Let me tell you about a few things that have changed since I was a boy.
Back then, there wasn’t a nice big garden outside our house like there is now, only a heap of muck and a puddle of ooze that we used to surf in on the broken-off door of a cement mixer. We’d wreck around in that puddle what feels like all the time, until Ma came out roaring, I’ll brain yiz if ye cross this door mucked! And off we’d dash into the house for tea, kicking off our battered trainers at the doorstep, beating the muck out of them on the wall and leaving them to crust over in the sun.
I had been at University six months when I got the call to tell me my old school friend Eamon Donovan had died. Drug overdose. He wasn’t the partying kind; it was a different kind of drug overdose. An entirely intentional one. Eamon was from the north of the city, like me; The Bone. That particular stretch of hopeless home-front had given rise to a nasty habit of suicide. In the years I had been out of my working class no-man’s-land I’d stopped counting the amount of associates who had taken the off-ramp. It had become so frequent that it had been dubbed the North Belfast Green Card.