Friday, January 4, 2013

Fields of Athenry

Tommy O’Hanlon says he knows some families up Carnley Road way, who still speak Gaelic at home.  Most of 'em from Mayo he reckons.  I'm doubtful, but then again, when we were kids he once told me Father Mullin tried to touch his arse one afternoon, so he could be onto something. 

Anyway, we've never been like that in our house, though I know the old bloke still gets a twinkle in his eye when Ireland beat England at rugby.  Nothing to do with nationalism, or republicanism, or religion.  He still half-believes, but when the Provos started blowing stuff up over here, it turned his stomach.  All those old songs he used to sing.  He doesn’t sing them any more.  And whatever residual notion he had of the pike in the thatch, has also gone. 

One time he was first through the door at St Theresa's.  Every Sunday.  Think he still winks at the place when he goes past, but funerals apart, that's as near as he ever gets these days. Our Patricia's the same; Irish-lite.  Four Green Fields and a bit of Pogues. 

Had to laugh the other week though.  Sunday afternoon and after half a pig and a sackful of potatoes and veg, most of the family is dozing in front of telly and fire.  Songs of Praise comes on, so our Patricia turns the sound down and puts a tape on.  "Rebel songs of Erin" or some such bollocks.  Got it off a car boot for ten bob. 

Anyway, the old lass wakes up during some line about a prison ship sailing away, and she sees the great British middle class, washed and polished on the telly, apparently singing along, and she’s up and shouting at me dad, “Wake up will yer Jackie…they’re singing the Athenry on Songs of Praise…” 

Reddened and roused, he opens his eyes.  It only takes him a couple of seconds to work it all out.  He’s quick that way.  Doesn’t say anything to ma and he’s already closed his eyes again as he silently mouths “Feckin’ eejit”  and goes back to sleep.

Martin C

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mano Blanco

It was always the same at the end of every harvest, the last days rituals and the almost deflated feeling of finality. Manu tossed old rotten fruit crates on the fire, just like he's done so many times in his home country, where he'd farmed his families land.
He headed down to the  coast line for one last time this year and bought barbecued sardines from a vendor, he could see his countries coast line in the distance and watched the lights come on one by one as the sun went down.  A half hour ferry trip home but culturally and economically a thousand miles apart.
  As he mooched back to his temporary caravan home, he reflected on how the sands had shifted and how glad he was he'd always treat migrant workers with respect.
   The economic meltdown had left it's mark on Spain. Now increased taxes and export duties had rendered his farm in Spain no longer viable, his fruit crop going to waste, a victim of the vanity projects like the airport in Valencia where they forgot to allow enough space for the runway, projects which effectively bankrupt his country.
  And now Morocco, his salvation, one of many Spanish migrant workers finding work in North Africa, the world turned on it's head. If he was careful the money he earned would just about see him through winter back home.  He'd heard the Moroccan authorities were tightening up on the working visa regulation for next season, if it turned out to be true it would be the ultimate irony. The world going well and truly mad or had it already gone mad and this was the period of redressing? What goes around comes around. He was just glad the Moroccan farmer who employed him was returning a favour from 20 years ago when Manu had employed him as migrant labour. He'd like to think he was employed for his experience or organisational skills. But he wasn't, he was the hired help, the Mano Blanca.


Hate You Job?

Finding myself between jobs in 1990, a friend suggested contacting an old school mate as the place he worked were always looking to recruit. I knew from the horror story's that the work was rough, but it was only six weeks at most until I could start my proper job, so the call to Dave was made.

Monday, 7am found me waiting outside the hide and Skin warehouse, a subsidiary of Northern (wholesale) butchers, part of a huge abattoir/fat refining complex. The gaffer was an elderly Ukrainian bull of a man called 'Jo' who set me to work salting a grisly pile of cow skins. Stank isn't the word.
The cow hides were semi frozen (it was winter) slimy, and could weigh anything up to 80kg each & the salt wasn't table salt but more reminiscent of the grit that is spread on the roads. They were then weighed, graded, and put on pallets for export.
By lunchtime {which seemed to consist mainly of spliff smoking, well, the nature of the work did tend to dull ones appetite I suppose}  the reason the other blokes were laughing at me carrying out this task became apparent. The salt began to eat into the flesh on my hands, causing extremely painful burns. Gloves were out of the question as you could not grip the slippery hides whilst wearing them.
Lorry after lorry reversed into the freezing, stinking hall and tipped its vile cargo onto the concrete floor before me. Christ, what the fuck have I let myself in for?

After a few days, 'Jo' relented and sent me out with a driver for a week. We went to various slaughterhouses across Yorkshire, picking up sheepskins and cow hides. Often, the hides were still attached to their owners when we arrived. I'd stand in the slaughter hall watching with morbid fascination as cattle were shot in the head, and reduced to their component parts within a few minutes. The worst bit when throwing the skins onto the lorry, was when you got slapped across the face with them, some of them still warm and steaming.
Each evening, when I got home, the Mrs {often retching} would make me strip to my underwear in the back garden, I stank like you wouldn't believe.
I stuck it for the six weeks. The upside? a fiver at the abattoir would get you a carrier bag full of chops, steak, and sausages. Would I do it again?... would I fuck.

Si Richardson.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Hour

-Vodka and Orange?
-No, I'll have a Screwdriver. Hahaha....
I fucking hate this job sometimes.
-When are you going to marry me girl, make a dishonest man of me?
-Arh Tommy sweetheart how are you? Heineken?
Another prick. Comes in here every night after work, flirts like fuck. Married with two kids and a wife who deserves better. I've seen the gun in his pocket when he kisses me good night. These fuckers leave you a tip, think they own you.
- Clare honey, how are yer?Two Jamies please.
Shaun and Pete. Now these two, I like these two. Young lads from the 'hood, good fun, good tippers. I think they're carpenters. I know they're union. Sure, they'll flirt but they don't make me feel dirty when they do. It's in fun. I've met their girlfriends. They're going steady.
- Well if it isn't my two favourite whatever it is that yous do. What'd you say we kick everyone else out and us three see what happens eh lads? 
- Clare yer too much honey , I tell yer...
-We might take you up on that one day Clare.
-I'll be here, just say the word. 'scuse me, look who just walked in.
-911 Emergency, Fire, Police, EMT or barmaid which service do you require?
- Just getting off fellas? Rescue any cats?
-Very funny. Erm, two Buds, a Miller and a coke for the rookie.
-Who put The friggin' Ramones on again?
-What you don't like 'em? They're from Queens, just like us.
And here we go.
-The KKK took my baby away/they took her away...
I fucking hate this guy. No you're not fucking funny you're a prick. I caught him doing coke in the bathroom one time. The ladies. Cried like a baby when I said I'd tell his sister. Me and Jackie we go to the gym three times a week together. The gym, look at the fucking state of me, drip white, never see the sun, 6pm to 4am, five nights a week in a crappy neigborhood bar, two packs a shift, drip fed vodka. Thank Christ I don't pay for it.
-Alas Clare I must leave you but I'll return tomorrow.
-Goodbye Sgt.
Mr Ryan, 'nam vet. In everyday at 3 out everyday at 7. $2 tip. Cheap bastard. I have heard every war story way, way more than once. His grandson's cute though.
-Clare same again and one for yourself gorgeous.
-Hey Freddie how are you baby?
-All the better for seeing your beautiful face. When are we going to run away together? I'll get you a greencard.
Take more than a fucking double vodka for me to run away with that piece of shit. I'd rather get deported. This fucking crowd make me wanna puke.
-Er, hey Clare, how's it going?
-Hey handsome, great, great. You?
-Okay yeah. I got a few papers to write but other than that, can't complain. 
-A drink?
-Erm, no thanks, gotta get my grandpa home. Thanks anyway. 
-Mr Ryan. Mr Ryan, Jimmy's here for you.
I wish he was here for me. I ride his tight little arse all the way to NYU and back again. Fuck, I need another vodka.