Sunday, 1 May 2016


Newtownards, Albertbridge, Castlereagh, Woodstock, Cregagh, Ravenhill, Ormeau, Malone, Lisburn, Donegall, Falls, Springfield, Shankill, Crumlin, Oldpark, Cliftonville, Antrim, Limestone, Cavehill, York. The spokes of Belfast's rickety wheel.

When you're from Belfast, you identify yourself by your spoke, one of the ancient roads radiating out from the city centre. The Newtownards Road is mine - a ramshackle slope of memories, disappointments and barely visible beauty.

And for many of us, the other spokes are unfamiliar, bordering on foreign. History and circumstance kept us chalking hopscotch on the pavements of our own streets, hurrying straight back home from pocket money sprees in Donegall Place, buying adult houses near our old primary schools.

I was in my forties before I'd walked along the Falls Road, one of the furthest spokes from my own. The City Cemetery was a particularly exciting discovery, and I asked my parents why we'd never been taken there as children. Thoughtless - the reasons were so many and so painful. In an ordinary city, we'd have gone on Sunday afternoon walks there. Belfast wasn't ordinary.

One of my long-term photography projects is my Belfast Street Odyssey. Last weekend, I walked and photographed part of the Falls, from the cemetery down to the Carnegie Library. I compared it to the Newtownards Road. Better views. Prettier nineteenth century buildings. More gaps and waste land. The same urban details that I love finding all over the city. A sense of apprehension giving way to exhilaration and then mainly thinking about whether I might save up for a new lens. Ordinary stuff, as it should be.

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