Friday, 12 January 2018

I'm a Derry Girl




I was majorly over-excited when I saw the trailer for Derry Girls, an upcoming comedy set in my home town. But why?

I think the first thing is definitely the accent. I left Derry when I was 18 and I have lived in a few places in the South East of England, and now the South West, yet everywhere I go I seem to be ‘the only Irish in the village’, and definitely the only Derry girl (which statistically can’t be true). I’m still referred to as the Irish one and I think it is largely due to my fairly undiminished accent – as they say, ‘you can take the girl out of Derry but you can’t take the Derry out of the girl’. So for me, it’s lovely to sit listening to others who sound like me, even if it is only for half an hour.

Then of course, there are the Derryisms. I follow the local paper on social media (The Derry Journal) and I’ve been enjoying their associated articles – especially the vocabulary list. I read it out to my (English) husband in laughter at all the things we used to say and how weird it was to never use them again because no-one at university understood me. For goodness sake, they had enough trouble with my name!

The most relatable things have to be the Convent school and the backdrop of the Troubles. In fact, I’m quite convinced that the school scenes may actually be filmed at my old school, sitting disused as it is, across the road from it’s massive successor. I wore a similar dark green uniform and travelled on the cream and yellow bus (though, cleverly for the writer, this also applies to other girls’ schools in town). I even sat outside the Head Nun’s office (Mother Superior, as she was known to us) with three other girls and was threatened with expulsion -not for hitting anyone, mind, but for refusing to play our brass instruments from another band in the school orchestra.

I love that the Troubles are a ‘backdrop’ to everyday life. I’ve spent years trying to explain to people that I lived a very ordinary life just in less than ordinary circumstances. It’s something I’ve been drawn to write about many times, but something that a lot of people still don’t want to hear. My current novel is set between Derry and Cape Town and one agent’s rejection said that it wouldn’t matter how brilliant the plot or how fabulous the characters, she wouldn’t touch anything set in Northern Ireland. I’m sure she has her reasons.

So I think it is wonderful that Lisa McGee has got her voice and our voices onto mainstream TV. Here’s to us Derry Girls! 

PS Where’s my trust fund??

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Parental Guidance advised: the Alternative Elf on the Shelf




Day 1. The smell of burning takes us to find the elf in the toaster, squidged beside the holiday crumpets he couldn’t wait for.

Day 2. Elf hangs from the Xmas tree, electrocuted by the Xmas lights.

Day 3. Elf lies flattened by the front door under an Amazon parcel.

Day 4. Elf discovered half buried in the cat’s litter tray.

Day 5. Elf found with head spinning from repetitive Xmas songs.

Day 6. Elf is on the mantelpiece, draped and singed by the Frankincense candle.

Day 7. Elf discovered in kitchen, drowning in the vat of mulled wine.

Day 8. Elf’s internal organs fail from testing (too many) mince pies.

Day 9. Having failed to learn from yesterday, Elf’s tummy explodes from easting Brussels Sprouts.

Day 10. Elf found half chewed by dog who thought he was a chocolate tree decoration.

Day 11. Elf frozen in the garden as dog realises he isn’t chocolate and tries to bury the evidence.

Day 12. Elf found bored rigid in front of yet another Xmas TV repeat. 

Day 13. Elf found on dining table, choked from the fake snow and glitter scattered there.

Day 14. Elf hanging lifeless from the Xmas tree having tried and failed to usurp the Angel.

Day 15. Elf notices that his red and white outfit does not coincide with this year’s ‘monochrome theme’ and throws himself out the window.

Day 16. Elf found with Terry’s Chocolate Orange smashed on his head. No, the bloody thing didn’t open.

Day 21. Elf discovers his severe nut allergy having stolen ‘the purple one’ from the Quality Street tin.

Day 22. Elf walks into oven whilst texting.

Day 23. Elf re-enacts Xmas advert only to get eaten by a Boxer.

Day 24. Elf kidnapped by carol singers.

Day 25. Elf dead in a pile of soot thanks to Santa’s clumsy use of the chimney.

NB. Many elves died in the making of this list.
Re-enact these scenes at the risk of your own elf.   

Friday, 11 November 2016

Wee, wee, wee all the way home - to Derry



The Derryisms were coming thick and fast on our wee trip home this past week. Beloved Aspie now has his own ‘traditions’ for a visit to the North. The first is the obligatory pint of Guinness, something he never does in England. Only problem is he downed it like it’s lemonade then got the giggles and told me he couldn’t now choose any food off the menu because his head was spinny. 

At Granny’s next afternoon he got the giggles again. He was trying not to be noticed, but I asked him outright what was he laughing about . “Soop,” he spluttered between laughs, “Soop.” It was Granny’s accent that got him going – we were discussing winter recipes for soup. From then on he was on a mission to pick up all the Derry peculiarities. And I became obsessed with the word ‘wee’. 

Obviously, it’s a word I’ve used all my life (mostly meaning small… oh that wee thing; or young…that wee fella; or short…I’ll just be a wee minute).  However, it seems to have developed a new place in Customer Service. Shop assistants all over town were saying things like, “Is it just that wee one for you, now?” as I hand over my one item to purchase. “Just pop your wee card in there for me,” as I get handed the card reader. “And there’s your wee receipt, now.” I had three ‘wees’ in one transaction alone!

On Customer Service, I have to say that Derry is in a league of its own. After our other ‘tradition’ of walking the Walls, we decided to visit the Guildhall which is now open to the public. It holds a special place in my heart as it boasts a beautiful wooden stage in a stunning stained glass-windowed hall, the first stage on which I ever performed, at the age of 7. Well, me and hundreds of thousands of other youngsters. The annual Féis was held in that hall and schoolchildren took their turns delivering songs in Gaelic, poems, playing the fiddle, playing with the brass band and of course, Irish Dancing. It was a spectacle and I loved it.  On this first visit in many years, the staff were so warm and welcoming, asking after my memories of the place, and a lovely man upstairs told us all the stories behind the stained glass windows. A quick jaunt through Derry’s dramatic history.

The hubs and I had a dinner out together on the last night and the bar staff were charming and adorable. I nearly took a photo until I realised it could be mistaken for a line-up of serial killers! They all looked an awful lot like Jamie Dornan in The Fall!

Our final morning brought another tradition: tea and buns. The buns have to be bought at the local bakery, the bigger the selection the better. I’m not talking cupcakes or pastries, here, I’m talking buns. And of course, they all have their own names, too. There was a gravy ring, a German bun, a cookie bun, a Dutch bun and a cream finger to name a few. These translate into a ring doughnut, a Paris bun, a sweet bap with cream in it (can’t think of an English version), a sort of Danish turnover and a long doughnut filled with cream. Oh, the joy of familiar flavours. Funny how things can taste so different from one small country to another.

So, that’s another wee Irish adventure done for now. Beloved Aspie said there was only one problem. It was over too soon and if he had Q’s powers (from Star Trek) he could hop back to England, jiggle with some occurrence there, then hop back and have longer to stay…no, I have no idea either.