Give me a child until [s]he is seven……

Hello again, this week I have to begin with an apology. Last week something went wrong with the photographs and I may have come across as something of a ‘grape hyacinth’ freak. In the interests of clarity I’m including the missing pictures below. On the left are my school friends (I’m the one with the bad perm) and on the right is JY looking cerebral in a turtleneck.

So, as we know, all good stories have an origin narrative, where the personality of the storyteller is shaped. These are often set on a distant planet, mine was shaped in Larne! (Don’t worry Mother, this won’t be ‘Mommie Dearest’)

Picture the scene….

It’s sometime in the mid 1960’s and two people fall in love. So far so good. However, the ‘girl’ (mother) was a 4ft 11″ Catholic in her 20’s and the ‘boy’ (the irony) was a 6ft Presbyterian in his late 40’s. Way to go parents – no controversy there!

They did get married, and after a respectable pause, I came along. Their union would have been referred to in the 1970’s (and beyond), as a ‘mixed marriage’, because neither of them ‘turned’, this has to be said with the sort of sneer you would adopt when prescribing an ointment for a particularly embarrassing pustule.

So who were these romantic pioneers (it was pure Kevin and Sadie, love across the barricades)? They were a very glamorous couple and once went to a fancy dress party as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Mummy was all eyes and hair (not her own, well the eyes were, but not the hair) Daddy looked elegant in a safari suit and a brown silk polo. He was very fond of that safari suit.

They went to another fancy dress party as Maurice Chevalier and Gigi (which gave off a rather different vibe). Strangely – no pictures exist of that particular outing!

Daddy was a gifted raconteur. One of his specialities was sharing the fun fact that his wife ‘was the only woman he knew who could take her knickers off standing up in a Mini’. The fact that they were Mini owners at the time lent a certain veracity to this tale. I never did find out if this was true and since Mother has done in her hip she is no longer limber enough to try. He would mesmerise a room with tales of his time in the States, New York in particular. It was reminiscent of a County Antrim Jack Kerouac. This was especially entertaining to watch as he had never set foot on the continent of America. He was very bold.

Daddy was a very devoted parent, and much more involved that other men of his generation. The day the Marie Rose was being raised he wanted me to stay off school to watch it. He was persuaded that we would definitely be allowed to watch it in school – we weren’t, and he never quite forgave the Headmistress.

We would cuddle up on the sofa and watch all variety of programmes. My poor teachers and my extremely right wing, ultra Catholic primary school were subjected to a daily lottery of what I might reveal in ‘Our News’. Every morning after we heard that Shelia’s Mummy had had another baby and Kathleen’s Mummy had got a new vacuum cleaner, I might observe that I had seen a lion eating an impala (Wildlife on One), or a ‘great piece of satire, where a man goes into a restaurant, wearing only a tie’ (Not the Nine o’clock News). I was something of a pompous arse even then.

‘We three’ were happy as pigs in muck when very suddenly while I was ten, he rather suddenly and thoughtlessly died of a heart attack. Hmmmmmmm – now don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Frank McCourt – I did get to keep my Communion money. Our already small community had dwindled to two. Mother and I moved in with my recently widowed grandmother (oh yes! good times). Do you know something? After a while, it was ok – mainly due to the force of character and will of the two women raising me.

Mother is an incredible woman. For many years she juggled full time work, and acting career and raising me (who we will recall from last week was a little bit odd). Having said that she isn’t particularly conventional. When you are a teenage and ‘odd’, conventional is really important.

Next week I shall share with the story of the night Mother’s tits saved her……..

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