October 22nd 2015 – East Belfast
Anthony and Helena Cummings
The Brontosaurus, it turns out, was never a real kind of dinosaur. The archaeologist who discovered the Brontosaurus found the skeleton of one already discovered dinosaur close to the skull of another and, putting two and two together, leapt to the conclusion that he had discovered, (or perhaps invented is a more accurate word), an entirely new breed of dinosaur. He called his creature Brontosaurus, the meaning of which is “thunder lizard,” in Greek.
By 1903 his fake dinosaur had been disproved and yet, by the time I reached Primary 4, in 1988, discovering dinosaurs en route to the Egyptians and those wily Romans, the Brontosaurus was still being taught alongside Triceratops, T-Rex and all their scaly friends. This was a conspiracy of self-delusion. People had grown fond of the Brontosaurus. They read into his lumbering limbs and whalish belly a sort of elderly gentleness, alien to the more spiky dinosaurs. He was soft to them, like rolling hills. They wanted to believe in the Brontosaurus’ existence like they believed in Santa Claus, and Jesus, and Elvis, still alive and singing. They were not prepared to let the facts get between them and a good, true thing.
October 23rd 2015 – Belmont Tower, East Belfast
Dear C.S. Lewis,
You will be disappointed to hear that while I climbed into my wardrobe and went feeling around for the portal to another world, I did not encounter Narnia, only the back of my wardrobe, (which is made of plywood), and some coat hangers jangling together like biscuit tin lids.
Do you suppose my wardrobe is to fault C.S.? It’s only a flat pack one from IKEA. It’s not even that big. Or, was it the absence of fur coats which made all the difference? I keep summer dresses in my wardrobe, cardigans skirts, and the kind of blouses which can’t be folded for fear of wrinkling. These items, when pressed upon, do not part with the same soft, animal shrug. They do not smell like old ladies at the theatre. But no one owns a fur coat for real these days Mr. Lewis. Everyone considers such items, cruel; even the people who can actually afford to buy them.
Besides C.S. Lewis, we both know it wasn’t the wardrobe or the clothes which kept me out of Narnia. I simply did not believe enough.
October 24th 2015 – Ballymena
In the food court of the Tower Centre, (a medium-sized shopping mall built in the town of Ballymena around the beginning of the 1980s), I spot a child of around seven wearing fake tan. It is a female child. I assume this because it has long hair, painted fingernails and flower-shaped earrings hanging from either ear though it is also wearing a grey marl tracksuit equally suitable for both boys and girls. Its mother is also wearing fake tan. I assume that this woman is the child’s mother because she is holding its hand and talking sharply to the child as she marches it past Primark. But, it could just as easily be an abductor of small children. I am shocked to see a seven year old wearing fake tan. I try to tell myself that it is almost Halloween. Perhaps this child is in some kind of fancy dress, (an Oompa Loompa, or one of the characters from The Only Way is Essex). Then I remember that this is the Tower Centre and once I saw a baby here, in a buggy, by the children’s play area, drinking Lucozade from a baby’s bottle.
October 25th 2015 – East Belfast
This morning we have been given an extra hour in bed. Sarah wakes at the normal time. She is not good with change of any kind. She lies in bed, looking at the ceiling and wondering who got to make the decision about this extra hour; possibly the Queen or the Prime Minister; more likely God, who invented time and can therefore give and take extra hours as he sees fit. But the extra hour thing is not in the Bible and so Sarah wonders how people know they have been given this gift hour to lie in bed, or read, or squander on coffee and fancy breakfast. She spends so much time staring at her ceiling and wondering where this extra hour has come from that she does not feel it slipping away from her. When she looks at the clock and sees it is now the time to get up and face last night’s dishes Sarah feels disappointed, as if something has been taken from her, without her consent, which is silly really because it was only ever imaginary time to begin with.
October 26th 2015 – Belfast
At first it was just a smell: a gaseous thing which could be passed through and left behind like the memory of an awkward conversation or a Christmas movie forgotten from one year to the next, recollecting itself gleefully as soon as the opening credits begin. Later, it became a wall, of a brick, of a very solid thing. It punched every time it was approached. It won over other stronger smells, (including air freshener, bleach and the musk, thick fug of old men’s cologne), and held its forms, exactly the shape and space of the North corridor. It left its warm piss stench on everyone attempting to pass from front of house to back.
“It smells like someone died in there,” said the concert goers, and crossed their legs all through the interval and second half, holding their wee for their own home toilets which did not smell of unwashed gutter. Customers and staff began to avoid the North corridor, taking the South from front to back instead, and with this, a little bit of the building died. This was a small taste, or rather smell, of things to come.
October 27th 2015 – Dundonald
The church does not want its children to feel left out but it cannot possibly condone a Halloween party. It considers hosting a harvest party, but this is not America and there is only so much enthusiasm for pumpkin-based products in East Belfast. Eventually the church decides to organize a fancy dress party where every child will come dressed as a Bible character. There will be diluting juice in polystyrene cups, Wotsits in a bowl and, when things really get going, musical chairs. Four boys come as Joseph in stripy bathrobes. There are two Marys, a Samson in his grandmother’s wig, Moses, Solomon and a handful of Wise Men in cardboard crowns.
One child comes as Satan. “He’s definitely in the Bible,” she argues at the door. She is wearing a red jumpsuit, horns and a tail. She is going on to another, proper party after the church party. She does not understand why the minister will not let her take her anorak off.
October 28th 2015 – East Belfast
Home at twenty seven (or older):
- I am the striped school ties, hanging in the wardrobe, (both Primary and Secondary).
- I am vegetable soup and crusty bread on a Wednesday night, (the last supper before the weekly Tesco run).
- I am Casualty on a Saturday, Holby on a Tuesday, and all the conversations we’ll hook on to one or the other or, on a good week, both.
- I am sixteen kinds of awkward in the same bed I slept in at twelve.
- I am the empty bottle of red wine buried at the bottom of the recycling bin in a house which still, even after all this time, cannot stomach strong drink.