August 27th 2015 – Ballymena
I am trying to help the doctor. I have read somewhere that the local GP is allocated just 8, (or is it 11?), minutes per consultation with each patient. I am planning to be in and out of the surgery in less than 5. I have always been an overachiever.
“This is where it hurts,” I say, lifting my sweater to reveal the sore spot marked on my ribcage with a felt tip pen.
“I think I am allergic to citrus fruits,” I say, pointing out my face which is swollen from the lime slices I have been sucking in the waiting room.
“I probably have a kidney stone,” I say and hand the doctor a list of my symptoms carefully printed next to a Wikipedia article on kidney stones.
Even though we still have 3 allocated minutes left the doctor does not seem as pleased as I though he’d be. Perhaps I have already done all the best bits of being a doctor. All has left are prescriptions and updating the patients’ notes. A secretary could easily do this. Maybe he is even wondering what he went to medical school for.
August 28th 2015 – Belfast International Airport
Items which have not made it through the security check at Belfast International Airport and are now sitting in a bin behind the X-Ray machine:
- Homemade honey, (one jar, unopened).
- Lucozade Sport, (four bottles, part consumed).
- Three pack of Heinz baked beans, (single serving cans).
- Gardening trowel, (one, mud-encrusted).
- Head and Shoulders shampoo and conditioner in one, (economy sized).
- Novelty handcuffs, (one pair, still in the box).
It is Friday evening. You are flying to Amsterdam. All the signs point towards a plane full of noisy stags and hens.
August 29th 2015 – Amsterdam
In our field we are having a wedding and some cheeseboards, lawn games and chilled white wine proper glasses. The sun is coming down over the flat Dutch lawns and guests are returning to their cars for sweaters and patterned scarves with which to keep their heat in.
Two fields over they are having a rave. They have picked the perfect night for it and the perfect place. There is no one here to bother save the cows and the wedding guests whose happiness cannot be held back by the constant klump and thump of bass drifting down the lane and itching into their conversations like a throat being cleared for attention.
When the whoop of young, dancing voices rises between speeches, the wedding guests do not ignore it. They turn and smile across the table, raising their glasses as if the noise is not an interruption, as if it totally planned. Perhaps they think it is the world letting out its own loud joy.
August 30th 2015 – Amsterdam
This afternoon, in the Vondelpark, it sunned so hard that cyclists dropped from their bikes and stretched out in the damp grass to sweat the last few moments out of the summer. The sun coming from the West burnt our arms, our faces and exposed shins on one side only so we rose from our sleeping and cycled home, glowing slightly, as if we’d been in the presence of God yet kept ourselves at all times, inclined away from him.
Tonight the summer breaks and there is not only rain but also thunder and the sort of lightning which will illuminate a room like a strobe light. Even through curtains and closed eyelids the blink of it goes discoing through our sleep. We wake the next morning ashamed to have once again dreamt of the world’s end. The trees in the Vondelpark are overnight orange yet the sunburn is still stinging on our forearms; a reminder perhaps that the miraculous cannot hold.
August 31st 2015 – Amsterdam
There are eleven black and white images of the photographer Allen Ruppersberg exhibited in a row on the second floor of the Stedelijk Museum. This is one image for each of the letters in the artist’s surname. There are anagrams of his first name printed into each individual frame. The photos were taken in 1973. They depict Ruppersberg emerging, in stages, from being a white wall; now you don’t see him, now you do. By walking backwards across the gallery this could easily become, now you see him etc. etc. The piece is name ‘Nella’ which is the artist’s first name spelt backwards. Perhaps then, this is his preferred approach to art. The museum’s interpretative panel says, “you can ‘read’ the series as a sentence or short story.” The interpretative panel says nothing about which side to begin reading from.
September 1st 2015 – The Limelight, Belfast
Ali and Rhoda Freeburn
For her forty second birthday Stuart bought Jill tickets to a Polyphonic Spree gig. It was ten years since they’d last played Belfast and both Stuart and Jill were looking forward to hearing them again.
“We should wear robes,” suggested Stuart. “That’s what people do at Polyphonic Spree gigs.”
Jill was not convinced, but eventually Stuart’s enthusiasm wore her down. She got the sewing machine out and made two simple choir robes from a set of old sheets.
Stuart and Jill were the only people at the gig in robes, excepting of course the band, (who never left home without them). Jill felt like a right numpty and said so quite loudly so that everyone standing close to them would know that the robes had been Stuart’s idea. Jill had to admit that robes were a lot more cool and comfortable that the jeans she usually wore to gigs, but she would not give Stuart the pleasure of saying this out loud and, all the way home on the bus, complained of the cold and the people staring.
September 2nd 2015 – East Belfast
I am practicing so in the future I will be the kind of professional journalist who is taken seriously by colleagues and members of the public alike. I am almost always carrying a notebook and pen thereby giving the impression that I am keen and ready to capture the next big story. I am performing ordinary tasks such as cereal eating and teeth brushing with a set deadline in mind. This will help me achieve greater efficiency within the time limits afforded to professional journalists. I am asking demanding questions of everyone I meet such as, “were you happy as a child?” (to the girl on the till at Tesco’s), and, “why is your face like that? (to the man who serves me coffee in the morning). I am wearing flat shoes. I am buying a trenchcoat. I am telling myself quite firmly that the truth is the only thing which truly matter. I am practicing hard. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror I no longer see myself. Instead, I see a professional journalist wearing my face.