Of the Bridge Inn, Drumgor, Craigavon, teenage drinking and Buckfast
Posted on February 10, 2015
I’ve been revisiting the Bridge Inn of late. No, this is not a reference to hellish Dry January being over (not that I partook. I did try, but found My Creativity stifled. Watch the blogs from February gallop forth.)
Instead, I’ve been having a good rummage through the drawers of nostalgia (that’s a valid phrase), and – which makes me feel all fuzzy – been able to see photographs of places my character Lisa had scenes at in Taste the Bright Lights. This may be a long post...
It started with the pic above, when my phone buzzed saying I’d been tagged on Facebook:
A few people replied, they knew me and that was indeed the Bridge Inn in my Craigavon website photo.
Here I must explain the Bridge Inn. As readers of Taste the Bright Lights will know, the novel starts when Lisa and her friends are drinking out of doors there, a space in Craigavon where the first part of the novel is set. It’s a bridge. At least, it’s what we called a bridge.
It was probably an underpass. But to us it was a bridge, because there was a space underneath it, and this is where we drank. That's it on the right. Ain't it pretty?
I had many tipsy nights there. I drank my first Buckfast there. I, er, did other stuff there. I tried to put on a sober face for the first time in my life to a peeler there - although unlike Lisa, I didn't get lifted.
I drank there on weekends home from university too until well into my 20s, and I didn’t care that I was now old enough to drink legitimately in a pub.
I thought it was just me and my mates who'd got regularly tipsy in the Bridge Inn, and it was Very Heartwarming Indeed to then follow Jim Tom's excellent 'I grew up in Drumgor and loved it' Facebook page. (I'd link but the group is private; however, I'm fairly sure Jim won't mind requests to join.)
The pic on lauracanning.net was taken by my other half on his first trip to Craigavon in August 2014, when he was bemused by my dragging him out for a walk because ‘you must see the Bridge Inn’, only to find it wasn’t actually a pub.
Many other graduates of the Inn then started putting photos up, and the result on the Facebook page is a social history document about growing up in the 80s and 90s in a ‘new town’ and in Northern Ireland. As above, it’s also where Lisa had her first scenes. (Some info on Craigavon as a new town here; blog coming soon.)
So. Some pics of Drumgor, Craigavon, and Lisa’s world for readers of Taste the Bright Lights. (I’ve been filtering pics in blogs to black and white based on the excellent advice of my excellent Web Person, but am keeping these in colour, to show the Bridge Inn and surroundings at their very best.)
The pic above and on the right are of the bridge at Clonmeen, the estate I grew up in and where we also used to partake of our Buckfast of a Saturday evening. The one on the left, taken towards the edge of the Clonmeen bridge, is where I always imagined Lisa standing when she was having a smoke and saw a peeler sliding down the embankment on an officious mission.
The pic on the right, pointing in the same direction but at the entrance to the bridge, is where the other peeler would have slid down the other embankment in an ambush. ‘They must learn ambushing at peeler school,’ Lisa muses. Quite, Lisa. Quite.
This is the (now closed) off-licence Lisa and her mates bought the drink from before adjourning to the Bridge Inn. Blimey it looks rough now. We didn’t care. As Jim Tom says: ‘Bucky, Scotch Mac, Mundies etc, you name it they sold it. They sold it we drank it!’ We did.
I hear there was a cannabis dealer on the Burnside estate ten minutes’ walk from here, where people would call in before/after obtaining their drink, to maximise the forthcoming night’s potential enjoyment...
Next is Drumgor pub – the building to the right beside the man in the white shirt. It doesn’t feature in Taste the Bright Lights – although I imagine Lisa’s ma and stepda drank there – but I had to include it as a) it is a pub with barbed razor and wire; and b) I passed it at least twice daily, as Lisa would have, for at least a dozen years.
In front of the pub are ‘the shops’ – Dessie’s (newsagent), the Spar (now Costcutter), occasionally a chippie, occasionally a hairdresser’s (they were shit) and usually a video shop. We got videos of The Simpsons there. Videos. Of The Simpsons.
Lisa’s house is in the next pic. Of the two rows of houses, I lived in the row on the left, towards the top and in front of the blue car. This is Lisa’s house too (I never claimed to be visually imaginative).
After the Bridge Inn scene and getting caught by the peelers, it’s the hallway her stepda throws her across. The front bedroom window is the one she looks out of when Nicola throws stones up at the glass one night. It’s the one Lisa packs a bag in to run away when she is nine.
Below on the right is the bus stop Lisa and Nicola wait at to get the bus to Belfast when they’re running away. It’s just behind her house, so her stress levels are up to ninety.
The bus comes from the shopping centre – part of a scene in Taste the Bright Lights II – and as any Drumgor resident will know, arrives at twenty minutes past the hour. Usually.
The last pic, below to the left, is of the Curly Wurly Bridge, a term that bemused my Essex beloved until he saw it with his very own eyes and said Ah.
Many people who went to St Anthony’s Primary crossed the Curly Wurly Bridge from the Drumgor Heights, Enniskeen and Clonmeen estates to get to the school. When I was eighteen my friend and I climbed over the railings and walked on the outside ledge of the bridge while out of our heads on the Buckfast. A police car stopped on the road below and we legged back over the railings and legged it. I had blue paint scrapings on my Docs for three years.
A slightly epic post. But done to a) say thanks to Jim for the group; b) say thanks to everyone who posted pics; and c) show where Taste the Bright Lights’ Lisa grew up and drank.
Hope to see former regulars at the Bridge Inn soon - the Drumgor 2015 Reunion kicks off there on 11 April...