28 January 2006

Robin Livingstone

Daily Ireland

Trevor economical with parking ticket’s chronological truth

BY Robin Livingstone

I got my first parking ticket on Wednesday, and I deserved it too. Antrim Road is a clearway up to 9.30am and I parked outside the North Belfast News office at 9.25am.

The Trevor who gave me the ticket clearly didn’t want his colleagues in collection thinking he’s an absolute bastard, so he put 9.10am on the ticket. But at 9.10am, I was gridlocked on the Falls Road listening to Ryan Tubridy.

That’s the thing about Trevors. Telling porkies is second nature to them. They do it even when they don’t have to. They’re nearly as good at it as the Donegal gardaí. The first time a Trevor threatened to kill me was when I was a cub reporter covering a story in the Rodney district of the mid-Falls. There had been a shooting and, when I turned up with a photographer, this bloke with a machine gun stopped me and asked me who I was.

When I said I was with the Andersonstown News, he didn’t take it well. He didn’t take it well at all.

What he did was tell me to clear off and mind my own f*@#ing business. Sticking out my chest and drawing back my shoulders, I told him I was entitled to speak to the people milling around behind the tape. At this point, he lifted the barrel of his machine gun a couple of inches and said: “That’s what you’re entitled to there, you cheeky c*#t.”

If the truth be told, I was secretly delighted. There’s nothing more rewarding than having your worst prejudices confirmed, which is why a little bit of me dies every time a Trevor is nice to me these days.

I walked over to a Land Rover and asked who was in charge. After a couple of minutes, a Trevor with some stripes appeared and asked if he could help me.

I motioned him to follow me and walked the few yards to where the Trevor was still standing. With a suitably melodramatic flourish, I pointed at him and said to Stripes: “That man just threatened to kill me.”

Whether what the bloke had said to me qualified as a death threat in the strictest sense of the phrase, I’m still not sure but the die was cast.

“What did he say to you, sir?”

“Ahem, he said I deserved to get shot.”

At this point Trevor decided to defend his good name. “No, I didn’t.”

“Okay, you lifted your gun and said: ‘That’s what you deserve, you cheeky c*#t.’”

“Sarge, I never said anything of the sort.” Sarge’s leadership qualities kicked in.

“Would you like to make a complaint, sir?”

I’d say people these days are quite happy to make complaints about the PSNI but, back in the ’80s, “Would you like to make a complaint, sir?” was Trevorspeak for “Leave now or, believe me, very bad things will happen to you”.

Getting on the wrong side of the RUC meant that a file containing your photograph, name, address, drinking haunts, car details and inside-leg measurements would end up being passed around a UDA shebeen on the Shankill before you could say “quis separabit”.

And so I walked off. Trevor’s compromise was to allow me to pass through the tape to talk to residents. As I looked back, both Trevor and Sarge were smiling broadly as they talked.

All things considered, I think I’m better off in 2006 with the mistimed parking ticket.


Doggone weird-looking

Is it just me or does everyone have a Staffordshire bull terrier on a lead this weather? Walking along the Andytown Road the other day, it was as if half the population was on its way to a Staffordshire bull terrier dog show that nobody had told me about.

I’m all for people out walking dogs — better than lying on the settee watching Big Brother or playing online poker until four in the morning. But I must admit to being biased against Staffs, ownership of which I include in the same category as Burberry baseball caps, tracksuits, unfeasibly large hoop earrings, scrunchies, Rockport jackets and chunky gold necklaces.

If it’s true what they say and a dog really does say something about its owner, I guess the Staff is meant to say: “I’m a hard man.” And when the owner puts a harness around the dog’s chest instead of a lead, then that’s probably meant to say: “I’m a really hard man.” As some really hard men were fond of saying when I was a boy: “Aye, son, hard on the nappies.”

What my brother’s dog says about him is another question. He owns a rat-tailed Irish water spaniel, which I suppose is best described as an oversized poodle. With its hair in a bun.
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia describes the Irish water spaniel as “the ‘clown’ of the spaniel family”, which, if you look at the picture, is not far off the mark.

While the dog has a thick curly coat, its long tail is completely hairless, which tends to put people off even more than the bun does. The big fella can swim for Ireland, though — not surprising when you consider that the Irish water spaniel has slightly webbed feet.

My brother lives up the country — just as well, really, because that dog needs a lot of exercise and a lot of water. I think I’ll drive up there next week and borrow the dog for a while. I’m planning to take him for a walk along the Andytown Road just to break the monotony of the Staffordshire bull terriers. I’d say I’ll get some funny looks, what with no tracksuit, no baseball cap and a dog that looks like a clown.

A few years back, I was with my brother and the big dog walking the fields around Lough Neagh in search of some decent shooting. We were about to cross a pheasant- infested boreen when a small family saloon stopped and an elderly man waved us across with a smile.

It was Jim Molyneaux, the former Ulster Unionist Party leader, who owns a fair chunk of land on the lough shore and who is quite the country type. What he would have thought if he’d known the fellas with the funny dog walking his land were from the Falls Road I’m not sure.

I’d say he would have been fairly relaxed about it. But I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t have smiled if we’d had baseball caps and a bull terrier on a harness.

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