Home is where the heart is, and for author Colin Bateman there is something about Bangor that keeps drawing him back.
Despite not being shy about calling out its flaws - "the centre of the town is such a disaster area really" - the 60-year-old holds out hope that the seaside town can turn its fortunes around.
And it's his memories of the town growing up that form a central part of his newly released memoir, Thunder and Lightning: Life on the Tough Cul-de-Sacs of Bangor.
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From teacher punishments which would raise more than a few eyebrows these days, to what life was like growing up during the Troubles in the relatively unscathed town.
"It was literally like 12 miles away [from Belfast] but it was like a different world," said Colin.
"We were exposed to the Troubles 24 hours a day by the news but we weren't actually experiencing them, yes we had bombs, murders and things but compared to everywhere else we did OK. There was none of that fear, there was none of that expectation of violence so it was kind of idyllic."
He added: "We didn't have a bad Troubles, we had incidents but it didn't have any of the relentless violence that other places experienced.
"I was doing an event with Maggie Taggert from the BBC and she was saying when she was working there would be a bomb on the Friday and then you would have completely forgotten it by two days later because there had been something else. Whereas in any sort of detail I can remember one bomb in Bangor in 1992 and I can remember lots about it because it was such a rare occurrence."
The Divorcing Jack author said he would have been an entirely different writer if he had grown up in Belfast or Derry and says to him the town is home, somewhere he feels very safe and very familiar.
When it came to putting pen to paper for a memoir, it was something completely out of the former journalist's comfort zone and only really came about thanks to an event by the local festival Open House and the time lockdown provided.
"I was asked by the local festival, the Open House Festival who I work with quite a lot, they were in a bit of a hole because they were doing an event called tenx9, nine writers were asked to tell a true story that lasted 10 minutes and read it in public and they were short of writers," he said.
"So they came to me, it is a festival I have worked with for a long time and know very well, [they said] would I step in and help out. Initially, I said no because it's not really the sort of thing I do, I write fiction. But they kept at me.
"Finally I caved in and wrote this 10-minute piece and like everyone you say to yourself, I could never write a memoir because I could never remember anything, it's all gone. It's funny once you remember one thing that leads to something else and something else and something else. I ended up wiring this 10 minute piece, performed it, it seemed to go down really well.
"That I thought was the end of it but I kept thinking, 'Well I haven't quite finished that part of the story'. So I thought I would finish what became the first chapter of the book. I was only ever to write that one piece but then lockdown happened. Ninety per cent of what I do now is working in TV and films and things like that, so that kind of dried up during lockdown so I took another look at the chapter I had written and just kept going."
He added: "I think the difference between writing a memoir and writing a history of the time is that it is my version of events, it is not necessarily what happened, it is how I remember it happening and I am sure there are people out there who might contradict some of the stories in there but it is what I remember.
"It is a mixture of memories and then you say to yourself, 'When did it actually happen' and you go and looks it up in a local history book and prompt something else. It is an endless series of connections really."
And the book has already got the seal of approval from Hollywood actor Liam Neeson whose endorsement adorns the front cover - "I couldn’t put it down … Mr Bateman writes with such truth and deceptive simplicity, and always with a smattering of good oul’ Ulster humour!"
The pair first crossed paths back when Colin was casting for The Journey, the film he wrote the screenplay for on the relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.
He recounts finding himself in the Ballymena man's luxurious apartment in overlooking New York's Central Park as Neeson and Belfast's Kenneth Branagh read for the parts, which ultimately went to Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney.
"I met him in the early days of casting for The Journey I went over and saw him in his apartment in New York and then Kenneth Branagh came in because he was originally going to play Martin McGuinness and they sat and read the script to each other which was a bit surreal to tell you the truth," he said.
"He has been good enough to stay in touch with me over the years and very, very occasionally we would exchange an email and I thought he might enjoy the memoir so I sent him an early copy of it and a lot of people may just give you a quote and not bother looking at it but he had clearly read the book which is nice as well."
While his book looks back at Bangor in what would have been its seaside resort heyday, Colin hopes there are better days ahead for the now city which has dominated headlines over the last few decades for a lack of action on the redevelopment of Queen's Parade, which work is now due to start on in 2023.
"There's an old expression, 'It's the hope that kills you'," he said.
"I am looking forward to it, I think there are great plans. I was in the new Court House building and it is fantastic so there's great potential. It is a low bar at the moment because the centre of the town is such a disaster area really.
"The thing is, you can not turn the clock back, I think I have a line in the memoir somewhere that says Bangor was a big holiday resort until planes were invited and then it started to go downhill from there."
He added: "I have always had a problem with there being a Marina in Bangor, I have never seen the point of it whatsoever to take away the one thing that is attractive about the sea front, it's the sea. But you can't go back, they are not going to remove the marina so let's hope this new venture they are planning transforms what we have."
Colin's next book, which is doing the rounds with publishers at the moment, is called the White Widow and is loosely inspired by how British ISIS member Sally Jones adopted the front cover of his first book.
"When my first book Divorcing Jack came out in 1995 it had a very distinctive cover which was a nun with a gun and a Jack Russell under her arm," he said.
"It became very famous at the time, it was a new style of cover. Fast forward quite a few years and I was reading the Times one Saturday morning and I saw the image from the book on page three, not the title, just the image the nun with the gun. It turned out it had been hijacked by Islamic Republic, there was a woman called Sally Jones, English originally, apparently a punk rocker back in the day.
"I don't know if she was a fan of the book or if she just liked the cover but she converted to Islam, radicalised and moved to Syria, joined ISIS, became their top recruiter of young girls to basically go out and marry ISIS fighters and also ran a battalion of female fighters out there. She was also very active on social media and she used my cover as her calling card really.
"It was a very weird experience to know something you had created was being used to lure women to their death basically. She herself was eventually killed, she and her son were killed by a US drone strike.
"So I have written the novel about, it is a work of fiction, what would happen if a writer had a previous relationship with this woman and she became this international terrorist and he was dealing with the consequences of that. So it's a big thriller type book, it is doing the rounds at the moment.
"Apart from that I am always working on TV and film stuff, I don't really talk about it because the reality is if you are a screen writer, 99% of what you write never gets made and that is just the way of it. Even the most successful screen writers, most of what they write never gets made so it is hard to talk about things which people may never see."
"I have something in the works which may be filming before Christmas here which would be a huge thing if it happens but I am not counting my chickens until it actually happens. I have been down that road too often."
Colin's memoir, Thunder and Lightning: Life on the Tough Cul-de-Sacs of Bangor, is out now, published by Merrion Press. He will launch the book with an event at The Court House in Bangor on October 29.
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