Hard Times [2007]

Hard Times

Well hello there.

Welcome back (unless you’re a dog-freak, in which case there’s nothing here for you.

Go away)

I’ve been absent myself for the last while, due to a plague of funerals and other depressing things that needed my attention. There was a family bereavement just last week. We all went back to the house after the removal, and I found myself sitting in the front room with several aged sisters of the deceased, all sipping tea from china cups. I was on wine. Conversation drifted to my past as an International Rock Superstar.

“Ah yes” said one old dear “of course, I remember you as Moggie”.

“Ah ha”, I said.

“That was great music in the Sixties”.

“Mmm”, I said, desperately trying to find something intelligent to say. She nodded.

“Not like that rubbish they listen to nowadays.”

And I saw my chance to lighten the proceedings with a little witticism of my own devising, one which has provided chuckles in the past.

“No indeed”, I said, “just imagine them in an old folks home in forty years, and someone says “Come on, Jack” give us one of the old songs. What about that rap one, Yo, Bitch, Let’s Off The Muddafukkin Pigs!”.

Silence fell on the room like a thunderbolt. Cups were replaced carefully in saucers and open mouths revealed dentures trembling in shock. My insane laugh echoed eerily in the quiet and, after about a minute my nerve broke and I muttered something about checking on the children, and fled.

I understand my attendance at future wakes is not considered necessary.

Then there was a gig my current band did for the Naas Lions Club. We got it through an agency, so they didn’t know who we were, and probably didn’t care. However, before we started to play, the organiser asked our name so that he could announce us.

“Last Gasp”, we told him. He paled.

“Oh no, no, no” he said.


“This is a benefit in aid of Suicide Prevention”.

So we played the gig anonymously, a first for us, although St Francis’ Hospice did once decline out offer of a charity performance on similar grounds.

I even had a mild health scare myself in the spring. Well, what I actually had was too much wine in a warm room on a family Sunday. I stood up too quickly and fell over. Pleading simple drunkenness cut no ice with the Howth Womens Collective (the Dragon Lady and her evil offspring Ingrid) and I was despatched next day to the doctor who ordered a blizzard of tests. Later that week Ingrid was queuing in the bank with her eight-year-old twins and mentioned that I was in the doctors. Why? They asked. The doctor is giving him his test results, she explained. There was a moment’s thoughtful silence.

“Testicles?” asked Ellen in a loud voice, “What are testicles anyway?”

And speaking of grandchildren, no 1 grandson Josh is now fifteen, with all the irritations that implies, and one of his quirks, which is, I gather, not uncommon in his generation, is a strange reverence for Designer Labels. We did a family pilgrimage to Orlando at Easter for which he saved like mad, and the day after we arrived he raced off to the Florida Mall and the hold grail of Abercrombie and Fitch.

Now, I had on Josh’s behalf visited their premises myself on an earlier trip and was highly impressed on three fronts – the volume of the music, the darkness of interior and the optimism of the prices.

However, undeterred by my report, he groped around in the gloom and noise for a while and emerged triumphant with a pair of jeans. But not just jeans. These were, he explained proudly, Distressed Jeans. Back at the house, he showed them to me. They were badly faded , a sinister dark stain faintly visible on the left thigh. Long threads sprouted from the frayed trouser cuffs and from the holes worn through at the knees. How much? Seventy-five dollars, he beamed.

I laughed so hard they all began to worry about me, and Josh wouldn ‘t speak to me for days, but I couldn’t help thinking of all the guys on building sites all over the country. They’re wearing a fortune’s worth of exclusive clothing and they don’t even know it.

Anyway, I’m going to close with a nice story, told to me just last night by a local Parish Priest.

A boy and girl did a line for years, and, as they entered their twenties, everyone expected an announcement. Instead, there was an argument about something stupid, and they broke up. Neither of them ever married.

Thirty years later a mutual friend met the man and suggested he should re-establish contact with his old love. “She never married, you know, and she’s back in town. Actually, here’s her phone number”.

So he rang her up, and she was thrilled to hear from him after all this time.

“So how have you been?”. He asked.

“Fine. And you?”

“Great, great. Tell me did you ever get married?”


“Me neither. Listen”, he said “Would you maybe fancy meeting up sometime, catch up?”

“I think I’d like that” she said simply.

“Well, great,” he said. He paused. “Listen,” he said “It’s been thirty years. I’ve changed a bit.”

“How so?”

“Well, for a start, do you remember my hair? Well, it all fell out. I’m bald as an egg”.

“I can cope with that” she laughed.

“And I’ve put on a bit of weight”.

“Well, sure, it’s thirty years as you say. I’ve put on a load of weight myself”.

“You have? Ah, fuck off so.”