OK, you recognise the pottery. very fine, no doubt, for those who like such titivations.
The village of Belleek is what every Irish village ought to be. It has that “look”, in later years “improved” by Dulux: the broad main street, once ideal for trading cattle, lined by some useful shops of all descriptions (not something common across the Western world), and a progression of decent pubs.
It had its share of “the Troubles”. Today, though, Malcolm sees it as one of those “nice places” to enjoy. There is, unlike much of “tin-town” Northern Ireland, a faint hint, if not of “prosperity”, at least some kind of “comfort”.
It is the last outpost, excluding sweet Rockall, of the Saxon Empire. Very much a twin-currency border town, with the Republic and €uro-land to the north, south and west, you are likely to find pricing is primarily in €uros, and in ster£ing only if you ask.
At the end of that street, as the A47 bears left, past the pottery and crosses the bridge, and the border, to become the R47, stands the Carlton Hotel. Which is now another victim of the recession, and “in administration”. The Carlton has one of those waterside locations which, were it in Oxfordshire or Buckingham, or Hampshire or Somerset, guarantee a place in every guidebook, and a trebling of the prices.
And here is Malcolm remembering a good lunch-time at the Carlton, largely empty, in the spring of last year. He had just observed a small ritual: a passing driver had pulled up to encourage a stray swan off the bridge and down to the river bank in front of the Waterways restaurant. Traffic (not that there is much in Belleek) and time (of which Belleek has an ample sufficiency) halted for this small act of creature kindness.
But where is Malcolm’s “end of Empire” Hanna hat? He had just bought it that day, from the outfitters across the road. It went missing ten days ago in the Grand Hotel, Scarborough.
Malcolm feels doubly bereft.