triangular 'no-entry' road-sign reads "Sniper-at-work". We entered
the threatened junction, heading towards the border between North and South,
our destination, Crossmaglen. A peaceful spot, with friendly people, and
at that time, only last year, overshadowed by the monster in the photograph,
a heavily guarded police station, (they say the brute has now come down,
although most police stations in Northern Ireland are still well-protected
against mortar attack, but perhaps not quite such an eyesore as this. (Imagine
living in the house next door!)
Under the monster's watchful
gaze, we strolled onto the village green to take photos of the historical
statue there, and shortly became aware that we were being surrounded by
an armed patrol of soldiers of the British Army. At the same time a full
class of primary school children, (perhaps the whole school) appeared on
the Green, finished with their lessons for the day. Seeing us with the
camera, they shouted, "don't photograph him, (the statue); photograph him!
(one of the soldiers). My friend being new to this Country, was nervous.
There was something about photographing a soldier holding a gun with live
ammunition, and looking straight at you, with a ruthless soldier's expression;
something that would make anyone nervous. I told him to take the picture,
it was OK, he was just on patrol, doing routine work; soldiers were used
to tourists with cameras.
The picture was taken as
Leaving the village, we strolled
in the warm afternoon sun without mishap down the lane to the large Catholic
Church, examining with some fascination the burial ground and its extensive
family graves. A visit to the Border was still to be made, and this posed
another real or imagined hazard to life and limb. A large sign quite simply
said, "BRITS KEEP OUT!" We are both Brits., could this sign have applied
to us? Had not the peace process been in existence for nearly seven years?
The car was presently safe and secure in the village parking area. We put
these thoughts to one side, turned the car into the lane which ran right
underneath the steel monster of authority and headed towards Borderland.
But the Border was of supernatural origin and although we knew quite well
once we had reached the main roads of the Republic, we could find no trace
of a dividing line, this Border had no physical existence. My companion
said, "is this what all the fighting has been about?"