Tag Archives: Ireland

Happy Easter (especially to all gay 14 year olds)

Paris tray rotated

My fascination with Paris dates back to the map on the tray my Granny used to carry the tea pot and cups. The tray is in my kitchen now. (Manover brand. Made in France.)

Happy Easter to you. Though it might not seem that way, I’ll admit. What with attacks on people and churches and whatever I’ve missed on the news just now. Thank goodness there are positives amidst the gloom.

Some of those appalled at seeing Notre Dame go up in flames were energised to raise funds to help rebuild three less famous historically black churches, damaged in suspected arson attacks in Louisiana, USA. Here’s Ruth Jack’s fundraising page.

There was very sad news from Derry where a young investigative journalist, author and LGBT activist Lyra McKee was shot dead, seemingly by dissident Irish Republicans. She was covering a riot in the city when shots were fired towards police officers where she was standing. As Susan McKay wrote in Lyra’s memory: “Let no one dare say that she died in the cause of Irish freedom. Lyra was Irish freedom.”

Lyra McKeeLyra – you pronounce it LEE-ra by the way – was great in various ways. She left us this Letter to my 14-year-old self that she wrote in 2014, on the subject of being a gay teenager. I’ve lifted the text from the Pensive Quill blog. Here it is:

Yesterday, I tweeted a response to the hateful homophobic comments made by a Northern Irish pastor, James McConnell. Mr McConnell said: “Two lesbians living together are not a family. They are sexual perverts playing let’s pretend.”

I said: “People like Pastor McConnell made 14 year old me feel like I was better off dead, rather than deal with the shame of being gay.”

I rarely use this blog for anything other than professional work/journalism-related matters but a number of people asked me to write a blog post summarising what I said. Someone remarked that maybe some 14 year old would read it and take hope. So I decided to write a letter to my 14 year old self, 10 years later, as a 24 year old looking back. 


“Kid,

It’s going to be okay.

I know you’re not feeling that way right now. You’re sitting in school. The other kids are making fun of you. You told the wrong person you had a crush and soon, they all knew your secret. It’s horrible. They make your life hell. They laugh at you, whisper about you and call you names. It’s not nice. And you can’t ask an adult for help because if you did that, you’d have to tell them the truth and you can’t do that. They can’t ever know your secret.

Life is so hard right now. Every day, you wake up wondering who else will find out your secret and hate you.

It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better.

In a year’s time, you’re going to join a scheme that trains people your age to be journalists. I know the careers teacher suggested that as an option and you said no, because it sounded boring and all you wanted to do was write, but go with it. For the first time in your life, you will feel like you’re good at something useful. You’ll have found your calling. You’ll meet amazing people. And when the bad times come again – FYI, your first girlfriend is not “the one” and you will screw up that History exam – it will be journalism that helps you soldier on.

In two years time, you will leave school and go to a local technical college. Don’t worry – you’re going to make friends. These will be your first real friends in semi-adulthood, the people who will answer your calls at 4 O’Clock in the morning. In the years to come, you’ll only keep in touch with Gavyn and Jonny but you’ll remember the others fondly. When you’re 17, you’ll tell them your secret and they won’t mind. It will take courage but you will do it. Gavyn will become Christian and you will fear that he will hate you but one afternoon, you’ll receive a text message saying: “This changes nothing. You’ll always be my friend.” Accept him for what he is as he has accepted you.

You’ll go to university, like you always planned to, but you’ll drop out because it reminds you of school where people were cold and you had few friends. The campus is just too big and scary. But this experience will be the making of you. You’ll be making your way in the world for the first time. Through this, you will meet the people who become your best friends. They’ll help you replace all the bad memories with good ones. For the first time in your life, you will like yourself.

Three months before your 21st birthday, you will tell Mum the secret. You will be sobbing and shaking and she will be frightened because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. Christmas will be just a couple of weeks away. You have to tell her because you’ve met someone you like and you can’t live with the guilt anymore. You can’t get the words out so she says it: “Are you gay?” And you will say, “Yes Mummy, I’m so sorry.” And instead of getting mad, she will reply “Thank God you’re not pregnant”.

You will crawl into her lap, sobbing, as she holds you and tells you that you are her little girl and how could you ever think that anything would make her love you any less? You will feel like a prisoner who has been given their freedom. You will remember all the times you pleaded with God to help you because you were so afraid and you will feel so foolish because you had nothing to worry about.

You will tell your siblings. No one will mind. Mary will hug you in the food court in Castlecourt as you eat KFC together and tell you she’s so proud of you. The others will joke about how they always knew. They will all say some variation of “I love you,” “I’m so proud of you”, “This doesn’t change a thing.”

You will feel so lucky. You watched James get thrown out of his house after coming out to his parents. You were in Michael’s house the night his Mum said she would “beat the gay out of him”. You will feel guilty for being the lucky one and getting it easy in the end, even though you went through hell to get there.

You will fall in love for the first time. You will have your heart broken for the first time and you will feel like you might die of the pain. You won’t. You will get over it.
Right now, you’re wondering if you’ll ever be “normal”. You are normal. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not going to hell. You did nothing to deserve their hate.

Life will not only get easier, it will get so much better. You will walk down the street without fear. Teenage boys you’ve never met will not throw things at you and shout names. Your friends will be the best anyone could ask for. You will be invited to parties. You will have a social life. You will be loved. People will use words like “awesome” and “cool” and “witty” to describe you and you’ll forget the times the other kids said you were “weird” and “odd” and a “lesbo”.

You will do “normal” things. You will spend time with your Mum. You will go to work and pay your bills. You will go to the cinema with your best friend every week because that’s your ritual – dinner then an action movie where things explode. You will fall in love again. You will smile every day, knowing that someone loves you as much as you love them.

Keep hanging on, kid. It’s worth it. I love you.”

 

 

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I’ve struck it rich in the movies…

The Big Steal trillion dollar noteIt’s finally happened. I’ve really made it this time. I’ve invested in three films and one of them has really paid off.

I’ve just received my first huge return. I’ve taken a photo of it in case you’re sceptical.

Yup. There it is. A trillion smackers. $1,000,000,000,000. My good intention has been rewarded.

I’m thinking of buying a few trips on the space shuttle – or maybe 2,000 of them. Nah – something closer to my heart. I think I’ll spend it on Ireland. With Turkey thrown in too, if I can’t get change from a trillion dollar note.

Trillion dollar noteWhatever I do, I can’t let the larcenous crew who got us into this financial mess get their grubby paws on my cash. Who? The bankers of course, according to The Big Steal.

Because my $1tn note is my return from my friends’ movie The Big Steal. They’re Julian Darley and Celine Rich, of Mysterious Movies – just two of the many outraged at the greed of the banks and the cynical way taxpayers’ money has been transferred to dodgy banks and then moved offshore or transformed into bonuses. So what? Lots of us are cross about it – but what can you do? Well, you can turn it into a film. That’s what they’re doing. The film will be called The Big Steal – but unlike most heist movies, this time the thieves are behind the counter, not breaking in. Can anyone stop them? Watch the film and find out.

But before you watch it – they have to make it. And they need help. They’re looking for lots of mini-donations, from a dollar upwards, to crowdsource the film and take it to the Cannes Film Festival this year.

So if you’re looking to bash the banking system and get a bit of retaliation in – here’s a way of doing it. Lots of good perks too. Being part of the film, getting your name in the credits Continue reading

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And the award goes to…

Versatile Blogger Award

It’s official. This blog is  super awesome. How do I know? Because of these two awards.

Laurie nominated me for the “Versatile Blogger Award.” Thank you lovely Laurie from Ten Minute Missive.

And the dashing Duck of Indeed nominated me for the “One Lovely Blog Award.” Thank you Duck.

The rules of both awards are the same:

  1. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers. (See list at the bottom.)
  2. Inform the bloggers of their nomination. (Working on it.)
  3. Share 7 random things about yourself. (See below.)
  4. Thank the blogger who nominated you. (I’ve done that above.)
  5. Add the award picture to your blog. (Done. – You’ll find the code for the award images at the bottom of this post.)

One Lovely Blog Award

If you’re one of the superlative blogs listed below – you have to go through this same rigmarole described above on your own blog to comfirm the award – or in this case – double award. (Sounds like a Readers Digest Exclusive Offer.)

Seven random revelations about me that have some truth to them – the short version is in bold:

  1. The tastiest drink I found was at a roadside cafe in northern Venezuela after being dropped off while hitching through the the littoral forest. Freshly squeezed passion fruit juice.
  2. I had to kneel on the road to get a lift out of Ballymena.
  3. I used to pick up the smelliest, dirtiest, wettest looking hitchhikers in Ireland – usually old farmers – because I thought nobody else would.
  4. The Gardai (police south of the Irish border) stopped to reprimand me for hitching on the motorway – and then kindly gave me a lift to the end of it.
  5. Perhaps the scariest road ride I had was against oncoming traffic and on the opposite hard shoulder on a busy road in Jamaica, as the driver of the minibus in which I was holding on wide-eyed, diced with a speeding car of armed men. Having a priest sitting beside me was no comfort. He was too thin to offer much in the way of cushioning.
  6. My first car was a (“You can’t wine and dine here in an auld“) Morris Minor which “used to be black as me father’s hat” till I sprayed it a rich bright candy yellow. The chrome became matt black. It had lovely wide wheels. It was a beautiful sight.
  7. Then one of the lovely wide wheels fell off…  I watched it bounce up the road away from me as the car slunk and tipped to a halt. (Luckily the engine of the motorbike I had been towing had just turned over, so I nipped on the back and we chased down the escaping car wheel. And off we went again Continue reading

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It should have been the Jungle Book. (My X-certificate first cinema visit.)

This is the nearest I could get to an image combining both Clint Eastwood and a Jungle local.

At GrannyMar‘s prompting, I submitted this story to See You At The Pictures, a documentary about film-going in Ireland. Er… Sorry Dad.

The first film I saw in a cinema should have been the Jungle Book. My Dad took me to the cinema in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, one bright summer afternoon.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it wasn’t car chases, gunfire and a naked lady Continue reading

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Filed under family history, Film

The missing slaves of Belfast

Olaudah Equiano - one of Belfast's more famous visitors.

Question: What have Liverpool, Bristol and all sorts of other places got that Belfast hasn’t?

Answer: A corporate history of slave trading.

Hurrah! One shameful pursuit into which we did not dive. Continue reading

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Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, friends, history, life, Music

Do people really speak like that?

Belfast landscape heads by David "Creative" McClelland.

Dialogue springs forth fully formed from the mouths of the regulars in my favourite pub. It’s very odd. This isn’t how people really speak surely?

Normal speech is hesitation, prevarication, vagueries, misunderstanding, repetition, replete with em-ing and er-ing. Isn’t it?

But what I heard while perched at the bar sounded honed by Elmore Leonard. It can have/seem to have an aggressive edge to it. (See here for a foreigner’s view.)

This snatch of speech begins as the fella on my left hand explains that he drinks in the pub most weekdays, at which point fella on my right hand jumps in…

LEFT: I drink here most lunchtimes.

RIGHT: Why?

LEFT: Because I can.

Pause.

LEFT: I’m drinking for one now…

RIGHT (interrupting forcefully): No! Never explain. You were a hero there. The hero in films never explains himself. It’s just bang, here it is, this is it. For 45 seconds there, you were a hero. But you blew it. Continue reading

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Irish mysteries

Actor Brian Kennedy who plays The Lover, Bassanio in the Fringe Benefits Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice. That'sBelfast City Hall he's posing in. This version of the play is set in 1912

I’m just back from an intriguing week in Ireland. (Where I met some people you may know – more on that below – with a pic.) But the whole place was unexpectedly mysterious.

I’m not talking about leprechauns or the absence of snakes. These are modern mysteries.

1. Fat people. Where are they all hiding? Continue reading

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Filed under life, theatre