Superman advertising Twinkies

Come back Pluto !

“It’s boring but in the most exquisite of ways
No carcinogenic and humdrum malaise
And it’s strange, all the things that I’ve run from
Are the things that completeness could come from”

Gang of Youths

A regular Rioja fuelled argument at our Saturday night dinner table concerns Pluto, the ninth planet in our solar system. Look ,, don’t start, of course it’s a planet ! Master McCague taught us in 5th class in the C.B.S in Monaghan that it was a planet, and just because some space wonks decided in the 2006 that it was an eency weency bit smaller than they originally thought and reclassified it , without checking with Master McCague  I might add, well that just doesn’t cut it , OK ?

Pluto will always be a planet to me.

Maybe it’s just that Pluto was a constant in my life until some idiot changed it, and that so many other ‘constants’ have been surrendered , disappeared in the glare of closer inspection, or just weren’t ever meant to be. We were brought up to respect our elders, I’m 53 now and still call Mam and Dad’s friends Mrs.Whitmarsh, Mrs.Murphy, Mr. & Mrs. McQuaid, and even someone I met for the first  time when I was in my 20’s , Mr.McConnon, despite every one else calling him Pat Joe, will always be Mr.McConnon to me. However it freaks me out if anyone refers to me as Mr.Bond , I always look around to see if Dad’s behind me.

We were also brought up to respect, because of their position, teachers, solicitors, bank managers and priests. I still respect teachers.

I remember the first time it really hit me that ‘grown ups’ , I was 21 at this point, so it was generally people that were five to ten years older than me, had really no idea what they were doing either. I was the proud owner of my first car, a red VW Golf commercial, and I was ‘working’ as a sales rep in Dublin. As my wee van was taxed as a commercial vehicle , and I was conducting commerce with the less discerning shoe shops of Dublin, I parked in loading bays. Apparently I was wrong and was not allowed to park in a loading bay, and received a parking ticket, which I vaguely remember as being a fine of £20 or £25, a quarter of my weekly wage and a right royal pain. This was an expensive, but not a valuable lesson, as I did not learn from it.

Calling into shops with sample bags full of shoes wasn’t as much fun as it sounds. Especially if you had to take in several bags and this meant three or four trips to the car. It’s hard to imagine it now, with Dublin being the smoothly operating easily trafficked metropolis it is now, but back then it was a nightmare. If I had a penny for every time I’d driven around Capel St. The Quays, Jervis St., Parnell St., and round again just to get parked within slightly less than back breaking distance of JFK Sports on Mary St., well I’d have 76p. JKF Sports ? You never heard of it ? For a period in the late 80’s and early 90’s it was the Mecca for urban sportswear. Sales reps from England used to come over to see what Frank was selling. Kappa, SPX, Travel Fox, British Knights,and L.A.Gear all got their first sales in Ireland in that tiny little shop.  

Anyway I’d picked up several parking tickets and always made sure to pay them as soon as the notice arrived at home. At some point I inadvertently paid one late and then also paid the reminder, but missed another ticket thinking I’d already paid it. And so ended up being summoned to court in Smithfield in Dublin. I was terrified. I’d grown up watching Rumpole Of The Bailey, and had visions of a judge in a red cape and all of these barristers in gowns , quoting Cicero back and forth to each other.

I wore my newest suit and made sure I was there an hour earlier than I was due and waited. After a few minutes I was approached by someone who thought I was a solicitor. And then another, and then another. And then when I’d explained to the fifth person that I wasn’t a solicitor , word went around that I was a solicitor, but I was up before the court and that’s why I couldn’t help anyone. Someone else passed me and said to their friend that I was the solicitor that was on trial for knocking down a client and failing to stop. This was not going well.

The court itself was not the walnut panelled , green leather cushioned, rarefied room I’d been expecting either. It was a space designed for 15 to 20 people to sit. There were at least 75 people crammed into it. No one could hear anything. The judge was somewhere up the front, mumbling and laughing with similarly wigged persons and although it seemed to me that nothing was happening, the crowd seemed to thin out as people with clearly better hearing than me, noted the passing of judgement in their case and left. My name was called as I straightened my tie and stood up to make my way to the front I heard the judge say case dismissed. I simply wheeled around and walked to the back again. I asked a court clerk at the back why my case was dismissed and he looked at his watch and just said “Lunchtime”.

Cicero wasn’t quoted once.

Twinkie’s were also a great disappointment.

I’d grown up reading American comics filled with adverts for Sea Monkeys, x-Ray specs, and Twinkie’s, which appeared to be a delicious golden pastry surrounding a luxurious creamed centre. They were not sold in Ireland, or England. They were forbidden fruit, exotic, and eaten by Superman in several of the adverts.

I was 30 years old when I first visited the United States of America and before I’d even left the airport in Las Vegas,( shoe fair, long story ), I bought a pack of Twinkies. I ate one before I got the taxi to the hotel. Not great, probably jet lag. I tried the next one when I checked into the hotel, The Aladdin, the newest hotel on the strip then, I think it’s gone now. The second Twinkie wasn’t great either. Maybe the reason we couldn’t get them in Ireland was simply good taste. I left the third one in the hotel. I think if I went back for it now, buried in the rubble of The Aladdin for twenty odd years, it would still ‘taste’ the same.

Milk Duds , on the other hand, which I don’t recall ever being advertised in Batman, or by Batman, were divine.

Back in the day our weekends revolved around Saturday night in the Hillgrove, a disco that regularly had 1,500 to 2,000 people drinking, dancing and constanly going round the outside hoping to spot someone you knew or to ask out for a dance. It was like musical chairs , going around and around and then SLOW SET and hopefully you had spotted someone. There were always two slow sets, so you really had to get your timing right if you’d missed out on the first one. And the supper ! It was a quirk of the licensing laws at the time that for a ‘function’ to serve alcohol after midnight, food had to be served. So your admission ticket entitled you to a supper. This supper was ‘served’ at around midnight through a tiny crack in the door to the kitchen for about 2 minutes to a rugby scrum of lads from Scotstown. If you were lucky enough to get one, you were treated to three or four tiny cocktail sausages and an equal amount of chips. At midnight in the Hillgrove, having sat out the first slow set, they were nectar of the gods.

At the same time as we were going to the Hillgrove we were reading about The Pink Elephant in Dublin, a nightclub frequented by Def Leppard and U2. A nightclub with a pool table ! Can you imagine ? A couple of years later I was ‘loaned’ a VIP card for The Pink Elephant by a guy from Hot Press and with great trepidation we dared to try and enter one night. The bouncers didn’t even ask to see the VIP card which I think I was holding at arm’s length in front of me the whole way down South Frederick St. And then we went in …. It was tiny. There was no slow set and there was no supper. We left after half an hour.

Far away hills can be green, but maybe that’s because it rains over there all the time.

Maybe what you have is actually better than what you’re looking for.



Author: paul

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