My Writing Life

SPRING AND FALL by Gerald Manley Hopkins

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

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GEORGE – a short story

GEORGE: a short story by [Tom O'Brien]

A short story
Tom O’Brien2
(c) Tom O’Brien 2018.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system
or transmitted in any form or means without the prior written permission of the author
or publisher. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not be lent, resold,
hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form or
binding other than that which it is published3
I first made George’s acquaintance in Ladbroke Grove when he veered from a side road and
rode straight in front of me, begging to be knocked down. I managed to disoblige him and
nearly demolished a plate-glass butcher’s window in the process. The blood-stained vendor
froze in the act of removing a leg of mutton from the window display when he saw my half
ton of mechanised metal glaring down at him from a distance of six inches. George merely
raised his hat in acknowledgement and continued on his leisurely way.
Once seen, George was unlikely to be forgotten. His shiny, moon-shaped face was
partitioned by a handlebar moustache that just failed to reach his ears, and was adorned by a
tiny pork-pie hat that perched precariously on his non-stick dome. He sat emperor-straight on
the high-framed bicycle, arms outstretched to reach the handlebars, rigid from the legs
‘You damned lunatic!’ I yelled at his retreating back, and, leaving the butcher still
frozen in wide-eyed awe, gave chase.
He might not have been much of a cyclist but as a gentleman he had few peers. He
doffed his hat at every female we passed, and the less-than-friendly response didn’t seem to
bother him unduly. We turned into the Harrow Road and he eventually noticed my shaking
‘I could have killed you back there’, I raged when we had come to a halt. ‘Why don’t
you look where you are going?’
He smiled serenely back at me. ‘A navigational misjudgement, sir. I do apologise’.
‘Navigational misjudgement…!’
He peered closely at me. ‘It’s Mr Adams, isn’t it?’
I racked my brain for some long-forgotten acquaintance with this madman.
‘You own a gallery in the Portobello Road and you specialise in old prints, am I
I nodded my head.
‘I, too, am a lover of old prints. In fact I have a collection of them. I am apt to wander
around shops and galleries in pursuit of my pleasure and have passed your premises on many
The discovery that we both shared the same passion awakened my interest in him. A
love of the arts excused many conditions; perhaps it wasn’t madness that afflicted him but
merely eccentricity.
‘You have never been in my gallery. I would surely have remembered you…’
George fiddled with his garish dicky bow. ‘Embarrassment Mr Adams. You see I
mainly visit these, ah…emporiums with a view to selling one or two of my treasures. The
needs of the body you see…man cannot live on fresh air alone’.
‘But I am just as likely to buy your wares as the next gallery’.
‘My paltry offerings would hardly interest you. It is obvious from your window
display that you cater for the top end of the market’.
I laughed. ‘My dear fellow it’s all a question of putting the ‘best wine’ in the window.
Behind the facade is as much junk as the next chap. I would be perfectly willing to look at
your offerings. I may not buy them of course…’
He indicated the cardboard box lashed to his rear carrier. ‘I was on my way to do
some negotiating now. Would you care to look through these?’
I agreed and we adjourned to a nearby cafe for refreshments. I grimaced when I saw
the interior; tables and chairs courtesy of the Salvation Army, walls the colour of old
The assistant behind the counter could have been twenty or thirty; hard to say without
resort to a scraper.
‘What’s it today Van Gogh?’ she asked George
‘Two coffees, my dear’.
‘ ‘Ark at him. My dear! Who’s payin’?’5
I proffered the correct money for the coffees.
‘Just as well. ‘e never ‘as two pennies to rub together’.
George took a sip of his coffee. ‘We artists have to suffer for our art, my dear. Poverty
figures large in that suffering’.
‘Artist!’ She turned to me. ‘ Van Gogh of Kensal Green’. She shook her head, ‘Mad
as an ‘atter’.
Over the coffees I rummaged through the contents of the box. I never expect too much
in my game so I am rarely disappointed. This occasion was no exception. The majority had
clearly been taken from old books. There were plate numbers on many of them, sequential,
which meant they had come from the same book.
Quite a number of them were black and white – or at least they had been until
somebody had tried to colour them in. This was a practice that was becoming more
widespread; tart up an old print, stick it in a poncey frame and knock it out for thirty quid
down the Bayswater road on a Sunday morning.
George had been watching me as I worked my way down through the pile. ‘Well’, he
spoke as I put the last one down, ‘can you use any of them?’
I couldn’t. Not personally. But I knew somebody who could.
‘I’ll give you a quid each for them’, I said, prepared to double my offer if need be.
Much to my surprise George accepted the offer. .A couple of minutes later the box
was firmly on my side of the table and he was shoving four tenners in his waistcoat pocket.
The waitress had been hovering in the background all this time and within minutes of
our transaction she was standing by George’s side.
‘You can pay your bill now’, she shrilled. ‘We’re not a bleedin’ charity you know’.
George doffed his hat. ‘Certainly m’dear. Very kind of you to let me run up so much.
How much does it come to?’
‘Eight pounds, fifty pee’.6
He presented her with one of the tenners from his waistcoat pocket. ‘There you are
my dear. Keep the change’.
That flustered her momentarily and gave me a chance to study her more closely. Pity
about the muck on her face, I thought. She had nice eyes, sparkling like spring water on a
sunny day.
‘Sold you some of his rubbish then ‘as he?’ She returned my gaze. ‘Well, there’s
plenty more where that came from’. She began clearing the table. ‘He’s barmy you know.
Painting, painting…all night long’.
George seemed embarrassed by her outburst. ‘Yes…well I do tend to work late at
night. Can’t sleep you see…’ His voice trailed off for a moment then revived again. ‘Perhaps
you could call round some evening and appraise more of my collection?’
I told him I would be delighted to and we arranged a time a few days hence. He then
doffed his hat to both of us and was gone
How describe George’s house? Once inside, the only way was upwards. Downstairs
was barricaded with boxes and bins, bits of old bicycles, stacks of mouldy books, picture
frames, broken vases and sundry other items too numerous to mention. There was an
enormous bellows lying across the doorway leading to the downstairs rooms. Of the door
itself there was no sign. The room in the background was the scene of even greater
devastation; it was if a dustcart had emptied its contents in the middle of it. I could hear a cat
mewing among the debris.
George waved a hand vaguely in the direction of the accumulated junk. ‘I don’t live
downstairs any longer. When one lives alone a couple of rooms are ample – and cheaper to
heat of course’.
I followed him up the stairs and couldn’t see much improvement in the conditions up
there. It consisted to two rooms and a bathroom and toilet. The toilet housed one of those
enormous cast-iron baths with splayed legs that always reminded me of a Sphinx.7
The bedroom contained two mattresses stacked together with a mound of blankets
heaped on top. The rest of the space was taken up with more of the same junk from
But it was the living room that impressed me most. Everything that George needed to
survive was crammed in here. A tiny gas ring stood on a rickety cabinet, bubbling away,
taking the chill off the air. Beneath it, cooking utensils and foodstuffs fought for breathing
space on the bulging shelves. I could see a plastic container of something or other with a
furry green substance growing on top of it. In the centre of the room stood a wobbly table. It
was laden down with paints, brushes, palettes and knives. There were a couple of paintspattered bentwood chairs nearby and a paraffin heater that smelled like a diesel engine. The
only other item of furniture was a small mahogany sideboard that held a collection of
figurines- all flawed in some way – and a silver-framed photograph of a young woman from a
bygone era.
There was also an easel, with a painting resting on it. It appeared unfinished; a
landscape or seascape of some sort. Its background was a blend of crimson and gold that
might have been an inferno. It had the hazy, misty look about it that is often associated with
Turner. None of his genius however.
‘Admiring my Turner, eh? Well, my attempt at it’, George said somewhat sheepishly.
‘A very difficult man to copy our Mr Turner. Still, you seem to have captured
the…mirage effect’, I replied noncommittally.
His face lit up like a child’s. ‘D’you think so?’ He stood back a little, his hands on his
hips. ‘Yes, I see what you mean’.
We were silent for a moment then he remarked casually.’ It’s the voices, you know’.
‘’Voices?’ I heard myself saying.
‘Oh yes. Sometimes I am lying there at night and they come to me. I have to get up
and paint then. Often through the night…’
‘They tell you to paint…Turner, these voices?’
‘Of course. Always Turner. Never anybody else’.8
By this time I should have concluded that he was a raving lunatic, but it never
occurred to me. Afterwards it puzzled me, yet somehow it didn’t seem out of place. He told
me how the voices had first come to him years ago, and how he had been painting to their
specification ever since. He was convinced it was Turner speaking to him. He had tried to sell
them or place them in auctions but without success. There must have been a couple of dozen
paintings in all, and when he had removed the dirty dust-sheet and let me view the pile I
could understand why the dealers had laughed at his claim that they were the work of Turner.
I told him that I wasn’t interested in his paintings, didn’t fancy Turner that much, and
he seemed to accept that. What intrigued me were the piles of prints scattered about the room.
There must have been hundreds of them. He was very reticent about where they came from. I
collected them over the years. Where from? Books, just books. Where are the books now?
Who knows? Lost. Thrown away. In the end I was no wiser.
I tried a different approach. ‘Have you always lived on your own?’
‘I was married once’, he eventually replied. ‘’But it all seems like a dream now. A
bad dream…’ He indicated the sideboard and the silver-framed photograph. ‘My dear wife.
My lovely wife…’ and a fog settled over his face.
‘What happened to her?’
‘She died’, he replied simply. His hand forestalled any condolences on my part. ‘It
was all a long time ago. All forgotten now’. His hand waved vaguely around the room. ‘She
wouldn’t have liked any of this. Not my Marjorie’.
I tried to draw him out some more but he had said all he was going to say on the
subject for the present. I ended up parting with fifty pounds, and acquired another box of
prints and a raging curiosity.
George’s voices got louder as time passed. Over the months I made regular visits to
his house, and not always to buy. This old man, faintly ridiculous-looking, who painted badly
and held conversations with Turner, had got me going. It wasn’t madness that possessed him,
I decided, but fanaticism. You could see it in his eyes when he spoke about Turner – there
was fire raging in there. Despite his obsession he was very articulate and could converse
knowledgably on a wide range of subjects. When I mentioned Universities however he shook 9
his head and remarked in his sometimes pompous manner that his education was gained in
‘the public libraries of London’.
He was now spending most of his time at his painting, and once finished the canvas
would be hawked around from shop to shop, gallery to gallery, in the hope that somebody,
somewhere, would accept it for the masterpiece he believed it to be.
Despite my constant probing I never learned much about his background or what
made him tick. Why I should be interested I had no idea, but I knew that my curiosity would
not be denied. Conversations with other gallery and junk-shop owners soon established that
he was well-known all over London. I learned that he had been touting his prints around the
Capital for more than thirty years, selling them everywhere from the Embankment to outside
Madame Tussaud’s.
‘How come I haven’t come across him before?’ I asked one acquaintance.
‘Probably because you haven’t been in the Smoke too long’, was his reply. He’s been
out of circulation for a while. To be honest I thought he was dead’.
He was delighted to learn that George was still very much alive, and when I related
the tale of the Turners he laughed.
‘Of course. It makes sense now. I’d heard stories of a few piss-poor copies floating
Another friend thought his wife might have been an artist herself. He seemed to think
that she had died mysteriously but couldn’t elaborate any further. Another still came up with
the name of Tanner Daly, a totter who had spent all his life knocking on doors in the Notting
Hill and Queens Park area, and who had been friendly with George.
A few days later I was in the cafe again, this time on my own. Rita, the counter
assistant had shown definite signs of wanting to further our acquaintance so I asked her out
for a drink. Later that evening, her hair fluffed up and her plump knees shining above sixinch stilettos, I wondered what I was letting myself in for. When we had exhausted the usual
small talk – I told her how my wife had run off with my accountant and how happy they were
somewhere in Spain and she told me how her boyfriend had dumped her for her best friend –
the talk turned back to George. I asked her if she had ever heard of Tanner Daly.10
‘Course I have. Everybody knows Tanner. Anyway, he’s family – he’s my dad’s
When I mentioned the possibility of him and George being friends she wasn’t so sure.
‘I suppose they might have. I never remember him talking about him though. Maybe
when he was totting. But he packed that up more than twenty years ago – when he bought the
‘The cafe you work in? He owns that?’ She nodded her head. ‘Do you think I could
talk to him?’
‘Not at the caff you can’t. He hasn’t been there for ten years. But if you fancy a drive
tomorrow you can come with me when I visit him’.
Later on, after we had generated some heat in the back seat of my Mercedes, she told
me he rented out the cafe to her family. That way he got an income in his old age and they
got a living out of it. She laughed when I asked how he had got his nickname.
‘Tanner? Whenever he bought anything he’d say ‘I’ll give you a tanner for it missus’.
That’s all he ever paid for anything, he reckoned’.
The following day found us somewhere round the back of Wembley High Street, at
the Eagles Old Peoples’ home. God preserve me from old age I thought as we waited at
reception. The signs of decay were everywhere. All about me shapeless bundles were lolling
about in armchairs; one old man’s mouth was half-open and his dribble was falling unheeded
on his sleeve. There were conversations going on, but with themselves and not each other. By
the time Tanner had been found I was wishing I hadn’t come. Small and wiry-looking, the
veins bulging on his hands and neck, he was almost invisible in the large tub-chair that
housed him in a corner of the TV room.
‘Oh, it’s you’, he said when he saw Rita. ‘Is it Christmas then?’
‘Give over, Tanner’, she laughed. ‘It’s only a few weeks since I saw you. And dad
comes to see you nearly every week, don’t he’.
‘Yeah. Worse luck the miserable bleeder’. He turned to me, ‘did you bring anything
to drink? Don’t give it to me. Slip it into that green vase on the table over there by the
window. Worse than the bloody Gestapo they are around here…’11
‘I’m sorry…’ I began, wondering what he was on about.
‘Take no notice of ‘im’, Rita interrupted. ‘He plays that game every time I come
here’. I could see Tanner chuckling away. ‘Adam’s here to talk to you about George. He
paints and sells pictures. Adam thought you might’a known him once’.
‘Old George. Yeah, I knew him. Still do. Comes around now and then. Always brings
me a drop and a few smokes…’ He paused, ‘you sure you ain’t got anything?’
I shook my head then remembered the couple of cigars in my inside pocket. They
disappeared from my hand before I had time to offer them to him.
‘When did you first meet George?, I asked him.
‘A long time ago. Now, was it before the war or after? Must’a been after I suppose.
He was supposed to help me with the knocking but in the end I couldn’t afford him’.
‘Yeah. He couldn’t keep his trap shut when I was haggling over a deal. Always
encouraging me to pay more’.
‘You fell out?’
‘Nah. We never did. Just went our separate ways. Any old books or prints I got I put
his way. He was like a bleedin’ magpie as I recall’.
‘So you supplied his books over the years?’
Her shook his head. ‘Only some of them. Very few in the end I would say’.
‘So where did he get them from?’
‘I couldn’t say’.
Or wouldn’t say. There was little else to be learned; it appeared his periods of lucidity
were fairly short-lived. When we left he was searching for the bottle I had supposedly hidden
from him and muttering about rats.
It was George himself who provided the answers by getting himself killed a few
weeks later. Failing to get any response to my repeated knocking, and seeing lights on all 12
over the house, I gained entry by means of the key I had remembered hanging on a length of
string behind the door-flap. There was no sign of him upstairs and it was only when I began
searching the ground-floor rooms that I discovered the open trapdoor behind the stairs.
George was lying at the bottom of some makeshift steps.
He had been dead for several days, his head surrounded by a pool of dark, caked
blood. There were several dead rats nearby and his cat was sitting close to the body – as if on
The cavern where he lay was illuminated as a bleak, windowless tomb, but not damp
or mildewed. The room was large, oblong in shape, and seemed to be an original feature of
the house that had not been completed. Its contents stunned me or a moment; books, stacks
upon stacks of them heaped high. There were more than thirty columns of them, each the
height of myself, and each pile having a year number attached near the top. All were
chronologically arranged, starting with the previous year and working their way backwards.
I picked a few of the books at random. They were all library books, each bearing the
stamps of a local authority in the London area. I eased a few more from the centre of several
piles. The same. A quick calculation told me there were more than six thousand books in the
One wall was taken up with a rough-hewn timber shelving system. Ten carefullywrapped canvasses filled the shelves. Their quality was unmistakable; not Turner, but
definitely not George’s inept dabbling. I found a couple of portraits amongst them; one was
certainly George as a plump young man; the other was of a young woman with a mane of
flame-red hair. On the back of this was scrawled ‘ self-portrait 1952’. All were signed.
In a small roll-top desk I found a couple of leather-bound journals. All the books were
catalogued inside; the libraries they had been taken from, the dates, the number of prints
removed from each book. There were also several cuttings, preserved in plastic wrapping, but
yellowed. I read one
‘Promising artist Marjorie Andover was found dead yesterday in the cellars of
Willesden Green Library, having been accidently locked down there over the bank holiday
weekend. The doctor said she probably died of fright. Her husband George, who had been
frantically searching for her all weekend, said she was pathologically afraid of the dark and 13
even slept with a light on. A library spokesman said she had been allowed down in the cellars
to view some old art books that had been stored down there because of lack of space upstairs.
Later, the caretaker had seen the cellar lights on, called down and got no reply, and had
locked the cellar door and switched the lights off from above. The lights couldn’t be turned
back on again from below’.
The story went on to describe how she had shredded her fingernails trying to claw her
way out, and that some of her flesh had been gnawed at by rats.
They buried George today in Kensal Green cemetery. I was the only mourner. Rita
couldn’t come as she was busy at the cafe. What will happen to the house and its contents I
haven’t the foggiest; it seems that Marjorie was an orphan and no trace of any relative of
George can be found. It was quite amusing to hear the interested parties argue about whose
jurisdiction the books came under; the police reckoned they were the libraries problem, while
the libraries maintained they were the proceeds of crime and should be held by the police.
Nobody wants the problem of George’s books.
Me, I have a problem too. Before I called the police I removed Marjorie’s pictures
from the basement. All ten of them. They are now adorning the walls of my flat above the
gallery, looking like a million dollars. Well, ten million to be exact.
The name bothered me you see so I wired a gallery owner I knew in New York for
information. ‘Yes’, the information came back, ‘Marjorie Andover’s work is very well
known over here. The last known example of her work sold about twenty years ago for one
hundred thousand dollars. A new find at this time might easily make one million’’
The easy thing to do would be to claim that George had sold them to me. But I can’t.
You see there was also another item in the roll-top desk that I overlooked. George’s will. And
an inventory of Marjorie’s paintings, together with instructions that they be donated to the
National Gallery. The representative from the gallery had a good laugh when he inspected the
paintings I had put in their place – ten of George’s Turners – and said he was now convinced
that there was not a single painting of Marjorie’s unaccounted for.
Ten million dollars…George couldn’t have known. Or could he?


JOHN: Now we’re motorin’ lads! Seamie would have been here tonight – if he wasn’t otherwise
engaged. Come on Mick, another song.
Mick: I’ll sing the one you gave me to put a tune to “Permanent Tear” although I don’t think it will
cheer us up Jack, it’s about some girl he met at a fair in Hampstead, and then she walked out on
JOHN: She never lived with me to walk out.
MICK: Here we go.
In the morning when waking, my heart is breaking; I realize I’m all alone; I am so lonely, there’s
just me only ever since you left our home.
My heart is broken, so I go to my local, and I’m drinking whiskey and beer, my friends they come
by and each of them try to dry up this permanent tear.
The band is playing, the dancers are swaying, but I don’t hear them at all, ‘because you’re not here,
and without you my dear, I could never walk tall.
I pick up my phone, I call her home, her mother says, she is not here, she has left you, she’s found
someone new, once more that permanent tear’
I’ve got a tear, a permanent tear ever since you said good bye, I’ve got a tear a permanent always
that tear in my eye.
To me you were so good, without you I’m no good, why did you go way? Now that you’re gone it’s
hard to go on, how can I get through the day?
I go to my bed, I lay down my head, but I can’t get any sleep, I stare at the ceiling, such a sad
feeling, once more I’m starting to weep.
The nights are much colder and I long to hold her, and oh how I wish she was here, and God knows
I miss her and I long to kiss her and dry up this permanent tear.
Outside it’s raining; inside I’m paining as I wonder where it went wrong, my mind says let go, my
hearts saying no, it won’t accept she has gone.
It just won’t believe it that she would deceive it, and throw away all of those years, but it’s no use
pretending, there’s no happy ending; I must live with this permanent tear.
JACK: Great, great Mick, she must have a left a bit of an impression on you John.31
JOHN: Young love Jack, so important one day, and forgotten the next, not like our civil War, still
not forgotten and hundredth anniversary coming up shortly I wonder what way will they
Jack: What way will they commemorate the civil war? It’s going to be awkward for whoever is in
power… I often wonder what kind of a country we would have had if the civil war never started, if
De Valera had accepted like the majority of the people did what Collin’s brought back? And
remember what Collins brought back was just a stepping stone, and if accepted, maybe with
ongoing negotiations we could have got thirty two counties
MICK: De Valera was right not to accept it, he wanted a thirty two county Republic, and he was
willing to fight for it.
JOHN: He was willing to fight for it, and he did, but was he fighting for a Republic or for his own
survival, remember when the people accepted in an election what Collins brought back…De Valera
was yesterdays man, and the big question, why didn’t De Valera go to England himself?
JACK: De Valera didn’t go to England, because he was of the opinion that nothing was to be
gained, and Collin’s would return empty handed, remember, Collins at this point in time was the
man of the people, De Valera was becoming insignificant, he needed to regain his popularity, he
hoped the people would look upon Collin’s as a failure.
MICK: Nonsense, he wanted thirty two counties, and he was willing to do all he could to get it.
JOHN: If that is so Mick, why when he eventually came to power, and remember he ran this
country for almost fifty years, why for that fifty years did he abandon the North and left the
nationalists at the mercy of the unionists, to be treated as dirt in their own country?
JOHN: Anyway lads, let’s get back to the poetry, music and song. Have you anything left, Jack?
JACK: As the actress said to the archbishop. How about this, It’s a chapter from CRICKLEWOOD
COWBOYS. And a girl called Tessa
‘Meet Tessa – my new partner’, said Chris as I entered the living room.
‘I already have’, I shouted. ‘She stole my bloody wallet’.
It was barely an hour since our first meeting. The venue had been the Banba Club, at the teadance, where hung-over Irishmen sobered up on a Sunday afternoon, waiting for the pubs to
re-open. Situated up an alleyway off the Kilburn High Road, it was a low-roofed shack of a
building, and had probably once seen service as stables. Some of the locals were of the
opinion that it still catered for animals.32
The afternoon had been a little more eventful than usual; apart from the removal of my wallet
and the mandatory couple of fights, The Sunshine Gang had paid one of their occasional
visits. They had, as usual, been repelled. But not before they had wedged a Mini in the
entrance, busted a doorman’s nose, and smashed the window to the ticket office. In the
fighting that had ensued, sheer numbers had driven them back into the street. They had
retreated, vowing revenge. I had landed a punch on a greasy head and had returned to the
mineral bar feeling pleased with myself.
The dance that followed was a Siege of Ennis, and I found myself dragged into the mass of
gyrating bodies by Tessa. She stood out among the other dancers; tall and athletic- looking,
ash-blonde hair billowing out behind her as she jigged – inexpertly – to the music. I managed
to hang on to her for the following slow waltz, and discovered that it was her first time to an
Irish dance. Afterwards, she disappeared to wherever it is women go to when dances are
over. A few minutes later I discovered my wallet had disappeared too.
‘No hard feeling, Terry?’ She handed me back the wallet, a big grin on her face. ’It wasn’t
my idea’.
‘I know it wasn’t’. I extracted a fiver and handed it to Chris. ‘You proved your point’.
‘I told you she was good’. He laughed and clapped me on the back.
Chris’ pick -and-shovel days were over. His weekly ten-shilling accumulator on the ITV
Seven had finally come good: from his winnings he had purchased a new suit and shoes, and
became a pickpocket in the West End. Tessa was his latest assistant.
Tessa lit up a cigarette then offered them round. ‘Is that what you call a dance in Ireland?
Chris laughed. ‘It was a bit lively, I suppose’.
‘Who, exactly, is The Sunshine Gang?’ she asked
Larry raised his head from The Sporting Chronicle. ‘A bunch of bowsies from back yonder’.
Where yonder was he didn’t specify. ‘We had the right treatment for them in Ringsend’.
‘We Know. The ould Ringsend uppercut’, I chuckled, having heard it all before.
‘And what is a Ringsend uppercut?’ she asked
‘A good kick in the…’ Larry hesitated, ’what’s-its’.33
Chris nudged Tessa. ‘Larry used to run with them, didn’t you?’
‘From a distance, boy. Only from a distance’. He snorted. ‘They came over here to lick
their wounds’.
Despite Larry’s low opinion of them, they had already acquired a reputation in the area, and
when fights broke out in the dancehalls and clubs they were usually in the thick of it.
The arrival of Tessa changed our lives quite a lot. I had never met anyone quite like her
before. She wasn’t the first liberated woman I had come in to contact with, but she was
different. Certainly different from the Irish girls you met at the dances in the Galtymore and
the 32 Club. Oh, you could shift them, but no matter how much drink you poured down their
gullets, all you were likely to get at the end of the night was a good feel. And sometimes not
even that. Getting your leg over meant putting a roof over their heads. Marriages might be
made in heaven but they were negotiated in dancehalls like the Galtymore.
They worked like beavers in the sweatshops of Kilburn and Cricklewood. At Smiths and
Walls, Heinz and Unigate, from eight till five, then hurried away to supplement their meagre
wages by doing evening shifts as usherettes and assemblers in the cinemas and factories.
Weekends they prowled the dancehalls looking for husbands – men who would be content
with a furtive fumble in the back of a Mini or Austin 1100, and who could be weaned off the
Guinness without too much fuss. Oh yes, behind every drunken Irishman was a sober Irish
Into this came Tessa like a breath of fresh air. Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, songs of peace,
rioting students, she scorned all that. She was a materialist, out, as she put it, to screw the
world before it screwed her. There was no such thing as free love.
‘There’s a price for everything’, she said, ‘especially love’.
‘Why a pickpocket?’ I asked her one evening.
‘Why not? It’s better than a bleedin’ factory. I left school at fifteen, home at sixteen. I got
cheesed off being pawed by my dad – step-dad actually – and my mum couldn’t give a toss.
Too busy doing the amusement arcades by day and her bingo at night. My brother Ben was
nicking cars for a living – when he wasn’t inside. I just took off one day. I don’t think
anybody missed me’. 34
One afternoon she turned up at the flat, limping. She asked me to fetch some ice-cubes, and
then explained she had fallen down some steps on the Embankment.
‘Stupid, really. I wasn’t watching where I was going and tripped over. I had the stuff Chris
passed to me in my bag. It could have been serious, I guess…’
‘Maybe it’s an omen’.
She laughed. ‘If you believe all that crap. My mum believes in black cats, not walking under
ladders, throwing salt over your left shoulder, all that stuff, and it hasn’t brought her much
luck. I believe you make your own’.
Her skirt had ridden up and I could see her knickers. Black, lacy affairs. Go on, something
kept telling me, she wouldn’t let you see the view if she didn’t want you to do something
about it. However, before I could act, the door opened and Chris walked in.
My drift into crime probably began with that incident, because next day I was standing in for
her as Chris’s assistant. And very boring it was too. I spent my time sauntering up and down
a stretch of Piccadilly while he searched for suitable victims. At the end of the day we had
acquired a purse with everything in it except money, a wallet containing five one pound
notes, a train ticket to Hemel Hempstead, and a photo of a nude woman with ‘I love you,
Dicko’ scrawled across it. Our other acquisition confirmed my suspicions that the English
were sex-mad; a gold-embossed cigarette case with ten French ticklers packed neatly inside.
We shared the condoms and pawned the case for eight quid. Not exactly a fortune for a day’s
work. Chris said there were better days, but I didn’t really fancy it. I was glad when Tessa
Since Jonjo’s death I hadn’t taken a pick or shovel in my hand. And I had no intention of
doing so. London was a goldmine, waiting to be exploited. Larry was right; it was a great
place for those with no intention of getting up in the morning. We began stealing on a small
scale, and found the Portobello market on a Saturday morning very obliging. It was
incredibly easy; hiding the gear in special pockets inside our long coats. Jeans and shirts
were the easiest to flog in the pubs we hawked them round. We extended our operations to
take in other markets; Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane, and found that shops like Burtons and
Colliers were just as obliging.
By now I had acquired Larry’s passion for the horses. Sometimes it seemed as if I was 35
stealing for William Hills or Terry Downes; come late afternoon, the money I’d made in the
morning had vanished behind the counter of a dingy betting shop in Willesden Lane or
Kilburn High Road. Other times we were rolling in it; like when Saucy Kit won the
Champion Hurdle and Fleet the One Thousand Guineas, and we had them doubled up to win
hundreds of pounds. We followed up on Royal Palace in the Two Thousand Guineas and The
It was Tessa who suggested the break in Brighton when she saw us counting our winnings
after the Derby. Larry wouldn’t come – he had bought a small van for fifty pounds and
wanted to practice his driving – so Chris, Tessa and myself headed off.
I still couldn’t figure Tessa out. For several months now she had graced us with her
presence, but she was as enigmatic as ever. One thing was clear though; she wasn’t Chris’s
girlfriend, merely his working partner. She was even vague about where she lived; over
Walthamstow way was the nearest I could pin her down to, and if Chris knew he wasn’t
saying. Sometimes we wouldn’t see her for a week or more, and apart from occasional
outingsto the pub with us, where she downed pints of lager without ever seeming to get
pissed; her social life was a total mystery. I badly wanted to get inside her knickers, and it
was frustrating watching her parade her talents round the flat when I couldn’t seem to get
close to her.
Brighton changed all that. We were like kids again at the seaside. We built sandcastles,
raced each other along the beach, and got sick on jellied eels. And even sicker on beer. We
had taken sleeping bags with us, sleeping huddled together beneath the promenade for the
first few nights. Then Chris met an old friend, and she dragged him off to the Isle of Wight
to some concert she had tickets for. I was fed up of sleeping on lumpy terrain, so I suggested
we book into a couple of hotel rooms that night.
.’Make it a double’, she replied.
Making love with her was like being aboard a runaway train. A hair-raising ride, constantly
picking up speed, gathering momentum. I wondered if we were ever going to stop. On and
on we rode, free-wheeling in places, generating sparks galore where the friction was fiercest.
Eventually, we coasted to a stop on an uphill section. Out of steam. Well, I was anyway. Her
body in repose was the nearest thing to a work of art I had ever seen. Long flanks perfectly
aligned, breasts sculpted out of the finest, palest clay; nostrils flared, lips slightly parted as 36
she slumbered.
Sunrise found us on the beach again, watching the sun clamber over the horizon. I knew how
it felt.
It was then that she asked me for a hundred pounds.
‘It’s for my mum. To stop the bailiffs givin’ her the heave-ho. Dad’s done a runner again and
Ben’s in the nick…’
‘It’s a lot of dosh, I said’.
She shrugged. ‘It’s only money, Terry. Bits of paper. Easy come, easy go. Besides, you’ll
only lose it all again. You always do’. She rubbed a hand along the inside of my thigh.
‘Think of it as a long-term investment’.
I couldn’t figure out what she was offering me; love, friendship, or merely the use of her
body. Whatever it was, I wanted it. I gave her the hundred quid. When we got back to
London Bridge she kissed me goodbye and said she would see me soon.
‘Where’s Tessa?’ Larry asked when he saw me on my own.
‘You guess is as good as mine. She borrowed some money then took off’.
He looked at me in a peculiar fashion. ‘She borrowed some off me too. Before ye left. For
her brother’s bail, she said’.
I gave him a highly selective version of our exploits, omitting any reference to our steamy
session in the hotel. That was our secret. Something to be savoured in moments of solitude.
Not an item to be tossed casually into the conversation as if it were about a football match or
a horse race. Some of the girls we tangled with were fair game, but this was something
Besides, I had seen the way Larry looked at her. Chris turned up later in the evening
complaining of a wasted journey.
‘’She was on the rags. All I got was a couple of hand jobs. I could have done that myself.
Besides, she got me there under false pretences. Said Bob Dylan was goin’ to be playing…’
‘And he wasn’t?’37
‘Naw. It was that fucking Donovan…’ He began to sing. ‘They call me mellow yellow…
what a wanker’.
He didn’t seem surprised to hear about the money. ‘Did she say what for?’
For her mother…or brother’. Larry gave him the details.
Chris laughed. ‘Not her brother. She hasn’t got one. Least, not called Ben’.
‘How come you know so much about her all of a sudden?’ I said, annoyed now that I had
ever mentioned the money.
He shrugged. ‘Little things I picked up. You can’t spend time with people and not learn
something. Human nature, isn’t it?’ He grinned. ‘I suppose I‘d better start looking for a new
As Jack finishes his story a blond-haired, statuesque woman appears in the doorway.
Neither of them sees her for a moment, and then both of them do together.
JOHN: Tess…Tessa…
JACK: Ah, Theresa, there you are. Everybody, this is my wife, Theresa.
JOHN: (still bemused) Tess…Tessa…Theresa….Is, ah…your wife!
JACK: Theresa, this is John.
Silence for a moment.
JOHN: Delighted to meet you Theresa, haven’t we met before someplace?
THERESA: No…No, I… I don’t think so.
MICK: Ah now John, I’m sure if you met Theresa before, you would have a permanent
memory of her, wouldn’t you?
JOHN: Yes…yes Mick you’re right, of course I would, and I might have even have penned a
poem about her, Tess…Theresa, tell me why you didn’t turn up…
Maggie interrupts John.
MAGGIE: Time now please, time now, everyone please, drink up or the guards will be in on 38
top of us, okay. JOHN? Not now, leave it, leave it for another time
JOHN: Another time Maggie? Ah…shure you’re right. The fella that made time made
enough of it. But you don’t expect us to leave our pints? Would you mind if we finish them
off with a toast and a song?
MAGGIE: Yes John that would be good, a toast and a song.
John: Right lads a toast, to new friends, and old friends, and to friends who may have
forgotten us, and to the next generation, and a Government for all the people, not just for
some of the people
JACK: Right Mick give us a blast of The Parting Glass.
Of all the money that e’er I had
I’ve spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Of all the comrades that e’er I had
They are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all

WARTS AN’ ALL contd…

MICK: That’s mighty stuff Jack, and was that play staged in London?
JACK: It was and went down very well – and had some of Behan’s relations in the audience.
Right Mick, let’s hear another song, what are you going to sing?
MICK: The one John wrote about an old fellow being a stranger in his own village.
JACK: An old fellow can be a stranger in a city as well as a village…
JOHN: Begod don’t I know it! This is called, “Drinkin’ with Ghosts”
Mick sings.
He sat at the bar, he was drinkin’ some beer / a vacant seat near him, I asked, can I sit here?
Hr turned around, and then said to me / if you sit there you’ll sit on her knee.
I’m drinkin’ with ghosts tonight, I’m drinkin’ with ghosts, my old friends are here / some drinkin’
whiskey, some drinkin’ beer.
I’m drinkin’ with ghost, I’m waltzing with shadows / I’m lying on a beach, I’m running through
She’s right beside me, the love of my life / I’m drinkin’ with ghosts tonight.
He said if you look around, all your friends you can see / all my friends are gone, there’s only just
I’m a blast from the past, from along ago time / and the world that you live in is different to mine.
Repeat Chorus
He got of his seat, and walked to the door / I thought I saw shadows waltz ‘cross the floor,
He said, I’ll just open this door and step on to the street / it’s time now to go / I have old friends to
Repeat chorus, and add to the end. Drinkin’ with ghosts, waltzing with shadows, I’m meting my
friends tonight.
JACK: Follow that, says the fella!
JOHN: I’ll read a piece from my book DUST COVERED MEMORIES. A piece about youth and
old age, now let’s see where to start? Ah yes here we go, this piece, Ted is reminiscing about his
youth to his young friend Jim.
Do you want tea or coffee Jim?
I’ll have coffee.
You stay here, it’s such a lovely morning I’ll make the coffee and bring it out.
I sat there waiting for Ted, hearing nothing only the sound of nature. I was reminded of a couple of
lines of a poem I read somewhere, season of colourful flowers and happy hearts, dancing singing
and seaside play / birds and bees, and other summer sounds form a choir to sing you through the
Just as Ted came with the coffee, a young couple, about nineteen or twenty passed on their way to
the sea.
Ted said, how I envy them. To be that age again if only for one glorious day, to be young and free
again. To be in love, to be in Tramore on a summer’s evening having fun on the bumpers and
hurdy-gurdys, to listen to Brendan Boyer singing Kiss Me Quick. To eat chips from vinegar soaked
brown bag
To walk from the Atlantic Ballroom with the one of your dreams and admire a full moon casting a
shimmering silver streak of light on the surface of the sea. To experience once more what it’s like to
be in love, and to be loved, and then spend a restless night in anticipation of another day. No need to
die to go to heaven, what could be more heavenly than a summer’s day with the one you love.
Young girl in a summer dress / her lovely face the sun caress,
Nimble of limb she walks by / I watch her pass, I heave a sigh,
Recalling days that used to be / alas those days no more for me.
Days of youth, days of bliss / days of love and tender kiss,
Those teenage years full of joy / and first love for girl and boy,
Nights of love, dance and song / those carefree days now all gone.
Gone…gone, gone forever, memories where would we be without them.
Ted handed me the coffee.
I asked, is that poem a lament for the past Ted.
It’s for the past and the present, the first line in John Keats poem “Endymion, is a thing of beauty is
a joy forever.
And so it should be Ted.
It should be, but it’s not.
What do you mean; surely you can enjoy any form of beauty you like.23
You would think so, but I’m only allowed to enjoy some forms of beauty. Young and old can gaze
upon and admire the beauty of a sunset or sunrise, young and old can gaze upon and admire a sunlit
grove of bluebells, or the golden sheen of furze on a hillside, young and old can admire a beautiful
work of art, or an old, or new piece of architecture. But if a young lady walks by, only the young are
allowed to gaze, if an old man admires her beauty, he is deemed a pervert. The world does not seem
to understand that the ability to appreciate all forms of beauty does not deteriorate with old age.
Interval if required
Act 2
MICK: Maggie, come out from behind that counter and let John admire you.
MAGGIE: I’d love to Mick, but I can’t take a chance, someone might say we have pervert on the
premises and call the guards.
MICK: Or, he might collapse and we’d have to call an ambulance.
JOHN: As the Queen said to Prince Phillip when she saw what was on offer, “We are not amused”
JACK: I was just thinking the other day; we’ve just finished celebrating the anniversary of 1916,
and soon we’ll be preparing for the anniversary of the civil war.
MICK: I hope they don’t look at it through rose tinted glasses like they did with 1916; the civil war
anniversary will be complicated, for the truth was never told
JOHN: It’s going to be hard to placate the two civil war parties, a lot of questions to be answered,
for instance why was it started? Why we were never taught anything about it in national school in
the forties and fifties?
JACK: It will take a brave politician to answer your first question Mick; I’ll answer the second one
myself. The gombeen men ruled. Fianna Fail were in power for most of the forties and fifties, and
of course that meant a Fianna Fail Minister for education, it would take a brave teacher even to
mention the Civil War, never mind discuss it, remember this was a time in Ireland when the
Government and the Catholic Church were sacking female teachers who became pregnant out of
Maggie shouts at John from behind counter.
MAGGIE John I heard a lovely poem of yours last Sunday night on John O’ Shea’s programme on
WLR, It’s called “Make Love Not War” and since ye are blabbing on about war, would you read it
for us?24
JOHN: Ah, Maggie, I didn’t know you cared, I’d make love to you anytime… so just for you,
here’s “Make Love, Not War.”
Make love not war and the world will be a better place to live, maybe a sign of peace and harmony
is what we all should give.
This world is oh…so small, when compared to the universe for size, but we must learn to share it,
rich and poor, the foolish and the wise.
All Christians, Jews, and Muslims, believe their god is right, and then they try to prove it with
mayhem, death, and might.
You are right to revere your God, and to believe that he’s the best, but you have no right to force
that belief on me and all the rest.
I believe our God’s are peaceful, but we put those God’s to shame, when we cause death and
carnage, and we cause it in their name.
I’m sure you must have noticed as they gather up the dead, the victims… though of different creed
and colour, all their blood ran red.
And whatever is your colour, whether it’s yellow, white or black, your skin is just the wrapping, and
you cannot give it back.
If I could find a peace dust, I’d climb a mountain high, and there I’d cast it to the wind and stand
and watch it fly.
And as it blew around the world, it would bring wars to an end, spreading peace and harmony and
turning foe to friend.
But I cannot find a peace dust; I know that’s just a dream, so peace and understanding must come
by other means.
Are our God’s that different? Or is us the human race? Who cannot accept each other’s, politics,
creed and face?
What if I told you; our God’s are from the same large tree, and sprouting from the one root, a
branch for you and me.
So make love not war and the world will be a better place to live, maybe a sign of peace and
harmony is what we all should give.
This world is oh…so small when compared to the universe for size, but we must learn to share it,
rich and poor, the foolish and the wise.
JACK: That’s powerful, John. Are you sure you’re not related to Bob Dylan?
JOHN: No Jack, but I’ll soon be a Zimmerman, when they give me a Zimmer frame, read one of
your poems, or something from “Cricklewood Cowboys.”
JACK: Follow that, he says! This is a piece about The Royal Dukes. Who remembers them? No
one, I expect
MICK: Go way or that, Jack! Seamie Brien, P J Kirwan, yerself…the Portlaw boys. Ireland’s
answer to The Beatles!25
JACK: Ah stop it now, Mick! (he reads)
For my eighteenth birthday I got a union card, a crash helmet and the news that I was
to start shift work in the rubber department in the Tannery. The rubber department was as
different from the leather-board shop as a milking parlour from a bakery. Rows of machines
lined the floor, looking, for all the world, like something out of a Marvel comic, their short,
squat bodies festooned with pulleys and handles.
In here, shoe-soles of all shapes and sizes were turned out in their thousands. Bales of
rubber were brought in, cut into thin slabs then delivered in bins to the machine operators.
The slabs were then placed in the moulds and the machines set in motion. When the
moulding process was complete, the moulds were emptied, and the filled bins carted away for
despatch to some English shoe manufacturer.
The union card was compulsory on reaching the age of eighteen. For the payment of a
shilling a week you got the privilege of voting in the shop-steward election once a year, and
going on strike with no union pay when a dispute had to be settled.
The crash helmet wasn’t compulsory, but mother said I should wear it all the same. I
did so when I remembered.
On the music front, a new era had begun. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones had broken
new ground, were changing all the rules, and we wanted to be part of it. Gone were the staid
and strait-laced days of the foxtrot and the waltz; new dances were springing up all over the
world; fashion was becoming outlandish and outrageous; Mods and Rockers were fighting
over girls in Brighton and Clacton, Beatle-mania was sweeping the world. We wanted to be
part of the revolution.
There was no apartheid in the rubber department; girls as well as boys operated the
machines, and it was clear that they, too, wanted to break the mould. Bee-hive hair-dos’
appeared, skirts began to creep upward, and it slowly dawned on us that girls did have legs
above their knees.
It was no secret that we were trying to put a band together. And when Paul Gorman
confessed that he, too, was trying to do the same, the germ of an idea was born. Why didn’t
we join forces? Kilmac and Portlaw come together in some venture? It couldn’t work, would 26
it? The only time they came together was on the sports field – when they usually kicked the
shite out of each other.
Our first meetings were exploratory, but they turned out more productive than
we expected; We all wanted a band with a brass section, and when we found that Paul played
the saxophone and David Hallissey the trumpet…well, that was the brass section taken care
of. The next problem was the drummer; they had Brendan O’Shea and we had PJ. Then we
saw Brendan perform on the drums and that was the drummer problem solved. That meant
me becoming the bass guitarist and PJ the rhythm guitarist. Neither of us minded too much; I
had been experimenting with the bass already and PJ was already an accomplished guitar
player. That only left Tony Regan. What could he play? After some discussion we decided
we would buy a trombone and he could learn to play it.
Seamie solved the problem of where to rehearse with our now-expanded group.
Michael Baron, the owner of the Rainbow Hall, also owned a joinery firm and Seamie
worked for him. When he heard of our predicament, he offered us the use of the Rainbow on
the nights it wasn’t in use, usually Tuesday and Thursday nights.
The name was less easy. Many were thought up and discarded. The Young Ones, The
Young Devils. However, when the parish priest heard this last name being mentioned he
came to see us and told us to find something more fitting. The Young Shadows was one we
all liked but there was a group in Dublin already called that. The name ‘Royal’ was very
popular with bands, and when someone came up with the word ‘Duke’, we thought it had a
certain ring to it. We became The Royal Dukes.
Practice was hard work – especially for those not too acquainted with their
instruments. I didn’t have much of an ear for music- tone deaf would be putting it mildly – so
my bass notes depended on what chords Seamie was playing at any given time. This meant
keeping one eye on his fingers, and one on my own playing – a practice from which anybody
watching would conclude that I was cross-eyed. Then we discovered a sheet-music shop in
Dungarvan. Buying the sheets at least stopped me from developing a squint, for, although I
couldn’t read music, the guitar chords were clearly indicated.
We also needed microphones and amplifiers, and here Pat Barron, Michael’s brother,
helped out. Pat was lead guitarist with the Pat Irwin band and he passed us on some
amplification they no longer used.27
Listening to ourselves in those early days was painful. We recorded some of our
efforts and then played them back. One of the first was’ Send Me The Pillow That You
Dreamed On’, a song made popular by Johnny Tillotson. We murdered it; off note, off key,
out of tune, out of time, you name it, we did it. We played it back a second time; it sounded
even worse. Seamie was tearing his hair out; never mind the same key, boys, could we all try
and play the same tune!
Gradually we got better. Slowly, the realisation dawned that we were beginning to
sound like a coherent unit. A band that now needed an audience, for a band that merely
played behind closed doors was as useful as a car without wheels.
Michael Barron proved to be our saviour once again. He booked us as relief band at a
forthcoming dance at The Rainbow. The date was a couple of months off so we had plenty of
time for preparation. Or so we thought. We weren’t half ready. We never would be. We had
to get jackets made, learn a dance routine, get ourselves better equipment. And Tony must
learn to play his trombone. He couldn’t blow a note yet.
Slowly but surely the problems sorted themselves out. We went to a tailor in
Dungarvan and he measured us up for our new jackets. We choose a broad blue-and-grey
striped material, and picked a design similar to that worn by the Beatle. We worked on the
dance routine, and found a supplier of hired amplification equipment in Town.
That only left Tony and his trombone. By now it was abundantly clear that he would
never play the trombone. His best efforts so far had resembled a couple of jackasses bawling
in unison. In the end we decided he should mime playing his instrument. This he did, moving
with the rest of us in the dance routines, blowing silent notes on the trombone. It worked a
treat; who was going to know what a trombone sounded anyhow with a saxophone and a
trumpet blasting away?
The big night drew ever nearer. Posters had gone up all over the locality; RAINBOW
HALL, SUNDAY. Music by the DAVITT BROTHERS. Supported by new local sensations
THE ROYAL DUKES. This was heady stuff, and every time I passed a poster I stopped to
read it – just to convince myself I wasn’t dreaming.
There was still no sign of our jackets. All sort of excuses were trotted out; the material
had to come from England, the machinist had flu, the buttons hadn’t yet arrived. We
intensified our practicing. As soon as a new song appeared we rushed out to get the sheet 28
music. ‘It’s Been A Hard Day’s Night’ was rehearsed over and over, trying to capture some
of the essence of the Beatles sound. But it was’ I Can Get No Satisfaction’ that was our trump
card. Tum-tum –ta-ta –da-da-da –da –tum-tum…I practiced the bass notes incessantly. ‘I can
get no – sat-is-fac-tion,’ sang Seamie in reply.
The song was causing much rage throughout the establishment. Radio Eireann was
refusing to play it; the parish priest condemned it from the pulpit, but the youngsters were
glued to their transistors, listening to it on Radio Luxemburg. Fr. Sinnott came to our
rehearsals and heard us play it. The devil’s music, he called it, and said it was a mortal sin.
What…like adultery or murder? My soul could be forever damned for singing a song?
I doubted it, somehow. By now my relationship with the church was changing. Gone were
my altar-boy fancies for the priesthood, gone my implicit belief in the all-embracing
goodness of the Catholic Church. I had now read up on historical events like the Crusades
and the Spanish Inquisition – where people were imprisoned, tortured and burnt at the stake,
all in the name of religion. It didn’t seem like a particularly religious activity to me. Oh, I still
went to Mass on a Sunday, but that was only because it was expected and not because I
wanted to. What sort of hypocrisy was that? I had begun to question our fundamental beliefs;
The Holy Trinity, The Virgin Mary, the infallibility of the Pope, even the story of Adam and
Eve. If the latter was true then Cain must have committed incest, mustn’t he?
I felt anger about the priest’s visit to our rehearsals; what right had he to tell us what
music we could play. Later that night I wrote some verse about it.
Son, the priest said, put that guitar away
And get your hair cut, right
And don’t play I Can Get No Satisfaction
It’s a sin to call yourselves
The Red Devils, he said
And in the distance
I could see mother nodding her head29
So we became The Royal Dukes
And played Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown instead
Saturday came and no jackets. We were resigned to appearing jacket-less. White
shirts and dark pants would have to do.
Shortly after six on Sunday we all met up in the Rainbow to set up our equipment
before the Davitt Brothers arrived. Seamie came direct from Town, having picked up the
amplifiers and other bits and pieces. He also brought seven jackets. The tailor had brought
them round to his house earlier that day.
Christ, they were beautiful, those jackets. You could die happy in them. There was an
old full-length mirror backstage and we strutted about in front of this for ages, admiring
ourselves from every angle. Eventually, we reluctantly took them off and got on with setting
up our gear.
The Rainbow was bursting at the seams that night. Curiosity, I suppose. The Davitt
Brothers seemed bemused by it all. They were a competent outfit who had been playing the
country venues for a number of years, and were used to sedate Macra Na Feirme and Muintir
Na Tire supporters; nothing like the high excitement that was in evidence here. As the dance
began and we listened to them play, we realised how much better than us they sounded.
It didn’t seem to matter. As they took their break and we replaced them. The crowd
went wild. You would think we were The Beatles; they solidified into one heaving mass,
packing the dance area. It was obvious there would be no dancing; they only wanted to listen
and watch.
Looking out into the sea of faces I could see many I recognised; Jim Kiersey, his
black hair slicked back, a crease on one side that would split timber; Vince Power, giving me
the thumbs up; Shirley Mulcahy, on shoes so high she must have used a step-ladder; Tony
Casey, Elvis quiff dripping oil. I closed my eyes briefly and said a prayer.
I needn’t have worried. We could have banged tin cans together and they would have
cheered. ‘I Can Get No Satisfaction’ was our opening number and it nearly brought the house
down. After that it was plain sailing; a few Beatles numbers, Jim Reeves, Jumbalaya, You
Ain’t Nuthin’ But A Hound-Dog. Paul did a bit of Yakety –Sax, Seamie did ‘Apache’. We
closed with Tony singing ‘Take These Chains From My Heart.’30
Or thought we did. They wouldn’t let us finish. We had to run through several of the
songs again. It was almost an hour before the Davitts came back on stage again. The Royal
Dukes were in business!

WARTS AN’ ALL contd…

JACK: Bertie Ahern? He was some tulip!
JOHN: Yeah, a tulip, but a rich tulip, digs outs, racehorses, plasters, all and sundry contributing to
the good ship Bertie, and for nothing in return…nothing in return my arse.
JACK: He set the ship of state on course for the Iceberg, and no one could deter him from that
And when the Iceberg came into view, he jumped ship and handed the controls to Brian Cowen, and
the eejit that he was, he took control and the blame for the wreckage, while Bertie sailed away on a
lifeboat to count his money in a cupboard.
JOHN: Even Captain Smith, the Captain of the Titanic stayed with his ship.
JACK: Bertie was no Captain Smith, more of an Ishmail, and now leaders of other countries are
paying Bertie big money to show them the shortest course to the Iceberg. When he hid in that
cupboard, he should have stayed in it.
JOHN: It is indeed a strange world Jack.
MICK: What about his contribution to the peace process?
JOHN: I don’t want to go there.
JACK: It stopped the slaughter, but destroyed the political landscape in the North, moderates on all
sides of the political spectrum cast aside to placate and put two extremes in control, and not an inch
of progress since, no consideration for the North, only for their own existence, that’s the legacy of
Bertie and Blair.
JOHN: The big difference between the Sunningdale agreement and the Good Friday one… is the
fact that Adam’s party and Paisley’s party weren’t the head honchos back then, they said no to
everything until they became the two main parties. And then said, yes please
JACK: What were we talking about before? Oh yeah, the GAA ban on playing soccer
MICK: I don’t think the ban was taking seriously by some clubs.
JOHN: Well it was taken seriously here, even when the ban was lifted. We had a soccer team here
in the seventies, and they organised an Easter raffle for a lamb. They asked the GAA could they
make the draw in their little hall in the street, and what do you think the answer was? It was a big fat
no… And some of the GAA players playing with the soccer team.14
JACK: ‘Twas even worse down our way. We came out to find our goalposts chopped into pieces in
the centre circle one Sunday morning. The local GAA club of course.
JOHN: Local? Where was this?
JACK: Up Limerick way. Kildimo.
JOHN: So you’re from stab city eh? I often wondered.
JACK: And now you know! The city of knackers and piebald ponies. I often thought I’d see John
Wayne ridin’ down O’Connell Street of a Sunday morning there were so many fellas on horseback
out and about.
MICK: (imitating John Wayne) Get off ye’r horse and drink yer milk
Maggie goes to the table to pick up empty glasses
MAGGIE: For feck sake, cut out the politics and religion. I thought ye were here to do some
reading and sing a few songs.
MICK: We are going to do that Maggie, but you can’t have a pub without a row about religion and
politics, it’s in our DNA.
JOHN: Now, now Maggie, don’t get your know what in a twist, I’m going to read a poem now, and
then Jack here is going to read a poem or two, or maybe a piece from his book, “Cricklewood
Cowboys” or maybe a piece from one of his plays, and then Mick will sing another song.
I was thinking how the world has changed since our time Jack, in our day if a woman left a man, it
was for another man, or if a man left a woman it was for another man, but now… now a man might
run of with the husband next door, or a woman with the wife next door, so with those thoughts in
mind I wrote this poem, it’s called She Walked Away
MICK: It is a different world John, gay rights, homosexual, heterosexual, lesbians…
MAGGIE: And a good few has-beens like John there.
JOHN: Ah now Maggie, given the chance I’d still rise to the occasion, anyway listen to this, She
walked away.
She was so beautiful, but unavailable to me, she was my world, my land and the sea.
My rivers and valleys and all that is good, and the way that I loved her, no other man could.
To be with her forever was all that I wanted, by her beauty and memory I am still haunted.
When I told her I loved her, she said “that cannot be, I can’t love a man, it’s a woman for me.
We are friends, and friends we can stay, but my love’s for another, and she then walked away.
Walking away to become another woman’s wife, and walking beside her, was the rest of my life.15
Many years have gone by, and I love her still, and I know in my heart that I always will.
She loves another, and I understand, for love is spontaneous, it cannot be planned.
Love is sudden, like a bold from the blue, and when it strikes there’s not much you can do.
And a one way love is so hard to bear, and try as you might, you can’t make them care.
I’m happy for her if her love is like mine, and the woman she loves is hers for all time.
Time has moved on, I’ve loved no other, when my bones turn to dust, that dust will love her
MAGGIE: I always knew it John behind that growl there’s a soft purr.
Maggie takes out her phone
MAGGIE: Here, let me take a selfie with you, I’ll frame it and hang it behind the bar and call it,
The beauty and the beast
JOHN: Ah now Maggie, you’re not that bad looking
JACK: Two elderly ladies sitting on a park bench watching a young couple taking a selfie, one old
lady says, Bridget what’s a selfie? Bridget answers, well when I had a headache, that’s what my
Henry used to do.
JOHN: Now Jack, what are you going to read?
JACK: That’s aisy, John. This is an extract from my play… BRENDAN BEHAN STANDS UP
(sings) Oh a hungry feelin’ came oe’r me stealin’
And the mice were squealin’ in my prison cell
And the auld triangle went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal
That’s from The Quare Fella. Do yous know who he was- The Quare Fella? Bernard Canavan
was his name. He was in Mount joy jail waiting to be strung up by Pierrepoint for chopping
his brother up into little pieces and feeding him to the pigs. Not a very brotherly thing to do
was it. Mind you, he was a culchie. Still, I shouldn’t complain – it kept me in ‘stamps’ for a
long time.
I love New York. New York is my Lourdes, where I go for spiritual refreshment, a place
where you’re least likely to be bitten by a wild goat And New York likes Irish people. Not
like England. But to be fair to the English, they only dislike some Irish – the same Irish that
the Irish themselves dislike, Irish writers. Well, the ones like meself anyway – the ones that
think (more drink) Well, fuck the begrudgers, that’s what I say…16
Do yous know one British critic asked me? “Mr Behan, what message is in
Your writing? Message”, says I. “What the hell do you think I am? A bloody postman!”
Although saying that, Spain takes the biscuit. The only time I ever visited that kip
I was mobbed by a pack of hyenas – well, reporters.
Anyway, one of them asked me what I would most like to see on my visit. Franco’s
funeral, says I. Well, before you could say Hiel Hitler, the Fascist bastards threw me
In goal. And then threw me out’a the country
(takes a swig) I saw a sign the other day which said ‘Drink Canada Dry’. I’m off there next
week to see if I can manage it.
Ah the Irish God help the Irish, if ‘twas raining soup they’d be out there with knives and
O’Casey once said it was a great place to get a letter from – Ireland I mean. Not if it’s from
the fucken taxman!
Dublin is a jealous city. Not a bit like New York. Back there it’s hard to find a writer to
admit that a fellow writer can put two words together. Becket was right when he said he’d
rather France at war than Ireland at peace any day of the week.
There! Can yous hear Patrick Kavanagh? The Monahan wanker himself! I was goin’ up in
the world till I met him. – After that it was downhill all the way.
I told Kavanagh he was The Last Ploughboy of The Western World. I mean…you should see
the state of him. Like a bloody orangutang. Spittin’ and gobbin’ his way through Dublin.
And whinging. Bejasus, if ever there’s a begrudgery Olympics in Dublin he’d clear the board
in every event.
Twenty years on he’s still sittin’ in the corner of McDaids, or wherever, telling people to
either buy him a pint or fuck off. You know the greatest thing he ever wrote? A bloody
cheque that didn’t bounce
. (sings) On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I would one day rue
That’s a song Kavanagh wrote about Hilda Moriarty. The ‘love’of his life. Or so he believed.
I bet he never even threaded her…But let me tell you sumthin’ for nothin’ – there’s plenty
that did17
I had the pleasure of Hilda’s company last year. Down in Limerick, the capital of
culchieland. I think it was the monsoon season down there…Anyway, there I was, drying
meself off in the bar of Dooley’s Hotel, when over she comes. The belle of every ball in
I heard Paddy followed you to Dingle for the Christmas last year, I said to her, and you never
even gave him a turkey sandwich.
He wasn’t invited, she said.
I thought you were his mot, says I.
I was never his…mot, as you so elegantly put it, she replied.
Well, you live and learn. Anyway, what she wanted was for me to lay off Paddy. He hasn’t
been well lately, she said
Sure, he hasn’t been well all his life! He’s a fucken head case. And besides, he can fight his
own battles. Kavanagh’s a culchie. And I hate all culchies.
Then she accused me of throwing him into the Royal canal.
Not guilty, your honor.
But someone did throw him in.
Oh, they did that. Bejasus they did! Head-first!
You want suspects? How about half of Dublin.
No, I didn’t throw him in – but I’ll tell you wha – I’d like to get hold of the bollix that pulled
him out.
(sings)Oh the wind that blows across the fields from Mucker
Brings a perfume that the city does not know
And the culchie in McDaids that’s drinking porter
Spakes a language that we townies do not know
Anyway, Kavanagh wasn’t good enough for Hilda. A doctor’s daughter, studying
Medicine at UCD, and he a small farmer studying droppings on a dunghill. How
could she take that yoke to mama and papa? He had a face like a horse. Not that she
Was short of other suiters. A little while later she married Donncha O’Malley. Thanks
be to jaysus she had some bit of sense anyway. Mind you, he was another culchie…
Oh stony grey soil of Monaghan. 18
The laugh from my loved you thieved.
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived
Clod conceived!
If he loved his stony grey soil so much why didn’t he fucken stay there. And save us all a
JOHN: I think Kavanagh was a better writer than Behan, well a better poet anyway, Raglan
Road, a Christmas Carol, Oh Stony Grey Soil, The Great Hunger, all fantastic poems.
Kavanagh was a wordsmith, and Behan, a brawlin’ bowsies, was jealous of him, I know
Kavanagh was cantankerous and bummed drink off his friends, but he was a great poet.
MICK: No doubt Behan was jealous of Kavanagh; Jack just said it in his play, what was it
you said Jack?
JACK: Dublin is a jealous City; it’s hard to find a writer to admit that a fellow writer could
put two words together.
MICK: I suppose that’s true some writers would rather heap praise on a dogs shit on the road
than praise a fellow writer, so we can also say Kavanagh was jealous of Behan, but I’ll say
one thing, Jack is bringing Behan’s brawling, bruising vulgarity, and his innocence to life in
that play, continue Jack.
JACK: (sings)
On the eighteenth day of November
Outside the town of Macroom
The Tans in the big Crossley tender
Were driving along to their doom
But the boys of the brigade were waiting
With hand grenades primed on the spot
And The Irish Republican Army
Made shite of the whole fucken’ lot
Aren’t the Brits wonderful itself? First they put me in jail and then they made me a rich man
I done me porridge in England. And what for? I didn’t get very far in Liverpool, did I? All I
was going to do was stick a few Peggy’s Legs down the funnel of a battleship in the docks 19
and pretend it was Guy Fawkes Night. The peelers nabbed me before I even left me room.
Three years Borstal. I went in a boy and came out a man. And an atheist to boot.
They said that the ruination of my country has been caused by our over-fondness for drink.
As a nation, I mean. I can think of many things that caused the ruination of our country – and
they had fuck-all to do with the gargle. Cromwell, The Penal Laws, Partition, to name but a
‘To Hell or to Connaught’. That was Cromwell’s advice to all Irish Catholics.
”Under penalty of death, no Irish man, woman, or child, is
to let himself, herself, itself be found east of the River Shannon after May 1
st 1654′
Ah yes, a very civilized nation the English were back then. Not that they had improved much
by 1916 – or 1946
Any country that can send a gunboat up the Liffey, to defeat six hundred men, when she
already has thirty thousand soldiers pounding the bejaysus out’a them, can’t call it cricket.
With a few more guns ourselves we’d have riveted a lot more of their brave boys to the
railings around O’Connell Street.
Did I not tell yous I was in the IRA? The Dublin Brigade. The elite of the Irish Republican
Army. We might not have fancy guns and uniforms, but Bejasus we wiped the smiles off a lot
of faces with what we did have. The ould conjurer’s trick of potash, chloride and sulphuric
acid worked wonders…
Then I had that bit of bother in Glasnevin and I lost touch for with real life for another few
years. It was my jailing for the attempted murder of a Special Branch man in Glasnevin
cemetery during the Easter Rising commemoration service.
I did fire a couple of shots at the Special Branchers, but jaysus, they were firin’ at me! I went
on the run, but me own side weren’t too happy. I’d taken the gun with me you see – IRA
property – and I heard that they sentenced me to death in me absence. I sent them a nice
letter asking them could they carry out the sentence in me absence too!
Ah, it all blew over eventually.
(sings) All round my hat I will wear a three-colour-ribbon-oh
All round my hat till death comes to me.
And if anyone asks me why I do wear it
I will say for my true love whom I ne’er more shall see.
An’ as for the oul’ religion. My ould fella wouldn’t be seen dead inside a church. But he’d
call us every Sunday morning; ‘Go out and meet your God you lazy pack of hounds’ 20
Once a priest called to get up a collection for the Fascists in Spain – and we starvin’ with the
cold and hunger ourselves. Da fucked him off and the priest told him we’d burn in hell for
eternity. ‘At least we’ll be fucking warm’, Da shouted.
All that talk about damnation. We were damned all right – like all the poor in this country.
Damned with hunger.
Prayer and masturbation. The Catholic Church’s answer to promiscuity. Well, they’re fifty
percent right. Sex and religion, that’s what has Ireland banjaxed, not enough of the first and
too much of the other or is it the other way round? Ma, now, she had no interest in sex. All
she did was lie back and count the pawn tickets.
During my Borstal Boy days the prison chaplain wouldn’t let me attend Mass if I didn’t
renounce the IRA. I told him to fuck off. Wasn’t I in good company? Weren’t the rebels in
’98 excommunicated, wasn’t De Valera and ten thousand others ex-communicated in 1922 –
me own father included?
The Bishops of Ireland would ex-communicate their own mothers, given the chance – the
poxy fucken’ druids.
(sings)Never throw stones at your mother
You’ll be sorry when she’s dead
Never throw stones at your mother
Throw bricks at your father instead…
(Takes a swig from his bottle) Up the Republic! Up…my arse. D’you know something? I
have no politics. I make them up as I go along. Communism, Socialism, and Rheumatism –
they’re all the fucking same… (Swigs again) Up Dev!
Ah yes, De Valera, the fucken Spaniard. I spent four years in the Curragh at his pleasure.
The scrawny bastard. It was because of him we were neutral in the war. Where England
is concerned, Ireland can never be neutral. You’re either for them or against them.
Dev should have contacted his friend Mr Hitler and asked to borrow a couple of his
Doodlebugs. Then a couple of us could have dropped them on the House Of Commons
under the cover of darkness and blown the shaggin lot to kingdom come.
They say De Valera fought against the English. But he fought against his own people too.
Should we praise him for that? Brother against brother, father against son. Ireland lost some
of her finest sons in that little disagreement.
(sings)‘Twas on an August morning, all in the morning hours21
I went to take the morning air all in the month of flowers
And there I saw a maiden and heard her mournful cry
‘Oh, what will mend my broken heart, I’ve lost my laughing boy’.
Now Michael Collins. He was the flower of the flock. No doubt about that. Do you know
what, instead of executing Pierce, Connolly and the rest of them they should have charged
them with disturbing the peace and given them seven days, and that would have been the end
of the republican movement…
MICK: That’s mighty stuff Jack

to be continued…

WARTS AN’ ALL by Tom Power & Tom O’Brien


An entertainment by Tom Power
and Tom O’Brien


(c) 2017 Tom Power & Tom O’Brien
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or
transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publishers,
except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a
newspaper, journal or magazine.
First printing
Published by tomtom-theatre3
A Bar somewhere in rural Ireland
JOHN, an aged man, with a younger friend, MICK, in the bar, waiting for friend JACK, from
England. MAGGIE is behind the bar.
All scenes take place in the bar
JOHN: Two pints please Maggie; I must say you’re looking good tonight.
MAGGIE: Plamás will get you nowhere.
JOHN: You never know your luck in a strange town, if I was a day younger I’d ask you out.
MAGGIE: Maybe if you add a few years to that day I might think about it. You’re in a good mood
tonight, and this town isn’t strange, the only thing strange ‘round here is you and your books and
poetry, I see you have a few of them with you.
JOHN: Yes Maggie, I’m in good mood, it’s been a good day and hopefully a better night. I’m
meeting a friend, Jack and his wife here tonight, well an internet friend, although we were in
England at the same time years ago, I never met him or his wife, and the good news is, he’s an
author, playwright, and a poet as well, and good at them all.
We became friends through email, and exchanging our books and poems.
And would you believe, I was in Waterford today, and as I was walking up through the apple
market, I heard someone call my name, I turned around, and there she was Tess, another friend I
knew in England, and who I haven’t seen for many years. I’m meeting her for a chat in the Tower
Hotel tomorrow night. So tonight, Mick will sing a few songs, I will read a few poems and a page or
two from my books and Jack will do the same, and a good time will be had by all, and maybe a
dance or two.
MAGGIE: Here’s your two pints, and don’t save the last dance for me.
JOHN: Ah now Maggie, it’s got to be rock ‘n roll music if you want to dance with me, you can
keep your ould line dancing, that’s only for the older generation.
MAGGIE: Older generation? And you’re not?
JOHN: Only on the outside Maggie…only on the outside. Come on Mick. Let’s take these two pints
to a quiet table, and you can tune up that guitar.4
John and Mick at the table, Mick tuning his guitar, John taking a slug from his pint
JOHN: Ah. That’s good I needed that.
MICK: How is your poetry C/D going?
JOHN: It’s doing alright, it got a great review in the Munster Express from Liam Murphy, and the
Americans love it, a shower of begrudgers around here, “I knew him when he had no arse in his
trousers, and he thinning turnips at twelve, and now he’s writing poetry, ‘tis far from poetry he was
MICK: The girl you met in town…her and you were ye? I mean…
JOHN: Ah Mick, spit it out, yes we were an item for a while… a beautiful girl, Tess.
I met her on the Easter Monday bank holiday, at the travelling fair on the edge of Hampstead
Heath; there were always a fair there over the Easter bank holiday, merry-go -rounds, hurdy-gurdys,
coconut stalls, swings, chair-o-planes, and of course the bumpers, all the fun of the fair as they say,
you could say she bumped into me. I was showing my skills on the bumpers, when bang! From
behind and there she was smiling at me.
MICK: Hang on; wait till I get a refill.
Mick goes to the bar.
MICK: Pull another two pints Maggie.
MAGGIE: John’s in a good mood tonight, I’d never tell him, but his book is good, and I enjoy his
poetry, I suppose he and his friend will read a few poems tonight.
MICK: I’m sure they will Maggie, and I’ll sing a few songs. At his age, if you like his books and
poetry, you should tell him, you may not get the chance again.
Mick brings the two pints to the table
MICK: Now oil your vocals cords with that, and tell me more about this fair.
JOHN: Ah yes, the famous Hampstead Easter fair, well as I was saying, she hit me a right clatter,
and when I looked around there she was smiling at me, well needless to say I chased her down, and
then we gave each other a right bashing around that circuit. I bought her candy floss, and won her a
gold fish at the coco nut stall. That’s how we met; we were together for about two months, nothing
serious, just on and off, some weekends I’d see her, and other weekends she was…well, I don’t
know, somewhere else.
MICK: Or with someone else, what happened, did you break it off?5
JOHN: No…No, I don’t know what happened, we were dancing in the Galtymore on Saturday
night, I told her I had to go to Birmingham on a job for a week, we arranged to meet in The Rifle
Volunteer in Kilburn high road the following Saturday night, she never turned up. And I haven’t
seen her since. I enquired around; it was rumoured she had gone back to Ireland for a funeral, or
something, maybe she stayed there. Anyway I moved back to Birmingham with the job, and stayed
there for two years and then came back here.
MICK: Maybe she’ll explain all tomorrow night.
JOHN: Maybe, Mick, maybe, anyway some good came out of it, that poem I wrote that you put a
tune to; I wrote it a few weeks afterwards.
MICK: You mean, “Permanent Tear”.
JOHN: That’s the one.
MICK: Will I sing it now?
JOHN: Not yet Mick, wait till Jack gets here.
A man enters the pub, he looks around and John sees him
JOHN: Well, speak of the devil, I think that’s him, Jack? Over here.
Jack walks to the table reaches out to shake hands with John
JACK: John? Yes it is you, I recognise you from your face book photo, great to meet you, and I’ve
been looking forward to it.
JOHN: Me too, you’re on your own?
JACK: Yes. Theresa, my wife is meeting Mary, a friend of hers, she dropped me off, and she’ll call
in later.
JOHN: This is my friend Mick, a musician and songwriter, he put a tune to a few of my poems.
MICK: Great to meet you, John has been telling me all about you it’s not every day we have two
writers in this neck of the woods.
JACK: Just dabblers Mick, dabblers, that’s all.6
MICK: Oh ye’re more than dabblers, I’ve read your book “Cricklewood Cowboys”, and I went to
see your play “Johnjo”, and I’ve read some of your poems, I’ve read John’s two books, “The
Mysterious John Grey”, and “Dust Covered Memories” and I have his C/D “The Spoken Word”.
JOHN: Let me get you a drink, what are you having?
JACK: A pint of Guinness.
John goes to the counter.
JOHN: Three pints of Guinness please Maggie.
MAGGIE: So that’s your friend Jack, writer, playwright and poet.
JOHN: And he’s good at it too.
MAGGIE: I’ll take these to the table for you.
JOHN: Thanks Maggie.
John returns to the table.
JACK: I suppose we’ve done alright for turnip thinners John, especially outside of Ireland. How
much a drill did they pay you?
JOHN: Hah! Pay? Farmers would pay ya nothing, boy! Only barely enough for a ticket on the
cattle boat. Maybe it’s because we are turnip thinners we haven’t done well here, if we had a higher
education we might be more successful here.
JACK: Nothing new in that John, it’s in the bible, Luke…And I quote “Truly I say to you, no
prophet is accepted in his homeland.”
JOHN: I’ll have to take your word for that, Jack!
MICK: I think here we are more inclined to judge people by their background, not on their work.
Maggie, coming towards the table, overhears
MAGGIE: I’d say prophets are scarce on the ground around here.
JOHN: Ah now Maggie, I’m sure many prophets down through the years have rested their elbow
on that counter.7
MAGGIE: They have exercised their elbow no doubt, the only thing you hear them prophesying
around here is the latest price they might get from the Mart, the milk price from Glanbia, or who’s
going to win a hurling match, or what horse is going to win at Leopardstown.
JOHN: Speaking of Leopardstown… I was in a pub with a friend not far from here, we were
discussing poetry and of course Yeats was mentioned. The barman overheard us and said, he had
some win yesterday, did ye have him backed? I said, no, I didn’t think he was in a fit state to run.
He answered, oh he ran alright, and ran well, flew past the post. I got off the stool and said, “I will
arise and go now.” My friend said, to Innishfree? I answered, no, outside to bang my head of the
wall a few times.
JACK: No wonder your brain is rattled, but bar rooms such as this, has provided many writers with
inspiration down through the years. Behan, Dylan Thomas, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. Myles Na
Gopaleen, and, of course, Paddy Kavanagh…
You do not come down that road anymore
Past the ash trees where the gap in the hedge revealed
Your blue dress trimming to the bottom of Callan’s field
And the free-wheel of your bicycle likes the whirr
Of the breeze in the black sallies. If you could see
The clay of time falling away from my feet
When you appeared this side of Callan’s gate,
You’d come.
Ah yes, Paddy wrote some of his greatest poetry while under the influence of Arthur Guinness.
MICK: And songwriters as well. Many a great lyric was found at the bottom of an empty whiskey
bottle. Could a non drinker have written? “Sunday Morning Coming Down” could a snowball
survive in hell? Christopherson was reliving his experience in that song.
JACK: And speaking of that great man Mick, would you sing that song for us?
Mick picks up and tunes his guitar, then sings
On a Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin’ lord, that I was stoned,
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone,
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down…
JACK: Great Mick, that brings me back… Kilburn High Road, Camden Town, Shepherds Bush,
and many the Irishman, smoking and coughing his way to the nearest pub for a cure, and company
on Sunday morning
JOHN: Anyone who was ever drunk on a Saturday night can relate to that song. My friends and I
used to meet in the Pembroke Arms in Chalk Farm on Sunday morning, pints of Guinness, and 8
cheddar cheese and crackers on the counter, that was our breakfast, Kenny Rodgers and Ruby on the
jukebox. You’re right about the company Jack, bedsits, or dosshouses can be lonely places, the pub
provided company. Was that what Pierce and Connelly and their comrades fought for? So that
Ireland’s sons and daughters could get pissed in some lonely city on a Saturday night, Ireland
answer to unemployment…emigration, to England, Australia, America, or any part of the world
where work was to be found. And that brings to mind a poem I wrote some years ago, it’s called
RETURNING, so here goes.
Down the road he walked, and there just ‘round the bend, stood an ivy covered ruin that was his
journey’s end.
Thousands of miles he travelled, for something seemed to call, the voices of his ancestors, born
within that old stone wall,
As he stands outside that place, now empty and decayed, he looks around at quiet fields, where his
forebears worked and played.
From dawn to fall of night, so hard they had to toil, for their food upon the table they depended on
the soil.
Then there came a year, when the potato crops all failed, from valley and from mountain the
agonised all wailed.
The spectre of starvation cast its shadow across the land, thousands died from hunger, while others
lived so grand.
Evicted and burned out, cast on to the side of the road, families torn asunder, dying in the wet and
Ragged covered walking bones, not dead…yet not alive, scavenging the countryside, desperate to
Ireland turned to America in those grief filled years; you threw her out a lifeboat when she was
swamped in tears;
Our hard working sons and daughters found refuge on your shore, you gave to them a welcome, and
you never closed you doors.
They sailed across the Atlantic, from hunger and from strife, in our darkest hour you were a guiding
A real good friend and neighbour, you helped them through the pain, you gave a home and work,
restored their pride again.
And there they worked so hard, they shed sweat, tears and blood, they helped to build your railroad
across mountain, plain and flood.
They joined your armed forces, fought for the stars and stripes, and when you lost John Kennedy,
they cried with you that night.
You took in our emigrants, they proved loyal and true, you gave to them a home, and they gave
back to you.
Distinguished sons and daughters, who worked with heart and hand, descendants of those
emigrants, became presidents of your land.9
And now some are returning to their forebear’s native soil, but not in rags and poverty, they return
in style.
And lands that once were barren are now bountiful again, but the famines not forgotten here, or the
poverty and pain.
And as you walk among us and trod your forebear’s sod, we will all remember those who died in
field and bog,
America we will remember it was you who gave the call, and said come on I’ll help you there’s
plenty here for all.
JACK: True John, so true, but to paraphrase W B Yeats, all has changed, utterly changed under
Trump, a terrible narcissist blowhard has arrived.
JOHN: But how long will he stay! The world looked up to America, but now I get the feeling,
America is being laughed at; anyway Jack, as the actress said to the bishop, what’s that you have in
your hand?
Jack holding some papers in his hand says.
JACK: This is something I wrote on the way over. I’m not saying it’s true…but maybe some of it is
JOHN: Get away with ya! You never told the truth in your life! Shure what writer does?
I like to kid myself that my current losing streak began back in 1973, the year Crisp got
mugged in the Grand National by Red Rum. I stood to win a small fortune, having backed
him at price at up to 20/1 from Christmas onwards. Instead I lost a small fortune, which
increased somewhat when my rented telly sailed through the open window and disintegrated
in the back garden shortly after Red Rum passed Crisp yards from the winning post.
In truth, the rot had set in well before then. Probably in 1962, the year Kilmore won the
National, and I had a shilling each way at 28/1. Kilmore had been bred and trained in the
area before being sold to England, and everyone in the county seemed to know it was going
to win.
In hindsight, I should have quit then while I was ahead.
The rot had well and truly taken hold by 1968. By now I had followed Kilmore’s hooves to
England. The Land of small shovels and big money, as I was led to believe. I fetched up in
London, where a stint as a painter at Highbury Stadium convinced the foreman that a dog
wagging his tail could do a better job. Still, jobs were ten a penny in those days, and I decided
to try my luck as a barman.10
Barmen work long hours, but there was always free time in the afternoons – and where better
to while away an afternoon than my friendly local bookies? Barry Brogan, David Mould, Ron
Hutchinson, I cursed them all – and the three-legged nags they rode when my money was
down. And pretty soon not just my money but the pub’s as well. It wasn’t very difficult to
divert some of the takings from the till to my pockets.
The surprise was that they made it so easy for me. One obliging manager even gave me the
weekend’s takings to bank for him: I got on a bus and didn’t stop till I was in Soho!
That became my modus operandi; gain their trust till they let you near the money – and then
One particular Epsom Derby meeting was very profitable for me. I managed to land a job at
the Tattenham Corner House, which overlooked the course, in the week leading up to the
Derby. The weather was warm and the punters thirsty, and by the time the meeting was over
everyone was knackered. At closing time, the manager decided to dispense with the usual
‘reckoning up’ of the tills, and to treat the staff to a party instead. And guess who was given
the job of locking the tills away in the safe?
I couldn’t believe how much money was in that safe. I stuffed bundles in every conceivable
carrying place, locked the safe, and then excused myself from the party, feigning a migraine.
I then slipped out a side door, walked to the nearest bus stop, and was in central London in
less than an hour.
I had fun while the money lasted, but this was tempered by the sense of shock I felt when I
was eventually caught and sentenced to eighteen months in goal. It was a salutary lesson, but
it didn’t stop my gambling. I found it quite easy to gamble in prison; the only difference that
the currency was tobacco not money. I soon discovered that losing ‘snout’ was just as easy as
losing money. And when I finished my sentence and was deported, I found my losing streak
just as easy to maintain back in Ireland.
John: Christ Jack, for years we have been exporting our young people to England, he must
be the first one they sent back.
JACK: Yes John…and in the police car on the way to the plane, Elvis was singing, return to
sender. Not that he hung around here too long; London was a great place for those with little
inclination to get out of bed in the morning, and as the time of the first race usually dictated
when I got up, I was soon back there. When I was really desperate, there was always a day’s
work to be had digging holes for some Irish subby, with cash in your hand at the end of the
shift and no questions asked?
Monday mornings were a sight to behold; bleary-eyed and broke we gathered, at the Crown
in Cricklewood or the Nags Head in Camden Town, our only trait in common that we were
looking for a ‘start’ – and, more importantly, a sub. In my case, enough to tide me over until
the next win came along. With others it was the drink – the ‘Diesel’.
MICK: You should have tried the dogs, Jack.11
JACK: Well now Mick I did… I did. Hendon, White City, Hackney, I tried them all, and
came out poorer but no wiser.
I occasionally bumped into Jack Doyle at the White City, usually with some old ‘duchess’ on
his arm. Jack had come a long way down in the world since his heyday at the same venue,
when 90,000 came to see him fight Eddie Philips. And another 100,000 outside, if you
believed Jack!
Asked what his downfall was it was always the same reply; ‘fast women and slow horses’
JOHN: A fellow gave me a tip onetime; he said it was a sure thing.
MICK: Did you back it?
JOHN: No I didn’t, I said thanks very much, but I don’t back women or ride horses. Sorry
Jack, carry on.
JACK: Park Royal was my favourite dog track. It was there that I almost made my fortune.
When I couldn’t afford the admission I watched the racing from the roof of a nearby disused
factory which overlooked the track, and that was how I discovered that fast starters were
seldom caught. A dog a couple of lengths clear at halfway invariably won. I also discovered
something else; the commentaries in the nearby betting shop were at least half a minute
behind the real thing. Most dog races were nearly over in 30 seconds!
The answer of course was walkie-talkies. My friend – let’s call him Larry – and I acquired a
couple of these gadgets from a store in Marble Arch and soon the money was rolling in.
Of course not all selections won; but at least half of them did – which was more than enough
for us to be rolling in it. I proceeded to give most of it back again to William Hill and Co,
until Larry suggested we go in for ‘furniture removals’.
It was a brilliant scheme; we invested in a van, Larry inspected empty properties on the
pretext of buying them, then we had keys cut. We then proceeded to order furniture and
kitchen equipment on the never-never – which we were never-never going to pay for, waited
for its delivery, and promptly removed it again. Unfortunately for us, two things happened
almost simultaneously: Larry crashed the van and broke his leg in several places, and Park
Royal dog track was sold for re-development. End of dream.
MICK: Fair play Jack, you certainly led a colourful life, if only half that is true is it?
JACK: I couldn’t possibly comment!
JOHN: I remember Jack Doyle. They say he was a better singer than boxer.
JACK: My mother was a better boxer! He had only one punch, and God help you if he hit
you with it. In one fight he threw a haymaker, deliberately missed, and went flying out of the
ring. He was counted out sitting on some poor fellas lap. A technical knock-out. The only
fighter in history to knock himself out!12
JOHN: Another one of De Valera’s finest exports who had to cross the water to make a
name for himself.
MICK: Of course a lot have emigrated, but I don’t think we can blame Pierce and Connelly –
or Dev – for that, or for when people over indulge; Pierce and Connolly eventually got what
they set out to get, Independence.
JACK: Independence! What Independence? If you think we have, or ever had independence,
you’re suffering from delusions.1916 was a disorganised skirmish that was an inconvenience to the
majority of Dublin citizens and killed many of them. If the English had not executed the leaders it
would have been quickly forgotten, that act of execution turned the people of the Country in favour
of the revolution. I agree they had a vision of Independence but how it turned out is entirely
JOHN: I think you’re right Jack. Pearse might be happy enough with the outcome, he got what he
wanted, a rosary reciting right wing Catholic country, but I think Connolly is turning in his grave,
Connolly was a socialist and his vision of an independent Ireland was not an Ireland run by the
MICK: We are not run by the Church, they might have had a say in something’s, but overall we
have been run by successive Governments down through the years, since Independence we’ve had a
free and vibrant country.
JOHN: Never free, never vibrant. What the visionaries of 1916 had in mind never came to pass. De
Valera handed over the running of the Country to the Catholic church, we got rid of the Monarchy
of England and accepted the Monarchy of Rome, and when we threw the shackles of Rome away,
we were ensnared by the EU, and every Government since England left, be they Fianna Fail, Fine
Gael, or Coalition, has handed the running of the country to Rome first and then the EU, our liberty
never got off the ground
JACK: And the Troika walked down O Connell Street, but then we were always used to the Troika
here, we’ve had our own Troika for years, The Catholic church, Fianna Fail, and the GAA. Between
them back in the forties, fifties, and sixties, they turned us into a North Korea, brainwashed by afore
mentioned Troika; we were living in the teapot and looking out the spout. But then Sean Lemass
took over from De Valera and lifted the lid of the teapot and let the light in, and we were
enlightened, and it seemed at last after all the years of emigration and poverty, we had arrived.
JOHN: Jobs were created, emigration was down, and prosperity walked every street, road, and
boreen. And the GAA lifted the ban on what they referred to as foreign games, a code name for
soccer and rugby. Because foreign games weren’t banned, American football is more of a foreign
game here in Ireland that soccer and rugby ever was, and they allowed that game to be played in
Croke Park. So things were looking good, GAA people could attend a soccer or rugby match and 13
not be ostracised in their own parish. The future looked bright… and then we had Charlie, and then
Bertie arrived, and with him a return of the Troika, but not a home grown Troika, but a foreign one.
JACK: Bertie Ahern? He was some tulip



strangled sound, and begins to twitch. After a few moments, he subsides again.

LIZA:              Must have been something he ate.

MADDY:        Do you think…?

They both sit, watching Roger.  Eventually, Liza goes to him.  She kneels down over him, listening for a heartbeat. Roger suddenly grabs her around the neck and rises to his feet, dragging her with him.

LIZA:              You’re…you’re choking me.

ROGER:        That’s the facking idea.(he squeezes tighter)

                        No jury would convict me.  Not after what I’ve been

                        through. What do you reckon, Maddy?  Should I

                        top the facking bitch?

MADDY:        (shrugging) She’s your wife.

ROGER:        Now there’s a turn-up!  Why am I not surprised?

                        (he tugs at the chain) You goin’ to unlock this facking thing?

MADDY:        No.

ROGER:        I’ll break her neck.

MADDY:        Like I said, she’s your wife.

ROGER:        See?  That’s who I should’a married.  Miss Whiplash. 

                        She’d ‘a kept me sweet. …

MADDY:        It was Calamity Jane…

ROGER:        I loved that.  Go on, do it again (pause)

                        Well, maybe not right now, eh


                        See?  You can’t keep a good man down.

                        Go on, admit it, you both thought I had croaked…


                        Take more than a few jolts from that box of tricks

                        before I kick the facking bucket…

                        (he makes a few swipes at the table but it’s out of reach)

                        Whose idea was it, eh? Who’s the clever clogs?


                        Johnny.  Got to be Johnny boy, eh?  Johnny and his gadgets.

                        Why’d you do it, Johnny?  Why’d you turn me over, eh?

MADDY:        After all you did for him. Go on, say it.

ROGER:        Nah, nah…I wasn’t goin’ to say that. I always knew Johnny

                        boy had it in for me.  Felt hard done by.  But then,

                        we all have a cross to bear.  (hard laugh) 

                        Johnny had it in for me all right – in more ways than one…

                        Go on, tell her…(he squeezes some more on Liza’s neck)     

LIZA:              I…I…

ROGER:        What’s the matter?  Cat got your tongue?  (beat)

                        I was banged up and he was banging my wife (beat)

                        Go on, tell her…(

LIZA:              .Of course he was.  And I loved it.  You

                        weren’t much good to me- where you were…..aagh..

ROGER:        How’s that for looking after my interests?

MADDY:        You and John…back then?

ROGER:        But, darling, you should have told her! 

                         I mean, everybody else knew; My mother, Kenny,

                        the whole bloody nick.  (pause) You ever get a Dear John?  No?

Well, I did. Although in my case, it was a Dear Roger.  ‘Dear Roger, John and I have found…’  What was it you found?…well,

                        whatever it was you were going to take it off into the sunset

                        with you, and live happily ever after  on it.   (beat)

                        That’s what it was, my money. (beat)

                        My old mum soon put a stop to that notion.

LIZA:              Your…old mum hated you. She despised you. She told me

                        often enough. The only reason she stopped me from going was

                        because I was too valuable to her. Not because of you.  (beat)

                        You know she tried to abort him?  Oh yeah, she used knitting

                        needles.  She said her biggest regret was that it hadn’t worked.



ROGER:        My old man was an animal. A facking Paddy from the bogs

                        of Aherlow or somewhere. Couldn’t even read the Beano.

                        Made his name beating up navvies for McAlpine.  He

                        practiced on my mum. Every night of the week. The tea

                        was too cold. The spuds were too hard.  The bacon too

                        fatty.  Whack, whack…he laid into her. And then turned

                        on me.  (beat)  One night a new ingredient was added

                        to his dinner.  Painkillers.  He never woke up .


                        It was the making of my mum.  She never looked back after that.


                        I knew she tried to…get rid of me. it was because of him 

                        He… told her to – that’s all.

LIZA:              She hates you.  She’s hated you all your miserable life…

                        She hated you so much she even…she…

ROGER:        Go on.  She facking what?


ROGER:        You can’t falking talk.

LIZA:              Meaning?

ROGER:        You know what I facking mean  I mean…what’s a kid of three doing

in this world if she can’t hang around long enough to enjoy it?  What’s the facking point, eh? You facking women make me sick. 

 I mean…there’s a kid, all alone in the world…

LIZA:              She had me…

ROGER:        And you had every Tom, Dick and Harry in England.  (beat)

                        The way she tells it she led a few punters up the garden

                        path and rolled them…(laughs)  Oh she rolled them alright…

                        but after, not before.  Always after, if you get my drift.


                        Go on, tell her how Sophie fell out the window….

LIZA:              You fucking bastard…(she begins to cry)

ROGER:        It was in all the papers at the time. 


                        (he shakes Liza)  Isn’t that right…weren’t you devastated?

                        She was so devastated she didn’t even miss

                        her for nearly an hour.   She was too busy trying to roll

                        someone in the next room…

LIZA:              It’s not true…

ROGER         You left the window open.  What mother in her right mind

                        would leave a kid in a room with an open window?  Eh?

                        (pause) It was all smoothed over of course…

LIZA:              (screaming)  Your mother…

ROGER:        Yes, my mother.  Got you off the hook.  Kept you out of jail…

LIZA:              Your fucking mother should be dropped from a great

                        height.  Like the Empire State Building.

ROGER:        My-mother-was-too-facking-good-to-you.

As he speaks ,Roger jerks her neck again, and this time she crumples to the floor.  She lies there, inert.

ROGER:        I believe we were conducting negotiations regarding my diamonds.

 Maddy doesn’t reply. After a moment, she picks up Roger’s mobile phone from the table and dials a number from the menu.

MADDY:        Hello. Yes.  Roger asked me to call.  It’s about the…tom…

                        (laughs)  Yes, I understand… the policy.  He wants to cash it in.

                        (beat)  No I’m not his wife…(laughs)…yes…I suppose you

                        could call me that…(pauses as she makes a face)

                        No…a slight problem…Yes…a few weeks abroad.  He

                        mentioned the name Kenny, said you’d understand….(beat)

                        Alright, till tomorrow then… (she disconnects)

Maddy puts on a coat, then takes the diamonds and looks at them before putting them in her coat pocket.  She makes to leave.

ROGER:        ‘Ere, aren’t you forgetting something?

MADDY:        Am I?  So I am.

She turns the dial under the table to maximum, then walks to where the cable has been unplugged and plugs it back in. Roger dances and screams in unison.


scene three

 several weeks later. The flat has been given a facelift, new furniture etc, although the dog-chain is still attached to the wall, albeit artistically arranged. Liza and John are present; Liza is doing the crossword, John is tinkering with his cars.  Both are drinking steadily.

LIZA:              Give a a dog a bone…seven letters…ends in a t…

                        (she throws the book down)…oh Christ, I can’t do it.

JOHN:           Maddy was good at it.

LIZA:              Only gone a week, and I’m being compared to her already!

JOHN:           Two weeks actually. Two weeks, one day…

LIZA:              Two weeks, two months, two years – what does it

                        matter? –  she’s not coming back. (pause)

                        I’ll tell you what else Maddy was good at.  Hiding her

                        true nature.  What she did to Roger…no one deserved that.

JOHN:            You went along with it willingly enough…

LIZA:              At the beginning, yes. It was only to teach him a lesson.  I

                        never meant for it to get out of hand like it did. (beat)

                        You weren’t there, you don’t know what went on.

JOHN:            I know.  I only have your word.

LIZA:              It was your choice. How was Kenny?

JOHN:           Surprisingly laid-back…considering. Behaved like

                        a tourist the whole day.  Madam Tussauds, The

                        Millennium Wheel, Canary Wharf, we saw the lot.  He

                        was gutted to miss the Dome. (beat) Didn’t seem a bit

                        put out that the job had  been knocked on the head….

                        if there ever was a job…(pause)

                        Do you know, I’d swear that he was relieved.

LIZA:              Not half as relieved as you though!  Did he mention me?

JOHN:            Only by reputation.

LIZA:              What do you mean?

JOHN:           He asked if you were still on the game. I said I

                        never knew you were.

LIZA:              I’m not…I mean, I wasn’t.

JOHN:            I said it must have been before my time.

LIZA:              I wasn’t!  Never.  It was just Kenny…being…Kenny.

JOHN:           Anyway, it’s all history now.

LIZA:              (lighting a cigarette) He’s a bastard. (smokes)

                        He’s never really liked Roger.

JOHN:           He hasn’t?

LIZA:              Even way back.  When they were inside, doing time,

                        I sometimes visited Kenny too. (beat)

                        He had no one else, did he?

                        (beat)  It was Roger’s idea. You know what’s he’s

                        like…thought it might cheer Kenny up I suppose.  But

                        Kenny put it about that I was really only coming to

                        see him.  Roger took a lot of stick from the others

                        inside…you know, the hard men, so-called…and it

                        forced him to do something about. (beat) There was

                        a fight…Roger got badly cut…that scar on his neck…

                        There was a big inquiry…

JOHN:           And Kenny lost his remission.  I know. Kenny told me.

                         Roger grassed him up. (laughs)  Bet he would have given

                        anything to have been there watching you and Maddy give

                        him the third degree. 

LIZA:              I didn’t…look, it was all her idea. (pause)

                        I  nearly died, you know.

JOHN:           Yes. Roger tried to strangle you. You told me.

LIZA:              And she looked on.  Almost daring him.  Sitting there,

                        smoking. I mean, smoking!

JOHN:           I agree.  Passive smoking can be bad for you…

                        (sees Liza’s reaction)  Look, maybe you should

                        view it another way.  She didn’t switch on the current

                        again until you were free of Roger, did she?

LIZA:              I suppose not.  I mean…I was on the floor…it was

                        Roger screaming that brought me to…

JOHN:           But you weren’t electrocuted.  Because she was waiting

                        for an opportunity; waiting for you to be free of Roger

                        before switching back on. Don’t you see?

LIZA:              I could have had a broken neck for all she cared.

                         She just left me there. Vanished.  (beat)

                        You don’t know her very well, do you? (beat)

                        You don’t know her at all.    

JOHN:           Does anybody know anybody?  Do I know you?

LIZA:              She was a stripper in her younger days.

JOHN:           So you say.

LIZA:              I don’t say. She admitted as much herself. And

                        Roger…well he almost wet himself when she did

                        her Miss Whiplash bit.  He knows the real McCoy

                        when he sees it.

JOHN:           Pity he can’t confirm it.

LIZA:              Look, whatever she was, she’s gone.  And

                        so are the diamonds.  Roger’s diamonds.  My


JOHN:           You still have the house. That should set you up nicely.

LIZA:              I can’t sell it now. Not in the…circumstances.

JOHN:           No?  I suppose not. (beat)  She was good at it then?

LIZA:              Oh yes. A real artiste 

                        Not a piss-artist, like some I could mention.


LIZA:             She really never performed for you?

JOHN:           Fuck her.  Fuck everyone. Who’s a piss- artist?

LIZA:              You are, dear. I thought I made that clear.

JOHN:           It’s not true.  Not any more.

LIZA:              Once a piss-artist, always a piss-artist. It’s

                        like riding a bike…you never forget.

JOHN:            People won’t let you…forget.

LIZA:              They won’t, will they?

JOHN:           Alright, so I was drunk the day I…killed that

                        old woman. I needed…something…(waves a drink)

                        this…courage…(beat)  Everyone needs…excuses…


                        So what if Maddy is all you say she is. It was

                        good while it lasted.  And I don’t think it was all for nothing.

LIZA:              Of course not.  She’s got the diamonds.

JOHN:            So you say.  Well, good luck to her. All of which

                        leaves us stuck with each other.  Again.

LIZA:              Gee thanks!  I’m mad about you too.

JOHN:           I was going to say like old times. But it’s not quite, is it?

LIZA:              What do you mean?

JOHN:           Well, let’s face it, when Roger was inside there

                        was an incentive to getting under the covers with you…

LIZA:              You bastard! You callous fucking bastard…(beat)

                        You loved me!  You said you loved me,

JOHN:           I loved the idea of banging you, while he

                        was banged up in The Scrubbs.  That’s what I loved.

LIZA:              You weren’t much cop at it – if you want to know

                        the truth. But then, that’s par for the course with you, isn’t it?

JOHN:            Eh?

LIZA:              You’re not much good at anything, are you?

                        (she kicks one of his cars and it bounces off the wall)

                        No good for anything.  Not even a decent shag…

By this stage both of them should very much the worse for drink. They fight, spitting and punching at each other. John has her by the throat, when Mona enters. Mona dresses and speaks entirely different than previously.

MONA:           I’m not interrupting anything, am I? The door was open…

John and Liza stop fighting to stare at her.

JOHN:           You’re…you’re…

MONA:           Mona.

LIZA:              Why are you dressed like that?    Like…like…

MONA:           What you mean is, why aren’t I dressed like Mona?

                        the scrubber? Well, surely it’s obvious?  (no reply)

                        Haven’t you figured it out yet?

LIZA:              Figured what out?

JOHN:            It’s the diamonds

LIZA:              (screeching) Figured what out?

JOHN:           You were working together – you and Maddy?

                         (no reply) 

                        Look, I want to know. Please?

                         (no reply)

                        Where’s Maddy?  At least tell me that.

MONA:           I can’t say.

JOHN:           Can’t or won’t?

MONA:           She won’t be back, that I can say

LIZA:              Excuse me. HELLO!.  Am I invisible or what? 

 If you’re not that tart from the office, then who the fuck are you?  And what are you doing here?

MONA:           I just came back to pick up a few of my mother’s things.

                        Jewelry…a few bits and pieces. Sentimental things. (she exits)


LIZA:              Her mother!…

JOHN:           Your mother!…your mother!…

Mona returns in a few moments, a jewelry box in one hand. She is pushing a wheelchair containing Roger. The electric shock treatment has paralyzed Roger from the neck down, and also caused him to lose his power of speech. He can only communicate in a sort of grunt.

MONA:           Look who I found.  Should he be left on his own?  I mean…

                        (Rogers grunts, then dribbles)

                         Must be difficult for you? Almost a full-

                        time job, I would have thought. (beat) Like having to

                         look after a baby…(beat)… all over again.

LIZA:              (taking control of the wheelchair form her)

                        Get away from him!  Get away  We can manage!

                        Get out!  Go on!

Liza becomes very attentive to Roger.  Mona shrugs and begins to leave.

MONA:           I’ll pass on your regards to uncle Kenny, shall I?

LIZA:              Kenny?  Your uncle Kenny?

JOHN:           Your mother?  Maddy’s your fucking mother? (Mona exits)



Roger more or less collapses onto his stool. Maddy walks around him, ‘inspecting’ him with the torch.

MADDY:        Not so funny now, is it?

LIZA:              You’re an obnoxious little man. I can’t stand

                        the sight of you.  I should have left you years ago.

ROGER:        Only one thing stopped you.  My mother.  Ha ha…

                        (he tries to laugh)….if she was here…

LIZA:              But she’s not. Look at you!  You’re revolting…

                        (she, too, walks round him, singing softly)

                                    If you go down to the woods today

                                    You’re in for a big surprise.

                                    ‘Cos Liza is sucking on Roger’s  wee…

ROGER:        I was only joking, for Christ’s sake. I didn’t mean nothing….

LIZA:              I’d rather suck poison ivy!  (beat)  How many times

                        in the past couple of years have we had sexual relations?

ROGER:        I don’t know.  Not many….three or four times, maybe….

LIZA:              (hitting the button)  How  many?

ROGER:        Aaah!…ooh!….none, none! We was separate.  Everything

                        was separate.  Separate beds, separate rooms… separate …

LIZA:              And why?

ROGER:        ‘Cos….Oh Christ, stop it… because you couldn’t

                        stand the sight of me.

LIZA:              (switches off)  Your witness, I think

ROGER:        Don’t, don’t!  No more.  I’ll tell you whatever you want to know .

MADDY:        Anything?

ROGER:        Yes, .Only no more facking torture. My nerves can’t take it.  

MADDY:        Where’s the diamonds?


ROGER:        What…..?  (pause)  Mona.  She took ‘em.

MADDY:        Yeah?

ROGER:        Yeah.  You’re too late. She’s taken them.  Scarpered.


MADDY:        And the others? The ones you’ve been sitting on

                        like a hatching hen for the last few weeks?  (smiles)

                        What you might call your little nest-egg.

ROGER:        (after a pause) Oh, them diamonds.

MAD:              Yes, them diamonds.

ROGER:        I unloaded  them.  Geezer I know down the Conservative club.

                        Have the readies in a few days…

Maddy punches the button furiously, and turns the dial up. Roger jerks about like a puppet being manipulated fiendishly. She switches off after a few seconds.

MADDY:        There’s a lot more to come. Imagine how you’ll dance on full power.

ROGER:        (hoarsely)  alright. They’re in the cawsey. (beat)  Your jacks.

                        (beat)  The facking cistern.

MAD:              No wonder you wanted to cosy up here!  And there I was

                        thinking it was because of me…

She leaves  the room. There is no dialogue between Lisa and Roger, but we can see the pleading look on Roger’s face. Liza lights a cigarette and blows smoke in his face.  Maddy returns, turning up the lighting as she does so. She empties the contents of a small packet on the table.

LIZA:              Now there’s a sight to bring the smile back to a gal’s face.

MADDY:        That’s plural I hope.

Liza picks one  and up looks at it, then rests it on a  ring on her finger

LIZA               It gives me a funny feeling.  Cold.  It makes me feel cold…

                        (she hands it back)  Nah, give me a ruby any day.

MADDY:        I think I’ll have them made  into the biggest

                         pendant you ever saw and hang them right here…

                        (between her breasts)

LIZA:              Really?  You’ll need quite a long chain, won’t you?

MAD:              Now, now!  And we getting on so well and all. I’ll admit

                        my tits are nearer the ground than they used to be –

                        but then, so are your chins.

ROGER:        And your facking arse…aaww!  (Maddy has hit the button)

MAD:              Who asked you for your pennyworth?

                        (pause) How much do you think they’re worth?.

ROGER:        (hurriedly) Forty grand. You can get twenty big ones for

                        them easily.

MADDY:        Where?   Where can I get it? 

ROGER:        What I mean is…I can get it. You…I don’t know what you can get.

LIZA:              You can’t get anything – trussed up like a Christmas turkey

ROGER:        That’s the deal – see?  You let me go, I get you the money.

MADDY:        Why don’t I just turn up the juice and see how long it takes

                        for his eyeballs to pop out?

ROGER:        Alright!  The mobile.  In my jacket. You’ll find a number there.

Maddy get his jacket and locates the mobile.

MADDY:        What name?

ROGER:        Tom.  (sees he has to explain)   Jewellery…tom.

MADDY:        (shrugging)  Tom it is.  (she trawls through the list)


                        Priestley?  Would that be your friend Kenny?  Well,

                        why don’t we find out? 

                        (another pause as she waits for the call to go through)

                         Kenny?  I have an old friend here who wants a quick word…

                        (she holds out the phone at arms length)

                        Go on, say hello

ROGER:        Hello.  (louder) Hello.  It’s…it’s Roger.

MADDY:        (listening to the reply).  Well, that’s terrible language. Shocking.

                        No…no.  He’s…tied up at the moment. (listens)  I know.  Oh, I

                        know. I know. (to Roger)  He says you are a useless Cockney

                        bastard and should have been strangled at birth. (laughs)

                        Can he come round? he says…I don’t know, I’ll ask. (pause)

MADDY:        What was that, Roger?  (beat)  He says he’ll smash your

                        ugly Welsh puss to pulp if he ever sets eyes on it again…

                        Say again Roger?  Kenny’s mother was the biggest tramp ever

                        to come out of Merthyr Tydfyll…everybody knows she

                         opened her legs  for anything in trousers…‘cos

                        Kenny told everyone he met…And his sister was just as bad…

                        a right Welsh facking slag…

                        Hello?  Kenny, you still there?  (beat)  He hung up.

ROGER:        I’m dead, you bitch.  Dead. 

MADDY:        Can’t he can take a joke then?

ROGER:        A facking joke! His old lady has been blind for

                        more than thirty years.

MADDY:        Oh dear. And his sister…I suppose she’s a nun?

ROGER:        That’s it, have a giggle.  But don’t bank on it

                        being a  facking long one.

MADDY:        He who giggles last giggles longest.

LIZA:              Worrying about Kenny should be the least of your troubles.

MADDY:        I mean, chances are he won’t ever find you…

LIZA:              Or won’t recognize you when he does…

MADDY:        Your own mother mightn’t even recognize you…

LIZA:              How is your mother, by the way?

MADDY:        That’s the thing about mothers.  Everyone has one 

                        Good, bad or indifferent. Short ones, tall ones,

                        fat ones, small ones. Ugly, nasty, busty, trashy.

                        And short-sighted ones.  I’ve known mothers so

                        short-sighted they’ve actually mistaken their little

                        monsters for human beings. (pause)

                        My mother, now, no fear of her being short-sighted.

                         (pause)  Was your mother short-sighted? 

ROGER:        My old mum was a saint.  Is a saint.

LIZA:              So saintly that he packed her off to the wilds of Hastings

                        first chance he got.  Even he couldn’t stand her any longer.

ROGER:        She gets the best of care. I hope I’m as well looked-after in

                         my old age.

LIZA:              You loved her so much you stuck her in a

                        nursing home eighty miles away.

ROGER:        At least I have a mother who never killed her….aaagh..

Roger subsides screaming as Liza gives him the ‘treatment’, turning the power up further as she does so. She tries to prevent Maddy from switching off.

MADDY:        (struggling with her)  No…don’t!  Too much… it’s too much…

Maddy doesn’t manage to stop Liza, so she rushes to the wall and unplugs the lead.  By now Roger is slumped on the floor.

MADDY:        You’ve killed him!

LIZA:              I doubt it. Though I don’t suppose it will do his blood

                        pressure much good..

MADDY:        He’s not breathing.

LIZA:              He never was much of a heavy breather.

                        (She produces a mirror from her bag) 

                        Try this. It always works in films.

Maddy holds the mirror in front of his face, then looks at it.

MADDY:        I don’t know.  What d’you think?

LIZA:              It’s supposed to mist up.

Liza takes the mirror then rubs on it.

LIZA:              Look at that!  Sleeping like a baby.

She sits down, takes out her make-up, and begins to do her face. Maddy sits down also and lights a cigarette. She picks up the can of lager and takes a sip.

LIZA:              Have you ever done anything like this before?

MADDY:        No.

LIZA:              It’s a good feeling.

MADDY:        Is it?

LIZA:              Oh, come on! Don’t tell me it’s not fun.

                        Look at him!  Helpless.  And legless.

                        (she laughs)

                        I can’t help gloating.  The times I’ve

                        wanted to see him like that, you’ve no idea.


                        His mother was the vilest woman I’ve ever come across. 

MADDY:        Like mother like son?

LIZA:              God forbid he should ever sink as low as that.

                        You should thank God you never knew her.  (pause)

                        She ran a loan business too.  Only with her it

                        was women only.  Mostly those on the breadline –

                        and on their own.  It didn’t seem much; mostly for

                        little things; new clothes for the kiddies, decorating

                        a room, new furniture, a new pram…things like

                        that. They were… you know…they couldn’t get credit,

                        so they turned to her as a last resort.  It was never

                        much; twenty, fifty, maybe a hundred pounds.  And

                        when they fell behind she was so understanding.  Next week

                        would do: she’d just add a tiny bit on for administration.

                        (pause)  Nice word ‘administration’.   It covers a

                        multitude.  Anyway, by the time they realized how

                        much the administration came to, it was too late.  Most

                        most of them couldn’t pay.  It didn’t worry  Renee though;

                        She had others strings to her bow.   Stealing to order.

                        Designer clothes, perfumes, jewelry, you ordered them

                        and Renee  got one of her girls to steal it for you.

                        She had a string of girls operating at all the big shopping

                        centres within a fifty mile radius of London.  Her hit

                        squads, she called them.  Teams of five or six would head

                        off in the morning, armed with a shopping list as long

                        as your arm. We daren’t return without at least half her order filled. 

MADDY:        We…?

LIZA:              Did I say we?  (beat)  Well, it’s no big deal anymore.

It’s all behind me now – as the cow said to the manure heap. (pause)

                         A long time ago I was…well, I had a daughter, Sophie,

                        and she was my whole world.  I wanted things for her…things

                         that I never had…but I never seemed to have the money

                         I was into all the usual petty stuff…(bitter laugh)

                        you name it, I did it. One day we rolled a guy…

                        you know, I was the bait that lured him up the alley…

                        only we picked the wrong guy.  Roger.

                        Of all the guys in London, we picked that bastard…

                        The others scarpered when he pulled a knife, but I had

                        to…well, you can imagine what he made me do. And

                        then he took me home to meet his mother. Dear, sweet

                        Renee.  The next day I was leading one of her gangs.

MADDY:        She forced you to work for her?

LIZA:              (laughs) If waving a bundle of notes under your nose

                        is forcing, yeah, she did. It was the money wasn’t it?

                        As much as I wanted – and easy payments to go with it!

                        At first it was great, and then, a few months down the line,

                        I got caught.  Well, the whole gang, really.

                        The police were waiting for us; watched us go about

                        our business, then picked us off one by one…

MADDY:        A tip off?

LIZA:              (shrugs) It was election time. Somebody always pays

                        at election time.  Anyway, I was saved from prison

                        by Renee’s promise to the judge to keep me on the

                        straight and narrow. One of  her finest  performances.

                        And the result was to leave me even deeper in her debt.

                        I suppose I must have seemed stupid, now looking

                        back on it, but at the time…


                        When Roger got caught for the post office thing  I

                        became even more valuable to her.  He…she wanted

                        him to continue overseeing the gangs, but he had other

                        ideas. They argued all the time, he threatened to

                        leave, but he never did. He didn’t have the courage.

                         One person she never liked was Kenny.  She

                        tried to break up their partnership…

MAD:              What about John?

LIZA:              He never really mattered. But Kenny had plans – big plans

                         Then they got caught. Another tip-off…

MAD:              Renee?

LIZA:              Roger would never admit that it might be her.

                        But I wouldn’t put anything past the bitch.

                        Him going to goal changed everything. I was now the one

                        organizing  and coordinating. Doing his job.

                        Oh, I was doing alright, but it wasn’t right…if you know

                        what I mean. Some of the girls were…well, only girls. And

                        I was…forcing them…It was me…

MADDY:        You could have walked away.

LIZA:              Yeah.  I could have.


MADDY:        Was it because of Sophie?

LIZA:              Sophie…

Roger emits a loud roar, a sort of strangled sound, and begins to twitch. After a few moments, he subsides again.