Anyway, I felt very guilty that I'd stolen this pig and decided to return him to his owner Mrs Hanna, the farmer's wife who in real life always baked cakes using Stork. Coincidentally Mrs Hanna was also the mother of a teacher at Cullybackey High who was there in Bert's time and was violent and slightly insane. Or so they said.
The Hannas were a very nice and respectable Protestant family who lived next door to us in Cannonstown. I have some very good memories of them and some not so good.
I remember Mrs Hanna being very kind. And George, her husband was the first person who showed me the stars above and told me about the constellations. I've gazed skywards ever since.
Their youngest son Alan would invite me over to watch children's programmes on their black and white television for at that time we did not have a TV. The only programme I can remember seeing was Captain Pugwash. Those were good memories.
Then there was the time I took their grandson Samuel Alexander for a walk. I'm not sure where but it wouldn't have been too far away. But it must have been very muddy because Samuel Alexander got his bright white socks and his shiny black shoes completely filthy. George was very cross with me. I was devastated as he'd never been cross before. I realise now that he was probably going to get into trouble with his son and daughter-in-law.
Mrs Hanna had a fruit garden full of currant bushes and gooseberries which she used for jam-making. She used to give my sister and me ripe gooseberries and I thought they were delicious. Once the family had planned a day to Portrush and I, ever wicked, said to my sister that we should go to Mrs Hanna's garden and pick gooseberries. We did and ate the fruit off the bushes. The next day we had upset stomachs and Mammy mentioned this to Mrs Hanna. She said,
That will be all those gooseberries they ate yesterday.
I was mortified. It turned out that only the men of the family had gone to Portrush. Mrs Hanna watched from her kitchen window as Jean and I stole her fruit.
I was very, very young when I first encountered the future teacher. Maybe three or four and despite his chosen career path I don't think he had a lot of time for children. I was annoying, kept knocking the front door and he came out and chased me down the path. I thought it must be a game and called him a bugger, a word I was trying out for the very first time. Where I heard it, I don't know, as my parents did not swear. Well, maybe Daddy did, among other men but not in front of children. Mrs Hanna told my mother and she brought me home and smacked me around the legs, very hard. I was heartbroken as I didn't feel as if I'd done anything wrong. But I had. I had embarrassed her in front of her respectable neighbours.
The very worst memory was the day they killed the pigs. I don't even know why I was there. The most horrific part was how they screamed when they were being brought to the killing place. I cannot bear to write the details of what happened next but it is imprinted in my memory and will be forever.
I was seven when we left Cannonstown for the Murphystown Road. It was only a few field lengths away but I never saw much of Mrs Hanna after that. Her oldest son, the very handsome Josie, used to do contract work for local farmers and would be around our place occasionally. I had a big crush on him when I was about thirteen. They are all gone now, every one of them.
In my dream, when I took the stolen piglet back to Mrs Hanna, she listened to my apology in her quiet and familiar way then she said,
You can keep it. I don't really want it. It's far too much bother.