FALLING FROM GRACE

A REHEARSED READING – WITH MUSIC BE THERE!

new ONE HASTINGS MANY VOICE1-page-001

 

EXTRACT:

FALLING FROM GRACE

A new play by

TOM O’BRIEN

 

Act one

Scene one

Enter   SHANE MacGOWAN singing IF I SHOULD FALL FROM GRACE WITH GOD.  

If I should fall from grace with god
Where no doctor can relieve me
If I’m buried ‘neath the sod
But the angels won’t receive me

Let me go boys
Let me go boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

SHANE:           Good evening ladies and gentlemen! I am sorry to announce that due to

unforeseen circumstances SHANE won’t be appearing here tonight.

Too much….(indicates drinking with his hand)   Oh yes.

pause

WHAT? Am I dead?  No, I don’t think so. Not yet, anyway.

But these days you never can  tell, can ya? Maybe I’m a hologram

VICTORIA CLARKE enters.

SHANE:         This is Victoria. She’s …she’s…ah…ah…       Kcch…We’re an item.  (pause)  Again. We have no children. Except me. (laughs ). Kcch…kcch…kcch.  I stole that line from Brendan Behan. He stole it from someone else I expect. Probably Paddy Kavanagh.

VICT:             That’s slander, Shane

SHANE;         He’s fucken dead. Ya can’t slander the dead, can you?  Anyway, I come to praise Caesar not bury him. He was one of the greatest Irish writers of my time. Or any time. Greater than Joyce or O’Casey anyway.

Well, maybe not Joyce. Joyce was a bloody genius, he invented a whole new language. Brendan stole a few lines from both of them here and there.  But where’s the harm in that? I did the same meself.  Kcch…kcch…kcch.   Did you hear about the time he arrived in Montreal and some reporter asked him what he was doing in Canada. ‘Well’, he said, ‘I kept reading all these ads saying drink Canada dry, so I thought I’d give it a try’. (laughs)                            Maybe I’m him. His reincarnation, like. We, the Pogues I mean, got our dress style from Brendan. Did ya notice the similarity?

VICT:             The slept-in-a-ditch last night look? Yeah, I see where you’re coming from there, sweet pea

SHANE:         Yeah, well we’ve all lain in the gutter in our time – and few of us were looking at the stars.

                                    (sings)  THE OLD TRIANGLE

A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell

And the ould triangle went jingle jangle

All along the banks of the Royal Canal.

VICT:             Very funny, Shane.

She settles herself on a stool, slightly apart from Shane. During the action they sometimes interact with each other, other times they appear separate from each other, though they are aware of each other at all times.

VICT:             I was living in an Irish-speaking hell hole in West Cork when I first heard tell of Shane. He was a nobody when I met him

SHANE:         I was a fucken Punk. I was the Punk.

VICT              I was desperate to be a Punk myself, but living where I did I had to make do with a black bin liner and fishnet tights. In my local pub I became friendly with Spider Stacey, who played the tin whistle and sang a bit. One night he had Shane with him. He was very aggressive.

SHANE:         You should feel honoured. You were in the presence of greatness. The fledgling Pogues.  Kcch…kcch…kcch.  Anyway, I was fucken drunk, not aggressive…

VICT:             You were drunk and aggressive. And very arrogant, I thought. It was Spider’s birthday…

SHANE:         Well, go on then, buy him a drink. It’s his fucken birthday.

VICT:             You can fuck off for yourself, Shane O’Hooligan- or whatever you call yourself these days. (smiles sweetly) And that was how we met.

SHANE:         Wait a minute.  Arrogant…you said arrogant.

VICT:             Yeah, you were. You still bloody are. (pause) So it was love at first sight, was it?

SHANE:         Yeah, it was, like. Yeah.

VICT:             And what about all your other women?

SHANE:         Kcch…Kcch…Kcch…

SHANE sings VICTORIA (c Shane MacGowan 1994)

Down the dirty old streets
The Angel of the East is calling
And with a trembling hand
I open up a can
I can hear a baby bawling

Vicoria, you left me in opium euphoria
With a fat monk singing Gloria
My girl with green eyes

VICT:             I didn’t fall in love with you for years. I think I was twenty. I’d known you for ages then.

SHANE:         It only seemed that long. (laughs) Kcch…kcch…kcch

VICT:             Don’t you remember? It was my birthday. And somebody told you to kiss me.

SHANE:         It must have been God.  And did I ?

VICT:             (pushes him) ‘Course you did.  I was irresistible.

SHANE:         You still are.

VICT:             I know. And afterwards, on the way home in a taxi, we had an argument.

SHANE:         I remember that!  You were trying to tell me I knew fuck all about Sean Nos singing.  Just because you came from the back of beyond in pre-historic West Cork and I was a sophisticate from London…

VICT:             You came from Puckaun, and what do they know about anything in that hole!

SHANE:         They know about Sean Nos singing. And dancing. And playing music. All my people were musicians and singers. It was open house there every night.. Anyway, I come from Kent, not Puckaun. Tunbridge Wells. I was born there, like, but I’d never admit coming from there. I was born on Christmas day. Did ya know that?

VICT:             (sings)  Hark now hear the angels sing

SHANE:         Some Christmas present!  Kcch…kcch…kcch

VICT:             And then you kissed me goodnight. And I fell in love. (smiles sweetly) I moved in with you and your flat was disgusting. One room, red walls, black carpet and a mattress on the floor. Overflowing ashtrays and bottles everywhere.

SHANE:         And you tried to change everything.

VICT:             I tried to clean it up, yeah. Tried to clean you up. I’m still trying after all these years. (laughs) You still won’t have a bath.

SHANE:         I had one last year. Kcch…kcch…kcch

SHANE          You had five tellys – and none of them worked properly. Oh, and that crappy record player. What was that song you used to play all time? Van Morrison.  (she hums it)

SHANE:         Yeah, yeah. Astral Weeks. (he sings a few verses and Victoria joins in)

                        (ASTRAL WEEKS by Van Morrison © Caledonia Soul Music)
If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again

VICT:             You played it right through the night once. I’d rather take a cheese-grater to my forehead for six hours now than do that again.

SHANE:         He’s a poet. Like Dylan and Springsteen. You gotta listen to the words. The words are everything. (pause) Nice bloke, Van

VICT:             Yeah.

SHANE:         Even if he is a fat fucker these days.

VICT:             Shane! He might call you a drunken fucker…these days.

SHANE:         I’m a drunken fucker most days.

DEAD IN A DITCH

DEAD IN A DITCH by Patrick Kavanagh

Dead In a Ditch

(To Hilda)

Unless you come
I shall die in a ditch,
Poet dead in a ditch.
There will be no bluebells there,
Only the vetch
Smelling of death
Weeds around me,
The mud of hooves
That prance there
Falling over my eyes.

Rags of beggars that passed
Will clothe my soul.
The winter will come through the bushes,
Rain will fall
Making puddles in my face,
The snow will come
And cover me up
Like the Babes in the Wood.
Then no one will stop
To examine the heap,
No one will know where a poet’s asleep.

I shall die in a ditch
Like a dog or bum,
Poet dead in a ditch
Unless you come.

(July 1945)
-Patrick Kavanagh
Copyright © Estate of Katherine Kavanagh

LIVIN’ IT UP IN KILBURN & CRICKLEWOOD

51xC-6tPWnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

LIVIN’ IT UP IN KILBURN & CRICKLEWOOD

By

Tom O’Brien

 When I first came to Kilburn in the mid 1960’s my residence was a less than salubrious double room in house that had seen better days, run by a certain Mrs McGinty in Iverson Road. It was the sort of place where you wiped your feet on the way out.

I was sharing the room with Vince Power – later of Mean Fiddler fame – with whom I had gone to school with in rural Waterford in a place called Newtown. Newtown comprised of a couple houses, the church, the school, two pubs, and a sweet shop, so the culture shock of walking down Kilburn High Road for the first time was quite something!

Within a few hundred yards I had seen two cinemas, The State and The Grange – monoliths of stone from a bygone era – an Irish dance hall, The Banba – and numerous pubs with names like The North London, The Black Lion, Biddy Mulligan’s, and so on.

There was also a Wimpey Burger Bar on the High Road, with a notice board just outside on the pavement which advertised rooms to let. It was here that I first read the legend ‘NO BLACKS, NO DOGS, NO IRISH’ It was also the first time I had seen black people in reality. I began to wonder what I was letting myself in for.

Vince was soon working as a floorwalker in Whiteley’s department store in Queensway, while I had got a job in the accounts department of Smiths Radiomobile factory in Cricklewood. In between times we listened to music from Vince’s collection of Buddy Holly and Patsy Cline records.

Cricklewood, too, had an Irish dance hall, called The Galtymore, and it was smack in the middle of the Broadway.  Big and bawdy It had two dance floors, one for modern music and one for Irish dancing, and was nearly always filled to capacity. And just a stones’ throw away was The Crown, even bigger and bawdier, and full of thirsty Irishmen washing the dust down after a hard day digging holes or pulling cables all over London and outlying areas.

Oh the crack was good in Cricklewood, but t’was better in the Crown

There were bottles flying and Biddies cryiing, and Paddies goin’ to town

Oh mother dear I’m over here, I never will go back

What keeps me here is the rake of beer, the women and the crack

The words of ‘McAlpines Fuseliers’, Dominic Behan’s homage to the expat shovel brigade, were regularly ringing in our ears as Vince and I danced our nights away at The Banba or the Galtymore. And sometimes our afternoons too; for there was a Sunday afternoon tea dance at the Banba, where hung-over Irishmen could sober up for the night ahead!

This was also the era of The Sunshine Gang, a group of expat thugs that plagued the area at the time. Said to have originated from the Longford/Westmeath region, they were into protection and other criminal activities. If bar and shop owners didn’t pay up they basically came in and smashed the place up.

The Banba, which was up an alley off Kilburn High Road was attacked during one tea dance while we were present; they wedged a Mini in the entrance, beat up the doorman, then started smashing up the hall inside. They were looking for Michael Gannon, the owner, who had presumably forgotten to pay his ‘subscription’.  They left after a few minutes, having no doubt been paid! They occasionally put in an appearance at the Galtymore as well!

 

We weren’t long getting to know the pubs in the area. Biddy Mulligan’s was a favourite of ours, as was The Admiral Nelson in Carlton Vale, owned by  Butty Sugrue. Butty originated from Kilorglin in County Kerry and was a Circus Performer cum-wrestler-strongman-publican-entrepreneur. He had toured Ireland with Duffy’s Circus, billed as Ireland’s strongest man and in Kilburn he had pulled red London buses up the High Road with the rope held between his teeth! A couple of years after we arrived, he had his barman, Mick Meaney, buried alive in a yard adjacent to the pub, where he remained for 61 days – a Guinness Book of Records world record. ‘Resurrection day’ saw thousands line the High Road as Mick was proudly paraded through Kilburn in the back of a truck.

There was always plenty of singing and dancing at The Admiral Nelson, and Jack Doyle was frequently seen at the venue singing for his supper. Jack had slipped a long way down since his heydays when he had fought for the British Heavyweight boxing title, or when he had been feted in Hollywood before marrying Mexican actress Movita, the couple moving to London, where they toured the country singing and performing to delirious audiences, and becoming the 1940’s  equivalent of Posh and Becks.

The bigger they are the harder they fall is a well known saying, and Jack eventually fell further than most. Whenever anyone asked him what caused his downfall he always replied ‘fast women and slow horses’. Some years later he would be found dead in a park in West London, penniless and shoeless. Listening to Jack and Movita singing together would send shivers down your spine.  Listen on the link below

 

 

Eventually Vince and I moved on to Harlesden where the 32 Cub in Harlesden High Street was the Mecca for the Irish population. Situated next to the Elm Tree pub on the High Street, in the building that was formerly the Picardy cinema, it was heaving every weekend.

By now Vince had met his first wife, Theresa, and before too long they got married and had a  child. Somehow, I managed to miss the wedding!

A few years later I was married myself (1971) and Vince was my best man wearing a suit borrowed from his brother-in-law! Yes, he was that poor!

In between times a lot had changed in our lives; Vince was now working in demolition, knocking down rows of terraced houses in the Willesden area, I had been a guest at Her Majesty’s pleasure for eighteen months, been deported back to Ireland and come back again, and had won a tidy sum of money with my regular Saturday bet on the ITV7 at my local William Hill’s betting shop!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HIGH LIVIN’ IN HARLESDEN

Harlesden, Park Royal, Craven Park, Stonebridge, Willesden Junction…they all still have the power to evoke strong memories whenever I look back to period of my life. The Royal Oak, The Spotted Dog, The Case Is Altered, The Elm Tree and others remain as clear in my mind as if it was only yesterday.

Park Royal was a weird sort of place on the fringes of the Western Avenue; cut off from both Acton and Ealing, it was surrounded by the railway marshalling yards of Willesden Junction and Harlesden.  The North Circular Road, snaking around its outskirts, completed its encirclement.

It was a dreary landscape that I grew to know well.  Tall chimneys jostling for prominence on the pylon-ravaged horizon, belching all kinds of shit into the atmosphere;  galvanizers, zinc-platers, lead-smelters, other obnoxious plants all polluting without discrimination. The milkmen did well though; stomach-lining it was called.  And the bosses were happy to pay; it was a damn sight cheaper than decent working conditions.

It was hard to imagine people living in the midst of all this but they did.  Isolated pockets of grimy Victorian terraced houses poked their heads up along the narrow streets, like they had been spawned by their much bigger neighbours – although it was a fair bet that they were there long before the industrial estate.

Stranger still was the sight of Park Royal Hospital – later to become the Central Middlesex – sitting bang in the middle.  This sprawling complex languished amidst the soot and grime, shit and slime, collectively inhaling whatever was floating about at any given time.

On reflection, perhaps it was the perfect set-up.  The houses, the factories, the hospital, schools, pubs; there was even a crematorium somewhere in the vicinity – everything a body needed from the cradle to the grave.

By now I was sharing a flat in St Thomas’s Road in Craven Park with ‘Larry’, whilst Vince and his new family were not much more than a stone’s throw away, ensconced in a council house in Stonebridge Park. I had finally turned into a law-abiding fellow- sort of! – and was gainfully employed in one of the factories in Park Royal, weighing and loading copper piping for delivery to the outlying building and plumbing trades. Every morning I walked the one mile plus journey; along Nichol Road, down Acton Lane, past the railway marshalling yards and Harlesden tube station, until finally I hit Barrett Green Road where the factory stood. Each journey became a walking competition; seeing how many other walkers I could pass on the journey – well it helped pass the time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOIN’ TO THE DOGS

 

Park Royal dog track was only a stones’ throw from the hospital, not that we generally took too much notice of it as we hurried past to get to the track in time for the first race, which was at 2.30pm every Monday and Friday. Betting shops in those days were dreary places; there were no monitors, no TV’’s, nothing only chalked-up prices and The Blower. Much better to go to the track and lose your money in style!

The Blower relayed the race commentaries to the shops – although not instantaneously as I accidentally discovered one afternoon. I was rushing for the first race, still several hundred yards from the track, when I heard the tell-tale shout from the track and knew the race was already underway. Cursing, I dived into the nearby betting shop, hoping to hear the tail-end

of the race commentary, praying fervently that trap six wouldn’t win.  Imagine my surprise when the commentary didn’t begin until almost half a minute later.

The significance of my discovery didn’t sink in until later, when I met up with Larry at the track, and we were watching a race in progress.

‘You know’, he remarked as we watched a race in progress. ‘This is a front-runners track. How many dogs leading at the halfway stage ever get beaten…?’

‘Not many’, I agreed.  It was then that the significance of my knowledge hit me.  A dog could run a long way in thirty seconds.  Most races were half over at this point.   When I voiced my opinions, Larry saw the implications straight away.

‘Christ!  Pity there’s not a betting shop outside the track’.                                                        It was a pity.  The one I had just been in was less than three hundred yards from the track. But too far away all the same…

The thinking caps were on in earnest now…

The answer, of course, was walkie-talkies.

All it needed was for one of us to be positioned in a suitable location to relay the trap number of any dog in a clear lead at half way.  The receiver would be waiting around the corner from the bookies for the magic number; it would take only a couple of seconds to dash in and place the bet. All we had to do then was wait for the money to start rolling in!

Getting hold of the walkie-talkies wasn’t too difficult, but they cost over fifty pounds. They were just what we needed though – with a range of over a quarter of a mile. We carried out several trial runs to make sure we were within range of each other, then realised we needed to find a quiet spot from which to observe the races.  It wouldn’t do to be seen at the track speaking into a walkie-talkie!

The answer was staring us in the face: The Central Middlesex Hospital. Some of its buildings overlooked the track; there was bound to be a suitable vantage point somewhere.  More importantly, we found that visitors could roam the grounds freely.  This allowed us to select a flat-roofed building that gave us a clear view of the race.  It was ideal in another sense too; it had an air-conditioning unit on the roof which provide ample screening from prying eyes.

Our plan was to rotate the operation in case the bookie got suspicious at seeing the same face collecting winnings all the time.

It pissed down that first afternoon.  As the saying goes; ‘You wouldn’t put a dog out in it’.  Only two idiots were soaking it up; one on the almost-obscured roof of a hospital building, the other skulking behind a betting shop in Acton Lane.

The rain eventually ceased and the racing got under way.  I was on duty behind the betting shop that day, and every time Larry gave me a number I rushed into the shop and had a tenner on it.  We were aware that not every race would suit our purposes; however, that first day provided four races, of which three produced winners, the fourth selection running wide at the last bend when still in front.  We didn’t care too much though; three winners at six to one, four to one, and two to one had given us a profit of more than a hundred pounds on the day.

Larry was hopping around the kitchen after the share-out.

‘This is it…the big one.  We’ll go to town now, boy!’

I had to admit to a sense of satisfaction myself.  It had been my idea – not Larry’s – and it was a success!  We only had to operate it a few times a week and we would soon be rolling in it.

In a few months we had accumulated a lot of money.  I had never seen so much, and neither had Larry. However, our dreams of a fortune were soon scuppered when the track was suddenly sold over night for redevelopment. It shut down immediately, with no warning to anybody.  There were no betting shops open at night so the evening meetings were useless for our purposes, and the only other afternoon track , Hackney, was too far away from a bookies for our walkie talkies to be effective.

End of Dream!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ACE CAFE

 

We got into the habit of frequenting the Ace café, an all-night dive that was more than an eating house for many who used it. It was a meeting place, a way of life, perhaps even a home for some.   It looked as if it had fallen off the back of some passing lorry and had landed lopsidedly on the edge of the North Circular Road, near Stonebridge Park station. There it sat, its neon sign blazing, the jukebox blasting, attracting the flotsam and jetsam of the city just as easily as it absorbed the grime from the passing traffic

Inside, there were bikers, long-distance lorry drivers, small-time villains like us, probably a few hookers, definitely a sprinkling of people of no fixed abode.  Sometimes, we sat there drinking strong coffee, playing sad songs on the jukebox. And watching all the lonesome faces as ‘Take These Chains From My Heart’ and ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ permeated the fried-bacon and dog-roll atmosphere.  Some nights Eleanor Rigby turned up, pushing her worldly goods before her in a battered pram. We called her Eleanor because she said John Lennon had seen her there one night and written the song for her. She was about sixty, lived in a steel container near Wembley Stadium, and nearly always sported two bright red slashes of lipstick that never quite lined up with her lips. She invariably sang along in a high screeching voice whenever someone played her record on the jukebox;

The tabloid press carried many articles portraying the cafe as a place where decent people didn´t go. And maybe they were right.  One of the favourite pastimes with some of the bikers – the ton-up merchants – was to play a tune on the jukebox then race their bikes to a certain spot then back again before the tune finished. It was coined record-racing.

A lot of our scheming and planning took place in the Ace.  Although our crimes were small our ambitions weren’t.  We were merely practising for now; building up to the day when we would really make it big.  Nothing too spectacular; some swindle or con that would net us ten grand or so would do nicely.

Now that our Park Royal scheme was in ruins, Larry had purchased a new suit and an old van, and we decided to go into the furniture removal business.

We hired a couple of lock-up garages and began filling them with fridges, washing machines, TV’s and other household goods that we got from High-Street stores on the never-never.  They were falling over themselves selling us stuff we were never- never going to pay for!

It was a beautiful scheme.  Larry viewed empty houses on the pretext of buying them, got duplicate keys cut, and then convinced the stores he was the owner and had the goods delivered there. As soon as the delivery van disappeared around the corner, we whisked the gear away to safety in Larry’s van. We then sold the items through a network of local newspapers.

I told him I couldn’t believe it was easy.

Larry laughed and patted his immaculate suit (another purchase on the never-never).

‘The whistle is half the battle. As far as they’re concerned I’m a man of property. If you can convince them you’ve got bricks and mortar, credit is no problem’.

 

 

 

THE GREAT GREEN SHIELD STAMP ROBBERY

;

When Larry wasn’t stuck in the racing pages, he was plotting new ways of making money. We knew we were petty thieves – small fry in the world of crime – but, as, we kept telling ourselves, it was better than working for a living. Anyway, we could dream, couldn’t we?  Today, knocking off market stalls; tomorrow the Great Train Robbery!

Lock-up premises became our speciality, and the railway line that ran behind our house was very convenient for the places we set out to rob.  It traversed the Harrow Road and snaked round Scrubs Lane, where there were plenty of warehouses and factories suited to our purpose. We only selected places that had no night watchman; not that we felt cowardly or anything, but we didn’t want the added complication of assault included in our armoury. For one thing, it got the police more interested. For another, it was property we wanted to hit not people.

Between nine and eleven at night was the best time to be about our business; it was late enough for the premises to be empty, but not late enough to arouse the suspicions of the cops if they spotted you in the vicinity.

Our initial efforts were purely speculative; taking what we hoped we could sell; typewriters, adding machines, offices chairs etc.  These we lugged along the railway line, scampering up the embankment whenever a train was heard approaching. The following day we loaded them into Larry’s van, selling them to a guy that operated a second-hand office furniture business from a railway arch near Queens Park station.

Once, we broke into the lock-up petrol station along the Harrow Road from us, Larry being convinced that the takings were locked away in a filing cabinet every night. It backed onto the railway, so it was chicken feed to jemmy the back door open.  We searched in vain for the money; all we found in the cabinet was lots of blank Green Shield books – and hundreds of sheets of stamps.  We took the lot with us, then spent most of the night licking and sticking – something which Larry thought hilarious.  Still, we managed to redeem about thirty quid’s worth at their Wembley office for our efforts.

Larry was mechanical- minded and liked messing about with old record players and other gadgets, repairing them then selling them on. He even rebuilt a juke-box once, and had it installed in the nearby café that we used, splitting the proceeds with the owner.

Another time he got hold of a high-powered air pistol, which he adapted to fire ball-bearings. Afterwards, we took a trip to the dump, found some old plate glass and tried it out.  I was amazed at the results; a neat hole in the glass every time.

Armed with this contraption, we ventured out in the van in the evenings, seeking suitable lock-up jewellers.  After we’d located one, we parked close by, and having made sure the street was clear, fired at the jeweller’s window through a small hole we had made in the side of the van. The resultant hole in the glass was large enough to enable us to fish out small items of jewellery using a length of coat-hanger wire. We sold the proceeds from a briefcase down the Portobello Market on Saturday mornings, one of us keeping a sharp look-out for the law.

Ironically, the closest we came to the police was when a couple of thieving bastards snatched the briefcase and legged it in the direction of Ladbroke Grove. A nearby stall-holder gave chase, and somebody else went searching for a copper.   We decided that discretion was the better part of valour and made ourselves scarce.

The operation gradually fizzled out, partly because of the publicity it received, but mainly due to technological advances.  The new trembler alarms tended to go off if you as much as looked at them.

 

 

THE MICHELIN MAN

 

One night, in the Ace, Larry got picked up by a handsome-looking woman who must have been well into her forties. (That was a thing with Larry – he liked older women)

‘’I’m well in there, lads’, he said the following day.  ‘Her old man died a few months back and left her a big house in Willesden Green.  And loads of money as well’.

‘He must have been a subby then’, I replied

We didn’t see a lot of him for the next week, until one morning he turned up in a suit several sizes too big for him, and wearing carpet slippers.  The clothes belonged to his lady-friend’s dead husband, and were all he could get his hands on when making his bid for freedom.

‘I know now what killed him’, he said. ‘She wanted it all the bloody time. D’you know what she did?  Hid my clothes to stop me leaving’.  He put on a lady’s voice; ‘One more time and you can have your trousers back, Laurence’, He shook his head. ‘Ah Jaysus, she’s sex mad’. He shook the oversize coat. ‘As soon as she went to the bog this morning I grabbed this suit and took off’.

The incident kept him away from the Ace for a while and she made several enquires to several of us as to where he had gone.  We told her he had gone to America.

‘Oh, she said, clearly disappointed.  ‘There are some…items of his at my place.  Would one of you care to call round and collect them?’

‘No thank you!’ we chorused.

We gave the suit to a regular, who we had christened the Michelin Man.     His eyes were practically invisible, he wore a mouthful of false teeth, and he carried a plastic bag of vomit around with him. The vomit was food – usually from the café – that he had regurgitated. Apparently, he had an ulcer problem, causing him to puke up the food.  We reckoned he took it home and ate it again.  A few nights after we gave him the suit we saw our lady friend giving him funny looks as he puked into his bag.

It was through an acquaintance met in the Ace that we had our first real brush with the law. Our air-gun was redundant by now, and we were desperately seeking new ways of increasing our cash-flow.

‘Allie?’ remarked the acquaintance, when the name of a certain shopkeeper kept cropping up, ‘he’s the biggest fence around. Cigarettes now, he’ll take all you can supply and no questions asked’.

This was good enough for us. We soon established our bona-fides and he agreed to pay us half the retail price for everything we brought him.

We had already decided on a target; a lock-up newsagents in nearby Wembley.  It was alarmed, but it was an external bell type, which was easy to neutralise, merely a matter of sticking a piece of cardboard between the gong and the mechanism.  I accomplished this from the roof of Larry’s van then we made short work of the door with a crowbar.

We reckoned it to be a quick in-and-out job; no more than a couple of minutes to grab what cartons and loose packets we could find.  We were almost finished when the alarm went off like an air-raid siren.

‘Jesus!’, roared Larry, ‘the fucken’ cardboard’s fell out’.

Soon there were lights coming on everywhere, and voices shouting.  Worse, a vicious-sounding dog started a racket a few doors away.

It was time to go.  We piled head-first into the van; I managed to pull a blanket over the evidence and we had regained some semblance of composure as we turned into Wembley High Road. It was then that the Panda car pulled in behind us and began to keep pace with us.  Not knowing what else to do, I just kept driving.  And the Panda kept following.

I nudged Larry. ‘What do we do?’

Larry seemed to have lost the power of speech, apart from mumbling incoherently.

‘This is no time for bloody praying’, I shouted.  I did some quick calculations; no tax, no insurance, no driving licence…all that gear in the back.  We were up shit creek.

I gave Larry a kick in the shins.  ‘I’m baling out the next red lights.  You’d better do the same if you don’t want to spend the next few birthdays in nick’.

I guess we timed it right.  As we ejected at the lights the cops were also getting out, putting their caps on.  I could hear their shouts as I leaped a hedge and hared off across a stretch of parkland.  I was young and fit and easily lost my pursuers. Trouble was, I got lost myself in the process, and not wishing to show myself on the streets in case the cops were still on the prowl, I decided to kip under some bushes until daylight.

I was stiff, sore and soaked to the bone when I finally made it back to the flat.  Larry was sound asleep in his bed. He had encountered no problems, having come across a bicycle in a nearby driveway, and was indoors within fifteen minutes of taking to his heels.

We never discovered what happened to the van or its contents, and the experience put the wind up us for some time after that.  Still, you can’t keep good men down.  Within a week Larry had a new set of wheels – a Triumph Herald, white with a black sun roof.

‘What d’you reckon?’, he asked after he had driven it away from the garage. ‘Fifty down and twenty quid a month’.

I laughed. ‘I reckon not many instalments will get paid’.

I was right.  Within a couple of months the finance company was round trying to re-possess it.  And not having much luck.  The first time they called they found it chained to a tree.  Larry took to keeping it in a garage after that.  On a subsequent visit they came armed with a pair of bolt cutters.  We took great delight in telling them that both Larry and the car had gone on a long visit to Ireland.

 

 

 

I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC

I Sing the Body Electric

1
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
2
The love of the body of man or woman balks account, the body itself balks account,
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
The expression of the face balks account,
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists,
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not hide him,
The strong sweet quality he has strikes through the cotton and broadcloth,
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more,
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.
The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up and rolls silently to and fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats, the horseman in his saddle,
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child, the farmer’s daughter in the garden or cow-yard,
The young fellow hoeing corn, the sleigh-driver driving his six horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty, good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sun-down after work,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding the eyes;
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d neck and the counting;
Such-like I love—I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and pause, listen, count.
3
I knew a man, a common farmer, the father of five sons,
And in them the fathers of sons, and in them the fathers of sons.
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person,
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and beard, the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes, the richness and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see, he was wise also,
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old, his sons were massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome,
They and his daughters loved him, all who saw him loved him,
They did not love him by allowance, they loved him with personal love,
He drank water only, the blood show’d like scarlet through the clear-brown skin of his face,
He was a frequent gunner and fisher, he sail’d his boat himself, he had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner, he had fowling-pieces presented to him by men that loved him,
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish, you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.
4
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.
5
This is the female form,
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot,
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction,
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor, all falls aside but myself and it,
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, and what was expected of heaven or fear’d of hell, are now consumed,
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it, the response likewise ungovernable,
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands all diffused, mine too diffused,
Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching,
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious juice,
Bridegroom night of love working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn,
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d day.
This the nucleus—after the child is born of woman, man is born of woman,
This the bath of birth, this the merge of small and large, and the outlet again.
Be not ashamed women, your privilege encloses the rest, and is the exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.
The female contains all qualities and tempers them,
She is in her place and moves with perfect balance,
She is all things duly veil’d, she is both passive and active,
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as daughters.
As I see my soul reflected in Nature,
As I see through a mist, One with inexpressible completeness, sanity, beauty,
See the bent head and arms folded over the breast, the Female I see.
6
The male is not less the soul nor more, he too is in his place,
He too is all qualities, he is action and power,
The flush of the known universe is in him,
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well,
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is utmost become him well, pride is for him,
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul,
Knowledge becomes him, he likes it always, he brings every thing to the test of himself,
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes soundings at last only here,
(Where else does he strike soundings except here?)
The man’s body is sacred and the woman’s body is sacred,
No matter who it is, it is sacred—is it the meanest one in the laborers’ gang?
Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on the wharf?
Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well-off, just as much as you,
Each has his or her place in the procession.
(All is a procession,
The universe is a procession with measured and perfect motion.)
Do you know so much yourself that you call the meanest ignorant?
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has no right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float, and the soil is on the surface, and water runs and vegetation sprouts,
For you only, and not for him and her?
7
A man’s body at auction,
(For before the war I often go to the slave-mart and watch the sale,)
I help the auctioneer, the sloven does not half know his business.
Gentlemen look on this wonder,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll’d.
In this head the all-baffling brain,
In it and below it the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in tendon and nerve,
They shall be stript that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby, good-sized arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.
Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings, aspirations,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not express’d in parlors and lecture-rooms?)
This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments.
How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring through the centuries?
(Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace back through the centuries?)
8
A woman’s body at auction,
She too is not only herself, she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the mothers.
Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted,
And in man or woman a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is more beautiful than the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.
9
O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and that they are my poems,
Man’s, woman’s, child’s, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s, mother’s, father’s, young man’s, young woman’s poems,
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your body or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping, love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
  • Related

HISTORY LESSONS

 

HISTORY LESSONS by Tom O’Brien

 Ring of Kerry, Lackendaragh

Fachta Finn and Gougane Barra

Ollam, Piper, Beann a Ti

Farmer, Fiddler and Land-Lease

Viking, Norman and Wild Geese

Erimon and Fionn Macool

De Danann and No Home Rule

 

Clonmacnois and The Dail

Men of Erin, Fianna Fail

Democrats and Labour too

Gombeen men, the Dublin Zoo

Loonies, Moonies, Lords and Serfs

Poets, Painters, Suffragettes

Cowboy Pictures, Travelling Shows

Ceoltas Dancing, Frightening Crows

 

Tyrone, Tyrconnell, Red Hugh and Owen Roe

Cromwell, Robert Emmett, Dev and Strongbow

Pearse, Kevin Barry, Colm Cille, Maud Gonne

St Patrick, St Brigid, Mac Murrough, Wolf Tone

 

Aonach, Feis, Connemara

Irelands Own and Hill of Tara

Rock n Roll and fireside stories

Sorse Eireann and Mickey Magories

The Colleen Bawn, O’Donnell Abu

Leprechauns and Faeries too

Bloody Sunday, Black and Tans

Easter Rising, Bobby Sands

Oisin, Cormac, Tigernach

Cashel, Cratloe and Armagh

The Hills of Tullow, Conor Pass

Sarsfields Ride and Dorans Ass

The Croppy Boy and Ninety Eight

Sassanach and Fenian blade

The Clipper Carlton, Dicky Rock

St Stephens Green and Glendalough

 

Kilmainham, Kilmichael, Kilwarden, Kinsale

Dungannon, Dunmore, Enistymon, Rathkeale,

Fedelm, Eithne, Aofi, Kathleen

The Shamrock, the Harp, the Flute and Crubeen

Master McGrath and Brian Boru

Famine, Firbolgs, the H Blocks too

Ard Ri, Mountjoy, Parnell and Rynanna

Step-dancing, Morris Minors, Big Tom and Setanta

 

Tir Na Nog, the Galway Blazers

Bord Na Mona, Macs Smile razors

Mummers, Druids, Unionists

Catholics, Jews, Adventists

Malin Head and Poitin stills

Ikes and Mikes, the Book of Kells

Shannon, Suir, Boyne and Nore

The Gallowglass and Take The Floor

 

Blackleg, Wrenboy, Blackshirt, Whitethorn

Whiteboy, Boycott, Blueshirt, Blackthorn

Plantation, Emancipation, Emigration, Liberation

O’Connell, O’Brien, O’Hanlon, One Nation

Cuchullian, Rebellion, the Taylor and Ansty

B Behan, O’Casey, Riverdance and Planxty

Sean T, Mick Del, Sean Kelly, Glenroe

James Joyce, Christy Ring, Arkle and Mick’O

 

IRA, BBC

UVF, RTE

IRA and UCC

LDF and IRB

ICA and ESB

GAA and C of E

Saints and sinners

C’est la vie

Everyone is you and me.

 

PISS FACTORY by PATTI SMITH

Piss Factory” by Patti Smith
Sixteen and time to pay off
I got this job in a piss factory inspecting pipe
Forty hours thirty-six dollars a week
But it’s a paycheck, Jack.
It’s so hot in here, hot like Sahara
You could faint in the heat
But these bitches are just too lame to understand
Too goddamned grateful to get this job
To know they’re getting screwed up the ass
All these women they got no teeth or gum or cranium
And the way they suck hot sausage
But me well I wasn’t sayin’ too much neither
I was moral school girl hard-working asshole
I figured I was speedo motorcycle
I had to earn my dough, had to earn my dough

But no you gotta, you gotta (relate, babe,)
You gotta find the rhythm within
Floor boss slides up to me and he says
“Hey sister, you just movin’ too fast,
You screwin’ up the quota,
You doin’ your piece work too fast,
Now you get off your mustang sally
You ain’t goin’ nowhere, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
I lay back. I get my nerve up. I take a swig of Romilar
And walk up to hot shit Dot Hook and I say
“Hey, hey sister it don’t matter whether I do labor fast or slow,
There’s always more labor after.”
She’s real Catholic, see. She fingers her cross and she says
“There’s one reason. There’s one reason.
You do it my way or I push your face in.
We knee you in the john if you don’t get off your get off your mustang Sally,
If you don’t shake it up baby.” Shake it up, baby. Twist & shout”
Oh that I could will a radio here. James Brown singing
“I Lost Someone” or the Jesters and the Paragons
And Georgie Woods the guy with the goods and Guided Missiles …
But no, I got nothin’, no diversion, no window,
Nothing here but a porthole in the plaster, in the plaster,
Where I look down, look at sweet Theresa’s convent
All those nurses, all those nuns scattin’ ’round
With their bloom hoods like cats in mourning.
Oh to me they, you know, to me they look pretty damn free down there
Down there not having crystal smooth
Not having to smooth those hands against hot steel
Not having to worry about the (inspeed) the dogma the (inspeed) of labor
They look pretty damn free down there,
And the way they smell, the way they smell
And here I gotta be up here smellin’ Dot Hook’s midwife sweat
I would rather smell the way boys smell–
Oh those schoolboys the way their legs flap under the desks in study hall
That odor rising roses and ammonia
And way their dicks droop like lilacs
Or the way they smell that forbidden acrid smell
But no I got, I got pink clammy lady in my nostril
Her against the wheel me against the wheel
Oh slow motion inspection is drivin’ me insane
In steel next to Dot Hook — oh we may look the same–
Shoulder to shoulder sweatin’ 110 degrees
But I will never faint, I will never faint

DRINKERS WITH WRITING PROBLEMS

My Writing Life

Image

BRENDAN BEHAN, seen here with Harpo Marx, often said ‘ I’m not a writer with a drinking problem, I’m a drinker with a writing problem’. His brother, Brian, saw it slightly differently;   ‘What Brendan really was was a painter with a writing problem. No matter in what country of the globe he resided, or how many luminaries he met, the would always be a painter in his soul . If he had remained one for his livelihood, he could still be alive today’. In other words it was the fame that killed him just as much as the drink.

This is a poem that Dominic O’Riordan wrote about Brendan

I remember him riding the air

A mixture of Puck and the goban Saor

With ruffled shirt and hair astray

In Grafton Street on a gusty day

Respectable gents and maiden aunts

Held tightly in their briefs and pants

Lest their bowels…

View original post 37 more words