dedicated blogsite to Dave Wood's participatory poetry project in Northern Ireland. Started late August and finishing September 2004, it does a compare and contrast with previous visits 1988 - 1998. Also see

27 Dec 2004

press release - an invitation

please use and abuse this freelly and immediately

Poet from England, Dave Wood begins his travels through Northern Ireland on 24th August. Already from one day's appearance on award winning he has picked up a contact in Kilrea who wants to find out more. Although Dave wasn't planning on going to the area, (he's got a stinker of a schedule) he's trying to work out a way that the two of them can meet up. Check out the itinerary for his location over the fortnight.

He'll be running at least three (arranged) creative writing sessions and will be interviewing people on an as and when basis. If he stops you mid-shop, please give him some of your time.

Meanwhile, if you want to meet up, whether out of curiosity, from a press perspective or want to add their voice to this poetic snowball (!), contact Dave asap. He'll be logging on to his own site and to slugger when he can. davewrite2002@ at

Have patience.


the build up (6 days to go)

Wednesday 18th August - mad rush again. Tried out the tent last night - it's perfect (probably because it's hardly been used!). Still got to arrange insurance for the project and there's a couple of days at the end I have to sort out. I'm hoping to have some work (and hence some accommodation) in Portstewart. It looks beautiful around there. Good news - a camping barn in Cushendall has agreed to give me free accommodation, even though the proprietor is away! They have lots of storytelling and songs and sounds like a place of veritable hoolies! No early night for me.

26 Dec 2004

Poetry previously created in Ireland

Poetry previously created in Ireland to be re-worked and re-vamped. New work to be created as a compare and contrast. Getting very stressed in the build up to the project. Anyone got the gin? Meanwhile, are an organisation supporting the project. Visit their website

driving at night through ireland

a sting in my neck from driving
through roads too thin to walk on
two eyes that squint from living
hell - a headlight's glare left full on

a music tape plays company where
tiredness stills our late night tongues
so many thoughts arriving here
we find our eyelids dried to bones

two thirty a.m (thereabouts)
the door's alive with our knocking hands
- our saviour host - she takes our coats
leads us to beds through moon-time lands

ballyronan day centre

she said
i'll say a prayer for you tonight

she called me sir
and constantly asked me
what to do

amidst all the bombs
and the threat of more

i try to make sense of old age 

beach at orlock

a wind strong enough to eat the words
from your thoughts

(or vice versa)

i become a mist here
tilting myself
to cope with the incline of a few slippery rocks

in my bag
i have a notepad and pen
and an unwillingness to turn back
(for the want of a few toppling words)

i feel the shave of the sea

against my own judgement
and where jagged lines meet
i retreat back to a house
where i temporarily live 

a smouldering coil

i have used my collection of sleep
felt sick on waking
my shards a smouldering coil
a pain that cannot spring itself from dream

the roots on which i stand
pull a game of to and fro
my words tarnished with puzzles
whether strife or joy
i end in question marks

o god help us
more news form soft accents -
like games in tight aviaries
the angry voices march
and march

bitter phrases give future some sort of hope

the question marks have taken shape
(the words point up and scratch the itching feet
to ask for more)

sometimes the razored doubts of me
break out and give up too quick

then I feel the flap of wings

this place could be the home
that's worth the tears some day
counting (an analogy)

walking a difficult world

i put down how much has been spent
in terms of loss

(i had taken off the day
to concentrate on other things)

my hands get ready to count
and i find only fingers and thumbs


how many more times?
the constant waiting
for time to draw closer

the need to deal with
trouble in mind

and the likelihood
it will happen again

christchurch cathedral (dublin)

- shards of coloured glasss

i feel nothing (the more I struggle here)
sexless men
eagles of still gold
shards of coloured glass

the more of less I feel

i can constantly search for movement
but giving up is the hardest part

as always

free whisky - bushmills visit

a golden glass at the end of here
stings a shudder where shudders
tend to avoid

a short term task
as we spend what's dear
and we suffer goods
(we'd normally abhor)

at bushmill's factory
they're selling history
by the bottle

the displays in the gallery
hide ireland's poverty
which seeps like old oil

dublin to belfast (traffic)

you said
(stepping out the volvo)

and slamming the door
(christ almighty
it made a bang!)

i remembered
a song and sang it


postcard to kelvin from ireland

remember how we talked
of wild times?

rainbows -
coming up
going down

and the many uses
of policemen's helmets


ready to deliver us
on homeland's
silent welcome

we make a keen break from
dreaming shores
and order drinks on the boat

the more i tip it back
the tea just doesn't
taste the same
now we're leaving

after four weeks

section one -

the sky in rolls of grey like stones
drops on dublin
city of diamond thoughts

the lights we reach for
but never seem to touch
draw scattered pins upon our sleep
and winks its eyes
(says goodbye to each of us)

section two -

six forty five a.m.
leaving ireland
- a small darkness
in early morning folds

we pull back her blankets
and feel the surge
pushing us away

and finds (giant's causeway)

through seaward wave (the birds riding
bumps on watery lifts)
the cold daft wind comes home in drifts
and finds the lonely three walking
(just walking)

and the sea shells crunch under tread (and the
words are lost)
our thoughts caressed by winds that
somehow the three start talking
- just talking

teelin point rock face

and here the screaming rock
its eyes against the sea and all she hides
shouts obscenities
where heather clinging to its sides
gives whispers to our feet

but do you think that holes its grown
will swallow us
like stories made for children?
(the fairytales
the giant's desk
the dark cliff murmurs)
then think again
and hear us walk
so clumsily

our words that scream
towards your ears
one two three four five
this is the day we come alive
donegal - teelin point (1995)


how down the cliff's hold
that spraying
going and lost

how paths collide into heather
sentences which burn the throat
and coat us with rain

what gives us clues for the way to walk

we stand in growth
and listen for the answers

sunset - muff hostel

these continents - great shifting reds
and greys and blues begin to merge
(pastel lines across a scrap of sky)

this gorse that rips the arms
to lines of basic flesh
bends supple to the wind's embrace
and prays to be left alone

behind clear windows
anecdotes are swapped
the night upon us
pulled down tight

those fading reds
gone by and by
by and by

end of i.r.a ceasefire

a promise given from both sides

a hundred injuries
(and death)
and shattered glass
cuts politics in half

who's to blame?

over the wharf and far away

we wonder what the hell
we are praying at

for belfast

we hear the news
of another bomb

there is barbed wire
around these
jigsaw pieces

ballyronan - 15/2/96

slow overlapping
cold breaths

(fall upon each other)
split a massive grey cloud)

this drowsy sun
a sunken fence
(all at sea)

the end of a ceasefire -
a helicopter shaped in the distance
carries a pregnant weight
beneath its belly

it could be anything

taking it all personally

there is nothing here but war

and you have closed this door to me
something that you gave
hits the floor
and starts sinking

down and down

waterford - 26/7/97

the coast hid behind the city's shadows
fixed plans with the car parks
tasted the petrol fumes
and coughed a little

in here a woman squeezes
(man handles) a trainer
as if its juices will flood from its holes

a man
quite proud of this purchase
smokes a cigarette
towards the window

these are times of observations
of seeing how truth walks
on the paving i lay

this is the café where they don't have toast
but plenty of bread on the table

the tea is black
and still
it manages to get darker

this is the place
where there is music
and the kids scream ulterior motives

this is the café
where the vinegar
sits in its proper bottle
and butter is out
(and melting)

to my side
a child runs away
is picked up
strapped in its place

for this - we are all grateful

this is the café where
i see the edges
spiky tongued
soft syllabic

the air has not touched me yet
except with flu and a good irish headache

traffic by-passes this place
lorries fold back the evening
and spit on the floor


i share my night with
the smell of burning peat

the taste of the sea

and an almost full moon

i share my sleep
without meaning

my hand lifting a pen

and my thoughts cutting me tight

until it doesn't matter anymore

25 Dec 2004

I'm still in Stapleford (kickstarting the Ireland Poetry Project) 18/8/04

Hi Folks

I'm just about to embark on the tour - gathering information, opinion, doing creative writing workshops and getting ready to bring it back to England for publishing on line and as hard copy. There's readings already booked but I'm always happy to offer more. I'll be staying Derry, Omagh, Holywood, Armagh, Portstewart, Portadown, Portaferry and Attica (in the Mournes). I will hopefully be stopping for a Guinness or two on the way and a bag of Taytos of course!

I sent out the following press release about six weeks ago to and have been working like mad to raise the money and to get the project financially stable. I also want to make sure I can cover the marketing when I return.

It's been a mad rush trying to get things organised. I'm still waiting for people to get back to me about whether they can get enough people for a workshop. I realise now that I should have waited, but there's a stubbornness in me that really won't let go. Anyway, wish me luck. More soon.

You should also check out who'll be hosting my diary whilst over there.

All the best

Dave Wood

d a v e w o o d
( w o r d s m i t h e t c )

August 2004

Press release for immediate use

Free Creative Writing Sessions from Visiting Poet!

From 24th August 2004, for two weeks, Dave Wood, poet from Nottingham, England will be touring Ireland offering free creative writing sessions to groups, organisations and communities. Normally he would charge £85 for the two hour session. What he asks for is simple - for participants to get involved and for a roof over his head that evening.

Nottingham Poet Dave Wood is returning to Ireland after a long break. Previous visits were with touring interactive theatre co-operative, Word And Action over the years 1988 - 1998. This time he's on his own, ready to enjoy the culture, the writing and the zest of Ireland's shores! He's bringing some real bargains with him too.

He's offering free creative writing workshops to any group, organisation or community who's willing to put him up for the night. He assures us he is entirely well behaved and doesn't take much looking after. He says, 'for the project to be successful, I need people to chat with me about Ireland, their own community and, of course to share their writing with me.'

Whilst travelling, he'll be recording his passion for Ireland in his own style of poetry. He'll be returning to England with this as well as his re-worked creative work from previous visits. It won't take long launching them on his own website as well as on Whilst there, he'll also be keeping a written creative diary on award winning He'll also be reading the results to captive audiences in England.

He promises us, These creative sessions are entirely free. If you find it impossible to help with accommodation but would still like a workshop, do get in touch with me. You can contact him at (please send no attachments and make sure you put poetry project in the title bar)

Dave Wood was (Nottingham) Waterstone's writer in residence 2000 - 2002.

Press contact Dave Wood

24 Dec 2004

Itinerary of The Screaming Rock

With thanks (for organising and/or providing accommodation and /or workshops) to Mary and Charlotte (Belfast), Liz (Cushendall), Mairtin (Derry), Margaret (Portadown), John (Armagh), Mairead (Attical) and Linda (Barholm).

Tuesday 24 August
Fly to Belfast International Airport from Nottingham East Midlands
12:45 - 1.45pm
Stay Belfast

Wednesday 25th August
day in Belfast
Stay Belfast

Thursday 26th August
day in Omagh
Stay Omagh Hostel

Friday 27th August
Stay Cushendall Hostel
Travel to Derry

Saturday 28th August
Move and stay in centre of Derry
(activity to be confirmed)

Sunday 29th August
Day in Derry
(activity to be confirmed)
Stay Derry

Monday 30th August
Day in Derry
(activity to be confirmed)
Stay Derry

Tuesday 31st August
Day in Derry
(activity to be confirmed)
Stay Derry

Wednesday 1st September
Travel to Portadown
workshop in Portadown 7 -9pm

Thursday 2nd September
Travel and visit Armagh
workshop in Armagh 7.30pm - 9.30om
Stay Armagh (as guest of organiser)

Friday 3rd September
Newcastle Hostel, Downs Road, Newcastle

Saturday 4th September
Arrive and stay
Cnocnafeola Centre, Atticall, Kilkeel

Sunday 5th September
activity to be organised
Cnocnafeola Centre

Monday 6th September
Travel to Portaferry
stay Barholm Hostel
work 7 - 10pm

Tuesday 7th September
Travel, visit and stay Belfast

Wednesday 8th September
Fly back to England from Belfast Int'n'l

four days to go

England still - the guttering still spews out its complaints of weeds. The shed lock is broken and the computer is probably thinking about joining it as if it was six feet under. I wish to leave the weather behind and get on with Ireland.

The stress is building. I managed to get a last minute (fairly local) booking to do a mono-printing workshop today. I was in half and half decision mode as to whether I should do it. Not because I wouldn't have enjoyed it. It was incredibly well organised, ran smoothly and the indoor and outdoor events kept the audience fiery throughout the downpour. Though time is at a premium with the Ireland scheme, I'm glad I did it. Oh, and the marquee waited until we finished then collapsed around us like a broken spider web.

After a wait around for equipment to be put away, I got a lift with Dave the organiser and Harj (who was running the mask-making stall next door). I got back about 5.15pm - shattered. I was expecting company at home 6pm so things had to be quick. Things fell into place though… it's been like that recently - happening in waves - one thing falls down and something picks up and everything works out. Peaks and troughs.

The day took my mind off my travels for a while - much needed. Sometimes passions have to be put on hold in order to appreciate them when they happen.

I've been panic-ing over Ireland quite a bit. I know I'm up to it - I can gather the information and turn it into poetry. I can hone, polish and work it until it’s a good solid manuscript. I'm used to it. I've worked in Waterstones as their writer in residence, in Creswell, turning local history in poetry through interviews and workshops. But there's something special about this. Possibly because I've organised it all myself and I'm carrying the whole weight on my shoulders. I also want to do Ireland and her people proud. There could be lots of reasons why I'm nervous - but I can't quite tie them down yet.

I know the task on return will be larger than the initial visit. I have to get the results out to audiences as well as convince those in the upper echelons that the work is valuable to the area and to the arts world. Still, the only thing I remember from my geography tutor was the phrase 'an expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less'. I thank you, Mr Burns, sir.

Meanwhile, it has to be printed up and will need a further investment of cash and energy.
There's been a couple of glitches come up about accommodation today and a bit more good news. On 5th September, I'll be staying in Cushendall and I've been invited to an Irish music night by the host (Liz Weir - storyteller ( ). I've been assured by a contact's partner in Belfast that the area is on a par with the same beauty as Canada. I've also had confirmation that I can stay in a hostel in Attica in the Mourne Mountains. It's been a long time since my last clamberings there. Be ready to listen for the screams of an Englishman slipping off green grassy rocks.

23 Dec 2004


Desperate for a Saturday lie in. I've not had much contact from the press, but I haven't really had time to follow it at all. If anyone out there sees any postings (real or virtual), please let me know and save me a link or a photocopy.

Realised it wouldn't make sense to stay only one night at Attical. So I've moved things around a bit and now I'm in the Mournes for two nights on the second weekend and getting over to Cushendall for the first Friday when there's lots of music. Could do with a bit of stress release.

It does mean however I will spend only a fleeting visit to the Giant's Causeway. The last time I paid a visit, it was raining (February surprise) and I slipped gin over tonic in the mud. Not a pleasant surprise, but alleviated by a hot toddy on the Bushmills tour.

So today I've got a whole heap of stuff to do - sort out the final links and postings to, last minute shoppings, party later with some ex-students and at some point some ironing. Not sure what to do about the camera. Do I take my 35mm, whic takes up baggage space or grab several disposables or even treat myself to a digital. Decisions decisions. Speak soon.

22 Dec 2004

a correction regarding 'writers inc'. Dave Wood apologises...

please read the following apology

The organisation [who are supporting the project is] The Incwriters Society (UK), not Writers Inc and the work will appear in [their] on-line magazine Incorporating Writing (ISSN 1743-0380)...any further press releases will be rectified

The Incwriters Society (UK) have posted the corrected Press Release on the Inclusion Stop page.

Given time, I will seek to alter previously sent press releases. Thanks again for their support.

The Night Before

Monday evening and I'm hoping to get a swift pint tonight before I skidaddle tomorrow. Had a response to the press release from the Northern Ireland Library service who want me to write a 400 word article for their newsletter. So much quicker than the press in England! I'm hoping they pick up on the offer for me to have a table in the central building so I can chat to people. I did this as poet in residence for Creswell. I'd sit there Thursday mornings at the door and invite people to talk with me, offer there thoughtsm reminiscences, visions of the town and as much as possible ask them to create or bring poems of their own. The process worked a treat. In the afternoon I'd facilitate a school group in a more structured workshop. It was different in the working men's club though. I'd quite happily sit with a half pint (pushing it for me but when in Creswell etc) and probe for gossip, dirt and the social history of the area (a cross between E.P.Thomson and a certain tabloid). The second week I met a bloke who brought in some incredibly sensitive poems about life, relationships and his dad. We'd agreed to meet up after I'd set him (and myself) some homework. We never met up again, but I've since found out he's on the main steering committee for this year's events. The scheme really highlighted how poetry can be an incredibly livening, rejuvenating and healing process. Everyone wanted to add their two penn'orth.

Realise this is going a bit off the beaten track as far as slugger goes but I do want impress on people the importance of this simple, concise and poignant language form. For those still in doubt, read the Uses of Poetry - Denys Thomson and (of course) the legend of the great Finn(Mary Heaney's Over Nine Waves is a good starting point)as he learns the high disciplines of the poet. Argue with him, you'd be in for a roasting! Meanwhile, I'll be glad when I'm in Ireland just to let the stress of waiting go.

all the best


just here

belfast city library

here at last
(excuse the typos)
i have just one hour
on the net

i won't go into the nitty gritty
(checking the gas umpteen times)
leaving the flat

my mate margaret giving me
a donation toward the project

but the wait
the wait
the wait

bmi bmi baby - ohohoh
have they never thought
of that as a catchy song they use?

if they're out there
and they use the idea
i want free flights for a year

you listening baby?

poems from the notebook
will have to be posted tomorrow
or at the end of this if i get the chance
or at my guests
och - o i don't know

belfast is like nottingham
lots of shops that have become
unmpteen symbols of how we now live

i remember how macdonalds hardly
existed in northern ireland

then they all sprang up -
sides of motorways to start with
then they must have had some kind
of reproductive frenzy

now - in belfast -
o supersize someone else please do

but it's strange how the streets
had obviously dug hold of me

the h and w
the water
the signs for newcastle
on the one way system
which had the map twisting
in my lap

and in my sleep

since my visit
all those years ago
some things stay the same

within five minutes
i ask three times
where's the library
three different accents

each as soft as the others

i'll be sending snail mail cards out soon

50p each - treat them like gold

i have left my copy of over nine waves at home (sulk)

21 Dec 2004

First scratchings in Northern Ireland

Wednesday and I'm already awake at, what? 6.30am? About 11pm last night I tried writing but got past the first stanza of a rhyming piece but found myself (oh – there I am!) drifting off

first trust the bank of ways that you could go
you step slow avenues or head for goals
if you could choose – then tell or show
the passions there – then trust your soul

(first trust is the name of a bank in Ireland and I like the way the two words jump about with each other.)

I let sleep take me (along with its friends the beer)

At about 7am, the alarm clock went off and I was given a joyful series of licks by one of the hairy beasts of a dog I'm sharing the house with. The other one's a grump and because of mistreatment being bred in its bones is just getting used to me.

I'm staying off the Belmont Road, outside Belfast with a friend’s sister and her partner. There's (apparently) a lovely long line of shops on the main thoroughfare, which because I'll be feeding myself tonight I'll have to investigate. I'm saying apparently, because everything's been a bit of a whirl so far. It's been years since I flew, years since I've been away from the office (even thoughts of it) and now something I've been promising myself is telling me to 'get on with it and trust what comes out'. Brutal advice, but a paraphrased piece of wisdom I use with my students when I’m running a creative writing session and the block sets in. Seems to work, but can I take my own advice?

It’s also been years since I saw the towering yellow H and W cranes, Samson and Goliath, been caught in the rain at the side of an Irish slip road and even more years since I’ve had an egg soda* Now that’s a thought – I still haven’t.

I have to create a mantra – come to Ireland and write, come to Ireland and write come to Ireland and write come to Ireland and write come to Ireland and write ad inf. There, I’ve done it.

I'm a bit of a blunderer in new places. Similar to my Dad, but he has a more inquisitive nature, likes to investigate and find things out. He’s also 72, has a yen for fixing things, doesn’t like waste and unlike me, can use the Taurus part of him for positive. I’m a bugger when it comes to stubborn-ness.

Yesterday I registered with the main city library. It had a beautiful revolving door. Cumbersome, particularly when one has two rucksacks slung across the shoulder and would fall foul of the D.D.A. But, strangely enough, the latter is the last thing on my mind. So the librarian was brilliant. I presented my details, gave her my temporary address and within fifteen minutes was up and running on the net. She was even sweet enough to tell me how to use the well known search engine..., google eyd (groan) I waited.

I wandered the bowels of sluggerotoole and picked up the entrails of Once finished, made my apologies for my mistakes (that’s another story) I rain-danced my way back to the bus station and was questioned (by a very polite English accent0 about how to get to the Europa (a bus station which sits cheek to cheek with a pub seemingly built round is own snugs, called T he Crown). I did my best to probe the timetable and work it out then went off to plague with my own questions on how I could get to my hosts’ house. When I was told ‘you need a city bus…not here…first you need to go…that’s when thoughts of taxis came in and my anal attitude with pound stirling loosened it’s sphincter. I’m glad it did.

I don’t know if it’s the nature of the poet, the nature of the taxi driver or the nature of the Irish but we just talked all the way. We agreed on the similarities of my home city and Belfast being the appalling one-way system (and currently the weather) and quickly went on to music. Obviously it was part of his yearly life-cycle as it should be of everyone.

Meanwhile, there’s a virtual poetry guide/talk/reading at the library today in Donegal Square North. That's where I'm heading (e.t.a 1.10pm). There'll be an excellent opportunity for some networking and some interviewing. I’ll write more soon.

*Toasted soda bread with , yes you guessed it, with a fried egg (or two) on top.

20 Dec 2004

further scratchings - after wednesday - a belfast laminate

part one

first church for sale
i thought we english were the ones
to lose our hub

along the belmont road
toward the lagan bridge
the union jacks
seem stiffer than before
more resolute
(have they been reading porn?)

run down estates
(like some buses here)
are flowered up
red white and blue
catch traffic's eyes
no comments then
no comments
(as before)

the morning works me hard
to find a breakfast (late)
that's cheap and
doesn't baulk at calories

and gone eleven
i give up
behold the greasy joe is dead!
long live the frothy world
that's full of air and softness then
the one that thatcher's ice cream woke
and brokered on the world

part two

chip restaurant (traditional) it said upon the glass (o - and fish!)
i wander in - coins rattling loose and teased on by my belfast tongue
the floor is laminate (o laminateé!) the room stretches dist-
antly along its spine - i sit disturbed and swallowed up by muzac song

and if i stay here long enough - will they cover me (too) in loving laminate?
will salt and vinegar loose their grain - get de-acidified - oozed down
with soul-less sweet talk - and will the fish and chips get eat
en up with flash or dettol now - each sprinkle seals its fate

with long floor laminate - if I should sit here - will they smooth me out?
they sell ciabatta here (o i say! - how posh) and dippers too
(for salad lips) choose egg soda then - eat roughness in (brown sauced)
sprinkle life with sharper cuts - chew (for once) some bloody truth

part three

donegal square - north south - four cornered like a learned hat
each road sprouts off and bounces round - breathes out
sucks in and draws the tourists back
each road leads fast to where it came - to where the city's fat

each road sprouts off and bounces round - exhales deep
becomes asthmatic when one tourist finds the path away
and when they do - the square (like english rain) weeps
hard – complains its coffers going down into the grey

square breathes in and takes the tourists’ stack
it's been there long enough - it's earnt its grub
and now with flung out doors - flung back
squats hard sobs down then reaches for its sub

part four

and in the middle of this sea
of banks
(not one nat west)
the tourist board
(that rides an escalator trip)
smiles with a digital display

come in
it shakes its hips
at me
winks dolefully

i take my number then -
walk round to murder time
and drum into my eyes
the stuff they seal with love and
shamrock glue

(flat caps
and calendars)

it's true -
they almost caught me
but not this time
not yet

the girl behind the counter
confesses she's downpatrick bred
she helps me sort my transport out

each bus is like a magnet returning to one place
(europa) we work diligent - i realise

whatever journey that i make
acceptance works both ways

19 Dec 2004

thursday 27th august

piece one

branches hammer at my morning
from the bus the flags are yawning
the only sign of life’s toward
the centre now where dreams are shored

the covered mountains
smoking far ahead
still lazy and in bed

piece two

europa’s brassy brassery
o fantastic-ary
all should be bustly
but aren’t that fuss-ily

all seem relaxedly
quite un-taxedly
not taxidermed-ly
unlike the english
who like to squirmid-y

and here’s the coffee shop-pery
with its breakfast-ery
but iIl go a wandery
not money squandery

and there’s the sign-ery
in all light finery
not quite on time-ry
like my rhymery

journey to omagh

just past dungannon signs
already hints of omagh
these are like any other roads
it is not a spectacular journey which is fine

enough – if it wasn’t for the label subway
(it is not macdonalds here)
ireland’s meat no longer
sits on two warm halves
but is wrapped in soft white dough

18 Dec 2004

visit to omagh

sixty trees whose branches meet

drop fruit in plenty at their feet

enough to feed three hundred each

with fruits more pleasant than the peach

Belfast has undergone transformation. It wasn’t exactly down at heel before the peace process but no way can its present state of being (presumably, this is not the end of its shopping metamorphosis) be twin-brothered to the past. I can’t comment on the outer reaches of the area; I seemed to spend most of the time elastic-ing around Donegal Square, a kind of beating heart of the capital and magnet to department stores and fast food eateries. Oh – woe to the onset of change etc. Years ago (o there he goes again) as part of community arts organisation, Word And Action, I worked in the City Hall on the square. The car had to undergo a boot search but once in, the marble pillars and cold staircases warmed with the flood of cross community activity.

I used to enjoy the challenge of finding my way through the back streets of Belfast, visiting old haunts like Rainbow Records and the out of town market areas. Maybe it’s just a statement of me wanting the comfortable. ‘Whatever’, as goes the de rigeur phrase of the day.

Some people love the real cosmopolitan feel of the place; the waft of coffee houses (someone should really invent a collective noun for these establishments) the barriers smelted away and (of course) the Tesco’s Metro, where a visiting Englishman can get cashback after forgetting about the lack of Nat West there.

Belfast (and travelling onwards, other areas of Northern Ireland) has found ways of taking the painful edges off its past life. Ireland’s murals advertising UVF, UFF, Sinn Fein etc can now be seen as cultural icons to be re-advertised on tourist postcards and sold alongside the more traditional, Rush Hour on a Donkey photo. The Belfast tourist office at the top of a silvery set of escalators, with its wait your turn ticket machine, gives us ultimate choice in calendars, keyrings, tea-towels, tat and tea- trays. It was also absolutely brilliant in giving me transport information (though I still have nightmares about the local city buses and a glutful night of unhelpful drivers).

Crossing Albert Bridge and heading outwards, I stayed just off the Belmont Road dog-legging from the Holywood Road. There’s a small cinema just down the way. Whereas many picture houses have a habit (certainly in England) of providing a more art-house viewing choice; those audiences which the mainstreams would not cater for, this one obviously doesn’t mind or doesn’t see the risk and shows popular films (currently I, robot). Though, to be honest, I’ve not yet seen a multiscreen in (or on the edge of) Belfast. Maybe that treat is yet to come.

What I have observed on the periphery, sandwiched between continentals as well as newsagents, fag and booze shops, hairdressers etc have been short stretches of estates, run down and still with the union flags flying high. Some have been fixed so they remain open, others slap the wind like sad greasy t-towels. Just past the row of pennants, I see the first act of a loss of faith: a church for sale. Faith (read religion) I always thought was a great stronghold of any Irish community, even if it was something to deny or to prop up with utmost vehemence. If a new faith (don’t read religion) should grow, can you email me with the link?

I spent three nights in Belfast altogether, no time for Guinness just a double Black Bush in the Crown with a slow service and hefty price tag.

Thursday, I travelled over to Omagh. I’d arranged to meet someone from a small scale writers’ group, soon to publish a collection of their pieces and with a launch in November. The representative was rightly pleased with herself – she’d managed to persuade Seamus Heaney to impart a personal quote as a kind of blessing to the group. Now, why didn’t I think of that?

I’d arrived in the town early and went a-wandering.

It’s been some years (how often will I use that phrase this fortnight?) since I came here. But I remembered the long stretch upwards and the v at the top where, to the right, there’s the cathedral whereas off to the left one meets a time-warped area of dusty buildings, including pleasingly, the Omagh Credit Union with its own dedicated bank. I’ve been working with a Nottingham based C.U. on a marketing project; the publishing of a series of poems by young savers and how it feels to have that vision of what to save for.

Nothing has been re-vamped here. But there has been growth. There is a bustle, there are pleasant places to eat, there are Joe’s cafes as well as shoppers’ tea houses - it is lively. Part of my make-up for investigation quests whether places that have survived tragedies are still in a period of mourning. The question was inappropriate and the town has obviously pulled on with its life and livelihoods. The biggest concern, I’m told at the moment, is the introduction of water rates. Not really a case of do you want to? it’s more ‘how do you want to?’

Although I had sent information ahead to my contact, I took a little time re-explaining about my project. She seemed excited. I wasn’t sure what strange fruit the meeting would bear but I wanted to make contact with creative others. We talked on for a good hour. I’m keen to set up an exchange between a writers’ organisation and one over here. This was the perfect opportunity. After ninety minutes, our time dried up and I quietly asked directions for the site of the bomb-blast and the new community centre. I got the feeling that if I’d have shouted it through a megaphone, it wouldn’t have mattered. The people of Omagh suffered with the consequences and now get on. Sounds simplistic I know, but it’s just a feeling I get.

I made my way to the river. It had been raining on and off for quite a while and the traffic along the bridge seemed to match its regularity.

The new glass edifice (though someone would probably dispute the choice of word) towered high like Waterstone’s in Nottingham, Bridlesmith Gate. So glassy it was, it took a couple of breaths to find my way in. There was evidence on the walls that the place was being used by the community. A local photographer, travelling as part of a group to New Zealand had hung a series of photographs (with blue tacked labels) of the visit. The stylish reception desk, dropped in the corner seemed a mite too clinical for the helpful faces behind the counter. I explained my self-set task and I was sent up to the manager’s office to re-explain. Like any set up, grants and money has to be found and I suspect she was champing at the bit to get on with her in-tray. Making my farewells, almost losing my way in the multi-corridors upstairs, I sat in the welcome space and scribbled a few poetic notes to build a more tightened piece later.

Thursday – Omagh (beginning section of diary to be completed)

Didn’t get much sleep. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores but it affected me the rest of the day. Already I feel I have written myself out of words and I’ve done enough writing for three weeks, not just three days. I’ve been complaining that I’ve never had the concentrated period for writing that I’ve needed and now that I’ve been presented with it, I cluck like an old hen.

It’s strange the difference between what we perceive and what happens with a simple cheap camera lens. Even from two mile distance of Belmont Road, where I’m staying, the eyes see the two cranes Samson and Goliath looming paternally (and majestically) over the Belfast water. The eyes draw the vision in, considers the full picture, notices the yellow, concentrates, produces metaphor, is satisfied with outcome. The camera lens flattens and dulls the picture down. I fear for my photographs but not for my memories.

Belfast’s Belmont Road dog-legs onto the Holywood Road, which is pronounced Holly and has no significance or relation to the American Film Industry. Although, Holywood, though he may not have known it at the time, was an album title from schlock rocker Marilyn Mansun.

It’s a different bus today – a number twenty. It’s rush hour and I am forced, like a typical Englishman, to waddle upstairs for a seat on his own rather than share a cushion with a complete stranger.

For the first time during my return to Belfast, I was caught off guard. The overhanging branches on the Holywood Road cracked against the windows. For a milli-second something jumped. There was nothing logical about it. But the crack was as sharp and crisp as gun-shot. It must have been a morning thing. It happened again as we passed through the estate and I never flinched, so there.

Anyway, the bus took me along the same route as yesterday. Along Belmont, past the gloriously old fashioned independent cinema on the right, down Holywood and passing the estate where the Union Jack flags still desperately cling to their poles. Some seem more resolute and to attention. Some just look like sad old dish-rags.

The vision of Samson and Goliath got closer, the cars still with lights slipped easily on. It was just before nine o’clock and I expected the place to be gridlocked at least.

Today I was to visit Omagh. Part of me was already writing the piece honouring it. Part of me was panicing as to how I should compose the piece and another part (the realistic part) waded in and told the rest of me to wait until I got there.

To be continued

17 Dec 2004

omagh - thursday

glass (though seeming fragile)
now is built for seeing through
is like the letter o (in omagh)
that turns around like time
is strong enough to hold the bag of truth

the river bed is fed by august rain
(takes the strain)
but this glass world's of sterner block
- hope's calling of the towered dream
is mortared in the grain and solid rock

we are small here
we watch the traffic cutting at the leash
an ulsterbus smooths round
as if it's always done
it whispers on its wheels

omagh blood and omagh sand
omagh sand and blood
one pumps around the veins
one keeps the vision up

16 Dec 2004

Omagh to Cushendall to Derry

…I sat in the welcome space and scribbled a few poetic notes to build a more tightened piece later.

to omagh (section)

glass (though fragile)
now built for seeing through
just like the letter o (in omagh)
is solid
circular (un-ending)
will see you through

the river bed is fed on dreams…

the world is drawn on
blood and sand
(omagh sand and blood)
one pumps into the veins
one props the vision up

It wasn’t worth me staying in Omagh that night. The bus would have taken me back to Belfast as the first part of my expedition, so I returned to the Belmont Road. Although I was worried that the hostel would be annoyed, I cancelled my stay there. No problem, they said. If I’d cancelled a minute before I’d arrived, they’d have probably not batted an eyelid. Good old N.I.

Friday 28th August

I take my moans back about the Belfast city bus drivers. I think it was a grumpy moment of mine yesterday. Though the man that did finally help me get home said ‘nobody cares around here.’

That morning, loaded down with stuff I no longer needed (tourist info, brochures, umpteen copies of the same map etc) I felt like the proverbial snail with someone else’s mortgage on its back. I needed swift directions to Laganside (bus station) again. ‘You can stay on here’, he said, ‘No problem’. I’d bought a seven day travel pass (£47) which has served me well and was just about to serve me here too. There are two bus stations in Belfast, Lagan side and the Europa. The latter with a pub opposite called the Crown, is all glitz and shopping mall. Whereas the former faces to the water and the shipyard. When planning a journey, you have to make sure which one you need to kickstart from.

It wasn’t desperately early (about 8.30am) but the café was closed. Ireland looks after its travellers and commuters. The television was on serving a good opportunity to catch up with the Olympics. Not a great passion of mine but a service like this can’t be taken for granted. The travel information desk was open and I quickly found out how to get to Cushendall o nthe east coast. A beautiful area that I’ve been told resembles or is even as stunning as Canada. Seeing as I’ve no experience (would books count?) of either, I had to create my own vision, but without Yogi, Booboo or the Hair Bear bunch raiding my sandwiches or chocolate supply.

Leaving at 9.03am on the Portrush Express towards and completing its journey to Ballymena.

past signs for kells
through antrim then
a flag that wheels itself
a pole
high on staff a union jack

clouds dragging back
towards the right
we trundle on

and after roundabout
flags increase manifold
at ballee

flip flap

There were strange squat houses painted in two colours, usually cream and another hue. They were like Hansel and Gretel houses.

black and cream
cream and green
blue and cream

each one a keeper of a union flag

are they hanging out
the bunting just for me?
(i am after all an englishman)

At Harryville there was a promotional offer for the UVF through the production of a mural.

I wonder if Northern Ireland had bought in a glut of L’s and over the centuries, they had to use them up before the sell by date. The bus centre at Ballymena, sitting at a strange angle to the train station was a long line of docking spaces for blue and cream buses seeming to drive out of the 1950’s. The font on the signs seemed stencilled on; Ballymena (of course) Larne, Ballyclare, Kells, Culllybackey, Londonderry, Limavady, Ballycastle, Cloughmills, Clough, Corkey, N’Crommelin. Oh – and the sun comes out at 10.15am.

The place was pretty much deserted. This may be because of my time of visit being during the holiday season or maybe buses just aren’t used much. Perhaps it’s a demise most places encounter.

I waited about twenty five minutes for the bus to Cushendall. Not quite on time, but ten minutes after the due leaving would probably have the I told you so bods of the guides smirking in their lunch bag. Ireland is still painted as a tomorrow will do or as just you wait for the sheep to get off the road. The Irish tourist offices and the postcard producers do the place a disservice. What’s friendliness is not laziness. I’m hoping the myth dies along with the thick Paddy label.

so seventeen miles to cushendall
past signs for clinty
a43 warms us along
(even in the middle
of the countryside
houses have numbers)

just three of us
and a bunch of maps

I’d been sent directions to the hostel as well as talked to Nathalie, someone over for the past five weeks to enable her time out to produce her dissertation. If I stayed on the bus and alighted at the coast, I would have had a five-mile walk up to my accommodation. With a bit of struggle and brain scratching, me and the bus driver worked out the way which only demanded a ten minute walk along the edge of a road which drivers seemed to think was a race track for 4 x4’s.

So, surviving the short trek, I realised I wasn’t expected until much later in the day and spent the next hour keeping the cats and the goat company. I even discovered a fairy ring at the back of the building.

No one could deny the beauty of the area. Looking over towards the other side, the fields stretched out and stretched onwards. Though picturesque, I did feel I’d seen equal in my home county of Derbyshire. But read on - I’ve not finished with this place yet.

I’m a restless soul, particularly after spending time in Belfast, its vibrancy eking into my tourist sensibilities. The converted barn, had a couple of stables attached. I left my main rucksack tucked in there. I don’t normally take risks like that by the way. I’d heard about and seen hitchers in Ireland getting lifts as easy as pie. It was time to put the culture to the test. Within five minutes I was away and along the road to the centre and so the shores (it’s important when talking of the place, the emphasis should be put on the a in Cushendall).

I hate doing the tourist talk, that’s not my raison d’etre for being here, but here goes. Cushendall has pubs, posh hotel, a Spar, local ice cream and corner shop, pizza parlour and chip shop. It’s also got a tourist information building pretty much opposite the bus stop for the Antrim Coaster. But could I find an off-license? That’s a rhetorical question I believe.

The Spar has the Post Office as a bed partner. Under the same roof, there’s also (another) ice-cream parlour and all seemed to be doing fine. I know at least one Midlands Co-op sharing its shop space with the Post Office. If it wasn’t for the growth of supermarket chains springing up, there would be an even greater feeling of achievement for the union.

The beach lies like a drawn out s bend. The pebbles grate sharply on each other as the water pulls back. There are strands of seaweed, stones jammed into wormed out other stones and an occasional burst of detritus. Most of the area is clean and unspoilt with a fairly new looking bank of houses perched about fifteen metres back. There was a real problem getting a mobile signal. Eventually it came in then disappeared as soon as it arrived, probably rowing a boat over from Mull just across the water.

History is part of Ireland’s gene pool so even in a place like this there are a couple of reference boards. I wonder when the history plates in Belfast will start to pop up. Sorry – that sounds insensitive.

here by the fringe of cushendall
lap waves that strike
the stones
and roll its tiny boulders back

it is the noise which fascinates
the pebbles want to roll away again
retreat into the sea

some seaweed then
the guts of the world
throw up its dregs
in green
and brown
and gloopy

i see its fathoms in
these broken fingers

i walk on

rock pools
thin yellow moss
green coverings
high mound

the sea is trickster

i am out of my depths

sea knows i’m english
(sees my limited mind)

perceives my poetry as false

sea weed – no more
no less

A hitch back and the broad based hostel welcomed me in the form of Nathalie and the German shepherd dog, Nancy. After two hours, the three of us, wellington’d up, set out walking.

Cushendall used to have a railway. One part of me is glad it doesn’t. There are few green and peaceful spaces in the west that are dedicated to the foot as a mode of transport.

I told you I hadn’t finished talking about the majesty of the place. Sometimes, the only constancy in the walk was the curiously orange river which either pushed along slowly or raced frantically at our feet in valleys or as a frothing crashing waterfall.

What follows is a series of Haiku* based on our hundred and twenty minutes.

haiku walk

here’s gap in fence
old brickwork fallen trees moss
beginning the walk

it has been raining
we jump across while we talk
of how far we go

thin strands of water
squelch squelch – trying to keep up
our green wellingtons

dead wood snapped falling
i keep falling behind her
nancy! you’re calling

across a short ditch
we both walk on this new path
wide open spaces

you point to the barn
and it seems a long distance
o purple heather!

by a wide river
shallow and with orange water
we take photographs

continue up hill
small yellow flowers tall grass
always surprises

and crossing the road
you left the dog lead behind
nancy makes her way

forest country park
paths laid out round waterfalls
we talk of music

coming back around
nancy is still off her lead
and crossing the road

back to the river
i have to stop for a pee
and you walking on

finding the lead there
i wave to you – well done!
now we return home

two hours walking
but it doesn’t feel like it
you cook while i write

*pronounced ha-i-ku. The anglicised version of this Japanese poetic form asks the writer to use three lines of five, seven, five syllables respectively. Contemporary Haiku-ists demand only the capture of its idea and not the strict count of beats.

It was a lovely way to close a tiring day of travel. I asked Nathalie about the huge grassy mound near to the coast but in view of the barn. There is an almost perpendicular drop to the sides. Last week the lump played host to a race directly to the top and down. The winner did it in thirty five minutes. Nobody runs down, it’s impossible. You just slide down on your jacksie.

Whereas the city is fine for the cerebral (and the shop-a-holic inside us) the spiritual came in the form of Cushendall and the forest country park. Though not completely wild, the last time I felt anything close to this was in Bejstorp in Skane. The ground was thick with luminescent moss and there were few reference points which would lead our way back to our base camp by the old dividing line between Denmark and Sweden. Sweden was the first time I saw a cauliflower fungus, whilst at the back of the hostel, by a massive gas cylinder, a perfect fairy ring lay. We tried to work out whether it was a full moon that night.

We finished downloading some photographs by early morning. I slumbered well. I recommend the place for anyone obsessed with the politics of the land. Sometimes you have to let go.

cushendall (using fridge magnet poetry at the barn)

only honey whisper falling
sing light and shadow storm
(may you please)
blow music – still sleep smooth mist soaring
a delicate moment always is

beneath essential diamond summer
sea goddess rest to recall sun
behind the sad and feltful mother
the moon dreams true – is never gone

Saturday 29th August

About 8.30am I rose to the sunshine and the alarm clock, chatted, had breakfast and posted some entries on slugger, and incorporating writing. Within twenty minutes of sticking out my thumb, I was sitting in a car with an ‘Ards man.

I was impressed. The library was running about ten minutes late but quickly opened up so I could grab some web-time again. In my jumble of books, pamphlets, tapes and newspapers there was no way I could hunt out my library card and pin. She came up trumps and wrote it all down for me. Cushendall, for all its beauty and for all its ‘hard to get to-ness’ is still registered with the modern world and, while I was there also had its own share of silver surfers.

Time gave me forty-five minutes. I was standing at the bus-stop on Mill Street, when racing up and through the town, about thirty motorbikes straggled in a line. Nobody seemed annoyed. The town was used to tourists (like me I suppose). Just at the back of the library, the sheep market setting up.

The Antrim Coaster is a bus that winds and meanders its slow way along the scenic route of the east then the north coast. There was no way I was going to get a seat. The bus was chocker with visitors, families, luggage and day-trippers ready for the rope-bridge experience. The last time I was there I fell on my arse in the mud. Just thought I’d tell you that, they may be listening and want to concrete it over.

The driver didn’t seem to mind me plonking my rucksack in the gangway and perching myself on the frame. We swapped morning witticisms, there was a mix up with the change over but all was settled and we pushed our way along the sea front dropping off the merry travellers and sprawling family by the roadside. The second of the two headed for Dunseverick Castle. The bus driver explained twice the fact that it only had two walls and you could see it was perched high on a steep bank of cliff, but there was a desperate determination in the fathers eyes which I suspect wasn’t shared by the rest of the clan. I saw the place – it was scary (I wouldn’t stay there…).

lurch – bus dreams us along
some things are universal
the sea
the land
teenage girls wearing pink
and over-using
the word like

I got off at Portrush and caught the supposedly straight through train for Derry. The trains seem to be as old as the buses. They weren’t uncomfortable, far from it. They were far cleaner than the more up to date track-runners in England. Ireland has its pride but I wonder if the millennium managed to get here yet. Portrush was for the sea-side, I was heading towards a different kind of water. The accents by now had changed, there was a kind of au sound in the middle of the locals’ words, even to the point of Laundaundeerry. That was another change too – Derry taking on its conversational dancing partner, London.

A change of plan. Off at Coleraine and get the next train behind this on the platform. The station had its obligatory snack and drinks machine and there was a steady glumness about the place. Even the young snogging couple weren’t that passionate. Maybe I should have offered…maybe not.

By now the real tiredness had set in. I feel asleep at Waterside where the train did the same. Whatever was wrong was righted and we reached Derry (Londonderry through the p.a system). I remember there was a story of one of the radio stations having to get an absolute balance of saying Derry and Londonderry in equal measures. I don’t know if that’s still the case. Let not hell break loose (wait for this innocent Englishman to hide first).

I’d been told that morning of there being a parade in Derry. That word still makes me think of decorated floats and tombolas. I didn’t think this would have been the case.

I alighted from the train (there are plans to close the station down) and made my way across the Foyle, phoning my host as I went.

15 Dec 2004

Arriving at and the beginning of bank holiday in Derry

First impressions.

This section of reporting (it seems the project uses this format more and more) has worried at my bones even more so than writing about Belfast. I have to keep reminding myself that I am here as observer, not as agitator, reminiscence workshop-er or mercurial message bringer. It’s difficult to deny any of these triplets inside oneself. If any of these sides do slip out, then so be it.

There are two sides of Derry – each rests and faces each other across the River Foyle. One brother makes the money whilst the other sprawls its houses onwards and eastwards. The exit to the train station faces away from the water and lets the image of the city on St Columb’s Park-side, slowly seep in before you cross the bridge to hit the retails.

‘Cross the bridge I entered and it’s by the same I’ll go to my next destination. By then I will have a fuller impression of the city and not just by the pricking of its skin.

I’ve got lazy taking notes. Not necessarily deliberately. Part of me was worn out from the journey. Part of me craved constant company and part of me struggled to take in the history of the place. I get the feeling the past still holds the upper hand no matter how many shopping malls spring up. Derry is completely walled in history, has been so since the seventeenth century, and you can’t close your eyes to its symbolism. Symbols though have many facets. Sorry – there goes the messenger.

My hosts have given me perfect shelter. In fact I have the complete run of a flat above a barbers shop in the centre just up from the Diamond , a square with eateries, public houseries and closing down clothes shop-eries. . Everything is in direct reach of need - mostly the creation of a need to spend. Like Belfast, I seem to be coming back to this same area, never being able to fight my way out from this collection of these debit takers. This side of Derry is dilute drink without the water. It’s an intense experience but with a human face. Although the chain stores have moved in, they don’t seem to have dealt with the sharper details of the building (clearing the growing weeds on the walls etc.)

On my journey here, I missed the morning parade. Newsletter next day had the words Under Siege in large font with subheading RBP members had to barricade themselves inside hall. Apparently they had to protect themselves by a ring of police vans around North Belfast Orange Hall.

As I said, I didn’t see the main Derry, sorry, Londonderry parade. It was later though, that the Black Perceptors had a mini march just up the way from me. Unfortunately, there was a police van blocking the view and I caught a ‘H’rayyy’ and a flash of banner from the window, passing under the bridge where on the inside, someone had graffiti-d who when where what why? Close by, on the same brickwork, possibly by the same artist there was a silhouette, similar to the floor based ones painted to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima.

I’m not sure of the significance of the writings but it felt poignant to questioning the these symbolic rituals. Nobody seemed to mind about the march. It was like a for he’s a jolly good fellow sung at a leaving party, then the buffet arrives to quieten the proceedings and spoil the diet.

It was a night that kept me going until morning. First was a placing of where I am walk. My hosts are brilliant and have been able to offer at least two sides to the messy politics of Northern Ireland and an excellent night out. Please bear in mind my goldfish memory, my hearing being battered by four weeks factory work and my absolute tiredness. Please also be mindful, I am not a history teacher and, surprisingly with this project, have no penchant for being one. I do wish sometimes I could absorb facts and figures easier.

George Ewart Evans, folk historian, once described history as being taught (unfortunately) on a vertical level, using lists of dates and monarchs to explain or unfold what’s gone on before. He talked of the use and importance of horizontal, using local and social history.

It was energizing to find in my hosts, a couple of fresh voices in the wilderness – one being socialist and involved in grass roots whilst the other with left wing libertarian views and an obvious thirst for history, language and anarchist memorabilia!

Some years ago, I’d bought a book called the Fountain based on an estate of the same name and built close to the city walls. The closely bound area needed individual (Unionist) TLC. It got its listening ear and the results were printed up in the book. It could be any estate in England, Scotland or Wales. But like the rest of Derry, it’s a condensed soup of a place. It was essentially a reminiscence project. The captured memories were, not printed as prose but as chopped shorter lines that masqueraded neatly as poetry. The photographs supported the written pieces and all credit to the contributors and the Verbal Arts Centre for its production.

(The poets are blamed
but it isn’t their fault
you get only the contents
out of a pot – Irish Epigram)

what’s poetry then?

poetry is the word that
flowers out
to a thousand others

and the thousand others
seek further on

until boom
we implode
with the fascination
of some hidden
(un-obvious) truth

then someone finds
another word

makes it shudder
like a cold jelly
being taken
out the fridge

this other one
sees its brother
across the way
(causing mischief)
and decides to join
in the fun

o you stinker word
are there any more of you
out there?

o yes – the two words chorus
like some quirky hummingbird

find other brothers
link serifs
join loops
fix typo’s

then someone says
is this a poem?


So I’ve been in the town and around the town. The central shopping area looked over by the cathedral played host to a (hopefully regular) organic market.

(the signs said)

for any place
this has radical

the poet said

During the troubles, this precinct apparently was always the first to suffer. My host jokes that Littlewoods always had to endure the uprisings to a greater extent. I wondered if it’s the customers trying to eliminate their debts. This middle slice of Derry is similar to my home city Nottingham. Quietly pedestrianised with a confusing series of traffic lights enough to put the kybosh up any invading army (allow me a joke please)…

Hey – we can’t go that way, it’s on red

Course we can, it’s not quite changed yet – look it’s getting ready for amber

But I wouldn’t risk it

Well I bloody well will – We’re on an invasion – remember? chaaaarge! [crunch]

What did I say? Now – I vote we should wait

It’s not been supersized with McD’s yet. It still has the familiar fast food lights of Abrakebabra. It also has lots of rough edges in tucked away streets but nobody seems to mind. There is the suffering from the detritus of youthful weekends and the squeals of excitement when the second of the Wetherspoons appears in view. Like Belfast, the multiscreen cinema’s haven’t found their way through the one way system yet.

(a city slackens off)
over the bridge – unclean
factory walls
gone for cash
like a glass madonna

a vision painted
on its face
to sell it off

now walking on the up
the tattoo parlour tattooing
the milk froth coffee maker
coffee making
the clothes seller
selling clothes
from off the peg

who does what
is doing it today
quietly and
as per usual

Second impressions of Derry

Errata to first impressions (second para)

St Columba’s should read St Columb’s park

Firstly, apologies for the rewind. I’ve just discovered the list of poems from the Poetry Tour of Ireland talk at the Linenhall (link), Belfast, another place that’s seen part of the rejuvenation bids.

The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush – ">Derek Mahon
Cushendun – Louis MacNiece
Carrickfergus (link)- Louis MacNiece
The Importance of Elsewhere – Philip Larkin
Iniskeen Road:July Evening - Patrick Kavanagh
Shancoduff - Patrick Kavanagh
In memory of my mother - Patrick Kavanagh
Father and Son – F R Higgins
Nelson Street – Sean O’Suilleavain
Dublinesque - Philip Larkin
Ringsend – Oliver St John Gogarty
The Strand – Seamus Heaney
The Bells of Shandon – Francis Mahoney
Letting Go – Michael Coady
Throwing the beads – Sean Dunne
The Wild Swans at Coole – W B Yeats
The Ox – Paul Muldoon
Postscript – Seamus Heaney
Detour – Michael Longley
Overheard in County Sligo
Duffy’s Circus – Paul Muldoon
The Right Arm - Paul Muldoon
Last Journey – John Montague
Roslea Hero – Frank Ormsby
Winter Sports - Frank Ormsby

Intermission over.

It was Saturday night. Pub (link) visits seem to start at about 9pm or later and sneak on into the early hours of Sunday morning. It was walking down the right hand slope from Butcher Gate (link) (all the gaps in this walled city have names as well as waist height history panels) (link) I broached the subject of left side of left politics. It wasn’t an at length chat – the diddly-idle music, once we got inside killed it off before we really got going onto the nature of anarchism, (link)co-operation, mutual aid and self help. The main problem was that it was piped through speakers at too high a volume. It was a slow disco dirge for the hard of hearing.

We gave up shouting over the grating fiddles and the traditional strains tucked in the corner, which, to be honest was merging into on continuous low of misery. We moved two doors up, to preserve our legal right not to be deafened and also to chat. By this time, politics was left at the door and we talked of the personal act of poetry. Nobody in the previous pub was actually paying attention to the players. This must say something.

By 2pm we’d finally been turfed out, six of us piling into a car and me hitting the sack with no concern for my beauty sleep.


The next morning, the Guinness (link)had done my constitution good, shall we say.

I’d heard about the strange Sunday opening hours. No shops open til 1pm and then they stay open til 6pm. For the restless English, it’s a bit of a stinker. If, though, I wanted a big Mac with everything, I could have gone into the local shopping centre and sat gumming away. How come they got let off the Sunday trading? I was almost about to get the escalator down when I was called back by security. Uncle Ronald, I hate you and anyway, I’d rather have something to eat.

So the rest of the morning was spent catching up on the diary and posting it on the blog (link). When 1pm arrived, off I trotted. I found the only (?) and cheapest internet café in town (£1.50 for 15 minutes), quickly handed over my disk and off it went into a great big bloop of virtual connectivity towards Sluggerotoole, (link) davewoodinireland (link)and incwriters (link).

When you stay for anytime in a centre, you forget that there’s a great winding world out there of road and paths and small shops that sell you real food. So that’s what happened when I went for a meal with my virtual tourist guides and now drinking partners. It meant I’d got a lift and got some shopping on the way that didn’t have the Marks And Spencer (link) brand name on it. So, in summary…about Derry, there are few small shops selling food in the centre. I counted two. It’s a great shame really; Derry has potential for a real co-existence of retail establishments and outlets.

Don’t ask me to give directions, but we wound our way across Bog Side (link)and got there quickly. The streets were clean, there were no burning cars, no threatenng looks or Tricolours hanging. Just a healthy looking road near a just about to get on its feet city.

Of course, I had to go to the pub again; the Guinness was calling me as soft as its big frothy head. There is something about the drink here. You can feel it slip through your teeth like strands of seaweed. (link)I found out the next day, that I’d gone in the only left wing pub going in the area. It didn’t particularly feel it in any way, there being no pictures of Mr Adams or Mr McGuinness. Is Irish politics going as brown as their stout? The place was awash with students, me and a drunk with eyes fixed to his knees. As I (think I) said though, Derry still has its edges and I thank heaven for small mercies. The band finished their set at 1am with This land is your Land, a much changed and altered set of lyrics to fit in with the area it was being performed in. I’m waiting for it to be performed in my home town of Heanor, (link) Derbyshire, a place labelled whiter than white working class in the Guardian (link) some years ago partly because of its connection to Ian Stewart of right wing band, Screwdriver. So here’s the suggestion:

This land is your land
This land is mine
From Shipley Common (link)
To the Red Lion…

Altogether now.

Anyway I could at least get on and write this stuff up.

Bank Holiday Monday

I’d been promised a trip out in the car to Donegal (link). Not as far as my favourite spot of the ‘south’, Teelin Point (link), obviously. You’d need a good full day to do that one – it’s way past Donegal itself and then on to Kilcar (link) where there’d be hostel waiting and the host with his birthday at the end of the month. I was going to stay there during the trip but remembered how bad the roads (read slow) were and then I was booked into running a creative writing workshop. Some day, one day.

Meanwhile, Teelin Point produced the poem that created the title for this project, The Screaming Rock. From what I remember, it said it had the highest cliffs in western Europe. Correct me if I’m wrong. If they aren’t, they make up for it in their dramatic spray, heathered climbs and stunning view.

So, we headed out around Lough Foyle (link) and targeted towards Malin Head (link). It was a beautiful day. The sun was out but the breeze was sharp enough to justify a certain amount of cosy wrap up clothes and a pop into the pub. On the (back) way we took a stroll up Greenan (link) Mountain for a photo shoot and history lesson. Hardly a mountain, but then we did drive up its main body and walk the rest from the car park. There was work being done on the main brickwork of this ancient parliament but we wandered in just the same, no hard hats supplied. There were kids there playing swords and shouting across the circular banked up space. It was a place of kings (link) but with the roof gone and erosion getting the better of it. Apparently there was a downstairs, evidence of which could be seen from where we stood – short gaps into the stone at ground height. Not bad for four hundred years but I think the last tenants will lose their deposit. Our eyes stretched out over Lough Swilly, (link) Derry, (link) Inch Island (link) (tethered onto the mainland) and the Foyle (link). I could see there was no getting away from the vision of this last one for a long time.

place of kings
the breeze takes
the breath away
adds to it and
swilly’s it about

One day, some years ago and travelling round the west in a Volvo, we heard a clunk from the back. The roads had finally stolen our exhaust. It wasn’t a Volvo today but I was assured the roads have improved drastically here. The price of petrol over the border is now so low that residents from the north travel to fill up to gain, say 50% extra in their tank. Meanwhile, the cost of living speeds steadily upwards and balances this bargain out somewhat. I won’t even start talking about Dublin (link).

Euros have been sneaking into Northern Ireland for quite a while now with a number of outlets that are happy to accept the coinage. Seems to be more wide spread than the old days of when punts were about. Stirling, I was assured in Moville (link) would also be taken but with Euros given back. Whether we got a fair exchange is another point. I paid my English tenner and got the same change in Euros as I would have in stirling. I’m crap with numbers so I won’t hazard a guess at the rate I was given.

brief pub grub in darkened bar
(the photo’s on the wall show
parties gone) – but it is quiet now
we have come near – I have come far

We sat by the coast we’d travelled along looking out to sea from the bench.

like three oldies
we talk of death
and marriages and funerals

i want woodlands
she wants to go to Valhalla

(more as soon as it's written)

14 Dec 2004

Interview with Zoe from The Verbal Arts Centre - Derry - 1st September 2004

Interview with Zoe at the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry

I have tried to transcribe as much as possible from the tapes interview. At the beginning of the meeting, I discovered that Zoe commutes from Omagh. We talked briefly on this. Discussion on the Verbal Arts Centre follows on.

Tell me what you think about the centre at Omagh

…find it quite difficult to reconcile the idea [of the centre where the Omagh blast took place] . I think it's a good idea to have something there. I think the building itself is nice but it will always be the bombsite. The building doesn't quite fit - it's not vernacular.

Maybe that's why - because it alerts the outside world to the fact that this was something that had been imposed by history or whatever. It's difficult - I've never been into it. It looks quite cold and I don't know what you’d put there instead. It's very strange.

It feels like the people of Omagh are simply getting on…

I think that's maybe an oversimplification. If I'm asked where I'm from and I see their face - the only reason people have heard of Omagh is because of the bomb. I still get very upset talking about it. I feel that most people are the same as myself. I don't thank you'll find anyone in Omagh that wasn't personally affected by it and I think that we aren't actually getting on with it. I think that time has stuck. I don't know how we do move away from it. I don't know how we can get over it. It’s like a little kernel inside. It's hard, cold and it's something I don't feel that I have moved on from. It's heart's gone.

Six months afterwards my daughter was on the train in Central Europe, don’t remember where, but she and a friend were travelling as student representatives and guards came up and took their passports, 'the only thing we can find about you is that you were born in Omagh' and that sort of notoriety is something that sticks.

For the first year afterwards, if I met strangers, I'd say I was from Co Tyrone. I wasn't more specific than that, but I think the reaction's going to be, 'how do you feel.' It’s quite difficult to…

Verbal Arts

We have a neutrality here which we emphasise. The fact that we're sited on the wall, we can see where Seamus Heaney went to school, we can see where Mrs Alexander wrote 'there is a green hill far away', The Fountain, the little sort of Protestant enclave just there and the site of Bloody Sunday just there. And we're, if you like a neutral centre to that.

We tend very much to emphasise that but it's an advantage but also a disadvantage because Bogsiders see us as beside the Fountain, people from across the bridge say 'Oh no, it's over the city side, people from this side say it's walls. We have the difficulty of the street treating resistance to this as a place where verbal arts and it's something that we struggle with. And our siting [is next to] the army barracks. It’s very awkward for all persuasions, it's intimidating to walk into this building and our hope is that when it goes, it will open the space up much more and we'll be able to get on with using language as a tool for all sorts of creativity.

At the minute we do a lot of storytelling, a lot of creative writing, a lot of poetry and puppetry with schools but also with [visitors to] the centre. We would like to think that we could make it a much more thriving place when we do get over people's resistance to coming into us.

Plans for the barracks?

There's a community committee working to develop plans but I don't know what those plans are and we would hope that it would open up the area. There are also sorts of different groupings that work or try to - for the whole benefit - which is fair enough.

The Fountain and the Fountain Project

I've been here three years. I've read it obviously…

Change in the Fountain?

It always amazes me how much resistance there is to progress and in fact the government policy would be for us to address community relations issues not in terms of cultural diversity but in terms of what we would see as being very confrontational, examining problems, Catholic issues per se…, They want us to go for the jugular. They want to in some way pick at the scabs which…is counter productive. But I suppose the rationale behind it is that if everything is out in the open and everything's discussed then we can move on from there, whereas I would be more for bury it underground. And that's probably wrong as it would be there festering away. That would be the sort of policy…

Using the centre

It's used quite a bit. We do quite a lot of work out in schools…

Community Development?

It's not seen as a community centre per se. What we would aim for and this sounds desperately elitist, and I don't mean it to, we would aim for excellence rather than amateur. I think there's room for amateurs but what we would like to feel is bringing excellence of a professional nature as well as amateurs. I think possibly because the fabric of our building is so beautiful we're seen as perhaps a little bit precious. It's not an image that we want to project but it's possible the image that we do project.

I would lie to consider we would impress people by giving them the facility to appreciate the written and spoken. That's desperately pretentious but it's how I really see it.

Creative Writing?

Very little at the moment. We're hoping to develop a much more structured, if that's not a contradiction in terms, creative writing programme. What we're hoping to do is get a couple of traditional creative writing groups going to work towards the publication of work. Not perhaps the community way but by ringing people and getting them published by recognised publishing houses. Again it's concentrating on the excellence rather than the breadth tradition. We've had a writing group which has atrophied. It tends to become a social gathering rather than where writing is a focus. And we want to revolutionise that whole…so we're actually starting again from basics and what we're hoping to do is have several groups with different focus'. One will be the creative writing for the enthusiast of it then we hope to progress to a more stringent kind of creative writing course. We do have an M.A. in verbal and written arts - not a creative writing M.A. We have a very practical focus in it. One of the modules is Creative New Practice were you're given the nuts and bolts of how to put on creative performances of whatever kind, how to do the paperwork and the other legal…all the other things that people don't want to think about but which they actually need to think…It's a slightly different course, there is a creative writing module in it but creative writing isn't the only thing that they do. …(sorry - tape illegible) with the University of Ulster.

Visual Arts

Not very much. We would see the visual arts as not our remit but as something that might be seen in a peripheral way to enhance the verbal arts. We really wanted to focus on language. It's what makes us special. Arts Centres probably handle the visual arts better than we do but we see it as a peripheral to our provision.

Contacts with other centres

We would work with the Nerve Centre but there's obviously rivalry but they have strengths which we don’t and vice versa. And we would obviously recognise their superiority in terms of technology whereas we would feel ourselves to have the edge in terms of language.

(Nice coffee too - Dave)


After the interview, Zoe also asked me to state that Verbal Arts, in conjunction with Fortnight magazine, offers a debating forum.

Interview at the Nerve centre, Magazine Street, Derry (transcribed after interview).

Interview at the Nerve Centre, Magazine Street, Derry.

What follows is a summary of a conversation with one member of the musicians' collective based at the centre. References to questions posed by myself have been reduced to sub-headings. There were a few words or phrases that were too muffled to transcribe. Brackets [ ] hopefully clarify some of the dialogue. Please feel free to add comments to the post if you are unsure.

General information

[The Nerve Centre is] a multi-media centre started fourteen, fifteen years ago. The musicians' collective came first and then the building. There were originally two set ups - the Irish Film Festival [and the collective]. Then the two came together. This is the first musicians' collective in Derry.


The Nerve Centre put on loads of bands in the 1980's when there was not a lot happening. It was definitely successful…There never used to be anything interesting. It was always Irish Country music. Otherwise you had to go to Dublin or Belfast.

Now Derry has a programme of live music. The bands are coming here, not just going to Dublin Belfast or Cork.

All the gigs are based here.


Local bands are [now] well supported. We've had all major Irish bands played here…pretty much established on the Irish circuit and we do get bands from England and Scotland and we have international acts as well.

[We have] local bands not just from Derry but from all over Northern Ireland and they're well supported.

Derry's attitude since the ceasefire

In terms of ceasfire, [there's a process of] normalisation. [Derry is] obviously getting a lot of investment from outside - people [now] have confidence to cone here. Now getting more outside influences than what you would previously…than I would see - I grew up in the 1980's here. [There's] definitely a change in that respect. People are coming here because they want to, not because they've been dragged…really hounded 'this is not what you've seen in the newspapers and seen on t.v'. They're [now] well informed people.

Educational courses

Everything is housed [with]in the building. In the summer we have kids' cinema and during the week there's three recording studios. There's diplomas in media techniques and multi media. [There's a] recording course here [set up] eight years ago.

Some will come along and have a go and have some fun [on the courses]. Some will get jobs as roadies and through that get work, then come back here and get other work.

The course[s] is practically based, hands on experience. More that than on academic heavy duty exams.

If you want to make film, here's your camera, here's how to edit…and it does give you the knowledge…

Self sustaining?

It still does rely heavily on [funding] though I wouldn't know the specifics.

Future - self supporting?

I would say so. The climate - socially and politically in northern Ireland is changing. You may have noticed major and international companies investing here. I suppose it does go side by side.

The reaction [to the above]

[I] think it's been really good and there is that word normalisation - same here - same as U.K.

Think people are pretty going for it. They're fed up of the past so things are kind of going that way. Just my own personal opinion.


complete interview at St.Columb's Cathedral, Derry.

(beginning of) Interview with Billy Baygely of St.Columb's Cathedral, Derry. (I hope I've spelt the name correctly).

(The blog will be updated with links. Please keep your comments coming in)

About the cathedral

The church is the oldest building in Derry built in 1633. It started in 1628 and finished 1633 so five years to build a church is just amazing considering there was no mechanical aids. We have the oldest peal of bells in Ireland. Two bells from 1613, the remaining 6 bells from 1633. So we've the oldest peal of bells in Ireland and the oldest building in the city….A lot of improvements have been made down through the years, see the big pillars? Those are original. The walls are original. We've got the north side and the south side with the nave in the middle. Not much else is…the floor was changed from a wooden floor to a terracotta floor in 1860. And the roof was changed from a stone roof to a Canadian pine roof in 1823. 1860 the pews were changed, for box pews to gate to those oak pews.

Why changes at that time?

Well, we had a bishop came here. New Kings make new laws. And this Bishop was Bishop Higgin. And he decide against the wishes of most to renovate the church, to do away with a lot of old things and bring in new things. There's those that didn't agree but they went ahead and did that. The gallery that you see at the back of the church, that ran down each side of the church, there was no stained glass. That stained glass is Victorian as well. The gallery was taken down by Bishop Higgin. The windows boarded up at the top are bricked up at the top and moved down a bit where the gallery was. The stained glass was introduced..the nice oak pews that you see…all the wood that you see in the church is oak, except the bits that see which is Canadian pine. The name Derry from the old Celtic word, Doire, meaning oaks or place of the Oaks. Derry's name meaning Oakgrove. That's all local wood that was used in the church.

Derry and Londonderry

Up until the 1950's nobody had any bother calling the place Derry. This cathedral is called Derry Cathedral. We have the apprentice boys of Derry. They didn't change their name, the Cathedral didn't change its name, nobody had a problem until certain people decided that you can't call it Londonderry. You tell someone you can't do something, they say 'why can we not?, why can we not call it…?'

[then there would be the reply] 'Oh you can't. We've changed the name of the city from Londonderry to Derry. Derry City Council changed that. That's when people got their back up and said 'Oh no we're going to call it Londonderry not Derry. But up until 1960 there was no problem in the city. People referred to the city as Derry. We've got the Sash, the old Protestant song; [lyrics] Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillin and the Boyne, it's not Londonderry, Aughrim, it's Derry, Aughrim.

All of a sudden people are telling us we can't call it Londonderry on the one reason. And the city's been Londonderry since 1613 when the charter was added by James First for Derry to become a city.

Faith and the Cathedral

It's very much a working cathedral. The unfortunate thing about our cathedral is late 1960 and early 1970's a lot of the protestant people left the west bank and went to live in the east bank of the city. At one time, the west bank was 60 -40/ 55, 65 whatever, population nationalists, protestant and catholic. Now the population of the west bank is 98% Roman Catholic -that's only 2% Protestant.


My belief is that there was a conspiracy to get the Protestants out of the West Bank to the East Bank. I loved here and I moved and my mother and father moved, we all moved. We didn't want the troubles that were going on here - pretty frightening for the time. This cathedral before 1960 had eight hundred families - 10 per church. Now we're down to 200. Lost 600 families by a shift in a population of the protestant people from the west bank to the east bank. And that shift was planned. That's my line. That didn't happen accidentally; hundreds of people from all the districts of the city - from the bishop Street District, Dark lane, Rosemount District, Stranroad District; those people just didn't leave just like that for no reason. They had a reason. Now, the west bank of the city would be 70 - 30 in the protestant vein. There still is about 30% Roman Catholic population living in the east bank.

Using the Cathedral

We have a big Sunday School for young people. We've go a mixed men and boys' choir. 14 boys and eight men. We have youth organisations like the cubs and the scouts, the rainbows and whatever. We've a good mixture of people in the church. Our average attendance on a Sunday would be about 250 - fairly good for 200 families. But there was a time before the 1960's (in the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's) that the church would be packed. The church holds 780 people and It was packed at the time. In saying that the general trend in young people is not to go to church compared to who you are or 40's and 50's, people have dropped off . I think it's a sign of the times; young people have more to do; cinemas open everything's open play football, it's got everything going on a Sunday. The church comes last with some of the young people which is unfortunate but that's the fact.

The relationship to faith still strong?

It's a good question. This is a trend that's happening in the Roman Catholic Churches as well - not as many people going to chapel as there used to be, not as many people coming to church as there used to be - [it's] a young people's trend. Unfortunately a lot of it started when the troubles started; they liked to do other things rather than go to church. This is my bee on it. When I was born are reared on the street - it was mixed and we had no bother leaving our doors open at night. The neighbours would have come in then - had a cup of tea, borrowed a cup of sugar then went out again. That doesn't happen anymore - even in their own community they do that and a mixed community seemed different...everybody running into everybody's houses.

future renovations?

yes - we have a big restoration program's mapped out which is going to cost two and half million pounds.

how will you raise that?

well we don't know. Unfortunately we had a break in the church nine years ago - that's nine long years - Christmas time and vandals broke into the church - destroyed the organ that 's...The organ's getting rebuilt at a cots £400,000. We have £300,000 gathered and we've started the work. We hope to have the other 100 000 - that's all gathered by parishioners.. we have had no help. We applied to the Arts Council for lottery grants and they sent us a nice letter saying that this area was over suscrbed and they couldn't give the church anything - we appealed it. They came down and they said no - we can't. So we're gathering that money ourselves...things like that put back the restoration. The stone work in the church isn't bad especially up there especially on the roof. But the pillars on the roof, the battlements's a Gothic cathedral built of sandstone and sandstone's very soft and doesn't last the pace. It's been here for four hundred years - I suppose it's not too bad. That's the financial part of the church. The church doesn't have the money and we can't get the grants for anybody to help. Everybody gets grants fatigue - maybe I'm biased. That's the way I think. We had a stained glass window broken. The second one down on that side. We had a panel on that broken. We had a grill on it. That was pulled off and a stone was thrown through it. We have a lot of problems with young people in the church grounds at night with their carry-outs and having parties. They come over the railings. We don't want to go to the extent of putting barbed wire up or anything.

And that's what happened - it was just an act of vandalism. I don't think it was sectarian - it was just an act of vandalism and that cost us £2000 which we have gathered for that and we have fixed. But the organ's ongoing.

Visions and faith...

People come to church to worship God. They wouldn't be here if they didn't have a faith, so that's 250 people. A lot of young people thank goodness and the church looks healthy at the moment and we hope we're here for another 400 years… As I say, it's the most historic and the oldest building in the city, it’s not a problem. Trying to get money in is a problem…we depend on visitors.

souvenirs and visitors

The only problem we have…we have an average of 30,000 visitors oer year. We don't ask for payment to come into the church. We ask them to make a donation, if they wish. Out of that 30,000 our box shows £10,000. We find a lot of European visitors, and I don't want to tar them with the same brush, but Spaniards, Germans, Italians don't really want to pay anything to come into the church. And saying that, the 30,000, that includes school children, they're all coming in the summer time. All the schools, Roman Catholic Schools especially, come here to see the Cathedral and to see a little bit about the good seeds of Derry all those years ago [tape illegible]. We don't expect payment from the children, but [tape illegible] that adds to the thirty thousand, maybe it's a distorted view. But a lot of visitors that come into the church don't give a donation

Quietest times

Wintertime - say November time to March must be our quietest times. Though we do get visitors from Australia and New Zealand and Europeans. There's not a country I don't think, in the world, that I haven't spoken to in seven - eight years of being here

Any other drops in congregation?

Well one year we had the foot and mouth and then the same year was the 11th September -the Americans stopped coming. And the next year was the same - there were less Americans traveling. But that's built up again.

Anything else?

About the church…well, everybody that works here, loves the church. They're just thrilled to bits - they can't get enough of it now. My great grandmother, grandmothers, my mother, myself and my children were all baptised here - we go back generations ago [tape illegible - but I'm working on it]

So you can expect it to carry on..


Thank you