Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Norn Iron.

The thing that surprises me most any time I return to Northern Ireland is the amount of Northern Irish accents I hear. It’s almost as if everyone here has one. This shouldn’t really surprise me that much but it always does. I used to hear that accent all the time, wherever I went, right up until I was 20 and now, since moving to London, I barely hear it at all. Even when I speak it’s not a particularly Northern Irishy sound that comes out. I speak in BBC Radio Ulster but pretty much everyone else speaks in an accent that is the real deal. It’s full on, loud and pretty scary. What luck it must have been for those terrorists to have that accent when phoning up their funny little bomb threats. If the I.R.A. had lovely accents like Ardal O'Hanlan would we ever have taken them seriously? No. We'd all be laughing at Father Dougal's funny wee bomb-threaty antics! The I.R.A. are cleverer than that. They chose the right accent to use. Even though it’s a British accent which must surely go against some of the I.R.A.’s own principles. Anyway, it’s odd to hear the accent completely surrounding me again.

My family all have Northern Irish accents and they like to use them, at volume, as much as they can. They talk a lot. Not really my Dad or my brother. Or my Mum. But the others. Well, not really my sister Bernie or my sister Colette (well, sometimes my sister Colette) but definitely my sister Diane. She talks. Lots.

It’s great seeing my family, they’re fun, funny, animated, energetic talkers and it’s lovely to just sit back and watch these accents, names and stories that used to be part of my every day life get thrown back and forth around a room. Sometimes you would swear they were talking about fictional characters because it seems that everyone they know has died in a stupid way and they have a stupid name. "Here, Michael. Remember Mavis Fist? Well, she frightened a horse so it kicked her on to an electric statue and she was kilt". What? "Yeah, and you know Big Aggy Blackturd? Well, he was suffocated by a cloud and he was kilt". They love telling you that people were kilt. Not that everything is morbid here because most conversations were about the past and how we were as kids. It’s very nice. And when the photos get passed round it’s like a history lesson. I’m worried that I’ve forgotten way too many of my dead relatives but it’s both amazing and genuinely touching to hear everyone else in my family talk about lost generations of Legges and Dorrians in such detail. Yesterday I saw a photograph of my great grandfather. I’ve never once thought of him, heard about him or seen a picture of him. I was sure I must have had a great grandfather but it never crossed my mind to find out who he was. It was an incredible picture of a bald man with a huge crashing sea-wave of a moustache. It’s hard to deny the feeling you get right inside your chest when you’re looking at a long dead man who is linked so directly to you. It’s pretty powerful.

Then we all got drunk and talked about babies, Barack Obama, getting mugged and Howard Read. It was a great drunken night. We’ll be doing exactly the same tonight. Good.


J. Crawford-Snagge said...

Very evocative post Michael.

My Mum was born in Belfast. Her family scarpered over to the UK in the mid-Fifties and settled in regal manner on the Archway Road (three doors down from the then very young Rod Stewart, as it goes) But some of the family couldn't be persuaded to make the long hazardous trip to live within spitting distance of the future singer of the Faces, so in my teens I'd be dragged over to do the trip in reverse - London-Carlisle-Stranraer-Belfast.

My most abiding memory of the trips is staying with some cousins who were mad keen fans of Elvis and Bruce Lee and them making me a sandwich with less than 1 mm slices of banana in it.

Funny what sticks, isn't it?

Nice writing - will pop back and read some more soon

J. Crawford-Snagge

Michael Legge said...

Thank you very much, J. Very thin banana sandwiches are still HUGE in Northern Ireland.