After Hours, After NAMA
I’ve tried getting a blog together on NAMA, but it’s a slippery fish, hard to grasp and gets weirder by the day. So I thought I’d write a bit about Post Nama Ireland instead. This is fiction and in three parts.
It was well past closing time and the pub was crowded, dark and steamy. Monty Hogan staggered towards the counter, lost balance and fell on a table of drinkers. Men and women scrambled out of his way, toppling bottles and smashing glasses. Drinks splashed and a woman screamed that her dress was ruined. Another woman cried,
“Fuck you Monty!”
Helpless as a babe in a cot, Monty lay across the table, clutching his frada — an electronic gadget that looked like a computer fixed to a guitar neck. It blared head wrecking psychedelic whirls and a man roared,
“Stop that noise!”
“Turn off the frada!” a women shouted, “turn off the fuckin’ frada!”
The frada screeched louder when two men lifted Monty off the table. Peter Egan, the publican, grabbed a syphon of soda water from a shelf and sprayed the flashing instrument. There was a sizzle and Monty jolted, then collapsed on the floor clutching the silenced gadget.
“Don’t touch him or ye’ll get electrocuted!” warned Mossy Fossett, “call d’ambulance! d’ambulance!”
“I’ll call fuck-all at this hour of the morn!” shouted Egan, “Drink up or shut-up!”
Two Good Samaritans settled Monty on a bench seat. He was drenched in soda water and Lily Doyle felt his brow and took his pulse.
“He’s alive anyway,” she announced, and a jumble of relief and disappointment rumbled around the pub.
Monty is forgotten and Lulu Hopal, the merriest widow in town, croons ‘Yesterday’. Her voice is ethereal at first, but gets distraught by the second verse. She veers off song and addresses her dead husband Faxo, asking why he had to go and spoil the show.
In tears, Mary White orders a gin and tonic, and Egan the landlord has to lower his head, to catch her whisper. Then she puts her tongue in his ear and kisses his cheek. Perks of the job, he fondles her breasts and she sighs,
“You never visited me like you promised.”
“Any night now,” he muttered and turned away to fill a pint of porter for Oliver Collins, and another for himself.
Bart Carson, an undercover gossip, asked Egan if he’d heard the rumour about Bella Donnell and Father Wogan. He hadn’t, and took a sharp draw on a fag when Bart said the priest tried to exorcise a demon from the ex-nun and failed.
“She ended up on top of him,” Bart whispered, clutching Egan’s elbow, “the two of ’em were bollix naked when Mary Callinan came into the room with a Mass card for him to sign!”
Shaking his head, Egan turns away and fills two half-whiskeys for Dido Lavorn, a blonde hell raiser, decades beyond her prime.
“Peter,” she whispers, “if you want a bit of housework done anytime, just let me know.”
“Sound,” he nods, and lies that he has no ice.
Henry Connoly, a long time patron, sings ‘When the Swallows come back to Capistrano’ and Sharon Jones holds Egan’s hand over the counter and hums along in harmony. After the applause, from a dark corner near the Ladies, the sultry voice of Dodo Malley pleads,
“Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone…”
Glasses clink in anticipation of a classic performance as she emerges from the darkness, singing from her heart, holding a small mixer bottle as a microphone:
“I’ll tell the mah-ha-haaan, to turn the jukebox way down lo-ho-hooo…”
Some other women wailed along and Egan wondered if he should call it a night and throw them all out before things turned chaotic. That happened once in a blue moon, things slipped out of order in a blink. Someone would fuck-up, some one else would react and next there’d be an explosion. He pulled on a cigarette, slugged his pint and gauged the crowd. They were mostly well-on, but good humoured. He’d let them be. Anyway, soon the dog race from Mexico would be on the television and he’d make a good till.
Egan squinted over at Monty, drew hard on the fag, and asked Henry Connoly,
“What kind of a yoke is that frada anyway?”
“Something he invented from bits a computers an’ electric guitars an’ things. Monty’s a genius.”
“I know,” Egan sighed, topping his pint and beginning one for Henry, “the fucker is nuts. The rig-out of him…in a fuckin ballet dress an’ a fur coat…isn’t he getting dosh from NAMA?”
“Apparently every month he gets a thousand fedros or maybe more from them and all the pills and stuff that he can swallow.”
“It’s an amazing NAMA,” Egan said cynically, “the rest of us payin’ tax to keep the show on the road an’ Monty inventing contraptions to drive us up the fuckin wall…”
“National Asset and Protected Personalities, I think that’s the name of the fund he’s drawin’ from.”
“Well, I knew that scheme to monitise the arts was always going to be a disaster. Money down the drain. It’s worse than NAMA 1. I mean, Monty and his likes add damn all to the economy. They make this art shit and they’re costing us a fortune. Give me a break.”
“At least the builders built something and used up sand and timber and stuff. And they spent their money.”
“Exactly, Peter. We’re back to the Saints and Scholars, that’s what we’re famous for now. Geniuses like Monty, no more tar and cement. It’s all art nowadays. Apparently that’s what the tourists want to experience, the arts.”
Egan lit a cigarette and said, “I don’t know what tourist would want to come and visit Monty.”
“Well, of course he’s very talented,” said Henry, “and he’s a fine fella when he’s not on a jag, very well mannered and sociable, sensible dress ex-ceterra, ex-ceterra. Afternoon tea in the Imperial Hotel with his mother and so on. And then he snaps…something gets to the poor hure and he goes astray bit by bit until he’s gone totally gaga. Then Galligan gives him the needle and after a few days he’s right as rain.”
“He’s gaga enough now,” said Egan, “I mean…you could put up with the frada occasionally, if he could play it or turn the fuckin’ volume down…and anyone can get shit-faced once in a while but havin’ both of them full-on and he prancing around in the ballet get-up, now that shit can get to you.”
“And of course you can’t bar him or you’d have wan of them shaggin’ anti-discrimination cops on your arse. But sure there’s no harm in the poor hure, he’s his own worst enemy. And who’s to say that if we had a mother and father like Monty has, that we’d be any better than him. Worse maybe.”
“NAMA has a lot to answer for.”
(to be continued…)
Books by Eddie Stack