the van roots tour – episode one

So it’s Wednesday, February 1, and Bridget’s and my job is to get to Connolly Station in time for the 11 am train to Belfast. I know Bob and Mike and Lori are on that train, and that’s where I want to be, hanging with people who know the whats and whens of the next four days. I admit, i was rather lazy about the itinerary (read, I had no idea of what we were doing or when we were going there, but I knew Bob did, so I needed to be on that train.

I had a laundry list of things I wanted to do creatively on this trip to Ireland and the Van-related one was to photograph as many words in his songs as I could – street signs like Cyprus Avenue and Hyndford Street and images of Killarney lakes and pylons – so taking the train from Connolly Station up to Sandy Row was a given.

So we get on the train, and who do we find on it but Liz and Steve Wood and Colleen and Tina, along with Bob, Lori and Mike, and the two of us makes nine. The scenery goes by in a blur (but truly, what’s outside our window is not the most visually compelling of what’s available in Ireland) as we talk nonstop the whole way. I took the chance to sit with Lori and Liz – it’s like old homeweek. It’s good to see old friends. You just pick up where you left off when you said goodbye the last time at some Van show.

We were into Belfast sometime after one, and while everyone else grabbed taxis to their hotels, Bridget and I headed out to the street to catch the 4A bus – the one that gets you from Belfast to East Belfast along Newtonards Road. Bridget caught the one heading west into town (to busk for a few hours) and I took the one going east out to Maurice’s place in East Belfast, where we’re couchsurfing for three nights, hoping to get in a bit of computer time so I could post to my blog. I needed to catch up big time. Here it is Wednesday in Belfast and according to my blog, it’s last Friday and we’re still in Scariffe, co. Clare. I had to hurry us up and get us across country in time for the Van shows. That’s the trouble with blogging: You need content. I’m very happy getting content. The more the better. But if you’re busy living the content, where’s the time to write about it? I need to have a little less fun, I think, so I can have more time to write.

I went out to fetch some groceries and by the time I arrived home, Bridget and Maurice had both just arrived, and it was time to start thinking about shifting into gear and heading into town for dinner at the Cloth Ear with the rest of the Van clan assembled. Fred Durette and his lovely wife, Sue, from New Brunswick, John Dunn from Arkansas, and Alan Lloyd from London are all here tonight, and save for Fred, all three are names whose faces, but not their names, I am seeing for the first time. New friends. Also joining us was Sammy Douglas, who’s a member of parliament for East Belfast who just happens to like hometown boy Van Morrison. When his friend Maurice told Sammy he was helping to organize a group of Van fans coming to Belfast, Sammy was on the train. Maurice and Sammy, our new friends in East Belfast, who do it up proud.

We retired to the John Hewitt for drinks after dinner, but it was an early night for most of us, although I think there was a small group who went out for a post-drink drink while the rest of us went in search of a pillow.

We made it! We’re here in Belfast! Get your cameras out. Tomorrow’s a big day.

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