Ballymoney - the Cow Town World of Our Own By Clarissa McMaster
There is simply no place like it. No other place where you walk down the town and can claim to know at least 90% of the other passers-by. No other place where you can have a ‘regular’ in every coffee shop in the town. No other place where the phrase “down the street” literally refers to the entire extent of the shopping in town. No other place with as many chippys per square foot. No other place with an accent so broad that it’s a language unto itself.
There’s just something about Ballymoney that becomes a home for me. It might be small, but it certainly has community spirit for the young, the middle, and the old.
As a student at university across the water, I now spend more than half the year away from Ballymoney, and boy, is it a ‘quer’ shocker when you leave the confines of wee Ballymoney and step out into the larger world. People don’t know who each other are over there. On occasion, we don’t know who each other are here, but even on such a rare occurrence, a smile, a joke and even a handshake is often shared. In England, the custom is to watch your feet, the sky, over your shoulder - anything but direct eye contact, please! I bet they know every single hangnail and hair on their toes.
It gets worse. I walk into the coffee shop I go to everyday and there isn’t a sign of recognition. I take a moment to decide what to order. Here, they smile patiently or joke about having a few moments rest, so no rush. There, they tap their feet. Loudly. I ask what they think I should have, any suggestions?
Here, they rave about their favourite drinks and suggest being adventurous. There, they roll their eyes and say something generic like, “they’re all drinkable, so whatever you think.” I joke about how I shouldn’t have a wee bun because my spare tyre’s becoming a fully stocked tyre warehouse. Here, they laugh, scold me not to be silly and tell me that I deserve a wee treat. There, they look me up and down and nod their heads in agreement. Might be truthful, but it stings. Sullen service is their speciality. Flip, these people are paid to smile, and still I’m pretty sure no one has ever taught them how to bare their teeth in a non-threatening manner.
Ah, good ol’ Ballymoney. Sometimes I don’t think we appreciate just how wonderfully friendly our wee town is until we experience the rest of the world. Even more so, I don’t think that any place can recover once it has lost its community spirit.
Our community spirit is something valuable beyond any amounts of money, and we need to grip onto it with fervour and passion. We live in an area where people look out for each other.
If someone drops money, we help them pick it up and hand it back. There, someone either runs off with it, or turns down their nose that you deal in cash and not card. My English companions argue that kind acts are valued more highly there than here as they occur more rarely. I disagree. I believe people here value kinds acts far more highly, because here they choose to do them.
I know we’re not perfect, but we’re incredible.
We live in a world of our own and we love it. There truly is no place like home when home is Ballymoney.