Northern Irish people are weird. As one of them, I’m allowed to say this. If you say it, I’ll take against you. We’re odd that way.
Those of us who were born in the Seventies and lived the entire formative parts of our lives during the Troubles are even odder. It’s not our fault. It was a REALLY weird time. I’m downplaying it. If you downplay it, I’ll take against you.
We were brought up in an environment of suspicion and resentment. We just didn’t think it weird at the time.
We could tell by the way you pronounce the letter H if you’re one of us or one of them. We could tell by your surname, by your first name. We went around making a multitude of tiny calculations on who you were, against who we were, about where the cultural borders lay, about whether it was going to be OK to say things, to admit things, to challenge things. When to run.
Are you a remainer or a leaver? Can you be trusted if you are the other?
I got my front teeth punched out on the street one night because I was one of us and not one of them. I was 17. That’s small, small beer compared to what many went through. But it stays with you. It’s a tiny stone trapped in a shoe. Most of the time you don’t feel it, but every now and again it nips and there is little to shift it.
I left many years ago and never really went back. Still, it was my home.