roots of van tour – episode two

Thursday morning, up bright and early. Just kidding. Actually, it was bright – a nice day for a walk, so I headed out on foot for Espresso East for my book signing at 11. Now talk about cool. The staff at Espresso East had put out a huge spread for the signing, and I mean huge. Look what they had for us …

That’s barmbrack in the upper left, Paris buns on the right, and gravy rings down in front. Good thing I walked, because there were some serious calories going on here. And between mouthfuls of Paris buns, I signed copies of my book and got my picture taken and had a good time chatting with both the denizens of East Belfast and the fans about one of my favorite topics. I don’t need a whole lot of excuses to talk about Van’s music, but having a book with me makes for a good opener.

That was just the start of the eating. From Espresso East, a couple of us took a small detour around the corner and over to Chatters – another coffee shop, but this time there’s Van content. Apparently this is where Van stops in for coffee when he’s in the neighborhood. We, on the other hand, stop in for a book reading …

Then it was off for a lovely lunch at Bistro Este before getting on the bus for a tour around the ‘hood. Van’s corner.

We made for a bit of a spectacle – you can picture us, right? It’s like Liz said, we look like a senior citizens group out on a day tour. Get on the bus, do a head count to make sure everyone’s here, drive a while, get out and take pictures, get on the bus, get off the bus for the requisite pee break, do another head count, and off to the next photo op.

First stop – Hyndford Street.

And what a hoot … there are these two guys out cleaning windows. I was beginning to wonder if Maurice had set them up just for us.

Major photo op at 125 Hyndford Street.

Then it was off down to the corner and around into the back alley to look at the back door …

Then, hey Rodrigo, it was down to the hollow …

Then over to look at the elementary school Van attended on the other side of the hollow. Then I was off to the shop, and what do I find but boxes and boxes of snowballs. In terms of calories, snowballs make Paris buns look like lettuce. We need the sugar to keep the energy levels up. Because next up, after a drive past Orangefield High School is …

The bus drops us off at the top of the street and we take the stroll down the avenue, taking in the sights of mansions and Mercedes, etc.

Back on the bus and over for a last photo op for those who want it – St Donerds Church, where the Sunday six bells chime. Or they would if it were Sunday.

A gorgeous day, a great day to walk around with the group, checking out …

We all headed back to our respective abodes for a freshen up, lie down, maybe even a few situps after the snowballs, then it was off downtown to the Pavilion, for food, drink, be merry, and listen to some music, and drink. Oh, I said that already. The big bonus on the night was that Shana Morrison’s band, the Manatees with Jason Crosby, played a couple of sets for us. Kudos for them to be able to pull it off, despite the lack of key pieces of equipment. We all love the Manatees, and we loved them till it was time to close down the place. Another great night out with the Van fans.

Oh, and this was the night for my book reading. Which was a comedy of errors from the get go. Starting with a glass of Guinness crashing to the floor to start it off and just when I was coming up to the big punch line about going home to Hyndford Street, where it all began, the sound guy pulled the plug on my mic so the band could start playing. It was a good crowd but a tough gig, especially the part when I went off on a tangent and totally lost what I was on about it. You can’t be deviating from the script if you is me. But everybody clapped – they’re so nice, those Van fans. You guys are the best! And it was on with the show.

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