Belfast Briefly

It is becoming increasingly clear that they think I am from somewhere much warmer than the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I turned up recently to a football practice beginning deep in the night on a hard and pretty little pitch in the Belvoir, and as I tied my cleats a little hoop of men laughed lightly and asked if I had ever seen weather like this. The cleats are starfish pink and, when viewed from an intermediate distance, I look like I am wearing a Caucasian’s feet. They enjoy telling me this. As for the weather, it was maybe 35 Fahrenheit and raining so, while foul, the cold was not for me unprecedented. The truth makes little difference; I was happy to lie.


Some words I like from an overrated Didion novel: “Inaccurate information is in itself accurate information about the informant”; I am in a good mood and even my worst experiences in this city have been obscurely thrilling.


I am afraid of stinging insects, though I respect their civic structures. Given its name, I should probably have been vigilant as I trotted down Botanic Avenue a few weeks ago. My passport was in my right pocket and, a few minutes later at my Biometric Residency Permit appointment, I explained to the agent that retrieving it could take a second as my right hand had just been wounded by a wasp. She suggested I “cross draw, like a cowboy.” An hour later, typing with my left, I would google “Doe Irelnd [sic] have wasps?”


Intelligent and experienced people, some from this very scholarship, told me I should spend some time learning the Belfast accent. “It is really difficult, and they speak quickly,” they said, and I thought “It’ll be fine; I’ve seen Father Ted and that’s probably close.” I know this post is boring you to tears so I will truncate the exposition: I am persona non grata at Boojum, the Belfast burrito bastion. I could not understand the burrito artist’s accent and slowed down the line so substantially I was nearly escorted out. I remember the astonished, almost fearful look on her face as I asked her to repeat the word “corn” three times. The shame from this event flourishes in my psyche.


The kind men from the first paragraph are often shouting at me. This is both fair and salutary; I am a profoundly average footballer with enormous technical and tactical limitations and if I were not fast, I would be nowhere near the team. Two weeks ago, I slipped as if on a banana peel while alone in acres of space. It was a near-elegant, splayed crashing sort of thing, half-slapstick half-Cirque du Soleil, and the other team almost scored as a result. This entrained an excoriation studded with oblique and abstract epithets including, most notably, “yogurt-making fraud.” I have never made yogurt but my feelings were hurt all the same. I felt better moments later when I realized I could understand every word.

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