Saturday 14 December 2019

John Masterson: 'Just listen to me and I will give you 20 quid'

Gay Byrne. Photo: David Conachy
Gay Byrne. Photo: David Conachy

John Masterson

I was walking along Grafton Street minding my own business when I was hailed as if by a long-lost friend. "How are you? I haven't seen you in ages." And of course I stopped.

I looked at the man standing in front of me. I hadn't a clue who he was. But I meet a lot of people and I didn't want to appear rude. "So what are you up to?" he asked and I replied that I was up for a meeting and that I was on my way back to Kilkenny shortly.

"You still haven't got me, have you?" he went on in a friendly manner. "I will give you a hint: plumber." Because I did the morning radio show on KCLR for a few years, I do have times when people know me and I don't know them. So I asked had I met him on the radio. And asked his name.

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"Think 'hurler'," he said. I racked my brain and went through as many of this team or earlier ones as I could remember. In Kilkenny it is compulsory to know at least something about hurling. I took a good look at him. There was a Kilkenny hurler that he had a bit of a look of. I tried out that name more in hope than expectation.

"He's my cousin," he told me and we were off on a hack. My Kilkenny pride was saved. Then he told me he was up in Dublin for a medical check. I knew someone who had come through the same condition so we chatted away, and in the course of the chat he told me he was booked into a hotel and discovered he had forgotten his bank card but he had enough cash to cover the hotel in advance. He didn't ask for money. I asked was he ok for cash and he told me there was no problem. One of his mates was coming up in the morning with money.

He took out a cigarette and lit it. He offered me one but I don't smoke. "Don't tell anyone in Kilkenny that you saw me smoking," he told me with a good laugh.

We chatted on about his condition and again I asked him was he ok to get a meal. "No problem," he said. "Sure I have already paid for breakfast." It was about 4pm in the afternoon. At the back of my mind all I was thinking was that I was glad he hadn't asked for a lift to Kilkenny. He was a nice guy but I'd hate two hours in a car with a stranger.

He asked me more about myself. Did I enjoy doing the radio? Did I miss it since I stopped? Something came up about golf and he asked me was I playing much. There I was doing what comes easily to most of us - talking about myself. With a good listener who seemed generally interested in what I was saying. I needed to get going so I offered him money again.

"No, I'll be grand until breakfast." I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out €20. He was reluctant. "Sure how would I get it back to you?" I named a hotel where he could leave it. Eventually he took the €20 and was effusive in his thanks. I pointed out that it wasn't a fortune and he told me it would go a long way in McDonald's. I headed off feeling I had done my good deed for the day.

I hadn't gone 50 yards when I began going over the conversation. I had given him all of the information. Of course I had been scammed. He was very good. I am a fool. I have long known that. But I do not need it proved to me so often.

On the other hand, I would pay €20 any time for a good story. I will dine out on this one for a while. I was lucky to have had lunch with Gay Byrne every few weeks. He loved a good story, and this would have given him a good laugh. There were few things in life as good as making Gay laugh. He did it for us often enough.

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