Friday 24 January 2020

The shy and retiring maniacs of Galway's race week

Leigh Roche celebrates winning the Guinness Handicap on Golden Spear at the Galway Races in Ballybrit. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Leigh Roche celebrates winning the Guinness Handicap on Golden Spear at the Galway Races in Ballybrit. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

'The schoolchildren should protest over the ads," said the man with all the bellies in Galway's Shop Street.

"What ads?" asks I.

"The ones advertising school uniforms, pens and pads," said the man with all the bellies.

"Why?"

"Because the ads have been on from nearly the first day of the holidays - and aren't you some sort of a journalist? What's your name again?" asked the man who shall remain nameless, because I was in such a hurry to get away from him I didn't wait to ask.

He was right. The back-to-school advertising shortens the holidays, but I couldn't take another 'You-should-write-a-column-about-this'.

As I slipped away faster than a trout, he calls out, "I know you! Don't go writing about me now, do you hear?" That was the start of it.

Then this nice girl says to me, "It's you, isn't it?"

"It is," says I.

She got a fit of laughing at that. "I knew you'd say something funny," says she.

"Who are you again?" she asked.

I hadn't checked who I was since the day before - when I looked very like Elvis in his last movie. Drink, late nights and burgers with pink sauce oldens one. I didn't bother to look in the mirror for fear of giving out to myself over the state I was in after a night out at the Galway Races.

So this other man with several more bellies than the first lad comes up and asks, "Who are you anyway? Don't go puttin' me in the paper."

"I'm Elvis," says I. He walks away and comes back.

"You're your man who writes in the paper. What's his name? Don't go putting me in the paper, do you hear now. I'm not supposed to be here at all."

So I said, "Fine. No bother."

And then he says, "I'll get you back if you do."

"But if you don't know who I am, how can you get me back?"

That seemed to calm him.

"Anyway," he says, "don't go puttin' me in the paper."

I was a tad annoyed, but not too much, just in case he might throw a dig. "I don't even know your name. You're not some kind of a rock star, are you?"

"Do you see her, over there?" And he pointed towards a large lady with a big mad head of blonde hair. "I'm with her," he said. "Don't go putting her in the paper ayder. Isn't she very well put together?" Ayder means either.

"Right," says I.

"Is that 'right, you will put her in the paper' or 'right, you won't'?" asks the publicity-shy man with the blonde lady.

I was going to say, "How can I get the editor to front-page a story with the headline 'man gets ride in Galway'?"

"What's your name?" he asks.

"Dostoyevsky," says I.

"Are you a foreigner ?" he asks. As if it was a terrible crime to be born out foreign and cooking the bacon and cabbage in separate pots, which is very foreign.

There's a trend here and it will become evident from the strange incident of the man in the sex shop on Dominic Street. It's next to the Casino and our apartment was two doors down.

I went out for air the morning after the man accused me of being from out foreign, and the sea breeze came straight in from the Spanish Arch to clear my head.

But it wasn't that long before I was addled again. It was a different man who didn't want anyone to know what he was up to. Out from the sex shop comes a man with a Tesco bag in his hand.

"You never saw me," he says.

"I didn't," says I.

"I was buying a bit of gear and it wasn't for herself, if you know what I mean."

"Say no more," says I.

"Don't go puttin' that in the paper," says he as he walks away quickly up Dominic Street in case he was spotted by herself.

I make my way to the sea. The man who was shopping in the erotic shop passes me by.

"I forgot something," he says.

"Was it the batteries?" I ask.

And you know yourself what it was, he says next.

"Don't go puttin' that in the paper."

I was beginning to think there was a convention on for paranoid people when three teenage girls said to me, "We're not drinking." I think they might have mixed me up with a teacher's husband or someone who knew their dad.

Even though the young girls were only 16, they were tipsy on high heels. It has to be said, Galway was buzzing. It was Ladies' Day and there's no better city for style - and substance too.

The girl in curls came over to chat outside McCambridge's. I was writing down a few notes from the goings on of the morning and the night before.

"What are you writing?" she asked.

"I'm giving myself an autograph," I replied.

"Billy, I know you."

I was greatly relieved.

"Are the notes for 'The Advertiser'?

"The what?" asks I.

"The notes - are they for 'The Galway Advertiser'? Will you put my name in next week and will you say I was looking very well for Ladies' Day?"

"Right," says I, which was 'right, I won't.' Well, at least she didn't say "Don't go puttin' me in the paper."

Irish Independent

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