At the wedding, we all sang along to the music played by the DJ. The bride and groom were in their sixties, and so all the music was of a certain vintage. The only people under 40 in the room were relatives of the newly married couple, and they didn’t seem to mind dancing alongside droves of ancients bellowing Brown-Eyed Girl.
Van Morrison’s hit was the song of this summer in Belfast. The grumpy one is still pounding it out himself of course, more than fifty years after its original release, but The Killers also performed it as a singalong when they played Belfast’s Ormeau Park a month ago. I wasn’t at the concert. Indeed, I had never heard of the Killers, and I certainly had no reason to believe a world-famous band would play in Ormeau. No, I heard the band (backed by the Belfast crowd) from Brendan’s balcony in the city center where we were sitting outside drinking Botanist gin and Fevertree tonic. I enjoyed the feel of the bubbles on my tongue, and marvelled at continuing change in my hometown.
In the ’70s, Ormeau Park was a bleak and scrubby place, as unfriendly and unloved as the eponymous road that adjoins in. Now there are abundant flower-boxes on the King’s Bridge, and the near-derelict shops around the famous bakery have all been restored. Most of them now seem to be cafes and wine bars. When I was at school, I would have snorted in derision if you had told me that 40 years’ hence there would be people dining al fresco on the Ormeau Road. For a start, it would have been hard to believe the weather would allow this, even in July. But the weather all month has been beautiful. 70+ degree every day, and sunny.
Not everything has changed in Belfast of course, and this is a good thing. Breakfast is still served with three kinds of bread, two of them fried. It is however now possible to order your soda farl with smashed avocado if you prefer. My school friends remain as funny, kind, creative and beautiful as they always were. One of them, and her family, have had a gruelling couple of years. It was good to see them all together, happy and dancing at their eldest boy’s wedding–and a great excuse for us all to see each other.
To Yorkshire, and more talk of matrimony. My niece is to be married in Australia in December and was home from Victoria to plan the celebratory reception that will be held at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield in the New Year. My sister and I had a week or so of sampling menus, drinking preparatory champagne, and trying on frocks and hats. We will, of course, need both a summer and a winter outfit each…
A day out in Lytham with my sister, and a visit to a stately home and garden–although all of England seems to be a heritage park now. Bunting everywhere. Dahlias. Plus fours may soon make a comeback, and there is honey still for tea. Meanwhile everyone, both Remainers and Brexiters, wonder nervously what will happen next, with a new Prime Minister and a new world order on their way. Consoled ourselves with fish and chips and rhubarb gin. Never mind. My nephew got a First in Engineering.
The train to Devon, and still more bunting, seaside, delicious fish, and still more to drink. John took part in a dragon race on the Dart. In each boat, a cox kept time with a drum as the boatsmen rowed. We saw a seal keeping pace in the river. On Blackpool Sands, more singing along, this time to the Proclaimers and Wet, Wet Wet. Marti Pellow no longer fronts the Wet Ones–his stand-in was English and told us he’d been three years old when the band had their first hit. Sigh. The Saltire still flew though. Jill and I stood waiting for our taxi home and fantasized about hitching a ride with the two Proclaimer brothers–sti as Scottish and earnest and entertaining as ever before.
‘But we don’t know their names’ I reasoned, just in time to stop Jill attempting to rush a likely looking mini-van. Then again, probably none of their groupies today can remember much…
The entrepreneurs at Hill House Nursery–a couple of young women in sun dresses and wellies- have planted a lot of seeds in an adjoining field. Visitors are invited to take a florists’s bucket and pick whatever they like from the nursery. The flowers are a wild, glorious tumble, and a bucket costs only eight pounds. Find more about the Lychgate cutting garden here.
In Tavistock, close up views of Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla who were opening a new wing of a market we were visiting. People turned out, but not in such numbers that we couldn’t get a close-up or two. The Royals walked through the market and stopped to shake hands and speak. Everyone stood silently and stared, or tried to grab a selfie with the heir to the throne in the background. It must be such an odd way to live, everyone you meet on their best behavior, and cameras constantly in your face.
Hilary asked me to share my three favorite things about Armenia. I stopped to think. In truth, I have not thought much about the country I left behind a month ago, because of all the excitement of reunions here. I realized that I couldn’t really break down my two-year experience into moments or standalone memories. Like Ireland, like England, like my part of America, Armenia now enfolds me. A soft-loomed shawl accessorizing a layered life. This July, I have been greedy for landscapes and smells and tastes I have missed–fields of corn and hedgerows, sunlight on streams, and the sound of the sea. Cheddar. French wine. Prawns in Marie Rose sauce. Next summer, it may be the mountains I long for. My teenagers. The apricots. A glass of Trinity 6100 red wine at In Vino. We shall see.