Upon my release from hospital, I was deemed fit for active duty.
Instead of the lighter assignment I expected, I was put right back into the shit.
I wasn’t having it, and went absent without leave.
I decided to have a drink at the Royal Pennyburn hotel bar, a place which is invisible to anyone who isn’t hallucinating.
There was an Englishman sitting at the bar. Normally, I would have asked for him to be removed, because “give us us free” like the man in “Amistad” said. But I couldn’t be arsed with it.
I sat next to him.
“Dreadful weather,” he said, which when translated meant “On this day, and this day only, I will acknowledge your humanity.”
“Aye,” I replied, which was an implied consent in the face of the fact that we were about to have a conversation.
“I can detect by your accent,” he said in that Sherlock Holmesian sort of tone that some of them have, “that you are from the north of Ireland. Derry, is it?”
I just nodded. I didn’t want to correct him. We have far too many tourists as it is.
“I served in the army for five years in Northern Ireland, did you know that?”
I had no idea, and I attempted to say so, but he was well invested in his own narrative by this time.
“And you’re Catholic, aren’t you?”
“Last time I checked, yeah.”
“Do you know,” he said, leaning in a bit, “that I found you all to be a lovely sort of people. You wouldn’t guess that, would you? But I did. And it seems to me that all of your bother has nothing to do with us at all, but rather with those dreadful Scots Presbyterians.”
Again, I did not want to give him a history lesson or a geography lesson or any sort of lesson at all. I was desperate to have my drink and be on my way before ill fortune befell me.
And so I said, in reply to his statement, —
“I don’t suppose there’s anything you can do about it, is there?”
He looked genuinely taken aback and saddened.
“I’m afraid not, old boy.”
The next day I was summoned to court martial.