I was young, in west Cork, in the sixties, a journalist, staying in digs with other people my age, some young, some not so young, a school teacher, a creamery manager, Billy the baker and other people, all male except the seventy year old landlady and her niece, great talkers and great fun one and all.
Billy the baker is a case in point. He was from Goleen, a God forsaken place that seemed to have only one house in it, Billy and his mother’s, when he wasn’t staying in the digs. Great conversations would be had in the front room.
Billy – Seanie O’Donovan is paying attention to yer young wan out of Slattery’s. He do be going op there of an evening for tay and thing.
The schoolteacher told of a woman, saying she was said to be a good thing.
A voice – Buke airly. (West Cork for book early).
There was an election on and the main party had a slogan, stability.
Billy – Sta-bility. Sta-bility. What does it mean, anyway?
Me – Keeping things the same.
Billy – Sure who wants to keep things the same?
Billy had brains.
On my first night there we sat around the table in the kitchen. The landlady took a boiling fowl out of a saucepan for dinner.
Billy – Wha’ happened the cock?
Billy and the landlady’s niece used to sit in his car on the main street in the evening watching people walk up the road, commenting on everyone.
Billy – That’s one of the Kelly’s from out the Cross. He’s a bad lad.
He would say, that fella bought a tractor from Kinsella the other day.
The Niece – It’ll never work.
I sat with them one night. I was bored out of my mind. Billy seemed to know every third person. Gossip to beat the band.
They certainly could drink in that town. And so could I. One night I came back from a pub up the town, stepping over the bodies of six or seven people outside pubs on the way down. I said this when I got back. Could they not have the decency to lie in against the wall so you don’t have to step over them? Billy was shocked at what I said, he was easily shockable. But a great character.
I won’t forget my west Cork days.
A lovely place and great people. I flew the flag for Dublin there for two years until drink and a girl got the better of me. A fatal combination. I hope her father forgave me. I left town just in time. Back to mother.
When I was new in town a fatherly publican said he was expecting great things from me. I said, why? He said because of how you talk.
I talk better than I write, I said. I have a tongue in my mouth, not a pen.
Did you hear that he said, to all and sundry.
I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Except when listening to the others.
Many of them now on the roll call of the dead.
Sure I’m nearly dead myself.
But I have seen Heaven.
5th April, 2016