The Vams

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

Some of you may find this little story a tad disturbing, you have been warned. By the way, it was written in a Texan accent, I suggest you read it in the same vein 🙂


The Vams don’t move around much during the day, we don’t know if it’s cause they don’t see too good. They certainly can smell good though, that’s why we keep the bodies in the freezers. We take them out a week before we need them, let them thaw, then we cut them up and cover ourselves in gore.

You see the Vams don’t like old blood, fresh is what they want, and the fresher the better.

All the old movies made us believe that an invasion from space would give us something to fight, something we could see. We didn’t know it would be something so small, only a microscope could find it.

It must be 25 years now, my little Ellie was three. The shooting stars had been falling all week and I came home from work to bring her out to the garden to watch them. When I pulled the truck up in the front yard, there were no lights on. I let myself in, went to the kitchen, turned on the light and there was Ellie.

She was sitting on her momma’s chest, her momma’s throat was ripped apart and Ellie had blood all over her face.

She had a look in her eyes that still wakes me screaming from time to time, I stumbled backwards and fell over the dog, his whole belly torn out. Ellie snapped out of whatever stupor she was in and lunged across the floor at me. She bit into my shoe before I managed to get up off the floor and I do believe I only just managed to get out in time before she would have killed me, just like her momma and the dog.

I guess I must have drove a hundred miles that night, and passed a dozen cars just stopped, right there in the middle of the highway. I drove clear across two counties before I noticed the gas light come on. I pulled off the interstate and found a station, open but abandoned. I went inside and found the old man who owned the place; at least I found what was left of him.

Jimmy told me I was just standing at the counter looking down at the pieces that once were the owner and I was screaming, screaming like a mad man. He watched me from outside, his gun pointed right at my head for 10 whole minutes before he came in, grabbed my shoulders and punched me in the face. I went down cold and when I woke up, he was standing above me, gun pointed and he asked, “You one o’ them devils?”

When Jimmy was sure of me, he told me what he’d seen that night. He was the Sheriff’s deputy in the next town over and well, you can guess what he saw. The Sheriff’s office started getting calls shortly after sundown. Kids gone wild, animals being attacked. It didn’t take long before humans were being attacked and that’s when all hell broke loose.

We packed up as much of the food, water and other stuff we could fit into my truck and his patrol car. We filled up our gas tanks and filled up 3 billy cans each too and we headed towards the city.

A few miles before we hit the city, the highway got choked up all to never-mind. There were bodies ripped open everywhere. We knew then, that whatever was happening was happening in the city and not just the towns. We stopped the cars and walked up the off ramp to an overpass where we could get a good view. The city was burning, the highway full of wrecked and abandoned cars, trucks, buses. The city wasn’t going to be safe.

Four of them came at us. Jimmy had given me the shotgun from the patrol car. Didn’t seem right to be shooting kids but I guess they weren’t kids anymore, not even people anymore. The biggest of them, he must have played line-backer in the school football team, he took 5 rounds before he went down, three of them to the head.

There’s four hundred of us now, living up here in the passes. Four hundred old men and old women. We have the place fixed up pretty good, it’s an old Army base, miles of tunnels and it’s easy to defend. We don’t have much cause to defend it of course; we only get a few straggler Vams up here, driven from the town and cities, looking for fresh blood. The Doc, Doctor Owens reckons they’ll start turning on each other soon enough but I don’t know. They don’t seem to breed. You get to recognise the same ones every time we go on a raid. We kill more of them now then they kill of us but there never seems to be any new ones, never any younger ones. Except that is, the ones that were young when they turned. Like my Ellie. I wonder if she’s still alive, or whatever you would call it for these things.

It occurred to the clever ones among us a couple of years after it all started, that the virus only affected people 18 years old and under. One of the ladies up here had a baby shortly after she came in and when the baby was born it damn near killed her. The baby came out with a mouth full of teeth and had bitten clean through the cord itself before Doc Owens managed get it in one of those clear plastic cribs. It lay there snarling and the poor mother, well she went mad with grief and headed off into the mountains as soon as she could after that, we never saw her again. Some brave soul tried to feed the baby milk, but it wasn’t having any of that and it soon faded away.

Since then, no babies have been born here. We’re not sure about the rest of the planet, but we guess anyone whose left will have figured out, what we figured out.

So there you go, the youngest among us is now 45 year old. If we don’t breed and the Vams don’t breed, I guess when the last of us is gone and the Vams run out of fresh blood, there’ll be no one left on this little ball in space, except maybe the virus. The doc reckons that a virus can live on for ever, maybe so.     


Not bad for an Aul Fella

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

A couple of years ago I had a bit of a health thing. Not so much a scare, more of a kick up the hole, cop the fuck on type of thing.  Anyway, I decided I needed to get my act together and started eating properly and taking excercise.

It’s all worked quite well and apart from the smokes I have to say I even surprised myself at how well I have manged to keep it up.  Normally I walk alot but given the time of year it is, I go to the gym.  Now I’m not into all that Rockey shite with the big mad weights and all but I just do a normal modest bit, start off on the treadmill, move to rowing and then go on to the machine yolks, none of which I know the name of.  Its the leg thing, the pully down bar thing, the lifty up bar thing, the pull your arms forward whatchamaycallit.

Being the OCD kind of person that I am, I do the same circuit, (I call it a circuit and I think that’s the right terminology), every time I go.  I get kind of upthight if I go to the next piece of equipment and it’s being used cause it throws me off kilter but anyway thats what happened last night.  Everytime I went to use something there were two youngfellas ahead of me so I was kind of waiting around.  The lads would move on and I would then jump in.  In the heal of the hunt meself and the two lads finished up roughly around the same time and they were walking out ahead of me.  They didn’t see me behind them so I had the benefit of sneakily listening in to their conversation.

“Jeez, did you see yer man there tonight” says bucko number 1, “yeah” says bucko number 2.  “For an aul fella, he was keeping up with us well”, says number one.

“For and AUL Fella” – for a fucking “Aul Fella”.  When in the name of Christ did this happen?  OK, so there’s more hair on me back now than there is on me head.  I don’t hear too well nowadys, modern music is, I consider, mostly crap.  I have to say that a nice glass of wine in front of the telly is much more my style these days than getting shit faced in a club, but I didn’t think it had got so bad as being an “AUL FELLA”.

What am I to do, suggestions on a postcard please……….

When I was born, the Almighty decided that instead of good looks or money, he would endow me with a sense of humour and a wit as sharp as the nib of Oscar Wilde’s fountain pen, (hey folks, give us a break, I’ve already admitted to being piss poor and ugly as sin).

In any event, whatever the man upstairs had in store for my part in the great divine plan, being somewhat funny and sarcastic were nowhere near as good as as being rich and gorgeous when it comes to being a teenager and trying to shift youngwans.

So much was my lack of contact with the opposite sex, that when, at the ripe old age of 15, (OK it was really 16), I finally got to kiss a girl, I nearly collapsed when the tongue action started.  I seriously thought there was something wrong with the poor girl and even considered that she had been taken by a seizure of some sort.

“OK, so far so good, but what has this got to do with Nelson Mandela and the Black Panthers?”, I hear you ask.  Well if you settle down, I’ll tell you.  As it happens, Nelson Mandela nearly helped me in loosing my virginity and in the process helped in building BigAlphy’s confidence with, and if such a thing is possible, understanding of; “The Ladies”.

Come with me if you will, to the dark and misty world of my teenage years.  Careful now, the light is dim, the scenery is in black and white with occasional Wizard of Oz flashes of colour.  The memories are so thick and so fast, that you have to brush them away with a flick of the hand.

Let us say her name was Kate.  Kate was fantastic, beautiful, fiery, passionate and full of fervour to right the wrongs of the world.  I got talking to her one afternoon and she suggested that I go with her to an anti-apartheid meeting the following day.  Now, I was never one for these types of gatherings.  I had once gone to a Legion of Mary meeting on the advice that it was a good place to meet girls, but you can imagine my complete disappointment about half way through the meeting when I realised the only physical contact these girls were interested in, was holding your hand during prayers.

So anyway, this anti-apartheid meeting was upon me and I decided to dress for the occasion.  On went the old scruffy jeans, the manky Adidas ROM’s, (remember them?) and a Che Guevara t-shirt.  I looked in the mirror and decided I looked too tame.  I took back off the jeans, half ripped the pocket off the arse, tore a hole in the knee to add to the “I don’t give a shit” look and reassembled myself in my new rebel without a fucking iota style.  I looked in the mirror again and thought I was the epitome of insurgent chic.  Thinking back, I probably looked more like Woody Allen in Bananas than than anything else, but youth, like love, is blind to even the most obvious things.

I found the meeting and walked in to find Kate talking to a ridiculously good looking, South American revolutionary wannabe from Wexford.  He was bearded, hopelessly taller than me and my heart sank .  I introduced myself to Beardy and after some small talk, he called the meeting to order.  I must have dozed off because I can’t remember a thing that was said until I was called upon to say something.

The only thing I could think of was some quotes from Karl Marx, (He hadn’t a patch on Groucho when it came to quotes), some platitudes about the working classes and the oppressed…..what really clinched it though was when I had run short of material, I raised my fist, Black Panther salute style and shouted, “FREEDOM, FREEDOM, FREEDOM”.  I have to say, this brought the house down, (I could see tears in the eyes of all 17 people in attendance), and I was now a hero to Kate and I suspect an enemy of Beardy.

When we went outside, Kate grabbed me, pushed me up against the wall and attempted to perform an appendectomy on me through my open and surprised big mouthy gob.

We decided to go back to her place, now don’t get excited, when I say her place, it was her parents house, which she shared with Mammy, Daddy, 2 brothers and last but not least Granny.

We sat in the posh front room discussing politics and drinking coffee, (to be honest, I prefer tea, but revolutionaries apparently drink coffee).  We were getting along really well when she reached over, took my cup, put it on the floor and dived on me.  Well as you know, I am a gentleman, so no details will be forthcoming other than to say just when it was getting really bloody interesting, the door to the posh front room burst open and in walked granny with her knitting.  “Can’t hear myself think with the telly in the other room”, she said, “you don’t mind if I sit in here with you, do you?”

Well that was that, we went back to the coffee and had a chat with granny who told me when I was going, that I was a lovely young man, still a bleeding virgin thanks to her, but a lovely young man never the less.

I went back to the meeting the following week and walked in to find Kate sitting on Beardy’s lap, laughing and joking. She waved over at me and I waved back.  I slipped back out the door when she wasn’t looking and walked home, in the rain if I remember correctly, lonely, depressed, distressed and above all horny.

So there we are, it’s nearly 30 years on, I switch on the news and hear that poor old Nelson has died. As well as shedding a tear, I smiled a little smile at my Black Panther salute.  Done for all the wrong reasons at the time I know, but there was innocence in it too and such is the selfishness of youth.  Unlike youth though, which passes away to memory, Nelson Mandela shall not pass away from memory.  He will be kept alive by his compassion, his forgiveness, his willingness to accept the past and move on from it.  We will remember him, our kids will remember him and he will inspire and instil in us, memories, some silly, some profound and a desire to be better human beings. The mark of the man, in my humble opinion at least, is that I’m pretty sure no other politician in my lifetime, will ever cause me to shed a tear on their passing.

G-D bless you Madiba, have a safe journey home.


The Laughing Cyclist

Posted: October 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Sometimes people make a lasting impression on you and you remember them long after you’ve lost touch or after they have died. Duane Delaney was such a person.  Duane was a draughtsman in my first proper job in the world of engineering and I had the pleasure of getting to know him many many moons ago.

He was happy, red faced guy, always quick to laugh his ass off.  Always quick to play a trick on someone, he ate way too much salt, by G-d did he.  He was kind and generous to a fault.  I remember once, I had a really really bad tooth ache and was sitting at my drawing board in the office almost crying with pain.  Painkillers were doing no good.  Duane was a bit of a tooth ache sufferer too and noticing, (t was hard not to), my discomfort, he went down to his bike, hopped on it and cycled home, reappearing half an hour later with various potions and salves.  “Try these” he said, “Give them about half an hour to work”.

Sure enough, within the allotted time, I was as right as rain. “Hold on to that stuff, till you get to a dentist” was what he said when I offered his medicine chest back.  That was some he didn’t have to do and the impression of it,well it obviously lasts to this day.

I mentioned he cycled home, well I’ll get back to that, Duane and his bike.  Another time at the office Christmas party, poor old Duane got so drunk I had to bring him home in a taxi because the taxi driver wouldn’t take him on his own.  I had to go “guarantor” for him.  In fairness, three pints of beer was Duane’s normal limit, drink wasn’t high on his list of priorities,which is where we get back to the cycling.

Duane was obsessed with bikes.  He was a member of the Ravens club if I remember correctly and every chance he got he was racing.  In 1992, all of us “draftys” were seconded from the company we worked for to an Irish contractor involved in the fit out of the Hotel de Las Artes in Barcelona.  Myself and another bunch of lads went out in the first and second wave of “grunts” and a few months later, more lads followed.  On the day Duane was arriving, I was (happily), dispatched to the airport to pick him up and bring him to where we were staying.  I toddled out to the airport, sat back in the bar at arrivals with that days copy of the Irish Times and had myself a few, ahem, coffees, shall we say.  Duane’s flight landed and I headed over to the gate to see him, big smile plastered across his face, strolling along…wheeling his bike.  He saw me, came over, shook my hand, I looked at the bike and said…”For fucks sake, how the Jaysus are we going to get that back to the apartment?”.

We walked over to the train station where the man looked at the bike and shook his head.  We walked back to the Bus stop where the man looked at the bike and shook his head.  We walked over to the taxi rank where the man looked at the bike and shook his head.

“We’ll have to have a drink” says I, “and give this some thought”. One, (or two), drinks later, Duane suggested I get a taxi and that he cycle along beside. I considered this, thought about the 3 or 4 lane motorway from the airport in and, well if I’m honest considered it again before discounting it.  I suggested we leave the bike at the airport and get someone with a van to pick it up later which a horrified Duane immediately discounted.  We tried out luck and the train, bus and taxi men again and then after a couple of hours, (and a few more drinks for me), Duane said, “Hey, I could just take the wheels off, look they just clip out”.  I need not tell you, I could have kicked him the length and breath of the Ramblas.

He took off the wheels and a taxi man welcomed us on board with open arms.  All the way in Duane laughed and such an infectious laugh it was. Pretty soon, both I and the taxi man where laughing our nads off and the poor old taxi man didn’t even know what he was laughing at.

Duane died in Australia in 1998.  He was knocked down while competing in a cycle race, his old cycling club hold a memorial event every year in his honour and I think no higher honour could befit him.  Duane was one of life’s genuinely nice people, as I mentioned above, a kind soul, a funny soul.  Duane, your family will always remember you, your club will always remember you and where ever you are now, I hope you know that I and your old friends from work will always remember you too.  Happy trails my friend.

Ok Folks, by popular demand, here’s the story of those missing years. Why Elaine and Jack split up and a little more besides.

The School Reunion – The Final Directors Cut 🙂

You know when you get butterflies in your stomach.  When you get nervous, looking forward to something but worried about it at the same time.  Well that’s how I found myself, standing outside the Hotel that Friday night in August.  A warm night but I stood there trying to figure out if I should leave my jacket on or take it off.  Worried about how I looked, Jesus, where did my hair go?………where did that fucking belly come from?

Gabe had just dropped me off for a school re-union, I hadn’t seen most of these people in 25 years, Christ 25 years, where had the time gone?  I stood there wishing I had a cigarette and finally I said,  “Pull yourself together man….For fucks sake, you’re a master of the universe”. I was normally level-headed, calm and cool but here tonight…I was absolutely fucking terrified.

I walked into the hotel lobby and saw a sign for the Maple room.  That’s where the fun and frolics would take place.  It was a typical function room, dimly lit and for the night that was in it, someone had hooked up their Ipod to the stereo system with a playlist made up of what seemed like every song ever released in the 80’s.  Peter, John, Martina and Joyce where facing towards the door talking to some others I couldn’t see, holding hands and drying eyes.  Various tables around the room where occupied by two or three people, nervous too I guess, not joining in the conversations.  Early enough in the evening I thought to myself, wait till the sipped beers and soda waters start turning to Gin and Tonics, Vodka and WkD’s.  I walked over to Peter just in time to catch him say “Yeah, Jack the bollix, funny how he’s never around when it’s his turn to buy a drink” Martina, ever prim and proper kicked him in the foot while I smiled.  I listened in to the conversation all the while looking at the door, waiting for Elaine.  Elaine, who I hadn’t seen in 16 years.

I went from table to table and laughed at stories regaled, stories I had never heard before and some which were all still way too close to the surface for comfort, all the while I kept an eye on the door, waiting for Elaine.

Jesus, remembering some of the things we did back then, how we weren’t killed or how at least we didn’t end up in a cell for a few hours I’ll never know.

The first holiday we went on, where we crashed the boat we’d hired and were left stranded for the night, each of us taking drunken turns at “keeping watch” and making sure the boat didn’t sink because of the Titanic sized hole in the side.

The time we “accidentally” took the hallucinogenic’s and 3 of us woke up the next day in the back of a truck, in Scotland.

When we borrowed my dad’s car, forgot to put on the hand brake and it rolled off the pier.

When in Spain, Joey drank a bottle of Johnny Walker and decided he could jump from our apartment block to the one beside it.  I was never able to look Joey’s mother in the face again.  At her funeral he cried because in a wheelchair, he couldn’t carry her coffin.

The time we got into a fight and Mick got stabbed with an umbrella, (yes, an umbrella, Jesus, you couldn’t make it up).  How in the hospital that night, while we waited to see if he was going to be ok, we tried so desperately to get three of the nurses to go for a drink with us, (Mick was ok of course and perfectly understood our over-riding need to chat up nurse’s).

Stories were told too of some of the people who hadn’t made it, I didn’t listen to those stories though and I gravitated towards the tables where people laughed, all the while watching the door for Elaine.

Probably about two hours in, as I had predicted, the carefully sipped beers and soda waters had given way to the real poisons of choice….the Gin, Whiskey and Vodka started to flow.  The room started to fill and happy memories and old gripes where shared and sorted, every so often you could catch a frown, a grimace or an eye wiped but alcohol has a funny way of easing conversation.  Pretty soon you had to try quite hard to hear that 80’s playlist humming away.

I strained my ears and just about made out Cindi singing about how she was going “to catch me if I fall”.  I looked towards the door and there she was.  Elaine.  As I walked towards her, she flicked her fringe back the way she always did, I caught my breath, the smile, the sparkle in the eye, the tilted grin, the wiggle of the nose, the way she nervously parted her lips, just ever so slightly to grab a deep breath for courage, everything I remembered.  I smiled and said “Jesus you look fantastic, you haven’t changed a bit, do you have a portrait in your attic?”  She laughed and my heart jumped, just like it always did whenever I was around her.

Watching her I remembered London, our little flat, how happy we were and then I remembered the last time I’d seen her.


We moved to London after college.  Much to her dads annoyance it must be said.  We told her parents that she was moving in with Martina and I was moving in with Peter.  Her mother knew of course but never let on. London was great back in those days, full of wonder and excitement.  The IRA treat was coming to an end and the Fucking Paddy and Bleeding Mick attitude was on the wane.  We found a great little flat near Martina and Peter and got down to the serious business of enjoying our lives.

I was working in an Architects office and Elaine was working as a copywriter in an advertising firm.  We didn’t think life could be anymore idyllic and really it couldn’t have been.  We socialised, we drank cheap wine, we went to football matches, myself and Peter took up golf and blagged our way onto courses we shouldn’t even have been allowed to caddy on.  Elaine got a promotion and to be honest, we had more money and more happiness than we really knew what to do with.

I had been really busy in work and was putting in every hour available to get a project finished. I got home one Sunday afternoon and found Elaine sitting on the sofa smiling from ear to ear.  “What has you so pleased?” I asked.  She held up what looked like a long white stick and smiled again.  “What’s that/” I looked quizzically.  “Her, take a look” she said.  I took it and stared at it.  It took me a few minutes to realise what it was, it took me a few more minutes to come to the realisation that there was a blue line near the top.

“Well?” she asked, beaming once again from ear to ear.  I sat down and stared at her.  “Well?”, she asked again.  “Well…..I don’t know” I managed to spurt.  “Aren’t you happy?” she asked, the smile faltering.  “How?” I said, “We are always so careful”.  “Nothing is 100%” she said, “you know that, are you in shock?” she asked, beaming again.

I didn’t know what to say, I sat there staring at the floor, millions of thoughts flying around in my head.  After a while I looked up at her and said, “but what about all of our plans?”  She stood up, came over to me and put her arms around my neck, kissed me and said, “We can make new plans, Jeez wozzy boy, I didn’t think you were such a chicken, we have spoken about having kids, it’s just happened a bit earlier than we expected”

“A lot earlier than we expected” I said, “What about travelling, what about getting more established in our careers, what about your parents, your dad will go fucking crazy”.

“Ah dad will be ok, he will expect us to get married of course, but hey Mr you already said you’d make an honest woman of me, now you’ll just have to do it sooner”

I stood up and went to the window.  Elaine came up behind me, put her arms around my waist and kissed the back of my neck.  “Honey, I know it’s a shock, but it’s a good shock, we’ll get through it, I think we’re ready for this”.  I swung around, “ Ready, ready?” my voice was rising and Elaine stepped back.  “I’m not ready, neither are you Elaine, Jesus we’re not ready at all”

I went into the bathroom and splashed some water on my face.  Elaine knocked on the door and when I opened it she stood there with a cup of coffee in her hand for me.  I looked at the coffee and said “I need something more than that, I need to go out for a drink”.  “I’ll just have water” she winked. “No”, I said “I need to go for a drink on my own”.  I picked up my coat and I caught her reflection in the mirror, I knew I had hurt her but being the prick that I was, I just stormed by her and banged the door on my way out.

I came back later that evening and met Martina on the stairs to our flat. “She’s asleep in bed Jack, Jesus you’re being an arsehole, don’t go into her, sleep on the sofa, I left a duvet on it for you, you better sort this out in the morning Jack, I’ve never seen her so upset”, she brushed passed me and I said, “Martina, its just that I’m not ready for this, Jesus we’re still kids ourselves”. “Well your old enough to make a baby Jack, cop on and deal with it”. “I can’t”, I replied.

When I woke up the next morning, Elaine had already left. I showered and shaved and hopped on my bike, when I got to work I rang her office to be told she’d called in sick.  I rang Martina but she wasn’t in either.  Peter called at around 12.30.  “Martina has brought Elaine to a clinic” he said.  “What?” I roared, “What clinic?”.  Peter gave me the name, it had been circled in the yellow pages by Martina that morning.  Elaine had been at their flat at 6.30.  I raced downstairs to the garage and jumped on my bike but the damn thing wouldn’t start.  I gave up after 10 minutes and ran outside to grab a taxi.

I arrived at the clinic just as Martina was pulling out of the carpark, Elaine was sitting in the passenger seat and crying. As I stood at the gate, Martina rolled down her window, “You really are a prick Jack” she said, “leave her alone”

I walked across the road to a pub and sat at the bar for the rest of the day.  At closing time I rang Peter and asked him to come get me.

It was the next morning when I realised Elaine’s things were gone from the wardrobe, the chest drawers were empty, even her shoes were gone.  I went into the kitchen and found a note propped up against the kettle.  “Goodbye Jack, I will always love you” was all it said.

I rang Martina, but she wouldn’t tell me where Elaine was, eventually I got it out of Peter that she had gone back to Dublin.

A couple of months later, I got a chance to move to New York.  The company I worked for opened an office there and there was nothing left in London for me anymore. Martina didn’t want to know me and it was causing problems between her and Peter if he saw me.  It was the best solution.


The others came to meet her and she was engulfed in hugs and kisses.

“Where’s Jack” she said to Peter.  “Jesus” he said, “you don’t know?”  “How could she”, said Martina, “she only flew in tonight.

“I’ve just come straight from the Airport” said Elaine, “My flight was late…what don’t I know?”

Martina took Elaine’s hand and said, “Jack died last night, he was at a bank machine and was mugged”….Peter burst in, “so fucking stupid, so fucking fucking stupid, they’ll probably never catch the bastard, camera wasn’t working”, he said with cracking voice and through the lump in his throat….Martina put her hand on his arm and apologised for his outburst….”there was nothing anyone could do….”

I walked up to Elaine and although I knew she couldn’t see me, I could see my own reflection in the tear that had formed in the corner of her eye.  The tear welled up, bursting with a million memories, happy and sad.

Out of the corner of my own eye I saw Gabe appear.

Gabriel, I should probably call him, he is anArchangel after all.  He beckoned me over, smiled and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Thank you for letting me be here” I said. “Hey” he replied, “least we could do for the king of the school disco” and he squeezed my shoulder.  “Very pretty lady there Jack, I understand why you wanted to be here”. I smiled, there was nothing else I could do.

“Are you ready?” he asked.  “As I’ll ever be”, I said.

I turned back towards Elaine and she and the room around her began to shimmer.  She looked straight into my eyes and I knew she could see me, she raised her hand and waved with her little finger, just like all those years ago.  Through the tears, hers and mine, she smiled and whispered “Good-bye Jack, I will always love you”


Elaine stood in the lobby, eyes closed remembering, remembering that last day together in London and all the days before it……..Martina came towards her and said “You never got to tell him”. “No” answered Elaine as her phone rang, she shook herself, looked at the screen, wiped her eyes and pressed talk.

“Hi mom, how are you, did you get to the re-union ok, did you meet this mystery man?….c’mon, give me all the goz”… Elaine could hear the smile in her Daughters voice, “Yes my daaahling Jackie” she said, “here safe and sound”.

“And what about this guy, did you see him?” asked Jackie. “Yes and no hon” replied Elaine, “Wow”, said Jackie “playing it all cool eh mom” she laughed.  Elaine let out a little sob and said “Listen hon, when I get back…….I…….we need to talk……..there are some things I need to tell you……about your……”

The old ones

Posted: April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Many years ago, a bunch of my friends went to Galway in the west of Ireland for a long weekend.  There was a woman in the Hotel who was reading cards for people.  The lads, being tanked up decided to act the fool with the woman and made a bit of a laugh out of her.  The woman, annoyed and upset, placed a curse on them.  The lads laughed but one of them, years later, confided in me that he often thought about it and it worried him.  Inspired by their adventure, here’s a little story that my over active imagination has made up about curses and the like, hope you enjoy.

The Old Ones

I was coming back from a meeting, it had gone on for hours, it had gone badly.  I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me and was dreading every minute of it.  Replaying what had happened, trying to find pointless solutions to an already destroyed plan.  “We simply don’t have the money to proceed” was all they could say, “maybe in another 2 or 3 years”.  This was my last chance though, this was make or break, no way back for me, if this didn’t happen now, I had no way out but the boat or the plane.

I was ambling along the road when up ahead I spotted an old man holding out his thumb. “Fuck it”, I thought, “maybe he’ll butcher me and I’ll have no more problems”.

I pulled in just ahead of him, flicked on my hazard lights and waited for him to reach the car.  “Where are you headed” I asked when he opened the door.  “The other side of Athlone” he said. “Hop in” I replied, “at least one of us is having some luck today”

He was old but it was hard to but an age on him, he wore a lovely tweed suit and overcoat, a Trilby hat at just the right angle, his brown shoes were shinned to a sparkle and he carried a walking stick.  The walking stick was more for show or habit though as I had noticed when he jogged up to the car, he certainly wasn’t unsteady on his feet.

“I’ve been to visit the younger brother” he said, “he’s not feeling too well, he was always the sick one in the family, although at 87 he’s not doing too bad”.  “So your brother is 87 and younger than you, how old are you then” I asked.  “91 last month” was his reply.  “Well you’re certainly in great shape” I said, “long may it continue”.

“It’s a fair old trot from the far side of Athlone”, I said, “How did you get here?”  “Oh I hitched the same as now” he replied.

We chatted as we drove along, usual stuff, the weather, the state of the country, you know yourself.  About 20 miles further on he pointed out an old ruined cottage in off the road and said, “That was my Grandmothers cottage”.  “Wow, pretty old” I responded, “Did you know her well?”  “ Ah I was raised there, my mother died after the youngest was born, and the grandmother took us in, four bothers, mad as cats, don’t know how she did it really, a great woman she was”.

“How did the house get so run down”, I asked.

He went on to tell me. “The man who owned the land wanted to knock the cottage down, he did with many of the cottages around here, he wanted to turn all the tenant small holdings into one big farm, he died before he could do it though.  His son was a drunk and pissed away all the money shortly afterwards.  I don’t know who owns all this land now”

“Where you and your brothers still living there?” I asked

“No, two of us had gone to America, meself and Tom, Peter had gone to Australia, and Davy had gotten married and gone to work his father-in-laws farm, that’s who I was with.  My name is Liam by the way”

“Please to meet you Liam”, I said and I told him my name.

“She was a witch woman you know” he said

I shifted in my seat. “What do you mean”, I asked

“Just as I said, she was a witch woman”

“What, like the wizard of Oz, wicked witch of the west type stuff?”

“No, although she could place a curse, that’s what happened to the landowner.  She made her living from witching”

“OK” I said, “You’re going to have to explain that to me”

“Well, she could make medicine from plants she grew or found in the fields.  If a cow wasn’t milking, hens weren’t laying or a ewe wasn’t lambing, she could give them medicine or cast a spell.  People came from miles around, even from Dublin and once from London to get her help. She made a living from it, because everything she did worked”

I was trying to look at him and keep an eye on the road.  He was obliviously either winding me up or was completely off his trolley.

“Ah, I don’t expect anyone your age to understand or believe it, but it’s true. There are more things going on than we can ever see, some people see them.  My grandmother could and she could use what she saw and could ask the Old Ones for advice and help”

I thought to myself; “Ah for fuck sake, no good deed goes unpunished, I give this old geezer a lift and he turns out to be wandering loon number one, just what I bleeding need”

“There’s a pub just up the road there”, he said, “I’d love a pint, if you’re not in a hurry, I’ll repay the lift with a drink”

Now I have to admit this sounded like a great idea to be honest.  Go into the pub, excuse myself after a minute to go to the bathroom and then do a runner and high tail it away from Gandalf the tweedy.

We went into the pub and he ordered a large bottle of Guinness and a Jemmy chaser, I being the law abiding citizen as always Guard, had a coffee.  Sticking to plan, I excused myself and headed for the bathroom.  Instead of turning left when I came out though and getting the hell of Dodge, I turned right and sat back down at the bar with my new geriatric and crazy friend.  He smiled as I sat down and said “Ah glad you didn’t go”; I flushed red and smiled as I nodded back to him.

“So”, I said, “tell me more about this witch woman”

We, well at least he, talked for hours.  Long enough for the barman to call time.  He told me about how his grandmother had healed bodies, minds and souls.  How she would light different colour candles on different nights of the year, bring different flowers and crops into the house at different times of the year.  Mend the wings and legs and snare wounds of different animals.  How even the local doctor would sometimes call for her help and shake his head incredulously when her medicine worked and all of his medical expertise did not.  About how women in labour insisted that she be present at the birth, much to the annoyance of the matronly and perpetually irritated local midwife.  About how the new Priest had read her out from the Alter one Sunday but had never mentioned her again when she had spoken to him after the Mass.  Instead he would always bow his head a little when he passed her and even once called to the house in the dead of night  to ask her help.  When she died, he cried the hardest at her funeral and long after the brothers had all gone, it was the Priest who left flowers on her grave every week after Sunday Mass.

“So it was all good stuff”, I said, “apart from the poor old landowner that is”

“Oh, well it depended.  Most people are good at heart, they ask for help and it’s fairly and sometimes freely given.  Some people though; the old ones know who they are and they’re just waiting for someone to ask for them to get they’re comeuppance.  It all depends though, in old times, people; some people, knew about things, it’s all forgotten now, but they are still there, all around us, waiting to be spoken too, waiting to be asked”

We headed back to the car and got headed along the road.  Liam told me about his life, his own family, and his travels.  Eventually, having passed a bend in the road, Liam told me that the lane up ahead was his stop.  To be honest my heart sank a little, I had an hour and a half to go from here and I was enjoying the company, more than I ever thought I would.  I pulled over at the top of the lane and Liam got out, I got out myself to stretch my legs.  He came around to the drivers side, reached out his hand and I took it, shaking it warmly.  There was something in my hand when he took his away, an ancient old Irish Twenty pound note.  “I can’t take this” I said, “Please take it back”.  “It’s not for payment son he said, it’s for luck, keep it in your wallet and you’ll never be short of money” he smiled and headed off down the lane.  I lit a smoke and listened in the dark night air to his heels clicking down the lane and his walking stick tapping a rhythm.

I got home about half two, the house was quiet, all asleep, I kissed the kids and pulled their duvets up under there chins.  My wife asked if I was OK.  I kissed her too and told her I would be up in a minute.  I knew I wouldn’t sleep but heated some milk and sat at the kitchen table.  Tomorrow would be a day for decisions, what next being the main one.  Everything here was in the swamp, America, Canada the lands down under beckoned.  A momentary rage passed through my mind, neither I nor any of my friends or family had destroyed the country, why should we have to pay the price for it, why should we have to leave and let those responsible off the hook?

I thought about Liam and his grandmother.  The old ones all around us, waiting to be asked.  A curse I thought, grant me a curse.  She was overall a good woman but occasionally, she placed a curse, hey, we’re all prone to the dark side as Yoda would say, or maybe he’d say “To the dark side, many of us are prone”.  So I sat and thought, tiredness enveloping me and anger simmering away.  I figured it needed to be “ye olde” type words, to show the old ones proper respect. I sat and I thought and finally found the words that I at least was happy with, my curse upon those who screwed my country……..

“In the ancient traditions of my people, I call upon the old ones, to place a curse upon the heads of the destroyers of my country.  That they may be exiled to the dark and never know the light.  That they may only know grief and never joy.  That they may ever know toil and never rest. That their hunger may never be sated nor their thirst quenched.  That they may never know peace nor love until their debt be settled.”

Yeah, hokum probably, but who really knows, can’t do any harm…………..can it?

He’s done it again, written an Album of songs that says so much about the times we live in. The unofficial poet laureate of the working classes, the put down, the fucked over, the dis-enfranchised, has said what I at least as a fully paid up member of all of the above groups needed someone to say.  I know full well that Bruce Springsteen is a very wealthy man, “a rich man in a poor mans shirt” as he says himself.  But he is the only one of my heroes who has stayed a hero to me since I was 13 and walking out of Golden Discs in Crumlin Shopping centre, birthday money spent and the “Born to Run” Album in glorious Vinyl under my arm.

In those 30 years since I bought that album and with all the albums in between he has always sang thoughts and feelings that I was too inarticulate to express.  He made me feel that the experiences of growing up on the shores of the Great state of New Jersey were not that far removed from the, (if not not mean, then slightly dodgy), streets of Drimnagh and Crumlin in South Dublin.  His songs have always been songs of redemption, anger, sometimes despair but above all……..HOPE, HOPE, HOPE.  Yes you may be in the shit, your baby may have left you, you may be headed on a down bound train, the future maybe clouded to you but there is always a new day coming, “sure as the rising Sun” and that new day will bring new chances, new hope.

I am lucky enough to be in a position to go see Bruce and the lads when he visits Dublin this July.  It will be my 16th. time to see him live.  If I hadn’t been in that position, to be honest, I would have begged, borrowed or stolen the money to get to see him.  Its that important to me.  I read a blog yesterday suggesting that Springsteen was a modern Prophet, I’m not an expert on such matters but if that means that with words and music, a man can lift the hearts and souls of those you wish to listen, if that means that a person can inspire hope in the way a religion is supposed to, then maybe he is a Prophet.  The entire E-Street band, if Bruce is a Prophet, are his disciples, they help spread the word.  That’s why I need to go, to hear the word.

I wonder what it will be like this time without the Clarence, sad and different I know. When Danny died, there was a difference, now with the BIGMAN gone there will be a BIG difference, no mind loosing sax solo on Jungleland, no voice the depth of the abyss.  When Clarence died, I cried, perhaps silly to shed tears for a man I never met but how could you not when he has been a huge part of your life, his contribution was perhaps nothing more than to ensure my musical well-being, but I guess you know now how important that is to me.

I know I have oft described Bruce as my personal Messiah, sometimes as a joke, more often as the truth, it’s not a man crush:-) in fairness he’s as ugly as sin:-), I make no apology, its hero worship, plain and simple.



Aside  —  Posted: April 8, 2012 in Uncategorized