It’s a muggy night in Norn Iron. The Cathedral Quarter Arts festival is on. The other artists are staying at either the Europa or The Raddisson but my favourite hotel in Belfast is The Madison, so the Madison is where I am staying. It’s on botanic and it’s the perfect hotel. Right across the road is St Clements, the best coffee in Belfast. This is where the
nicest restaurants are. I’ve checked in and no sooner are my bags on the bed than the taxi is weaving me back through the early evening traffic to the gig. New apartments spring up like CGI daisies. The cranes are quiet for now. The credit crunch has made the whole construction industry hold its breath a while. no it’s a quiet part of town where Mchughes is so it is says the taxi driver after I’d asked about the venue. Wish I hadn’t. The car turns onto a cobbled street near custom house square.
McHughes is full to bursting. Across the road is a large concert tent. Mark E Smith is on stage there tonight. It’s sold out. “He’s in his hotel room getting trashed” someone tells me. Thank God those days are over. You’ve got the whole world in your hands. Why would you want to get trashed. I am shattered, plain old drained. The smokers have spilled out onto the street, one of them peels away and merrily escorts me down stairs in the pub and
there’s the audience. It’s 8.15pm. Five minutes before going on the organiser whispers would you mind helping me with the slam after your reading. I do my reading – two 20 minute sections – and then MC the slam and finally I am back at my hotel for midnight.
As I left someone whispered. “You know you’ll be picked up tomorrow at 7am”. You can’t pick me up at 7am, my plane only leaves at 11am. “yes well, it’s the traffic you see. You can’t be too sure”. I’ve been here many times before. I was writer in residence for The Between The Lines Festival in Belfast. I’m too tired to argue the point. I go back to the hotel and drop two pints of Guiness. I am not pleased with myself about this, but I am not going to beat myself up about it either nor make excuses. In my hotel room there’s a long thin picture that stretches across the wall above my the bed. It’s of a field in summer and in the centre, an oak tree. The evening fades and I sleep beneath the oak tree and dream of green skies and branches growing from my eyes. There’s a knock at the door. There’s a knock at the door. Someone is knocking on the bedroom door!!! .