July 23rd 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
At the end of the year we collected all the concert tickets which had not been claimed and placed them end to end in a line. There were approximately two thousand nine hundred, (an average of six per concert). There were enough of these tickets to circle the parameter of the City Hall twice.
We could be reasonably sure that some of these unclaimed ticket holders had been put off by rain and others had been taken ill, some had died en route to their concert of in the days directly preceding, others had simply lost the inclination to hear live music and were rich enough to afford such waste. We were also certain that at least one of the left behind tickets belonged to someone who had, in the days between booking and claiming their seat, fallen so fastly in love that all previous plans had been forgotten or perhaps obsolete; part of a chapter now closed.
July 24th 2015 – East Belfast
I have stolen my neighbours’ recycling bins on either side. I lifted one on Tuesday morning and the other on the previous Tuesday. I imagine my neighbours returning from work to find their recycling bins missing, moaning about the theft over dinner while using words such as, ‘typical,’ and, ‘you can’t take anything for granted these days.’ Tomorrow they will phone the City Council and demand new recycling bins. They will not for a minute suspect me the thief. I am a good person to live next to. I always smile. I wave from my doorstep when I see my neighbours to either side. I make very little noise. Now I have stolen their recycling bins and gotten away with it I will feel more confident about stealing larger items from my neighbours: wheelie bins, bicycles, small trees, the family car, my neighbor to the right’s husband who has a beard. This has been my intention since I first became a thief.
July 25th 2015 – Enniskillen
The charity shops of Enniskillen are a particularly rich source of wedding hats. Pastel pink and blue and yellow saucer-shaped affairs are circling these shops like lost planets looking for a good place to settle. All the colours of the ice cream spectrum arranged across the windows on mannequin heads and these mannequin heads are without arms or legs or even shoulders but have not seemed to notice their diminished state. They have been designed to bear a hat and are bearing wedding hats, some with low slung veils or flowers, and are therefore smiling. They have not thought to ask for arms or even a necklace with which to disguise the place where their throats run out. No one is buying these hats. This is Enniskillen and everyone knows everyone else. No one will risk the embarrassment of arriving at a wedding in their neighbour’s hat.
July 26th 2015 – Dundonald
Rachel and Tony Ho
The summer you turned three we read the Gruffalo so many times –cover to cover, whilst curled into the side of your bottom bunk- that you could recite the entire book from memory. This did not stop you asking for the Gruffalo every evening between toothpaste and lights out. You did the words and I did the voices: the mouse, the snake, our favourite, the fox, and the Gruffalo himself. Together we made a sort of harmony. We surprised ourselves with the seriousness of it all, as if this was church or some such thing with liturgy.
Now you are five and consider yourself too old for the Gruffalo. You like Frozen, and nail polish, and talking American like a girl you heard on the Disney channel. Tonight I am making you read the Gruffalo. It is a deal for staying up late but you are not best pleased with my book choice. When I start to read you fall into the voices. We are still a sort of harmony and now there is a third strand; a five year old you, funny and quick and already wise enough to appreciate the grace of remembering.
July 27th 2015 – Ulster Hall
This morning it is raining like the sky is a ceiling and this ceiling is leaking and there is not a bucket in the world big enough to catch the drips. We are in a circle with percussion instruments singing songs and making rhythm. Those of us ill-inclined towards tambourines are tapping on the floor with feet and walking sticks. Some wise soul has suggested summer songs, for example: ‘Summer Holiday,’ by Cliff Richard, and, ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ We are doing our best to be enthusiastic. We are singing and shaking and tip tapping the summer into the hardwood floor. It is not catching. We are not believing ourselves. We sing, ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,’ and though this feels like admitting defeat it is much better suited to the pitch of our throats. Perhaps this is something to do with the Northern Irish accent.
July 28th 2015 – Armagh
Armagh has almost as many hills as San Francisco though not quite the same quota of sun hours. Everywhere your car is slipping; backwards, forwards, down a hill, your handbrake too limp to brace itself against gravity. At the bottom of these hills you recall your childhood house and the neighbours across the cul-de-sac who let their children play inside the family car until one afternoon the middle son discovered the handbrake, raised it like a drawbridge, and let the car pitch down the drive through the gates, over pavement, road and pavement, to bury itself, bonnet first, in the front of next door’s house. You see the car clear as you saw it twenty five years ago, peaking like a cartoon mouse through the tiles and crumbling rubble of their downstairs bathroom. Also the screams of adults which were angry screams and only a little concerned.
July 29th 2015 – Armagh
Michelle and Roger Porter
Today you are at a literary festival in a rural, market town. Technically it is a city on account of its two cathedrals. Only the locals call it a city and, when thinking about it honestly without tourists, understand it to be actually a town. There is, after all, not even a proper Marks and Spencer’s here.
A well-known novelist if offering you her son’s hand in marriage. In return she would like a reading and an opportunity to sell her books. The son is thirty two; too old to be still at home, underfoot and nesting. He is, you are told, particularly fond of Belfast girls. You are seriously considering this deal. She is, you remind yourself, a reasonably well-known author. You wonder if you should place something else on the table: money, cake, a pair of she goats, some sort of dowry. This is probably because you are in a rural, market town. In Belfast such transaction do no occur. Many people remain unmarried.