Belfast 1: The Big Fish – aka Bigfish

He is. He’s huge! 10 m long!

He’s a printed ceramic mosaic sculpture of Belfast life and history, made in 1999 by the artist John Kindness. The pictures and text on the tiles are mostly from the Ulster Museum in Belfast, but there were also contributions from Belfast school children.

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The Bigfish tells us many Belfast stories. He tells us about the hills that surround Belfast. This particular one is famous. Look closely, and tell me what it reminds you of.  Gulliver’s maker, who lived in Belfast at one point, has reportedly been inspired by this hill which reminded him of a giant’s face. Nobody knows for a fact, but we all like the story. Can you see the face of a giant lying, sleeping in the picture?

Whiskey. You can’t miss it in Ireland.

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Bigfish tells the stories of the Belfast people, too.  The girl was a passenger on the Titanic, which was built in Belfast.

Can you see the dots on his back? They’re red drops under the ceramic glaze. Echoing the recent past, perhaps.

In Belfast

I went out on a Friday night, alone, and in an unknown city. Shrugging off the niggling feeling of panic, I descended the steps of a pub, and as I was entering its dark interior, my heart skipped. I was in. Defence against any lecherous advances ready should I need to use it: polite, but firm. I really am fine on my own. By far happier than in certain company, in any case. So I ordered my Guinness at the bar, and found my place in the pub, close to the small stage at the far end of the room. The music started, and I settled into my solitude, like slipping in a pair of old comfortable shoes before going for a long walk by the sea. Breathing in the fresh air already. Metaphorically in this case, of course.

I’m in Belfast for a couple of days, on my own. One of the things I’ve wanted to do here is go out, preferably to a pub, drink Guinness and listen to some live music. But I’m travelling alone, and I don’t always feel safest on my own. I sometimes think this is easier for blokes. I feel vulnerable, preyed upon at times. And I hate feeling that, and  being restricted in that way. I feel silly for feeling that way. Also, it’s a bit paranoid, I know. So this time I decided go for it anyway. I did, and it felt oh so good!

I loved comfortable darkness of the pub, the shady red lights reflecting on the red wall paper, making it look magic. A velvet curtain dripping a red warm glow in the same light, the light that gave its drab folds life it doesn’t possess in the daylight. I missed my camera which was left in my hotel room. And I relished the taste of just poured Guinness in my mouth.

The pub was called the Empire, and the music was fantastic! Just a guy with a guitar, playing away. One of the songs that seemed to particularly resonate both within the singer and the audience went like this: 

 

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I’ll get on my knees and pray

We don’t get fooled again

No, no!

 

I wonder whether by singing this powerful song by the Who (see also the lyrics for Won’t Get Fooled Again) the singer was thinking about the recent events in this region. 5 February 2010 was an important Friday for Northern Ireland, as the agreement was reached that the responsibility for policing and justice will be devolved from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Assembly, i.e. giving Northern Ireland the control of its police and justice system. In any case, I hope this seals the peace in this land.

I return home with the determination to travel alone again. Soon. And to learn how to make potato bread and wheathen bread, to which I’ve become addicted. If you know a good recipe, drop me a line, and especially if you have any tips for women travelling alone. Cheers!

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