Life

Nuala McCann: A rum old Easter in the sun

So farewell, Easter, we had a rum un. In fact, mine's a Bacardi – make it a double: suffice to say that the 'holy feast' involved a sudden mad dash to the out-of-hours doctor opposite the Mater Hospital and a trip to one of the few chemists who opened their doors of an Easter Sunday up the Falls Road...

We are no longer ashamed of our white bodies – but some of us ought to be.

I WATCHED from the car as a youth – intent on gloriously misspending his – loaded up a waiting taxi with a crate of beer and various clinking plastic bags.

I watched as the world cast its clout outside a bar.

There were bare pelts – a scene straight out of Pirates of The Carribean.

It is official, we are no longer ashamed of our white bodies. But some of us ought to be.

When I was small, I could trace the line, sharp as the equator, around my father’s neck at the top of his polo neck tee-shirt to the bit where the sun never shone. Dad was nut brown from the neck up, milk-bottle white from the neck down.

People are not so wary of the sun any more. My aunt used to joke that when the sun came out, it saw such sights that it quickly disappeared again. If fashion faux pas number one is ankle socks with your sandals, the ultimate horror is pink flabby belly hanging over a pair of jeans.

There are those who are proud to show us such bellies. I like to keep my own jelly belly corseted tightly and forever under cover. When I’m feeling mean, I take it out on my son: "Before you came along, you could have ironed your jeans on my stomach, it was that flat," I tell him.

"Then you refused to budge, got pulled out the sun roof and the surgeon had to snip my muscles. J’accuse," I tell him with a dramatic flourish that kills further discussion.

Back on the Falls on Easter Sunday, what was sweet was the ordinariness of it all. All human life was there, delighting in the rotisserie feel of a rare roasting afternoon in the city.

We all turned slowly from pink to red to dark crimson as is the Celtic wont. You needed that chemist open nearby – it was gonna take an ocean of calamine lotion.

But the day was a good one, a still one. People were enjoying it. And it didn’t seem like 50 years since my brother was up in the Children’s Hospital and I gazed out the window of our old Volkswagen Beetle and spied my first barricade.

Nor so very long ago that I waited for my uncle to pick me up from outside the City Cemetery and not long at all since, as a young reporter, I knocked on doors after shootings, my stomach tight as a knot, or walked alongside funeral processions as a lone piper in a kilt played at the front.

Last Sunday, a crowd of tourists strolled up the Falls Road in an obliging group. It was a walking tour. I was about to treat our fella to a history lesson from bygone days when us print journalists with our notebooks and pens were jealous of the TV reporters and their big brick mobile phones.

I wanted to take him on a quick meander down memory lane in among the gravestones of Milltown where my grandparents lie in an unmarked grave because that was their wish.

I wanted to say that, on a cold wet day, the clay in Milltown runs a brick red river – but on a summer’s day, on your own, it’s a fine place to sit and chat to your ancestors.

I wanted to tell him that his grandfather was called Honest John... too honest John. He was a Falls Road man, a St Paul’s man, a boy who had taken part in the Eucharistic Congress of 1932 and carried the memories of Count John McCormack to his grave. But I never said it, because of the emergency script. There was no time.

All was well that ended well. It was probably the heat that was to blame for the sudden illness. And the sun poured down like honey on all of us.

It was Easter after all. We felt blessed.

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