September 3rd 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
It was fun pretending to be something you weren’t. On Monday Stephen dressed up as a lollipop man and escorted children, in twos and tired threes, from the Primary School gates, across the main road, to the park. On Tuesday he dressed up as a traffic warden and walked up and down Linenhall Street attaching Post-It notes to car windscreens as if they were actual parking tickets. A man in a Fiesta yelled at him, calling him all sorts of bad names, one of which was lunatic. Stephen didn’t really mind. He enjoyed the feeling of wearing a hat. On Wednesday he dressed up as an ambulance man. The modern name for this is paramedic. Stephen did not know this word and also did not know what to do when an old man had a heart attack outside Boots the Chemist. People were looking at him like he could help. But he couldn’t. Stephen was only pretending to be an ambulance man and he didn’t feel like pretending anymore.
September 4th 2015 – Botanic Avenue, Belfast
I am writing a new story which was meant to be about Bob Dylan though it would have been carefully disguised so very few people could have recognized him; only people who know him personally such as his children and next door neighbours. Instead, this story has turned itself into a very different story about a ghost baby who lives under the table, making mountains from other people’s breadcrumbs.
I am telling you about my new story in the dark outside the cinema. I am being particularly careful to emphasise the fact that it is not a ghost story, (like The Others starring Nicole Kidman, for example). It is just a story about a normal family who have a ghost instead of a son.
“I slept in a room with a ghost once,” you say. “I was only a baby at the time. It didn’t bother me at all.”
I have not asked you to say this. Hearing this makes me feel like something has clenched inside my spine. I know my story will not have a happy ending now. I think I might start it over again and stick with Bob Dylan this time.
September 5th 2015 – Knocknagoney Tesco, Belfast
It is much easier to shoplift than you might think. Supposing, for example, an afternoon work meeting runs over and you have no time to prepare a proper dinner and there is nothing of substance in the cupboards. You might well run into Tesco on the way home from work, in search of a quick and easy meal. Whilst there you might pick up a frozen pizza and, for accompaniment, some garlic bread. You would not have taken the time to lift a basket and so you’d clutch the pizza against your chest, leaving a damp patch on your blouse, (the garlic bread, you’d tuck snugly beneath your armpit). Supposing you bumped into an old friend in the frozen section and you got talking and walked with her to the front of the store, you might well leave the building without paying for your dinner. You would then be shoplifting. But you wouldn’t be a truly bad person until you actually ate the pizza.
September 6th 2015 – East Belfast
After the success of his ground-breaking play, Dancing at Lughnasa, the Irish playwright, Brian Friel decided to begin work on a sequel. This play was to be known as Dancing at Lufthansa. It would revolve around five impoverished Irish sisters sharing childhood reminiscences, worries and laughs whilst confined within a mid-sized commercial aircraft for approximately one month. Friel immediately encountered problems. The purists thought the dialogue should be delivered in German while the dancing part of the play was almost impossible to stage inside an airplane; the seats were too close together and the low ceilings, with their overhead lockers made the high kicks impossible. Eventually Friel scrapped the idea of a sequel and wrote an entirely different play about Irish people and the things which interest Irish people.
September 7th 2015 – Belmont Road, East Belfast
There are two pigeons sitting on top of the Post office sign. One is slightly larger than the other on account of its huffed up feathers. It looks as angry as a pigeon can look.
A noise is coming from behind the Post Office sign. Three, or maybe four, baby pigeons seem to be stuck down there. The situation is not ideal and they are saying so quite loudly in pigeon language.
You stand beneath the Post Office sign for a good minute staring at the slightly larger pigeon as it becomes more and more distraught. You assume this pigeon to be the mother, and the smaller pigeon to the father who is now in the doghouse on account of building the family’s nest inside a Post Office sign when an ordinary tree or chimney would have been more than adequate. You think about helping the pigeons but your coffee is getting cold and there is little to be done without a ladder.
September 8th 2015 –East Belfast
On the fourth of January, 1954 a young Elvis Presley walks into a small recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee and pays four dollars of his own money to record two songs. He is eighteen years old. It is warm in Memphis, almost hot, despite the fact that this is winter.
In the same year Francoise Sagan walks into a small publishing house in Paris, France and submits her debut novel, Bonjour Tristess for consideration. She is also eighteen years old. In Paris, it is cold and Sagan wears a coat, possibly also a scarf.
Both events are well-documented because, with time, they will come to seem remarkably significant. Perhaps, in other parts of the world other eighteen year olds are spending the fourth of January, 1954 choreographing dance routines and writing operas or painting enormous canvases with oils and pastels only to find their work does not take. It is not as brave or bold as Presley’s or Sagan’s, or perhaps it is simply not of its time.
September 9th 2015 –East Belfast
When I wake up tomorrow morning I will be French.
I am telling myself this over and over again as I fall asleep in the same way that despairing people will tell themselves, “everything will look better in the morning,” or, “tomorrow’s a brand new day.”
I am not expecting to look French in the morning. Neither am I anticipating the ability to speak French fluently like a native child, (though in my mind I will be running French subtitles and these imaginary subtitles will be spoken aloud by the voice of Eric Cantona).
When I wake tomorrow I will only be French inside. You will not notice the change in me unless you are paying particular attention to the way a common curse word will now sound like poetry or warm honey on my tongue, or the way I will be glowing slightly when I talk, as if I have swallowed a desk lamp, or the confidence now climbing out me when I walk, or the way I wearing scarves now, casually, with everything.