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Northern Ireland Memoirs: Part One
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Enough time has passed for me to look back on my time in Ulster without sentiment. It is tempting in retrospect for ones recollections to take on a certain floral tone; which is perhaps the reason my photographic record of this period is almost entirely monochromatic. The term Ulster, is somewhat politically incorrect. Historically referring to the northern-most province of Ireland which existed before British rule, It nowadays more commonly refers to the six counties in the North of Ireland which remain a part of the United Kingdom, officially and internationally known as Northern Ireland.
But this is not a history lesson. Nor a forum for political or sectarian debate.
Northern Ireland’s introspective, mono-cultural society, is the most unique and interesting (not to mention cold and rainy) place I have ever known. It is a uniquely concentrated microcosm of all mankind’s most peculiar idiosyncrasies, levered into an economically starved cultural wasteland that the 1960s forgot. My time in the province began in early 2001 as, in search of an abstract concept called ‘happiness’, I crossed the Irish sea:
Over seas from coast to coast. To find the place I loved the most. Where the fields were green, to see you once again. But that was then, and this is now, and time and tide as they say wait for no man. Things progress. There are innumerable things about that time in my life which I deeply regret, but few things which I would change.
Fate is an unforgiving master, but is not without a sense of humor, albeit twisted. I hear whatsername lives in England now, with the father of an old school friend of mine. They live near my hometown. I don’t. There was a time when I felt differently on such matters, but more as time passes I’m beginning to notice certain synchronicities. Circumstances unfold in an oddly coincidental manner, as if somehow predestined. I am unsure as to what I believe anymore, but I no longer believe that things just happen.
No photos remain save for one very clear one; of the back of a head. It may be her. It is named 004.jpg which intimates very little, though it does nevertheless appear to have been taken on the street on which I lived at the time. In the background is Ferguson’s Bakery, though when it was last used as such is an interesting postulation. Cross Street in Lisnaskea was, and no doubt still is at the time of writing almost entirely derelict but for my flat (flat 2), a flat occupied by a reclusive alcoholic (flat 1), Big T’s Taxi Company, a newly built SP Office (betting shop) and the bustling rear entrance of a bar on the parallel Main Street.
Certainly not a candidate for ‘friendly neighborhood street of the year’, more a litter strewn alleyway frequented by drunks, lovers and junkies. There was occasional talk of redevelopment, but where the motivation, not to mention the financial backing for this was to be found I deemed highly questionable in this forgotten corner of nowhere in particular.
Unsurprisingly, life in Northern Ireland, for an outsider, can initially be ever-so-slightly unsettling. Watching the local television news for the first time was a pivotal moment, and one which I remember:
Belfast seemed such an angry little city. Each morning a group of catholic schoolgirls in the Ardoyne area of the city would journey along a predominantly protestant street where they would be met with zealous protest by the street’s residents who strongly objected to this thoroughly disrespectful act.
This initially petty situation escalated into a full scale urban conflict. Each morning, local police of the former “Royal Ulster Constabulary” in their famous armored land rovers would attempt to retain some semblance of civil order as these small children were collectively indoctrinated into a culture of implicit hatred; Live on local network television.
I found myself almost unable to comprehend the scenes played out before me. As much as I understood the motivations behind these social tensions, I found myself unable to fully rationalize the dogmatic views held on either side.
You all believe in the same god. Fucking Listen to him.
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greenday: 13th Apr 2005 - 16:25 GMT
seems like she dissapeared without a trace - did she ever marry old whatshisface? - i made a point to burn all of the photographs - she went away and then i took a diffrent path - i remember the face, but i can't recall the name - now i wonder how whatsername has been.
fuzzytank: 13th Apr 2005 - 16:30 GMT
i did wonder if that song kept with the theme of the album...
the first time i heard it made me smile real big
Jamie: 13th Apr 2005 - 16:40 GMT
Heh, this piece of writing grew loosely aroud something i wrote after being inspired by that very song. It's definately one of my favourites from that album. I agree with you though fuzzytank. The first time i heard it i thought "what the" but it grows on you.
Fuzzytank: I hope you're gonna repost that crazy tribal trailer post. That was awesome :-)
Jamie: 29th Apr 2005 - 10:10 GMT
Reading through some old stuff on www.swinney.org i stumbled across something which was written way back in 2002 whilst i was in Northern Ireland
"Since the beginning, living in Ireland has been a somewhat challeging experience. An uneasy feeling. The best way to describe it is this:
Ireland is exactly the same as the UK only completely different
But just recently i think i'm beginning to understand something fundamental about living here. You have to change your way of thinking. Your way of looking at the world. That, i think, is where i've been going wrong for the last 18 months.
Growing up in a densely populated urban environment, you become accustomed to being anonymous. being rude to strangers is ok cus you'll never ever see them again right? In the city, you are nobody. A faceless face. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
The poulation of Ireland is a mere 5 million(ish)."
the rest of it is here www.swinney.org/journals/article.phtml?id=2984
elaine: 29th Apr 2005 - 10:41 GMT
okay, now i am going to try and make a link to here blood grafitti and back again if it works because there is something similar going on in the text and the threads, and i don't mean 2 tribes guff - just about an individual speaking their reality in the face of a certain fascism -and i mean that in the sense of a group mentality whereby reality is so constructed that anyone who dare say the emporor has no clothes is at best viewed as an outsider, at worst utterly vilified
elaine: 30th Apr 2005 - 10:04 GMT
jamie, sorry to be so utterly inarticulate in the stream of your beautiful prose, i just trod in there with size 9s and displayed anger - i meant it well, but looking back today realise i was being irrelevant really. please forgive me, i was a bit ballistic of bethnal green yeaterday X
Jamie: 1st May 2005 - 20:26 GMT
Hey no worries lady, we all go off on one sometime. Especially us arty-farty types. Angry Detractor. Go to Dungeness and snap me some photos of the sound mirrors and all will be forgiven.
elaine: 2nd May 2005 - 08:03 GMT
see, bloody bastards, national trust, what they did was ignore the sound mirrors for 50 years or so quite happily, then they seem to have got some money to look after them, and have interpreted that as being 'fence them off' ecxept this is no weedy fence but a moat, the landscape being what it is, and it's next to the airfield, and you can't now get near them except on very occasional guided bloody walks. turns out people wer enjoying them, going there and having parties, well, we can't have that apparently. so no snaps as yet, because i had a trip planned and everything, we were going to record them too, which would be useless with the guided tour lummoxes in tow. Grrrrr
Peter: 5th May 2005 - 14:08 GMT
if i had to whittle my experience on this site down to one single epiphany ive had about the world, id have to say it would be that some irish folks sure love to proselytize! its like a bad tennis game, the same ball of an inarticulate argument being lobbed back and forth by the same opinionated folks, endlessly and without any change or consequence beyond rabblerousing, namecalling, insult and annoyance.
fuzzytank: 6th May 2005 - 09:12 GMT
so if you had to weigh the irish rants against the crip/blood whatsitz....
or i guess if you had to pit the two against each other who would win?
i know i know we dont need more violence, just speculatin
Peter: 6th May 2005 - 14:37 GMT
the crips/bloods would probably win that one, cause theyre usually packing, heh! its just that... well, you can expect such rants/drivvel from gangbangers, but the endless back-and-forth re: ireland seems particularly maddening lately.
Stakem: 1st Jul 2005 - 05:57 GMT
The idea I mostly receive from the whole situation in N. Ireland is a lack of communication, a lack of understanding, and, above all, complete friggin' ignorance. I can't sit here and lecture on N. Ireland, because, for the simple matter that, I've never been there. All I can say is that I've read and read some more about the place. Usually, no one wants to hear someone like me...why? Because I'm a yank...proud and pure fuckin' American; And I also happen to be Green Irish-Catholic American. My family is from County Wicklow, so I have about as much influence on N. Ireland as a Filipino. However, I can see a lot of the same thoughts right here in the U.S. I've already had a girlfriend (which I loved dearly) split-up with me, for the simple fact that she found I was catholic; A lot of people told me to my face they don't like catholics (I usually respond with "I really hate protestants", just to piss them off); Hell, even one of greatest leaders, John F. Kennedy, was not wanted in office by many Americans, for the simple fact that he is Catholic. It sickens me, and there are times to this day, I feel like wearing my rosary, waving the Irish flag and chanting "I-R-A" with a black ski mask on and an AK-47 in my hand. Sometimes, it gets that bad. But, y'know, I then look at one of my closest friends: an Orange Irish-Protestant American. And we get along so we'll, and our family's love each other. And we always feel unified just 'cause we're both Americans. Who cares about the religion? We're both christian, aren't we? So he's orange, I'm green...aren't we still Irish-blooded? Just as I've mentioned the bigotry against us Catholics, and particularily us Irish-Catholics here in the U.S., I can see why some protestants might not like us. I mean, us Catholics DO have our own schools, our own universities (i.e., Notre Dame), and even our own capital and HQ (The Vatican)...protestants have none of that. So I can easily understand why. But regardless of whether I go to St. Joseph's Cathedral, or my protestant close-friend goes to United Methodist Church, I don't give a flying fuck. We're good friends, we've always been, despite our petty differences. The bottom line is we're drinkers, we're rock n' rollers, we play in a band, we love St. Paddy's, we're Irish, and above all, the most uniting is: we're American. Are the problems of N. Ireland gonna end soon? probably never...but my friend and I are a good place to start.
jamie: 21st Sep 2005 - 15:48 GMT
breaking news: cross street has been redeveloped. this is according to some guy named barry who grew up in lisnaskea. get the full story here: citynoise.org/article/141#11576
carolina: 24th Dec 2007 - 13:25 GMT
ok... I'm looking for any inspiration... I am new to N. Ireland and in fact to the Island. I'm from South Africa and in a terrible situation right now - I'm alone and frightened, albeit still looking for a suitable job. I need help - I need somewhere secure to live... I need peace of mind until I'm able to find a good position and my own place to live - can someone out there help me? .. please...
Billy Smith: 22nd Mar 2013 - 08:44 GMT
Stakem...... If you have never been there all your comments fall on deaf ears. Being a Catholic in the U.S.A. is a damn sight different from being a Catholic in occupied Ulster, which province comprises of nine counties. Six of which are a result of a long bloody history of occupation by Cromwell's transplants.
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Northern Ireland Memoirs: Part One
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