Birthday Boy: September 11th, 1973

Dad came down the path, kicking the fallen leaves aside before entering the house. I ran to greet him with my new crash helmet on, showing off my breakdown truck at the same time. Birthday presents. Suzi Quatro’s 48 Crash faded out on the radio and Rock On by David Essex followed ahead of the news. Dad loved the former, Mam the latter. Essex looked down at us from the new poster like Jesus Christ Superstar, dizzy perhaps, from staring at the concentric circles on the psychedelic wallpaper that surrounded him.

The news headlines came on.

“Chile is facing a military coup today. The port of Valparaiso is already in the hands of military rebels. Tanks are rolling through the main streets of Santiago. Snipers are crouched on roofs around the presidential building. President Allende is making a stand inside the palace. He and his supporters are not going to relinquish power without a struggle.”

We had our special tea of mince, tatties and peas smothered in ketchup. By the time I’d scoffed down my ice cream and raspberry sauce, Allende’s body lay cold with blood oozing from a gunshot wound. Possibly self-inflicted. Allende and his supporters had faced calls to surrender. With limited weaponry, it was a battle they were never going to win.

British-built Hawker Hunter fighter jets with Rolls Royce engines had flown overhead and bombed the building. The palace resembled a scene from World War Two with flames belching from the windows and a pall of black smoke rose high in the air.

Did anyone really care that a democratically elected president had been removed in this way? Few people even knew where Chile was. My parents might’ve had a glance at this story in the morning papers, but like most of the country, they were more interested in the search for the bombers who had attacked Manchester and London. Oblivious to all this, my only concern was what Big Bird would be up to in the next episode of Sesame Street.

Page 1 of the novel Countries of the World.

© Steven Porter/Breogan Books, 2011


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