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Friday, 22 January 2016


Day 5 of Before Amnesia - random memories (and the last batch for a while) -

I remember seeing The Three Tenors in concert at Wembley. Placido Domingo was magnificent, Luciano Pavarotti was great and Jose Carreras was okay. Pavarotti like to wave his hankie.

I remember reading Seamus Heaney’s “Seeing Things” book and loving the one about the monks of Clonmacnoise and the crewman who climbed back on a rope out of an oratory up to his ship in the air, “out of the marvellous as he had known it.” I think I know what he meant.

I remember going to see Al Stewart in concert, excited to hear him sing my all-time favourite single Year of the Cat, only to be disappointed when he invited a girl from the audience to sing it with him. I felt horribly short-changed.

I remember passing my driving test in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire at the third attempt.

I remember too many bad machine coffees.

I remember working in the Yorkshire Dales on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate. One day, as I drove along, a young deer jumped a wall, head-butted the side of my car, wobbled across the road, jumped another wall and sprinted up a hill, leaving the scene of the accident. There was only a trace of a dent.

I remember talking to a man who told me that he never bought dog food. He cooked roadkill instead.

I remember achieving a BA (Hons) degree in social sciences from the Open University, thereby filling an annoying (to me) gap in my education. 

I remember hearing the news that my friend and former flatmate, Paul, had died. He was forty. It is one of the saddest days of my life.

I remember seeing my poems in print for the first time. God, that felt good.

I remember Bill Clinton becoming President of the United States and thinking that he was a good guy. He had charisma and could make a damn good speech.

I remember seeing one of The Chuckle Brothers in a shop and thought he looked miserable. It was his day off, I suppose.

I remember the day of Princess Diana’s funeral and dealing with an angry customer who had driven her new car over a McDonald’s milkshake carton in the car park. The strawberry gunge had splashed onto one of her tyres. The words coming out of my mouth and the words in my head didn’t match.

I remember Smash powdered potato with an ugh.

I remember singing Okie From Muskogee at parties.

I remember when libraries were quiet.

I remember banging our old TV with a shoe to sort out picture problems.

I remember being amazed by our new electric carving knife.

I remember James Garner as Bret Maverick, cool as cool could be, always quoting his father: “My old Pappy used to say…..” Later, he became even cooler as Jim Rockford.

I remember Paris buns and snowballs. No contest. Snowballs won every time.

I remember getting halfway down a stick of rock thinking this has turned from a treat to torture.

I remember Creamola Foam (“foams and fizzes, fizzes and foams”) when crystals and water combined to produce a chemical reaction worthy of a mad scientist.

I remember cutting a raw potato in half, carving out designs in the flesh, dabbing the spuds in paint and creating sheets of patterns in art lessons.

I remember we had grass-throwing fights after the council mower man had cut the field next to our house.

I remember swallowing chewing gum (Beech Nut?) when I was a kid and worrying for hours if I would die.

I remember Mr Rooney trudging down the back gardens from his house to ours carrying a huge bundle of rhubarb, red stalks and enormous green leaves.

I remember believing stories about banshees in Smicker’s field, not far from where we lived.
Sometimes howling winds were not howling winds.

I remember when The Popular (The Pop) shop first opened across the road, Mr McErlean gave out ten bob notes to the first handful of shoppers. I think he more than hinted that the money should be spent in the shop. No fool he!

I remember loving “thrupney” bits and sixpences, once my favourite coins.

I remember Michael Holliday singing The Runaway Train and the censored word that was replaced by a drumbeat: “The fireman said he rang the bell, the engineer said "You did like h***!" Innocent days.

I remember what a great shot Richard Greene was as he hit the centre of the tree trunk every time at the start of Robin Hood on TV, and always with a twangy shudder sound effect.

I remember Miss Adrienne in TV’s Romper Room and her Do Bee and Don’t Bee advice for us youngsters.

I remember a boiled egg, beaten with butter and served in a cup.

I remember a bunch of shamrock on my lapel or jumper on St. Patrick’s Day.

I remember when you bought Daz washing powder you got a free plastic daffodil.

I remember winning two singles in a Spotlight magazine competition – Tears of A Clown, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Give Me Just a Little More Time, The Chairmen of the Board.

I remember getting a few guest columns published in the old Sunday News, Belfast under the pseudonym Gerard Patrick. There was one about airport taxi drivers and another about graffiti.

I remember people who didn’t want to say “fuck” settling for “frig”, a halfway curse.

I remember my happy, wee Granda wallpapering our house. I think I stirred the paste bucket a few times but big sister Mary was his most enthusiastic helper.

I remember The Weekly News had a column called “Wee Stories from The Police Courts”.

I remember champ with plenty of butter.

I remember digging in to the cornflakes box to find the wee toy before anybody else.

I remember short-sighted kids wearing round National Health glasses, pink for girls and blue for boys.

I remember first books featuring Dick and Dora, Nip the dog and Fluff the cat. The latter sound like cruelty crimes now.

I remember proper barbers before hairdressers and stylists were invented.

I remember Reginald Bosanquet reading the news.

I remember Spangles and Fruit Polos.

I remember W. D. Flackes doing political news on TV and counting how many times he licked his lips during a report.

I remember loving the humour of John Pepper, Billy Simpson and Rowel Friers in the Belfast Telegraph.

I remember playing outside until it was dark and not worrying about anything.

I remember liking chasies but not liking skipping.

I remember a warm balaclava in the winter before they were hijacked by, you know, them ‘uns.

I remember the words of singer/songwriter Harry Chapin: ‘Sometimes words can serve me well and sometimes words can go to hell…..’

I remember lots of things but I wonder if how much I remember outweighs how much I have forgotten.

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