Tuesday 27 September 2016

The tale of the man who really has it all figured out

Published 06/04/2015 | 02:30

Billy Keane. Photo: Mark Condren
Billy Keane. Photo: Mark Condren

I know a man who has it all figured out. Don't even think about asking me who he is, and why he is the way he is, and how he figured it all out. Because I'm sworn to secrecy.

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He's not from here and all I can say is the story comes from somewhere near you.

The play remains the same wherever you go in Ireland.

Only the actors change.

I'm probably guilty of being an accessory after the fact, as it is. And might end up doing time, if my defence of journalistic privilege doesn't hold up.

His wife is a seamstress and does a bit of invisible mending.

So invisible in fact, the tax man knows nothing at all about her little business.

He hasn't worked for years.

Officially.

She's an old school wife. Peels his spuds, does the washing and irons his and other people's shirts. His for free.

She mowed the hankie lawn this morning, in honour of my visit.

The first mowing of the year left cuts on the fresh lawn like tank tracks.

A sure-footed cats trots across the orange front wall.

The house is unpainted and the cement front has turned a sea-sick green.

They pay a nominal rent for the house and have free or subsidised everything, from power to pills.

The man who has it all figured out is very happy with his lot and has a higher disposable income than 83.76pc of the population.

"I'm never votin' for the feckers again," he says, with feeling.

"Go on," says I.

"Do you know what they done?"

"What did they do to you?"

"They went and med Viagra cheaper?"

I had better explain.

The patent ran out on Viagra and now it only costs only a little, and as you all know a little goes a long way.

The man who has it all figured out had a nice little sideline selling the Viagra he was getting for free, for €20 each, to a couple of customers who were too embarrassed to go into the doctor, or to the chemist.

"Not that I needed 'em myself," he adds.

He goes out for a smoke. The pack was bought from a man who dealt in cheap cigarettes which "fell off the back of a lorry".

The woman next door comes to the garden wall. They chat about the weather and the price of Easter eggs.

The man who has it all figured out says goodbye with: "I'll be in later on to fix that for you."

There's a large ear on the gable wall bringing TV in through a dodgy box.

A black and white terrier with a clipped tail barks at me.

"Don't think I'm cooling her soup," he says.

"What?" says I.

"Herself next door," he says. "I just do little bits of odd jobs for the neighbours."

Another "little" earner.

We've just come back from a big dinner.

The man who has it all figured out picked the restaurant. He knows his food from watching the cookery programmes on day-time TV.

He started with the prawns and when he said: "I've never had lobster before," I feared the worst.

"Maybe you could get it on the medical card?" I suggested.

He laughed it off and ordered the lobster anyway and an expensive bottle of wine from a place where the King of France kept a mistress or two.

I asked his wife to dinner, but he said she couldn't go because of the babysitting job she had on that evening.

More tax-free dosh.

She comes back in home. He goes out to read the paper for a neighbour who has poor sight.

And after he calls to the old lady two down who lives alone to make sure she has the fireguard on. He brings her the dinner every day, for free, and sits with her every night for a good while.

His wife is mad about him.

I tell her the story about the woman who complained about her husband.

"He eats my pension and he drinks his own."

She laughs.

"Is himself like that?" I ask

"Now that the boys are done for, he never asks me for money and he has a good heart.

"He never raises his voice and he only gave up work when the two boys left college."

"What are your boys at?"

"We thought they had it made when they went to university. They were nearly the first to go from around here but now they're in Australia."

She shows me the pictures.

"He told them to head off. There's nothing around here for you, he told them. He didn't want them to be scratchin' a livin' like us. Himself wanted them to go to a place where something would be thought of them."

Her husband was bitter. Lads with half his sons' abilities were in permanent jobs.

The couple are saving up to get enough money to go out to visit them.

"The house is very quiet without the boys," she says. "We're dying to see them."

The man who has it all figured out came back in and I figured him out. He wants you all to figure it out for yourselves.

The man who has it all figured out had another condition, other than anonymity.

He asked me not to pass judgment on him.

"Just tell the story."

I did as I was asked.

I'll leave the judging to you.

Irish Independent

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