Celtic Illumination, part 53, smoking a spliff at the Queens house.
Thankfully I was only pestered by one pervert while in London, there may have been others but I was too busy chasing girls and having fun to notice. You may wonder why on earth a double top secret cabal would arrange for me to spend a summer in London working in an asbestos factory. Well; I now understand the reason. I was sent there to learn, and learn I did, not at the factory but at Brunel University. And not in any lecture hall, like a normal person, but in a disco.
As I mentioned before there was an awful lot of dancing in Ireland and as with Irish dancing, or even jiving, there were rules that you had to follow. I’m not talking about the actual steps you would perform, and with legs like mine, boy could I perform. I’m talking about actually asking a girl to dance. There was no fear in this exchange, far from it, normally because drink had been taken.
You would ask a girl to dance. If she said yes, then you took to the dance floor and gave it your best shot. As we are all aware there are various stages that now have to be observed as you begin to determine if this is the one you will spend the reminder of your life with, and you will enjoy it. In Ireland there were the three questions. I really don’t want to reveal the three questions, not because I might damage budding relationships but because it shows how bloody stupid and backward the society I lived in was.
First question was “What is your name?” Quite an innocent question and quite a standard opening line from a young man to a young lady. However in Ireland the whole name was required. This gave an indication of the religion of the other person. If the girl had a name that you were not sure of, then you moved on and asked what school they attended. “Saint Michaels, Saint Mary’s or Saint Brigit’s,” would all be fine but even here there was room for confusion. The girl could attend a neutral school like Newry Technical College so could be either Catholic or Protestant.
If you had asked the first two questions and were still unsure you then posed the third question which quite simply asked “What religion are you?” Now you have probably stood standing at the bar for some time watching this girl. You probably think she is quite pretty and could possibly end up spending the remainder of her life with you and bearing your children. However if she is not the same religion as you, you will walk away. Politely of course, when the dance had finished, we weren’t heathens.
Truthfully it wasn’t something you thought about, it was something you did. A Catholic and Protestant getting together in N Ireland would be viewed as wrong; if they did stay together it would be viewed as a mixed marriage. So you may say, who cares, if you like the girl keep going, but it was society who kept this going. If it wasn’t the neighbours who would tittle tattle about you, it would be the group of lads standing by the exit door at the dance who would remind you that you were in the wrong.
In London Finbar and myself went off to a disco at Brunel University. It was great fun as there wasn’t a great difference in the ages of people attending. I asked a girl to dance. We took to the floor and she refused my hand as I quite naturally offered it to suggest we could jive. I asked her name and then what school she attended. I was completely stumped and was about to ask her what religion she was when I suddenly realised how bloody stupid I was. It didn’t matter what religion she was.
That is the point where I grew up, more than grew up, I outgrew Ireland. I knew that if I was to go back most of my friends would still be asking their three questions and that there was no hope for society. I wasn’t even attending church but would state on forms that I was a Catholic. I think that for the people in Northern Ireland they claim to belong to a religion like being members of a tribe, or supporting a football team. Which God do you support?
I was a member of a new tribe. I was a hippy and like thousands of others I made my way across London to the Windsor pop festival. I went along with Jimmy the Link and another chap who was from New Zealand. He was a vegetarian, again something I had never encountered before and I do remember that he had a twenty packet of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes. I remember this because he had taken the tobacco out of all the cigarettes and replaced it with marijuana. My new best friend for life.
It certainly got the old heart going when we arrived in Windsor and saw the police lined up along all the roads. There were hundreds of them. As we lay on a nice manicured lawn outside Windsor castle, smoking a huge spliff, I knew I was safe, for not only were all these police people here to look after us, the special branch fellows had promised to keep an eye on me too.
The festival was amazing. Whether the music was good, or shite, you tapped your feet, drank the cider and shook your head. Jimmy told me off for asking a passing drug pusher to show me some acid. He was a bit nervous with the huge police presence. I loved it, especially one night when the hells angels were driving their motorcycles through a bonfire. And to think while all this was going on I could have been sitting in Violent Hell getting beaten by a priest or wishing it was Thursday evening so we could see the female dancers on Top Of the Pops.
So; you may think what use were all my skills when I was sitting in a big field with another couple of thousand stoned hippies, well when the police attacked I was able to adopt a battle posture and get myself and Jimmy out of there, as any self-respecting Shaolin trained Master Candle Maker would. As for the fellow from New Zealand I don’t know what happened to him. It was strange to see a full scale riot after so much peace love and happiness but I think the double top secret cabal had probably thought I may have been a little homesick so they organised some wide scale carnage to make me feel a little better.