Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Where am I… From?


A few weeks ago I posted links on Twitter and Facebook that led to Keith Nixon's review of my latest novella, WELCOME TO THE OCTAGON. Unfortunately, my posts were more concerned about the solitary comment from an anonymous source about where I’m ‘from’ rather than the content of the review. At the time I made light of the comment, because it seemed funny (like a clown and like a weirdo). I like to think I’m pretty good at not taking myself too seriously. Comments like that shouldn’t jibe with me.

But since then, it’s niggled once or twice.

Now, I know that the average anonymous comment is designed to niggle. I also know that I’ve been blessed if this is the only seemingly negative thing that’s been said about my work in the last month (to my knowledge!). But I figure if there’s an itch, you should scratch it. Or slap it, as a tattooist might suggest you deal with post-ink itching.

So, here’s the score:

Facts

My father is from West Belfast. My mother is from Omeath.

I lived in Omeath (seaside town, south of the border) for the first six years of my life.

We moved to Warrenpoint (seaside town, north of the border) and lived there for ten years.

When I was 16 we moved again to a really nice house that was somewhere between Warrenpoint and a little village called Burren (no seaside there).

My parents have since moved to an even nicer house in Burren, but I had my own place by then.

After a bit of messing about in The Holy Lands (Damascus Street, South Belfast), I moved to West Belfast with my girlfriend (who became my wife and the mother of my children). We lived in the Iveagh area, Beechmount and the Old Suffolk Road in the space of five years.

We moved to Dundrum when the kids started to arrive. I live there now but travel to Belfast most days for work.

I went to school in Omeath, Warrenpoint, Burren and Newry, respectively. All of my further and higher education happened in Belfast.

Perception

To be honest, I don’t know where I’m from. I imagine I had a southern accent when I lived in Omeath but don’t remember anybody taking the piss out of it in primary school. My accent has since become a strange hybrid of Belfast-y/County Down culchie. The hint of Belfast in my accent was remarked upon once (that I remember) when I went to post-primary school in Newry (St Colman’s College if you must know). It seemed that the accuser thought I was faking it. Trying to act hard, maybe. I think I just inherited a few twangy words from my da.

It’s no coincidence either that I can ham up a passable West Belfast accent. Years of listening to Westie grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins provided that. I used it in a short one-man show I performed a few years ago; An Irish Possession. I also managed a generic southern accent for one of the characters I played, though I’m not as good at that one.

So, I’ve got family in West Belfast, have lived in West Belfast, owned a house in West Belfast, but I’m not ‘from’ there. I’m from Omeath, I guess, because I was born there. But I’ve lived in Northern Ireland for a little under 30 years. I grew up in Warrenpoint (or was it Burren?), so maybe I’m from there? But here, I went to school in Newry… does that count for anything? How about the fact that I have lived in Dundrum for 9 years? Can I claim that as my stomping ground? Well, no. I’m a blow-in there, you see. Ask a local.

Tell you what, next time somebody asks me where I’m from, I’ll tell them I’m from all over the place. I can be claimed or denied by whoever, whenever. It's really not that big of a deal. But if an inquisitor presses me, I’ll borrow from my inherited West Belfast humour and cadence.

“Where are you from, Gerard? Really?”

“Your ma.”

6 comments:

seana graham said...

Very interesting brief biography. As a counterpoint, my childhood took me to many towns in the western United States, mostly in California but also in Colorado, but except when we would go back and visit my dad's family in Illinois, who treated us Californians as some kind of exotica, "where are you from?" was pretty much a non-issue.

Gerard Brennan said...

Hi, Seana

I actually considered prefacing this post with the warning, "If you're not from Northern Ireland, this may not mean much to you." Good to know you found it interesting, though.

California and Colorado? Two places I'd like to check out, and not just for the medical marijuana.

gb

blackwatertown said...

We all know you came up the Lagan in a bubble. (That's for foreign visitors.)

seana graham said...

There was actually a lot of cross over between California and Colorado for some reason back then. I started fifth grade in Northern California, but went to Denver pretty early in the school year. I walked into class the first day and found my old classmate Buzz had preceded me. If I'd been a little older I might have found that a bit Twilight Zonish.

Gerard Brennan said...

Paul, here's me... wha'? Away on.

Seana - That's quite a journey too, isn't it? I wish I knew kids with names like Buzz when I was at school. That's pretty damn cool, right there.

gb

seana graham said...

I'd like to say that this led to some closer connection, but we really barely knew each other in either place.

And to be fair, he was the only Buzz I ever knew either.