Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Commuting - Northern Irish style.

Walking through Belfast City centre or sitting on the bus before and after work, it seems to be the time when things, well... just happen.

I'll try to set the scene. Bleary eyed or just tired from work, I venture outside, usually in the mid morning glow or in the twilight of the evening (especially at this time of year) .

Its usually all a bit hazy until I remember to wipe the sleet from or refocus my screen-eyes and then it’s usually not so hazy. That is unless its before 8am. If it is, I have to admit I'm sleep commuting with Chris Moyles and the team. Sleep commuting is a fine art, a kind of semicomatose street performace. The main difference is that unlike a mime, you don't move after someone throws money in your hat, that just comes involuntarily after the bus hits the brakes.

The characters involved are everyday folks like you and me. They're hurrying to and from work wishing the bus wasn't late and the traffic so heavy. The exceptions being tourists trying to find the tour bus, the alcoholics who hang around together near Tesco, sipping their Cider purchased earlier that morning, oh, and not forgetting the odd TV personality.

Amongst these regulars over the past couple of years I've been caught up and had to walk to work in a Marathon - twice. I've walked past Jeremy Paxman. I once saw Billy Connoly. I've had the misfortune to walk past the aftermath of many a road accident, usually with cars ending up upside down or at angles you can't imagine how they got into. I've seen my work colleague get whacked on the back of the head whilst on the pavement by a passing bus's wing mirror. On another occasion I was stood still waiting to cross the road as I saw a coach doing the opposite and taking off its large wing mirror and a considerable amount of the side of the body work on a temporary road sign. Glad I wasn't 10 seconds further down the street with that one. I've walked very quickly past a fair few people using the street as a toilet and I've also rubbernecked from the bus at people shooting scenes for TV shows.

So it came as no big surprise on Tuesday when on my travels home the police closed the road ahead.

At first it was just a couple of police officers who arrived in an unmarked car, got out on foot and held back the traffic. Shortly they were joined by a marked land rover with the big blue lights swirling. 4 or 5 minutes passed by as the traffic stood in the glow of the traffic lights going through the motions and the blue flashes from the police vehicle swirled around and around and around some more.
Then out of the blue and adding to the blue swirls, a police motorbike, then another, a few seconds pause, and then a lone ambulance followed by a police car and last but not least another motorbike.

I’ve no idea who or what was in the Ambulance. Hopefully if it was something being transported, all went well and if it was a person they lived happily ever after. But sure, it brought a bit of excitement to those of us sat waiting to see what was going to go past. With all the build up I was anticipating a Hummer with an American, UK or Irish VIP. All the while though I was secretly hoping for the top gear crew to come driving past in some half baked contraption. Shame :(

The fun news is that although it is hardly the biggest or most exciting event in the world or even in Belfast that day. I managed to catch my view of the action on very low quality video and can share the experience with you - good times!

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