Elise Swain

Place of writing: When I was writing for Times Shifting I was also training my rescue dog to walk on a lead, so most of my writings took place on the side of Black Mountain in Belfast – a place where I would walk my dog up to.

The quietness of the fields in such a secluded area gave me time to reflect on the current state of my country, in and out of the pandemic. When I was writing for Time Shifting I had 3 family members who died from Covid-19 and I was also struggling with being isolated from my community as I am a very sociable person.

To be a part of the group and being able to write during this time gave me some hope of restoration to humanity as I knew it. Writing made me feel connected to many people I had met along the way and having something to do that was constructive made me feel like I had a purpose.

* * *

Belfast Questions (a lyric)

Who are wee oul’weemon brushing outside?

What is that big muralled wall,

and what does it divide?

Why is there a mountain

named after yer man’s nose?

Why are they protesting, do they even know?


Who are the paramilitaries,

protectors of the past?

Why are all ’em boys running so fast?

What are ’em big yella’ cranes

doing nowadays?

Or do they just harken back to olden days?


Them oul’ weemon have been doing that for years,

That big wall is ‘ere to separate our fears!

That mountain just looks like Napoleon’s nose,

‘Em protestors know why they are fighting

for traditions they hope will never die.


Them paramilitaries were protectors,

strong and fierce,

All ’em boys are runnin’ ‘cuz they don’t want a clip around their ears!

Them cranes symbolise our industry,

once mighty big,

Nowadays they are there to help us fix our oil rigs.


This is what I see when I’m sittin’ in my room,

Gazing out the window at the city that I love!

I see a city that is growing up!

And lastly, can I see something

deep within my heart?

This wee city that is our pride, that will

help us learn to live side by side.

* * *

My Niece

My niece Soft and Gentle, like the dew on a cold summer’s morning – a gift unknowingly to many entered the world. So innocent and sweet, in the midst of our exhausting upheaval.

Esther born in hard times, yet she made us all forget our furlough, our family & friends we’ve lost, our deep routed anxieties, our country plunged into violence, and we found ourselves. We found ourselves laughing again, cuddling close, going outside so we could buy her bows.

For many, a baby saved their sanity; a little gift.

No more empty nights of finances at the kitchen table, no more deep breaths when answering the door – just love.

It’s funny what a small human can do to you, melting your heart, clearing your mind. We owe it to you Esther.


All writing, all images © The Imagining History Programme UK

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