Thursday 21 February 2019

Burning tenners on the Grand National before Jong-un nukes us all

'Mr Kim poisons opponents with fountain pens and umbrellas. He has his assassins spray people with deadly chemicals. I have always taken the easy way out, which is to totally ignore the threat posed by countries with a nuclear capability' Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP
'Mr Kim poisons opponents with fountain pens and umbrellas. He has his assassins spray people with deadly chemicals. I have always taken the easy way out, which is to totally ignore the threat posed by countries with a nuclear capability' Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The Man Who Knows Everything tells me Kim Jong-un has missiles at the ready to bomb the United States. "All he has left to do is to pick the colour of the paint," my acquaintance says.

I have the misfortune of meeting him in the betting shop while I'm researching the Aintree Grand National. The Man Who Knows Everything has the inside track on North Korea, which gives him the edge over the CIA, FBI and MI5, who hadn't the faintest notion Mr Kim was going to drop missiles in the Sea of Japan.

The know-all lets it be known he has a tip for today's Grand National. I ask him not to tell me. He is the worst tipster in the world but if someone gives me a tip, I just back it. In case he wins.

He dips his free biscuit in the free drinking chocolate and gives me an exclusive: "The doctor told me I was coeliac. All this gluten-free carry-on is made up by gastroenterologists and confectioners to make easy dough." And then he tells me Mr Kim likes biscuits.

Mr Kim poisons opponents with fountain pens and umbrellas. He has his assassins spray people with deadly chemicals. I have always taken the easy way out, which is to totally ignore the threat posed by countries with a nuclear capability. There's little point in worrying over the possible end of civilisation. And anyway, what can I do about it here in a small country pub and me barely able to put in a bulb? You could be up all night worrying about things. I was thinking though of informing on The Man Who Knows Everything to the North Koreans. He's driving me nuts.

"We will miss The Gooch," he says. For once, we agree. I'm lonesome too after The Gooch, who retired this week from the Kerry team. He is a genius. I wrote here after a big game: "The Gooch was hit so hard he was giving out fivers instead of fifties in AIB Killarney." I asked The Gooch if I was out of order. "Nah," he said and got a fit of laughing. He's nice, is The Gooch.

Our hero has been choked, bitten, belted, eye-gouged, verbally abused and generally savaged without ever a word of complaint from him. There are about 5,000 dogs called after The Gooch in Kerry. A vet told me one time there wasn't a red setter to be got in The Kingdom. That's how much we love him. Enjoy the retirement Gooch.

Kerry are playing Dublin tomorrow and there isn't much optimism in the county. This incredible and brilliant Dublin team have beaten us so often we are a subjugated race of people. I think we have a chance though. There's your first tip. A small bet on Kerry.

I know The Man Who Knows Everything is not to be taken notice of. But I check on my phone. He has me going now. It's not too bad. Athlone is 8,786km from North Korea, which means Listowel is more than 9,000km away from the missiles.

It would surely take a while for the nuclear bombs to arrive here, which gives us a great chance to take the iodine tablets the old Fianna Fáil government gave out when someone discovered we hadn't made any preparations for a nuclear attack. Maybe we could eat sea grass, which is full of iodine. Or go to the caves in Ballybunion, if we could stop the tide coming in.

I try to move away to look at the prices for the Grand National. But he follows me like a second skin. "I have a great idea for the pub," says he. I dread these moments. Lads with great ideas for the pub always throw in the word "free", which turns me off immediately. And the advice, when stripped down to the essence, is always on the lines of "if you give out free drink, the place will be full". Pubs are hurting.

The betting shop is very busy. Mario Kempes Kelliher, who is not far off the three score, asks me to pick him for The Gleann in the school league games for adults on Easter Sunday in aid of the boys' school here in town. He's coming out of retirement. Mario was the Gooch of his day. Faster, he was, than turning on the light. Slicker than a comb through Brylcreem. As accurate as a Swiss watch. I tell him he's on the team.

There's a big walk too, on Easter Saturday, by the Silver River Feale, in aid of school funds.

The Man Who Knows Everything has me tormented. He moves so close his breath goes straight into your mouth. I caught the flu off him once and he was fine. He's a carrier.

Every time I move back a pace, he moves forward to take up the space. It's like 'Dancing with the Stars' without the touching. He's near enough to kiss. His warm breath smells of Mikado and drinking chocolate. I hope Brexit doesn't do away with Mikado, or Mick-a-Doo as they call 'em around these parts.

His plan for the pub is revolutionary. "You can advertise my idea like this," he says, and writes his strategy out on a betting docket. "This is a very handy way of making two copies and the betting shop pens are free," he says. "When I was married, I used to write out the shopping list for the wife on a betting slip. I had a copy for myself just to check to make sure she got everything."

His wife left a long time ago. The Rumour Factory, the only one in town that let no one go during the recession, had it that she couldn't bear anyone knowing as much or more than herself. When two people know everything, the marriage is doomed. Sorry for not getting to the point sooner. And here is what was written on the betting docket.

"If you leave the wife at home, you get to drink twice as much for the same price." It is, he says, "a two-for-one offer". It's no wonder she bailed out.

And then, just as I'm leaving, he gives me the unrequested tip for the Grand National. I just have to put on a fiver each way and as I hand in the docket, I know for certain I have just set fire to a tenner.

Irish Independent

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