October 29th 2015 – Dundonald
Yesterday, on the bus between Donegal Square and the Holywood Arches, I found a pawn ticket. I looked around for the owner but it was almost eleven and the bus was all but empty. The next day I took the ticket to the pawn shop. It seemed a shame to let a perfectly good, unclaimed something go to waste.
“What’s the ticket for?” I asked the young man who ran the shop. It felt a little like winning a raffle I had not entered.
“Oh,” said the young man, “I’m so glad you’ve come to claim this one, she’s eating us out of house and home.” He went off into the back of the shop and returned with a red-haired girl, approximately the same age as me.
“Here you go,” he said, “she’s all yours,” which would have been the perfect end to a love story if she’d been the kind of red-haired girl I could have fallen in love with, (I was, after all, very single). But, she wasn’t my type. Her hair was orange rather than true red and she had the sort of appetite which requires shovels over spoons.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the young man, “there seems to have been some mistake. I was under the impression that this ticket related to a pocket watch.”
“I’ll throw a watch in, if you take her off my hands,” he replied, but I was already halfway out the door.
October 30th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast
It was impossible to say precisely when he first became Spiderman. One moment he was just a boy in a Spiderman costume, (waiting for his sister, who was being one of the girls from Frozen again this year), the next moment he felt sure that he could shoot actual webs from the point where his hand met his wrist and, if given the opportunity, could swing like a circus monkey, from one high building to the next, suspended on his own fine threads.
“I’m Spiderman,” he told his dad.
His dad grinned like a kept pig and replied, “and I’m Buzz Lightyear,” (which wasn’t true for his dad didn’t even have a space helmet).
“I’m Spiderman,” he told his mum.
His mum patted him gently on the head and said, “look after your sister at the party, Spidey.” She gave him a tiny packet of Haribo from the bowl she was saving for the Trick or Treaters.
He didn’t eat it. He was way too cross to be placated with sweets. He was Spiderman. Later he would climb the tree in the back garden and swing from there, to the shed’s roof. They would all be able to see him clearly in the security lights and they would not be offering him Haribo then.
October 31st 2015 – Hyde Park, London
There are thirty seven individual cartons of UHT milk stacked in three rows beside the kettle. There are only four individually packaged tea bags and four sachets of instant coffee; the possibility of eight hot drinks in total. Eight into thirty seven goes four and a half, almost five. You remember this from Primary School. You round up, call it five, which means the management have estimated that the person staying in this budget, hotel room, overlooking Paddington Station will require five small cartons of UHT milk for every hot beverage he or she consumes. This seems unlikely, as does the possibility that the management assumes some patrons will wish to drink UHT milk neat, like shots of chemical cream tipped straight from their plastic cups into the throat and the stomach below. It seems more likely that previous residents have created this surplus of UHT by drinking their tea black or drinking no tea at all. Now, these little, milkish bullets might never be drunk and this is sad to you, like old people with no place to go at Christmas.
November 1st 2015 – Tate Modern, London
In 1975, the German-based conceptual artist, Rebecca Horn used elasticated bandages and novel-sized rectangles of mirrored glass to turn her entire body, (head withstanding), into a reflective surface. She did this for art. She had previously worn feathers, horns and other extra things, also for art.
Once attached to her arms, her legs and torso the mirrors formed the idea of armour. She could see everything that was coming at her, yet understood that there was no real protection in hiding behind a mirror. Even the smallest bullet or sword, swung correctly, would cause the entire suit to shatter into thousands of mean little shards. She might be killed.
Even without swords of guns she could not protect herself from her own hungry stare refracted, spliced, broken into one hundred separate judgments as it reflected off her limbs. She would not be an artist then. Neither would she be a woman nor man. She would be a kaleidoscope revealing both her best and worst side every time she glanced over her own mirrored shoulder.
November 2nd 2015 –London
We are standing in the last carriage of an almost empty tube train, somewhere between Oxford Circus and Kings Cross. It is a newish train with no partitions between carriages. Looking from one down the body of the train is like looking down a particularly long corridor, (hospitals come to mind and also government offices), except for those twists in the tunnel which cause the farthest end of the train to disappear for a moment or two, reminding us that we are standing in a very long room and, while one end of this room has already arrived, the other end has yet to reach its destination. If dwelt upon for too long this thought is its own kind of endless tunnel. How, we wonder to each other, can one walled space be past and future tense and also simultaneously present?
November 3rd 2015 – King’s Cross, London
“If your drink doesn’t make you happy we’ll make you another,” I read aloud, pointing to the sign above the barista’s head. It’s been there, right behind him, with the toastie machine and the coffee syrups for so long now that he’s forgotten all about it. Occasionally someone refers to the sign when their latte is not as hot as they’d like it to be, or their cappuccino is burnt, but most people are too polite to complain.
Not me! “I finished my coffee and it didn’t make me happy,” I tell the barista.
He asks if it was too hot, too cold, too weak, too strong?
I say, “no, no, no, there’s nothing wrong with this coffee. It just didn’t make me happy. I am still unhappy as I was before drinking this coffee.”
Then, I begin to cry and because the barista does not know what to do he gets the manager. The manager offers me another coffee and a muffin, (with the implication of a free Panini if I’ll just stop crying over the pastry counter). I take their muffin and their free coffee but it doesn’t make me happy. There are only so many free coffees a person can drink before admitting that a hot beverage cannot cure loneliness or grief or general melancholy.
November 4th 2015 – East Belfast
It might have been there for a week or more. Morgan doesn’t look at her hands too closely, especially the left. However, on the first frosty morning of the year, when she went to put her gloves on she discovered that there were six fingers on her left hand now. She knew for certain that the new digit was not her thumb or baby finger, but after this could not say with any certainty which of the remaining fingers was the new one. Morgan thought about making a doctor’s appointment but it was a busy week and an extra finger was hardly life threatening.
The next week there were six fingers on her right hand, then seven on her left and, by the following weekend, a matching seven on the right. She wore mittens and phoned the doctor for an appointment but still could not bring herself to call these four extra fingers an emergency. Emergencies were heart attacks and burst appendixes, severed arteries and the like. The extra fingers were just an inconvenience.
By the time she finally saw her doctor, Morgan had nine extra digits in total arranged across both hands.
“How long have you had these?” the doctor asked.
“A fortnight, maybe more,” she replied. She wanted him to say it was no big deal, no reason to panic; but he didn’t.