Sunday, September 13, 2015

P O S T C A R D S . F R O M . B A L L Y E R

Greetings from The Dark Side, The Belly of The Beast.. I blog over at FACEBOOK now.
https://www.facebook.com/gypsy.mirror

Here is the latest offering. Please read and enjoy!

[After each of the 3 photos of my hometown below, i wrote a short reflection]

A thousand Thanks for all the wonderful photos to Edward Brennan
who is posting lots more on Facebook in the group
Ballyfermot: Past, Present, & Future

https://www.facebook.com/groups/707244045977919/

This used to be my playground in the late 60s/ early 70s. Even today, often when i dream i find myself up there at the 'Layer'. 
It was at the end of our road but it seemed miles away. It was so full of kids it seemed huge. To quiet boys like me the children there were so free and open though they were dirtier and much more rough and tumble than us. 
I went to Pre-School there and can still smell the Marla [playdough] on my hands. I can still remember screaming the place down when 'Santy' [Santa Claus] came too close and spoke to me, trying to give me a present wrapped in old-fashioned Christmas paper... 
I remember being up there as a teenager on my bike. I stayed a bit too late. As it grew dark, I saw things in the shadows i had never seen before... A young straight couple in one corner having full-on sex, their clothes around their ankles and biting lumps out of each others necks... In another dark corner one man smoking a joint helped another fella inject heroin into a swollen vein in his thick forearm. At the exact moment i passed by, the heroin took effect and the stocky man swooned into oblivion. His pal cradled him and took the opportunity to kiss him on the mouth and slip his hand down into his jeans to feel him. He winked at me asking if i wanted to go closer for a quick feel... I lept on my Raleigh 20 and tore off down The Parade as fast as my legs would carry me... But i never forgot them. From then on, i KNEW there were gay people everywhere.
 

All my memories of Ballyer are of endless, sunny days. 
It must have rained. It was Ireland afterall: it must've rained A LOT! 
But i can hardly recall ever being caught in a rain shower or having wet clothes... Even my solitary memory of trying to slide on an icy patch on our road like the tougher fearless kids happens not on a cold, snowy day but on a crisp, clear afternoon with grey-blue skies and piercing sunlight... 
In this photo i imagine i see Daddy's car - a black Morris Cowley, my first crush the blackened stocky coalman's horse-trap parked up for the day... 
I am safe and warm inside our house [Number 7]. 
Not seeing any rain. 
The radio is on. 
Just me and Mammy.
 


When i was a boy, the Number 18 bus was one of the greatest mysteries to me... 
We had two other buses. The 78 and the 79.
They went to 'Town": a dirty, dangerous, exciting place. The Great Unknown for us kids. Only certain teenagers and people in their 20s went there. If they had bus-fare and something to spend, or just for a bit of a wander around.

But The 18?? ... Now THERE was a real unknown quantity!!! It went form Ballyfermot [one of the city's poorest areas] all the way through the poshest suburban 'villages' where The Elites lived and laughed. 
Their palatial homes with palm trees and pools stretched out across the mythic fields of Elysium to a place called Sandymount by the sea [one of the richest areas in Dublin].
I could never see WHY 'they' would need a bus to come to where WE lived, or why they would allow US to go to where they lived! ... So i took the 18 one day to see for myself.

Mesmerised, I sat upstairs and looked through every house window i could. They lived like kings! Even their gardens were incredible! Some had swimming pools and waterfalls!! There were cinemas, bowling greens, lawn tennis clubs, verdant squares with rich boys training in tight shorts for rugby... 
I asked a middle-aged woman on the bus why Ballyfermot people would go to the posh places. She put out her fag on the floor between us and coughed into a hanky she took from up her sleeve like a magician... "For fuck sake youngfella, would ya ever get a bleedin grip on yerself!!! The likes of us come over here for only one thing: We're the cleaners!!!" 

From then on i couldn't get it out of my mind! I could NEVER forget that a totally different world existed beyond ours. It called me in the night. I wanted to go back there and claim it for myself... 

I went three significant times that i can remember. They were all momentous days in my life: 

1. I went to the cinema alone for the first time [Planet of the Apes at the Classic 'picture house' in Harold's Cross, where i now live.

2. When i was 18 i had my first gay date. He was a motorbike policeman who lived up the road from my current home [he was too grabby. there wasn't a second date. he passed away some years later from AIDS].

And finally, 3. I was taking the 18 bus one night to meet The Gorgeous M [the love of my life] for a date at his new house. I was wearing my best clothes [Early 80s chic. New Romantic streetwear]. While waiting for the 18 to arrive i was 'Queer-bashed' at the bus stop by a gang of thugs who were passing by. 
They kicked the shit out of me and dragged me along the path, my long tweed coat pulled over my bloodied face and head. 
Nobody else at the bus stop intervened on my behalf. Nobody screamed Stop, Get off him! 
The bus came... I managed to pull myself free! I got on, blood streaming from a cut over my eye. My hands were so raw and scraped from the fight i could hardly use them to count out the fare. The busman just leaned towards me and took the exact fare from my handful of change saying 'For Jaysus sake! Will ya ever get on!!!' ... 

That was the night i decided to leave Ballyer. 
I never went back.

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