A literary journey
Nostalgic Irish prose
Irish culture & folklore
Ulster-Scots short stories
In 1996, a crack commando unit was sent away from a photographer for a crime of fashion. The unit promptly escaped from the flashing lights and made its way to a restaurant in Carrickfergus. Today, still wanted by the Photography Perfection Police, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help...then you know what to do ...that’s if you were a kid in the 1980s!
It is my mum and dad’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and we are all going out for dinner. You wonder half the time why families put themselves through it. We proceed in false hope of warm smiles and familial bonding and risk our sanity and axe any surplus income in order to go to a restaurant. And just to make it really special, we’ll have a family portrait done en route.
I love it when a plan comes together.
We arrive at the photographers and his first words are this, ‘I see we have a medley of outfits ranging from casual to formal here.’
The world tumbles from my mum’s eyes.
‘We have pastels and a bit of black and white.’
We’re all staring at our feet.
‘We have summer and winter...’
That’s it, Hannibal, we’re going home.
But first, blame needs to be allocated in the appropriate direction, namely the youngest members of the team who refused to assume any formal attire!
Time passes in a nervous frenzy until an alternative plan is hatched. The informal faction of the family can go to the local menswear shop and purchase a shirt and tie. Good thinking Hannibal, but the shop is closed. Maybe we can find a pay phone, dial direct enquiries, look up the owner’s home number, and…
Shut up fool! I ain’t going on no aeroplane!
Ah yes, the stubborn brother is steadfast in his determination to retain his sporty shirt. Nothing will make him conform. We are as we are, a reckless and spirited funny farm of individualism. How dare we be a family?
Aha! Something clicks: the camera shutter and a lightbulb all at once. We realise that we are being tried for a crime that we haven't committed.
Almost twenty years pass by before we have the opportunity for another family portrait. This time it is a random summer work night on the lawn. Somehow, I’m still in an offensive shade of yellow, my mum retains her appropriate summer, Murdoch is home from Texas in smart-casual-winter, Hannibal is still making crazy plans, B.A. is late, just in from hockey and in a state of irrepressible sportiness, and Face can always be relied upon to wear a shirt. We are all united in messy hair and unpreparedness and the PPP is nowhere to be seen.
If you’ve been looking through Facebook and finding yourself lost in a sea of perfection, unsatisfied that your family-life is an abysmal mess when others appear to be walking through the woods in a hazy sunset, then you need to remember this: you did not witness the trials of a crack commando unit trying to get on a plane.
82 Waterloo Road
The Teacher Voice
The Last Day of Summer Scheme
Uniquely Girls' Brigade
The Children of Latharna
The Band Stick
The Bully up the Brae
A dander around Larne
History & folklore
The Protestant in Irish Fiction.
The Protestant in Irish fiction - the novels.
Ulster-Scots in Irish Fiction
The reality of being an author.
Learning the Irish Language.
John Hewitt Summer School