Thursday, July 21, 2005

Particularly Well Oiled In The Local

I strolled into Finnegans, a Fianna Fail hub in Carlow town to meet my dad after a brief soiree on the inter-web. The owner is that classical small town species, owning everything from a funeral parlour, off licence and pub, while running the local GAA team and urban district council from the back rooms. Her husband dead, now Cis runs the show. Her sons are that typical breed, one was probably a local sports star of some merit, the other never made it further than pulling pints behind the counter while the black sheep had a youthful flurry in drug dealing and alcoholism, minor stuff really - pills and hash at the back end of the summer of love when rave hit Carlow. The black sheep now slopes behind the bar daily, his mother having him on a leash after a lucky escape from the judiciary. For the punters he’s a bit of a character and something to point their finger at as the ‘bauld lad’ turned good, a lovely chap who made a few mistakes but will give anyone the time of day. His mistake of course was he never made it out of Carlow, so his minor delinquency haunts like an Irish winter. Two pints were thrown down my throat in fifteen minutes, after one of the resident bar moles looked up and recognised me “without the hair.” He rambled incoherently for about half an hour, as I got more and more twisted on cider swallowed in gulps with an eye kept on the glass to time my visit. I’d worked with him in Minch Nortons five summers ago, shit the realisation strikes I am getting old. It was a long summer before college, with some tastes of what Carlow could be like as a home town…weekend visits to The Foundary getting screwed on over priced cider and avoiding far too many people from school, moving on to the dance floor for the monumental Mauro Picotto moments of the night where a small number of us would throw our arms in the air and wish to fuck we were some where else.

We were being ripped off, and we were ripping them off. For a month on the job, we played cards, when our only responsibility was to stick labels on bags. Copped on to this the boss put us out to clean out these vast storage units where grain had been stored for at least two centuries. Anytime his bespectacled face went out of view we immediately sat down on the job and skived, dumping dust masks across ditches and making our excuses to go up town and get more, more dust masks and more time to skive. We’d start work at 8am, fucking lines of tractors tailing the gate of the plant and me hopping up and down off every single one of them to take samples of corn. We were paid for an eight hour shift, but worked twelve hours a day. We didn’t know it but in the back ground the bar mole made the threat of the union, and ensured we got a whack of back pay at the end of the season, the equivalent of nearly a month and a half in wages. He was a skiver as well, any of us that worked nights were aware that he’d spent half his shift in the pub, while the other half he covered for us while we fucked off to a club.

A woman down the road knows a song here father wrote, the local equivalent of the digger song. Her home smells of cheap buns with chocolate on top, tiffin squares and triangular sandwiches, all the simple pleasures and a fire that never stops burnings. After the war of independence, her father and some local men squatted a piece of land up the road and started to plough it when in came Haney’s men, remnants of an aristocratic class than had lost nothing but their titles and beat them off it. Some were jailed and died there, but the memory in the area among a particular generation is very real. Passed down in an oral tradition of song whenever people get particularly well oiled in the local.

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