Sunday, 26 June 2016

Southside angels

What if "Time" wasn't a tag but a sign that something sublime
Was happening in a place where on the face of it the shine was long gone
Where the map and the flag combine with the past
To cast a shadow so sad you can see hope rejected in every breath drawn?

But maybe just say the unexpected was a portal for the immortal
With the angels in the architecture and the wings torn into a forlorn poster where most of us would just walk on?
If the talk of strange sights wasn't only for the lonely and deranged
But a rent in the veil for us all and a miracle dawn? 

Coolfin Fortuna Egeria Daphne Pandora Euterpe and Thalia
Seven streets seven sisters goddesses muses and all the sweet dirty Southside
Lyrical grime full of legends and yesterdays spent in a ramshackle tale
It might be Time 

Friday, 10 June 2016

Tiny stories 2: Bokeh

Bokeh: points of light, rendered blurry by a lens. Or by memory. 

Until, today, they all come rushing back into focus.

Your mums walk you together to your first day at primary school. You feel important in your check dresses. You both have swishy ponytails, like real ponies. Mrs McManus, your teacher, is waiting at the classroom door. Lara runs up to her and makes her laugh.

You sit at a table with Ellen and Grace. Four solemn faces. A plastic pot with four fat pencils. Four big pieces of paper, blank, ready for you to draw whatever you like. This is going to be perfect.

Ciaran moves into the estate when you're nine. His dad has a fishing boat, like your dad, and sometimes you talk to him down at the harbour. One day he shows you a black and yellow crab his dad caught. You squeal a bit, but really you think it's quite interesting. Ciaran can tell. He gives it to you to keep. 

Lara likes it when you wear the same clothes. Or, even better, mix and match versions of the same clothes. Like when you wear jeans and a pink t-shirt, and she wears pink jeans with a blue t-shirt. Yours are from the factory shop, but she says hardly anyone can tell.

Ciaran asks if you want to go to the cinema in Newtownards with him. His face is all red, even though he is quite tanned and has a lot of freckles. You have to ask your mum, because of lifts, and she dithers a bit. You're very young, she says. But she likes Ciaran, and you're allowed to go. 

You talk to Ciaran all the time at home, but this is weird at first. He doesn't seem like his normal self.

The film turns out to be really frightening, though, and after you let out a scream and he laughs and puts his arm round you, it's all fine. As you leave the cinema, you agree on a much less scary version of the plot that you'll both tell your parents later.

You and Lara do your homework together most week nights. She copies your French and science. She tells you that you would be so pretty if you plucked your eyebrows. She leaps up, vivid and eager, and fetches her mum's tweezers. She'll do it for you. She watches her mum do it all the time. Lara's mum is pretty, so you hold still. It hurts much more than you expected, and it looks quite patchy afterwards. Lara says it'll be gorgeous when the patches grow back in.

You and Ciaran are sitting quietly on the harbour wall. Penny for your thoughts, he says. You were thinking about nothing in particular. You turn towards him and smile. He smiles at the same time, big and bright, and holds your hand tighter.  

It's Lara's idea to have a girls' picnic on the beach. Once the sandwiches and cans are done, you end up lying like four sardines on her granny's rug, sharing secrets and staring out eastwards. 

Sharing secrets is also Lara's idea. Usually you hate this, but somehow the hot hazy exam-weather afternoon and the circling gulls lull your guard down. Ellen and Grace's secrets are stupid things about lifting lipsticks from McCarthy's chemists. Yours is about Ciaran.

You talk slowly, watching a trawler on the horizon. You don't see her face.

Today fast forwards. You catch your breath from time to time, for the peonies on the pew-ends in the church. His jawline, with one tiny shaving cut. Dancing on the dock to Etta James in triple time. Your mum's smiles and her old Chanel perfume, which she keeps for good. Glasses and glasses of Moet and Chandon, like it's raining stars inside your head.

Lara and Ciaran falling, laughing, through the confetti into the turquoise Beetle and driving away from the harbour into married life, tin cans rattling like hell from the back bumper.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Harbour skulks

I've spent a couple of evenings skulking round the peninsula this week. It's been the perfect end to a day spent in an air-conditioned building doing stuff with sound and education and marking exams.

Even driving down the road, with the sunroof open on the old-skool Micra, makes me breathe more easily and kicks my mind into a more creative gear. If it was a film, I'd have something cool playing on my stereo too, but the last thing I need to hear after a day at work is music. Silence, which isn't silence but the hundred sounds of the fields and sea, is what I want.

It's bliss to sit on a bench outside the Portaferry Hotel in the sunshine and eat a bowl of mussels. The guy beside me tells how you can see five castles from here, and you can. Then the hotel minibus pulls up right in front of us, replacing that fairytale panorama with some well-maintained white Renault. Castle guy gives him a comical earful and our view is restored.

Then it's across the cow-parsleyed bends of the Cloughey Road to Portavogie, where the most lovely, most weathered fishing boats rest. Sunday is the best day to find them in harbour, but in the evening you can can often catch them returning from their day's work. 

I spend a while getting nice camera angles on the Crimson Arrow, which is having some work done in the yard. A gentleman approaches and tries to sell me the Crimson Arrow. It belongs to his brother. It's only 48 years old. You can make a great living in prawn fishing these days.

I have a vision of myself in sailor trousers and big sunglasses, lifting pretty prawns out of the Irish Sea in a vintage fishing net, against the background of my very cool faded red trawler. The photographs would be excellent.

At which point the Sapphire Stone sails in and I notice that actual fishermen seem to wear woolly hats, dungarees and rubber boots, and they have paid minimal attention to the styling of their decks while out on the seas. They also seem to have caught a lot more prawns than my intended net would ever manage.

So I reluctantly terminate my negotiations on the Crimson Arrow and wander off to shoot some reflections in the oily water. The light is lovely and there are miles of coastline still to enjoy this evening.