Irish mysteries

Actor Brian Kennedy who plays The Lover, Bassanio in the Fringe Benefits Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice. That'sBelfast City Hall he's posing in. This version of the play is set in 1912

I’m just back from an intriguing week in Ireland. (Where I met some people you may know – more on that below – with a pic.) But the whole place was unexpectedly mysterious.

I’m not talking about leprechauns or the absence of snakes. These are modern mysteries.

1. Fat people. Where are they all hiding? Soon after I landed in county Antrim I had the biggest feed in a long time. And this was not at my Mum’s. (It was the Ballymac – in case you need to fill up after a week abstaining from eating.) The helpings were huge. And it was lovely. (And cheap compared to England.) Right, thought I, the place must be crawling rolling with obese porkers. And that meal was only the first of many heaving platters. I began to time meeting people to avoid mealtimes. I couldn’t cope. But the mystery is this – no epidemic of two-legged gutbusters. Sure the occasional blobber, but no more than anywhere else and probably fewer. What’s going on? Has some prison been reopened in which to stash them? How come everyone is not FAT with the amount of food they eat?

2. The cloud of comfort. There’s a dark grey rainy cloud sitting on the hills between Newry and Dundalk – right on the low hills of the Irish border. From the north you can smugly gaze south and murmur complacently to yourself about never NEVARR surrendering the blue skies of Ulster for the grey skies of an Irish Republic. But hang on a moment. Go down the road a few miles until the road signs change from red, white and black to black and yellow, and look back north. Yup. There’s the long dirty cloud which lets southerners look north and shake their heads in pity at the pasting the weather is giving people on the other side of the border. The mystery is this – can this oh-so-conveniently sited cloud of comfort be natural? Or is it an ego-massaging peace initiative thought up by those scientific geniuses at CERN and funded by some European-American cross-community money?

3. I went to the cinema (movie theatre), but I saw a play. It was definitely a cinema. There was a wee room at the back with a projector and reels of film. I could hear faint sounds of the Titanic sinking (yet again) from the auditorium next door. But in a startling 3D innovation, the characters I was watching at the Strand cinema were actual people. (I’m not sure if this means Belfast is super advanced or super backward – I think I’ll settle for super innovative.) Bizarrely, you can now go to the cinema to see a play. I saw an excellent production of The Merchant of Venice by the Fringe Benefits theatre company. (It’s a funny play, but startlingly anti-semitic. Isn’t it? Or is that just me?)

There’s another mystery – why Belfast didn’t have a slave trade. But I’ll tell you that one another time. The city is crackling with creativity – music, art, theatre, new galleries – if you’re nearby check out the just opened MAC in the city centre.

Meanwhile I had the great pleasure of bumping into (literally in one case – see video) GrannyMar and Speccy – while being enlightened and entertained by Arthur Magee. (Remember I said we were going to the Garrick?) Thanks for the fun to all of you – though GM – you have the feet walked off me.

You can probably work out who's who. It may be easier (on the eye) if you imagine a horse's head on the fella on the left side of the pic.



Filed under life, theatre

22 responses to “Irish mysteries

  1. Ohmygosh, I love this post!

    “Bizarrely, you can now go to the cinema to see a play.”
    I had NO idea!

    “There’s another mystery – why Belfast didn’t have a slave trade.”
    Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. Our cinemas are used for music performances, catwalk shows, Master Chef clone shows…great utilisation of space….and many old ones have been reinvented as Malls (after being reduced to rubble, of course!).

    Well! Your visit was ominous with a cloud of course….but Grannymar and others look as if they had a great time with you.

  3. wonderful post; maybe it’s a subsconsciou reaction to the famine years ago; i’m irish and I could inhale food. I don’t, but the feel of addiciton is there; nice to read your post; missed you. I’m broadening my base as a blogger; cheers and best wishes; i wonder if i’lll ever get to Ireland?

    • blackwatertown

      I’ll check in with you shortly. I’m trying to catch up after having been away.
      As for the famine, all talk of that is more likely to prompt a strong desire in me for a drink rather than food.

  4. It was great gas… gatecrashing a wedding, fording a river and lyrically climbing a hill! Do you remember any of that? No wonder my legs are six inches shorter! When are you coming back?

    • blackwatertown

      Ah – gatecrashing the wedding – I’d forgotten that part. You could have caused a stir on the altar – the first woman priest in a Catholic church.

  5. Nigel

    I stared fondly towards Ireland from Port Erin on the Isle of Man in 1957 and 1958; I was told if you could see the Mountains of Mourne (eighty miles away?), bad weather was on its way- but if you could not, all was set fair. That sounded Irish to me. I must get there one day, to see if the same principle applies in reverese.

    • blackwatertown

      I remember it as this: If you can see ten feet ahead – it’s about to rain. If you can’t – it already is raining.
      But the best viewpoint on the Isle of Man is the top of Snaefell – from where six kingdoms are visible to the very lucky. The kingdom of Man. The kingdoms of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. And the Kingdom of Heaven.

  6. Paul, thinking about your visit to the Strand…. Take a look at this and see what other memories you can dredge up for visits to the flicks in your time back home in Ireland:

  7. 29

    Yes, a rather sedate and contented photo. If I were a Cicero I would refrain from remarking that the 2 men are averagely hirsute!

  8. Regarding 1) It’s a mystery to me too, given the great fondness for greasy, calorie-loaded Ulster Frys. But there are certainly large numbers of very obese elderly (and not so elderly) men, mainly I imagine from a fondness for alcohol.

    Regarding 3) by a strange coincidence I went to the same cinema to see the same play, as I live close to the cinema. I hope we didn’t go on the same night (Friday 13th) and miss each other! I’m not as a rule keen on Shakespeare but I greatly enjoyed this production which was lively and amusing.

    You didn’t say what most people say, how dramatically Belfast has changed in the last few years from beseiged war zone to thriving hub of creativity and entertainment – and commercial success.

    • blackwatertown

      1. Sure – but I was expecting doorways everywhere to be jammed by stranded human barrage balloons. Bizarrely, they weren’t. (Perhaps the blimps couldn’t get out in the first place.)
      3. Excellent – but no, I was there on Saturday night, sitting in front of a slightly deaf family who just would not shut up, and could be heard all the way back in the dressing rooms. Glad you also enjoyed the show.
      Re the transformation – yes it’s dramatic. I’ve seen it happening for a while, but perhaps this is the first time I’ve really really felt it.

  9. Aaaaw, how nice to see you without the HH, Paul.

    I gotta tell ya, it would be a treat to go to the cinema and be surprised with a live play.

    Aaaand the revival of Belfast, another treat.

    Blessings – Maxi

  10. rummuser

    There is a book waiting to be written about the mystery of the big eaters not putting on weight!

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