August 20th 2015 – Bangor
During the night the edges of the town unpicked themselves like a long row of dropped stitches. Soon there was nothing more substantial than tree roots and a solitary garden fence binding the town to the rest of the Mainland. Around about 3 o’clock a large gust of wind came whipping down High Street, across the Marina and far out to sea. The town was tempted to follow and, with nothing in particular holding it back, unloosed those last few anchors and floated off into the night. For an hour or so the lights could still be seen like the first muted blush of sunrise, creeping across the horizon. In time this disappeared, as did the memory of the town, (which hadn’t been as popular of late, as in its heyday, during the 1960s). There was a beach now where the town had slipped free and most people thought it a vast improvement. Waking the following morning, the townsfolk were quite happy to be free of the Mainland for they had always wished to be an island by themselves.
August 21st 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Every time something terrible happened, (and terrible things were happening with increasing frequency), Jim went straight to the book store and bought a book: mostly novels, occasionally poetry collections, once a hard-backed cookery book because the cover looked good enough to eat. Having bought a book, Jim felt instantly calmer but this calmness hardly had time to settle before a dreadful panic seized him and he began to wonder how he would ever have time to read all these books. Still, Jim bought books and piled them in towering stacks around his bed, hoping there would soon be a time for reading. By the time the truly terrible thing finally happened, Jim’s bed was entirely encased in books. He crawled inside. It was like a house in there and smelt of paper. He breathed in and out, drawing in the dry scent of unread words. He felt safer than he might have felt without books.
August 22nd 2015 – Ballymena
The last time I visited my regular hairdresser for a haircut she was not available. The girl at reception offered me an appointment with Simone instead. Simone came highly recommended.
“You see that,” said the receptionist, pointing at a haircut photo in the window, “Simon done that one, and all the photos in the toilet.”
“Alright,” I said, but I was nervous, and grew more nervous when Simone appeared at my chair and it was clear from the way her eyes hung and the very definite way in which she grasped my shoulders, that she was blind.
“She’s blind,” I mouthed to the receptionist.
The receptionist smiled and thumbs upped me from across the room.
“Have you been a hairdressers for long?” I asked, and Simon replied, “yes,” as she was feeling around the bench for scissors.
I did not believe her, but I could not say this out loud.
Instead, I said, “I’ve double booked myself. Sorry, I should be at the dentists right now.” I held my jaw like I had a toothache, but of course Simone could not see this. Afterwards I felt bad. She must have known I was lying about the dentist.
August 23rd 2015 – QFT Belfast
There are six boys living in an apartment in the Lower East Side. You are watching a documentary about them. They are steps and stairs from twelve years old to about nineteen and have long, dark hair, poker straight like the man from Extreme who sang, ‘More Than Words.’ It is difficult to tell one brother from the next, though one has shaved his eyebrows off and you remember him. Their father has taken the front door key so they cannot leave the apartment. This continues for years, almost two decades. The boys watch movies constantly and, when the watching is not enough, they begin to film their own versions of their favourite movies with elaborate home made costumes. You wonder if you are a bad person because you spend the entire documentary wondering where the boys got the materials for their elaborate costumes. Surely, there are bigger questions on the table.
August 24th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
When you were seven years old your mother took you to visit Santa at the old Co-Op building on York Street. In those days Santa’s Grotto was located on the top floor of the department store, in a room better known as the Orpheus Ballroom where Belfast’s young couples danced of a Saturday or Friday evening, sipping non-alcoholic minerals through paper straws.
Santa gave you a plastic plant in a plastic tub. Your sister received a set of jam jar covers in red and white gingham. She was five years old and far too young for boiling fruit.
You wanted to complain about the in-store Santa. You had no idea what could be done with a plastic pot plant. You didn’t complain, for the real Santa might find out and think you ungrateful.
Later, you wondered if the Co-Op were having an early spring clean; passing off unsold trifles as presents; hoping the boys and girls of Belfast would keep the giftwrap on ‘til Christmas morning.
August 25th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
Things I am not allergic to which sometimes provoke a physical reaction:
- Very sharp cheese
- The sound of a smoke alarm when it is almost out of batteries
- People walking two or more abreast on a pavement
- People stopping suddenly whilst walking on a pavement
- People walking on a pavement in a meandering fashion, flitting from one side of the pavement to the other as if drunk
- Freddy Mercury’s mouth
- People who insist upon making you dance when you are quite happy watching other people dance
- Edible items with a floury consistency such as peas, beans and improperly cooked parsnips
- Fiction aimed primarily at Young Adults.
August 26th 2015 – Ballymena
One month we decided to watch every episode of the X Files in existence. This was before Netflix. Boxed sets of each series could be rented from the video store next to the nail place for three nights at a time. Three nights was not enough time to watch an entire series of the X Files for we were, at the time, reasonably functional people with jobs, friends, and standard sleeping patterns. We watched each episode on 1.3 time. This was a compromise. Instead of 50 minutes an episode now required only 35 minutes of our time. And, if Scully seemed to be talking a little too fast, trundling through her conversations like an eager chipmunk, we were all but oblivious, our minds assuming her to be one of those motor-mouthed Americans until, ten years later, there she was in The Fall, annunciating every word slowly, slowly, slowly like a person speaking in the their second language.