Ann Allan: An Honest Account of Day 34 Self Isolating

I head off to bed at 2 a.m. It’s been getting later and later as the weeks go on. The tears well up for a minute as I go up the stairs thinking that the last time my family had gathered together in our family home was almost five weeks ago. When will I be able to hug them again.

Gordon is snoring and I nudge him and he turns on his side.  I guess I eventually drop off after trying not to dwell on the fact that that the last thing I read on Twitter was that there may be a shortage of some medications. I worry about Louise who’s a Nurse. I worry about Paul going into shops. I worry about grandson Chris working in Tescos as University is closed. I worry generally.

I wake in a cold sweat. I dreamt that I was on a bus and the driver wouldn’t let me off.  I feel as if I’ve stepped out of a bath but in a strange way it is a comforting feeling and I haven’t the energy to get up and change.

I wake up when Gordon puts his head round the door to check that I’m still alive. He’s moved into the back room during the night as I’ve been snoring. Moi, never. It’s 930.
I lift the phone. Check social media’.  Like a few things on Twitter and Facebook.  I doze for a while.  Hear an alert. How does William Spence know I’m awake?

Gordon brings up breakfast. It’s 10-30.  Tea and a warm croissant.  ( frozen variety from Marks)  and the tablets I need to keep me going.

I make the mistake of dozing off again.

Hubby appears by the bedside.  Do you know it’s 1230 and it’s a gorgeous day ? Shit I’ve slept away the morning.

Struggle out of bed. Look in the mirror. Where the hell did all that hair come from? Where is it going. It’s sticking out in all directions. There is no way Gordon is going to cut it. I used to complain that my hair was quite thin on top but now when I can do nothing about it it’s growing like crazy.

Have a shower and while I’m in there clean it at the same time.  Much easier that way.
Look out and see the sun and dress accordingly.  Put on my Apple Watch so I can record my walking distances.

Husband is having lunch when I eventually grace him with my presence. He is an expert at making nice salads now. Only took 50 years.  Missed son as he delivered groceries while I was asleep. Damm!

Gordon brings in groceries from front door. Go through daily procedure.  Wash everything with soapy water and leave to dry. Wash hands. Throw away packaging. Wash hands again. Put away groceries. Spray surface with Dettol. It’s become routine now. I wonder how long we will have to do this.
Watch the news. Doom and gloom but feel I have to watch. Perhaps looking for a glimmer of hope but it’s hard to find. Suggestion is that this could go on for another couple of years. Husband who is a virologist agrees with this theory unless we develop immunity or a successful vaccine. Otherwise we succumb to corona and take our chances. Scary thought.

Walking time. I always feel, and today is no different that I can’t do it but once I’m out my spirits lift and I enjoy the walk.
Today we go onto the Greenway at Knock. The goal today is Cyprus Ave. Our most ambitious yet.  A beautiful walk marred by inconsiderate cyclists. Not all, but some.  It’s not a wide path and some of the cyclists do not veer from the middle of the road. Others come up silently behind you and some even cycle in pairs.

We reach North Road and head back through Ballyhackamore, stopping to take a photo at Cyprus Avenue. I always have my camera ready and I take lots of photos on our walk.
There seems to be a lot of cars on the main road. Not many walking. Only Marks, Quickfit and the greengrocers open.  All the restaurants usually full to the brim with customers lie empty. Tables waiting for the day customers can return.

We’ve clicked up 3 miles on the watch. For someone like me who up to weeks ago wouldn’t or couldn’t walk the length of herself this is a big achievement.

My hands have tightened up during the walk and they are hard to bend. Dehydration and arthritis I think. Wash hands. Drink plenty of water and rub in lots of moisturiser.
Post has come.  Spray comes out again. One from the Tax office. Time to fill in tax return. Letter from medical centre telling husband he is on the vulnerable list. We presume this is due to him having Type 2 diabetes.  Don’t feel that was necessary. His diabetes is in control and he is a fit 70 year old. Worries now that he will have do not resuscitate on his notes if he gets corona. It hurts so much to know that over 65’s are now considered dispensable. We try to laugh it off but it’s just another slap in the face. Through the neglect of the NHS we may have to die before our time so that others can live.

With this weighing on our minds we settle down to watch Gov Cuomo give his daily brief. I edit my photos and put them on Facebook and a few on Twitter. Don’t want to be too pushy by forcing others to look at my snaps but if those who can’t get out enjoy them I will continue.

It’s warm sitting with the sun shining in the window and tired after our walk I drift off to sleep. Gordon wakens me to say it’s dinner time and Paul and Ben have delivered my diet cokes. Drat missed them again.

Getting fed up cooking. Dinner tonight is bacon egg sausage and tomatoes with French fries. I bung it all in the oven and poach the eggs. Tastes yummy.

Facetime daughter in Carrick. Catch up with what everyone is doing. Tell them all I love them. Hold back tears as we blow kisses knowing it will be a long time before I can hold them.

Only one soap tonight and I don’t watch it.  It’s fecking depressing anyway. My cousin Brid plays a move on Word with Friends. A life saviour during this time. She is a champion and beats me more times than looses but tonight I win 2 games and I’m delighted.

Sort of watch Holby while tweeting.  More depressing story lines. What are they trying to do ?

I’ve tweeted about the cyclists. From the replies seems  others having same problem.

Gordon is watching Our Girl which like Holby is doubly depressing. Are there no happy programmes anymore?

Check Facebook. Some lovely messages regarding today’s photos.

Watch Jake Tapper which we recorded. Will watch Quiz tomorrow for some light relief.

Then Trumps election campaign rally , sorry,  Coronavirus conference,  comes on and I swear like a trooper at every lie he utters. He mumbles his way thought what sounds like the yellow pages and looks as if he might keel over at any minute. Highlight when he is challenged by a reporter and threatens to walk off.

It’s 1am. Time to empty the dishwasher.  Set out the dishes for tomorrow’s breakfast. Leave out the tablets for tomorrow and take the other four I need before bed.

As I slump into bed I don’t feel sleepy and I go over in my head  what’s in store tomorrow and then I think Fuck it. Take tomorrow as it comes and I drift off to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Allan: Me and the Beeb.

After the birth of my second child in 1977 it did not take an Einstein to realise that we were going to have to add to our income. In 1979 six months after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister interest rates hit 17%, the highest since records began in 1694. Yes 1694. Now that may have been wonderful for those with savings but for those of us with a mortgage it was crippling. So it was decided that I should look for a part time job. Not the easiest proposition with two children and no family living near enough to babysit.

 

So operation ‘find a job’ went into action. The Belfast Telegraph had a jobs section on a Thursday night and every job was scanned in great detail to see if anything would suit.

Nothing suited and I began to panic. The car was becoming a liability and we really couldn’t patch it together any more. Which reminds me of an embarrassing incident.

In those days, most mornings the car needed a push to get it going. Gordon cycled to work leaving me the car to do the school run, but he always started it to make sure it was ok. On this particular morning it wasn’t, so he called me out to sit in it and steer while he pushed. Still in a nightie and with a flimsy dressing gown on I got into the car. After a few minutes pushing, the engine sprung to life. Take it up to the top of the park, Gordon shouted, it will charge the battery. I did so and as I turned at the top of the road the car stalled and refused to start again. No mobile phones in those days.

I knew Gordon was on his way to work and there were two young children alone in the house. There was nothing else for it. I got out of the car and in my flimsy night clothes charged down the road, tears tripping me, trying to ignore the motorists who were wondering who was  this mad women. I swore I would take the next job I saw whether I liked it or not as long as we could get a new car.


But I digress. One evening, after all hope of finding anything suitable was fast disappearing, an advert appeared on TV. They were looking for Interviewers for BARB, the audience research department of the BBC. It seemed ideal. I could arrange it around play school, primary school and Gordon’s lunch time. And I could work in the evenings. 
I applied, got an interview and headed confidently into Broadcasting House. There must have been about 40 others there and my confidence began to wain.

I see you have two children Mrs Allan, the lady from the Beeb said, Who will look after them?

Sorry, I said, Why do you want to know?

In fact I went further and said I’m not sure you are even supposed to ask that.  Would you ask that of a man? 


Part of me was saying, shut up Ann, you want this job but I couldn’t let it go.

My children will be fine I said. Oh well I said to myself as I left the Beeb at least you got an interview. Back to buying the Belfast Tele.

You can imagine my surprise when that evening I got a phone call offering me the job.

Being an interviewer in Belfast in the troubles was problematic, to say the least. Many interviews were carried out door to door. Suspicion was rife. Was I secretly trying to find out if the household had a television licence ? 

Was I trying to find identities of those in the household? Many refused to give names which meant after doing a whole interview I couldn’t use it.  The introduction ‘I’m from the BBC ‘ didn’t always go down well as in some areas the Beeb was seen as biased against certain communities. 

Many interviews were on the street and I would park the car along side where I was interviewing and on days when I was stuck for someone ( Gordon) to keep an eye on the kids they would sit in the car.  Fifteen interviews a day for five days on a quota basis meant chasing the last two or three interviewees to fill the quota. Usually the hardest category to find. 
However there was plenty of work and I threw myself whole heartedly into it. I must have impressed the bosses as out of the blue I got a telephone call from the big boss in London, offering me the post of Assistant Supervisor for the southern half of Northern Ireland. 
This entailed being on duty two mornings a week, dealing with queries, interviewing new staff, accompanying new interviewers, but the best bit was that every two years during the time I worked for the Beeb I got a trip to London and to the BBC.

Now I have never been a good flier so on my first trip I opted to travel by boat. When I mentioned the trip to my mother she mentioned it to my aunt and they decided they would accompany me. They would shop while I ‘worked’’.  I happened to say to a friend where we were going and it turned out he was driving to London on business around the same date. He offered to take us with him so we traveled from Liverpool by car.  It was turning into quite a trip. 
It turned out to be a very stormy night. The three of us had a cabin with bunk beds. My mum and I were violently ill. I can still see my aunt, perched on a top bunk,  opening a plastic container full of tomato sandwiches and trying to get us to eat one so as ‘ to line our stomachs.’ On her third attempt I lost it and told her where to stuff her tomato sandwiches.

We arrived in London late afternoon and booked into our hotel. After the boat trip I felt like I was constantly tilting to one side. Not a great feeling. Went for a short walk outside and passed Jeremy Thorpe. The notorious M.P. Later that evening my brother who was in London on business arrived at the hotel intending to stay the night. There were no rooms available so the hotel moved an extra bed in with my mum and my aunt and my brother got mine. This was turning into a right family affair.

 


The next morning I left the oldies with my brother and I took the tube with my NI colleague into the city and we made our way to Broadcasting House.
 After an information session we went to a nearby Italian restaurant lunch where believe it or not I had my first Italian meal. Profiteroles for desert. What a treat.

The afternoon was spent in the special effects department in Television Centre where we were able to smash bottles over each other’s head. Made of sugar glass  of course. So interesting to see how it all worked. Costume department was next.  Beautiful period costumes made for the dramas that we were seeing on tv in the eighties. 
We then were taken to the news room where the 6 o’clock news was about to go out. We were able to sit in the  viewing gallery and watch. It was, on that occasion,  read by the late Peter Woods. Although I was unaware of it at the time it turns out that Peter Woods was a distant relation. 

On our way to the green room for dinner we passed through the Top of The Pops studio where a show was about to go out. The audience was being warmed up and the acts appearing were the Nolan sisters and I think Cliff Richard.

After a lovely dinner with an after dinner speech from a young Michael Burke we headed home by tube exhausted after a long day.


The next morning I headed back to Broadcasting House to collect my expenses for the trip and then headed off to look for a pair of white shoes for my 6 year old who was a huge Shaking Stevens fan. I actually found them and he was delighted. He loved to imitate Shaky which I know will embarrass him now.  He did a great version of Green Door. In the afternoon my mum, my aunt and me headed for the Paris theatre for a recording of a radio programme which I’ve forgotten the name of but it was hosted by Sue Cook and Clive James was on the panel.

In the evening we met up with my friends and headed off to the Savoy theatre to see Noises off.  Not sure whether it wasn’t as funny as was made out or we were unsophisticated culchies from Northern Ireland and didn’t appreciate the slapstick humour but it was a unanimous decision to leave at the interval and head back to our hotel.

Next morning we headed for the station to take the train to Holyhead where we caught the boat to Rosslare. Thankfully it was a calmer crossing than the trip over.

This was the first of two trips. If I’m self distancing for the rest of the summer I may recount the second trip when I almost bumped into Rolf Harris!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANN ALLAN : A REVIEW OF 2019

It’s  that time of year again. Seems like no time since last Christmas and yet personally and politically it has been a memorable year and not always in a good way.

Gordon had two major operations in 2019 and I discovered during a long year who were our true friends.  You find when things get tough some people just don’t want to know. So thanks to all of you in the real world and twitter world who sent messages of support (especially Lisa) or went out for coffee with me and for those who just gave me a hug when the tears flowed. Thankfully Gordon is on the mend. He had a difficult time and just when we thought we thought he was on the road to recovery from the first op he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and so it all began again. He coped as I would have expected, complained and moaned about everything, but at the end of the day just got on with it. Love you Gordon.

Please make sure if you are over the grand old age of 60 that you don’t ignore ‘that envelope‘ when it arrives in the mail. Bowel cancer screening is so very important because no symptoms is not necessarily a indication that all is well. Make sure and maybe save your life.

Politically it’s been a crazy year and unfortunately it hasn’t ended like I had hoped.  Looks like we are at least partially leaving the EU and we have a crazy man at the helm to steer it through. What could possibly go wrong? In America, his twin brother from another mother, is ruining the office of President, an office which was once held in high esteem whether or not you respected the policies.

Impeachment is close and I personally can’t wait to see a vile, foul mouthed, narcissistic and uncaring man out of a job.

Good things happened too.  The pro – remain and centre parties in NI took the majority of the votes. DUP and SF saw a drop in their vote and the majority of us saw a tiny glimmer of hope. Maybe the voters are tired with the same old, same old and are voting more maturely and tactically. Worrying about the union and what flag is flying doesn’t put food on the table, cut down waiting lists and help those on the poverty line. Time to reject the bully boys who want to bring us back to a time before they were even born.  Don’t these guys have lives like the rest of us like emptying the dishwasher, putting out the bins, doing normal things? Ok I’m being trivial but it must be very wearing constantly fighting against the majority of us who just want to get on with our lives and look after our families.

The rise in the suicide rate of young men here is horrifying. Impossible to tell what prompts someone to take their own life. Pressure from paramilitaries? Pressure from drug dealers ? Or is it just the reluctance to talk and alert others to what is troubling them? Whatever it is, it needs money to investigate more thoroughly and to provide more counselling facilities.

I am lucky this Christmas, thanks to the NHS I will have my husband and I will have my.    children and grandchildren with me at Christmas but my heart goes out to those who are dreading Christmas. Many of us have lost loved ones at Christmas, many are suffering from depression and Christmas reinforces the anxieties. Many are on their own and will spend Christmas alone. For some this will be their last Christmas so once again a donation of £300 will be made to the Children’s Hospice. Thanks to those who viewed the blog and who decided that watching a video for a few minutes was worth it to raise some money for the children’s  hospice. #JingleAllTheWay

 

My last video/blog is online but I hope to get back to writing again. There are many stories of life in NI in the eighties I could tell.

So I’ll end as I did last year wishing you a happy Christmas and a happy new Year. But please look out for those who won’t be happy this Christmas.


Maybe 2020 will be the year that a new assembly sits and sorts out the problems currently plaguing N.I. You owe it to your constituents.

Ann Allan: Memories 25 (1977)

1977

As we settled down on New Year’’s Day to watch Charlie and the
Chocolate factory we were unaware that the year was going to be once more dominated by violence, another workers strike and the 
emergence of the notorious Shankill butchers. Many of the IRA targets were now business men, the majority of whom were gunned down at their place of work. 

 

Saturday 1 January 1977

A 15 month old baby boy was killed in a car bomb explosion at Harmin Park, Glengormley, near Belfast. The car bomb had been planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and an inadequate warning given. 

I was heavily pregnant and still trying to make our new home habitable. We hadn’t exactly been given a rousing welcome to our new community. One of our neighbours( who turned out to be the bane of my life, and of others), worked out that I was a catholic. She told another neighbour that it was ‘ such a shame to see Catholics moving into the gardens’  She assumed we were both Catholic. Many years later I had to send her a solicitors letter as she started making wild accusations about us. But that’s a story for another day. 

I rarely made a visit into the city. The worry of a bomb going off and the hassle of being searched and waiting in queues to get into shops was too much to contend with at this stage of my pregnancy.

We had eventually got the storage heaters working. While it was  
great to have heat it was impossible to set them and as a result they were either belting out heat on a mild day and not enough on a cold day. However it would be another couple of years before we could afford central heating. 

Louise and her cousin were now attending play school three mornings a week. It gave me a chance to get some rest before the arrival of baby no 2. In those days there were no scans so it was a complete surprise as to whether we would produce a boy or girl.  It was difficult picking a name so on a Saturday evening a week before the birth while watching Starsky and Hutch we decided on Paul Micheal, if it was a boy.  Starskys real name. Charlotte if it was a girl. But with the amount of kicking I was convinced it would be a boy. When it came to the baptism we added on Samuel after Gordon’s dad.

On Saturday 12 March 1977 my waters broke and after a reasonably short labour Paul Michael Samuel Allan arrived. Husbands weren’t allowed in to the delivery room in those days so Gordon was phoned in the middle of ‘Match of the day ‘to say that his son had arrived.  I needed stitches and filled with gas and air I can remember to this day with some embarrassment, asking the doctor if he darned his own socks.

 

 

Friday 29 April 1977

Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), warned in a statement that if the British authorities failed to alter its policies then loyalists might have to consider taking over the administration of Northern Ireland.

This time the men at the shipyard didn’t back the strike nor did the workers at Ballylumford as Paisley couldn’t get widespread support.

 

Paul was baptised in St Bernadette’s.  We didn’t have a church to identify with at that time and we were not yet ready to advertise the fact that we were a mixed marriage.  Again we all came home to our new house to a cup of tea and the usual accompaniments. There were no glasses of wine or alcoholic drinks mostly cause we couldn’t have afforded them and drinking in the middle of the afternoon wasn’t the done thing.

Paul was a placid baby who continually smiled. Not sure whether this was because I didn’t fuss as much as I had done with no 1 but he still has that placid nature and smiles a lot. Okay,  so he’s 42 now!

In June of 1977 Anglia TV showed a documentary which was supposed to have aired on April Fools Day but for some reason it was delayed. It was narrated by ‘scientists ‘ who claimed that the Earth‘s surface would be unable to support life for much longer, due to pollution leading to catastrophic climate change. Physicist “Dr Carl Gerstein” (played by Richard Marner) claimed to have proposed in 1957 that there were three alternatives to this problem. The first alternative was the drastic reduction of the human population on Earth. The second alternative was the construction of vast underground shelters to house government officials and a cross section of the population until the climate had stabilised, a solution reminiscent of the finale of Dr Strangelove. It claimed scientists had already a colony on the moon and were gradually moving there.  To say I was terrified was an understatement. How could they do this and not tell us? What was going to happen to us?  I think it was the next day when it was revealed it was a delayed April fools day hoax . I was so upset I hadn’t noticed the cast list at the end. It was called Alternative 3.

On the 16 August the king of rock and roll died. As a teenager I’d watched all his films. His first film ‘Love me Tender’  was the start of many , following the same theme: boy finds girl, boy loses girl: boy serenades girl with romantic songs and wins girl back. Slushy but innocent and very appealing to adolescent girls. It wasn’t a huge  surprise to hear that he had died but such a loss. Great stage presence and wonderful voice. 

 

Tuesday 11 October 1977

Lenny Murphy was found guilty of possession of firearms and sentenced to 12 years in jail. [It was later revealed that Murphy was the leader of the ‘Shankill Butchers’ a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang which was responsible for the killings of at least 19 Catholic civilians.]

As in other years the IRA announced that there would be a ceasefire at Christmas. This would be broken on 13 January 1978

Reference: http://www.cain.ulster.ac.uk

Ann Allan: Why So Much Hate?

I’ve lived in Northern Ireland all my life and as yet I’ve not figured out how some people are the salt of the earth and some are downright thugs with only badness and violence in their hearts.

How does this happen? Christians believe that God made humans in his likeness so if that’s the case did he make a mistake or did he put these nasty individuals here to make life unpleasant for the rest of us. 

Wouldn’t you think that it would be a desire of everyone to live a peaceful and as far as possible a happy life, to look after family and friends and to fulfil ambitions that are open to us all.

But no there is a section of our society and not just in NI that are hell bent on making life as miserable as possible for their fellow human beings on their short  journey through life and it is short I can assure you.

We encounter the nasty people every day.  Do they get out of bed in the morning with the sole intention of hurting someone and with evil intentions on their minds? 

What makes someone lift a petrol bomb or even a gun and attack someones house? What makes someone attack and beat a man into inches of his like because he was born into a different religion? 

Do they watch from a distance as a distraught resident stands crying outside their pride and joy, their home, their safe place. Do they look on the bruised and battered face of their victim and think that’s a good days work. Do they relish in hurting someone?

Why would you go out of your way to hurt those who have had love ones killed in the troubles by thinking ‘Ok, they’ve lost a loved one so let us throw it in their face by constantly reminding them of those that killed them’ It requires a lot of hate to do that to fellow citizens.  

We all have the freedom to respect our dead but is it really necessary to turn it into a glorification of killers.  But it seems it’s more important to respect the dead than to respect the living. Can’t you do it quietly without publicity, and think about the living. Why perpetuate their suffering?

Those who aren’t brazen enough to physically attack their fellow citizens resort to being cyber bullies. Sitting behind a keyboard with anonymity they target those with whom they disagree.  

Why do people act like this?  How do we deal with it? Does it start in childhood? Will the class bully end up being one of those thugs ? Should we be trying to target these children and put resources into counselling and anger management control.

And then we have the bully who is President of the USA. Ignorant, racist and lacking any morals while professing to be Christian and supported by evangelicals. What a role model? I fear for the future of America and the rise of the far right. We have evidence of this here in our own country. Hateful videos regarding the immigrants who live here having fled from persecution only to face it here again. Trump needs ousted in 2020 and with a huge majority by the decent people of America.

To those who have any influence on others, be it your friends or family, if you witness that anger or hear anything that suggests someone may carry out a violent act, nip it in the bud, get them help and maybe we could make this world a better place.

Democracy Games :Ann Allan

On Friday I attended the Democracy Games at Stormont. Now I’m sure you’re asking what are Democracy Games and aren’t you a bit old to be taking part in any sort of games. I was in fact there to host on behalf of the Open Government NI Network along with David McBurney and Sean Kelly. (NIEL)

Children from three schools in NI made the journey to Stormont to learn about democracy though interactive exercises. Kellie Armstrong MLA welcomed the students and encouraged them to take an interest in politics.

A warm up session involved identifying politicians and slogans. Amazing how many recognised Trump.

They then started the hard work forming policies, chosing party names, manifestos and party slogans. After they delivered their manifestos to the other groups it was time to vote via the ballot box for the party with the most popular policies. They were all very enthusiastic and their policies were well thought out and obviously important to them. The environment was a common thread as was more access for those with disabilities.

It is important that children know how the voting system works and how important it is to vote. 

I then had the pleasure of announcing the joint winners.

Schools taking part were Parkway Lisburn, Ard-na-Shee Derry/Londonderry and Knockevin Special School, Downpatrick.

 

An enjoyable morning all round and one which will be repeated again in June. 

Ann Allan: Episode 24: Moving back to Belfast in 1976

 

 1976 was an eventful year in my life and another terrible year for violence. I was astounded when I checked out my usual source at CAIN and discovered just how violent it was.  1976 was the year that the young Maguire children and their mother were mowed down and killed by a car driven by an IRA member, when the car he was driving went out of control after he had been shot. This lead to the setting up of the women’s peace movement.

 

 

Sunday 4 January 1976

Six Catholic civilians from two families died as a result of two separate gun attacks by Loyalist paramilitaries.  Three members of the same family, John Reavey (24), Brian Reavey (22) and Anthony Reavey (17) were shot at their home in Greyhillan, Whitecross, County Armagh. [Anthony Reavey died on 30 January 1976.]  

 

Louise was now 18 months and the idea of a brother or sister was being mooted. I guess there must have been another of those Christmas parties in 1975 because around the end of January 1976 I discovered that I was pregnant again.   I didn’t feel like I had felt with Louise but every pregnancy is different and so I put it down to that. 

 Around the end of February beginning of March I realised that’s things weren’t going too well. I was advised by my consultant to carry on as usual as it would make no difference to my losing or keeping the baby.  Gordon’s mum had been summoned to look after Louise as I had a good idea what was about to happen. However it got so bad that I was soon back in casualty where I was told that I had already lost the baby. As it was very early in the pregnancy, it wasn’t as traumatic this time as I had Louise and I hadn’t felt pregnant from the start. After a small op I was home the next day and back to normal fairly quickly. 

I don’t think I have mentioned in much detail that Gordon was studying. He had left school to follow me to Belfast and as a result never completed his A levels. Being eligible for day release in the Civil Service he had completed his HNC and was now studying for a degree. This entailed two nights travelling to the Ulster university. It was hard for both of us. I had long days and long evenings. He worked long days and then had to study. So a decision was made that we should start looking for a house back in Belfast where I would be nearer friends and he’d have a shorter distance to travel.

One of my neighbours had moved to East Belfast. One day while visiting her, we went for a walk along the Upper Newtownards Rd. We passed by parks, gardens and avenues all with period style houses build in the late twenties and I knew this was were I wanted to live .

My friend also had a daughter slightly older than Louise and as a result we got the hand me downs. I wasn’t proud as we were living on one salary and every little bit helped. A visit to my friend resulted in a new wardrobe for Louise.

I found out I was pregnant again in July. On a lovely summer day in the garden of my home in Rostrevor I told my mum. I told her I was very apprehensive after what had happened and hadn’t said anything to the family. But it was out now and everyone seemed happy. 

Compared to my pregnancy with Louise, this one was a doddle. Thanks Paul.  No morning sickness and he was the right way up. 1976 was one of the hottest summers on record. Days of glorious sunshine with no rain

 

Friday 2 July 1976


item mark Six civilians, five Protestant and one Catholic, died as a result of a Loyalist paramilitary attack on the Ramble Inn, near Antrim, County Antrim. The attack was carried out because the public house was owned by Catholics.

In the meantime I was following up on houses in Belfast and in September of 76 saw a house that looked promising in East Belfast. We went to visit and though it needed a lot of work we could see the potential and the proximity to Gordon’s work at Veterinary Research made it ideal.  As I knew quite a lot of people in Comber at that time it quickly went round that we were thinking of moving. Lo and behold a knock on the door and we were offered the price we were going to put it on sale for and the deal was completed without estate agents involved. We were able to proceed with our dream house knowing that our own was sold.

I woke up on the morning of the move. It was early December. The temperature outside was -10 and the frost was thick on the ground. I was 6 months pregnant and I thought to myself I don’t want to go. I was warm and cosy and I knew what the day had in prospect. However I roused myself and got on with the move. 

With the help of my brothers we got moved. To say say the new house was freezing was an understatement. There was no heating and only a coal fire which took a lot of coaxing to light.  The kitchen was sparse with a sink and draining board at one end. It was filthy into the bargain and though heavily pregnant I got down to a deep clean. Bear in mind that the temperature was still hovering around -10.

We had bought 3 storage heaters from an advert in the Bel Tel. They were in Ballymena. I don’t think we realised how heavy they were. The ice actually helped as they slid across it. However they didn’t work. It was weeks before they worked. Christmas was cold that year. A year of very contrasting temperatures.

 

Saturday 25 December 1976

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) held a three day ceasefire over the Christmas period (25 to 27 December 1976).

 

References : https://cain.ulster.ac.uk 

 

 

Ann Allan: Memories 23

0A53743C-D669-49A5-B59C-9284B2B06421Christmas and New Year had passed quietly because of the ceasefire. It was such a great feeling to know that for a few days at least the New Year could be celebrated without fear of violence

We enjoyed Christmas in front of the television and enjoyed Some Mother’s do ‘ave em; The Generation Game with Brucie and the Mike Yarwood show.  It was a more innocent time and the programmes could be enjoyed by the whole family.

Friday 17 January 1975:

 The Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) ceasefire came to an end. Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said that he would not be influenced by arguments supported by the bomb and the bullet.

Tuesday 21 January 1975:

There was a series of bomb explosions in Belfast. The attacks were carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

 Two members of the IRA were killed when a bomb they were transporting by car exploded in Victoria Street, Belfast.

I was gradually getting used to my life as a stay at home mum.  I have to be honest and admit that I found it quite tough. As an outgoing person who had thrived in the work place and enjoyed the camaraderie of coworkers it was tough.  Gordon was working in Belfast and doing night classes two nights a week so days were long.  He also worked overtime every Saturday to help us survive financially. I relished the company of my neighbours. We only had one car and we lived about a two-mile walk to the village. I was definitely fit in those days. Every afternoon the baby was wrapped up and pushed in a large ‘Princess’ pram into Comber. As well as being fit I also had a face like a beetroot. The walk in was against the wind and as soon as I got into the heat again I beamed like a Belisha beacon.  Very attractive. 

Being at that time a wishy-washy Catholic we still decided to have Louise baptised. More so that we could have a family do, than the religious aspect.  She was christened in the same robes as my mother had been baptised in.  No hotels after, just back to the house for sandwiches, mushroom patties and sausage rolls.   After that church going waned and I was a Catholic in name only. Since my treatment by the church re my wedding venue, I was very sceptical about the church and was also beginning to doubt my faith. After years of saying rosaries, attending mass and being made to go to confession, I was again questioning the hold the church had over us. I can never understand how people I know have respect for the Catholic Church. I had seen enough bowing and scraping to priests. I refuse to be one of them.

Around February I was introduced to a girl who lived in the next street. She too was breastfeeding and was a member of La Leche league.  We became friendly and to cut a long story short we ended up on Radio Ulster on the Gloria Hunniford show doing a

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Portrait of British television presenter Gloria Hunniford, circa 1975. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

phone-in on the subject. A great experience. I just wish we had mobile phones in those days so that we could have recorded it. It was such a pleasure to meet Gloria before she left N.I. and became a big star. As a result of the show, we did the rounds of Ante- natal clinics encouraging other young mums to have a go. It was a great success.

In June, the local Presbyterian church advertised a beautiful baby competition.  We couldn’t resist it. We entered Louise and she won. A £5 voucher for the local chemist was the prize. We moved rather quickly when we saw the minister coming to congratulate us and to no doubt check out what services we attended.  Felt a bit guilty. No I’m lying we didn’t. I think the cute little mop cap helped.0C0BFD28-66BB-4BA4-A3C2-FE441F8D5863

In July we headed to Bunbeg for a week’s holiday. We stayed at the Ostan Gweedore in Bunbeg.  Not the most glamourous of buildings but the view and the food compensated.  It was one of George Best’s favourite hang outs though I have to say I never saw him there 43B09EF9-C2AF-4E5C-8329-D42465E3DAC8on my many visits. The Boyle family ran it as a family hotel and the beach with its wrecked boat became an iconic place to have a photo taken. My family was there, so we had some built in baby sitters – a luxury for us. Louise was in a baby walker and had a great time pushing herself along the corridors. She preferred that to walking. The views from the hotel were wonderful and as we strolled up the road to the village we were met by the smell of burning turf fires.4ACE3A68-2E4D-4164-A46E-BD41E150B0B3

One night after settling Louise we went down to the bar to find John Hume and his wife along with Paddy Devlin and Phil Coulter.  A sing-song ensued and I will always remember John Hume singing The Town I Loved So Well with Phil Coulter playing the piano. A memorable night. Again, a pity there were no mobile phones. It’s so sad to see that the hotel is lying derelict waiting for a buyer to restore it.

 Thursday 31 July 1975:

photograph of Miami Showband membersThe Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out a gun and bomb attack on the members of the Miami Showband. Three members of the band were killed and one seriously injured during the attack.

The holiday turned out to be more expensive than we thought and on return we received a letter from the bank saying we were overdrawn and the bank manager would like to see us.  Yikes!  We got a warning about being overdrawn and the need to be more careful.  So I took on a part-time job with the local newsagent, Miskellys. Every Sunday morning for 3 hours I sold the Sunday papers and got £3.00. I actually enjoyed it and felt more like a part of the community. People would now recognise me on the street and stop for a chat.  The wage from this together with my ‘dole ‘ money helped to keep us solvent.

Saturday 22 November 1975:

Three British soldiers were shot dead in a gun attack on a British Army observation post near Crossmaglen, County Armagh.

Around November I got a letter to say that I had an interview to return to my job in the Civil Service. I had to go and hoped I wouldn’t be offered it but I couldn’t resist putting my best foot forward and as a result I got a letter offering me the job. I had to decide to either turn down the job or make child care arrangements and return to work. I couldn’t envisage leaving our daughter with someone I didn’t know and so I turned down the job and said goodbye to my £6.00 a week.  A few extra shifts at the newsagent helped us get through Christmas.

Christmas 1975 and Laurel and Hardy were No 2 in the Christmas charts! We were entertained on Christmas night by Christmas Day with the Stars starring Cilla Black. We headed to Warrenpoint to have Christmas dinner with the in -laws. We hoped for a quiet New Year but it was not to be.

Wednesday 31 December 1975:

item mark Three Protestant civilians were killed in a bomb attack, carried out the People’s Republican Army (PRA), a covername used by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), on the Central Bar, Gilford 

Another horrific deed to end the year!

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Ann Allan: Stormont Square

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It was a foggy night in Stormont Square. Arlene the landlady was about to open up and she was worried. The boiler wasn’t firing properly and she’d called in her Special Plumber ADrian, Spad for short. 

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He suggested that they replace the boiler with a domestic heating incentive available to landlords or RHI as it became to be known. When Spad suggested that for every £1 they invested they could recoup £1.60 Arlene was convinced. It will work well in the pub she thought. Keep the heat up and the punters will drink more.

She hadn’t counted however on there being a backlash from the residents of the square. When they found out about the plan they boycotted the pub. Arlene had been unkind in the past forbidding Cockney to be spoken in the pub and only allowing Adam and Eve to drink there while barring Adam and Steve. One of her customers Big balls Jonny had recorded Arlene and the guy who ran the vegetable stall, planning to deceive the locals with help of a couple of guys Nelson Redsky and Paisley Og. They had been up to no good. Paisley the younger had been holidaying in foreign parts and conning the governments into paying for it. Redsky was dabbling in dodgy windows. There was no transparency.

When Arlene found out she was raging. I need a holiday more than you she cried. Haven’t you heard that takings are down. My salary has been cut and I’m having to count on the RHI scheme working.

Her first customer that morning was Big balls Jonny.

I need a word he said. I’m behind the RHI scheme and even I have realised that it’s not working. So I’m stopping it.

No you can’t do that Arlene shouted. Here have a drink.

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I don’t drink the devils porridge Big balls Jonny replied.

Ok so have a glass of wine instead.

After a couple of sips he began to relax. Give me a bottle of that my good lady he said.

Arlene’s plot to get him tipsy was working.

I’ll try a Guinness he said sleepily.

His tongue was beginning to loosen.

Did you hear the gossip he asked. A couple of senior duper’s are involved in an extra marital affair. I was disgusted listening to all the gory details but I told this guy who works for me, at least  I think he works for me that it was important that he told me every little detail. So I could pray for them, you understand.

At this stage Arlene signalled to a couple of bystanders Big Pete and Simple Simon. Time to take him for a little ride.  You get it boys? Big balls Jonny was last seen singing a song from Breakfast at Tiffany’s as he was dragged out of the pub.

Now get outa ma pub and don’t come back Arlene was heard to shout. 

Cue Eastenders theme.

Ann Allan: Transparency for Accountability -Conference 13 September Riddel Hall

IS TRUMP STRONGER THAN THE FREE PRESS OR IS THE FREE PRESS STRONGER THAN TRUMP?  ( Ann Allan)

I hope they don’t impeach President Trump before the 13 September. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know my feelings about the President and his ‘fake news ‘ may be wondering why? Well I have to confess, with no assembly and the 06F03B11-F52D-485F-B745-732B2AA2AAF6disaster that is Brexit I have been intrigued by the goings on in the White House.  I know more about the judicial system in the USA than I do in the UK and can name most Republican and Democratic senators and of course Trump’s ex wives and ex-lovers. I was horrified when he won the election. I know now that there is a good chance it was won for him by Russia with which he has an affinity.

So when the Open Government  Network NI of which I am a member were planning their conference Transparency for Accountability and were looking for ideas for sessions I suggested that we look at the influence Trump has had on transparency and openness in his own government and in others around the world. He befriends dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Duerte to whom transparency is an anathema.

So we are putting Trump On Trial on 13 September. And although I want him impeached or for him to resign I hope he stays just a little longer.

Other sessions will look at how the ongoing enquiry into the flawed RHI energy scheme and the effect on our democracy. In Beyond RHI:  How to Restore Democratic accountability at Stormont.   Many flaws in our democratic system have come to light. The question is how do we fix it?

The Magic Money Tree.  I’m sure we’ve  all heard from our parents at some stage that money doesn’t grow on trees. That is unless of course you are a bank that can create money out of nothing. But who is in charge of that tree?

Social media, instantly alerting us to events around the world such as terrorist attacks, social upheaval and natural disasters reminds us that our way of life is vulnerable and that we could face destruction and possible extinction. We will discuss how we face this dilemma in our session The  (Post) Truth about Saving the World.

The final session will discuss How a Citizen’s Assembly  would work in NI.  What topic will it address? Could it provide a voice for civil society in the absence of an assembly ?

So if you haven’t already signed up, you need to do now as places are filling up quickly. Riddell Hall is a beautiful venue. And just look at the line up of speakers.  Lunch and refreshments provided. What more could you ask for? Click on the link below to book and to see all the details including speakers at the event.

NI Open Government Conference: Transparency for Accountability Tickets, Thu, 13 Sep 2018 at 09:45 | Eventbrite