Home September 27, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Darlings, you’ll agree I only go to the choicest spots for a bit of p&q. And to think that people told me Belfast used to be even worse.
Which is not to say I didn’t have a top time in the disputed province. And, thankfully, the wedding I attended wasn’t in Belfast itself, but an hour or so away from there, near an incredibly delicious bit of coastline. All the heterosexual men who’d marauded through Berlin but a couple of weeks earlier behaved in a far more restrained way in the company of the fairer sex, and that was only to be applauded. In fact, there’s something awfully intimate about seeing old friends. One of the brigade, whom I’ve probably only been seeing in group settings for the last gazillion years and last had a one-to-one conversation with in 1992, twice made disapproving sartorial comments, which I thought bespoke great intimacy. Our friendship has solidified as a result. And our goodbye hug was the real thing, rather than the limp version.
My route to the disputed province was a circuitous one. I thought it would be sacrilegious to go to the UK without going to London, but I did precisely this, apart from a mindblowingly quick dip into my mother’s almost provincial abode before heading ever deeper into the provinces to stay with my airport-convenient sister. My return route was equally provincial. As I sat in Gatwick, I took stock.
I had been genuinely and actively unimpressed by what Belfast had to offer. As I was whisked from its international airport to the city centre, I was convinced I was yet to discover the bits that didn’t look grimly similar to the centre of any dreary British city. Where the wedding was, on the other hand, was lovelily lovely. Both the man-made and nature-made bits. The wedding was bliss. My sister’s provincial bit of England is nice. My mum’s almost provincial bit of London is lovely. I fancied a good percentage of the gents I saw sauntering around the place (although they might all have been Polish). I had a minor quiver of worry when I heard German voices again at Gatwick, both because of the linguistic handicap and a moment of feeling culturally dissonant. “There are things I loathe about the UK,” I said to myself, “but haven’t I had a rather good time chatting to folk in the native tongue over the last few days?” Admittedly, my 4-year-old nephew did set the conversation stakes fairly high. Yesterday, from his village school, he had entered a church for the first time in his life in preparation for Harvest Festival. With great relish, he told me how he and his friend, Stanley, who had entered the church through a magic door that only they had seen, met God. I caught a glimpse of his mother’s scathing expression in the rear-view mirror. But, alas, a volcano erupted in God’s head and God died. I think this heralds the start of a life-long ambivalent relationship between my nephew and the deity.
And here I am. Back in Berlin. Without a clear feeling, as almost ever, of whether this is where I want to be or not. (Although at least Belfast has kindly removed itself from the list of places I might fantasise about living.) But then I like to think I’m one for a non-answers life. I can’t believe there’ll ever be a flash where I decide, once and for all, that I must be in Berlin, or must be in London, or must be in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Perhaps this is the fate of an exile. I have been convinced (by others, not myself) in the past that there must be a psychic spot I can call home. I might just have to disappoint them.
(With thanks to Nicholas Gibson for permission to use the photos.)
(Aber what’s with the Israeli flag?)