THE SHINY RED HONDA…read first chapter

19-01-2014 11;22;17


Chapter one

I was thirteen tall and gangly when I first pulled on long trousers. What a relief that was; I was the longest streak of misery you were ever likely to see in the short ones. It was my last year at the National school in Newtown and the Master used every opportunity to drag me around the classroom shouting “just because you wear long trousers now O’ Brien, don’t think it makes you any smarter”. I wasn’t and it didn’t, but the Master was a law unto himself so I just kept my gob shut. There were discussions about what, if any, further education I was to get. Dungarvan was out I heard my father say; it was too far away and the fares were too expensive. That only left the ‘Tech in Portlaw – and that seemed to totter from one financial crisis to the next.
We were poor I guess; no running water, no toilets, to TV, no car…you name it we didn’t have it. But then, money wasn’t as important as it is nowadays. If you had enough to live on you were doing well. If you didn’t you wouldn’t starve because the countryside was abundant in most of the things needed to survive. Even the poorest cottage had half an acre of land attached, and enough spuds, cabbage and other vegetables could be grown to keep a family from the poorhouse. Hens provided eggs every day, a pig could be fattened and killed; and if you couldn’t afford turf or coal, well, there was plenty of wood scattered about… Continue reading




           He lay in the box quite comfortably

            His waxen face staring into infinity

            Looking much better in death

            Than he ever had in life.

            It was all that I could do to peer

            At him through slatted fingers

            From the back of the room;

            The ever-present smell of tanning

            And leather aprons absent now;

            More than forty seeping years of it

            Scrubbed away one last time


            His moped – a natural progression from pedal power

            When his legs gave out –

            Lay discarded in the coal shed

            At the back of the house.

            (No driver you see, and mother still had the shopping to do)

            He dug turf, cut down young Sally trees,

            And turned over his bit of stony ground endlessly.

            In summer he clipped sheep slowly

            With a machine bought by post from Clerys,

            Carefully stowing it away in its box

            When the shearing was done.


            The clay pipes he sucked on – their broken stems

Held together with blood pricked from his thumb –

            Were redundant now

            And his three bottles of Sunday-night Guinness

            Would stand corked under the counter evermore.

            Who would dance half-sets with her now?

            My mother enquired of no one in particular,

            The smoky saloon bar stunned that the music had felled him

            Knocked him to the floor in the middle of the tune.

            He lay there with a smile on his face

            Knowing it was over

            And I never got to know what was on his mind.


            We put him in the ground

            And sadness trickled through me

            Like a handful of sand through my fingers.

            Later, everyone stood around

            Eating sparse ham sandwiches

            While I stood there, dry-eyed;

            He was a great man they all said

            Slapping the back of my overcoat;

            Sure he gave forty years to that tannery


            And what did it give him?

            I wanted to shout to the throng;        

            A gold watch and a tin tray

            And both had his name spelled wrong