April 30th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
When the lights go out you are half way through a guided tour of the North Corridor. You do not have a torch and the luminous glow from your mobile screen isn’t loud enough to cut your path from one end of the gallery to the other.
“Apologies,” you say, as you edge the tourists slowly along the corridor,” if the lights were on you’d be able to see Picassos to your right and Rembrandts to your left, a check-marked Mondrian, hanging just above the fire exit.”
This is entirely untrue. The walls are made of very ordinary paintings painted by very ordinary, local artists.
The tourists shuffle slowly forwards. They are a very hungry caterpillar in transit. Their fingertips stretch outwards as if wishing to brace themselves against the artwork, as if they might read the artwork like framed Braille and find the artwork says, “this is how it is to be blind, always trusting the guide’s word.”
You cannot see if the tourists are smiling in the dark, but you suspect they are.
May 1st 2015 – East Belfast
In the late 1980s the BBC were briefly inundated by phone calls from viewers claiming to see the image of the Virgin Mary, (lying sideways), in the London street map which formed the opening title sequence of the popular soap opera, Eastenders. In recent years no one has claimed to see holy images hidden between the frames of BBC television dramas. Though, if you squint, the River Thames snaking behind the Eastenders’ credits could be taken for a python or a length of unraveled intestine, each of which is holy and sinister in its own way. Also, a lady in Wolverhampton repeatedly calls in to Points of View, complaining that God is singing between the predictions on the Shipping Forecast and his honey milk voice is making her fall asleep behind the wheel. She wishes for the voice of God to be silenced or the programme to be rescheduled at a more convenient time.
May 2nd 2015 – York Street, Belfast
The dance floor was made from Canadian Maple and sprung so it breathed in time with the dancers; up and down as the beat demanded. In the Thirties it was more than willing to accommodate waltz and stiff-backed ballroom, barely breaking a sweat ‘til the GIs descended upon its boards with their big boots and their clattering lust for Jive and Lindy Hop. For almost forty years the dance floor did not discriminate between one foot and the other. It rose and fell with well-polished enthusiasm and, in a city better known for walls than floors, was a remarkable kind of thing to stand on.
May 3rd 2015 – The Hudson Bar, Belfast
The functional poet begins every conversation with a question such as, “how’ve you been?” or, “what is it you do again?” The functional poet owns a blazer but does not always wear a blazer and sometimes watches box sets of the West Wing without searching for allusions to Greek mythology. The functional poet speaks with the voice of a person who has also shopped at Tesco and once holidayed in Lanzarote, (no irony intended). The functional poet keeps between the lines, knows when to go out and when to refrain from mentioning MacNeice, once read a novel from cover to cover and thinks this could well be a habit, has a girlfriend who works in an office or with children or perhaps in an office with children. The functional poet can picture a day when he, or she, will own a car of their own. The functional poet once won a competition in an online journal but hasn’t a hope of making print.
May 4th 2015 – Ballymena
An elderly lady is gathering flowers on the roundabout at the bottom of the Ballymoney Road. You circle the roundabout three times. This does not take long as the roundabout is not much bigger than a paddling pool. Your second instinct is concern. Your first will always be attention to detail. This is the writer in you, also your grandmother.
The lady is wearing trainers and a housecoat of the kind still worn in the more provincial parts of Northern Ireland. She is picking tulips and daffodils and primroses. Due to their endangered status the picking of primroses is considered illegal within the UK.
Someone, you think, might call the police on the elderly lady. This would be no bad thing for it’s rush hour in Ballymena and you’re not sure how she’ll get off the roundabout and home with her arms full of stolen flowers.
May 5th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Today we’re searching for clues in Alexander Hogg’s black and white photographs of 1912 Belfast. We are using magnifying glasses and felt tip pens, post-it notes and our imaginations, which are still dozy from yesterday’s Bank holiday. We are trying to provoke the social conscience in ten year olds.
“Look,” we say, “shoeless children in April, and it the cruelest month. Note the houses like boxes without windows, the pollution, (again the pollution), and each child strong enough, carrying another, as Sinead Morrissey so deftly puts it.”
It’s not like the ten year olds can’t see what we see. It’s just that they are distracted by the novelty of wielding a magnifying glass and the sign for Cadbury’s chocolate enlarging itself behind the lens like a loudspeaker yelling, “look, see, we weren’t so different, even then.”
May 6th 2015 – East Belfast
The photo-shopped novelist has teeth like a toothpaste commercial, skin like the exposed torso of an 1980s Barbie doll. The photo-shopped novelist prefers leaning against exposed brick walls, holds her chin as if it was an overfull teacup, thinks about important things happening just out of shot. The photo-shopped novelist heard on Women’s Hour that you shouldn’t wear dangly earrings, (too distracting, too much of a cliché), and consequently doesn’t. She wears black on all occasions even on holidays and is warmer in her armpits than she’d ever admit. The photo-shopped novelist dreams in black and oh-so-forgiving white, practices holding notebooks with intent and reads Bukowski on the bus for this is easier than telling men to “piss off.” The photo-shopped novelist once saw herself reflected in the window of Top Shop. It was a sunny day. She could not hold her tears in.