It’s been a week and a half, this week. I think I may be coming round, but I can never be sure.
Disability Pride was a glorious, fun filled, smiley celebration in Belfast on a sunny Saturday. Hundreds of people paraded, danced, sang and wheeled their way up the main street and gathered in front of City Hall. Hundreds more joined in the concert, the singing and dancing. and the smiling. All the smiling. People who don’t often make it to the city centre. People who aren’t often encouraged to be there, or to use public space to celebrate who they are. It was a wonderful event, and I’m delighted to have been part of it.
Several of us had to run away early though. No tidying up of leaflets for us, or untying banners. We had glad rags to find and faces to draw on. Accidents of timing and geography meant that we had been invited to the Lord Mayor’s Installation Dinner celebrating the Best of Belfast, the unsung heroes and the forgotten citizens. I felt a little guilty being in that company, but also, I was honoured. A vast, swanky hall, 400 people in finery, beautiful food. Like Disability Pride, it wasn’t simply inclusive, it was embracing. And the Lord Mayor’s daddy made me cry.
I’ve been in bed a lot since then. Apart from the very long meeting to prepare for a presentation, ticking names off a list at a research event, spending some time on my online course, and arranging a spot at another conference (on the same day as the presentation). Spurs Fan is rolling his eyes in well experienced despair. Less pacing; more boom and bust. The booms make the bust bearable.
I could tell you about the chaos caused by new shoes or by new carpet.
Maybe about thundery, wet mornings in a tin can near the west coast.
I could tell you about the glory of graduation, or Girl2’s no sleep sleepover.
What about the foolishness of a person old enough to know better getting sunburnt?
But right now, there’s only one thing on my mind.
Girl1 has been away for most of the last 3 weeks. She had a week in Donegal, a stopover for clothes washing, and has been in France, dancing as part of a cultural traditions programme. She’s spent a week with a French family, and days in a hostel with all her dancing friends and musicians. Despite a bus breakdown in France and a mass sprint though Charles de Gaulle airport, she’ll be home this evening. Exhausted, overdosed on junk food, grown up, with a smattering of French and probably an attitude.
The wee pet.
I like the seaside. Emptiness, wind, sea. Freshness. Beginnings, renewal, power.
Shells in my pocket. The little bundles of sand my feet bring home.
I love time on the beach, any beach. I’m not fussy.
Well, actually, I’m really fussy. I’ve just learned that there are many sorts of good beach and to enjoy all of them. Not all are lucky enough to be the ultimate in beaches.
Yesterday, we were there. The beach which is imprinted on my brain. The beach upon which all others are judged. There is a road to it. There are no facilities- no cafes, deckchairs or even a Portaloo. I don’t want those. They have their place, but not here. Those are for beaches that are busy. This beach is never busy.
The sun was out. We had just collected Girl1 from a
fun hardworking week immersed in the Irish language- school, games, social life, staying in native speaking home in the Gaeltacht.
It was a beautiful day.
A day to restore the soul.
The Market Place Theatre in Armagh was our base for the summer school.
Full size theatre, studio theatre, coffee, bar food, classrooms.
In a period of warm, dry weather, however, a key feature was the outside. 17 broad steps.
Supermarket sandwiches owners mingled with beneficiaries of cooked lunches.
Early morning take away coffee in the sun, right at the heart of all that was going on. Post evening event stronger drinks, with an almost continental vibe.
Concrete that was more than a route to climb to enlightenment. Wide, welcoming open space, designed for mingling, learning and sharing.
A summer school in Ireland that benefitted from the sun? A remarkable week.