May 7th 2015 – Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast
William goes to the pictures once a week on Thursday. He is not fussy about which movie he sees though quieter films, or those with subtitles, are usually more effective. He arrives late and sits beside someone, usually a single someone, who looks as if they have been waiting to see this movie all week. During the credits and previews William does a credible impression of an ordinary cinema-goer. However, once the film begins in earnest he really cuts loose. He coughs. He checks the time on his watch, then his mobile phone. He eats noisily. He coughs some more, plays with the zipper on his anorak so it makes the sound of ripped paper. He sighs. (William finds that sighing is the best way to drive his fellow audience members bat crazy). He could not care one jot for the action onscreen. It is the angry, angry people on either side who amuse William; who justify the ticket price.
May 8th 2015 – Limavady
You were born in Northern Ireland in 1980. You are well used to waiting behind parades, idling the engine while line after line of uniformed pipers goosestep past like lost soldier. Tonight a new experience, reading Cormac McCarthy and Raymond Carver and selected excerpts from your own writing whilst outside the Arts Centre window dozens and dozens of drums are keeping their own sweet time and the Lambeg beaters are waddling from one end of the High Street to the other, their drums strapped across their bellies like heavily pregnant women. You must raise your voice to be heard. They haven’t given you a microphone. You choke on the irony of being trapped inside a building where you are giving a lecture entitled, ‘the open road.’
May 9th 2015 – Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
“It is possible to buy guns in Walmart,” she says, “both handguns and different kinds of rifles. You can put them straight into our shopping cart , no questions asked.”
This is Belfast. Everyone has an anecdote on the subject of guns; some are horrendous. He doesn’t join in or pay particular attention. He’s thinking about the other things you can purchase in Walmart, besides guns: toilet bowls and Grandfather clocks and grand pianos. He takes the top of his pint in one dry sip.
“What sort of degenerate buys a grand piano in Walmart?” he thinks. This might be worse than a gun.
May 10th 2015 – East Belfast
The sofa came in a box exactly the same size as the sofa squared. It was made of cardboard. It was too big to fit in the wheelie bin and so they kept it in the living room, fully intending to take it to the dump at the weekend. With the sofa and the box, the room felt companionably full for the first time since Laura had left. For this reason they did not wish to dispose of the box.
They began to leave things on it: letters, paperback novels, the incidental ephemera of their working week. They didn’t keep a designated drawer for these kind of things. Later, they started to store things inside the box: records, vintage crockery, a coffee table they’d found in a car boot sale and couldn’t place properly in any room.
By Christmas the box was too heavy to lift so they kept it. It occupied a good third of their living room. When, in the New Year, Laura returned from Spain and asked about moving back in, there was no space for her.
May 11th 2015 – East Belfast
Something is crying in the third floor bathroom. There are two stalls in this bathroom and the crying thing is in the stall to the left with the door closed. It is crying every Monday just before lunch.
You glance under the stall door. The crying thing does not have feet. It could be standing on the rim of the toilet bowl but this is quite unlikely. (You did this once and slipped in).
You pass chocolate under the stall door. (There is no point offering tissues with so much toilet paper to hand). You think about saying something comforting or even praying. You don’t. The crying thing accepts the chocolate and ceases to be a crying thing.
The part of you which still believes in Christmas tells yourself it was only just hungry. Next Monday something will be crying in the bathroom again. It will come to cost you a fortune in chocolate bars.
May 12th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Times were tight because of austerity and the recession and the way there was no money for anything except shops. The orchestra took advice from their experts and, after considering all available options, decided to become a paper orchestra.
There were advantages to this: money was saved on shipping for the paper Steinway weighed a mere fraction of its wooden counterpart; everything, even the bass could be recycled, (which pleased the environmentalists no end); and books could be folded into violins and piccolos so, if you listened carefully, it was possible to hear individual stories singing between the notes.
The paper orchestra might well have caught on, might even have gone down like a paper house on fire if it wasn’t for the wind section and the brass, who could not hold their spit in, who found themselves disintegrating long before the interval.
May 13th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Observations upon attending the marathon prize giving in a paid capacity:-
- The babies of runners are the size and shape of normal babies. (You had expected them to be stretched like the way toffee goes when it is pulled).
- Everyone is a runner until they are standing still by the buffet table with one of those little vampire sticks in hand, spearing cocktail sausages and chicken nuggets. Then, they are just ordinary people, but thinner.
- The women wear their heels as if their feet are always thinking about trainers.
- There are an above average number of black-haired people present.
- The men were shirts from Next and Burton. They are finely checked and seem to distrust colour.
- No one is running. No one is moving faster than should be expected of an indoors crowd. This disappoints you dreadfully. Especially the three people who are offered the lift and choose to take the stairs instead.