When I went to University I found that the most effective, and cheapest, way of getting back to Derry was by coach from Leeds. I would leave Huddersfield at about five in the afternoon to arrive home by two o’clock the following afternoon. Train to Leeds, coach to Holyhead, very early morning boat to Dublin, and then the first coach of the day to Derry. Plenty of time to sit back and relax, and catch up on my beauty sleep.
Unfortunately, I don’t sleep when I travel. So, after twenty hours of reading and listening to my Walkman, I would get home very tired. As I tended to run on adrenaline until going to bed in the evening I wasn’t quite with it on the day I arrived home. This wouldn’t normally be a problem until…
Even though we would be off for a month, I decided to only spend a week at home during the Easter break in first year at University. I can’t remember the exact reason, I may have gone to Worksop as well but I’m not 100% sure.
Any hew, the day before my arrival, my elder sister moved to Belfast. As she still lived in the family home, it gave my other two sisters a bit more breathing room. It was all done and dusted before I got there so I wasn’t worrying about it.
When I walked through the front door everything was fine. I quickly said my hellos and ran upstairs to go to the toilet. I heard the phone ring, and I could hear my mother on the phone saying that I had arrived safely. Assuming that it was probably my Granny Doherty I tuned things out.
Suddenly, all I could hear was my mother repeating the phase “Come Home”, with each repetition being slightly louder than the previous. I sorted myself out, and bounded down the fourteen stairs to find out what was going on. My mother was still standing there, phone in hand, shouting “Come Home”, while the phone complained that it needed to be put back on the hook.
I got control of the phone handset and replaced it in my mother’s hand with her cup of tea. I then, sat her down and asked her what had happened. “Dana is eight and half months pregnant.” With that, I had to sit down myself.
The first thing to spring to mind, was how no one would have noticed. My sister was about the same size as me, and if she didn’t really get morning sickness it was possible. Not probable, but possible.
My sister was afraid to tell anyone that she was pregnant, because she was afraid how my mother was going to react. I understand that my mother was one for over reacting, but there was no way in my mind that she was going to force my sister to do something she didn’t want to.
One of the things that I loved about my mother was how she accepted people for who they were and simply got on with things. I also knew that she would have bent over backwards for any of us, no matter if we were in the right or wrong. But isn’t that what mother’s do?
Belfast may only be an hour and a half down the road but in Northern Ireland she couldn’t have moved away any further. It would be the equivalent of moving from Newcastle (Upon-Tyne not Co Down) to London.
To quickly end this part of the story, my mother went up to Belfast for the birth and my sister got a place in the Creggan about six months later. After this she and my nephew James probably spent more time in the house than Dana spent while living there. Eventually, Dana ended up living one street up from ours and everything was fine.
After calming my mother down, I decided to go out for a quick walk. I needed to clear my mind, have a good laugh at what my sister did, and keep myself awake as sitting at home was making me flag. So, I thought that I would pop in and say hello to my Great Aunt Margaret and Great Uncle Lawrence. My mother started phoning everyone saying that she was going to be a granny.
My Great Aunt Margaret and Great Uncle Lawrence were brother and sister who lived together in my Great Granny’s house on Creggan Road. My Great Aunt Margaret was a very devout woman who went to the Cathedral every day. The cynic in me thought that it was more to gossip than for the Mass. She was involved in every church group going. She liked me as I didn’t show any signs of the vagaries of youth. But just in case she would warn me of them on every occasion.
In today’s world my Great Uncle Lawrence would without question be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness. Others may have called him a simpleton and slow, and I’m not going to argue against him not being the greatest academic. However, when he did speak I found that he was astute because he look at things so simply. When a child, he always talked to me as my own person, and I did the same when I got older. I liked him a lot.
So, I popped into Creggan Road to say hello, and I told my Great Uncle all about how strange England was as he made me a cup of tea. My Great Aunt was on the phone talking to my Granny as I came in. When the phone call ended my Great Aunt Margaret looked at me with a face like thunder.
Next thing I know, she has the poker in her hand swinging it in my general direction giving me a torrid of abuse. I would like to point out that I was never in any danger. Firstly she could barely lift the thing, and secondly, I was a good eight feet away. I was accused of sowing my unearthly seed on some poor English girl. I may be doing the right thing now, but I was certainly headed towards eternal damnation.
After about five minutes, I was finally able to get a word in edgeways. Mainly as my Great Aunt Margaret needed to take a breath. I tried to explain that I hadn’t gotten anyone pregnant, and that Dana was the one that was pregnant. My Great Aunt’s reply for the ages.
“Your sister isn’t pregnant. She’s just fat.”
My Great Uncle Lawrence was no help what so ever as when he heard what his sister had just said, he burst into uncontrollable laughter. That seemed to calm my Great Aunt down, and after a little persuasion I got her to phone my house to find out exactly what had happened. After coercing my mother into telling the whole story things were back to normal. Of course, this being Derry, I’m still waiting for an apology.
It transpires that my mother had told people that she was going to be a grandmother in a couple of weeks. She forgot to mention who was going to have a child. As I had just arrived from England for a quicker than normal visit, my family put one and one together and got seven hundred and eighty three. In their defence, I probably would have jumped to the same conclusion myself, but that doesn’t condone it.
As we are doing rudimentary maths at this point, I would like to point out something. I moved to England in September 1994. Easter in 1995 was on April 16th, so this story takes place at around the beginning of April. I was only in England seven months which means I got my alleged English girlfriend pregnant a month before arriving in England. I’m good, but not that good.
The thing is that the corrected version of who was having a child went around far slower than the original piece of gossip. By the time I was due to go back to Huddersfield I will still being congratulated, and I was still spending all my time correcting people.
One of my better trips home.