Three Saturdays, Two Weddings and a Funeral

Sorry there’s been a bit of a gap since the last update – Susan & I were away on a wee break to celebrate our (can ya believe it) 20th wedding anniversary

20 years!  Yes you are now permitted to exclaim “surely some mistake –  sure you both look like spry young teenagers”…

Amazing to think that nearly half of those years have been spent as part of the Titanic Quarter community – enjoying watching the building site become a city, the vision become a reality, the strangers become a big extended family.  And of course our baby Dock Cafe becoming a toddler, and then growing into a strapping thriving child!

Being part of a community and a family means that we get to share both the best of days, and also those times when life takes a tough turn.

On the theme of the best of days, Susan & I aren’t the only ones with weddings on the brain this month – I had the great pleasure of being involved in the wedding ceremonies of two of the best couples you could ever hope to meet!

Wedding One – Tuna-Man gets hitched!
Dock regular Tim holds the all-time record for the best-ever answer to the regular Dock Cafe question “So, what are doing today?”  Spotting him tapping away on his laptop I innocently asked the question, only to be somewhat felled by the answer “Actually Chris, I’m monitoring tuna migration patterns in New Zealand”.  At first I thought he was not-too-subtly asking me to go away and leave him in peace! – except that it turns out that Tim genuinely is a worldwide authority on tuna migration patterns.   So, long before we knew his actual name, Tim was known only in Dock Cafe as ‘Tuna Man’.

(He has since been upgraded to ‘Tuna Tim’.)

Tim married the wonderful Steph on a beautiful day in Mount Stewart – and then, the next day the whole wedding party decamped to Dock Cafe (where else?!) for a chilled-out post-match Sunday!

Wedding Two – Sadam tie the knot!
Sally and Adam (or ‘Sadam’ to those of us who are in too much of a rush to use separate names for two people who are always together) have been part of the Dock community from the very beginning – they were part of the mad rush to get the cafe open for Eamonn Day, and amongst many other claims to fame, Adam created the Titanic Quarter Parsnip Trail (to commemorate The Dock’s most embarrassing incident EVER) and Sally painted the signs on the door of the Dock loo!

They tied the knot in Holywood before transporting us all to the Field Of Dreams – but just to keep the Dock Cafe connection – a few weeks beforehand, Sally’s hen party gathered at Dock Cafe to start their day!

So, best of times (and both weddings were the best of days), worst of times – very sad news for the Titanic Quarter community as Michael, one of the founder members of the Arc Residents Association and an unforgettable figure in the TQ family, passed away this month.

Michael was the guy who really broke the ice as the Arc residents started to get to know each other.  One of those big larger-than-life characters with a zest for fun and an inability to feel shy or embarrassed, he helped us all to feel part of a big happy community.

That’s Mike in the centre of the gang from the ARC at the Corrs concert on the slipways last Summer – looking devilishly cool as always in the shades!

Whether wielding cooking tongs at the ARC barbecue, asking awkward questions at the residents forum, presiding over late-night poker games at the Christmas party, or just greeting every neighbour at the door of the Mace with an “All right, babe!” or “Hey, dude!” – he’ll be missed.


Days Like This

Well that was just awesome!  So, so proud of my wee city this weekend…

The Maritime Festival just keeps getting bigger, busier, brillianter every year.  Thousands of people, sun drenched in the Costa Del Belfast heatwave, descended on the Titanic Quarter for 3 days packed full of ships, street performers, markets, music, art, activities, tours, tasty food and a joyful sense of a big bustling city that knows how to have fun!

Multi-tasking madly for a few days, I got to see Dock Market fill the ARC with life and colour, Dock Cafe bursting to the seams with chillaxing coffee-drinkers, Wee Tram tours with not a seat to spare, and Seafarers Walking Tours on the slipways where we drank up Belfast’s rich history as well as the glorious sunshine.  (And yes, like everyone else in Belfast, I now have a beautiful farmers tan to show for it!)

As many people kept asking throughout the weekend – did we ever think we’d see days like this?


And not just locals enjoying themselves – have you seen the Dock’s ‘Pin Where You Come From’ map recently?  It got so full of push-pins that there was no room left for anybody to add another (unless they came from Outer Siberia or darkest Peru) – so we’ve started all over again with an even more massive map!  It’s only been up 3 days and it’s filling up already!

(And the story of putting the map on the wall is one of those Pure Dock stories – the map came in 4 separate sections which needed to be wallpapered to the wall – a Dock Cafe customer called Anthony overheard us worrying about our lack of wallpapering expertise and offered to do the entire job himself as he was a decorator on his holidays!)

And in the midst of all this joy – one note of sorrow in the story of the Dock.  One of our founder members, Margaret Ferguson, passed away last week.  Margaret was a well-known, well-loved and massively influential figure in East Belfast Mission and throughout the city – but to us in the Dock, she will always be one of those handful of crazy people who sat around  in Gordon’s living room back in the early days, dreaming of a church without walls and a cafe without a till!  She will be greatly missed.

The Magnificent Moving Market (and other Maritime Marvels)

Dock Market is on the move again!

Our amazing team of quirky traders have been spotted all over TQ recently… we moved out of our original Dock Market unit before Christmas… we enjoyed a few months trading in the pavilion of the Odyssey Arena… and last week we tried holding Dock Market right in Dock Cafe!

It’s all leading up to the biggest best Dock Market ever – right the way through the Titanic Maritime Festival next weekend (from Fri 16th – Sun 18th June) – the annual extravaganza as the Titanic Quarter hosts all kinds of tall ships, battleships, live music, street performers, games, activities, free tours and lots more…  It’s nautical but nice!

Dock Market can be found right back in its original unit – as well as the area under the Arc apartments around the marina.  As always there will be home-made food, unique crafts, quirky creativity and uniqueness galore!  Lots more info here

And of course that’s only one of the treats in store over the course of the Maritime Weekend.  Dock Cafe will also be open throughout the festival – the volunteers as always are going the extra mile to make sure everyone can relax with an Honesty Box cuppa in the midst of all the madness!

The Wee Tram will be running right from the door of Dock Cafe (for FREE on Sat & Sun!) to transport you to all the different activities around the quarter – from tours at the Dock & Pump House, to the Pop-Up Picnic at SS Nomadic, to boat-building and model-boat racing on the slipways.  Or just hop on for a tour around the sights!

There are also lots of walking tours being run by the fantastic folks at TQEvents – from dry dock tours, photography tours, and seafarers walking tours (info & free tickets here – I am the “enthusiast guide”!)

So LOADS to look forward to and another one of those great big exciting busy weekends that personify Life in the Titanic Quarter.

See you there!  I’ll either be having a cuppa in Dock Cafe, browsing the stalls of Dock Market, welcoming you on board the Wee Tram, or guiding the Seafarers Tours on the slipways.  Who says men can’t multi-task?!

(Maybe I should re-title this blog “the Multi-tasking Minister’s Maritime Marvels & Magnificent Moving Market”. Marvellous!)