Sorry I've been away again. I've been keeping it real back in Hackney these last few months and with a hardcore, twenty-four hour existence like mine finding the time to document all the shit that happens can be quite a chore. I've not even told you about what happened in Belfast yet and events currently are moving at such a pace it may be many months before I ca relate what went down last Monday week. Tristam Shandy eat your heart out.
Ah Belfast. A city much like a fine whiskey; in short sips a complex, heady taste of honeyed smokey strength distilled from the land and improved with age and history. However, like a fine whiskey, prolonged exposure regularly leads to violence and hangovers. I've sometimes heard people describe their home towns as nurturing places of sanctuary and I'd love to say the same but I would have to say that growing up in Belfast is more akin to being beaten out on an anvil. On the Shore Road, where I spent my formative years, we never thought of it as a place where we grew up but rather as a place we were dragged up to premature adulthood whether we wanted to be or not.
It was with trepidation I emerged from Central station on that sultry July afternoon. How long since I'd last been home? Seven years? Eight years? Somewhere in the distance the Orange pipes and drums of war shrilled and thundered as young East Belfast loyalists practiced their war-dance for the twelfth and the papers spoke of a bombscare on the Westlink reminding me that though I left, 'they hadn't gone away you know.'Unpleasant as these shows of strength were and are they still gave me a peculiar warm feeling but something still didn't feel quite like home. I wandered down to the city hall hoping to catch a bus up the Shore Road with my last £1.07, but when I got there the journey numbers had all changed to letters. I politely asked a chap in a cheap tracksuit and an expensive football top which letters went north. 'Do I look like a fucking timetable dickhead?'
And there it was, suddenly I felt at home again.
Once I learned that the old number 8 was now the letters AD I further learned that a single bus fare was now £2.10, so again I had to walk. I spent my last pound in the world on a scratchcard assuming that after all the shit they'd put me through the very least the Gods of fate, chance, and karma could do was give me enough for a bus fare home, a can of lilt, and a pack of tobacco but you can't trust to providence. I should have learned that by now. The last mile and a half of my quest for shelter would would end as it began... on foot.
That part wasn't so bad really, a warm summer's day down old familiar streets, memories thought forgotten waiting to greet me at every corner. Speaking of half forgotten memories I saw an old school chum of mine, Johnny Hazlitt, buying sausage rolls in the bakery outside Seaview Stadium so I stopped to catch up with a fellow Seaview Primary School alumnus, gave me a chance to make sure I'd not forgotten my North Belfast colloquial parlance.
'Fuckin bout ye Johhny big lad?'
'Fuckin bout ye Norman, what's the craic you're back?'
'Fuckin tapped out like Johnny, calling up to me Ma's see if I can crash for for a wee while. Ye fuckin seen her about like?'
'D'you not fuckin hear?'
'Fuckin not hear what like?'
'Well if you don't fuckin know then it's not my fuckin place to tell ye like, but it's bad fuckin news like.'
'Fuck. What about Clive? Seen him.'
'Sure fuckin no one's seen Clive for months now but there's plenty fuckin lookin for him. I know he's your fuckin brother and all but I'd stay away from that mad cunt if I were you.'
'Fuck what's he done this time?'
'What's he not fuckin done more like? He's fuckin mental.'
'Aye, that's Clive alright. How's you then, ye alright?'
'Aye alright. On the Bru, selling fuckin Methadrone you know? Sell you some like.
'Never heard of it, any fuckin good like?'
'Nah, it's fuckin shite. It's basically like ecstasy with the sweating, the tooth grinding and the horrible two day come downs but with none of the good bits being of your fuckin head beforehand like.'
'Fuck that sounds shockin mate. Why the fuck would any cunt do that to themselves?'
'Cos it only costs a fuckin fiver a gram.'
'Fuck, i'll see you later on an take two g of ye.'
'Sure fuckin buy it now sure.'
'Sure I'm fuckin tapped I'll have to borrow a tenner. You still living with your Ma?'
'How is your Ma?'
'Away and fuck I'm not tellin you how ma Ma is.'
'How's your sister?'
'Sure that's fuckin why I'm not tellin you how ma Ma is.'
'Fair enough like, well I'll see ye bout like.'
'Aye see ye bout.'
At that point I felt it best to leave since if any Shore Road conversation continues long enough the chance of it ending in violence will quickly reach one and at the mention of Hazlitt's sister that certainty was getting near. Also communicating in raw North Belfast patois can be very hard on the throat. Still it was good to know I could still cut a swagger in the old stomping ground and finding somewhere to buy cheap drugs was a further bonus. Only back in Belfast two hours and things were looking up.