if only – no chance – really

Castleknock, Dublin, sometime in September 2008, mid-night

Brian, Brian, wake up, shakes him gently.

Trish what, what time is it?

There’s someone at the door. Sounds like a couple of people.

Gets up, looks out window,

Oh God it’s the lads from the department. Go back to sleep love, I might be a while.

Come in, come in. I’ll put the kettle on, we‘ll use the kitchen. So… it must be serious lads, you’re both ashen faced.

Yes Minister, the central bank hasn’t stopped ringing and more from Sean Fitz. They’re in big trouble.

Right, right, but we knew this already, sure there was a run on the deposits in the past weeks. What’s the issue now?

They’re broke Minister, they’ve nothing left and the Germans are looking for their money.

Brian stands up, gets the kettle and pours hot water into the pot, rinses. Three tea bags, fills it and brings it to the table, sits down.

We’ll let it draw a while.

Okay, we’ve already spoken about this and voiced our concerns, as recently as yesterday so, what exactly is needed from the Irish Government at this point?

They want us to bail them out Minister.

Pours three cups.

 Milk and sugar?

Takes a sip and looks at Ireland’s two most senior department of Finance officials sitting in front of him.

Gentlemen, as I’ve told you many times before, I was elected by the good people of Ireland whom I now represent in Government. I serve no purpose other than to articulate their interest. With a very small exception, a tiny exception, none of these people hold Anglo Irish accounts. None gentlemen. I mention this by way of explanation as to why this government has no intention of intervening in this bank’s problems. Be clear about this in your communications to the central bank and to Mr. Fitzpatrick. At today’s cabinet meeting Brian Cowen made it clear to me and the other department heads that we are a party of the people, elected by the people and whose mandate comes from the people. Our voters have nothing to do with this bank, so why are you persisting with this line of enquiry.

Minister, there will be a run on other banks too; we believe AIB is similarly over-exposed. When the people look for their money, there will be none left and civil unrest will follow.

Once again Gentlemen, this Government is not about to gamble the public purse on the outcome of a crap shoot by the canal bank. They invested, they gambled and when they won they shoved it into my constituents with their vulgarity and extravagance. My constituents did not profit in the good times, not one iota. And now the tide has turned, as we advised it would on numerous occasions in the past 18 months, now the banks come calling with their begging bowls.

No gentlemen, once again no, no to Anglo Irish and no to Allied Irish. We will look at trying to provide a rescue package to those owner occupiers who are most at risk, some sort of compensations scheme which would allow this unfortunate negative equity group to move house and not be bankrupted in the process. Beyond this, nothing.

Minister, I implore you to reconsider. Europe will not look kindly on this. Look you know the pressure we came under after the last farrago.

Europe, what has Europe got to do with Ireland managing its own affairs. This is an internal matter not a federal issue. The Taoiseach has spoken at length with his European counterparts and explained how this situation is a specific and clearly differentiable problem, set apart from Ireland’s central economy. He named the companies involved, both of you know the ten names, the ten entities at the root of this problem.

Yes, there will be a run on the banks. The run on Anglo is not a state issue. Allied Irish bank will be a concern but on the balance of probabilities, it is better that this Government sits on its hands for the moment and is also clearly seen as taking a stand against these mercenaries.

But Minster, the riots, the chaos, the confusion, the markets………..

This Government has a finite capacity and resources. We have five million citizens. The world economy is making an adjustment right now and we must be vigilant over the coming months and years managing our scarce resources for the benefit of all our people. We cannot afford to bail or guarantee these banks who so carelessly gambled with their share holder’s equity. The Irish economy is not a casino.

How will we trade Minister?

Gentlemen it’s late, please. There will be a queue of banks waiting to take the places of those foolish enough to have gambled. Not all are similarly as exposed, either here at home or elsewhere. Our economy is not 100% dependent on building houses, apartments, hotels and shopping centres. Do the math please. It might be 10%. No gentlemen, the captain has turned on the seatbelt sign, there’s turbulence up ahead yes, but only that.  

But I was world class.

Last Saturday afternoon, Maximus Decimus Meridius walked by me and down through our Tuscan meadow back garden, his hands palm down brushing the corn.  

Or it might have been the eldest boy, wrapping and unwrapping himself in the drying clothes on the line, saying that he could feel and smell each of us, which is slightly pervy  ‘cept he’s fourteen and in that sensorial, transition place.  

I’m more than slightly jealous and though I was a world class athlete, lacking only talent, speed and coordination, it’s not this I deny him, it’s the sensorial, the alive and the emotion which I envy.


But I was world class.

At arriving on time, with clean socks and boots, and being a good domestique, with team spirit, tons of that. How I miss the tear squeezing winter greened, dressing room before the match, and the coach with his team list and us sitting, waiting and wanting,

Tog off, tog off, fuck off (pointing at me).

And give your boots to him (pointing at the hung-over but talented arriviste)

But he seems to have more.

The FAI are interested and that’s good for him, an emerging talent programme, his mother’s flair and speed but my ability to tie his shoe laces accurately.

There is no more drying until May 2011. The electric bill goes mad with the tumble dryer and the innovation of getting clothes arrives in a monsoon.


Work is still that thing which my father went to in the mornings with a packed lunch and flask, freshly shaved, smelling of soap and would finish just before tea when he arrived back home. I’ll always associate that acrid bo smell and rolled up sleeves with fatherhood. He was a sparks in Inchicore and was one of the few to witness Brendan Behan bellowing like a bull outside some early house. I remember his 50 cc Lambretta with bicycle pedals, springy single saddle, and huge flared gloves. No helmet or goggles though. He bought it for £25, second hand and it was the better option to a couple of early morning bus journeys. He blames it now for his arthur. 

The man next door was a painter with ladders and pots in his garage and a roof rack on his car when cars were rare. They had a phone too and a permanent procession to use it and I still remember the number. In the next house down, the man was a mechanic with a oily stain on the driveway and across the road a milkman and beside him a binman. Work was about painting and mechanicing and lifting bins and building stuff. Work was smelly and physical and masculine and honest. There were no bosses living on our road, no fancy gates or ornamental gardens. There was no excel or paranoia and the men where huge and unafraid. We’d be racing round the block and they’d stop and see who was fast or fall in for a game of football. Mr O’Rourke was a cooper in Jamesons and got a bottle every fortnight. He loved playing cards, solo, and all the men used to go his house.

I don’t work and never have worked save that time in London or Stuggart when I shoved concrete around a summer. I’m part of the “cost of goods sold”, that part between the purchase price of raw materials and the selling price to the punter. Part of the labour and overhead, I’m a percentage calculation applied to something and added to something else to arrive at a selling price.  I’m left behind after the profit is repatriated to sunny California. I’m not designed to do what it is they ask of me, optimizing and economizing, profit making and price reducing.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to have a gig right now, to be able to look after my family and live in this godforsaken country unlike those who have been fucked over and turfed out by the same system I work in , the optimizing and cost reducing bastard which pushes work further and further east.

Once I split my head on a slab of concrete and a workman carried me home in a wheel barrow, or so I was told. Workmen drive jack-hammers, the real ones without the earmuffs. Workmen climb scaffolding, saw timber and do plumbing.  Workmen don’t evade issues or escalate, don’t meet to review, don’t blind cc and only tell enough. The commerce of work is not fear and loathing.

knee, denial and coffee

Cappuccino from a snazzy north-side Topaz, different now from the Finnish petroleum kings who never had the French Vanilla from which you top up your classy capuch. It’s the vanilla waft which gets me, not the additional coffee which should be supplied anyway, with the original coffee.

So, the coffee and  the French smell and we’re on some playing field. I can still feel the sand between my toes but we’re back, already, doing the early morning coffee watching thing and it’s not right. I’ve put on my watching jacket which is immediately discarded in a heap.  It’s not the hot coffee though, it’s the latent summer / early autumn sweltering heat which only reinforces a slightly misogynistic opinion that the all powerful one might be feminine and she’ll make it cold when she’s good and ready.



Grand, sips capuch.

Back again?

And you think of ten smart answers and realize that it’s a long season and know that a cheap shot will come back many times over the coming months.


You settle, small chat, another summer another year, Mike the Box Griffin is still in the far distance, yet somehow clearer and nearer.

See him?


That fella, watch him now, like lightening, tearing up the wing stepping in and out of tackles, the tall blondy guy.


And her, over there, practising her sprints, with her blocks and wicked reactions and litheness.


Do you notice anything?

That they’re sharp and fast…

But why?

Fuck off and watch the game.

I shift from one to another; the too familiar pain causes me to shift, a compensating movement. The lower back starts to ache now as it tries to reconcile the new body position which it can’t cause, one leg is now shorter than the other and no matter which way I shift, the spine recoils and says, fuck off.

 What is it though about the speed and the reaction? Do you notice anything?

That you’re a total spa?


What, so?

The pegs, it’s in the pegs.

And now I’m sorry, so very sorry Paddy, you don’t deserve this but,

You have flex ed and hyper-extended too much, brother,

And that chink is a chasm, and your knees are no wonder.

Later on Sniffle was arrested for crimes against poetry and general fuck acting in a public place.

In his defence he claimed still having  hopes of playing football and sprinting like his children

Spa that he is.

a cup of coffee

An east wind whipped down Little Catherine St, April showers thinned the blood around the rag doll corpse lying at the intersection with Thomas St., her emerald slippers discarded, thrown aside during the struggle .

Hey, what goes around comes around.

The crying girl with the garrotted womb looked down at the broken body and spat in its face, lit a cigarette and pushed on with her childless buggy.

A twelve year old hoodie stuffed a piece of paper into the corpse’s bodice pocket, “for Darren” it read, in badly joined up writing. Sitting at a corner coffee shop, a man with strong opinions held court.

I stood up and left for a different funeral.


Oh Christ, I want my funerals sepia toned, yellow golden and melancholic. Old age or he went quickly is good, I cope with this passing, in as much as you recover from a teenage broken heart. It allows us to hold hands, cry and remember good stuff.

 “Emily, I’d kill a buffalo for you”, they laughed too loudly at the back end of the second day. He didn’t want to be anywhere else but there at the hotel, where it was safe with the others who lingered too long and were broken.  He should have gone home earlier, gone home with his wife to their children but he needed to stay. It shouldn’t have happened, everyone agreed. Christ, if ever there was one which shouldn’t have happened, this was it.

There was talk of medication, the early stages when it’s dangerous on the lead into the bubble, when reality can be distorted and pain exaggerated. John had been sad for a while; everyone said this too but knew him as a rock of sense. So he took the tablets and started to make things right, the house, the policies, the future, the pipe from the exhaust to the inside of the car.

You go to the funeral, forget you’re an atheist and hold out for ceremony and ritual. You think you’re hard, enlightened, that the experience gained from your short life will carry you through. But really, you rely on ritual and religion.


There was a little grey in Emily’s raven black hair but she still had that swanlike grace, the coolest laughing blue eyes and kissable generous mouth.  Back then he was no killer, he was drenched in Joni Mitchell sad songs and saturated in teenage hesitation. She’d lived across the road from him growing up, floating to and from school, never seeing his gaze or hearing those words which caught at the back of his throat. He hadn’t expected to see her at the funeral.


On John’s 1st anniversary I said to anyone who’d listen, that if somehow the man could still be here and look back at the last year, he’d never have done it. But I knew this was stupid, utterly stupid, so I told them instead about walking alone on a beach as the tide came in and of looking back, seeing my footprints grow faint and eventually disappear. There was no sense, no rhyme nor reason, nothing but a flimsy analogy. Nothing made sense save the washed beach and the disappeared footprints.


He’d leant records to Emily’s brother but never wanted his poxy Paul McCartney love songs in return; he had his own solo love songs. He was a complicit emotional wreck, happy to be ignored and happier to return for further rejection, an ethereal existence dragging him to a hateful place of mirrors and acne.

Back then, a cup of coffee was pre-latte, in a chipped mug by the spoon. You could have cream on top, which was more soft cheese and could be scooped surreptitiously. A cup of coffee with a gal was a leap into the firmament and he dreamed of coffee with the dark haired, tall girl who lived so near. 

A couple of years later he met her on Grafton Street. She saw him first and said hello first, he mumbled coffee. Truth be known he’d given up on her by then but carried their coffees on his tray, went to pay and realized he had no money.


Johnny went down in the dead afternoon heat of a country graveyard. I remembered the previous day at the house, queuing to sympathize in the hallway, the coffin lid leaning up against the wall and the child’s schoolbag underneath. They’d laid him out in the kitchen, still blue gray and I hoped that now he had turned the softer waxy yellow. His eldest kicked a ball in the garden and we talked on the deck about needing a drink. We’re a tense crowd at the best of times made up of people who work in private and public sectors. One of the lads, one close in and who hadn’t worked for a while came out and shouted that, ye’d driven him to it. There was nothing to do but laugh.


No one was ever done for the girl’s murder. The kids kicked her slippers up and down Thomas St. They identified and interviewed loads of suspects but all they got was the same vague answer, “ I saw nothing” from civil servants, or the PAYE guy who couldn’t be sure or the bank official who couldn’t remember. The crying woman with the garrotted womb sat there, staring back blankly.

The Hoodie went home to her estate and met her mates in the derelict house adjacent to her home. They sat around and listened to Calvin’s latest rap. They didn’t understand much about regeneration other than it was another thing denied. Calvin got to the bit about loving and missing Darren and how he was cut by a scimitar and bled to death., The Hoodie lit a joint.


When Stringer went the wrong way round the scrum in 2006 and you knew that this was it, we’d won. And it didn’t matter whether you were Stringer , O‘Gara, O’Connell , whether you were in Cardiff, in the pub or at home, you became part of something bigger, a huge loved up synergistic bubble and it was a moment.

Or when Pele stepped over the ball in the golden Azteca in 1970 and Carlos Alberto sent a scorching daisy cutter diagonally across the goal to beat the Italian keeper for the 4th time and it was Brazil’s to keep. And as kids we were there too, we became Pele and Jair and Rivelino on the streets.

Sport has this capacity to lift and bond us, to send us into a delirious rapture, for free; all we need to do is invest a little time and sometimes we can be lucky, get the rush, the endorphin buzz and the sense of connectedness.


It’s almost fairytale like, where anything becomes possible – life altered forever and moved onto a different, exultant, plane.


For an investment of time, perseverance, patience and love.

Last Monday evening in a North side park, the fawn in the Yearling didn’t die, the sun lit up again on Cormac McCarthy’s road and again, the man and boy became Each the Other’s World Entire, in the park on Monday evening. Guy Garvey sang out Elbow’s anthem a day like this and we answered in tune and knew all the words.

2:1 down, Balla U13s sensed the premier league slipping away to a bigger and more physical Annacotty side.

2:1 down – digging deep.

 2:1 down and not losing a shape.

 2:1 down and still playing football, passing accurately not hoofing but facing into the Asling catenaccio.

See though and that’s the thing, sometimes the good guy wins out.

Sometimes there is justice and those lucky enough to be present sense this too and become part of the right doing, the joy, the celebration of something other, something intangible yet real and in front of you cause you’ve invested and you’ve persevered and ended up lucky.

2:2, an early score in the 2nd half.

Bala need to win, to win the league, a draw is enough for Aisling, the catenaccio tightens and they ignore the fast break, put ten behind the ball.

Some might say cynical for this age group.

Fuck off

From the five year old to his sister cause we’re in the park.

There’s a smell of liquor from your mouth

Sla, to the linesman cause his helpful comment isn’t and @ 2:2 time is running out.

You know when Dunphy makes a fist, rotates his arm 90 degrees and indicates a push, a pressure to indicate a coordinated advance, well they do that.

They attack again, precision passing, digging deep, ball out wide, the winger flies to the by line, beats the defender, crosses, Ryan rises and flicks the header, it hits the post right-sided and,


More minutes, too many, and then none.

Balla U13 premier league champions.

He played

Tommy got a banger kid

Eight Fillet Mingons, man size and two full loins of pork, please.

The squinty eyed and unfriendly butcher cut the steaks, and went next door for the pork. He had a special look for Tommy, open faced, complimentary but still, hedged and less than whole hearted and if you looked closely, you could see bitterness. The rest just got the sneer and the curled down, narrow lips, the Faganesque glare. 

They looked at each other, mumbling Saturday morning friends-ish but still, strangers in a queue.

Fillet Mingon, loin of pork?  All had read the papers that week, heard the rumour, twenty millions, twenty bloody millions in a sea of billions.

But, he’d been caught!

Friends and clients, a small party, Sean said he’d do the beef and the pork.

Yeah Tommy, the squint narrowed, that’s seventy euro please.

There was always a crowd there up to mid-day, the great, the good; the brutal and licentious all got their meat here. The big fat smiling happy butcher statue outside welcomed everyone, they stocked all meats, all cuts, economy offal and high end sirloin, loin, knuckle, packet and tripe.  They catered to everyone and priced intelligently.

Clients Tommy, after the match I suppose?

Yes, the match, framing the day – say a prayer for Paulie’s knee though.


Tommy worked as a lawyer in his town office.  Not renowned for his constitutional knowledge, just another belt and braces solicitor who got greedy and lost. 

Yes Mrs Quinn, a lb. of mince and four pork chops.

 Mike, lamb steak and kidneys, the usual? I think he has it away – I’ll just check.

Mike’s kid poked him,

 Done?  Are we done now?

 Seven and a half euro and nine to you, Mrs Quinn.

They shuffled along, rashers and sausages, a roast beef for five – yes please, cut it theretwo lbs of round steak Mrs Murphy, is it?

Tommy reached out and picked up his order.  It might have been the stretch and the weight, it might have been that but he stopped, stopped guffawing and held himself still, as if in a suspended animation. His jowls stopped blubbering, eyes narrowed and he made as if to burp.

The queue watched, noticing the paling face and the bluing lips.

He clasped his hand to his chest, exhaling loudly.

The crowd backed away, watched him fumble confusedly for support and tumble heavily to the floor, white face grimacing and contorted in agony. They watched his navy lips and backed further away. A dark patch appeared around his groin, a trickling puddle of piss.

Mike waited long enough and then leant down, loosened his belt and un-buttoned his collar. Mrs Quinn told him firmly to stand back, taking charge as she had learnt in the manual.

She put her hand behind his head, drew out a stiletto knife and stabbed Tommy repeatedly in the fontanelle. The blood spilled, spurted and evaporated in an instant, the jagged head gashes tucked in and disappeared.

What happened Dad?

Tommy got a banger, son.

Why dad?

God’s way son.

But Mrs Quinn Dad?

An angel from above..

Tommy got a banger kid.