Belfast: land of the erotic clown. The accepted look for teenage girls here is simillar to the young boys of ancient Rome in Fellini's "Satyricon". How many young men have never seen their girlfriends naked because of the obfuscating two inches of brick-dust plastered over their bodies. Each sexual encounter must leave the bedroom looking like a German porn-set. I don't know when it starts but it starts young: the crowification of the hair, the tandori-ing of the skin, the pornstar plucking of the eye-brows. The boys, conversely, don't seem to make any effort at all; pull on the trackies, pop the collars, a quick rinse with Oxy 10 and they're out the door!
It's different to London and I'm old. And I'm not good with change (which is why my pounds don't look after themselves - in every sense). Don't get me wrong - I'm not Liz Jones! I'm not going to move to the country and slag off the locals until I get a shot-gun blast through the letter-box (I don't have her readership for a start. Or her FABULOUS figure!). It's certainly not WORSE than London (and god knows I was sick of that place) and in many ways far better. But it is different. Well...it would be.
The house we live in (a spacious two-up two-down, in a quiet mews) is heated with oil. Obviously this is no odder than heating your house with gas. But actually, for some reason, it is odder.Maybe because a giant oil-drum isn't a feature of most London gardens. I have already tangled with THE OIL MAN (where, in true buck-toothed, silly-ass style, I didn't get his jokes, fumbled the meaning of the words "cheque" and "check", forgot how to use a padlock and tripped over a step into my garden. As he left he gave me a look last given by a Spartan mother depositing her child on a hillside.). What kind of oil is it? Can I top up with Mazola if we're running low and I need a bath? Or is that the equivalent of trying to make toast with a lit fart?
Then there are the peculiar taboos around drinking (please note: the only things I seem to have noticed about Belfast after living here for the best part of a month are: teenage girls, my own house and booze. And the fact that I can't seem to get a duck anywhere. These are my concerns. Quite the everyman).
I'm in "Horatio Todd's" a bar that actually sells beer other than Harp and Guinness but because it's Good Friday they can't serve alcohol until five o' clock in the evening. So I'm scribbling furiously in a booth listening to Amy Winehouse and supping delicately on a ginger beer. Incidentally, I didn't initialy order a drink - I stepped into the pub and the barman took one look at me and said "There's no alcohol till five o'clock, pal! It's the law!" I didn't much care for the "pal" or his assumption of my ignorance of the law: I was ignorant but I don't expect people to be able to read it from my stupid face! The person behind me at the was also English but as he was a colourful cockney the exchange was louder, brighter, took far longer and ended in back-slapping bonhomie while I skulked on my bench.
It's twenty minutes later; the cockney still seems to be ordering his drink. He keeps floating back and forth to bar as if distracted always on the point of finalising his order. The bar-man doesn't seem the patient type and indeed doesnt seem to be displaying any patience at all; he's acting as if this were entirely normal behaviour. Belfast seems unknowable even when a Cockney is introduced into it. The cockney seems to have the hang of it far more than I do - though, in fact, his skin DOES look far more comfortable than mine!