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I was looking for something else and stumbled across the start of a story I did quite some time ago…

A particularly unobtrusive doorway on Stranmillis Road in Belfast stands out from the other doorways along this stretch of road. To uncover the secret that makes this door peculiar, a keen observer would have to spend the entire day seated in Bobby O’Rouke’s fish and chip shop across the street. You could try a short cut to avoid the smell of fried oil all day by asking Bobby himself if would tell you what was so special about that door. You might even try to pry it out of him by buying an extra-large bag of chips, but Bobby would just say ‘surely, there’s nothing special about that door.’ He would then go on to tell you that he used nothing but low fat oil, but oil is oil, and oil is still fat, so you would just smile and order another bag of chips, returning to your observations. By the end of the day you wouldn’t even notice the fried oil.

Prominent among your notes after a full day of viewing would be the following comments, scribbled on the back of napkins and punctuated with oil stains – On the corner, the British Midlands Bank did a brisk business, fully accounting for ninety percent of the day’s activity. To the north side of the doorway, Hugh Downs, the proprietor of the turf accountant’s office, paid five visits to British Midlands, each time carrying a ruffled brown paper sack. Hugh was the sole emissary between the Bank and The Turf Accountant. As a general rule, and insisted upon by the Bank, there was little interaction between patrons of British Midlands and those who sought their financial advice from Hugh. The remainder of the business along this quiet stretch of Stranmillis Road was transacted at the turf accountant’s office…

Sarah Ann with friends in Belfast.