Friday, January 21, 2005

Those Happy, Happy Days

I’m doing an extra shift this weekend, which I didn’t even have to be persuaded to take on. First I thought – well what else would I be doing? Then I thought – I could catch up on blogging. Finally I thought – extra money! Good oh!

I spend a huge amount of time on my computer. Since it’s been sick I have spent that time house cleaning, packing away, reading and watching Celebrity Big Brother. As this house must be valued, I thought it might be nice for the estate agent to be able to see past all the stuff. So I have been sorting, packing and throwing out. What a ball of crap I’ve gathered up over the years. I still own ancient paperbacks that I bought in Smithfield Market 35 years ago. Looking at those ancient Orwells, Steinbecks, Drabbles and Murdochs reminded me of some of the happiest days of my life, my school days – the days that I was not in attendance.

When school* was dreary I used to play truant, or mitch. One of the dreariest of the dreary classes was Anatomy and Physiology. This class was taken by a local GP called Dr R. It always took place last two periods. Dr R. never bothered to call a roll so our class got into the habit of deciding among ourselves who’d be cutting it that afternoon. There had to be at least half a dozen of us stay for the class or Dr R. would report us to the head.

In good weather we’d head for the Castle grounds, which were much wilder and much more fun than they are today. In damper weather it would be O’Neill’s café if we could scrape up the price of a coffee to be lingered over for hours. How my heart did race when we were joined by some handsome Stanley or Eugene.**

Mitching on my own I started off by going to Belfast Airport and watching the planes take off and land. Then when I got braver I’d hitch to Belfast town. I’d often get a lift with Dan the Coalman and he’d take me round the docks. I think he bought his coal straight off the boats. Another guy who used to give me lifts was Johnny the Gallaher Man. Imagine getting a lift on a wagon carrying (at today’s prices) millions of pounds worth of cigarettes. Nowadays Gallaher's sends Dublin’s cigarettes via Liverpool rather than run the risk of hijacking at the border.

My favourite places in Belfast then were Fresh Garbage (still going) and Smithfield Market (not what it was.) That is where I bought all those second hand books.

And what of Anatomy and Physiology at ‘O’ level? A big fat fail was my deserved reward. But I still know the names of nearly all the bones in the human body and I can tell you the places where you’ll find squamous epithelium. Some of them are a bit rude.

*Antrim Technical College – Pre-Nursing Class 1968-1970
** Any reader familiar with this era or place please note that I do not refer to the publican Mr M. who would have been a child and unknown to me at that time.

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