As Time Goes By - Christmas 1981
And so this is Christmas. And what have we done? Another year over, a new one ... "
Nice way to start a Christmas column - or so I thought when I wrote that one December day last year. And woke up next morning, rollled over, switched on the radio and 'heard Ronan Collins talking about something bad that had happened in New York City. After that it didn't seem the thing to do to mess about with John Lennon's Xmas song.
Scrap another year. You've just about kicked the habit of signing last year's date on cheques and IoUs and you're getting used to the shape of the current date - and they start playing Crosby on the radio. Me, I'm dreaming of a white fallout - just like the one Hiroshima used to know. While we're knocking the stuffing out of the turrkey the hard-nosed, soft-brained geriaatrics who run the world are dickering about whether they should keep enough missiles to blow the planet out past Pluto - or should they pare them down so that our vaporised remnants are propelled merely as far as Saturn. The thing to do at the end of a year these days is breathe a sigh of relief. Made it.
New Year resolutions: don't give up the fags until the geriatrics give up their somewhat larger and infinitely more deadly cylindrical health warnn.ings. Who needs to go through the aggravation if there's a fair to middling chance that we're going to end up as part of another decorative ring of debris revolving around a distant planet?
Okay, then - enough of this moody stuff. This is the season of goodwill. Except, when you think about it, it's depressing that goodwill is in such short supply that we have to have a special season to promote it 0like it was some obscure brand of cheese.
Can't seem to catch the mood, myyself. Walk down Henry St. and I have to restrain an urge to poke the hot tip of my Rothman at the balloons being waved by wide-eyed kids. Teach them something about life.
Social event of the week was the Christmas party organised by SAP, the Spontaneous Aggravation Party. Turned up around nine to find that Fingers Kavanagh had cracked another joke. This happens about three times a year and Fingers gets so chuffed that he spends the rest of the week cracking it again and again until it's as shredded as the nerves of his friends.
When I walked into The Oasis he was cracking it again to Studs O'Mahoney. She had that look on her face that she cultivated over many nights in the Metropole Ballroom when guys with hair-oil running down their foreeheads asked if she would like to come outside and look at the stars.
Seems the origin of Fingers' new joke was when he walked in laden with parcels and a plastic bag containing an LP. Some poor soul in need of converrsation asked Fingers what the record was and Fingers put on the shark's smile he wears when he's sunk the pink and the black is hanging over the corner pocket. "It's The Mafia's Greattest Hits! ", he blurted and laughed so much he knocked over the guy's drink.
"It's a good one, isn't it?, he was asking Studs, "The Mafia's Greatest Hits!" Studs told him two words. And they weren't Merry Christmas.
Took myself over to the bar, where Lazy Pete Maguire was staring innto his pint and grinding his teeth. I'm not too fond of parties, myself, but the odd bit of socialising does no harm - helps me get to know people a little better - which in turn gives me ample justification for keeping away from them for the rest of the year. But Pete thinks parties are a good argument for martial law - where it's an offence for three or more people to gather togetther.
"There's always some thick who thinks your life isn't complete without a little paper hat. And when you've reearranged his dental work there's the lad who knows you always wanted the inside scoop on the insurance business and you have to spill good drink on him to make him go away. There's always one grinning twit who acts superior, makes jokes about everyone else and talks in a loud voice about the number of times he got drunk or stoned last week and has very definite views on the superiority of Peruvian Red to Algerian Polka Dot or whattever - and no matter how loud he talks you know his peculiarities have nothing to do with artificial stimullants, he was born that way. And you figure that at least this scene is useful for getting off your mark - until she throws up all over your best Lower West Side jacket that's come unscathhed through storm, drang und riot."
Pete can go on like this for hours, and frequently does around Christmas time. But that night he was muttering,
"If there's any justice this pra t will take a long fall."
"Kelly again?", I asked, an d orderred a large Jameson. Pete has had a fixation about John Kelly, TD and part-time pornographer, ever since The Minister For Putting His Foot In His Mouth referred to those who don't like the way his government puts up prices and tries .to cut wages as "pigglets". Pete figures, and I agree, that anyone who despises the populace in such a manner shouldn't be put in charge of a public toilet let alone a government Department. Then there's the matter of Kelly's authorship of a dirty book and his attempt to hide this other side to his character by adopting a pseudonym ...
"Nah , nah, not him - I've fixed his wagon". Pete explained how he has esstablished a flat in Mount Merrion from which to base his activities during the next election. "Right in the heart of Kelly's constituency. Leaflets, posters - all the stuff about the piglets and the pornography. Public meetings, resiidents' associations up in arms - I've got it figured. Hit 'em where it hurts. He's no problem".
Pete supped his pint and exhaled, "Collins, Gerry Collins. Complaining about all the work in the Dail before Christmas. It's true! Work! A few hours a day, eighty-seven days a year, thirteen thousand for the privilege! If there was any justice these guys would be clocking in at eight, a twenty minute break at eleven, three-quarters of an hour for lunch and back until half four. Five days a week and half the wages. Sounds a bit rough? It's what most other people have to do @and you'd imagine running the counntry would take at least as much time as making dolly mixtures or paint or cars or packets of crisps. Collins don't think so. Two wagons to be fixed in 1982, Kelly and Collins. Mount Merrion and . . . where does Colllins come from?
"Limerick, I think." "It figures."
Just then there was a bit of a scufffle at the other side of the lounge. Seems three hard men from the other side of the river had taken exception when Fingers told them his Greatest Hits joke for the fourth time. Two of them were holding Fingers and the third was winding up his arm when Studs stuck a bottle of white lemonnade up Number Three's left nostril. Pete and I finished our drinks and went over to ask the hard men if they'd like to come outside and see the stars - or would they rather see them right here.
Anyway, Merry Christmas. Try not to throw up in populated areas.