I have published books for teachers, & children. My latest children’s story The Cloud Swing was published by Gallucci editore and is a story about the lockdown in Italy. I also wrote the Glitterlings, a series of 9 stories published by OUP. My short story for big people, Bonny & Child was shortlisted for Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2022.
I’m currently editing my debut novel with the Faber Academy and working on a collection of short stories.
Bonny and Child
We brave the slippery coastal path to the station. Seagulls, flashes of white in the battleship sky, squabble, scanning the waves for their fish supper. The rain pelts us up and down, gets in and under us, even our bones are wet by the time we arrive at Bangor West station. Me Ma’s glasses have steamed opaque in the moist, warm air that greets us on the train. I use me sleeve to de-fog the window so I can see the posh houses stream by. We stop at Rockford. We are in super-sleek-ski-racks-on-the-Range-Rover land.
We pass the giant yellow cranes of the Titanic shipyard. I know for sure none of me family ever worked there not since me great Uncle Hugh was taken off the tram on the Queen’s bridge and battered to death by a loyalist mob. That was in 1922, but sure, nothing much has changed since then.
British soldiers stand armed and erect as we queue with the women waiting to pass through the grey, steel barriers to the centre. The helicopters overhead are as much part of our humdrum as the ever-present drizzle and grey skies. The clouds seep into the permanent gates that lock people in or out until the day is dark enough to be night in no-man’s-land.
Me Ma smiles, but the sons of Britain don’t smile back. We are, after all, would-be planters of bombs. Arms outstretched, we let them frisk us and open our empty shoppers; they tell us to pass.
Fear and excitement stalk the streets of Belfast in equal measure.
We’re going to do the shops. I’m going on me holidays and me Ma wants to clothe me.
Me Ma holds up a powder blue C&A top.
‘What d’ye think?’
‘Aye, that’s not bad.’
She slips it off the hanger into her well-placed shopper.
‘Here love, try this wee coat.’
Me Ma has an eye for things that aren’t half bad. I twirl in the mirror.
‘Will look great with me flares.’
‘We’ll come back for it afore we leave.’
She sees yer one at the till watching us. Ma gives her one of her How dare you! looks. Me ma is in her twinset and pearls. She looks more like a schoolteacher than a common shoplifter. It’s them scarf-wearing factory workers the staff should keep an eye on.
Me fourteen year oul heart’s thumping: I don’t want me Ma gettin caught. What is this Bonnie & Child thing we are at? If Da finds out, I’ll get bolloxed or belted. I dunno what he’d do to me Ma for spoiling me. We nick two tops, a coat and a wee bronze clock me Ma picks up in Fegarty’s.
As we queue for another frisking, the clock starts ringing. A daughter of Britain picks it up, eyeballs me Ma, and then puts it back in the shopper.
Going home, I am quiet. I wish we’d been on a buying trip. But, sure I know me Ma hasn’t the money to be clothes shopping.
‘Pet, don’t be worrying, it’s no sin. These big shops have insurance, so it doesn’t cost them to give ye a coat for yer holiday!’
Published in Aesthetica Creative Writing Award Anthology 2022