Looking back on the Nineteen-Fifties, there can be no doubt that children enjoyed an innocence and freedom denied to youngsters today.
In many ways my formative years were idyllic ones but, in the Calvinist environment of Fifties Ulster, even the most innocuous activities held the potential for condemnation by those stern Presbyterian adults who policed our childish world.
They taught me to imagine it
as standing in some lofty hall
while some austere, almighty Judge
would stare at jottings on the chit
I’d brought with me: a hasty scrawl
of awkward facts I couldn’t fudge,
then, with abrupt, dismissive ire,
condemn me to eternal fire.
I’ve spent my life unlearning things:
discovering that black was white
and vice versa; that we don’t get
that things don’t always turn out right;
but somehow this grim childhood threat,
imposed on me like Holy Writ,
won’t be unlearned: I’m stuck with it.