The Shore road curves, a slender ellipse between the basalt hills and the lough that led out to sea. Not beautiful, redbrick terrace lined, a throbbing artery of the old shipyard city, birthplace of the Titanic.
The families that filled the road were many, but one. Sharing the same loyalties, flying the same flags. Strong men, stronger women, garrulous until the need for silence fell.
The road knew suffering; the Führer’s blitzkrieg reached a long deadly finger to this furthest allied defender, last stop before the Atlantic.
Undefeated, the stricken houses along the road were cleared, and jaunty prefabs filled the gaps, caps in the jaws of the tram-lined road. Young families moved in, and washing fluttered gaily from the makeshift lines of my grandmother. The train tracks laid behind the road were no deterrent to the road youngsters; a quick hop over the embankment brought them to the lough shore, the reeking summer mudflats, the flocks of gulls and the glittering prize of the chilly waters.
The tin hut homes were cleared as the fight for rights at either end of the road intensified. The money running out, brown and green scabs of rough ground left jagged smears along the curve of the road that now accommodated only cars. Waste ground recycled as scrapyards, piled high with tyres, heralded the motorway that hugged the road forever in a concrete embrace.
The blood of the Troubles sowed a bitter harvest of tears along the road. Clumsily interred beneath new supermarkets and petrol station forecourts, the homes and hopes of young lives, their own roads cruelly bypassed by a mindless sectarianism.
As I sail into the lough, a stranger in my home town, the shore is sundered from the road by an impenetrable earthwork of modernity. Visiting my aged mother, I mourn the lonely shore, the lough forever locked out, the mudflats engineered away by a cunning weir. The seabirds and the shore are a fleeting vista from the ferry and her bedroom window, nestled above the road that curves my childhood into its conflicted parabola.