Thursday, November 18, 2010

46. A home of our own

We had barely moved into the house and taken delivery of all our stuff from the auction houses when Tom came home with a long face, to tell me that he had been posted again. I was speechless to say the least. Had we been living in England it would not have been too bad, he could have lived in the mess and at least come home week-ends, but we were living across the blooming Irish Sea and Tommy and Jeni had started at the Grammar School in Bangor. I felt that, just for once, he should appeal, which he did and the posting was changed to a three months “attachment” which meant that he would be away for three months. He would be living in an Officers Mess, which would put a great strain on our finances, and he would be unable to come home during that time because he was not due any more leave or railway warrants.

There was plenty to keep me busy. I stripped the dining room suite, which comprised a large bow fronted sideboard, draw leaf table and six chairs and also a lovely wooden lounge suite with loose cushions. The cushions were the very devil to cover because I had bought a Sanderson print with a large pattern which was difficult to line up and match. I had never made anything with piping before so it was one big learning curve, and I was pleased the children were at school and could not hear my language. Becoming bolder, I restored two chests of drawers and a wardrobe and returned a couple or pieces to the sale room because they were riddled with the dreaded “worm”, which was prevalent in Ireland.

Eventually our three wooden packing cases arrived from Cyprus, in a British Rail delivery truck driven by a man no more than five feet high and very fat. He should have had a label on him stating “This Way Up”. “Who’s going to unload them?” he asked. “Haven’t you got anyone with you? I did not know you would be delivering today”. “Well, I’m here now and I’m on me own, and I got a bad back”. No more to be said, and there were no hefty stevedores walking the streets looking for a job. There was a lowering thing on the back of the lorry, and with much huffing and puffing, and the hope of earning some sort of remuneration, Humpty Dumpy and I pushed the boxes onto the lift and down into the street, where they remained. He drove away with a small tip and all my good wishes for the recovery of his back. Moving solid, wooden boxes into the house was impossible, and so I levered the tops off with a hammer and screwdriver, and unloaded our worldly goods from the road into the house. Later the sides of the boxes were taken to a timber yard where I made friends with a nice man who, for a couple of shillings, cut out the shapes I had drawn on the wood so that I was able to make a fixed, drop down table for the kitchen, a cover for the central heating boiler, and a little built in dressing-table shelf for myself. Reminded me of the packing case furniture we had at Pink Pillars in Nicosia, only mine was better finished!

I became very friendly with the couple next door, Brenda and Henry, and one day I was quite startled when Brenda banged on the front door, burst in, exclaiming in her heavy Belfast accent, “They moving in!”. I knew a young couple had bought the house next door to her, and I had seen the removal van there the day before. I also knew that Brenda had taken in a couple of parcels for them and that they had chatted over the fence. So, what could have caused this outburst? Did they have six dogs or destructive children? What had THEY done? “They’re Catholics” she almost spat the words out. “And if any more of them move in we’re moving out!” I stood there, open mouthed. To emphasise her point she continued her tirade with “And what’s more, he’s turned.” Turned what I wondered. Later I learned that if there is anything an Irish Protestant hates more than a Catholic, it is a Protestant who has turned his back on his church to become a Catholic. I wanted to laugh but did not dare.

The Rev. Ian Paisley was at the height of his venom at this time, but Henry, who was a very nice young man, tolerant and a real Christian, (whatever that might be) was attending secret meetings with members of different churches to see if some kind of peaceful settlement could be found to stop the lunacy. The venue of the meetings was announced only hours before a meeting for fear of the information getting out and violence descending on them all. I asked a young girl once how she avoided getting involved with a Catholic boy at a dance, or a social held outside the church, and she said that first you ask his name, and if was Patrick, or one of the other saints, you did not have a second dance. What the heck does it matter which path a person takes, if any. I quote the Beatles “All you need is love, love is all you need”. Sadly, there is not enough of it about. When I worked in an engineer’s office in Belfast, five of the young girls from the typing pool were going out to lunch. I asked one of them, “Are you taking Maggie with you?” She replied, “Of course”. I assumed a mock startled expression, “Don’t you know she is one of ‘THEM’?” Nudge, nudge, wink, and wink. The girl laughed which heartened me because it made me hope that the new generation would see the stupidity of it all. But, that was almost fifty years ago, and nothing has changed.

No comments:

Post a Comment