Lady Bird

Lady Bird ★★★★★

I’m from a town called Coatbridge. It's in Scotland. Coatbridge is on the border of Glasgow and in 2001 it had the densest population of Irish Catholics per capita anywhere in the world outside of Ireland.

I didn’t know that saying prayers eight times a day wasn’t normal until I was 14. When I hear people say them on television or in films, I still pray along with them in my head. I didn't like going to mass when I was younger, but I think I’d like it now. My mum says that a lot too. Saying “peace be with you” and shaking hands with people was my favourite part of going to mass.

There are thirteen Catholic schools and four non-denominational schools in Coatbridge. I didn't really know that other religions existed when I was younger. In Religious Education class, we just learned about the things that Catholics believe.

The first time I went to confession I told the priest I took some biscuits out of the cupboard without asking. He told me to sit and think about whether I’d done anything worse. I made up a story about me being really bad and got an Act Of Contrition and ten Hail Marys. I did all ten of them but it’s okay because my grandpa gave me £30 for doing confession and that was enough to buy GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64.

At our school discos, the chaplain would whack a stick between students if they didn’t maintain a safe distance from their partner and spent many dioceses-approved dance numbers pointing flashlights into dark corners. He was furious when he caught you kissing. He caught most people doing some kind of kissing at some point in their time at our school. A few years later, the priest went on to have an affair with our head teacher and renounced his vows.

I’ve never had any kind of sex education from anyone, though it is mandatory for schools of all denominations in Scotland to teach girls about puberty and menstruation. On the day the girls in our school had to learn about all of this, the boys got to go to a local water park. My friends and I managed to beat Gauntlet at the arcade there that day and when we told our only female friend about it later on, she started crying.

A teacher once told us that having sex outside of marriage would, regardless of contraception, automatically lead to pregnancy and the contraction of AIDs and HIV. He thought AIDs and HIV were two different things. AIDs was God’s punishment for people who didn't respect the holy sacrament of matrimony. The first girl I ever slept with was from my class and I think that was on both of our minds when we had sex.

After I read The God Delusion and decided I had figured out human existence, I stopped signing after prayers and made the indisposed cross when it was time to receive communion. I always washed the ashes off my forehead because it interfered with my side-fringe. In my final year of school I was advised to leave and get a job because I wasn't engaging with the school's ethos and values.

While all my friends finished their studies, I learned to drive and got a job outside of Coatbridge. That was a deliberate decision. I liked to take people on the McDonalds Tour, which is when you drive from the McDonalds in the east of Coatbridge to the McDonalds in the west of Coatbridge and on the way you end up seeing most of the town. There were two McDonalds in Coatbridge and only one sit-in restaurant.

When I was 21, I got a job as a researcher for Glasgow University and within a week decided to move a whole ten miles away from Coatbridge with no intentions of ever returning. On the day I left, my mum gave me the rosary beads that Pope John Paul II blessed for her and said she wouldn’t be able to see me off because she had a doctor’s appointment. A few years later I found out there was no doctor’s appointment. She just went a really long walk round the loch.

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