The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th August 2022. Take me to the Sperrins!

My short stay in Belfast comes to an end in around three hours. It’s been great. I have walked and walked. Mostly I have walked alone, but yesterday I spent with Petra who I met through my work, which happens to be the same line as hers, when she was visiting London. I felt quite proud to introduce her to a neighbourhood she didn’t know, and to Falafel, my favourite restaurant which I had thought had closed permanently due to the pandemic.

There are several Lebanese restaurants on Botanic Avenue. Before we got there, Petra asked if I really wanted to eat at the particular restaurant. I did. I wanted to make sure it was under the same management and the food was as good as in 2019. The answer to both concerns is yes.

When our food arrived Petra needed no further encouragement, and by the time we had finished eating she had noted the meals being served to other diners and announced her intention to return. If you like the look of it too, the address is 9 Botanic Avenue.

Lunch at Falafel

From the bus I kept seeing an intriguing sculpture. Petra told me it is of the Blackbird of Belfast Lough, and took me to see it. Did you see the one outside the library? she asked. I hadn’t noticed it tucked under the tree, so two refs to the blackbird just yards apart, and both lovely.

We strolled around, admiring the details on modest Victorian houses, watching dogs at play and cats on doorsteps. And talking.

We had met up at Two Sisters, the very lovely coffee shop Celia and I had stumbled upon in the spring.Petra had a coffee. I had a cake. We both bought bread.

All around the centre there are currently decorated elephants raising awareness and funds for hospices. I live close to the Elephant and Castle in London and we have the same style elephants, also decorated around the regenerated area. Whoever came up with the original design has found a goldmine. This one appealed more than most.

Flax flower elephant

The political murals of Belfast are famous, but there is also a tremendous amount of street art. Perhaps I’m squeamish, but the murals with their uncompromising messages to anyone who disagrees with them disturb me. Give me the street art any day. Strictly speaking the Monopoly board is advertising for Douglas Huston’s estate agency, but it’s so cleverly done I had to admire it. References in others go over my head, but I can still enjoy them.

Then there’s this one close by the main library which was the police station in Line of Duty:

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White Hart Dock

Don’t you just love the way you stumble across little bits of history that conjure up people and lives in places you know?

Just along the Albert Embankment, not far from Lambeth Palace, is White Hart Dock. before the embankment was built, it led directly to the Thames. Later, an underroad tunnel led to the river. It was a public dock that from the early nineteenth century was used by one of the great Lambeth potteries, Doulton. Doulton’s main factory was just round the corner on Black Prince Road. Edward the Black Prince died young. It was his death that precipitated the Wars of the Roses as Richard II’s ambitious uncles fought for power. The White Hart was Richard’s emblem.

Forgotten and neglected, White Hart Dock was just another overlooked part of London’s history. Then in 2009, refurbishment of White Hart Dock began as part of an ongoing public art project funded by Lambeth council.

Handspring Design, a small interdisciplinary practice in Sheffield, was chosen to produce artwork to celebrate the site.

The result was a series of arches, like the ribs of a boat, above the dock, and boat shaped street furniture on the Embankment.

Just perfect. Shame about the Coke can.