July 16th 2015 – Ballymena
A man on ‘Escape to the Country,’ (which is a television programme featuring couples who wish to relocate from the city to a more rural setting and may or may not actually be called, ‘Country Escape’ or ‘A House in the Country,” or some such nonsense), wishes to buy a house with room for a donkey.
“You can’t just buy one donkey,” he is told. “You need at least two. They don’t cope well alone.”
The man is crestfallen. He only has the savings for one donkey.
“It doesn’t necessarily need to be another donkey,” he is told. “They’ll settle for any creature of a similar size for a friend: small ponies, larger goat, a human being crouching in their field.”
In this sense the house buying man is quite similar to a donkey. Standing shoulder to shoulder it is easy to see that his wife is another species entirely. They hold hands for the cameras, but their eyes are soft and lonely like two strangers coming across each other in the same field.
July 17th 2015 – Linenhall Street, Belfast
The giant, elastic band ball which sits on the counter at reception has begun to disintegrate. Pieces of red and cream rubber are peeling off it like strands of over-cooked spaghetti. Even thus diminished it is still the size of a bowling ball or a turtle.
“How long’s it been here?” we ask the receptionist.
She speculates for a moment but thinks fifteen years at least which is longer than most marriages these days.
“At the heart of it,” she continues, “there is a paperclip and a piece of paper folded up. A lady started it off who is now dead.”
She lets us bounce the ball up and down on the foyer floor. More elastic bands peel off. We wonder what, if anything, is written on that folded up piece of paper. Holding the giant elastic band ball we reminded of meteorites but they are lighter than they look and this is so much heavier.
July 18th 2015 – QFT, Belfast
Carol and Andy Rossborough
Brian Wilson brought dogs into the recording studio and made them bark for the tape, big dogs with sleek legs. It is easy to picture these dogs standing on their hind legs, stretching for the hanging mics as if they were bones or sticks dangling from the studio’s ceiling. At the times people questioned the wisdom of dogs and the various other noises Wilson claimed to be hearing in his head. Even after its release the American listening public would continue to question the wisdom of having dogs on a popular music album. Pet Sounds would not sell well in the States. In Britain, where they still appreciated dogs and visionary art, it would fly off the shelves. This wouldn’t be nearly enough to satisfy Brian Wilson or the various other noises inside his head.
July 19th 2015 – East Belfast
There were two ways of looking at the issue with the window box. Either, she was terribly bad at caring for plants, or if one considered the situation from another, more sympathetic angle, the same plants felt so at ease in her company, they were more than happy to lower their guard and let their worst sides out.
“Like the way you just don’t care how you look around family,” she eventually decided.
This thought was a comfort to her when the leaves browned and began to fall off.
July 20th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
There was once a man who could not keep the Christmas inside him. Though this man did not look particularly festive and bore not even the most fleeting of resemblances to Father Christmas, there was something about him which lit a room up like a string of fairy lights every time he entered. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this man’s appearance, or even his name, which was John, (the most common of all names for a common man), yet the party did feel like it had begun in earnest until he arrived, smiling at the door. When this man grew older, and occasionally forgot himself in public spaces, he could not hold the Christmas still inside himself. He would launch into round of Jingle Bells, even in July, every time he heard a bell chime or a shop door tingling open. Far from irritating people, this man made them smile and remember that Christmas was never more than six months away.
July 21st 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
I am making a robot of myself. It will look exactly like me, only silver. People I know will see the robot of me in Tesco’s or on the bus and will be struck by its resemblance to me, and also its shininess. They will see themselves reflected in its face or on the smooth slope of its back. They will automatically stop to check their hair, tucking wayward strands behind their ears as if the robot of me was a mere mirror, only there for their convenience. The robot of me will not be funny, or write stories, or be good at conversation with wine. I will be particularly careful to ensure it is a dull dinner party guest for fear that my friends might begin to prefer its company over mine. The robot of myself will exist to do things I do not enjoy doing such as tax returns and going to funerals. I will not bother to give the robot of me a name.
July 22nd 2015 – Botanic Avenue, Belfast
When it came to the final number and everyone in the audience was asked to sing along with ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ two people did not know the words. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say, two people only knew the phrase, ‘somewhere over the rainbow,’ and the accompanying melody. During the other sections of the verse and chorus these two people opened and closed their mouths silently in time to the piano. From a distance it was impossible to tell that they were not producing sound, though there was an almost imperceivable time lapse between their jaws and the jaws of those audience members sitting to their left and right. Both these people had had rather disappointing childhoods and this was why they did not know the words to ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ The memory of their disappointing childhoods came back to them as they lip synched and both, without consulting one another, determined not to cry and also to Google the lyrics as soon as they got home.