The Ship of Dreams

Ever since my parents moved to Belfast, something that’s bothered me has been the pride the city has in the fact that the Titanic was built in its docks. “It was alright when it left here” appears to be the mantra and over the last few years, with the ship’s centenary approaching, Titanic fervour has increased. Like anyone who was a teenage girl in 1998, I watched the movie multiple times and sobbed as Kate assured Leo that she’d never let go…and promptly did. The historical side of me is fascinated in it, but even I would have struggled with the amount of attention given by Belfast to the centenary back in April.

The centenary has provided its own legacy – a ‘Titanic Quarter’ has been developed, at the centre of which is the Titanic Experience – an awesome piece of architecture (easily spottable from a plane) commemorating the ship and the subsequent disaster. Surprise birthday guests Juliet & Doris were keen to go, so yesterday morning we heading there en route to the airport and their flight home. Sadly, we missed out on the official Experience as the bank holiday meant prior booking was needed, but we managed to create our own informative Titanic adventure.

Behind the building (whose inspiration I’ve yet to establish – is it based on the ship’s stern, or the iceberg that hit it?), is the dock in which the Titanic and sister ship the Olympic were built. Laid out before you are various hints of the scale of both the task and the loss of life. Rectangles of grass and decking alternate to illustrate the numbers of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class as well as crew who died – the grass marks the survivors. It’s rather damming to see the patches of grass grow wider as you travel up from crew, through steerage and to the 1st class section. Panels of glass have the victims’ names etched upon them (as well as the names of the 8 men who died during the Titanic’s construction). All very moving.

And then you have the gift shop… Rest assured, all kind of Titanic tat is available – from tea-towels, hats, pencils and notebooks to replica china. I’m sure every single bit of it was created in the best possible taste. Doris acquired a keyring incorporating a thermometer and compass (so she can check whether it’s cold enough for icebergs) and a notebook, so she was happy despite missing out on what’s apparently an excellent experience. Next time I’m due to come over, I’ll have to book a slot.

Oh, and there’s an interesting statue outside the front entrance to the building. Obviously, the inevitable happened:

Mim was initially doubtful that she’d manage this one – she did, and we then introduced Doris to the Statue Game. 
(Some people behind me were intrigued and had a go themselves afterwards.)

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