Belfast, The Falls Road, La Salle Park, 20 August 2018

I go back to Grannies House

48 years and ten days later

Grannie does not live here anymore

Grannie is dead

She died 33 years ago

In Downpatrick

Enveloped in love

At the tender age of 93


I stand in the street

Where she used to live

Where my mother grew up

Alongside her four siblings

I perch on the wall

On the opposite side of the street

With a backpack and a broken flight case

In racing green

That once belonged to my mother


I got the shittiest of the suitcase collection

In the dividing up of things from Mammy’s estate

After she died last year

I hate this little suitcase

It smells of dust

But it was my mother’s

And I can still smell her

Perfume in it


The wheels are too close together

So it continually twists off its axis

And I have to stop, turn it around

And walk on, cautiously,

As to not let it flip over

In the street

I was going to buy one

Those new Lightweight ones

That look really small

But inside it is as The Tardis

Enough room for a family of four

And a designer dog


They are a little pricey

But well worth it in the long run

And I was all set to purchase one

But my sister told me there were

Loads of them in Mammy’s house

And not to be daft

Wasting my money


She’d bring me one

Free of charge

In exchange for a lunch

What colour?

I said,

The Wee Green One


And so I got it

I have to put the handle

Up and down,

Down and up

Shake it a bit

Recenter it

Shoogle it

Pull it along


With care






One too many yanks

Broke the damn thing

The day

I came to





My tartan scarf

Is now tied

Around the handle

In a ‘classic loop’

As I drag it

Through the back streets

Of Belfast

On the most dreariest

Of Mondays


With the broken suitcase

Kicking at my heels

I stare across at the old house

My childhood memories fail me

I do not recognise this house

I do not recognise this house!

Why do I not recognise this house?


The memories I had known

From stories passed down

In the oral tradition

Crumbled into dust

I was now frozen in time

I could not move forward

For looking back,



I am alone on this mission

Alone on this street

And, yes, I do feel lonely

But I know I have to go solo

On this expedition

Otherwise, part of this journey

Would belong to someone else

And I am not in the mood for sharing


All I have is my memories

Of this house

And the laughter and joy within it

The stories attached to it

Involving those I love

Who live vibrantly

In my mind



Such as

Grandad doing the dishes

Once a year

On Christmas Day

His present to Grannie,

Among other things

Returning to the Sitting Room

He would ask,  

Does anyone want a spam sandwich?

Everybody laughed



One year

My uncles

Went out to the pub

In the evening

Of Christmas Day

And got full

On Guinness and whiskey

And on their way home

They went into ‘The Chipper’

Fish and chips for three!


Don’t mind if we do!

Seated on the wall,

Outside, they

Devouring their feast

Back at La Salle

Ne’ry a word spoken

As they hid their



Filled with




The incident

Was reported

To Grannie

By a neighbour

Who had heard it

From her Sister’s


Who’d had been told it

By her son

After hearing it

From his friend

Who had reported it to his


Who had told it to

The woman who did the flowers

At The Chapel

Who had told it

To Her husband

Who told it to his wife

And here they are

On The Falls

The Day after

Boxing Day

Bumping into each other

Quite unexpectedly


Telling it to Grannie


Och, Hello, Mrs Doyle

Did ye have a nice



Aye, says Grannie

I did indeed


Is that right?

Nothing strange with ye then,

Mrs Doyle?


Eh, no!

Nothing strange?



Well, now that ye ask,

It’s just that

My Thomas

Was tellin’ me

He’d seen yer boys

In the pub


On Christmas night

Very jolly

Very jolly indeed!

Full of

The Craic!

Knocking back

The drink!

In fine form


And singin

And later

Tuckin in til

Fish and Chips

On the wall

Outside the Chipper!

So they did!


Is that right?

Says Grannie,


In a Red Sea

Of shame



It is indeed!

They were spied

Oan Christmas night!

Devouring their


On The Lord’s Day

God help our souls

Time’s must be hard

Did they nat have

A Christmas Dinner?

This year?

Did ye nat?

Did ye nat?

Did ye nat?


A course we did!

We did indeed

The full turkey

And all the trimmins

We ate early

And heartily

At a decent hour!

And my lads are

Big Lads!

Growin’ lads

Wi healthy appetites

Hope you enjoyed

YOUR dinner too

Mrs Morrison

De ye tend til eat late

On Christmas Day

Do ye?


Nat that late

That would send

My Boys



The Chipper


Christmas Night!


Sounds like yer laddie

Was in the pub too

I wonder if anyone saw


On Christmas Night

Eatin’ a fish supper?

On the wall

Full a’ whiskey…?

Sounds like he has

A hearty appetite too

I’ll have te go now

Mrs Morrison

Before the Post Office

Closes oan me

I’m sure yee’ve messages

Yerself te fetch?

Tata then


Grannie shaken

Shuffles off

Quick quick


The Falls Road

Tight lipped


Returns home

Wrath ridden



Her young adult children


The family like that!

The whole town’s talking about it

‘The Doyles had

No Christmas Dinner!’

Starvin they were?

They had til sneak out

The House!

Filled thur bellies

In ‘The Chipper’

Hard times indeed!


Grannie grips the toe

Of her slipper

Swipes it across

The Sitting Room

Slicing the air

Whack! Whack!

She serially misses

The boys

Towering above her




Into the hall

Grannie rages,

Grandad laughs


Mammy crying

With laughter

Through tears


As she sits

In her armchair

In Glasgow

70 years later

Telling this tale to us

Again and again

Of her comical brothers

Our uncles

Nipping down ‘The Chipper’

On Christmas night

After a full feast of turkey

And all the trimmings

We are in painful laughter

At the vivid image


Alive in our minds

The Wall

The feast

The big bellies

The bold spirits

The Larger than life


That live on

In us

And will be

Passed Down

To the next generation

A simple story

A human story

A timeless story

No timeline required


Fish and Chips Vintage advert