Although born and raised in England I have lived in Portadown for over ten years now. Married with two young children I spend my days working as an IT consultant but increasingly spend my spare time writing poetry and short stories. In 2004 I was a runner up in the BBC End of Story competition.
Hiding from the Sun by
On the television screen I watched people from far away
dismantle the wall that had divided their city. Years later
I can still recall the young men standing on top pulling
people up from the other side to join them in their wild
celebrations. I remember the determination and the joy on
their faces. The television was small and I couldn't understand
any of the words but the pictures are still in my mind.
Growing up in a place so cut off I fell in love with that
television. As a small boy I was fascinated by the idea
that these pictures were coming to me from all over the
planet, bouncing off shiny metal objects high in the sky.
I soon learned how to adjust the dish, to fine-tune the
set, finding as many different worlds as I could with that
magic box. My parents disapproved of what they saw and discouraged
me so I confined myself to times when they were out of the
house. I could sit for hours, transfixed by a new channel
whose words I couldn't understand and whose images often
It was during one of these long afternoons, hiding from
the sun, that I watched that wall come down. Even without
fully understanding what was happening I felt instinctively
the connection with my own life and with my people. I even
wondered if such a thing could happen in my country, if
we would wake up one morning, forget our differences and
dance and hug one another in the land between the territories.
It was a dizzying thought, almost funny in its impossibility.
Today my television is switched off, the house silent, and
I am staring out of the small window into the full glare
of the afternoon sun watching clouds of dust rising up in
the distance. I couldn't go to work today. Soon I will have
to face the fact that my days of working in the shop are
over. It came as a shock to my parents that my early fascination
with their television set and its inner workings eventually
turned into a useful, even profitable, career. For three
years now I have worked in a shop in the city repairing
and fine tuning TV and satellite equipment.
This job gave me a little money, kept me busy and kept me
out of trouble. Most of the boys who grew up around me in
this village are now involved in the struggle, many are
dead or in prison. Personally I hate violence, I do not
believe that anyone has the right to kill solely because
they are oppressed. Perhaps this is because I am not a physically
strong person but I prefer to think that it is because I
have seen a wider world and more diverse people through
my television screen.
I have watched the ends of many bitter conflicts and often
thought that during my lifetime the same miracle might happen
here in my homeland. Today these hopes are buried under
piles of rubble and coated in the thick dust that covers
everything near to the construction site.
I went to the site this morning, standing as close as the
soldiers would allow. As I watched I imagined again those
pictures of people rising up and tearing down the wall that
divided their city. This time though I played the scene
in reverse. In my mind men pushed each other from the top
of the wall, manhandled huge blocks of stone into place,
erecting whole sections with ropes and chains, then retreated
into their own territories.
When I was a small boy attending a family wedding one of
my uncles told me a story, reciting it gravely.
A man built a new house and then found that he has a
hornets' nest nearby. He is afraid of the hornets, afraid
that they will sting him or his wife. First he takes a large
stick and beats the nest to make the hornets leave. Of course,
this only angers them and he is stung.
Next he takes a sack and wraps it around the nest to stop
the hornets from escaping. Standing back to admire his work
he hears the sound of anger growing, the buzzing becoming
furious. Pressure builds inside the sack, the walls bulge
and suddenly a small part of the cloth tears and a stream
of angry, frightened hornets stream out to attack the first
person they see.
A few weeks later the man is lying in his garden recovering
from the terrible stings and from the mocking scorn of his
wife and children when he realises that the hornets are
going about their daily business and ignoring him completely.
It was a good story, I could see that my uncle was pleased
with himself, but I had to ask: ‘Why didn't the man
use poison or set fire to the nest and kill it completely?’
My uncle looked sad and without answering went back to join
the other adults.
The building work and security restrictions make it hard
for me to reach the city on most days now. It will probably
be impossible when the wall is complete. There is very little
chance of me getting a job on this side of the new wall.
The people here are growing poorer and more angry every
day. I know that things will get much worse before they
get better and this thought makes me feel cold.
I try to switch on my television but the electricity has
been cut off again so I lie back instead and sleep. In my
dreams I see myself standing on top of the new wall. Reaching
down I pull up a young soldier from the other side and we
dance together on the ugly concrete, feeling through the
souls of our feet the rumble of approaching bulldozers.
When I wake the electricity is back on, the television is
flickering with grey snow and the sun outside is setting.
The distant rumble of machinery is real and my mouth is
full of dust.
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