I think about my own experiences growing up in Belfast as a young girl, before we left for Canada. It was at the time after the height of The Troubles, but the army was still patrolling the streets. Police checkpoints were normal, as were bomb scares.
I am thankful I was raised in a mixed neighbourhood. 27 Burnside Park was at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac; a seemingly large playground full of possibilities. We knew everyone on our street. I could call into the neighbours’ houses at any time for a rest. If we were lucky we were offered milk and biscuits!
We played outside making mud pies and riding our bikes for hours on end, answering the call to go inside when dinner was ready. We made elaborate obstacle courses, which we tackled on our roller skates. I walked to Cairnshill primary school, through the lane and up the hill, with my friends. Sometimes I walked by myself.
Not everyone on our street went to the same school as me but I didn’t know why. I didn’t ask. I didn’t need to know why. We lived a normal life amidst the Troubles. As a child, I remember bomb-scares being announced over a loud speaker in the shopping mall or when we were getting groceries. I remember our bags being searched for anything suspicious. What could we possibly be carrying in our grocery bags I wondered? Bomb-scares were normal.
Much of the scares during my childhood were false alarms and people soon became complacent, often ignoring the call to evacuate the area. I got used to seeing the military on the street with their machine guns. The presence of the military became normal. We didn’t talk about it. We just got on with life, as most people did…
An excerpt from my upcoming book, ‘Guided by Love.‘ To receive the latest updates and exclusive content, join my newsletter.