- Vol. 01
- Chapter 08
THE SHORT STRANDA friend once joked that our kind could make a war from a spilled drink. Sanctify the spillage, he said. Eulogise it in song. Drum it defiantly through the spiller's streets. Convey the long and tragic story of the spillage to coming generations before they have the means to read about it and question it for themselves. I even think we laughed about it then.
It was the taking sides of it that blew away all that wistful bygone bollocks about unlocked doors and neighbourly communion in the Short Strand. I tried so damned hard to stay out of it back in the day, but people took sides in the old Short Strand and those people obliged me to choose mine.
I worked two jobs to keep a flat and a little over for a better life further on. I saw Bolan at the Empire in Liverpool and hitched all the way down to Aberystwyth with an old school friend to catch him again. I wore high boots because I had the legs for them and enough youthful vanity to enjoy most of the looks they attracted. I stood away from the corner tables in the pubs frequented by menacing types with self-appointed ranks and titles. I stayed away from boys who measured their weekends in bricks and broken bottles. I walked easily around the Short Strand, unconcerned and unregarded. I never put a foot wrong.
Then I fell in love with a boy who'd earned the rank he'd risen to. A boy who measured his weekends by the bricks and broken bottles seen and missed. We were nineteen. Sides never came into it. But someone saw us together outside the Short Strand, somewhere the people on 'our' side said no good girl should be seen. Word spread. The 'indiscretion' archly relayed to my mother by a woman she'd never met was treason by the time she called home in tears to ask me about it herself.
THE SHORT STRAND
Nobody who had the means to question it did. Their side cried "outrage!" and they carried it willingly to every corner.
I walked a gauntlet of staring faces home two days later to find the doors and windows smashed in and all my broken belongings stacked like luggage against the muralled wall at the end of the road. I sat on the opposite kerb and cried at the sight of my discarded life and the words on the wall above it no-one in the whole rotten quarter had had the courage to say to my face: "OUT! OUT! OUT!"
And I would have gone too, but through my tears and the tangle of my violated belongings I saw two more words that always found their way onto those hateful painted walls: "NO SURRENDER".
As good as making a war from a spilled drink. Then and there, I chose my side.