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Troubles, in Belfast and Bristol

  Mon 2nd October 2023

I didn't realise before I booked it, that our airbnb was bang in the middle of hardline Unionist East Belfast. There were Union Jacks and paramilitary flags all down the streets. Although I had gone trying to remember the advice "don't mention the war", I actually found some people, especially in the Loyalist pub that we adopted as our local, were quite keen to talk about the Troubles, which I was assured are in no way over.

"It's a good job you weren't here a few years ago. They'd have thought you were informers. But it's not about religion any more, it's about drugs." And in the city centre, on finding out where we were staying, a man said "oh no, over in the west we have proper guns. And Semtex."

I became utterly absorbed in the question of whether the pub's doorman, who waved us in without a word, was collecting money for the cause. People came in, paying nothing, or something only in coins, or sometimes, with a note. I approached him after an hour or so, saying "were we supposed to have given you something on the door there?" "Well, it's just for the DJ, but yous two can just give us three quid between yous." "Yes, but is it going to Loyalist groups?," I didn't say.

We tried another "pub" -- a pizza place with a large range of lesser known ales on tap -- but our round came to just short of fifteen pounds, and they refused my paper money. We met some friendly Hondurans, who were interesting about the violence in their own country, but the bland, international atmosphere with young people and their orthodox positions on everything, was dull, so I was pleased when Mel said that we could return to brave the disco at the Balaclava and Timing Switch.

It was a shame it was so loud; I was learning a good deal from a woman who came over and talked to us; but on the dancefloor there was an animated version of The Fat Slags going on, lots of tit-wobbling and dry humping in the doggie position, and we joined in with the dancing once the Guinness kicked in. A woman broke off from giving it backwards to start jabbing her finger at another who was sitting down, reminding her about "that time you were calling me a fat cunt." A man next to me asked me if I liked rain. He looked confused when I replied saying it reminded me of my home town, before I realised he was enquiring whether I enjoyed wine.

Which I do, but not at the prices charged at the airport. A 250ml glass of Shiraz is precisely priced at £13.78.

Friday before last, I woke up to two missed calls and a couple of texts, saying there had been a flood in the flat. The Bulgarian in the flat upstairs had put in a load of clothes into the bath, and started the taps running. Settling into the vodka, he fell asleep. I came back to find sodden carpets, streaks down the wall, water in my kitchen cupboards and worst of all, a damp bed. There was no electricity, and the emergency lights in the corridor outside had run out.

The electrician had just about finished sorting the lighting out when he looked with concern to the ceiling. "That looks like asbestos to me," he said. There was enticing talk of me being put up in a hotel -- I claimed I don't know anyone in Bristol who could accommodate me -- but they put me in the guest room on the floor above instead.

I've moved back only today. It's forced me to have a big clear-out, and apart from the distressed carpets, it's looking a lot better compared to antediluvian times. I found a cabinet thing in the local community secondhand furniture shop for fifteen quid which, by hiding unruly miscellanea behind its MDF doors, has already started calming my flat down.

The dipsomaniac Slav has not been seen since, and I would greatly prefer it if he remained missing.


Comment from: Scarlet [Visitor]

You have been living dangerously! I don’t know if ‘befriended’ is the correct word, but the last time I holidayed in Cornwall an Irish man sought my company. The more drunk he got the more rude he was about the English/me. I thought my Medway accent would save me from that kind of grief, but no - not even a declaration of not so distant Irish ancestry soothed him. I won’t visit Ireland, they don’t like us!

Wed 11th October 2023 @ 11:52 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I’m surprised they even let us in TBH, given our history. But drunk people who latch onto one are a universal nuisance. Next time perhaps ask him what he’s doing in the country he so dislikes then (easier said that done, I know).

Wed 11th October 2023 @ 15:17 Reply to this comment
Comment from: 63mago [Visitor]

Can’t help, but it looks cold & unforgiving from these photographs.

Sun 15th October 2023 @ 14:21 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Yes Mr Maggs, it wasn’t the warmest of weekends! Saturday night was nice though, quite balmy. But you don’t go to Belfast for the weather.

Wed 18th October 2023 @ 19:19 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

I’ve always been interested in the “troubles", have done a fair bit of reading on the topic, humanity still amazes me in it’s ability to find the silliest of things in which to kill each other over, we don’t seem to grasp the to each his own and let and let live philosophy all that well do we?

and maybe the Bulgarian should be forced to use the old laundromat instead of the tub… though i used to go to the laundromat way back when, lugging my clothes and then hitting the bar next door (my local at the time) and i do admit there were nights where i was a bit drunk and forgot i was doing my laundry, lol! which just meant i had to stay at the pub longer until things were finished… sometimes, dare i say it, i miss those days…

Fri 20th October 2023 @ 13:58 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Well, the thing is, he’s already been told off for over-stuffing the machines in our communal laundry room. He shouldn’t be living here. He needs more care and control.

And it’s always better to be in the pub instead of the launderette!

Sat 21st October 2023 @ 13:22 Reply to this comment

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