Norn Arn

6 Jan

Nuala with the Hula, Belfast (Ardfern)

I spent New Year in Norn Arn. For anyone who doesn’t know, that’s Northern Ireland in a Northern Irish accent. Alternative spellings are Norn Urn and Norn Iron. It was my first time in that part of Britain, so I thought I’d record my impressions, for what they’re worth.

The thing that struck me most was the different attitude to personal space. It’s not that people crowd you, it’s just that don’t have that automatic impulse to move aside when someone else comes too close or tries to get past. Weaving my way to the toilet after church I had to push through knots of people who didn’t seem the least bit awkward about it. When I got to the other side I realised that part of the reason it was so crowded was that a third of the room was empty; people were huddled like emperor penguins.

In some ways Norn Arn is a lot like Scotland, but a notch or two up: the weather is terrible, worse than Glasgow; the people are very hospitable and keep plying you with food; and they seem to have the same sort of humour when it comes to giving nicknames to landmarks – the Balls at the Falls and Nuala with the Hula, for instance.

In other ways it’s nothing like Scotland, or like my part of it anyway – hence the fact that we were at church bright and early on New Year’s Day when all sensible people are in bed. The church was lovely and the sermon was inspiring, but I couldn’t get over the fact that every pew was full at 10.30 on New Year’s Day.

The day I returned (the day before the big storm, fortunately, or I wouldn’t have been going anywhere), we went to Belfast, the capital. Belfast seems like an odd mixture of Dundee and Prishtina (which is not meant as an insult – there’s nothing wrong with Prishtina). Up close it’s much like every other major city, apart from the amazing profusion of craft shops. You will usually find one or two in a city, though you’ll have to search for them, but in Belfast they’re dotted all over the city centre. There’s even a shop dedicated to beads.  So I suppose if I ever do get stuck in Belfast because of the weather, there will at least be plenty to keep me occupied.


2 Responses to “Norn Arn”

  1. John Adams January 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    I love the idea that Belfasrt is a cross between Dundee and Prishtina! Where were you on NYD?

    • kcmurdarasi January 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

      I was somewhere near Moira. We went to Lurgen Park on New Year’s Day and it tipped it down – as soon as we got to the furthest point from the car, of course.

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