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Saturday, 18 April 2020

Imagine there's no bastards

I grew up in a very divided place. My high school, the "state" school (or protestant school), was not a place I liked to be. I was an A pupil most of the way through, until it mattered (the last year and a half or so), when literally battered, bruised, I gave up on studying and just wanted out of this place I never felt safe in.

The people who kicked, punched and threw me through windows summed up all I grew to hate. They had a way of wearing their school uniform that I made sure I did the opposite of (big knots in ties, big collared top shirt button open, metal tipped brogues, nazi badges, uvf badges - my tight knotted ties were turned around and made skinny, with the fat part tucked into my small collared shirt, top button resolutely closed, soft moccasins or black trainers, a hatred for all paramilitary and  no respect to the point of piss taking of any "protestant" marching, militaryish like organisations like the Orange Order ).

The year following High School and its failures, I went to the local Technical School. The English teacher, who was from across the border--someone foreign and from outside this place I was in that seemed to crush and drain - - was great--she really encouraged my writing, but I was in that kind of teenaged thing where I had no confidence and rejected any enthusiasm for any aspect of me, from adults. She still managed to squeeze A's out of me. 

It was a year of stretching my wings, of discovering the world, dying my hair, experimenting with clothes, drinking, and for the first time in years, not having that awful, physically painful stress that comes with having to turn up to a place where you are going to leave feeling mentally (and at times physically) tortured (a feeling that was to return in many a work place I ended up in). It was, when I look back, a time when I was free. 

One class I went to, in one of those temporary outdoor hut like things that became  permanent classrooms in Thatcher's draining of the things that mattered; was taken by a long haired bloke, who I know went on to work at an outdoor pursuits centre. I really can't remember what his class was. I do remember him being like no other teacher I had had. He was this happy, free, and interesting bloke who seemed to be enthusiastic about what he was teaching and I remember thinking to myself within the framework I had been squeezed into "should he be saying that?"

My classmates were a real mixture. Catholics and prods, and all of the teenaged uniforms were represented, from a ska loving bloke from near Newry, to Shill (that was his nick name- his name was David Topping), a wild guy from Lurgan who rather than being scared of, I got on with really well (he shared a dislike for the poseurs who had been rejected from the Grammar school to join us, and had the same rebellion going on in what he wore, dying his hair and his preference to be playing pool, drinking beer and shouting at the world). Shill died the following year, taking a heart attack while having his appendix removed. 18 years old. 

I remember a guy, who was really just a follower of the poseurs, trying to take the piss out of me. I remember thinking that I was never going to allow anyone to treat me in the way some of the fuckers treated me in the High  School. One of the classes I took was "Surveying." I remember being out on the local hockey club pitch, me and my mate, Thomas (Tam) Moore, and the eejit trying to take the piss in some way. I remember my eclectic dress sense, long overcoats, double breasted denim jacket, punk teeshirts, boxer boots, and my hair dyed burgundy, shaved up the sides, long, bushy, gel Spiked in places on top, was a target. Anyway, I remember summoning up bravado, walking up to this guy who was acting hard, and pushing the surveying pole I was holding into the grass between his feet and levered it up into his balls. I'm not sure what I said to him and his poseur leaders, but I never had any bother with him again. 

And although I had of course heard the song and loved it, and owned a copy (Lennon had died just two years before), I had never actually read the lyrics of the song before. And there they were on the hippys temporary classroom wall, defiantly challenging all around me in this place where religion burned people from their homes, tore people apart, ripped them from life and art was strangled. Reading those lyrics in full and understanding them felt like as much of a revolutionary act as breaking bullies and  sitting beside my best friend of that year, a Catholic. 

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You, you may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You, you may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one"
Video HERE

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