Authors: Patrick McCabe
CALL ME THE BREEZE
What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
T. S. Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’
… is the beginning —that’s what the ancients say. Well, we’ll see. But first of all I want to get the rest of this stuff out of the way and leave it exactly as I found it for Bonehead.
‘You can’t be a famous writer and go throwing your papers around you like that,’ he says.
And he’s right, I guess. But he might as well be talking to the wall. I’ve always been that way. As soon as I was finished writing anything, I’d just shove it into a bag.
… to be precise. That’s where he found nearly all of the material. ‘Give me that!’ he says. ‘Till I put some order on it once and for all!’
So I did. ‘There you are!’ I says. ‘It’s all yours, Bone! You can do what you like with it, for all the difference it makes to me!’
He spent about a month on it, beavering away in his room. When he was finished, he presented it to me: ‘The magnificent Joey Tallon Archibe!’ he says.
But there could be no doubt about it — he really had done a terrific job. In place of the leatherette holdall, a neat little stack of marbled box files containing all my notebooks and ledgers.
I’ve had a really good time going through it. And if I was any kind of writer at all, I’d have made something worthwhile out of it, instead of just sitting here rambling half the night, filling up pages with discursive nonsense. I mean, it’s not as if enough didn’t happen!
Particularly during the seventies, when the old leatherette holdall found itself very much favoured — particularly by anonymous men who had a predilection for leaving it behind them in crowded public houses.
Although somehow you always felt that in a small border town like Scotsfield nothing serious would ever really happen. That most of what you heard was talk and would never amount to anything much.
But that was before the ‘Campbell Morris Incident’. Campbell was a salesman who happened to drop by for the Lady of the Lake festival but ended up getting himself killed. It’s impossible to say who started the rumours about him.
Either way it ended with him being pulled out of the reservoir and the cops going apeshit, raiding pubs.
It wasn’t my business. I was too busy getting on with my life, pulling pints and thinking about Jacy. She was all I ever thought about in those days.
‘He was a fucking spy! And that’s it!’ you’d hear them shouting late at night, full of guilt over what they had done. There had been six or seven of them involved, I think.
‘How about we go out to The Ritzy?’ they’d said, as the salesman drunkenly grinned. ‘You’ll see things out there that you’d never come across in Dublin or London.’
It was a ruse, to get him on his own. They used to show all these blue movies in a barn way out the country. They had dubbed it ‘The Ritzy’ and for a tenner you could watch the films and drink all you wanted. There was talk of Boyle Henry and the Provos being involved in its operation, but you’d never say that openly. ‘I couldn’t tell you anything about The Ritzy’ was what you said if you were asked. ‘I know nothing at all about any of that’ — that’s what you were expected to say.
And did, if you had any sense.
The ‘blues’, as they called them, were very popular. Bennett had always liked them. ‘The best of crack,’ he used to say. ‘I always make sure to go out every Saturday.’ But not any more.
After the salesman’s funeral, Bennett had driven out to the reservoir and sat there for a couple of hours thinking about it all, and his part in
it, I guess. He was discovered there a few hours later, slumped over the dash and poisoned with carbon monoxide.
Whenever I heard things like that back in those days, my reaction would always be the same: finish up my work, head straight home to fall into Mona’s arms.
I used to tell her everything. The only other person I had ever talked to in that kind of way was Eamon Byrne, The Seeker. We had been at school together but he’d gone off to travel the world. I used to love seeing him coming into Austie’s with the big long beard and the hair flying around his shoulders. Especially when you knew the reaction he was going to get. He always wore this hooded brown robe, the
, and knew that it drove them crazy. He’d sit at the bar and roll himself a joint, without, it seemed, a care in the world. Then the two of us would just sit there, rapping for ages, about Dylan and Carlos Castaneda (
The Teachings of Don Juan
) and Santana, the band. He was a big fan of their album
and had brought me home a tape of it. I used to put on ‘
Oye Como Va
’ and ‘Singing Winds/Crying Beasts’ in the pub just to drive Austie wild. ‘Fucking jungle music!’ he called it, flicking his dishcloth and kicking crates.
The Seeker (he took his name from a song by The Who) was living in a squat in Peckham and working on an adventure playground. Just listening to him there, you’d be kind of hypnotized.
‘Did you ever read T. S. Eliot?’ he said to me one day, and I had to admit that I hadn’t. To be perfectly honest, up to that point I hadn’t read much of anything. I’d read sweet fuck all, to tell you the God’s honest truth. Not since
Just William, Biggles
I don’t know why, for it certainly seems stupid now. A writer who doesn’t read — sounds really impressive, all right. I think what had happened was I’d developed a kind of a block. ‘I don’t give a shit about that intellectual stuff!’ I used to say, but, almost at once, would feel kind of ashamed.
That would be around the time that I got put out of the house for having the parties. The council had given me three chances, and this was the last one. There had been all sorts of complaints about black masses and shit, but that was just the old-timers freaking. We’d always have a great laugh, myself and The Seeker whenever we’d get round to rapping about those parties. It was all to do with me playing Black Sabbath albums, and The Seeker going around in his
blessing people and making out he was Charlie Manson. One night he jumped
out in front of this old lady and roars ‘Yow!’ right into her face — but with this luminous skeleton mask on. It scared the living shit out of her and got the pair of us done for disturbing the peace. To be fair to the council, though, they weren’t that bad — after that they could easily have got away scot-free with giving me sweet fuck all. Which a few of them would have been damn glad to do. But the fact that my mother had had a hard life (she was in Cavan General Hospital for a while before being institutionalized totally — they wheeled her off gibbering about ‘Chinamen’) kind of helped my situation, and when she passed away they offered me this rundown mobile home on the edge of a tinker camp just a mile outside Scotsfield town.
I tried the factory for a while after flunking out of school — I drank a bottle of whiskey before Latin class and when the president asked me how ashamed I was (they found me asleep in a pool of vomit) I replied, ‘No, baby, I ain’t ashamed because when you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose.’
Which of course is a characteristically acerbic quote from Mr Robert Zimmerman, the defiant Jewish minstrel — not something that the president of the college was aware of, as I was to find out very shortly.
So that was it then, down the road and don’t come back, you and your Bobby Zimmerman, and then a spell in the foundry ladling layers of molten iron on top of limestone and silicone to make stupid sickles and scythes and then a month or two in that fucking meat factory boning hall before Austie the publican saved my life.
He’d heard that I’d been given my cards at the foundry — on account of me being ‘a dreamer’ — and that things weren’t so good in the meat factory either, what with me drinking and missing all these days and shit.
One day I met him on the bridge and, after we got talking, he said: ‘Out of respect for your mother, she was a lovely woman, I’ll give you a try-out in the bar, Joe Boy. But you’d have to be on the ball. Not like I hear you were above in the foundry. Or the meat factory either, the way I’ve been told. You get what I’m saying here, Joey?’
‘Yup!’ I said, and I started on the Monday.
The Seeker would just puff on a joint and out of nowhere then say: ‘Now Rabindranath Tagore. There’s a man worth reading.’
I still have his books. There’s one of them right here actually, well-thumbed and battered.
The Poems of St John of the Cross. ‘To Joey The Man
,’ it reads, ‘
from his old pal The Seeker — Eamon Byrne, Feb. ’75
That was inscribed just the week before he died — he OD’d in his flat in Clapham, South London. Another time, I remember, he had sent me over
The Wisdom of Hinduism
. And when I opened it what was there inside? Only this lovely faded primrose (he must have remembered I used to bring a little bunch to Mona), squashed flat but with every one of its petals still intact. And, inscribed beneath: ‘
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time — T. S. Eliot
, Four Quartets, ’
75. Keep believing, Joey! Your old pal — The Seeker
Only for him, I might never have written anything. Whenever I’d get his letters, I’d want to read them again and again. He was always including little quotes like that. It made you want to try and express your own … feelings, thoughts, whatever —
They’re all to be found here, in amongst these pages so diligently catalogued by Bonehead. Some of them are calm and, I suppose, somewhat measured, while others are more passionate and, at times, even frenzied.
Although none of them, it has to be said, are quite as legible as they ought to be …
A bit wrecked. Just in from Austie’s. Wild night. Fucking disco jammed to the doors. Was run off my feet. Feel like
Must have dozed off there. Feel like … I don’t know. Life is funny. Sometimes I think I love Mona and other times I think it’s because I’m afraid of her. I mean she’s older — a lot older, man, you know? So strictly speaking it shouldn’t … well, it shouldn’t be, I guess
There are times I weep when I get to thinking about Jacy. A catch comes in my throat and I can’t stop thinking of that long blonde flowing hair. When I do, it’s like a film with my face and her hair melting in and out of each other
They found Bennett today. Someone was out walking his dog and he came upon the van. The cab was still full of smoke. Poor Bennett —
no more blue movies for him. I have a fair idea who the ringleaders were. Hoss might have been in on it — Sandy McGloin, for sure
But that’ll never come out. Everyone’d be far too scared to name names
None of it’s of interest to me. All that interests me now is love. Love, like The Seeker used to say, and truth and understanding. Poor Eamon, R.I.P.
I dreamed about him again last night. He’s just sitting there, smoking his jay — then suddenly he starts to cry out: ‘He’s coming for me, Joey! The Big Fellow! He’s going to … he’s going