Sunday 20 October 2019

Billy Keane: 'Infuriating, deafening clamour of the day leaves me pining for when I was the boy Buddha of John B's'

Keane's Kingdom

'I was reared over a busy pub. We slept sound when there were 20 musicians going full belt underneath us' (stock photo)
'I was reared over a busy pub. We slept sound when there were 20 musicians going full belt underneath us' (stock photo)
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

They're all at me and I'm at myself too.

The man drilling a hole in the shop, just across the road from the pub, is putting me off my writing.

But I was reared over a busy pub. We slept sound when there were 20 musicians going full belt underneath us. Sometimes the walls used to tremble like they do in earthquake zones. The lad playing the spoons blended into the background sounds of my mind, even if he didn't quite find the rhythm of the music he so desperately wanted to become part of. I am on the spoons today.

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But back when I was a boy every door banging, counter knocking and every broken glass was our jingle jangle.

I took no notice. I was a boy Buddha in the middle of a busy thoroughfare in downtown Tokyo. If I was a sleepy boy-god then I would be known as the heavenly transmitter of the most serene of serenenesses.

But today I'm like a dog. Every noise gets to me. Nature and the animal kingdom have conspired to do my head in.

The dogs from across the way were barking all night. I was reared on a street where every second house kept greyhounds at the backs of the houses. Our backway was an eclectic symphony of howling hounds. I could nod off in a kennel on death row in the pound.

The magpie who barks down the chimney through the cowl is back. I never liked him anyway but now I'm thinking of buying a gun. But why am I so contrary today and so out of tune with the town?

A car beeps. It's an affront. The across-the-street shouts are an intrusion.

The man doesn't say thanks when I drop the money into the collection box. He says, "Sure you have plenty of it." I was going to go straight over to the pub for a tin opener, rip the box open and redeem my donation.

Like I was saying, the animals are after me now. The cat who is not ours and is as feral as any African tiger has peed in the porch. Cats' pee smells worse than cheap perfume. I'll be scrubbing and scrubbing.

The man sucking on an e-cigarette vapes in my direction. He says cats' pee never rightly goes away. I should be shooting him down for invading my air space. But I didn't and I didn't roar at the cat, or clap my hands like gunshot to frighten off the magpie who is warming his arse on my chimney after eating a big feed of singing birds.

So now you are probably saying to yourself, he doesn't bother to attack anyone, or any animal, but instead he takes it all out on us, the readers, who are paying money to this man to tell us his troubles and we having more than enough troubles of our own.

I can't sleep in silent hotel rooms. The television has to be switched on, a window opened up. I have met over the pub people who told me the sound of silence is deafening.

I often write in the middle of teeming, screeching stadiums when the clock is not my friend. I enjoy the après match. The buzz gets me going. But today the dropping of a pin is a bomb. I have moved just now from the front of the house to my old bedroom over our pub. It's in the middle and upstairs but through the skylight I can hear the high-pitched beeping sound of a lorry backing back into Iceland, the shop.

The house phone rings. It's a man asking me if I want to buy a machine for slicing the opaque from meat into economic and transparent thin.

I tell him we don't do food in John B's and that it takes us all we can do to cook our own dinner. But he keeps on going anyway. He wasn't listening. I try to be nice to people who are selling stuff as I was a salesman one time. Cold calling can be tough going when the people you call to are cold.

The man goes on for about seven minutes even though I tell him we do not do food on three occasions. I want to bite through the phone line.

Back out again. Two men who have just left the church are having a deadly laugh about a particularly gruesome murder.

I spot a woman going into the doctor and there's nothing wrong with her. She's only going in for a free chat, free tea and a read. But what's it to me? What should it be to me? Why is she annoying me?

The gangly boy nearly knocks me down when he bolts from one betting shop to the next.

I know it's only the world but the world will not sit still and let me think.

There's this book I read called 'The Green Platform' by Declan Coyle. Declan says the first 90 seconds of the day are the most important. You start off positive and you stay positive.

I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, so I come up with a brilliant plan.

I go back into my old bed, in my old room, in my old home.

The windows are open wide now, and the sounds of the busy Friday street come roaring in, invited.

I think then of the lines from Brendan Kennelly:

Begin again to the summoning birds/ to the sight of light at the window,/

begin to the roar of traffic/

all along Pembroke Road.

  • The old house is empty now but it's still home away from home

I am the guardian of the boy who was once me. The hum of bar was a lullaby and the roaring of drunks was a bedtime story. I hear the swinging clothes line in the yard and it is a ship's rigging creaking in the breezes of 'Treasure Island'. The clanging of the rolling beer barrels on the way to tapping are the last bells before bed.

I fall asleep for 10 minutes. Like a baby. And when I wake up, I begin all over again. I push the bed out from up against the faded wallpaper and I get out the other side. This time I resolve to make the remade day happy.

The deadline though is fast approaching. What will I write on this beautiful March morning?

You have just read the beginning.

Irish Independent

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