The Year of the Tiger, etc

It's a schizophrenic city - not to long ago they were smashing windows and intimidating 'foreigners' out of their homes in certain parts of Belfast. But today, St. George's Market was packed to the doors with people grinning and applauding and celebrating the arrival of the Chinese New Year.

You had the impression of a city that is starting to take the faltering steps towards thinking of itself as multi-cultural. The truth is - it actually went multi-cultural a long time ago. Some people just noticed it faster than others. Our dear friend Stephanie Young (London, via Canada) is staying with us at the minute, and comments that her great grandfather worked at the Shipyard and lived on Mersey Street (50 yards from where I type this), decades and decades ago, before taking the boat for North America.

We left this city and went all over the world. And now the world is coming to us. I say, come on in.

Meanwhile up at the Ulster Hall, the Base festival was in full swing, with all kinds of fashion on display and some groin-loosening drumming going on out in the street. It's been a full-on cultural whirlwind of a weekend - Ben Glover's album launch on Friday was dazzling, with the Black Box packed and roaring in appreciation. Andrea directed Sweeney Todd at the new Theatre at the Mill in Mossley, and it closed to standing ovations on Saturday night.

We saw the lovely Eilidh Patterson give an in-store performance on Saturday afternoon. And then I played with the sold-out Ronnie Greer Almost Big Band at the beautiful Portrush Town Hall on Saturday night. This Tuesday, we 're off to the Waterfront to see Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in Concert.

I'm like a kid in a candy store at the minute. Somebody should send me to bed for a rest.