Growing Up With The Troubles - a Memory of Belfast.
I was lucky in that I lived in an area that was not often touched by the violence that was going on in Northern Ireland at the time, but a telephone conversation with my mum in recent days brought back memories of life in Belfast when 'the troubles' were in full swing. She had just heard the news of the recent car bomb left in the Victoria shopping centre and heard the sound of the explosion in the background on the TV news. The sound brought back memories of the time she was in Belfast town centre, shopping, but when she went to get her bus, they had been suspended (as they so often were). So she sat on a bench outside the City Hall and listened to the chaos and the sound of several explosions going off around her.
I too remember being stranded in town in the '70's because the buses were off - standing in one of those side roads that run parallel to the one behind M&S, held back by a barricade and chatting to strangers around me about where the bomb (or suspect package to be exploded remotely) might actually be so that I could plan my walk home - hopefully catching a bus part way.
I used to work on Saturdays and summer holidays in BHS and I remember many a bomb scare when we would be evacuated. I remember manning a till, and ladies with full shopping baskets would beg me to stay on to just run their things through so that they could pay and then go home and not have to abandon their basket and come back when the bomb scare was over.
I also remember, when I worked in a small office in town, a soldier coming in to advise us that there was a bomb scare. We were to open the windows (to stop the glass from being blown in ) and then put on our coats and leave. The boss was not in and when we returned we were told off for two things - firstly we took shelter in a nearby pub and were late back as we didn't know the bomb scare was over and secondly we didn't stop on our way out to change the answerphone message!
Then there were the barricades manned by soldiers and police with guns. You would put your bag on a counter to be searched and then put your arms out to the side to be frisked. I was so used to this and having my bag searched at the entrance to a shop that I had several embarrassing moments when I moved to England. If a member of security was standing in a doorway I would go into automatic mode and hold out my handbag for them to examine - very confusing for them!
One of my first Saturday jobs was in a small boutique in Belfast - Petal. I was to sit on a stool and search handbags as shoppers came in. I was told to open all cigarette boxes and check cigarette lighters for incendiary devices! At the end of the day, we could not lock up until the army had been in with their sniffer dogs. We were not to pet the dogs until they had been around the shop and completed their check - but in reality they would always be mostly interested in the kitchen at the back!
I suppose my first memory relating to the troubles was when a tank came down our cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Belfast - I must have been about 8. I also remember the first Christmas that the army was in Belfast and locals were asked to take them in for New Years Eve - which we did! I don't think that idea lasted long!
Belfast, being situated in a valley surrounded by hills, those on the outskirts could often hear when bombs went off in the city centre. I remember the sound very well and I remember my dad tuning in to the police radio to try and find out where it was - particularly if someone in the family was in town at the time. In daytime my friends and I would run to a particular spot with a view over the city where we might be able to see the smoke.
Strange times, looking back, and sad. lets hope Belfast can move on and not be dragged back to those dark days.
A memory shared by on Dec 11th, 2013.
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