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Is there something in the water?

By local soak Marcus Keeley

Posted May 30, 2014
Belfast battleground: Robinson's on Great Victoria St in the city centre. © Marcus Keeley

Local soak Marcus Keeley reports from the streets of Belfast.

The last few days I've seen dozens of outright screaming matches in the street, in shops and the other day I was privy to a brawl/battle royale outside Robinson's.

It involved six to eight guys knocking the living shite out of each other with plastics and metal chairs, Royal Rumble style.

I witnessed a guy get his melon hacked open with the narrow edge of a hurley bat before the polis that just happened to be driving by in an unmarked car leaped into the fray and rugby tackled into the middle of it, the ornate windows of the imbibing emporium smeared with the blood of the competitors.

It struck me as the police cuffed one of the many offenders (who had retreated with some haste to a nearby parked car only for a police car to swerve to a stop in front of it) that I had watched the emotion and blood-soaked display entirely disaffected.

I operated with complete desensitisation to the event.

Not so much 'fight or flight' as 'roll over and go back to sleep'.

Unlike the other unfortunate event I witnessed the other day wherein a lady was sprawled in the road before City Hall with five or more paramedics furiously tending to her, the road at a standstill, traffic lights giving weak green light suggestions to proceed.

The event that was unfolding made me feel uncomfortable and internally hopeful that the incapacitated woman would survive.

A number of revolting individuals were openly taking photos or videos on their phones, something that did not happen during the meeting of minds and sporting equipment outside Robinson's.

Taking a selfie at a RTC1 is, at best, in poor taste and disrespectful.

Much like the type of people who continuously record a concert they're at for some sort of misguided sense of prosperity.

Disaffection propelled by the addition of a camcorder that fits in your pocket.

The paramedics going through the motions that we've seen hundreds of times on television.

An urban performance.

An unpleasant life-or-death event transformed into a flashmob by twats.

Whereas a frenetic display of impromptu street violence outside a pub is apparently worth witnessing hands-free.

An occasion where recording every aspect of this event may be useful to authorities later, much like another disturbing display that happened a number of weeks ago outside City Hall (yes, there again; ley lines must converge in the area) where a man screamed "f--k the system" repeatedly before dousing himself in lighter fluid.

More tackling ensued before he could set himself alight.

My personal disaffection for a bit of the old ultra-violence happening mere feet away from me was worrying.

This wasn't happening on television or in my own, pulsing imagination.

It was the here and now.

Truth be told, my gut reaction was a feeling similar to 'typical!' as the carnage was potentially blocking my most efficient route back to the office.

However, earlier today during my lunch I popped into a nearby off-licence to buy an energy drink that is most likely giving me some sort of exotic cancer.

There's a Tesco nearby but I prefer the liquor store as the staff are decidedly no-nonsense and there's rarely a queue.

A slight queue was present today.

Two men were discussing their potential visit to the Citizen's Advice Bureau with the member of staff serving them as they had slyly deduced it would be cheaper to buy eight cans of local lager Harp loose than buy a plastic-wrapped eight-pack on display.

But they wanted the wrapped cans for the same price.

The vendor refused and also advised that if they wanted to 'double-bag' their purchases, it would be an additional five pence ($0.08) per bag.

He said this while removing the fistful of polythene sacs his customers had snatched.

This was too much for the thirsty gentlemen and so began a tirade of abuse relating to the shop-keep's working wage ("You're just f--ked off because we get more money than you and we don't work"); his employer ("You get pushed around because you're too much of a pussy to do anything about it"); and his potentially imaginary spouse ("Your balls are busted cause yer wife's away gettin' bucked while you're in work, up the hole an' every'hin'").

The transaction concluded with the men leaving on the remark: "Is there no such thing as customer service anymore?"

I took my step towards the counter and had a good look at the guy, red of face and tearful of eye.

I empathised profusely, almost wanting to reach out and hold him by the shoulder, him shrugging that he had much worse before, while looking off into the middle distance.

There was a strange period of silence.

I massaged the coins while they lay in my palm and struggled through the treacle of disaffection enveloping my mind and mouth, eyes darting around, looking for something to say.

My eye caught the soft drinks cabinet beside the till, noticing it was bereft of the energy drink I originally sought.

I stood there a little while longer then left without further comment, continuing my life as an agent of acrimony, witness to bad times and offerer of nothing.

See also Paris, art and ants, posted 23/5/14.

Marcus Keeley
is a comedian, improviser and soak. Regularly gigging in Belfast and Paris, he is the host and promoter of the Voicebox Comedy alternative comedy club, a member of the Wonder Frog improv group and an all-round homme fatale. You can follow him, Voicebox Comedy and Wonder Frog on Twitter here, here and here, respectively. Meanwhile, to keep tabs on Marcus via FaceBook, have a click of this.


1) A road traffic collision (RTC).

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