I only got involved in politics in 2013 when I was introduced to NI21 by my late friend Olive Buckley. I liked the fact that it was different from other Northern Ireland parties and it was new. I don’t need to tell you how that ended but safe to say I was bitterly disappointed and vowed never to join another political party again. However interacting on social media with others I couldn’t keep stop putting my h’pennys worth and I couldn’t resist commenting on something in the news. My favourite programmes were now The View and local politics shows. Talkback with William Crawley was a must and if I wakened in time I’d dip into the Nolan show. I began to read articles, Famiarize myself with the elected political figures and the parties they represented.
Not long ago I was asked to join a group who were contemplating launching a new party but I had been through that before and at my age I needed a party that was well established, fulfilled at least 95 per cent of my beliefs and was non sectarian. I had voted at the last election for Alliance. I had interacted with members of the party on social media and in my role as a member of the steering committee for opengovni.
I found them to be approachable and Alliance, represented by Stewart Dixon, was happy to meet us and discuss what open government was all about. I was delighted when Naomi Long become leader as I felt she could transfer a lot of what she had learned in Westminster to the assembly and to the broader party. It would be impossible to get a party that ticked all boxes but Alliance comes closest to my wish list. I was pleased and impressed when my 16 year old grandson also became interested in politics. He also joined the Alliance party ( that reduced membership fee was a great incentive for younger people) and so the two of us headed to Stormont on Thursday night to a ‘meet and greet ‘for new members. The long gallery was packed with new and some ‘old’ members. A huge turnout. After some interaction and a quick cuppa with the other attendees and after some introductions the lady herself, Naomi Long, took the stand and despite a long and tiring day gave a rousing ‘call to battle’. Hopefully not a ‘brutal ‘ election as some have predicted. So come election day I will be voting Alliance in East Belfast and hoping that this is the time that the voters will step away from orange and green politics and vote for ‘bread and butter ‘ issues. I know Naomi will do a grand job in helping to normalise politics in our ‘wee country ‘ and challenging those who seek to undermine it. She will hold other parties to account and she will be fair and measured in her responses. I admire how she stays calm on social media when confronted with trolls.
I hope in this upcoming election, Alliance, and indeed all the opposition parties do well and will come back stronger and in a position to challenge the openness and transparency that are lacking in today’s assembly.
I was listening to the Nolan show recently ( ok, I know ). After listening to George from da Shankill and Norman from Bangor, ad nauseum, I drifted into Wonderland and not for the first time.
I found myself once again in the Great Hall in Stormont. I began to feel rather warm so I asked a fellow traveller who resembled a white rabbit why that should be. Well, put it like this, he said the DUPERS signed up to the RHI but they’ve been caught out so they’re trying to recoup the money by heating the place 24 hours a day and then reclaiming the money to try and save 400 million pounds. It’s going to be a long hot century.
Goodness I though this gets curious and curiouser.
Do they often waste money like that ? I asked. He suddenly smiled like a Cheshire cat. My dear he said they’re experts at it. He disappeared leaving only a smile.
A very happy unbirthday to you, said a strange man with a very ruddy complexion and for a minute I could have sworn he had no clothes on. Who are you? I asked. I’m the Mad Hatter, he said, but you can call me Sammy. Are you a Duper I asked ? Yes, he replied. You should be ashamed of yourself using all that fuel?Haven’t you heard of climate change? Don’t believe in that rubbish, he said. The cabal says God will save us if we pray, so no sweat. No sweat, I thought, wiping the sweat from my brow.
I wandered up the staircase and followed the sound of water splashing. Someone was leaning over a paddling pool. Look, he was saying, when the ferry comes up to the jetty we could have a crane nearby which could tip it up and then the cars could roll off. Problem solved. Tell you what Danny, said a voice I now know was Chris, you can tell that to the public. I left Twiddledee and Tweedledum trying to target a civil servant to blame.
This place is really messed up, I thought. There can’t be any more cock ups? Nama, Nama Nama Nama, hey hey Nama Nama. I followed this somewhat hypnotic chant and this led me to the long hall. I heard a conversation going on and I listened from behind a curtain. Ok Jamie, I heard someone say. ( That person needs a drink, sounds as if he has a sore throat, I thought) Ok Jamie, I’ve got my latest, sorry, your latest blog. I’ve made a few grammar mistakes so it will be believable. We’ll get the buggers locked up and then we’ll throw away the key. Can I definitely be deputy minister ? asked Jamie? Of course you can, the shady figure replied but I noticed he had his fingers crossed behind his back at the time.
Where’s the ‘head bummer’? I asked a passer by, Mitchel, I think he was called. Long gone, the griffin replied ( well if Lewis Carroll can do it, so can I). Replaced. Ah no controversy there then, I volunteered. Well, he said, have you heard of Charter NI? Dodgy I thought. If they are getting all that money couldn’t Dee give the front of the building a coat of paint. Looks very run down.
Wandering further along I caught sight of myself in a looking glass. Behind me I saw a Gaelic pitch. There seemed to be a lot of angry people but a female with a dodgy hairstyle was assuring everyone concerned that all was ok and every thing would be sorted. That was the past I reckoned. It’s probably completed and the community are benefitting. I heard a guffaw and a man wearing a vivid blue suit and sporting a spiked hairstyle was grinning to himself. I fully support the GAA he kept repeating, as if he was trying to convince himself.
I must wake up I thought. I’ll write this in my next blog. People love fairy stories. I was glad to wake up knowing I had been dreaming. And then I heard Talkback!
An early morning phone call usually harbours bad news and this morning was no exception. My friend Olive had passed away during the night.
I only met Olive three years ago but there are some people you click with and Olive and I clicked. We became great friends. We sat for hours putting the world to rights. Olive was eager for change in Northern Ireland and it was no coincidence that we met at the birth of NI21. She was hopeful that a new political party could help to break the cycle of sectarian voting here and encourage people to be proud of their individual identies. She was bitterly disappointed that this did not materialise.
In May of 2015 she called me to say she was in hospital. Doctors were concerned and decided that the symptoms needed further investigation. When she called on a Sunday morning to say she was dropping over for a coffee I knew something was wrong. My worst fears were confirmed when she told me she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Olive’s twitter bio says that she was ‘ a happy cheerful person.’ It was this disposition that kept her happy and positive throughout her illness. I never once heard her say why me? Never once heard her complain despite coping with amputations and numerous infections, not to mention the chemo and the stays in hospital. She was interested in all that was going on in the political scene and in the NHS ( she was a member of UNITE) and she got out and about as much she could manage.
Olive was courageous in standing up before an audience in Stormont, telling her story and describing her symptoms so that a life might be saved. She also spoke on BBC Talkback, again to highlight the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.
Her birthday was a couple of weeks ago and in her words it was ‘the most wonderful day’ and she felt very happy.
We will miss you Olive, as will Gary who has been your partner, best friend and carer. My condolences to her mum Breda, her sister Roisin and her long time friend Paula and to the wide circle of friends who are now mourning her loss.
As part of Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week, I attended an event at the Thinking Cup cafe on the Lisburn Road. The theme was being Good Relations – A Convivial Conversation.
The late Jo Cox and I suspect many others are quoted as saying
“.. we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than the things that divide us”
The ‘conversation’ was hosted by Eileen Chan Hu and Maciek Bator from CRAIC NI and Denis Stewart, International Futures Forum.
The beautiful Autumn morning sunlight lit up the room and the atmosphere was warm and convivial. Informal introductions took place over coffee and scones from the cafe below before Denis opened proceedings with a reading from a poem by Maya Angelou entitled Human Family. You can listen to her reading the full version here
I have included a few verses
“….The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white….
…I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man……
…I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike….”
Eileen then went around the room and those present told us how they got their name and its origins. Not much for me to say, as all I knew was that I was baptised in a hurry and generations of ancestors were called Ann (well the females were). I forgot to mention I brought the hubby along and he was well out of his comfort zone but he joined in and was convivial.
Otherness was the buzz word. The hubby and I could have qualified for our ‘otherness’ as 46 years ago we were one of the few mixed marriages in Northern Ireland and found it hard to find a niche in either community. Thankfully that is changing albeit slowly but it still depends on where you live and the culture you have been brought up in.
After a group discussion where we discussed how we could tackle ethnic diversity and facilitate the integration of those coming to live in Northern Ireland, we picked out a book from the loaded bookcases and chose a quotation from the book for a fellow participant.
Tim Brannigan then told us how being black in the early years of the troubles in West Belfast made it difficult to fit in. His recently published book “Where do you really come from? ” is soon to be made into a film. The book is available on Amazon.
So, all in all, an enjoyable morning. My only observation would be that the presence of some refugees or immigrants who could voice their opinions from their prospective, might have helped to show where we could improve on how we help those who are trying to make a home in ‘Norn Iron’
You’re what?? Reactions from some members of my family when I said I was going along to rehearsals for the Belfast Philharmonic choir. I suppose I’ve been giving them reason to query what is going on in my life. Instead of settling for slippers and a throw in front of the TV I’ve opted to get out there and fulfil my bucket list. Who or what has encouraged me to do this? Well I was watching a Dr.Phil show recently and he produced on stage a huge ruler. He pointed out that the ruler measured our life expectancy with the average expectancy being around 85. Standing on the ruler at the age of 67 looking back and looking forward I realised I haven’t got that much left in front of me. In my head I’m only about 30 until I see a mirror and wonder who that old bird is looking back at me.
So with Dr. Phil’s words spurring me on, I weighed up my life at present and things I wanted to do before I shift my mortal coil. I recently with the help of my friend Gary set up my own YouTube channel and started my video/blog. It has been well accepted so far and I’m really enjoying seeing my memories on-screen. I’m also apparently one of the few grannies who has a YouTube channel and have once again become ‘cool’
I’ve always enjoyed singing and am the life and soul at a karaoke party. But I’ve always wanted to be part of a choir and with that in mind, after seeing an advert on Twitter, I headed for St.Brides Church Hall on Wednesday evening. Arriving at the venue I assumed that I was in the wrong place as the car park and the road outside were packed to the gills. I headed for a door and asked a kindly gentleman if I was in the right place. He confirmed that I was and directed me to where I should register. Looking around I was pleased to see that I was not the oldest chorister. I learned afterwards that there were about 40 new members enrolling. Alto or soprano? I was asked. Hmmm I’m not sure, I used to be a soprano but I’m assuming the voice gets lower as you get older. Anyway, I was shown to a seat in the middle of the altos beside a very nice lady who was obviously an ‘old’ hand on the choir scene. There must have been 200 singers altogether. After an introduction by the conductor we were straight into the singing starting with Zadoc the Priest, followed by various pieces from Mozart’s mass in C.
I tried furiously to keep up with the rest of the choir who were not all new to this but even though I was afraid to sing too loudly, I really enjoyed that feeling of everyone singing together. I thought to myself this is just great. After a break for tea, incidentally served by Noel Thompson, I was devastated to hear it announced that auditions would take place in two weeks for the new members! Now that was something I hadn’t reckoned on. An audition would require me to sing part of the Gloria from the aforesaid mass, a piece of my own choice and to sight-read a piece also. Suddenly my vision of standing in the Ulster Hall didn’t look so bright. I had second thoughts all the way home in the car. However, I couldn’t resist having a go. ( It’s all on YouTube, so no excuse). I’ve been practising and have realised just how weak my voice has become. Hubby says he can’t believe that as I shout a lot at him. But I’m determined to give it a go and take every opportunity to practise. The hubby can almost sing the Gloria himself. I’ll let you know how the audition goes even if I don’t make it.
My membership of Opengovni has also been most interesting. There are lots of events planned in the coming months and if I’m not singing in an opera in Covent Garden I’ll be attending those, one of which is in the beautiful Narrow Water in Warrenpoint. There are still places available. See below for details.
So if you are at home and you are feeling that life is passing you by, think of at least one thing you would like to achieve in the coming year. I assure you if I can do it so can
My YouTube channel is apallan1
Twitter account is @apallan
Monday 1 January1973: Two men were found shot dead near Burnfoot, County Donegal, they had been killed by an unidentified Loyalist paramilitary group.
This was the start of another violent year in Northern Ireland. We were leaving 1972 behind and little had changed. Violence was rife and murders common place. It was also the year that the UK joined the EEC ( EU) and the year that a referendum about a United Ireland was held. This was a non-event as Nationalists boycotted the referendum and so the result was an overwhelming majority to stay in the UK.
Meanwhile on a personal level, life was continuing in Comber. On New Years Day we invited the in-laws and my brother and his wife for dinner. The hubby suggested we have roast duck. Now although I considered myself a reasonably good cook, duck had never been a big part of the cuisine in either of our households. But always one to try something new I bought the duck. I thought when putting it into the oven there didn’t seem to be much meat on it but I pressed on regardless and hoped for the best. The embarrassment when I served up one small slice of duck to each person stayed with me for many years. I’ve steered clear of roast duck ever since unless it’s in a carton and has Marks and Spencers on it.
I have had reservations about writing about 1973 and I have been procrastinating as it was a partcularly tough year for me. I discovered I was pregnant at the end of January and I was delighted. Life was good and I was practising hard for my driving test at the time and felt well. On Wednesday 7 February, the United Loyalist Council organised a one-day general strike. It happened to coincide with my driving test. There were power cuts and roads were blocked. Many were intimidated into not going to work but my driving test inspector turned up and with little traffic on the roads I passed my test with flying colours. It was great to be mobile but it did prove problematic with only one car ( the norm in the 70’s ) so we spent our time organising lifts when one of us wanted the car. I think it was 2000 before I got the keys to my very own car.
I announced my pregnancy after three months as did a colleague in my office. Our babies were due in the same week in September. I started knitting baby things but I was not a knitter, never have been and never will be and so the two matinée coats I managed to finish were a disaster. My parents and my in-laws weren’t exactly over the moon with the news. No hugs or congratulations. More like ‘how will you manage with one job?’ It wasn’t the done thing to talk about pregnancy apparently and so a lot of the joy that I felt quickly disappeared. Also the religious aspect was probably high on the agenda.
At the beginning of Easter week I began to have some symptoms that were a cause for concern. The doctor was called and suggested bed rest. For four days I lay in bed. On Good Friday I was in such distress that Gordon took me straight to A&E. There, a doctor examined me and without any softening of the bad news told me my baby had died in my womb. He explained that I was in labour and there was no alternative but to deliver the baby naturally. I won’t go into the details but it was one of the worst experiences of my life.
After a few weeks recovering I went back to work. The hard bit was that those who didn’t know about the miscarriage kept asking me when was the baby due. We tried to accept that many first pregnancies end in miscarriage and this wouldn’t happen next time but I felt alone and probably needed some follow-up counselling but I was discharged from hospital and had no choice but to get on with it. It was rarely mentioned again.
Around this time and probably feeling the need to be parents we acquired a dog. I say acquired because it was never my intention to have one. We visited friends whose dog had just had puppies. We left with a small black and white terrier who we christened Cotton ( after the small cigars). He was a lively pup and didn’t take long to acquaint himself with the surrounding countryside. One whiff of freedom and he was away, chasing the cows in the farmers field behind us and returning home smelling of badgers poo.Yuck. There were no restrictions on dogs in the 70’s so he headed into Comber and met up with his mates. Many nights he wouldn’t return until midnight, at which time he would stand at the front door barking, until one of us stumbled downstairs to let him in. I think he thought he was a cat. However we loved him and put up with him until one day he was chasing cars ( one of his favourite past times) was hit by one of the said cars and we had to make a decision to have him put down. The house was empty without him and I swore never to have another dog. I have kept my word.
We made the decision that as we were going to have two salaries coming in for another while it was time to replace the small country-style suite we had for something a bit more substantial and comfortable ( picture above). We went into Wright’s arcade in Newtownards where Mr.Wright was serving that day. He was very kind and we chatted. When he heard what had happened he gave us a great bargain on a suite and also threw in a coffee table which we have until this day. When the suite was delivered it was way too big for our tiny living room but we loved it and we had plenty of room to stretch out.
Thursday 16 August 1973: Two members of the IRA died when a mortar bomb exploded prematurely during an attack on the Army at a base in Pomeroy.
September was a challenging time. My friend at work had her baby and it was difficult to visit her in hospital. However we were trying again for a baby and we were having a lot of fun trying!!
We had changed our car around this time. We bought it from a small garage at the bottom of University Street. It was a Morris something or other and I guess they saw us coming. After a couple of months the exhaust developed a hole. The sound as the car set off in the morning was noisy to say the least. Gordon spent hours under the car, rather than in it, plastering the exhaust with Gun gum ( a seal for exhaust). It would hold for a few days and then blow again. Like the Mini Cooper which was our first car, the floor in the back was also proving effective as an air conditioning system, and if I remember correctly I don’t think the heater worked but it just about got us from A to B so that was a bonus.
The year ended with a statement from the Northern Ireland Executive following its first meeting. The statement set out the Executive’s hopes for the future and called on people in Northern Ireland to allow 1974 to be ‘ The Year of Reconciliation’
http://Cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch73.htm. A chronicle of the troubles 1973
After listening to all the rubbish spouted over the last few months by various parties in Norn Iron I have decided to form my own party. It will be called the Get-a-grip party. I intend to stand at the next election and my manifesto will be as follows:
The word ‘detritus’ will be banned from all literature.( personal dislike, there has to be some benefits for me)
The words, shared future, dignified, parity of esteem, themuns, scum,will no longer be bandied about as will offensive names regarding members of the varying religions in Norn Iron.
All children will be educated together.
All children born from now on will be given numbers instead of names thus foiling any attempts to ascertain religious background.
The twelfth will be held on St Patrick’s day and vice versa.
To solve recent squabbling over the name of the Irish/Ulster fry, it will be renamed ‘you are heading for a heart attack fry.’
National flags will be banned and only flags with Eamonn Holmes on them will be permitted.
All parades will be conga style and dress code will be tasteful onesies. ( From Primark)
As a munificent leader I will be open to my constituents suggestions.
I was sitting in the heat in the early morning, unable to sleep, 3-45 am actually and it was peaceful and quiet. I started thinking about my grandson and his dad, my nephew and niece all heading for France at the weekend. I felt uneasy for them all and for the other youngsters and their dads heading off, and for the wives, girlfriends and family members who will spend the next four weeks worrying about their loved ones. We have heard about the threats, we don’t know how serious they are but they are casting a shadow over what should be a happy occasion. Two teams from this small island. Great achievement. Let’s hope each side can be magnanimous and wish the other team well.
We women in particular spend our time worrying about things that could happen and which in most cases don’t. From the moment we become parents we try to protect them. But also from the moment they are born we are raising them to leave us. We nurse our babies close for the first few months but then we trust them with others and are content to leave them in the hands of nurseries, family members and child-minders. Babies become used to seeing new faces and learn to trust them.
Those of you who are parents know that feeling when you let go of a toddler’s hand and he/she makes a break for freedom. They don’t want to hold your hand, they’re getting confidence to break away.
Primary school looms. For months you dread leaving them. But in most cases they run in and go to find a favourite toy and you’re quickly forgotten.
Grammar school and you’re a complete embarrassment. No kisses goodbye, sometimes not even a goodbye just a grunt. The gap is becoming wider.
And don’t talk to me about teens. They know it all. They are brimming with hormones and testosterone and mood swings. We feel we’ll never communicate.
But no matter how old they are, we worry about them and for a large number of us in Ireland, North and South over the next four weeks we will worry until we see them all home safe and sound. So I wish both teams all the best, and their supporters a safe trip. Be vigilant and look out for each other and may the best team win.