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??