Wasted Love ?

“When you move
I can recall somethin’ that’s gone from me
When you move
Honey, I’m put in awe of somethin’ so flawed and free”

Hozier’s Movement

I think it was in 1982…

That’s a lie.

It was absolutely in 1982 that it happened.

It happened at 9.35pm.

It happened in Evita’s nightclub in the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk. I think it’s a large SuperValu supermarket now, and somewhere in the rubble underneath are pieces of my shattered ‘First Love’ heart.

You sometimes see in old Brat Pack movies the uncool kid who when challenged about not having a girlfriend states unconvincingly “ I do have a girlfriend, but she lives in Canada, that’s why you’ve never seen her.”

I was that kid, sort of.

Sort of , in that I lived in Monaghan rather than Chicago, and my girlfriend lived in Dundalk, rather than Canada.

Oh yes,<< Test First Name >>, I did indeed have a girlfriend…sort of.

Sort of, in that she had at one point fancied me enough to be my girlfriend, and I CERTAINLY wanted her to be my girlfriend, and for a long time after she’d wisely changed her mind, I was blissfully unaware.

In case anyone actually reads this far, I’ll start referring to her as Athena, for fear that I accidentally start using her real name, Aine, with a fada over the ‘A’ that I can’t manage at the point .

Like all great mythical romances, (yes I am reading Stephen Fry’s magnificent ‘Troy’ at the moment) ,  ours started due to my friendship with her brother. Yes, it’s odd that I’d have a friend in Dundalk, while living in Monaghan, and that’s a whole other story in itself, which we’ll come back to another day, but for the moment, the circumstances which led to our stars aligning involved my family moving from Dundalk to Monaghan but as practically all of our relatives ,on both Mam and Dad’s side, still lived in Dundalk we were frequent visitors there. And our neighbour in Monaghan , Mrs.Turley, was godmother to a chap who lived in Dundalk, but bumped into us one day when his parents were visiting his godmother and ever after, would visit her on most school holidays and we’d spend the whole time in either our house or next door in Turleys, which was waaay cooler, as the Turley kids, Greg, Denise, and Kitty were much older than us and for some reason spoke to us as adults, or at least fellow versions of whatever they were.

As we got older, we’d attend  ‘discos’ in Ballinode Hall, Urbleshanney, and even Roslea, but mostly we’d stay in Turley’s chatting to Denise, listening to The Kinks, and waiting for Greg and Kitty to come home after the Hillgrove with all of their mates, and we were fascinated by them , and no doubt,  sources of entertainment.

Yes, so that’s the short version of that bit.

As we got older, to the staggering age of 14 or 15 no less, I’d sometimes stay with my friend in Dundalk…wait, I haven’t told you his name yet, I’ll refer to him as Achilles, in case I inadvertently say Adrian.

I casually mentioned to Achilles one day….Oh, before I forget, for anyone who follows these blogs, Achilles’ was the one who lived above the bar and who I watched The Excorcist with…so I casually mentioned that Athena was…nice. He looked at me as if I had two heads.

 “Do you fancy her ?”

“Me ? Nah, just saying she’s..”

“My sister ?”


“No, it’s just that she said that she fancys you.”

“Did she ?”

“Yeah. She’ll be disappointed to learn you don’t fancy her.”

“Jesus ! Do I ever fancy her !”

That’s how it started. And ideally , for all concerned, that’s where it should have ended. But no, I now thought I had a girlfriend. The next holiday was Halloween and this time Athena accompanied Achilles to Monaghan to stay with the Turleys. We went to a bonfire at another friends farm, did Halloween stuff, went to a disco, and I think at one point I actually held her hand, which consummated our relationship in my mind, but never dared to attempt a kiss, which probably confirmed Athena’s worst fears about me.

She went home, I promised to write…and I did, annoyingly frequently.

There’s a bit of a blur, and the timeline may not be exact, but I do recall writing to her and mentioning that every time I heard the Steve Miller Band’s ‘Abrakadabra’ on the radio I thought of her.

I think the next time we met was in Dundalk , I stayed with them, the temple of Achilles & Athena, and we went to the Magnet cinema on a proper date, just the two of us. The movie escapes me…and that’s really annoying me now… it wasn’t Porky’s…but it was a similar Yankee teenage titillation movie. But as we’re in the queue to pay, a man approaches us, my Uncle Brian ! I think we’d both been nervous as it was a 15’s movie and we were just about 15, and then we’re spotted by my Uncle Brian.

My Uncle Brian was a wonderfully intimidating man, who seemed to support every team who played against yours, without ever declaring in advance who he supported, and from my earliest recollection had always growled at me whenever I said hello.

Now here he was in an official capacity in the cinema which I’d intended to be the ’Theatre of Dreams’ but was now a nightmare. My parents knew I was in Dundalk staying with Achilles, but they would have been surprised to know that I was out , unchaperoned, with his beautiful sister, Athena.

“Your money’s no good here. Follow me.”

Athena and I dutifully followed my Uncle Brian, bypassing the ticket desk, into the cinema where he escorted us to the back row, and growled at two other patrons to move across  so that we had the best view. Then he just nodded to me and left.

I was in shock.

My goal was to kiss Athena, in the dark , in the cinema. To be honest, I just wanted to kiss her, broad daylight, twilight, Clanbrassil St., Mrs.Turley’s living room….

It was not to be.

I think I was so consumed with fear that Uncle Brian was already on the phone to Dad, that’s why I can’t remember the movie.

The next day I bought Athena a bracelet and had Achilles leave it under her pillow.

That Christmas she bought me a Phil Collin’s album.

I should have taken that as a sign.

But no, I persisted.

Again , this is the shortened version, but Achilles started singing ‘Abracadabra’ whenever we met, and Athena didn’t want to visit Monaghan.

The Easter holidays approached.

So I arranged to stay with my cousin Grainne, and meet Athena at the teenage disco in Evita’s …

Grainne came with me to the ‘disco’ , kept me company until Athena and her friends arrived, and left me alone for a bit, while Athena politely danced with me, and her friends moved away…

I knew it was coming. My throat went dry, I couldn’t speak coherently, she was trying to smile. She said…she said something very nice and gentle…I’m sure…I couldn’t hear it over the splintering of my heart. And then wouldn’t you know it  ? The DJ played Stephen fucking Miller and his poxy Band’s ‘Abracadabra’…and I STUPIDLY said “For old time’s sake ?” and angel that she was, she started to dance with me. She danced, and I Frankensteined from foot to foot.

Before the song finished Grainne ran towards us “PAUL ! There you are ! Come over here, my friends are all waiting !” She grabbed me by the arm and took me away. She marched me straight  outside, let me cry, got me on the shuttle bus into the Square, bought me chips and then we walked the whole way out to Doylesfort Road. Alone and together. Anytime I said ‘Athena’ , she said ‘Bitch’.

Was my love wasted ?

Good God no !

I was a complete idiot, still am.

For an incredibly important and formative part of my life, I grew up with Achilles, had wildly different experiences of music thanks to Kitty and Denise, and for the first time ever someone said they fancied me… it was like Dobby being thrown a sock ! But also , years and years later I found out that Uncle Brian never mentioned to Mam or Dad that he’d ever met me that weekend , let alone got me in for free to the back row …in the Magnet , where, in Mam & Dad’s time,  Fr. Campbell used to walk up and down the aisles shining a torch at courting couples.

Grainne and I walked three miles home that night. We were honest in a way with each other, through youth and naivete, that only that circumstance allowed. I’ll never forget it, for good and , what seemed at the time bad reasons, but weren’t.

The odd thing is that I was sitting here earlier with no idea about what to write and listening to the radio when Sean Rocks on his RTE 1 ‘Arena’ programme was discussing a new Bee Gees biopic and I was immediately transported to my cousins’ house , Doylesfort Road,  Dundalk, and their Jackie magazines, Grease, Travolta, and Bee Gees fanzines.. and to how much they meant to me when we were kids, they were my sisters…and how Grainne marched me into the old Dundalk Shopping Centre to  Slipped Discs on the first floor and demanded that , without a receipt , they exchange my Athena gifted Phil Collins album for ‘Complete Madness’ by Madness.

Nothing is ever wasted.

We are where we are thanks to all the magnificent souls we meet along the way, and , without exception , they have all been MAGNIFICENT !


P.S. For the girl that finally appeared, and whose hand I hold. 

And when I awoke and felt you warm and near
I kissed your honey hair with my grateful tears
Oh I love you girl
Oh I love you

Author: paul

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