Saturday 22 October 2016

Donal Lynch: I felt jealous of fat girls at Wes, they had bags to mind

Donal Lynch examines the legend that was the Wesley disco, and looks back on his teenage trauma of slow sets and too many alcopops

Donal Lynch

Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30

Photo: Depositphotos
Photo: Depositphotos

You're a teenager, you'll be going to discos now." When I hit puberty, these words struck cold terror into my heart. Just when I thought the worst of adolescence was chronic sexual desire that was unlikely to be fulfilled for years, there came into view a new, yet loosely-related horror: watching other spotty youths fulfil their sexual desire while listening to syrupy pop music. The setting was different rugby clubs around Dublin. But most often, it was Wesley, the "much loved" youth disco to which "Southsiders bade fond farewell" this past week, as it went under reconstruction.

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My farewell was less than fond. But then, Templeogue, where I grew up, isn't proper Southside. Ross O'Carroll-Kelly panicked when he got to the ghetto of Terenure, and Templeogue was like its more anonymous Legoland-y cousin.

Our school was rubbish at rugby. Not fee paying. And we kind of prided ourselves on these facts. In Commitments-speak we were the blacks of the Southside.

I was a minority, and to prepare myself for what would presumably be the long lonely nights as a gay adolescent, I read an essay by David Norris which detailed the long walks he took with his dog while other young people were at the dances.

This didn't sound too bad to me, but dog walking was not accepted as an excuse in my day. Martyrdom would be denied. Straight, gay or confused - you still had to go to Wesley.

It was like the Dublin Southside version of a military draft. You had to coat yourself in Lynx, wipe the spot cream off your face, slick your head in Brylcreem, before going 'knacker drinking' in a field.

You had to stagger into the car park smeared with the lipstick of the poor terrified young one you had just worn the face off for 30 minutes, without talking.

The car park was a chorus of girls, all of whom had been dropped to the door in cars (Wes was also where Noughties entitlement was born) shrilly claiming they "knew Donie", the legendary organiser of the whole thing.

"The only unhappy endings at Wesley disco are love stories", he once said, presumably ignoring the fights, puking and lost jackets.

Knowing Donie was like knowing Barack Obama, in today's money.

If you were lucky and quick enough you could sneak in across the rugby pitch.

The epicentre of the nightmare, both musically and emotionally, was always the slow set, which was kind of like Grease mixed with The Walking Dead.

It ended in the chairs around the low ceilinged roof being filled with guys and girls who, for politeness' sake, we will describe as 'courting'.

In the 1990s, for some strange reason, records went to number one for oppressively long periods. You were always being beaten over the head with a power ballad. Everything I Do I Do It For You was on a radio loop for my entire puberty.

Whitney Houston bellowed I Will Always Love You for years as I stood at the edge of dance floors scanning through the dry ice for my friends.

I felt jealous of fat girls. At least they had handbags to mind.

Wes Senior was a bit of an anachronism because, by the time you'd got to the age where you'd be let in, you also wouldn't be seen dead there, having long since stolen an older sibling's passport - from which you could rattle off the birth date - and decamped to Rathmines or town.

Any punter over the age of 16 who was still hanging around Wes Senior was either collecting their daughter, or wished they had some excuse.

It's 20 years later and, like Wes itself, its Nineties' clientele - me included - could probably do with a bit of reconstruction. Clearing out my old room a few years ago, I came across a Leaving Cert essay which dealt with the Wes years.

I call myself a "chunky, acned vessel of hormones, lost in a fog of adolescence" (accurate) and quoted Patrick Kavanagh and his phrase about "hops" being "no place for a man of sensibilities".

The essay won a competition, which seemed to me like a sign that someday the nerds really would inherit the earth.

And like Kavanagh when he left Monaghan, the really wild years were still ahead.

Sunday Independent

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