Arriving in Cork with what appears to me to be a clear cut case of the Black Death, I expect I’ll spread it to all of the Cork natives, wiping at least half of them off the face of the planet. (All photos on Facebook here: #1, #2)
I head to the Berwick fountain and spot a moderately interesting looking, middle-aged Irish woman and so I stumble over to her and ask if I can take a portrait, and she looks at me with great uncertainty and says, “uhhhh….I….uhhhh”.
“It’s okay,” I reassure her, “you don’t have to say yes” and so she says “no” and wanders off looking a bit confused. Normally around 9/10 people say “yes” but I guess when you approach people with a camera, looking like you might have the Black Death, and ask if you can take their photo, without explaining why you wish to do so, then it’s probably not surprising that they say no. Unfortunately, my slow, feverish brain didn’t quite understand why this lady had refused and my approach was similarly bad and weird throughout the day.
I really should have stayed at home in bed for the day but the show must go on! My fans, (lol-ing at myself as I write this), were expecting me to bring my unique set of special skills to Cork and so I simply had to do it.
After my first refusal of the day I decide to have a quick coffee as beads of sweat start forming all over my body, accompanied by chills.
Across the road from here I enter Cork’s famous market which is called, rather strangely it seems to me, The English Market. It is so English that the Queen saw fit to visit when in Ireland a few years back.
Pottering through, and taking a few pictures as I go, I see that a huge part of the market is meat based and so I enquire of a lady at one of the counters if they had at all been subject to any vegan protests of late.
“Boy, if we had any of that malarkey around here they’d soon be told where to go,” she says, in as fine a Cork accent as one could ever hope to hear.
“Have you seen the posters,” I ask, “the ones that have animals saying to recognize them as ‘someone’ rather than ‘something’?”
“Oh, God, yes!” she says, “I e’en saw a story t’other day about a woman who was marrying her dog.”
“Get off!” I remark, incredulous, “and the way things are going one of these days you’ll be accused of being prejudiced if you dare say that marrying an animal is a little bit weird.”
“Tis true,” she says, and after our meaningful chat I potter on a bit further, my spirits lifted with a sprinkle of joy at the bizarreness of a conversation which was all the more amusing to me on account of the lyrical accent of the person I had it with.
I wander past more meat counters and can’t help but think that the whole place, to a Vegan, must seem as terrifying a prospect as Auschwitz might have seemed to the Jews.
“No vegans around here,” I say to a man at the next meat counter as I’m passing.
“Ha, Vegan? The vegan counter is down there,” he says, and points me to a small area at the edge of the market.
“Oh wow,” says I, “I must go down and take a picture.”
“No pictures in here!” he asserts, “unless you have permission!”
“Why’s that?” I ask.
“Because we’re all sick of people going around sticking cameras in our faces. Tis very rude,” he says, “and the American tourists are particularly bad for it and then they get offended when you give out to them.”
“They’d probably arrest you in some countries for that,” I offer.
“And bloody right too!” he says, and goes back about his business, bidding me farewell.
Having wandered through most of the market I decide there wasn’t much to take pictures of anyway and I really did not wish to take any in a place that seemed somewhat hostile to the prospect. “Perhaps it’s an English thing,” I think and sardonically continue in my mind, “sure there’ll be no place for The English Market after Brexit anyway.” Obviously, this isn’t true, but my sarcastic imaginings amuse me.
Shortly after this, in an interestingly polar opposite situation, I come across a black street performer who, seeing me with double holstered cameras, and sensing my intent, immediately informs me that I can take as many pictures of him as I want and that he likes that kind of thing because it is good promotion for him. His attitude echoes that which would be mine if I was in some form of business, or, indeed, an entertainer. Many, many times I have brought my custom to places based on photos that someone had taken and posted online. Places I would not otherwise have had any concept of.
Snapping away at various buildings that I think look kind of fascinating, I happen across a colourful wall which I decide to photograph when an Indian man, rather out-of-the-Blue decides to strike up a conversation with me and I end up taking his portrait.
When he’s pottered on, I see beside me a window of a somewhat dilapidated building which is inviting people inside so as to map there emotional experience of different parts of the street.
Freezing to my core, I welcome the chance to get out of the elements and have a little chatter about what it is they are up to.
I am invited to take a particular coloured marker based on how I felt about a part of the street I had a feeling about and so, since the part of the street I was on corresponded with a friendly chat with an Indian, an opportunity to get out of the cold, and a chance to talk to some fascinating folks about the strange and wonderful project they were engaged in I take the coloured marker that corresponds with “great” and place a circle on a long piece of paper that represents the length of the street. I then take a photo of one of the ladies who gives me all the details of the project.
At this point I walk out of the shop and nearly bump into an elderly man that is hobbling along.
“Oops,” I say, “I’m sorry,” to which he responds, “I asked the doctor for a new pair of legs but he wouldn’t give them to me.”
“How rude of him,” I reply, “cold today, isn’t it?”
“I’m in too much pain to feel the fucking cold,” he says, laughing.
Wishing to get out of the cold, I briskly potter up towards St Francis’s church which is nearby.
Inside, I strike up a conversation with a security man of whom I enquire if it’s okay to take a picture.
“Take as many as you like,” he says, in such a jovial manner that I ask if I can take his picture, to which he agrees without hesitation.
Noticing then that he walks with the aid of a stick I asked him if he had injured himself.
“No,” he replies.
“Well, are you in pain?” I ask.
“No,” he says, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me and the doctors don’t know either, they say that I am a mystery,” he informs me with a laugh and what almost sounds like a sense of joyful pride which is rather uplifting.
After a few snaps in the church I make my way to St Finbarr’s Cathedral which is quite magnificent looking but only seems to be accessible by paying €6 so I content myself to taking a few snaps outside before going for a cup of tea in a nearby café.
Feeling like death at this stage, it only being around 4pm, I decide I’ll call it a day within the next hour.
One of my last photos of the day is in a colourful looking alleyway and I jack up my aperture so that I can get a 6 second shutter speed, thereby making anyone walking up the alley invisible.
“Do you think it’s funny, you fucker?” says a man from behind me.
“Do I think what’s funny?” I reply, startled, and see that he has a can of cider in his hand and is quite drunk.
“Taking pictures of me,” he slurs.
I inform him I wasn’t taking pictures of him and show him the LCD screen of my camera to prove it.
“Do you know who I am?” he asks, and he tells me he is from a particular family in a particular town as if that was supposed to mean something to me.
“Sorry, mate, I gotta get off,” I say and scarper off rather than continue to engage with a hostile who mouths some kind of unintelligible abuse at me as I leave. The life of a street photographer can be a perilous one and Is not necessarily for the faint of heart.
There were many more people and places I had intended to photograph but by this stage my eyes are burning, and I have intermittent cold sensations rippling through my body and so it is necessary to leave the city, curl up somewhere, and await death.
But thankfully I survived long enough to relate this story to you, dear reader. Truth be told I may have exaggerated the nature of my sickness just a little bit just for dramatic effect, you understand.
I hope you enjoyed my story of my One Day In Cork. It’s really quite a colourful and wonderful city, full of friendly people, and one which I intend to visit again soon.