Catholic Capitalism.

Needed a place to stay after the staff party in Dublin. Nothing fancy, just a cheap Plan B to lay the head in the early hours. The maps said I was there, but it was hard to know. Looked more like a church with the hard stone and the big wooden doors. I got out and some fella pulling a wheelie bin walked over. Had the look of one of the lads carrying the crucifix up the hill. Asked me if I was lost, and I said I was just trying to check in. He looked me up and down, Terminator scan for dodgy types, and said to follow him. Around the corner, through the warm sun and orchard like ambience, Garden of Eden vibe, wheelie bin style. There’s an extra here but I can’t see him. He’s in a vague sleeveless shirt and undistinguished glasses. Maybe he’s part of our parade, or just got caught in the shot, and now we’re stuck with him pulling focus. Your man with the bin asked if I could see the big arch, through the big tree. He was like one of those ageless fellas that walk The Camino in their feet and take part in impossible charity cycles and drinks raspberry tea. Grey stubble, khaki shorts, always tanned somehow. Eventually I could see the arch and he said to go over there and himself and the nobody went off screen.

        Then. There was a squeaky door and a smell like incense at a funeral. Everything was timber and triangular windows and high ceilings. Inside, there was an American with a long beard and a gym bag with walking sticks poking out the side. He was asking a question to the girl at the desk. Something about sights, scenery, guidebook recommendations. He looked like a shady hitchhiker from Highway to Heaven. She was losing patience, but he was in no hurry. Eventually he left and I was next, after the confused Ukrainian and the couple in shorts and fancy runners. She gave me directions at the desk and a list of Saints and holy corridors and a keycard to get inside. I followed the instructions and found a long hall populated with pictures of priests and Vatican style glass. They might have been Popes and Bishops too but it was hard to know. They all had that stern look of disapproval, like they were saying: Who let you in?

         The lift was a clattery affair. Prone to mid journey sulks and alarming delays before opening the door. It was small too, and smelled like an ashtray from a second hand car in 1980. Had the feeling it was installed reluctantly, had a sort of presbyterian nostalgia about it, like they used a confession box to make it and just installed a weak dirty bulb and a few ropes from a church bell and, if it broke, well, that’s your final destination, Ted.

         Managed to find the room. The keycard worked to get in. It was a place for priests, monks, ascetic types looking for Sainthoods or running from themselves. Too afraid to have a wank in case they go to Hell. Or that big crucifix on the wall might come down on top of their head. Maybe this is where some of the lads on the walls outside started off. Denial, Fasting, Prayer, Inner peace and demonic turmoil. The air had the gummy smell of carbolic soap and shoe polish. Fired the suitcase on the bed and there was a loud clunk, like I’d just dropped it on concrete. These days, there isn’t much need for mystics with the calling and the rooms are there to rent and here’s me. Catholic Capitalism at its best. What next, fuck it, better get in to Dublin fast before the Angelus starts, I might never get out.

Shoes and Chinese beach blues.

This woman had a room for rent and a policy of no shoes. I had one shoe off when she asked: ‘Are you parking there, like that?’

I said yeah, and she said no. That won’t do. It’s dangerous for her car when she’s trying to pull out and she might hit mine and could I park it up the top there instead.

            I put the off shoe back on and got back in the car and started backing back, back towards the trees and the empty pond, and the horseshoe groove that kept cars safe and undinged. It was a calm blue evening, leafy suburb, Newstalk on the radio, banging out ads about famine and starvation. Not too sure where the Peugeot came from. One second I was about to lock to the left and then there was the pokey eyes of reverse lights coming in the gate. We did a bit of gush, and push, and awkward acting the bollix, and ended up stuck beside each other in the driveway. Now there was two cars parked badly and no way out the gate. Our lady, Breda, yelped from the doorway. “Michael! Michael!”

            ‘Yeah?’

            ‘Let that man in.’

            The guy was Polish, Latvian, Hungarian, something. Double chin and smig and big belly behind the wheel. He shrugged, said: ‘I’ll only be 10 minutes anyway.’      

            A fourth character appeared; stairs left. Previously unseen, unnamed, unheard of and unexpected. Shorts, blonde hair, pale green eyes and an agitated voice. She stood beside Breda, bare feet, squinted at the two of us, tried to assess what was happening, then asked: ‘Are ye delivering my Chinese?’

            Come in, said Breda, just come in.

            We both walked towards the door. Crunch of stones, caffeinated blood from a long day on the road. Thoughts like haunted ghosts flitting round black tormented rooms. Coming, going, living dying, breaking through, electric saw blades on concrete.

             Shoes again, please, said Breda.

            Got the two of them off this time. Good job I bought decent socks in Dealz last week. Your man’s name was Justin. Breda was excited because he was the best handyman around and didn’t often come unless you were a valued customer. Even at that, his time was precious. More precious than the bad parking tenant and the girl looking for her Chicken Szechwan. He was going changing a plug, and the plug was broke for a long time, and we couldn’t let him go now or we wouldn’t see him again for weeks. I took the chance to escape up to the room. Small, functional, towel, window. Unpacked, got ready to chill, embrace silence, do fuck all. Then I heard: Michael….? You can move your car back now. Justin is gone.

            Shoes on. Parked. Shoes off.

            And did I know anything about broadband. There was a lad here at the door last week and he sold it to her and it was pure shite. And now Eir were going taking money out of her account and she had to ring them. And isn’t it awful, and the doorbell rang, and who’s this now, must be the Chinese, have you seen the beach yet? You should go down for a walk. It’s lovely.

            I will. Which way is it?

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