs already cut for a Chinese future. And, in the centre, like a thing upon which we are all leaning, my grandmother who is now gone.
April 3rd 2015 – Botanic Avenue, Belfast
Here is not quite Ireland proper/is not the Mainland/is certainly not Europe in the continental sense. This is particularly true on the Friday before Easter when alcohol may only be purchased, (legally), between the evening hours of five and eleven.
“Good Friday,” the hard drinking men and women of Belfast are heard to exclaim around about last orders, “tell me what’s so bloody good about it?” (They say this every year as if they’ve only just thought of it).
The average Ulsterman is a stoic breed. Hardened by rain and other damp sorrows he has come to view life’s limits as a challenge.
Good Friday will only be good if he puts the effort in. He begins drinking at five and when the taps tighten against him takes his resolve outside to a bus shelter and consumes six cans of Coors Lite in less than an hour, pausing only to piss it out against a lamppost. By closing time he is a ghost of himself and it is no longer Good Friday and he cannot remember the word for resurrection.
April 4th 2015 – Ballymena
Spare a thought for those individuals currently in possession of a third level qualification in exploring. With no significant land mass left to discover they must settle for rediscovering cities already named and populated, for approaching known islands backwards, (most often in boats), and praying that the polar ice caps will melt revealing a yet-to-be-explored kingdom crouching just beneath the snow.
Many have already become archaeologists. Or, defeated by the mapped universe, some have resorted to the internet.
“While,” they argue, “the discovery of a cyber mountain is nothing in comparison to actual altitude, there is still the possibility of naming rites; the very real possibility of losing one’s self en route.”
They are sad, these would-be-Columbuses, and to be pitied like the dinosaurs in museums.
April 5th 2015 – Ballymena
Margaret watches crime dramas on ITV3: Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Foyle’s War, anything featuring Robson Greene. She drinks tea -several mugs per show- and keeps the remote control on her lap, red LED light turned to eye the screen directly. She watches approximately one hour and forty five minutes of each programme and then, mere seconds before the murderer is revealed, switches her television set off with a quick stab at the remote.
Margaret has her own suspicions and does not require confirmation or denial from any fictitious detective.
“What’s life without a wee bit of mystery?” she says, “sure who’d want to know all the answers?”
Margaret works in software programming. She does the same thing everyday with tea breaks. She is incapable of explaining exactly what she does to anyone outside her office. Sometimes Margaret feels like the world was already solved before she arrived on the scene.
April 6th 2015 – The Frosses
Easter Monday afternoon and everyone in Northern Ireland is attempting to find an isolated and scenic spot in which to eat their sandwiches. It takes two hours and twenty minutes from Ballymena to Portrush by car. For two of these hours you tail a silver Volkswagen. Two Labrador dogs monitor your mounting frustration through the rear window. They look happier than any of the people you pass at five miles per hour and slower. At The Frosses, where you were taught to hold your breath through the tunnel of trees, you decide, for once, not to. It takes thirty five minutes from first tree to last. This is much longer than you remember.
April 7th 2015 – Portrush
Kate Lewis- Mairs
Easter Tuesday and the East Strand has split itself, almost equally, in two. One brave half are realists in combat trouser and zip-up fleeces. They gather their children round a travel rug to eat chips and oily fish, straight from the paper. They carry gloves in their pockets, and hats, should the weather turn nasty. The other half still believe in caravan holidays. They lounge around in Primark shorts and flowery halters, already pinking. At midday they give their children a 99 from the ice cream van and a bottle of Lucozade, strip them to their underwear and send them off to court the North Sea. This is not considered child abuse in these parts though the temperature is just below 20 and tomorrow it will rain.
April 8th 2015 – Bedford Street, Belfast
“Today,” she says, “I saw a small version of you in Starbucks.”
“Small, like a child?” John asks, picturing a three year old with his mustache.
“No, small, like a teaspoon or a hamster,” she replies, “look, I brought it with me to show you.”
She opens her handbag and removes a tiny replica of John, no bigger than a Star Wars figurine. The resemblance is uncanny; even the sweater is perfect.
The small version of John sits itself down. It does not say anything as it studies them both from the living room floor. She is unsure whether it is incapable of speech or simply shy in social settings.
“Can I keep it?” asks John.
“Absolutely not,” she replies and puts the tiny creature back inside her handbag. No good could possibly come of carrying a small version of yourself around town.