Sunday, 18 October 2009

Belfast City Hall Reopens: WhyNotSmile Investigates

It might have been thought that the colder weather would keep Mama Smile and I at home a little more, but this is not the case, and we continue to investigate everything that's open to us, and some that isn't ('keep smiling, keep walking' as my dad would say).

This weekend saw the re-opening of Belfast City Hall, which has been closed for refurbishment for some time now, so of course we had to go along, as a journalistic endeavour. Not that we had the faintest idea what was on or whether we'd be allowed in or anything, but there had been rumours that something was going on (Alex had told me something about caterpillars, which I didn't really hear because the signal was weak where one of us was, and Mama Smile had heard a thing on the radio about 'people going up as caterpillars and coming down as butterflies', all of which sounded promising enough to warrant checking it out, especially as I needed to go to the bank anyway, and Mama Smile had to return something to WH Smith).

I tried doing some research online, but the website was geared up for the sort of people who are discerning about what they go to - events organised into 'Workshops', 'Music', 'Exhibitions' and so on - rather than for the likes of Mama Smile and I, who will go to anything as long as it's free. I had been hoping for a list of 'things happening on Saturday', but this eluded me, so the suspense continued.

Anyway, we went into town, went to the bank, and decided we'd have a look at the City Hall, find out what was happening, and Take It From There. So we ambled through the grounds, which seemed to be teeming with inflatable spiky things, and went up the steps, where a very lovely member of the entertainment staff told us that we couldn't come in. Apparently all the workshops and films were booked out, and we could only get in if we had tickets. This was not a terrible disappointment, since we had not, up to that point, realised there even were workshops and films (I think this may be the secret to our success and happiness: whatever you say about Mama Smile and I, we aim low, and always get better than we hoped for).

Anyway, she said we could go to the Coffee Shop (The Bobbin), so we did, and found an exhibition on Belfast, and people from Belfast, and things people from Belfast had invented, so we looked at that, and Mama Smile reminisced about the bakery (that there was a photo of) that used to be near the Holywood Arches and made Custard Creams, because my granda's shop was near there and when she was working in the shop she could smell the Custard Creams, and they always remind her of that. I should also mention that in the foyer there was a bloke in a vest and tie teaching a group of children to sing something about bugs, while being filmed by a TV camera, so if you see that on TV, keep an eye out for Mama Smile and I sneaking past looking anxious.

Then we formed an orderly queue for food, and were quite impressed by the menu; not that it is extensive (largely a paninis and soup, or tray bakes sort of place), but that it wasn't extortionately expensive, as that is the sort of thing we like. It's also nice and airy, with stools at the windows for loners, bigger tables for those eating paninis and soup, and small coffee table type things for... presumably... coffee. Having selected my piece of shortbread, I was dispatched to find a table, but this did not go well, as I came upon Alan in Belfast, Cheryl Wonders, and Littl'un (whom I had never met, but who was wearing spotty tights), and by the time I had finished talking to them, there were no free tables.

So we wandered around looking lost, until a table of 3 older ladies with 2 spare seats hailed us to join them, which we did. Two of them were sisters, and the other had joined them because she also could not find a table, so we all chatted at length about how nice that was and how nice the City Hall is, and had we been in it before, and isn't it terrible how much vandalism there is these days? Mama Smile suspected that one of them had been a teacher of hers at one point, but didn't like to ask. Anyway, the verdict was that The Bobbin is a very nice place to eat, and we'll go back another day when we can get a tour of the City Hall (Mondays-Fridays only), and perhaps visit the Ulster Museum while we're at it.

The ladies at our table had evidently done their research, and were able to tell us that there was a parade happening in the afternoon, at about 2.30 or thereabouts, so we had some time to kill and did so by going to WH Smith (where Mama Smile caused some sort of chaos whose exact details remain obscure to me, hiding as I was in the card-making section), having a look in Next (note to clothes makers: I am currently in the market for a v-neck tank top, in a range of colours which would match a sort of dark purple. Thanks.) and then Dunnes and Currys, pondering the new sculpture thing near Victoria Square and deciding we had never seen anything much wrong with the bandstand.

This was all much as any normal Saturday in Belfast might be, until we came out of TK Maxx, turned left and saw a giant caterpillar across the road. Further investigation proved that we had, with our usual habit of falling accidentally headlong into good fortune, found the start of the parade just as it was about to begin, and were in an excellent spot to see it all. Hence, I have plenty of photos.

This is the caterpillar:

There were lots of people dressed as butterfly-related things such as these:

There were also drummers:

people who looked... familiar:

and many other things, all very colourful. So we followed the parade to the City Hall, where there were now people dressed as butterflies perched on the roof:

In our bid to see the butterflies, we inadvertantly wheedled our way to another perfect viewing spot, from which we could see both the butterflies and the arrival of the parade.

Now, I have mentioned already about the theme being caterpillars and butterflies, and this is all to symbolise the regeneration of Belfast and the new lease of life of the City Hall and so on and so forth. This was then made more apparent, when some caterpillars started climbing up the walls of City Hall:

and then turned into butterflies half way up:

Then they turned into acrobats (I do not think this happens in nature, I think it was an example of artistic licence), and this happened:

which we liked.

Then we tried to go home, which proved difficult as all the buses were stuck behind the caterpillars and so on, but eventually several arrived and it was all fine.

So all in all we had a nice day out, and are looking forward to returning for a tour of the City Hall, and a visit to the Ulster Museum, which is re-opening this week some time.


Whitney said...

well you've figured out my double life: i am in fact a minister and a Carnival Dancer. it's so much fun! glad you had a good time. :)

whynotsmile said...

It was really good! You looked like you were enjoying it too! I have a few more photos with you in if you want them - just let me know! Tell me your surname and I can add you on Facebook so you don't have to put your email address here.