|George McWhirter - Kenneth Branagh - Patrick Reid|
My daughter Hilary and I went to the Rio Theatre today to see Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. It was a lovely film and the only special effects were the showing of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on a movie screen in colour with the film and its protagonists in black and white. It is the kind of film that certain people of a young age might find slow. I would have perhaps liked subtitles. I may have understood about 70% of the dialogue in its Northern Ireland accent.
There is a scene in the beginning where our little boy protagonist Jude Hill (playing the part of a young Branagh) watches the unleashing of violence. The camera goes around his head in one of the finest examples of magnificent cinematography I have ever seen.
On my way home, after having enjoyed a pizza at Lombardo’s on Commercial with Hilary, and having taken her home to Burnaby, I thought about the fact that I perhaps may have not only photographed Branagh (from Belfast) but another from that city, Patrick Reid who was one of the two designers of the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag.
I was ready to write this blog when I realized that I did not know how to call a person from Belfast. I rang up my friend, the first Vancouver Poet Laureate and Irish-born George McWhirter. He was not sure if it is correct to call them Belfasters or Belfastians. Out of curiousity I asked him where he was born. Yes! He was born in Belfast.
My three blog stories on the three men are below as is a poem about Belfast by George Mc Whirter.
While now it is of no importance I can point out that Patrick Reid may have been the only Roman Catholic of the trio. All three have a magnificent sense of humour.
Down from the clouds
and Clady Circuit on the mountain,
the trials at the Ulster Grand Prix,
past the pubs and the churches,
the singing and the swigging, in helmets and leather,
the black-as-Satan’s suits,
the divil-me-dares of 500ccs,
padded circles on the insides of the knees
(those racing ringworm that let them scissor
the encased inferno of the engine
with spider-leg love),
in the lace-up boots,
accessories for the live-
accessories the riders were to us on their bikes:
AJS, Norton, Moto Guzzi,
names and frames, designs
that cloned the racer’s shape to the petrol tank,
the domed apse
to the mobile basilica
we worshipped at.
Down from the High Mass of the massed start.
Down the dips of the Shankill to North-Howard Street,
spurt up to the traffic lights
at Northumberland and Agnes
(married at their ends, like northern
English lord and lady). Two twists
on the throttle for a scentilla of benzene.
Feet down, groin eased off the pommel,
back straightened to wait, chest lifted from the petrol tank
whose bulge shook us into admiration,
as dumbfoundedly, as the bust
on a woman’s body,
la Lolla’s that we nineteen-fifties teens
dreamed of fingerprinting.
We counted bikes,
counted on the AJS basso profundo,
even more on the Norton’s bass baritone
to understate its superiority, as usual,
but the Guzzi alto-tenor
reamed our ears
That foreign Faronelli,
rocked us to our gonads
with the throttle
in its throat. Scarlet
threat to our boyhood loyalty
that would not hear tell
that BSAs were dull,
Royal Enfield’s extinct
background noise to the lead piston
twang of the Guzzi, piping high Cs
into its exhaust.
and phobia it was, as great as our love
and fear of Italian ice-cream.
Would the pokes from Angelo’s
for the cone
of the Pope’s Episcopal mitre—
the Moto Guzzi open
to let Itie glamour in
one erotic orb
after the other, changing
our taste then view
of things palatal, then metal?
We dared not trust the slither and skid
in the slider we took, a licking
as bad as Garnett Denny’s,
the black boxer of Belfast,
beaten by ice-cream
to a puffy hulk.
Our will subverted
by our bellies, numbed by the fine whine
of Moto Guzzi,
dumbed more than the vanilla
by the redder
than Lacrima Cristi machine
down from our small Dolomite on Divis Mountain,
spurting across our crusts
(as we called them,
hard top of the bread,
and rhyming slang for head).
Next thing, we’d hello
and hallow the Madonna,
suck spaghetti Bolognese,
and bugle BRAVO
over Chianti And sure as fate. . .
we did, reel it in
like the ribbons
of the roads ahead,
starting at the Rivoli
down North Street.
to put a hook in
for the palates of idiots,
but fast, thin,
of Guzzi riders
and wound down
to the fork of the Old Lodge Road
and Peter’s Hill
(married like the Pope
and Mr. Paisley)
into Carrick Hill
as though in allegiance
to the red light.
that would roar and flow
for fifty years
with the screaming
octaves and high