Baz Morningstar with a couple of nostalgic Irish short stories of growing up as a kid in Ireland.
The Legend of “Gitty NANA Sistersknickers”
When my brothers and I were little and we lived in a rough part of a rough town called Finglas, we used to hang out on the streets with the other street urchins. One of our favourite past-times was crushing things under the ferocious weight of the iron gates of the street drains.
It was a feat rarely accomplished as we were all kids aged between 7 and 10 and those fuckers were heavy so getting them pulled up high enough to get anything underneath them was a major strain.
The manna from heaven of potentially crushable things was discarded batteries, ideally the ones you’d put in a personal stereo player or a torch (for anyone born after about 1985, this was before digital when rechargeable batteries were the height of sophistication and therefore not to be crushed under an iron street drain).
It was believed the batteries (depending on how much power was left in them) would provide a spark which in our childish minds read, ‘EXPLOSION’ and as every good child of the 80’s knows, fire, bangs and blowing stuff up is cool. Especially under a dangerously weighty iron drain gate.
One of our compatriots was a lad called Christopher McMANUS, affectionately shortened to Gitty NANA. Back in the day it was de rigeur to have nicknames or variations on what it said on your birth certificate.
People called ‘Christopher’ always ended up being called, ‘Git’ and I suppose because this Christopher was little, he was called ‘Gitty’.
The McMANUS part just got simplified. The brothers and I were all simply called by our surname, ‘Creamer’ because it was already horrible enough and carried any number of possible connotations which is another day’s storytelling.
Gitty always looked dishevelled. I look dishevelled but Gitty was on a different level of dishevelment. His clothes were always ill-fitting, usually too big like hand-me-downs that had been handed down too soon.
It was not peculiar to see his shaggy pants held up with rope or twine and his shoes were creased and bent as I don’t think anyone had ever shown him how to tie his shoelaces so he just kind of forced his way into them in his rarely matching socks if he wore any.
He had the same brand of Parka jacket we all had with the Eskimo periscope hood that if closed up bigger boys would use to toss us around when they felt like being bullies. Luckily we were quite the little gang of allies and bullies took a few licks of their own before long if they interfered with us. The same can be said of Priests.
Thus the Parka jacket with the Eskimo periscope hood hung loosely about Gitty’s body as did all of ours fearing the threat of being yanked about by said hood.
Gitty had a sister who was a little bit older than us. She would hang out with us sometimes and in our childish eyes she was the most beautiful creature on God’s Green Earth. I think she was called Michelle. I bring her up cos that’s how Gitty ended up being called ‘Sisterknickers’.
Gitty’s state of dishevelment reached a new high one day when we were attempting to explode batteries under the colossal weight of the iron drain gate in front of Gitty’s house.
Michelle was lending her formidable strength and experience to the cause making us love her all the more when suddenly and without warning, she let go of the gate as the rest of us followed suit lest we should lose our fingers in the process.
Michelle had spotted Gitty skulking out of the house, his lopsided Parka jacket and rope tied jeans toppling downwards revealing the lacy edge of a pair of girl’s pink underwear and exclaimed,
“For fucks sake, Gitty! What have I told you about wearing me knickers?”
To which he replied,
“Fuck off yourself, Michelle – I’ve run out of me own”.
Thus Gitty NANA Sistersknickers was renamed.
When we were kids in the 1980’s, we used to go visit our great grandparents in Monaghan, which whilst part of the Republic of Ireland involved crossing the border into Northern Ireland. There were border guards. Kids, not that much older than us.
Baby-faced kids with guns and uniforms and often even black face paint which made them seem very scary. They looked terrified though, with their guns and uniforms – scared shitless of my Dad’s car with its republican Irish registration trying to cross the border.
We would get to the border manned as it was by these kids some of whom were hiding in sandbag border control stations and my parents would say to us kids, things like “don’t sit up high in your seats lest they think you’re sitting on something”, “Don’t play with the window controls”, ” don’t act like you’re doing anything in the back there”.
Kids, looking at kids like you’re the enemy. Kids only a few years different in age only they had guns and we were the potential threat. We were potential terrorists.
Poor stupid working class English kids.
Poor stupid working class Irish kids.
and we would eventually get through the border after they spoke to my Father like he was a criminal, after they spoke to my Mother like she was protecting his crime.
After us kids had been on our best behaviour because that’s what our frightened parents had told us to do. Stiff, still, frightened because we were born criminals and potential terrorists.
Then we would drive up that long driveway our great grandparents had with fruit tress and berry bushes and concrete and the river and sinkholes all around and we would run endless meadows and quiet lanes of adventure entitled to a child and wait for the homemade jam to cool and fall asleep.
I remember nothing about going home other than counting the cats eyes in the road but I remember the going there and being the imagined enemy cast in a child’s mind.
By Baz Morningstar
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