Thursday, August 06, 2009

Belfast Walk

I decided to go for a walk up Black Mountain and Divis today. The morning was damp but the afternoon was bright.

But when I got the entrance on the Upper Springfield Road, it was full of young fellas drinking and sniffing glue. There were about twenty of them up above me in the foothills, eyeing me warily. They didn't look too friendly.

So I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and retreated. It’s a bit lonesome up in the hills by yourself. You're right at the very edge of town, amidst old farms and country lanes. In that space, no-one can hear you scream. Plus as a protestant boy, I still have that old feeling that I've got a Union jack tattooed on my head in such areas. I felt more than a bit paranoid, maybe a bit paranoid.

I walked all the way all the way back into the city instead, through Whiterock and onto the Falls, past Divis and right into the heart of Belfast along Castle Street. That would have made me pretty paranoid too a few years ago, but not now. West Belfast is full of tourists, and I felt like one myself, eyeing the murals commemorating the fading dead and the bilingual, or sometimes monolingual signs. The area is supposed to be one of the largest Gaeltachts in Ireland, and it cetainly feels that way. I don't how much the language gets used day to day, but I passed the búistéir and dochtúir and lots of siopa. Nearly every shop sign is in both Irish and English, or sometimes just Irish alone, so I had to peer in through the window to discover what they were selling.

I didn't take photos of the murals. There's loads of them on google anyway. I was saddened by the loss of life depicted up there on the walls. I wish Bobby Sands had lived longer, not because of his politics, but because he was a great songwriter and his death was so pointless. As well as the great 'Back home in Derry' a song of transportation played by every folkie pub band on these shores and beyond, he wrote the even better 'McElhatton.' It's a fantastic song about a legendary poteen maker and his magical brew.

Then there's Pat Finucane, looking serious and businesslike with a phone on his ear, talking to one of his clients. Some people say he was a bad man, and in it up to his eyeballs. But he has such a determined and pleasant demeanour up there on the gable wall. If I was in court I'd want him defending me.

Oh, g'wan then here's a pic, not mine.

There's also a newly minted mural regarding the harassment of the Roma people in South Belfast. It's quite effective:

I did take one or two photos myself. I didn't fancy walking through the City cemetery, as it also had quite a few young fellas drinking carryouts in plastic bags; there were a couple of charming young fellas swigging in the branches of a tree with a pit bull-like animal playing about below. So rather than walk through it, I stuck my camera over the wall and took some pics of the Jewish cemetery at the boundary:

There used to be a small Jewish community, based in north Belfast. Most of them were
merchants based around the shipping and weaving industries. They've all left now. My granny worked as a housekeeper at one of their houses for a while. I think that's why she liked reading books by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The graves above used to be covered by a small Tahara, or synagogue, but this was sadly destroyed by vandals in the 1970s.

The only other photo I took was this:

Barbering and football, strange bedfellows.

Click on the pics to view them properly, though you're not missing much as they are :)

Gym Junkies

I've been putting on weight again via the pushing of heavy weights, round about 2kg in a month. I might get that down again. I've done a straw poll of my female friends and their abhorrence of muscle-bound numpties has made me realise that isn 't the way to go.

Not that I'm one of them, but I am a gym junkie, and you have to careful not to get too obsessed. One minute you're spending half an hour light exercise on a variety of machines; next you're injecting steroids into your groin, walking round like 'The Terminator' with your eyeballs popping out and making horrible grunting noises while pressing massive big feck-off barbells.

It's not a good look. Luckily I'm tall, over six foot, so I don't have to over-compensate like some of those wee men in the gym.

There's one tiny fella, under 5 ft, who comes in. He spends all his time arranging business deals via a Bluetooth headset he shouts into while straining at the weights. He's got a beer belly and biceps as big as his head. He should have taken part in the dwarf games. I'm guessing he's in the UDA.

The smaller the man, the bigger the muscles. It's a sweeping generalisation but I stand by it.