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

14 Dec 2004

Wednesday 1/9/04 continued

omagh (after interview) retrospective poem

she taught me how
to say omagh
(the accent on the o
and let the a.g.h
drop gently off the lips)

she said
the kernel still remains

that the people carry it around

take it shopping
go to sleep with it

bring it back

leaving Derry meanwhile

Just inside the walls, where the smaller shops mingle relatively well with the likes of Woolworths etc, I meet the man who gave me his flat for the long weekend and who still suffers from a snuffly cold. There isn’t the formality you’d get in the main coffee centres with the big comfy chairs and the branded bean. This one’s small enough to know the customers and thriving enough to make a business work even in the face of stiff competition. It’s interesting to note that down the way, in a square or roundabout called the diamond (confused yet?) there’s a Wetherspoons. Like in England, the drinks are cheaper. It would be interesting to know how they’re faring.

Beauty of a day – just ripe for a tiring bus journey. Perhaps one that costs £8 would suffice and was utter punishment? We can do that sir. I’d only got a minute to grab the ticket and leap on board and wave the river goodbye. By this time, I’d become over Derry-fied. A beautiful city, drenched in history, but I was exhausted.

At this juncture, I thought I’d give you a couple of bits of trivia. The motorway used to be called the M-only (it was all on its own in the road network) and there is only one train-line in the whole of Northern Ireland. The trains, I must say, haven’t been too bad. The seating does reflect their age though. Possibly they’ve not been looked at since the 1960’s? Can anyone fill me in on this information?

I’ve not been drastically over late during my journeys here and information is always ready at hand. I’ve always had to remember to ask which station (in Belfast (as most trips tend to arrive or start there)) to take the bus from. If it’s the Europa, I know I’ll be on a posh carriage, whereas Lagan –side opposite the view from the shipyard deals in the blue and cream four-wheelers (a la on the buses). As I said, information is plentiful, but sometimes the rides are just tedious.

I’d got an evening off. The workshop had been cancelled due to the venue being closed, so I took a ride out to Holywood on the eastern side of the city. Shouldn’t take long I thought. Yeah right.

The jaunt over to the city was long enough but getting on when already needing a pee didn’t help. Luckily it was the Gold-liner service so there wasn’t too many jolts and most of the trip was larger A roads and motorway. I began to write down the names of the retail corporations springing up but stopped when a distinct feeling of de ja vu illumined itself. Oh – it took me to Laganside. The woman behind the counter was brilliant. One gets the feeling that whatever chaos reigned, all you had to do was ask someone and they’d say, ach, don’t worry, let’s see what we can do…

For £47 I bought a seven day freedom of Northern Ireland ticket. This was for the second time and with the budget tight, I needed to knw if it was worth the investment. It was. Needless to say, if I’d have asked her to sort out my tax return, five minutes would have sufficed. I drew the line at a proposal of marriage; couldn’t cope with the buses.

Oh, meanwhile, to the young woman who cut my hair at Omagh. A lovely job but you left the double chin.

The road out of Belfast to Holywood has been strategically littered with advertising boards marking sites of development. It should be (or could) be a straightforward a to b driving job (it took a ten minute lift coming back) but it went through every estate imaginable, past every school on the planet, past signs for the Irish Regiment as well as the boards proclaiming Tesco’s and ‘restriction zone’.

I like Holywood. At first I didn’t recognise the area. Partly from the long break but partly through the new shops all sprouted up (btw another Tesco’s). The driver let me off a little earlier and I walked through the short cut to Strand Mews. Dumping my bag and clutching camera, the wide swing of Holywood’s sea-side awaited me.

Nothing had changed. I still felt jumpy with tiredness and the camera kept leaping out. I’d discovered, just up from the water’s edge a Portuguese man o’ war sitting like a big dinner plate.

evening seaside
rocks birds shells low flying planes
watching everything

There was a shorter than short news item about it being the tenth anniversary of the ceasefire. Interviews with a small group of students was used to prove that although successes in A and AS levels, students still prefer to travel to England to study. There was still a mis-trust at ground level of the peace process. And talking of the Europa (did someone say Europa?). The man who bought it at a knock down price made his purchase just days before the ceasefire. Lucky sod.

So, a quick lift (in comparison to the bus service, Shanks’s pony would be speedier) and I’m back on the Belmont Road where I started. I’ve learnt my lesson. Half the contents of my rucksack (read mobile home) are left here to be picked up at the end of the project and on the day of the flight.

I slept gloriously.