N. Ireland Diary pt3

The sea links my current home to my birthplace of Belfast, and my journeys in the final stages of clearing my father’s house have been via the ferry from Birkenhead. It’s been increasingly strange and sad living two lives, knowing that one of them would shortly be ending.

I booked a cabin for each of the eight recent trips and recorded the colours and shapes of the sea and sky during the sailings. At sea, you are between worlds floating along on reflections and tricks of light, which change with the wind and weather. It becomes its own place, a space where identity and history don’t matter and there are no landmarks to pin the experience to a named location. And so it becomes my place only, for that brief time.

I’ve added a selection of the sea sketches to the Northern Ireland Diary page along with other watercolours connected to land, including the ones above. Three are from early August facing east from Sydenham by Belfast City airport. The sky towards Cultra was peachy; and the fourth painting is lightly titled ‘waiting for my washing to finish in the Park Centre’.

I’m back from my final trip to clear the house with a car full of things of dad’s that are useful — a drill, cleaning paraphernalia, socks, first aid, stamps, batteries and a folding table from the 1950s as well as my own accumulated clothing and toiletries left there to save on packing. Lots of bedding cushioned breakables in transit and everything smelled of kerosene. For a long time I’ve dreaded that last closing of the door, the key placed in the key lock box for the new owner and the drive out of the street. But things are not always as expected and that last morning I woke up to a sense of my father being excited about coming to New Brighton with me. Which sort of makes sense as there’s nothing left to keep him in Belfast. So we had a bit of a sing song in the queue for the ferry, a pleasant sail and a warm homecoming.

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