In a way I am regretting my coin toss in Paris that sent me northward. What has it revealed? Awful accommodations, hair lice, great breakfasts, great beer, fish and chips in newspaper and more or less friendly people. But the air and the smells are different than southern Europe. Dublin is a cold city in its soul. As soon as I stepped into the city I was accosted by a drunk cursing me with the foulest language because I didn’t give him money for drink. The Irish seem miserable and I wonder because of all this rain!
Well on my way to Belfast I picked up a memory I will never ever forget. I am in a car approaching the border with Northern Ireland in a town called Newry. We hear a big explosion and a flash ahead. My God it’s a blown-up body, at least what was left of it. I felt like puking. Then a mass of screaming people running away from the explosion with British soldiers firing rubber bullets into the crowd and few dropping to the ground. Welcome to Northern Ireland. A far throw away from sunny beaches and hot weather. And I may have written about the failure of communism in Yugoslavia and East Germany is this Northern Ireland anything but a political failure. I have been a gift of a horrible memory by Her Majesty’s Royal Forces and some Northern Ireland terrorist organization. This memory will never die. You won’t see it as part of any tourist ads.
My driver friend said what are you going to answer if someone asks you what religion you are. I responded by thinking of something neutral and that was I was Jewish. Bad idea he said. Both sides will kill you if you say that. He advised me to say that I was Canadian and stick to that. What a shit pit Northern Ireland is. He also said if you stick to “your side of the battle zone” you should be safe but there is always the possibility of being in the wrong place at the wrong time particularly for bomb explosions. Speaking of the explosion I heard on the news that the bomb blast was caused by a terrorist with a bomb hidden under his coat. It detonated prematurely. After Newry I walked for miles and past a British base. Nearly collapsing from exhaustion I get a lift into Belfast. There are bombed out buildings and heavily armed British soldiers. I asked one of them where I could find a reasonably priced hotel but he told me they have all been blown up except for a few. So I check into the Royal Belfast Hotel and get taken up to a room by a bellhop who apologized and said he had to check my knapsack for bombs. Belfast indeed looks like a war zone combined with a touch of Industrial Revolution. I stayed close to a hotel which I am told is in neutral territory. I went to a simple steakhouse and had a huge meal for $1.75. I came home and had the luxury of a hot bath. Exhausted I crawl into bed and fall to sleep with memories of a blown-up body on the roadside and screams. There is a demonstration outside my hotel room. How can you ever forget a day like this? I suppose as a tourist all is not fun and games. What is more important years from now. Seeing dismal political failures or spearfishing on an Adriatic beach? I am beginning to think if there is some greater power planning my trip but for what reason I am not sure. As that hippie on a boat in Greece said it is important to live life in the moment. The bombing scene I lived in the moment. Should I forget it or live with it because it may hold some meaning I am not aware of?