Monday, February 27, 2006

On the matter of Full & Plenty

I hate moving office, but so far, my colleagues tell me, I've hardly had to move at all. They were afflicted with continual migrations from halls to offices back to halls again when the building was being added to a few years back and before I joined it. I had to move maybe twice, or maybe three times altogether in the past two-and-a-half years, and today was the latest departure. This time it was only the matter of moving my computer and paper files 12 feet to another desk, but it wasn't long before I was pumping out perspiration and crawling about on the floor looking for cables and plug-sockets.

In the middle of this, I heard the ominous creak of a seam in my trousers giving way...

When one is in a unisex office one can hardly check the nature of one's tailoring on the spot by feel without causing some unwanted rumours to begin circulating. I also gave some seconds of thought to having a peek at the damage in the mirror over the wash-hand basins in the Gents toilets, but the thought of a colleague walking in to view me gazing at my out-thrust pelvis in the mirror might also have caused some problems. I only thought of going into a cublicle and dropping the whole lot to half mast when I started writing this evening. It was that kind of a day.

As chill winds didn't appear to be blowing, I left things as they were and carried on regardless. When I got home and changed out of the work duds, it transpired that the crotch seam had given up. Not a problem repairing it, and better than the arse part every time.

It reminded me of the story my father used to tell of one of our miserly bachelor landlords, the Doyles. These three brothers (I only remember two, as one died when I was very little) lived in squalor in Scholarstown, despite having at least two farms of land and livestock. I remember Pete Doyle coming to inspect the land we tenanted every week or so, and the way in which his ragged trousers were held up with baler twine. There was no Steptoe exagerration you could make about these characters that wasn't actually true.

Tom Doyle used to hover around the farm house mowing thistles with a scythe until my mother would inevitably invite him in to share a meal with our family. Tom would literally lick the plate clean and ask for seconds. We got the impression that was how the Doyle borthers did their washing up.

One evening, he was offered stew and when he'd eaten as much as he could in multiple helpings, each time wiping the merest leftover up with a crust of loaf bread cut by my mother, he eyed the new jar of strawberry jam that was sitting on the table.

"I only have one tooth," he grinned. "But it's a sweet one!"

My sister, Eva, watched in horror as he ate several rounds of bread, and each time he licked the big tablespoon clean before driving it back into the jam in the jar...

When he left, Eva grabbed up the jar, spoon and all and threw the whole lot out the back door into the ditch.

One day a bullock got out through a gap in the hedge and into the hilly pitch and putt golf course that my uncle maintained next to Doyle's Farm. In the event, the beast fell backwards down the steep bank into the river and broke its hip. The only way it could be contrived to get the crippled creature out of the river and up to the knacker's trailer was to load it onto a large sheet of corrugated iron and to have several men haul the makeshift sled up the hill to the road.

Tom Doyle oversaw the operation.

"Hup!" he shouted, as the men strained on the ropes.

Walking backwards up the hill, he "Hupped" and "Hupped" until, unbeknownst to himself, he came to a small raised hillock near the top.

"Hup!" he shouted as he stepped backwards, caught his noisome wellington boot on the hillock and went head over heels backwards onto the grass.

The men rolled about the grass, roaring with laughter.

"Oh, laugh at a man when he's down!" cried Tom, as he struggled to his feet. What he didn't know was that far from laughing at the simple slip, the men pushing and pulling the bullock up the slope got a prize view through the large rip in the seat of Tom's trousers of his unused marriage tackle.

My Uncle Joe, never one to miss an opportunity for a quip, chimed in when the first of the laughter had died down:

"They look like they haven't been washed since his mother last did it!"

The men rolled halfway down the slope again in convulsions.

The Doyles. My father always said that as misers they died "in the middle of full and plenty".

I must go and fetch the needle and thread before my own predicament shows through.

1 comment:

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