The Rest Just Follows
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First of September 1974. Craig Robinson is starting secondary school. Instinct tells him he needs to keep his head down. The last thing he needs, therefore, is someone carrying the name St John Nimmo to be sent to sit beside him, but that is what he gets. Across town Maxine Neill is starting her own new school, convinced that she shouldn't be there at all. She should be where Craig and St John are. Not that she has met either of them yet. Though meet them she will, and more. Their lives and hers - and the lives of the entire Nimmo family - become entwined as pre-teens turn to teens, turn to twenties and thirties, turn inevitably to the eff decades and they go about the business of filling the spaces vacated by the generations that went before. It's called growing up, never mind that most of the time it feels like making it up as they go along, and sometimes like fucking up completely. Around them meanwhile the world happens: to be specific Belfast happens, for good or occasionally very ill indeed. These are the circumstances life has contrived for them. What are they to do but deal with it?
Hall failed to faze them. (There were anyway, Maxine knew, good skins and bad skins – Spidermen – just like there were Mods and ‘black’ Mods, for whom the main attraction seemed to be the flaunting of the Union Jack.) They all piled on to a bus just leaving from Donegall Square then had to get off again when the driver, who had shouted down the aisle at them a couple of times already about their drinking and their dirty talk, threatened to drive them to the nearest cop shop, but at least by then
He was pleased she had mentioned it. Sibyl and Mo had so far affected – or perhaps it was entirely genuine – indifference. And all Paddy ever wanted to know was if he had met anybody famous yet. ‘Is Andrea Arnold famous?’ ‘Who?’ ‘No.’ ‘It’s the first time in my life I’ve felt like I’ve known what I’m doing,’ he told Bea. ‘Mo was wondering why you never bring Trudy back with you.’ ‘Yeah, well she has her own family to go and see.’ Bea let that sit for a moment or two, then: ‘Another man?’
all right.’ She had taken out the address book she had had from she was at school. She had long since ceased to observe the alphabet. It was strictly chronological. Every entry necessitated an encounter with some at least of her past as she flicked through looking for a page. The experience, not infrequently, was salutary. This person too will pass out of your life . . . Her hand as she copied the details from the photo was shaking. Tommy would have been somewhere nearby when this was taken,
anything else had sold them on the house and that was, in all types of weather at all times of day, the room to which they most often repaired. She eked out the wine, hoping he would join her before bed. It wasn’t good for anyone’s morale all this time alone under the one roof. She tapped on his door on her way up to bed. He looked at her over the top of the computer. ‘Are you going to be much longer?’ ‘Not much.’ The last thing she heard, half an hour later, was a ping. * Craig replayed
house one Saturday night and three of them ran up the stairs and shot him while he slept. ST JOHN (shakes head) And he had a girlfriend, if I remember, who lived with him, a partner. CRAIG That’s right. (Silence) ST JOHN And, um, was there any indication at the time why this would have happened. I mean, a schoolteacher . . . ? CRAIG The hunger strikes were just getting going then. ST JOHN This was when Bobby Sands died? CRAIG That was a bit later, but, yeah, Bobby Sands