Met a lovely friend and her offspring today for a coffee and chat. Note to self- Caffè Nero is actually quite nice: normally I never darken the door of a chain establishment, but all credit to them, it was beyond reproach. Latte, banana bread (toasted with President butter, nothing but the best) and service were all top notch. I suppose there’s about a billion of these shops for a reason.
Anyway, pal and I were discussing the delights of apartment living, en ville.
ME: I do like feeling the hustle-bustle of the town, you know, like you’re right in the middle of things. Most cosmopolitan, seeing all those Metro buses zooming by, and all the foot-fall. It gives one a different perspective of the Ormeau road, quite exciting really.
DROLE IRISH FRIEND: Oh yes, I agree. We rented a flat overlooking the Lagan a few years ago and I could have sat there for hours, people-watching.
ME: Oooh, I bet you saw all sorts of folk, commuters, joggers, people engaged perhaps in a romantic tryst? How splendid.
DIF: Oh God no- no no, you rarely saw any of those. They’d have been beaten to a pulp. No, just crowds of Hoodies from the estate beside the river. It was kinda their stomping ground. There was one fella was never without his golf club; always at the ready to beat the head off somebody, you know, if the situation arose.
ME: (nodding gormlessly). Ahh, yes…. I hadn’t thought of that. (People from the posh part of Bangor don’t). All those moody shots of the plush new apartments and offices you see featured in The Fall and you’re actually never more than 10 feet away from some fecker wielding a golf club.
DIF: (getting into her stride). Or a hurl, or a baseball bat, depending on their social status. There was one we just referred to as F**k sake Anto. I never, ever heard him referred to by his Christian name alone. It was always ‘F**k sake Anto, only slegging, put the golf club down’ or ‘F**k sake Anto wind your neck in’. Wee Anto, (she intones fondly) I wonder what became of him.
(DIF has a much bigger heart than me. She also appears to have drifted into a reverie, recalling these happy memories of carefree apartment living by the river.)
ME: So what took you away from the delights of Lagan Quays then?
DIF: Ah sure they took all the patio furniture and fired them in to the river. So much for sipping a nice glass of Pinot Grigio of an evening, when there wasn’t a chair to be had. No, we went on our way after that….
This interchange reminded me of my own memories of walking along that particular stretch of the Lagan. I’d just broken up with a boyfriend and was beyond distraught. I’d dragged myself into work and just about got through the day, then decided to hop off the bus a few stops early to ‘take the air’ and clear my head. That September in question had been unseasonably hot, so what I hadn’t allowed for was the utter stench of the river. So there was me, sobbing as I careened along, and taking great lungfuls of what smelt like pure piss. Talk about pathetic fallacy. If my memory serves me right I cadged a cigarette off a startled looking passer-by, thinking at least the smoke would be more palatable than the reek of ammonia.
Still, I suppose I should just be grateful that no one took a hurl to me, and that I didn’t end up with both legs broken, as well as my poor heart.