Posts Tagged ‘Belfast’

Sneezing Doesn’t Pay the Rent

July 21, 2011  |  Travel  |  ,  |  1 Comment

When she isn’t scouring the city for hay fever cures, Sinus Sister makes a living writing things like this….

A project to replace infamous Belfast murals comes under fire

Something a can of paint can’t fix? by Joanne Latimer on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 9:20amSomething a can of paint can fix?

Photographs by Rob Durston


Is Belfast whitewashing its troubled past?

In an attempt to put more distance between today’s uneasy peace and the Troubles—that 30-year-period of bloody sectarian violence that pitted Catholic Republicans opposed to the British presence in Northern Ireland against Protestant Loyalists—the city has been embarking on a face change. One of its most infamous murals,“You are now entering Loyalist Sandy Row,” depicting a balaclava-clad Protestant gunman protecting his turf, is due to be replaced soon. Softening the imagery on such an aggressive mural is considered an important step forward for reconciling the two sides, and comes after five years of tense negotiations between former Loyalist area “gatekeepers”—now known as community representatives—and development workers. Funding the new mural is the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which is in charge of the Re-imaging Communities Programme that works with artistic and local communities to tackle the signs of sectarianism and racism.

With a $6-million budget to date, the program has shepherded through 150 art projects since 2006. Its first major success was replacing the famous Grim Reaper mural of a paramilitary gunman in a pro-British area of Belfast. “We haven’t moved from the Grim Reaper to Andy Warhol quite yet, but re-imaging Sandy Row is a big step,” notes Nóirín McKinney of the Arts Council. “We came to an agreement on a new painted image of [Loyalist hero] King Billy and a garden.”

Meanwhile, two menacing paramilitary murals were recently replaced with images of First World War soldiers and female munitions workers. “It’s important that the likes of myself are involved with Re-imaging, because I put up the murals in the first place,” says artist David Dee Craig, who is busy this summer replacing aggressive Loyalist murals with celebrations of C.S. Lewis, Flanders Fields, the Titanic and the Battle of the Somme, where Northern Irish soldiers—mostly Protestants—were slaughtered defending the Crown in the First World War.

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Belfast Counts

Is Irish pollen more intense–like their rock stars and tea consumption? , wonders Sinus Sister

Belfast is no longer a city under siege, but it’s a city surrounded by grassy hills. Where there’s grass, there’s pollen. Sinus Sister stepped off the plane, gripped her umbrella and awaited the inevitable sneezing fit….and waited.

Flying over Ireland, the green-green fields looked suspiciously enhanced by Photoshop. It was impressive, but it set off my worry alarm. Would I sneeze my way through my sister’s wedding? Would Irish pollen be more intense–like their rock stars and tea consumption? I couldn’t recall having wild allergic reactions while visiting Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, but my memories have been wiped clean when it comes to the horrors of childhood hay fever (Mom claims I got allergy shots every week and ate crushed antihistamines on a cookie). The revisionist history ends at university, when there’s no denying that my ivory-covered residence on the banks of the Thames River gave me bloody sneezing fits.

Back in Belfast,  I booked into a swanky hotel that would certainly have a good air filter and an adjustable thermostat, among other comforts (Correct, it turned out, on both counts).  The Merchant Hotel easily catered to the demands of my sinuses. “You’ll not be sneezin’ yur head aff this week,” offered the doorman,adding, “Since it’s bucketin’ down out there.” [translation: because of the rain]. Of course! Saved by the rain, which supposedly cleans the air of pollutants. Allegedly, pollen sticks to wet grass and trees, rather than getting blown up your nose.

The doorman added another wee bit of news: “The Uni [translation: Queens University] just rigged up a system on the roof to read the pollen count each day. Before, the closest pollen count came from Edinburgh.” Good to know. The new, more accurate pollen count for Belfast was, officially and truly, low.

Unconcerned with blowing my nose all week, I was free to enjoy Brendan at the Chelsea, a play at the newly rebuilt Lyric Theatre. I shopped at the quirky boutique-cafe Acova, visited the new Titanic Museum, and toured town in a black taxi with the irrepressible Billy Scott. Trying to wrap my head around The Troubles of olden day, I viewed the political murals with Belfast Attractions (Thanks Gerard McGlade, you charmer!) and decided it was too complicated for a blow-in like me to understand. Best to just enjoy a pint of Magner’s cider cider with the other clueless tourists, then comb the stores for a fascinator to wear to my sister’s wedding (If you can’t wear a fascinator in 2011, the year of The Royal Wedding, when can you?)

Leaving the pub after two pints, Sinus Sister blinked at the mid-day sun and blew a kiss toward the new pollen counter at Queen’s University.