If Eskimos have forty words for snow, and they don’t, the people of Belfast have only one word for rain: weather. I’ve lived here for six months now and during that time I estimate that there has been less than a week of dry days. Rain doesn’t pour down torrentially every day, there’s no sense of it being “monsoon season”. But the rain does like to keep its hand in; usually a short burst, usually in the afternoon, usually on me after I have dragged myself from my pit, had a pot of tea, and finally have enough energy to leave the house. I venture out under beaming skies and return as though I’ve been through a car-wash, my hair flush to my scalp, my glasses a domino mask of condensation.
I’m not a meteorological expert. I don’t even know what the relationship between giant, dinosaur-clobbering rocks adrift in space and how the heavy the local precipitation is. But I bet it centres on Belfast. I don’t really know how clouds work either. They seem to react to stimuli like a nine year old Spanish boy at his birthday party; anything will open the flood-gates.
(I don’t know what it is about Spanish or Italian boys but they do seem to be extraordinarily lachrymose. Maybe nine is about the age that a Spanish mother stops breast-feeding and they realise that they’re never going to have it so good again. Perhaps that’s the age that their adult teeth grow in. Surely only a savaged nipple can compromise an Italian mother’s love for her bambino. Again I claim no special knowledge of relative dental growth in Southern Europe. I’m talking about clouds here!)
I should point out that the six months I’ve spent in Belfast included the summer months. I don’t know what the winter has in store for me, beyond discontent. But I imagine there will be some rain. Actually I imagine there will be nothing but rain. Some of Belfast is reclaimed marsh-land. A river, the Farset, flows under the City Centre and is perhaps responsible for the city’s unique bouquet, somewhere between a peaty whiskey and a four-egg fart. The rest of Belfast is permanently under water. If you were looking for a likely candidate for Atlantis I would quit Crete and the Greek islands and start dusting for a series of small walls in the North of Ireland. Except I’m not sure a brush would cut it here – bring a bucket and spade.
Say, at some time immemorial, a catastrophe occurred on the magical island of Atlantis. A tidal wave ripping through it and carrying a lump of blasted hyperborean rock across the waters till it nudged the coast of Glengormley, the impact pushing up the black, forbidding mountains that collar the city.
This would explain an awful lot. It would explain the Formorian characteristics of the local populace; skin as white as fish bellies, the piscine protrusion of those smoky eyes – like haddock on a duvet of ice in a shop window. The sort of mouths that fall open, naked without something hanging out of them: a fag or hook. Even the hair gel is wet-look, as if a constant reminder of drizzle was needed even indoors. They’ve dropped the gills and some of the webbing but that’s as far as it goes for Belfast’s aquatic apes.
I’m not from here. My hair sticks up in the air as a matter of course, like an afro designed by efficiency experts. It’s doubtful that it even qualifies as hair. It’s more like a pelt, the sort of thick grubby stuff hanging off a were-wolves’ arsehole. I need to tamp it down with aggressive hair-wax just to pass myself of as human. Belfast washes the humanity from my head. It bleeds into the gutters, flowing into the Farset.