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

Monday, 18 January 2016

BEFORE AMNESIA - SOME OF THE THINGS I REMEMBER

I remember being told that I was stung in the face by a wasp when I was a baby but I don’t actually remember the sting. Apparently, I sobbed for ages, not for the last time.

I remember the click-click of my mother’s knitting needles and, as if by magic, jumpers, hats, scarves and gloves appeared.

I remember my father bringing home triangular tailor’s chalk. He had a job as a cloth cutter.

I remember Sally from the upstairs flat bringing us a bag of fruity sweets every Monday and some magazines for my mother. I liked Sally as much as I liked the sweets. I liked Mondays too.

I remember Farley’s rusks and someone on the TV singing that there was all-round goodness in them.

I remember my mother baking apple and rhubarb tarts, curn squares on Sundays and stew on Tuesdays.

I remember at a young age wanting to be a writer but I had no idea what to write about, so I doodled instead.

I remember Coco the Clown visiting our school.

I remember my father leaving home when I was six or maybe I am remembering someone else’s memory. Whatever. He never came back.

I remember horrible Camp Coffee.

I remember ho-ho-hoing along to The Laughing Policeman record when it was played on radio’s Children’s Favourites.

I remember thinking that Fry’s Turkish Delight tasted like soap.

I remember scraping my face on the rough bricks in the bus shelter and wearing my badge-of-honour scab on my First Communion morning.

I remember wanting to be the Milky Bar Kid but I didn’t have blonde hair and I didn’t wear glasses.

I remember someone gave us a puppy and on the same day a bastard called Sammy took it from us and drowned it.

I remember showband records playing in our house including Joe Dolan singing The Answer To Everything, Dickie Rock singing From The Candy Store On The Corner To The Chapel On The Hill and Brendan Bowyer singing The Hucklebuck.

I remember my Granny’s snuff. Sniff, sniff, nose blow.

I remember my Granda’s stammer and his beautiful singing voice. Nellie Dean.

I remember the clink-clink-clink of the milkman and, every now and then his whistling.

I remember I preferred to play cowboys and indians rather than cops and robbers.

I remember our garden had an ideal slope for tumbling.

I remember watching The Range Rider and Dick West on TV, after the Saturday wrestling programme, in my Aunt Sally’s on the New Lodge Road, Belfast. She gave us a bowl of hot peas and vinegar, thick-sliced pan bread and butter and a huge blue-striped mug of dark brown tea.

I remember the excitement of hearing The Lone Ranger theme only surpassed by the exhilaration of the burning map of Nevada and ding-ding-a-ding opening of Bonanza.

I remember where I was when JFK was shot. I was in Fruithill Park, Belfast delivering groceries and trying to figure out how to get past a yapping dog.

I remember a woman called Jean (Metcalfe) on the radio on Sundays introducing a programme from London called World Wide Family Favourites and my jaw-dropping as she casually spoke to a man called Bill Paul in Toronto. They were thousands of miles apart.

I remember my first primary school report (I’m looking at it now). St Teresa’s Boys’ School, term ending 31 December 1960. Name: J. Cushnan. Form: 3B. Number in class: 45. Position: 8th. Marks out of 10: 7 for Sums, 10 for Spelling, 8 for Reading, 6 for Writing, 8 for Composition. Class Teacher: F. H. McKenna. Parent’s Signature: Rita Cushnan. Remarks: Pass.

I remember more than a couple of slaps on the hand by a leather strap-wielding teacher. I can’t remember my ‘crimes’.

I remember barber Owny Muldoon (my first stylist) gripping my young head in the palm of his hand and steering my skull like a joystick to complete a short back and sides, and a straight fringe. He was a bit rough but quick.

I remember hating clove rock but loving butter balls.

I remember warm school milk in the summer and iced school milk in the winter, the former torture to drink, the latter impossible.

I remember hating picnics.

I remember our neighbour, Mrs McAtackney, knuckle-rapping her window, a machine-gun rat-a-tat-tat, to get us off the wall between her garden and a field.  It wasn’t even her wall but we scarpered anyway. She lived alone and had time to look out of the window.

I remember telling my teacher that a sandwich was a funny thing to call something that you had for your tea.

I remember conning my brother Sean into taking me to the pictures to see Elvis Presley in Roustabout. I told him Mum said he had to. He was unhappy about it but he took me. I was excited but Elvis was cool.

I remember my mother knitted me a green bobble hat like Mike Nesmith’s from The Monkees.

I remember Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum for the rock hard sweet but especially for the little comic included in the pack.

I remember most Saturdays visiting my Aunt Brigid in her house on Maralin Street, Belfast. It smelled of biscuits and marmalade, and she gave me half a crown to share with my brothers and sisters. I’m not certain I always did.

I remember my Aunt Brigid’s catchphrase was ‘Bless the darlin’’.

I remember Radio Luxembourg’s signal fading in and out. Adjusting the dial made no difference.

I remember loving red, syrupy cough medicine.

I remember the first grown-up book I attempted was A Tale of Two Cities but I only got halfway through.  So, I’m unsure if it was a tale of one city or two halves of two cities.


I remember who got the most burnt skin from the top of a rice pudding caused a lot of arguments in our house.

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