Keeping it uniform
I am to represent His Haughtiness at the local children's day, obviously the shortest straw imaginable. The day is renowned for drunkenness, debauchery, fighting, sectarianism and inter-school rivalry of the type which would make the Old Firm look like Corinthian competitors.
The director always allocated the bands to the schools, apparently. This was done by drawing the names from a hat, but I was left in no doubt as to which bands would march with which schools. Get it, Hen? Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Ken whit I mean, Hen?
I don't know what came over me, but I was not going to be an accomplice to this farce. No sirree.
The greatest wee country in the world needed a martyr. Me. Single-handedly, I was going to end sectarianism in this particular community.
Friday was the night of the draw. I attended the meeting in the Lesser Town Hall. All the heidies were there, under protest admittedly, but they made small talk and shared the vol-au-vents and crab sandwiches.
"Bridget McElroy will make the draw for the bands." Silence. I had heard about allegedly rigged cup draws, warm and cold balls and the like, but nothing prepared me for this.
The Noble Shamrock Accordion Band. The wee man was already writing St Patrick's name on the board when I announced that they would accompany Grant Street Primary. Sharp intakes of breath, tut-tuts and head-shaking.
The Loyal Sons of William Flute Band will accompany St Patrick's RC Primary. Genuflection. Praying. Pens were being thrown down. Some of the committee were exiting. This wasn't in the script. "Are ye sure ye've got your reading glesses on, Hen?" asked the convener.
The Children's Day was a huge success. The bands marched. The schools marched. I had achieved the impossible: I had brought the sectarian factions together. No blood had been shed. I must be in line for an OBE, or at least a permanent directorate post. Soon the word of my success spread round the area. How did she do it?
Later that week, I was out shopping when I was approached by the committee convener. "Weel, Hen, suppose you're well pleased wi' yersel?" he asked, smugness exuding from every pore. "Think you're clever, do ye? Let me tell ye this. You're no going to spoil oor years o' tradition. We just swapped the uniforms aroond. The Flute Band were really the Accordion Band and the Accordion Band were really the Flute Band."
I felt like jumping off Derry's walls head first into the Fields of Athenry.