she’s leaving home…bye bye

stoned by the swimming pool

one of my many regrets in life is not having acquired a camera as a teenager,
for i was blessed to be raised in the most colourful surroundings of a northern ireland seaside town called portrush.
the great thing about growing up in a small irish seaside town,is you could run riot at a very young age without getting lost or into too much trouble.
from around eight/nine years old, many of us had lightweight summer work of walking donkeys on the beach…
then in our early teens we’d graduate to work in amusement arcades …
my younger brother did the mats for the helter skelter,and i did the change booth.
i loved working there on the main street arcade…the booth itself was situated right beside a never ending jukebox,
which made the day a rock n roll education by sheer osmosis.
..and the job suited me…
i sat there like a right little pansy reading my ‘jackie’ and ‘disc’ and ‘sounds’,
glumly changing punters shillings for pennies all day long….
pretending to be a pissed off teenager,but happy as a pig in shit really.


then after three years spent living in singapore, my dad retired from the air force,to settle us back in ireland, and buy a pub in a town up the road from portrush called ballymoney…
they sent me on a catering course,cause they figured they’d maybe extend into a restaurant ,and i could perhaps come in on the family business as a chef (as if ).


now here’s a story….
the main street of this town had been bombed the year before..
and just up the top of the street was the technical college where i had two solid days of cookery class…
i was fifteen,and the bay city rollers had come over from scotland to play in the neighbouring town of ballymena at the flamingo ballroom…
naturally i went,and it was a gas..all these girls wetting their actual knickers,then pretending to faint before getting carried out on stretchers by the red cross …
i chummed a lift with the local irish band that was opening for them,so i had a great view from beside the stage,where i watched the hairy manager of the bay city rollers shout and harangue the minions.
a couple of years later i would get to know this shytebox of a man intimately,but for now i was just one hundred per cent impressed with this arsehole and the drama around him.


so anywayyyy…back to cookery class, where now emboldened by my new flimsy pop credentials,i defiantly began turning up to the kitchen in huge platform shoes, and cockney rebel trousers…
on my way through the pub in the morning out to class, i would steal two bottles of coca cola from behind the bar for the cookery,cause it was thirsty work learning how to make irish stew and apple pie.
i was the only boy on this course,and there was a beautiful girl in the class who would always steal my coke.
she was a tiny gorgeous specimen with shaggy layered blonde hair,but she was tough,and you wouldn’t dare fuck with her..
she wore bovver boots and skinners…*skinners* were wide baggy denims with big turn ups that ended half way up the leg to show off a stripy sock at the high of the boot.
so there’s her…and she’s always stealing my bottles of coke,but one day i had the bright idea of hiding my fizz in a oven that wasn’t going to be used.
someone tipped her off,and she being even more wayward than myself,lit the oven.
next thing is this whack of a bang…
the front door of the oven blasts open and buckles…
the cookery teacher ends up with glass shrapnel in her shin…
and because of the bomb just down the road the year before,anyone who heard the bang thought another had gone off..
i got merry hell for this…my mum and dad were summoned to the principles office and i got the back of my fathers hand like never before…
my own history at this point is already in the sewer,for i was already sent to a shrink at the ballymoney health centre on wednesdays for being a *problem child* .
nothing was wrong with me at all..on reflection i was simply living the teenage dream.


wind the tape forwards to the early 21st century,
where one night i turn on the telly here in england, and catch some northern irish news in bed.
there was a woman crying..her new born baby had been killed in a terrorist attack..they put a petrol bomb through her window…
i suddenly realised it was the girl in my cookery class…she was in pieces,and all that lovely high spirit we shared as teenagers had been killed in her…and i cried tears watching.


so….. i complete this level of a catering course,and head off to live in a caravan, back at the seaside town,cause the actual full on catering college was nearby…
*portrush catering college*.
i take on this caravan months early for the summertime,where i would work as a disc jockey in the brilliant local nightclub called kellys, which sat right across a green field from the catering college.
it was a fabulous summer…i made loads of dosh playing records in the bar at night and through the day, every day for the kids on the caravan site,
but best of all was having this caravan…my own place…
i was useless though…
some mornings i’d wake up to find my caravan surrounded by sheep,and that scared the crap out of me…
at the time i wouldn’t go near sheep or cows..they’d freak me out…so i’d sit there stranded and safe behind the other side of the caravan window like a twit, waiting until they moved.
then the autumn came, and it got cold ..
i’d wake up only to find some cunt had stole my bottle of gas…so i’d mooch around the caravan site looking to steal one back from some other caravan .
the whole thing was getting very dreary…


and then came the first day of serious training at the catering college…
their immediate down fall was to issue me with a kitchen uniform…
checked blue and white pyjama type trousers…
a white double breasted starchy top, and a daft starchy hat that did not suit me…
i looked at myself in the changing room mirror, and my rock n roll spirit screamed back at me to get the hell out of the place…which i did right there and then…
propelled by this epiphany in the mirror,i took a long walk on the cold, now deserted beach,and decided it was time to jump the irish sea…the summer was well and truly over
no way did i want to become one of the old hangers on at this seaside niteclub…
i loved the place,but the idea of becoming a part of the disco furniture scared me…
so i pumped all my loose change into a public telephone and phoned the one person i knew in edinburgh…
and within two days i was gone… without a sound…
even my family took it with a pinch of salt,thinking i’d be back in a week,but i was gone for years.


on the afternoon of arriving in edinburgh, my friend sent me for an interview with the manager of a club called tiffanys.
i told him he could try me out for free for a couple of weeks,and if i didn’t fit,he wouldn’t have to pay me a penny…
i’m always proud that i intuitively had it in me to offer up that kind of deal…
i’m glad i have it in me to work for free..the belief in a bigger pay off later on down the line…
after the first night ,he told me the job was never be keep my eyes peeled..and that was that.
not bad for a sixteen year old.
these summer jobs and chapters as a niteclub disc jockey were the nearest i ever came to being employed…
but then after two years this did begin to feel like actual work..
my obsession with joining a pop group was now kicking in heavily …
and who should drift into my orbit,but non other than that manager of the bay city rollers that i observed backstage in northern ireland before the caravan days.


y’know i look at the photo at the top of this page,and what i see is a strange mongrel cross of bay city roller and clockwork orange…i’m not kidding isn’t always easy walking in these boots.


dear reader i could so easily carry on here, but fear i might be boring you if i go on any longer.
so i’ll recount loosing my virginity to the now deceased shytebox pop manager at the next episode, in the near future.
but beware if you’re at all prudish…it’s a bit gritty, though maybe a scream for the more scurrilous of you.
i will leave you with a little video clip of me reflecting on those seaside days of funfairs and whatever else…
peace and platform soles to anyone who reads these things…
mary of the wilderness.
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20 Responses to she’s leaving home…bye bye

  1. Robert says:

    Always such a fun read. I get lost in the tales smiling the whole time. ~ Robert


  2. Can’t wait for the next part


  3. Nick says:

    Another perfect tale!


    • cheers nick…it’s very much a flawed individuals story,but i’ve enough distance from it now to see the worth ..a lot of it used to embarrass me,but not anymore, so i’m very happy you were entertained.


  4. dubdoug says:

    I really enjoyed reading this.


  5. John Howard says:

    Great – as ever – to read your eruditely told tales of far off times and near misses. xxx


  6. Tim says:

    I love reading your anecdotes almost as much as I love hearing your music….fantastic insight into your formative years. what an adventure you’ve had. ……….btw, got an old calor gas bottle somewhere…any good to ye ?


  7. That was such a delight to read! I’m looking forward to the torrid sequel. But so enriching for the heart to hear more of your story.


  8. Julie Rex says:

    What a fabulous read mary x I get totally lost in your tales…you are such a clever writer…much love mary xXx


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