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Wednesday, 20 January 2016


Day 3 of "Before Amnesia" - more random memories........

I remember seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the Broadway cinema on the Falls Road, Belfast and when Sundance said he couldn’t swim, I knew how he felt.

I remember watching in complete awe the TV coverage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

I remember my first bookcase, an oranges crate retrieved from the shop across the road.

I remember hearing about a tough guy from Belfast called Buck Alec. He kept a lion in his back yard. I had a dream once that the lion was chasing me and Buck was chasing the lion.

I remember liking the smell of pipe tobacco but not liking cigarette tobacco, in spite of my earlier ‘death’s door’ experience.

I remember my mother throwing her slipper at the TV because the Reverend Ian Paisley was shouting something or other that she didn’t like.

I remember small Kemp apples, sweet, sometimes sour.
We ate three or four at a time and always regretted it.

I remember black and white news reports of the Vietnam War and thinking they were not quite the same as Sunday afternoon war films.

I remember singing along to the The Beverley Hillbillies songs and finishing with a rousing ‘Y’all come back now, ya hear.’

I remember the first time I saw John Wayne as Marshal Rooster Cogburn in True Grit in the scene where he confronts four outlaws. One of them calls him a one-eyed fat man and Cogburn shouts: “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch” before putting the reins in his teeth, pulling his pistol from the holster, twirling his Winchester rifle and charging. Thrilling.

I remember eating cooked ham from a packet for the first time and it tasted like rubber.

I remember my Aunt Sheila sprinkling curry powder on her Irish stew, my first taste of the exotic.

I remember loving hot Oxo drinks in the winter.

I remember fearing Cybermen more than Daleks in Doctor Who.

I remember never missing Top of the Pops.

I remember tripping and tumbling down a slope on the Black Mountain. I was dazed but unhurt.

I remember Sean Allison and I playing guitars and singing Kris Kristofferson and Gordon Lightfoot songs on Sunday afternoons in my bedroom. I think I was a better singer than him but he was definitely a much better guitar player.

I remember slices of vegetable roll, a Monday dinner thing, strangely named because it had meat in it.

I remember liking Munchies but not the minty ones.

I remember leaving St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School with 4 O-levels – English, Maths, French and Irish. I got a job as an office clerk in the Belfast Corporation Electricity Department at Power Station West, which sounded very exciting. It wasn’t.

I remember being wary of our airing cupboard. I thought the creaking pipes might be a bogeyman.

I remember singing into hairbrush ‘microphones’.

I remember railings in Belfast city centre and being frisked by policemen or soldiers on my way to work in British Home Stores. It became a normal routine.

I remember the news in the middle of the night that my brother Paul was dead. Days later, I identified his body with a nod of my head.

I remember my mother darning socks.

I remember winning the BHS dominoes championship and being presented with an engraved tankard.

I remember Vesta beef curry, but not fondly.

I remember leaving Belfast to live in Manchester to work as a department manager for BHS. The homesickness and loneliness faded after a few months.

I remember running every day for what seemed like an eternity to buy the lunchtime edition of the Manchester Evening News in a flat-hunting frenzy and then running to a phone box to call the numbers. I saw quite a few grotty flats and rooms but struck lucky with a place in Heaton Moor. The landlord was Mister Kola.

I remember a work colleague making fun of my Belfast accent and asking me if I was ‘on the run’. I began to adapt the way I spoke.

I remember ironing only the collars and front panels of work shirts because the rest of the shirt would be hidden under a jacket.

I remember a marathon pub crawl in Manchester with Tom McGarrity, Tuesday 14 September, 1976 – Mitre Hotel; Town Hall Tavern; Vine Inn; Crown; Grey Horse; Flanagan’s; Portland Hotel; Piccadilly Hotel; Shakespeare.

I remember sad news of the death of Sidney James, a comic genius with one of the greatest laughs ever.

I remember the long, hot, sweaty summer of 1976 and a pint of beer for 21p.

I remember Tommy Ducks, an amazing Manchester pub. The ceiling was adorned with a variety of knickers donated by female customers.

I remember being transferred to BHS, Romford, Essex. Mr Robinson, the boss, was an old-school manager and terrifying when he wanted to be.

I remember meeting Irene at the men’s underwear section of BHS, Romford, a genuine brief encounter.

I remember following and apprehending a shoplifter for the first time. He was a big, scary guy.

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