Hard to believe it’s Monday already. I started out to write this on my private terrace (some would mockingly call it a “fire escape”), but it began to sprinkle. In fact, the day started with rain, and I got a bit soaked going downtown. But I did notice that the large section of Shaftesbury Square which was closed for last evening for repaving as I came through, had the complete first layer down, and the lines had been repainted by this morning. St. Johnsbury could take a lesson here!
My Saturday adventure began with my second day on the tourbus, but I made the mistake of trying to pick it up near my hotel — not thinking that I would have to wait nearly 2 hours for the first departure to make it to this point! But I struck up a conversation with a nice father and daughter from Florida, who had evidently made the same error.
First stop: the Titanic museum, which is massive (“titanic”) in every respect. They begin with a history of the growth of business and industry in Belfast. For example, it was once the largest manufacturer of linen in the world. [I subsequently learned that the growth of this business was due in large part to the American blockade of cotton exports from the Confederate South…intersting, huh?]
The shipyards of Belfast grew to be the largest in the world, and the company which built Titanic launched nine or ten other ships the same year. You will be as surprised as I to learn that that company (Harland anf Wolff) is still in business today, though is quite diversified. It was also astonishing to learn that by 1912 the White Star Line was a wholly owned subsidiary of an American company, which was financed by J. P. Morgan! The museum building contains a wonderful ride, which takes the visitors down into the depths of recreated iron works. It was here that I learned Titanic was the largest single object ever moved by man up to that point. The building and museum have several interesting aspects; not only is it exactly at the end of the drydock where the boat was launched, but each corner of the building represents the height of the main deck from the water.
Now here’s a novelty from Belfast, and you can say you read about it here first! After walking the length of the Titanic, from the museum to the water’s edge, I saw something which is surely to catch on in the U.S. At the water’s edge was a pole, atop whcih was a pulley with a double cable, similar to a washline off a tenement porch. It ran across the expanse of water to the other side, where there was another tall pole and pulley. Get the picture? In the water was a kid in a wet suit with handles and cable similar to a waterskiing tow rope, except the cable was attached to the cable between the pulleys. His feet were in a cross between a snowboard and a surfboard — wide like a surfboard, but short and curved front and back like a snowboard. I believe that he controlled everthing from his hand grip, as when he seemed ready, the cable (clothesline) would start to run, and up he would go like a surfer! In case you don’t get the complete idea, I’ll post something on YouTube when I get home.
I retraced some of the Friday’s route on the tourbus, as I wanted to see a bit of the Peace Wall again. Here are a few interesting facts I’ve picked up about the city:
–Two-thirds of the world’s whiskey was once made here, but U.S. Proibition nearly killed this industry.
–The portable defribillator was invented here. At the same time, Belfast has the highest incidence of heart disease in the U.K. (or was it Europe?) “Basically,” the guide said, “If you can fry it, we’ll eat it.”
–Milk chocolate was developed here.
–There was a small Jewish community in Belfast, and the second President of Israel was from here.
In the evening I attended a play just up the street in the black box theatre of the Crescent Arts Centre — very similar to Catamount, except on a grander scale, but without cinema. The play was “The Trials of Oscar Wilde,” with a cast of just three fellows, who played all the roles. It was quite cleverly acted, funny in some parts, but overall serious. The lead actor (John Gorick) has done a lot in England, and there’s a very funny skit with him on YouTube:
It’s fun to hear people’s response when I tell them I’m from Vermont (only after they ask). The fellow at the information office said he’s been in A.A. for many, and he knew that the founder was from Vt. (And I surprised him when I told him that the Dr. Bob house is in St. Johnsbury.) Last night one of the performers at a pub said “That’s in Canada, right?” To which I replied “almost.” A guide on the Belfast Barge said he knew Vermont because “that’s where they made ‘White Christmas.'”
Well, enough for now. I’m heading out for some supper, and it’s just stopped raining.