Stretching my legs, sorting out a peace, and finally more geekly stuff.

The Wandering Nerd August 8th, 2007

Hit up the ‘hop on/hop off’ tour here in Belfast. Luckily the weather turned out well today. Though that just means my travel tomorrow will be shitty, for a number of reasons, more on that later.

Covered a lot of ground on the bus. Saw where the Titanic was built and all of the ‘urban reclamation’ of the industrial areas around it. The shipbuilding industry has long since moved on, only the two giant cranes (which can lift 16 thousand tons) remain. From there the trek out to ‘Stromont’ – the Northern Ireland Parliament building – made me question the weather again. Yeah, sure, it’s sunny here, but it’s still only about 13C, which in an open topped bus doing about 60km makes it a bit nippy.

The tour guide gave warning that there had been an attack on Stromont within the past six months. A guy came in with grenades, live grenades, and then later claimed it was a piece of performance art. He had to spend some time in jail, apparently the judge was a critic. I can only imagine the media furor had that happened in the current US police state. He’d be in Gitmo faster than you can say Habeus Corpus, and we’d be all terror alert Cyan up in the place. Where as here, in Northern Ireland, where they’ve been dealing with politically motivated urban violence (otherwise known as ‘insurgency’ SHHHH!) they had elevated security for the tour bus to get in. Now, when the tour guide said this, I’m thinking American style, everyone off the bus, metal detector, turn your head and cough brand ‘elevated.’ Nope, this kindly old security guard in a neon yellow jumper just walked up onto the bus, asked how we were all doing, and suggested, if we could manage it of course, that we all stop for a bit of the ‘ol leg stretch about the lawn as it’s such a nice day. I can only assume, by extension, that if we had not been on elevated security measures, he would have served us all tea and scones and asked about our families.

The next part of the tour went through the more contested areas. Just as a brief history, as there’s no way I could or would even begin to try to explain the true situation, historically or currently here, I think I need to cover some things. The ‘sides’ here are the people what want ‘one island, one country’ and those that want ‘one island, two counties.’ The 1:1 are the Irish/Catholics/Nationalists/Republicans/Sinn Fein/IRA, the 1:2 people are the British/Protestants/Unionists/Loyalists/Ulsters/UVA/RUC. It’s much more complicated, but that’s a very convenient lie about how it breaks down. From what I gather, it’s moved from being a religious struggle onto a more political arena so the last 40 odd years have been more regarding the governance of the area. But another convenient lie is to use the labels Protestant and Catholic, so play along for a bit. The Protestant area is based around Shankill Road, while the Catholic area is based around Falls Road. Now I’m from Kentucky, we know all about a good feud, but this is outstanding. These two roads run parallel, and only a block apart. A wall was constructed between the two areas that is referred to as the ‘Peace Line.’ At certain points it rises to over 70’, with barbed wire tops, and reinforced solid gates that are still closed every night at 1800. With the new peace accord there was talk of taking it down, but the residents expressed strong concerns to keep it in place.

In the pics you’ll see I walked back and forth between the communities, to tell the difference, generally of course, if the message is peace or unity, or if there are British flags of course, then it’s Shankill, if the message is freedom or there are cameras it’s more likely Falls Road. There’s a photo right before the kids skateboarding that is Divis Street from the ‘Divis Street Riots,’ only about 40 years later. Again it’s way more complicated than all that but I’m still trying to find some good sources on both sides to just talk about it. One of the guys in my hostel tonight is a former Belfast resident who’s been living in England for a while so I’m going to try to pick his brain about it a bit.

After all of the heavy history, even with the peace as it is now, I needed to get a break from it. I saw a billboard about the W5 center when I got into town. It’s like a big science museum/exposition center for kids…of course I had to go. I’m just saying if you have drunken monkeys, I mean children, and you happen to be in Belfast. Go. It’s well worth it. Granted I had to knock some of the little buggers off a few of the exhibits as they didn’t even understand how cool it was. There were stairs that had touch contacts build into them so they were literally musical stairs. I tried to play Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto, but my ankle was still sore you understand, so I had to settle for Chopsticks. Seeing all of the next generation of Belfastians at play melted away a lot of the images of walls and razor wire from earlier. The best parts though, get your geek pants on kids, they had a gallery of Nick Roche, he’s the artist that’s working a lot on the new Transformers comic. That’s right a Transformers Gallery. I’ve kept them separate, but even if you don’t like a) comics 2) transformers d) geek stuff, it’s still an interesting showing. Though come to think of it, if you don’t like any of this stuff, uhm…why are you even here. Not that I mind, I’m glad you’re here, you’re my favorite, honest!

While I’m showering you with adoration, I may have some bad news. I’m not sure what my connectivity is going to be like for a while, I’m heading to the Island of Islay in Scotland for a few days. So between the Scotch I intend to drink and the remote location, I have no guarantees on when I’ll post again.

But in the meantime, enjoy!





diet coke,
i’m on my knees

2 Responses to “Stretching my legs, sorting out a peace, and finally more geekly stuff.”

  1. meganleighon 10 Aug 2007 at 8:47 pm

    so…… when are you planning to hangout with the Cranberries? “hey, hey, hey, oh, oh, oh….” (

  2. DocBroion 11 Aug 2007 at 10:24 am

    Hey! So I’m finally registered on here. I am the more stationary Yin to G’s peripatetic Yang. The division in that area is just amazing. I knew a scientist who grew up around there, and her stories were pretty incredible. Of course, with that accent, and as beautiful as she was, her grocery list would’ve been pretty incredible to hear. Glad all is as well as it sounds, and we should talk when we can both work out a time. Heh. L8R!

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