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Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have something you would like published. Please keep length between 800 -1000 words.
Follow me on Twitter @apallan
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.
Today I would like to speak to the people of Northern Ireland. I love Northern Ireland by the way and I’m going to make it great again. I’m even thinking of building a wall between the North and South but rest assured the South will be paying for it.
But I have to be honest (ok, no heckling, Mike) and confess that we have fucked up big league, in fact our fucking up was some of the biggest you are probably going to see in NI. You voted for us and put your trust in us and we put our trust in God so really it was God that was responsible for the whole fiasco. Ok, Jonathan and myself helped but Jonathan prayed a lot while we were coming up with the scheme and his knees were so red from kneeling that I was sure he’d got it right. Just goes till show you. Anyhow we were probably hacked when Martín took over and he changed all the figures to make it look as if we favoured our donors, er sorry constituents. I don’t trust SF with finance and I’m just sorry we had to pass the post of Finance Minister on to them in the hope that the blame would go elsewhere, not that we noticed our mistake until every red light at Stormont was flashing. We thought it was themmuns up to their old tricks again. But we are were we are and I am desperately trying to dig my way out of this. I’m going to go to plan P. It will cost nothing, zilch, nada. How you ask can I do that? I’m going to brazen it out, blame everyone else and pay for the scheme with Gregory’s salary for the next 20 years. What do u mean it’s gone over £450 million, Simon? That’s disgraceful. How could anyone waste that much money? Right let’s go and drain the swamp. Jim’s getting way to cocky. Did I hear you shout resign Mr.Mc.Crea? Ok, now where did I leave my love glasses?
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