Saturday, 21 November 2015


This morning at a quarter to eight I was bundling along High Street, wrapped for the Siberian weather. My Aran hat was angled for comfort rather than style, like Mary Ann McCracken's bonnet. I was wearing two scarves.

This was a triumph of self-discipline from a woman who prefers not to see daylight before nine, though she is forced to do so five days a week by the need to earn an honest living. But last night I attended a talk on the photography of Father Francis Browne, most famous for his images taken on board the Titanic. If Father Browne could sail on doomed ships, become the most decorated non-combatant in the First World War, fly planes as an old man and never complain about the lingering effects of mustard gas, all the while taking beautifully composed photographs of compelling social interest, perhaps I could rise from my blankets to shoot the city sunrise in the darkest quarter of the year.

I was half hoping I'd come upon something amazing. A picturesque old man in a hat emerging backlit from Crown Entry. A couple kissing under the skeleton trees on Donegall Street. A rufty-tufty little dog posing outside a mildly seedy shop in Smithfield. Some beautiful reward for my iron will, anyway.

Those things didn't happen.

The light, however, was worth the effort. The night-time lights, like the quadruplet faces of the Albert Clock, were pretty against the pale purple sky. The Cathedral Quarter warrens were dark but washed clean, with puffs of steam highlighting the brick walls. Then, passing the end of scruffy North Street, I saw the first glow of sunrise. And emerging onto Donegall Place, my heart lifted as the taller east-facing buildings were suddenly lit with pink and gold. The stopped clock of the Bank of Ireland glowed.

It didn't last. The rain come on, as it does here. 

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