June 18th 2015 – Belfast International Airport
Paddy and Darlene Meskell
Every flight out of the International is delayed. They line up to make their sad, little excuses like children who have not completed last night’s homework. In Glasgow, essential maintenance. In Luton, bad weather and delayed incoming flights from Bristol, (the aeronautical version of it is all someone else’s fault). After an hour the children in buggies begin to fuss and are lifted loose already dressed for bed. A man in a Scottish football shirt takes one too many drinks at the bar and is escorted from the building face first, a security guard hanging off each arm. People complain. On the runway below three brown hares exploit the space usually dominated by passenger planes. They run loops of themselves across the tarmac, bucking and leaping like small gods. They are mocking the humans in their ticketed lines as they wait anxiously to leave this place. The hares knows this evening is perfect, right here in Aldergrove, and anyone’s for the taking.
June 19th 2015 – National Portrait Gallery, London
In the National Portrait Gallery three teenage girls in school uniforms sit cross-legged beneath a video installation of David Beckham, sleeping. David Beckham is naked from the waist up and looks like an actor pretending to sleep for the camera. The girls are “drawing” David Beckhams. They have yet to make a single mark on their A4 sketchpads for staring at him breathing in and elegantly out. Their teacher pauses behind them, leans over, says, “it’s not even proper art.”
David Beckham sleeping is not what should be considered art. Neither, in light of Snowden’s photograph of the young David Bowie, eyeballing the camera in profile, should it be considered properly pornographic. The school girls are too young and screen-sure to understand this.
June 20th 2015 – Royal Academy of Art, London
In 1966 the artist Tom Phillips bought a copy of the little-known Victorian novel, “A Human Document,” tore the text to pieces and using W.H. Mallock’s original text as a canvas of sorts, adapted one page per day with paint and ink and ingenious spaces. Though the words were Mallock’s own entirely. They now read like a stranger’s.
By the early 1970s there were hundreds of these translations, enough to publish a second “Human Document.” It is impossible to say whether this document is less or more than the original or whether Mallock might have set his Victorian sensibilities aside to find the vandalism flattering.
Approximately sixty pages in Philips has blocked and peeled to reveal the words, “children die of the imagination.” It is as if he has cut through the quick of one small novel to reveal the essence of all art ever, and also its appeal. This has been more than a matter of paint.
June 21st 2015 – Oxford Street, London
Yesterday it rained like the sky was broken and could not turn itself off in the usual fashion. On Oxford Street and Covent Garden the tourists slouched across the paving slabs in sandals and summer pumps. Underfoot the street muck pasted itself into a grey, black grease. There was every possibility of an accidental fall.
You did not have an umbrella or, for that matter, socks, and were soon drenched and hiding out in Foyles where it was only polite to purchase books and hope they would not run on the long walk home.
Last night you dreamt of Piccadilly Circus from a great height. All those wet umbrellas circling Eros like black beetles, swarming. Just before you woke the umbrellas became Spanish skirts twirling on Spanish ladies and it was easier to believe London a European city, even in the rain.
June 22nd 2015 –Canary Wharf, London
There are six little boys on the tube between Bow Church and Canary Wharf. Each is wearing a football shirt and a hearing aid clipped to the spot where their ears fold into their scalps like tiny television aerials. They are signing together as they lean against the end of the carriage, fingers flying like individual insects and you do not understand anything except their smiles.
A young lady is with them; a carer of sorts. She hands out Kit Kats, says, “eat them quick boys, before they melt in the heat.”
She uses the wrong kind of words with her mouth and they boys do not hear her. They eat their Kit Kats slowly, smearing their hands and faces; lick the chocolate from their fingers with kitten pink tongues. They are silent as they eat, speaking the universal language of small children and sugar and trains.
June 23rd 2015 –Ulster Hall, Belfast
When I grow up I want to be a player in a paper orchestra. This will be similar to being a player in an ordinary orchestra but, as the instruments are not made of brass or wood or any kind of permanent material, they are extremely affordable. I will be able to become a violinist then, just a few weeks later, a trumpet player, a cellist or even a banger of over-sized drums. Furthermore, the noise made by a paper orchestra is nothing near the racket generated by an everyday orchestra, even in rehearsal. The sound of a paper orchestra is like the memory of a song heard once in passing, or rain behind glass, or the noise human breath will make catching on the inside of a woollen scarf. Paper orchestras are all the more precious because they are disposable; because they are also subject to the subtle shifts of wind and gentle wear.
June 24th 2015 –East Belfast
“Watch this,” said Steve.
He gunned the car’s engine, pumping the accelerator until the noise emerging from beneath the bonnet was a prehistoric rumble like dinosaurs or tectonic plates shifting. He raised his foot from the brake and the car shot forwards past the skeleton frame of Frankie’s rib shack and the old men fishing for crabs with string and the sign where it said, “eight years and older for the Helter Skelter.” We flew free of the pier’s edge and hung for a moment between one blue and the other like a skiff of early morning fog on the ocean’s surface. Then the car skipped once, twice, three times across the waves and we were, for a moment, a skimmed pebble tossed from the hand of some bigger god.
“I thought we’d skim if we went at it fast enough,” said Stevie.
And then the car sank, swallowing his next sentence. He had not previously considered what would happen when we stopped moving.