Sunday, 13 December 2015

Merry Christmas, Belfast!

A window in City Hall

I've been dodging the rain recently - if at all possible.
I was back in Suffolk, visiting my folks, where it is notoriously dry compared with the rest of the British Isles. While I was there, the In-Charge was nearly washed - and blown - away here on the west coast. I ended up staying on in the UK for an extra few days, not as a deluge-avoidance tactic, but because my Dad wasn't in great form, but it was a sensible decision all round, as it seems doubtful that my plane would have landed - mid Desmond - at our exposed local airport, had I returned on time.
When I did get back, I just about had time to swap the contents of my suitcase over before we headed off to Belfast for a long-booked, three-day break - a wonderful present from a friend.
Gorgeous #2 Son came home to mind the shop, as it were, in our absence, bless him.

City Hall, with the Christmas Market clustered around its walls

I would quite happily live in a hotel, if the Model Dogs could come too.
What, as they say, is not to love? Especially at this time of year.
The Christmas trees were up, the bed was gloriously comfortable, hot water power-hosed out of the taps whenever I wanted a bath, the room was cleaned and the bed made while I was out doing happier things, and we had only to lift a telephone to receive sustenance, night or day. There was also a fridge to chill my prosecco, and breakfast, each morning, catered for every whim I might have had, the restaurant offered dinner if you couldn't be bothered going out, the bar drinks.

We were both tired, and decided to just have a relaxing couple of days pottering around.
At least, that was the plan. But no sooner had we dumped our stuff in the hotel, than out we went for a scrummy - but restrained - lunch at a delectable city cafe up the road, immediately blew that by having large helpings of pudding; staggered off to see The Lady in the Van (wonderful); got caught in the rain, missed the bus (my fault), hailed a cab; steamed in the bath to ward off rain-induced chills; and then settled down to a long, lazy dinner over a bottle of nice red in the hotel restaurant.
(If the Models had been under the table to discretely receive the bits I couldn't manage, all would have been perfect.)

One of the tables in Harlem Cafe - a glass-topped box of shells. Beautiful.

The lovely interior of City Hall

Over breakfast the next morning, which neither of us did justice to (too much dinner), we planned our day. It was miraculously dry, but breezy and cold outside.
At home we'd have been eating porridge, but as we'd both peered separately into the steaming silver vat on the buffet table and decided that we only fancied porridge if we'd cooked it ourselves, we opted for other fare. Porridge, let's face it, is not felicitous to behold.

The In-Charge then went off to catch up with his mate Colin, and see his studio. I went - surprise, surprise - to the Christmas Market clustered around the City Hall, five minutes walk from the hotel.

By the end of our three days, we'd done at least a week's worth of walking, visited most of the shopping  areas in the city centre, wandered around St George's Market, seen the Christmas Market at night, bedecked with fairy lights, eaten and drunk our fill several times over, been to IKEA and an English supermarket, shoved all our festive UK-bound mail into a British post box and seen three movies. We'd also popped in to St Malachy's, the lovely old church the In-Charge helped our friend DodoWoman to restore a few years ago, and visited Colin Davidson's amazing 'Silent Testimony' at the Ulster Museum. It is a superb exhibition - portraits of people bereaved or injured during the Troubles.

St Malachy's Church in Alfred Street, Belfast.

The In-Charge helped our friend DodoWoman repaint the specialist artwork of the interior a few years ago.

St Malachy's Roman Catholic Church, whose foundation stone was laid in 1841. The church is an unusual shape - wide but not deep, as apparently it was decided not to build the nave, but instead to give the money this would have cost to poor relief. The 1840s were the period of the Great Famine in Ireland, in which over a million people died of hunger or related diseases. A further million emigrated, with many more following in later years.

Colin Davidson's portrait of Jeff Smith who was paralysed by a bomb in Fermanagh

Colin Davidson's portrait of Mo Norton, whose brother was killed by an IRA bomb

The In-Charge went for a drink with Colin in his local. It had one of my favourite WB Yeats poems on the wall, put together out of old printer's blocks. He took a photo of it for me. I think it's rather wonderful, but I wonder how quickly, after it was made and polished and put up on the wall, its creator spotted the spelling error?

It was a lovely few days in a beautiful city.
We were almost too tired to drive home, but fortunately the In-Charge is deeply reliable at times like that.
I just about caught a snap of 'Rise', the vast football-shaped sculpture on the way out of town, before I fell asleep and left him to get us home.

Thank you, Clare.

Belfast's sculpture 'Rise' - it looks like a vast football within a football. Perhaps that's the idea!


  1. We live not far from the Rise. Known locally as the balls on the Falls. Glad you enjoyed your visit. I love St George's market. K

  2. mmm. makes me want to book a mini-break!


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