The Sunday Observance Committee (and my manhood)

When I was growing up in Northern Ireland during the 70’s and 80’s we had this self styled group of religious zealots called The Sunday Observance Committee. It was organised by some of the more right wing elements of the Protestant churches and this group took it upon themselves to make sure everyone observed Sunday as a day of rest, going to church and bible study. I believe in Iran today there is the same sort of religious police but our Sunday Observance Committee didn’t have any legal powers, though if given the choice I suspect they would take to chopping off transgressors hands with great gusto – especially if it was the hand you masturbated with.

What they did instead was write to their local counsellors and MPs (in their thousands) and make sure that Sunday trading was never allowed. They were determined that we would all sit at home and be just as miserable as them. They’d write long damning letters in the local newspapers and woe-betide you if you even mentioned relaxing the trading laws because there would be a protest march outside your house and next election you would be out on yer arse. They were well organised and held great sway over the local councils and local MP’s, so on Sunday all the main shops on the High Street were closed and only local newsagents were open so you could buy the Sunday papers and a pint of milk…

This had some unexpected consequences, it meant that you couldn’t go to your local WH Smiths to buy a Bible but you could go to your local newsagent and buy a Playboy  (apparently!) And all the bars and clubs were closed but you could go into a hotel and buy a drink there as usual.

Since everything was closed on Sunday we had now’t to do all day but sit on the sea wall people watching and flirting with members of the opposite sex..  Bangor, a town where I misspent a disproportional large amount of my youth has a long promenade, Queens Parade (yes, we used to snigger about that name too) and this was the only place for us teenagers to hang out. The promenade sea wall was very long and occasionally the sea would crash up against it with some force and huge waves would come roaring over the top but that was the only excitement.. least until one Sunday afternoon when I was desperately trying to be cool and impress the girls sitting on the sea wall chatting and giggling away.

I like to stand out and not follow the crowd so I wore my new tracksuit bottoms, I looked especially cool as everyone else was in the bog standard Levi’s, and I’m chatting away with my friends when unbeknownst to me, Carl, my friend came up behind me and thought it would be a ‘jolly good jape’ to pull my bottoms down. So he did and managed to pull my bottoms down all the way to my knees in one swift movement. Unfortunately for me, he also managed to accidentally pull my boxers down as well, not intentionally but it happened. I swore very loudly and pulled my boxers and bottoms up almost as swiftly as they went down but it was too late, my friends all laughed and then, much to my dismay, there was this Mexican wave of laughter *all* the way down Queens Parade..

I was mortified, my fishing tackle had only been swinging in the sea air for milliseconds but that was long enough, the girls beside us were having hysterics laughing and the wave of laughter just spread out further and further down the promenade.. I wanted a big hole to open up and let me jump in. My street cred totally gone, I had to walk the entire length of Queens Parade whilst everyone pointed at me and laughed. It was many many years before I could go back to Queens Parade.

That was one Sunday Observance I would have been more than happy for everyone to miss!

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