What's that circling above my head, is it a vulture or is it a crane?
There was once a time when you didn't see quite so many cranes in Belfast.
Now, this city of ours is full of them. There's plenty of vultures too.
On first glance they didn't look like vultures, but an owl told me not to be fooled by the smart clothes and painted smiles. I had no reason to disagree with the owl, for she was wise and worldly. She was always the first to inform me when the wind would change and when the rains would come. She was seldom wrong.
The owl told me stories of the past, of green fields and endless strolls through plush summer meadows. My senses would awaken to the tails of fragrant flowers and fresh blue skies. Occasionally the skies would open and down would pour relentless rain. These storms would last for hours and sometimes even days, but would pass in time. Her father would tell her “the fields and flowers need the water dear”, to which a smile would beam from her face replacing the sun that was absent.
Those were peaceful times.
As legend would have it there were some vultures back then too, but you would rarely see them. They had flown across the water, sheltered here and started to build their nests. They took our best branches.
Sometimes they would let us help them build their nests. They seemed nice.
Soon more came from across the sea. They were not so nice, they had sharp claws. We helped them so as not to have them harm our infants.
For the first time, we were afraid. We did not fear for ourselves, as we were brave and strong. But to see our children harmed by these relentless, sharp clawed, merciless beasts was too much for our hearts to bare.
It was not an option to fight. Although some did, revenge was swift and painful. Our homes would be torn down or set alight. Panic then reigned.
It was best not to fight. Too many would die in the struggle.
In the years that came many did indeed die as the struggle continued. Many innocents were lost to a war in which they did not fight.
After many years of conflict the seas of anger has calmed. It is safe to breath again. But as calm now reigns and peace flows throughout the land, the vultures have come once again and started to circle like the cranes above our heads. Picking and choosing where to build their nests. They are not like the vultures of yesterday. They do not wear the weapons of war, or uniforms as such. They have suits and pens and come armed with heavy cheque books, not guns.
We shall have freedom, but freedom isn't free. Progress costs money, and so do the new nests these vultures seek to build. As our bars are standardised or knocked down, the heart and soul of our city shall die.
We may wish to slow down the wind of change so that we may catch a breath. But time is money and money cannot wait. Soon we shall be left with just memories. Like the owl, we can but remember.
For the sweat of the Dockers that built this city has evaporated long ago. The coin they spent in the pubs of the docks has been melted down and repressed. New money has come from their hard work. Soon their watering holes shall be turned into fresh nests for the new money to roost in. Our souls just an echo as we migrate to a more appropriate climate. The skyline changed forever. Progress has no room for us, and so we must fly away…