Curry chips and fandom.

You can meet another artist and they’ll ask how’s your writing, and you’ll tell them, and they won’t listen, and they’ll say we must go for coffee someday, and they’ll promise to buy your book, and then they’ll fuck off somewhere. And they haven’t a notion of doing the coffee, never mind buy the book. And then you’re having a curry chips and this fella bullocks over, puts his hands on the table, and says: ‘Howya, Micky!’

            He was well drunk, jeans too big, bloodshot eyes, jowls like a St. Bernard. Worse still, I hadn’t a clue who he was, so I said: ‘How’s things?’

            ‘Fuckin mighty.’

            ‘Great to hear it. Are ya still workin away?’

            He wasn’t much of a clues man cos he said: ‘I am. Same fuckin place, sure what can you do?’

            ‘What can ya do?’

            ‘And you? Are ya still writing?’

            ‘I am.’

            ‘I read your last book.’

            ‘Which one?’

            ‘The one in February. Fuck it sure, I read them all.’

            ‘Good man. Did you like the last one?’

            ‘Fuckin cracked. Mighty ridin’ in it.’

            ‘There was a bit alright.’

            ‘But it was a good story too.’

            ‘Thanks.’

            ‘Any Plays comin?’

            ‘I’m workin on a few things.’

            ‘I saw Nally on Youtube.’

            ‘Did ya?’

            ‘I did. Fuckin loved it. Hard to believe ye managed it with that fuckin lockdown but it worked.’

            ‘Thanks.’

            ‘The actors were fuckin mighty. How’s your chips?’

            ‘Lovely. I got them in the van over there.’

            He looked over, suspicious, like he was ready to accuse the van of trying to hide. ‘I wonder will they sell me a burger?’

            ‘Sure ask them.’

            ‘I fuckin will. I’m fulla porther. Drinkin since yesterday morning.’

            ‘What’s the occasion?’

            ‘Sure don’t ya know? Life. What else?’

            ‘True.’

            ‘And c’mere, whatever happened with the film that time?’

            ‘Tiger Raid?’

            ‘Yeah. I went up to see that in Galway. It was fuckin class.’

            ‘It’s still goin. You can buy it or rent it on Google Movies and all that craic.’

            ‘Twas some craic that night. That Gleeson fella can fairly act.’

            ‘He can, nice lad too.’

            ‘I’d say so. Are ya still teaching?’

            ‘An odd time.’

            ‘Dose I’d say?’

            ‘Tis grand.’

            ‘I couldn’t teach now. Fuck that. Gimme a kango and I’m happy, how the fuck do you sit at a computer all day?’

            ‘Different strokes, I suppose…’

            ‘Will ya have a pint?’

            ‘Still off it.’

            ‘Are ya fuck?’

            ‘I fuckin am.’

            ‘How long done now?’

            ’11 years I think. 10 anyway. Kinda losing count these days…’

            ‘Christ almighty, I wouldn’t last two days. You must be loaded. Selling all them books and films and shtuff and not drinkin?’

            ‘Writing’s the easy part, making money off it is more complicated.’

            ‘I fuckin bought them anyway.’

            ‘You did, good man.’  

            He stood looking at the chip van, stars in the night sky behind him. Aroma of cooking oil and vinegar mixed with ketchup. He said: ‘I think I’ll have a burger and five or six more pints and fuck off home.’

            ‘Sounds like a plan.’

            ‘I’ll be sick as a dog tomorrow.’

            ‘I don’t miss that.’

            ‘Christ. Shtop. Keep writing anyway. I want to read the next one. And make more fuckin films.’

            ‘I will.’

            ‘Fuckin do. I’m not into any of that other fancy shite but I like your shtuff.’

            ‘Sound, thanks.’

            ‘G’luck, Micky.’

            ‘Sound. G’luck.’

Full Maxol jacket in Mullingar.

There was big talk of a meeting due to the dire decrease in numbers. The motivational phone calls weren’t doing the trick and the screaming requests for paid expenses, accurate wages and general understanding of the Irish psyche when it came to quare companies, were falling on deaf ears. It was decided, in the spirit of respect for employees, and to add professional gravity to the situation, and in line with the budgetary ethos, that we ought to meet out the back of the Maxol petrol station beside the car wash, in Mullingar.

            We talked on the way over about how best to approach this council of war? We were coming from Athlone. They were coming from Dublin. What tactics might provide the most profitable outcome. Jimmy said we should insist on a lower target, get food expenses, and clean jackets. Last week he got a company jacket in the post that hadn’t been washed since the time of Fred Flintstone. It had the smell of a wet dog mixed with sour milk and it was too big, so he looked like a man about to jump down a manhole and go shovelling shite for the day.

            Joe was in the back, scrolling through a phone with a cracked screen, and said: ‘Do you think we could get a raise?’

            The road rolled past like an escalator, cats eyes, and trees laughing at the idea of getting more money. All this was cutting into my day. I’d already missed Joe Duffy and the future of The Hard Shoulder at half four was in doubt. Sure this is pure slavery altogether.

             Next thing didn’t I get an email, was I still ok for the interview later on?

            Interview? Oh yeah, fuck.

            That.

            There was a crowd wanting to talk about another job somewhere else. I had applied for so many I wasn’t sure which one this was about.

            I looked it up. Didn’t seem too bad. They even had an office and mad things like a payroll. It would be tight with the meeting, but I could swing it.

            Later at the Maxol, boutique ambience for big businessmen like ourselves, Midlands 103 on the speakers over the deli, a limited time offer on toilet paper. The Dublin crowd sprung for coffees all around and made half-hearted offers of chewy croissants. Then we went outside and got down to it, which turned out to be a pep talk on costs, profits, the importance of ambition and the need to keep focused on potential and growth. It was hard to hear them after a while cos there was a lad power washing an Audi and the spray was kind of drifting over into our eyes and landing on the rim of the cups. There was no move on more money, or a raise, and the lower target was taken into consideration – which meant not a fuckin hope either.

            Good job I had that interview.

            Later, caught for time, I set the phone up on the dashboard. Gelled the hair, fired on a fasht tie and got set up.

             They appeared on the screen like two fellas just back from the beach. T-shirts, tired eyes, the sitting room cabinets behind them, struggling to stay interested.

            Talked shite for a while and they said they’d let me know.

            Later the email came from Laura, Linda, Lisa, I can’t remember which.

             Didn’t go well, she said. You can’t be doing interviews in the car like that. Not professional. But we’ll keep you on file.

            Do, Lorraine, keep me on file. Thanks

#5 The Mortgage.

She was young, good with the computer in the air-conditioned office – had a name like Ciara, Jane, Sarah, one of those. We’ll go for Laura. Swivel chair.  Leaflets on the table with affirmations in big writing. “SAVING FOR A NEW HOME? YOUR JOURNEY BEGINS HERE.” It all sounded so good. Especially with the ads on the telly that make it all look so straightforward, possible, simple.

            Laura had the figures, all the forms. Payslips, rent receipts, outgoings, savings. Typed it all in. Moved the mouse. Frowned a bit and said: ‘Hmm…not looking good.’

            ‘No?’

            ‘No. I’m afraid.’

            ‘What’s the problem?’

            ‘There’s an offer but…it’s quite low.’

            ‘How low?’

            ‘I wouldn’t even bother putting it through. It’s not us, it’s the Central Bank. We have no control over what they offer. Maybe you cut down any spending on the account.’

            ‘Like what?’

            ‘You know, direct debits, like Broadband and stuff…less outgoings the better…’

            ‘I’m paying twice the cost of a mortgage on rent for the last five years – does that make any difference?’

             ‘Not really, sorry. But you could try somewhere else and see if their criteria is different? Did you mention you have a daughter?’

            ‘I did.’

            ‘It’s probably best to leave that out.’

            ‘Deny she exists?’

            She shrugged, said: ‘It’s up to you.’

            A week later. Different bank. Airconditioned office. Her name was Mary, Marie, Marion, one of those. We’ll go for Jacinta. She asked: ‘How much are you looking for?’

            I told her. She sighed, like jeez, wow, said: ‘You’re a bit off.  It’s not us, it’s the Central Bank. We have no control over what they offer. You’re welcome to try somewhere else? Could you cut down the spending on the account?’

            ‘How, like Broadband and all that…?’

            ‘Yes, and phone bills, Health Insurance etc…it might help…’

            Week later, tried an online application. Then the phone rang. He had a professional voice. Mark, Greg, Chris, one of those. He said: ‘It’s notoriously difficult – practically impossible. You’d really need to be making a minimum of 50/60k plus per year…and even then, with the way the market is…make sure there’s no unnecessary spending on the account too…’

            ‘Like what?’

            ‘Takeaways, Luxury spending…’

            What’s luxury spending?’

            ‘Like Netflix and things like subscriptions…definitely no hotels or weekends away or anything like that….’

            And then he threw in the bit about the Central Bank and having no control and how I could try somewhere else. Kinda running out of places now. And patience. Then Greg asked: ‘Have you tried the government scheme?’

            Asked around about that. There was a link, a website, and some lovely FAQ’S. Then a Tolstoy feast of forms. All in square boxes with explicit instructions not to make a bollix of it or it would be rejected on the spot. Said I better ring before I chanced it. Her name was Patricia, Patrice, Pamela. One of those. She listened to the story said: ‘Not much point goin ahead at this stage.’

            ‘No?’

            ‘No. You’ll need to clear all or any debts, finance deals, loans, credit cards, overdrafts everything like that. Then you’ll need about six months to a year of a perfect bank account with no excessive spending and especially no gambling….Paddy Power, Online Lottos, anything like that. Cut out excessive spending, holidays, weekends away, nights out, restaurants, eh…keep electricity costs down….no missed payments in the previous 12 months or it’s an automatic rejection…. let’s see what else…do you have a car or could you get rid of it if you do?’

            ‘I had a Peugeot til lately but it had to be scrapped…’

            ‘Ok, one less expense.’

            ‘And what happens if I qualify after all that…’

            ‘Then you’ll need about twenty thousand for a deposit, proof of long term permanent employment and, with some luck, we might be able to do something for you. But no guarantees. What age are you by the way?’

            I told her. She said: ‘Oh…’

            ‘Is that an issue?’

            ‘You need to get cracking. If you don’t get it sorted this year, forget about it…’

            ‘