In August 1966 I returned from my exchange holiday in France. The exchange bit hadn’t really sunk in until I got home. I guess I hadn’t really thought it through but soon realised that it was up to me to entertain MF the girl who came back with me. While I was away life was going on and my girlfriends had all managed to get themselves a boyfriend. MF was somewhat parochial in outlook and her one purpose in visiting Ireland was to actually learn the language. So rather than get back on the Warrenpoint dating scene (not much happened in Rostrevor) I found my new companion was cramping my style. She accompanied me constantly and was a great French gooseberry. (Am I allowed to say that?) Mind you there weren’t that many opportunities as most fellows were already taken. Not that that seemed to matter much.
When I finally bid MF bon voyage, in the third week of August, I was asked to go to the pictures (cinema) in the Aurora in Rostrevor. One of the guys in our crowd had asked me out. I was curious as to why he kept disappearing but quickly found out he had asked another girl out and she was on the other side of the cinema. That romance didn’t last long. Did it JT?
As the summer came to an end a party was organised for a final get together before we all settled back into school and exams that would probably determine our futures. Most of my friends were going out with someone but I was still single. JT had managed to get himself a girl and suggested I go with his friend Gordon. No way I said remembering the response I had received to my last invite.
So I headed off to the party on my own. The music was playing and it was a packed room. When a guy who I wasn’t in the least interested in started to chat me up and was becoming a nuisance I starting backing away. In the half-light I sat down on the couch and turned round to see that it was the infamous Gordon sitting beside me. I can still remember what he was wearing, hipster trousers and a checked shirt. He was tanned and his black hair made him look Italian. Amazing how your perceptions can change. It was love at first sight, on my part at least. We chatted and it seemed very natural. He asked me to dance and it was a ‘slow’ one. Someone turned the lights out and the future Mr and Mrs Allan had their first kiss.
I left the party in a daze. Love was in the air. Arrangements were made to meet in the Cosmo. The Cosmo was a chippy with a jukebox where we used to sit for hours, usually over one coffee and a chip shared between half a dozen of us. The juke box was playing that well known 60’s Classic ‘They’re coming to take me away’ by that never heard of again singer Napoleon XIV. Must have been an omen. So on that Sunday afternoon I waited, and waited and waited but there was no sign of our young Lothario. Sadly I headed home.
Didn’t expect to hear from him again. Not sure whether he was playing hard to get, but on bumping into him (ok so I kept walking around until I bumped in) he said he couldn’t make it cause his granny was visiting and she was a Baptist and it was Sunday. Well it was an original excuse, don’t you think?
On the evening before we returned to school we stood on the roof of the local baths (if you aren’t from the Point you wouldn’t understand) and there was the mostly beautiful full moon shining over and reflecting on Carlingford Lough. It lit the sea up and it looked as if there were little pools of light dancing on the water. Someone’s transistor (mobile phone) was booming out the Troggs’ ‘ I want to spend my life with a girl like you ‘ I can still see it. It was so romantic but as we stood there we realised any romance was going to be tough.
I don’t think we realised how tough. He was at the time one of themuns and I was at the time one of the other ones. But we were young, somewhat naive and we probably thought it would be a school girl/ boy romance and it wouldn’t last.
I was never aware of religion being a problem as I grew up. We played with the children who attended the Protestant school. Religion was never discussed. We didn’t know we were any different. We went through all the motions as Catholics. Church on a Sunday, confession once a week, without any realisation of what we were actually doing. We hated confession and tried to avoid it. You really have to make up sins when you are at primary school. As I grew older I observed the traditions less and less. When I met Gordon, and our romance progressed, I saw the ugly side of religion. All of a sudden people’s real feelings came to the surface and that age-old hatred and mistrust became evident. It seemed it was all right to be friendly but it was another matter to intermarry. The next four years were to be some of the worst of my life and yet they formed who I am today and made me a stronger person. My relationship with the church and religion was being slowly eroded.