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Billy Keane: You'd be surprised what the touch of a toe can do

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Last Saturday night the lively wedding band were asking for directions to Amarillo. Somewhere between "sha la la la la la la" and "sweet Maria wait for me", my voice broke. Then it disappeared into a whisper. I wouldn't be heard singing behind a newspaper now.

But there was worse to come.

The back went when we got stuck into Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline'.

The stretch for "hands touching hands" went fine but it was the "reaching out" for the red fingernails of the tall girl in the stilts for heels that finished me off. The pain from the spasms is like a having a baby every six minutes.

Mothers of sextuplets deserve every penny of their children's allowance and every free nappy too.

I was warned off dancing but when the band starts playing it's very hard to resist a gallop.

Last week I was filling a pint when down I went, like I was shot by a gun. Jonathan Sexton's dad Jerry was taking some light refreshments at the end of the counter. He rushed in, thinking I had a heart attack.

"I don't know how to do mouth to mouth," he said.

"It's my back that's gone not my heart." Who would be a Samaritan?

The jokes started immediately. One lad said: "Ah Billy, sure you're stiff in all the wrong places now." Hilarious.

Then someone told me I should go see a back fixer but the idea of queueing up with disjointed greyhounds suffering from diarrhoea and whingeing calves with dislocated hips in his 'surgery' didn't appeal to me.

There can be no doubt but that weddings are dangerous occasions.

My beautiful dote of a cousin Triona married John Docherty, who is lovely too.

Fr Pat Moore was the priest. He is a writer and the kind of man Jesus had in mind when he was picking apostles. He's a stand-up priest.

Pat's last play was about a man with a pimple on his arse.

"No east Kerry man," preached the priest, 'is complete until he marries a north Kerry woman. Now he's finished."

Triona and John are made for each other. In their case one plus one equals one but marriage is the hardest game of all.

My cousin Pierre and his wife Martina came from South Africa for the big day out. Martina brought two-year-old Clara to meet her Kerry cousins. Martina is Cape Malay and mother and baby were dipped in the perfect colouring for human beings. If some day science allows parents to pick the skin colour of their newborn baby from a catalogue, like they do in the paint shops, my choice would be Cape Malay. It's a sallow shade of subtle, silky, light- brown. Baby Clara has a lovely galaxy of Irish freckles.

I was the best man at their wedding in the wine country of Franschooek, about four years ago. Pierre plays with the Cape Symphony Orchestra and they were his wedding band. The wedding service was held outdoors on a sunny, autumn day in February. As we waited for the bride I asked Pierre what religion he was getting married in?

"Haven't a clue. Might be some kind of Lutheran," he said. And he didn't care either once he put the ring on Martina's finger. They are still very much in love.

Pierre reminded me I started off the best man's speech by asking for all the curtains to be pulled across.

"Now Martina, that's how we do foreplay in Ireland."

Well, they must have learned from the demonstration because Martina is expecting number two.

AS a barman I get to hear people's troubles all the time. It only costs €3.90 for a pint and the State gets about 40pc of that back in taxes. We should be funded by the HSE and the VHI.

My totally random, anecdotal research indicates about 40pc of people are happily married.

I'm not really sure exactly why marriage can be such a war zone.

Here's a simplified, rendered analysis. Maybe it's down to payback for the times when women were slaves both in the kitchen and the bedroom.

Women made scones and babies. The men were in charge of everything else.

Those slave wives reared their daughters to be independent and they in turn passed it on to the next generation and now maybe the revolution has gone too far as often happens when great wrongs need to be righted.

When I was a kid I complained to my mother that there were flecks of dirt in the milky, white sliced bread. She explained that when the bakers changed from making brown bread to white, some of the brown flour was still in the machine and it blended into the first batch of white sliced pans. There are always parts of the old processes that linger on. Some men still suffer hangovers from the remains of the days of their ascendancy.

Both sides need to find a middle ground. The merest touch of a conciliatory toe, stretched out across the imaginary but sometimes barbed-wire border under the duvet will solve most problems. But who will make the first move?

Irish Independent