Life

Nuala McCann: Park life is not what it once was – it is so much better

Same thing happened on the only occasion I ate lobster. My mouth went numb and my tongue swelled up. I rang my sister, the doctor in the family. 'Go see your GP,' she advised, 'Oh, and if I were you, I wouldn’t touch lobster again'

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann

Nuala McCann is an Irish News columnist and writes a weekly radio review.

Taking advantage of the sunshine in Ormeau Park, Belfast, last week Picture: Matt Bohill<br />&nbsp;
Taking advantage of the sunshine in Ormeau Park, Belfast, last week Picture: Matt Bohill
 

IT’S our regular Sunday walk. The sunshine brings out the buzz of 100 electric hedge clippers and the noise drowns out the bees. A neighbour knows all about honey bees. The heat must have melted their honeycomb, causing it to drop down her chimney, and the bees flew with it, down and out into her front room.

They’re a protected species and no amount of attempts by a friendly beekeeper to lure them into an empty wooden hive set up in her garden worked. She had to let them get on with it.

That reminds me of the starling in our attic. I was off in Donegal at the time.

“You’re always in Donegal when there’s a crisis,” sighs my husband. On that occasion, he rang in a panic and said: “Do you know, there’s a bird in the attic?”

“You sing it and I’ll hum along,” I said. That’s my favourite joke from the days when it was acceptable to dress monkeys up as humans and put words in their mouths for TV ads about tea.

My husband had to give the bird the run of the attic and, once breeding season was over, we blocked the nest entrance. The next year, the starlings came to find they were homeless so they sat on the telegraph wire at our front door and shrieked and dive bombed us every time we opened it. I felt like a cruel landlord.

Our recent new roof revealed that not alone was our attic a nursery to families of starlings, but there were also a couple of wasps’ nests.

“I spotted them but I never told you because I thought it might upset you,” said my husband.

Every year I used to wonder how, when I opened the hot press in the bathroom, a dozy-looking wasp flew out.

I’m a countrywoman, I’m used to wasps, but the city folks tend to dance around at the sight of em. Mind you, once I got stung on the face and my two eyes swoll up and closed over. It was not a good look but my parents had just got me a new Molten Mini and I went out cycling any way, scaring the Bejaysus out of the local children.

Same thing happened on the only occasion I ate lobster. My mouth went numb and my tongue swelled up.

I rang my sister, the doctor in the family.

“Go see your GP,” she advised, "Oh, and if I were you, I wouldn’t touch lobster again.”

But I meander... much like we do on our Sunday walk, right through the golf course where one of us narrowly misses a crack to the head from a high flying golf ball. On we go, to where the dogs of the Ormeau run and frolic and chase the grey squirrels up the trees.

Park life is not what it once was. It is so much better. Years ago, the park seemed dark and foreboding. It was a place for late-night drinkers – the bandstand stood desolate and you didn’t really go there unless you wanted to down a bottle of bow or score.

Now, people do T’ai Chi there and dancers come for a little hip-hop and jive. Now the park is buzzing with life. Perhaps it’s the Saturday park run... some time I’ll get round to that.

Now people do T&rsquo;ai Chi in the park and dancers come for a little hip-hop and jive
Now people do T’ai Chi in the park and dancers come for a little hip-hop and jive

Perhaps it’s the public exercise machines or the free tennis courts or maybe it’s all the picnic tables just begging for a beer, a glass of wine and a decent ham sandwich on white pan to be laid out on top.

The park benches carry brass plates with dedications.

We usually pause on the one for a young girl who must have been a Harry Potter fan, her nickname was 'Hermione' and she died far too young. We sit there and think of all she has missed and whisper a prayer for those she left behind and drink in the peace of Sundays in the park.

A mother holds on to the back of a bicycle as her four-year-old pedals like fury – it’s not just the moment to let go. Lovers stroll by. A student stretches out on the grass under a tree, reading a book.

On the path behind are the young parents we once were and up ahead is an old couple picking their way with walking sticks.

Time runs like fine sand through our fingers but it feels good to be alive.

Taking advantage of the sunshine in Ormeau Park, Belfast Picture: Matt Bohill
Taking advantage of the sunshine in Ormeau Park, Belfast Picture: Matt Bohill