September 10th 2015 –East Belfast
It is Thursday. It has felt like Thursday for almost a week now. One the news they are saying that Stormont might implode before the weekend. In a country where things have a long-established tendency to explode it is significant that the Northern Irish Assembly is once again on the verge of imploding. Which is to say it may collapse inward violently or, if the second dictionary definition rings truer, it will undergo a catastrophic failure. (It is, of course, possible for one word to embody two dictionary definitions simultaneously). The image evoked is of a building, (Stormont for example), collapsing in upon itself like a block of flats carefully prepared for demolition. The implosion of such a building would have little or no impact on the surrounding areas. What works for building might also hold true for power-sharing collectives. The newscasters are taking no risks though. They have positioned their cameras at some distance. It is, after all, impossible to tell the difference between an implosion and an explosion ‘til the pillars start falling.
September 11th 2015 –Ulster Hall, Belfast
Outside the stage door a man, aged approximately sixty, is sitting in the street. It is raining and the asphalt is damp beneath his legs. He is staring at a parked car, or possibly the wall behind it. People have stopped to see if the man is ok. They are not even being nosy. They are properly concerned.
“Are you ill?” they ask. “Is this some kind of protest.” (Perhaps they are thinking of that old Radiohead video where everyone lies down in the street and it is terribly profound).
But the man is not ill and this is not some kind of protest. He is simply too tired to go any further.
The people are very concerned. They bring the man blankets and coffee in a disposable cup. They arrange traffic cones around him in a circle so passing cars will not drive over his legs. After a few days they stop bringing the man coffee and the no longer stop to ask if he’s feeling any better today. They had not expected the man to go on for so long with his sitting. When, one morning, he is no longer there, they do not even remember to miss him.
September 12th 2015 –East Belfast
I was already thinking when I woke this morning. The thought was a very simple one. Today I must re-read Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.” I did. It was just the ticket.
This was not the first time that art has forced itself upon me. Once I had a vision of God and God said I should buy the Beach Boys’ record, “Pet Sounds,” which I duly did. There is nothing to be gained from ignoring the direct commands of God. (Nb. Noah, Abraham and Cain of Cain and Abel fame). I was around nineteen years of age at the time.
In a Baltimore bookstore, last October, a copy of Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” leapt from the shelf to land at my feet. I felt compelled to read the book immediately and did, in one sitting. Afterwards, I was sure this incident would prove to be in some way prophetic. Perhaps, my family would die and I alone would be left, clinging to the truths outlined in this book as a kind of anchor against the storm. No one died. I didn’t much like the book. Perhaps it had mistaken me for another, more troubled, individual when it leapt from the shelf in Borders.
September 13th 2015 –Ulster Hall, Belfast
The world’s smallest library only stocks one book. This is not due to lack of resources or even censorship. The staff in the world’s smallest library are just extremely discerning when it comes to literature. They believe that there is currently only one book in the world worth reading, although they remain hopeful that, any day now, another might be written.
There is a waiting list of some two thousand men, women and children currently hoping to borrow a book from the world’s smallest library. They pop in periodically and ask politely if the previous sender has returned the book yet. “Unfortunately not,” replies the librarian. This particular lender has been so enamoured with the book that he has amassed over five hundred pounds in overdue book fees. The staff at the world’s smallest library understand why he has done this. It is, after all, a very good book. But they cannot condone his behaviour publicly. They are thinking of ordering in a second copy of their book.
September 14th 2015 –Hillsborough Castle
There are one thousand eight hundred fully grown adults at the Hillsborough Castle Garden Party. This is exactly the same number of fully grown adults who can be admitted to the Ulster Hall for a standing gig, (The Stiff Little Fingers for example, or Train). Though it is raining quite heavily and most of the attendees are huddled together in open-fronted marquees, there appear to be an awful lot more people at the garden party, having a rather dull time. This is not an optical illusion. The garden party goers are not, on average, larger than the gig-goers, neither are they more evenly spread. There appear to be more people at the Hillsborough Castle Garden Party this afternoon because approximately fifty percent of these people are wearing enormous hats, like flying saucers circling for a good place to land.
September 15th 2015 –Ulster Hall, Belfast
When I came back from the shops you were in the garden listening to the trees. When I say you were listening to the trees, I mean you were actually listening to them, resting an upturned whiskey glass against the Sycamore’s trunk like an old school detective eavesdropping through the bedroom wall.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Listening to the trees,” you said.
“What are the trees saying?” I asked.
You shrugged your shoulders sharply and said, “how should I know? I don’t speak tree.”
“What’s the point in listening to them then?”
“It makes the trees feel good to know there’s someone prepared to listen,” you said, “even if that person doesn’t understand them.”
I didn’t have the words to say I know how those tree feel, which wasn’t quite true, because it has been months since you last listened to me, even through a glass.
September 16th 2015 –East Belfast
Yesterday my brother asked me to take some coffee from Belfast to Derry on the train. I was going anyway and it would save him the drive. He left the coffee in a bin on my doorstep. It was waiting for me when I returned home from work. I could smell the burnt soil grind of it from the far end of the street. There was more coffee that I’d been led to believe; a small suitcase worth, stuffed inside carrier bags. I brought it into my house. I invited it in as silly women in books and horror movies will occasionally open their door to Dracula. Overnight the stench of it sunk its teeth into everything: the coffee, the sofa, my hair, your cheese sweating on the counter, the pump-action soap on the bathroom shelf. Everything stunk of coffee. I had no thirst left for it. I wanted the old smells back. I took my brother’s coffee to Derry on the train and as we passed through Bellarina and Castlerock I thought about opening the window and pitching it into the sea. I feared for the ocean though, and its sharp, brine taste.