In Search of My Father 2017 Writing Project

In Search of My Father 2017 Writing Project
In Search of My Father, 2017 writing project supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

BEFORE AMNESIA - MORE RANDOM MEMORIES


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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