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The Vacuum Issue 9 spacer Issue 9
In Search Of Lovely
by S Quatch - Tourism Correspondent
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The Brief:
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Find loveliness somewhere, anywhere within the confines of Belfast City. And so it was that despite the daunting, perhaps even foolhardy nature of the task that: the Beast from the East, Dr "Evil" Kelly and myself convened in our status as connoisseurs of all things lovely to search every godless inch of the city for its existence. The odds didn't seem good but ever the optimists we rose indefatigably to the challenge.
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Touring Troubles:
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It was suggested that a direct route to loveliness could be accessed on a tour of the city; a trip to the surely ironically named Belfast Welcome Centre divulged the possibility of a jaunt through "Belfast's industrial achievements and turbulent political past" on the Belfast Living History Tour. Setting aside how exactly history could live, we decided that spending a habitually hungover Saturday afternoon wishing we were gazing down the mouth of an emptying pint glass rather than the gaping maw of some screaming child poking its scabby head over the back of a seat at us was a less than lovely prospect. The idea of occupying the top deck of a bus open to the ravages of the elements while being driven past the crumbling industrial remnants of the city was also swiftly losing its appeal.
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So it was that the Beast came to our rescue with the kind offer of deploying his years of experience as a dedicated seeker of loveliness in Belfast in the guise of tour guide for the day. Greater love has no man for his friends than giving up serious drinking time to drive them about in a quest of such spurious nature. Perhaps we also felt that becoming rubbernecking tourists in our own city craning from the haven of a bus in the hope of catching a glimpse of gory evidence of Belfast's troubled past didn't really qualify as a lovely activity in our admittedly nebulous moral framework. Always more lovely taking that holiday in other peoples' misery if you don't have to get too close to it.
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On The Road:
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So descending from this lofty moral ground we set off in the Beast's jalopy in search of loveliness, taking the proposed route of the Living History tour as our very rough guide. Heading first through the Short Strand we made our way to Andersonstown and the Falls Road; nothing to mortally offend our sensitive palates there but nothing to really satisfy the need for loveliness in our black little hearts either. After which we made our way up Peter's Hill to the Shankhill Road where our quest was slowed to a grinding halt as we drove into the middle of a parade. Maybe it was the presence of what the Beast quaintly referred to as the police "scoop vans" or the amount of rubbish dropped on the street giving the road the appearance of a landfill site but we were unable to find the loveliness in the situation. A hasty detour through Woodvale to Ardoyne didn't really satisfy the craving in our souls; despite a trip down the Crumlin Road promising a bit of that "turbulent political past" we were still starved of loveliness. Although as Dr Kelly pointed out wire mesh protecting traffic lights is a sure indication of a lovely area. Beginning to despair now of ever finding this apocryphal loveliness we mulled over then declined the idea of a quick refresher in the invitingly named Suicide Bar and instead headed through the Old Park area to Tigers Bay. Several almost lovely paintings of tigers greeted us; no Tony the Tiger here though and their rather aggressive presentation soon quelled any potential for unadulterated loveliness. More tigers awaited us in the Mount Vernon estate; we couldn't recall ever seeing the beasts wearing a beret before but it seemed that such as accessory was now prevalent among the species.
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Loveliness Regained:
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So far so crushing lack of loveliness; however we were about to be rewarded within the admittedly rather unlikely environs of Duncrue Industrial Estate and Belfast Harbour. The inclement weather of the day had by now cleared leaving an unarguably lovely double rainbow and the first evidence of Belfast's much touted industrial achievements. Perhaps by now we were just desperate but the sight of almost Ballardesque abandoned warehouses and rusting metallic constructions of mysterious intent were surely the loveliest things we had seen all day.
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Epilogue:
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With loveliness finally within our grasp we decided to quit while ahead; after brief consultation a decision was taken to continue the search in a manner we were considerably more accustomed to: the enthusiastic consumption of alcoholic beverages. So to others wishing to take up the search for loveliness we can give this advice: the more you drink, the lovelier everything gets.
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