The Plunkett family has given many fine writers to the Irish literary movement. Horace Plunkett, Edward Plunkett (who became Lord Dunsany) and, in more recent times, James Plunkett most famous for Strumpet City.
Paddy Plunkett is a Dublin bus-driver who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of his native city, a vivid imagination and the literary ability of the Plunketts that went before him. This month I’m giving you one of his pieces.
A MONUMENTAL OCCASION
All over bar the shouting and that continued outside the doors. It’s hard to understand just how much is spent on drink in this country. Everyone has to make their living and this happened to be his, and he was lucky that he had such a thriving business in this day and age. Drink, alcohol kept a lot of people in work in this country for good or ill he mused, from those who make, distribute and sell it to those who have to look after the hurt and pain it causes people.
In the meantime he and his staff wanted to go home to bed and a well earned rest. But not before the takings for the day were counted and the shelves were restocked for the next day’s trading which was Saturday. They had ample stock from kegs of beers and stout to bottled beers and a vast amount of spirits. A new record in turnover had been accomplished today, so he was a happy man. Tomorrow was well and truly a day of rest for him and his staff for it was Good Friday.
He then remembered that because they would not be open on Good Friday he had better wind the pub clock, it needed to be wound only once a week and he wound it every Friday. It was old, with roman numerals, and it bore the legend “Ganter Brothers Made in Dublin”. He had a great attachment to the timepiece for it was part and parcel of the pub. Just as was the old gas lamp whose mantle was still intact and which was used occasionally if there was a power failure. At the end of the bar was a very large mirror. It too was old and near the top, two opposite semi circles informed you of “De Kuypers Heart Label Gin”. It was cracked a little at the bottom from a row that had occurred in the bar many years ago. It too was part of the furniture and fittings of “Dirty Dicks”. Satisfied that doors and windows were locked and everything was in order. Paddy the proprietor switched on the alarm bade goodnight to his staff and they went home to their beds for a well earned rest.
Some customers congregated outside gostering and singing, others taking about football and wondering would the Premiership be won over the Easter weekend. All of them knew Good Friday was only a night’s sleep away and that it would be the quietest day of the year with the pubs closed all day long. Slowly but surely they went their separate ways all inebriated. “Mind the trams “, someone shouted. Christy didn’t need to for he went home short distance to his flat by rail. The individual steel shafts that made up the perimeter railings of the flats he felt carefully until he came to the entrance to the complex he lived in. Once through the gates he found his flat without any bother.
Most of Christy’s boozing pals were off to England for Easter. They said they were going over for a match, but if the truth be known they couldn’t face Good Friday without the pubs being open. Christy hadn’t the money, so he had to stay at home.
Good Friday was a fine bright day and he busied himself doing bits and pieces around the place. He felt a bit seedy and he had a bit of a hangover but he felt a bit better as the day wore on. A long day seemed to turn into an even longer evening His missus was going over to Whitefriar Street to do the Stations of the Cross. He thought he might go with her and pass a bit of time. He thought again. No too long and drawn out.
He thought back to past Good Fridays. They always seemed to be cold wet and miserable with nothing to do. The only place to go was to play football up in the fifteen acres and in the evening go over to the Mansion House to see the European Cup Final on film. It was the same match shown year after year.
He remembered the seats in the round room torn, and with the horsehair sticking out of them. But it was the match. That was the magic bit Good Friday in the Mansion House was Hamden Park 1960. 135,000 people Real Madrid versus Eintracht Frankfurt. Oh he loved saying the name Eintracht. It sounded really different, really foreign. The screen was tiny sixteen millimetre film. But there was a full house. Every year there seemed to be more scratches on the print than the year before. And the click, click, click of the projector seemed noisier. What a match final score Real Madrid;7, Eintracht Frankfurt;3.
Magical goals from fabulous players 4 for Puskas 3 for Di Stefano of Real Madrid and players namedKress and Stein scored for Eintracht.
Despite his fond memories he was becoming slightly agitated. He missed the pub. It was too early to touch his few cans he had put away, never the less he checked them and made sure they were still intact. He put on his jacket and the lead on his beloved dog Brandy. It was obvious to anyone who saw Brandy that he was a mongrel. Christy would have none of it. As far as he was concerned he was a pure “ton a bred”.
They walked towards Stephens Green, crossed at the Unitarian Church and made their way along the tree lined west side of the park where the Luas operates from. As they approached the midway point, where the statue to Lord Ardilaun is, Brandy let out a yelping cry. The dog was petrified. He picked him up. and there was no other animal or person about. He set him down on the ground again and as he got up he looked in at the monument. Lord Ardilaun, Arthur Edward Guinness was no longer there. Christy closed his eyes tightly, and opened them again and looked.The monument was complete in every detail.
The plinth,the chair he sat on, even the grass surrounding it was freshly mown. He was definitely not there. Christy felt an eerie feeling within himself. They quickly made their way down York Street, which is opposite the monument. He’d surely meet someone he knew here. Not a sinner. Like the dog Christy felt insecure. The city had a ghost like feel to it.
“Drink, I need a drink,” he said to himself. He made his way home as quickly as he could but not before he passed Dirty Dicks. There was an old handcart outside over the cellar gates. He hadn’t seen one of those in years, yet it was familiar. He thought he saw a glimmer of light through the blinds. He went to the bar door, looked around. His heart pounding he put a slight pressure on the door. To his surprise it opened and he entered. The gas mantle behind the bar was glowing brightly. The pub was packed yet different. There were drinks everywhere and a great atmosphere pervaded the place. The clientele were not locals yet Christy seemed to know almost all of them.
He saw a man at the bar that seemed down on his luck. From the back he vaguely recognised him. He had bird droppings on his hair and shoulders. His long dirty coat and boots had a greenish bronze hue about them. He made his way over to him, he touched his coat it had a cold metallic feel to it. A button fell from the back belt of his coat. Christy picked it up and put it in his pocket. The man lifted a pint of Guinness from the counter and drank it down. The metallic look and bird droppings disappeared.
What emerged was a friendly moustached face with bright sparkling eyes and a cheerful smile. Transformed he was dressed impeccably. He introduced himself. Christy could hardly contain himself, for this was the man who was missing from his chair in Stephens Green. Lord Ardilaun, Arthur Edward Guinness. Christy offered him a stool, he refused it, saying he didn’t mean to be rude but he had a pain in his arse sitting on the same seat in the Green for over a hundred years.
So if he didn’t mind he’d prefer to stand and have a drink and a chat with him. He told Christy that he loved Dublin and that it was great to be back in body even if it was only for short period of time. He also explained to him that what he was encountering was the Dublin Monumental Statue Movement Meeting.
And that these meetings were held only once in a blue moon.
A monumental reunion it might have been for Lord Ardilaun but those he introduced to Christy seemed to be there in body, mind and spirit. They were a Who’s Who of Dublin monuments. They were all there; Poets, Literary Geniuses, Politicians, Trade Unionists, Rebels, Chancers, Musicians.The Famine Hungry.
The Tart with the big heaving bosom who had left her handcart outside was there too, attracting a lot of attention from the former great and good.Surgeon Parker who normally resides outside the “Dead Zoo” on Merrion Square was chatting to a Frankenstein monster like Wolfe Tone. Father Matthew was going around imploring them all to give up the demon drink, but was not having much luck.James Joyce was singing “The Lass of Aughrim”. Phil Lynott said “Christy remember the craic we used to have in the 5 Club in Harcourt Street.”He sure did. The Two ladies who sit with their Arnotts’s bags beside the Halfpenny Bridge were still chatting, but here in the pub, and having a drink. They all said that they missed Lord Nelson on his pillar.
His head which was on the end of the bar smiled wryly. Keeping them all under control was the Chief Usher, whose residence is outside the Screen Cinema in Hawkins Street. He was complete with his trusty torch and was dressed in all his fine regalia.
Drinking and merriment was the order of the day. Christy could take no more of this surreal world he had entered. He bid Lord Ardilaun and all his monumental friends’ goodnight. He went home with Brandy who now was in great form wagging his tail, and went straight to bed.
Were they coming to take him away was his first thought as his wife woke him from a very deep sleep. The reflection of blue flashing lights covered the ceiling of the bedroom. He shivered a little and heard the din of what sounded like fire engine pumps.
He dressed in a flash and ran down to the street. Dirty Dicks was no more. A huge fire had engulfed the building and reduced it to rubble. Ace reporter Charlie Swan the nations favourite hack, back from a sojourn in the United States was in vintage form. He described the fire as been Ghoulish, Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented. That it was. The Gardai and fire crews, who fought the inferno, ruled out arson as a cause, as fire brigade personnel had to break down the doors and windows to get to fight the blaze.
Their investigations revealed that not a drop of drink was left in the pub. All the kegs, bottled beers and spirits were mysteriously now empty. Despite the massive temperatures and the millions of gallons of water used to extinguish the fire, they found intact and in perfect working order the pub clock, the De Kuypers Mirror and the old gas lamp.
Christy went onto the small veranda of his flat. He fed the birds a few crumbs and crusts of bread. He sneezed, took his handkerchief from his pocket as he did so he pulled something with it which fell to the ground. He bent down and picked it up.
What had been an old dirty button was now a bright gold one with A. E. Guinness Inscribed on it.