Portadown one sunny day in November

One of my daughters is married to a Northern Ireland man from Portadown, County Armagh. They were off visiting the relatives last weekend and very kindly asked me to join them.

On Sunday morning as the babies slept in the pram R and I set off for a walk down to the town. We were looking forward to a cup of coffee in the Yellow Door, a great deli and cafe we had discovered the day before. It was eerie in downtown Portadown. A lone Centra was the only shop open and lucky for us they sold hot chocolate and coffee. I sat outside watching the world not going by when a gentleman came along and I asked why the shops were closed and no one was about. He explained that everyone was in church. He was on the way to a Pentecostal church himself but was just stopping by to have a cigarette for which he apologised. Nothing in the bible about smoking, I commented, and he laughed. “Ulster is the last bastion of faith in the world, I think” said the man “England used to be faithful too but now they have been overtaken by all sorts”. He seemed a nice enough man but at the hint of his racist sentiments I knew our conversation was over. Luckily R came out with our drinks and he moved on to sing his rousing hymns about loving the Lord and some but not “all sorts” of people.

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