Continued from Chapter 8 (Part 3)
CHAPTER NINE: THE CALL TO ARMS BY LORD KITCHENER, AND AN OVERVIEW OF MY LIFE DURING THE EASTER RISING, THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE, AND THE IRISH CIVIL WAR (PART ONE)
An Early Childhood by Paddy Flanagan is a mock, surreal autobiography by a fictional Irish literary figurehead, champion bodhrán player and broadcaster.
So that was the end of my family as I knew it. Of all the fifty odd children who survived childbirth, a mere one became an adult, both mentally and physically, or near enough to, and that was me myself. And a few others, of course. Malachy, swimming with monks, and a few others still.
And with no work available to me when the factory closed down, the best place for me to go was the nation’s capital, to establish myself as a literary figurehead. To be Frank was impossible, of course, unless you were Frank yourself, because his style was inimitable. But Frank O’Connor was my first flatmate and friend in Dublin, and we came as close to lovers as was possible for two men to be back then. In all honesty, I couldn’t really settle in in Dublin for quite a while, as the Home Rule movement had transmogrified beyond all recognition into a revolutionary group.
Since the 1860s, Liberal Pinko Mister William Gladstone had been trying to pass a Home Rule Bill or three in the House of Commons. He would come in with his Prime Minister’s bag – which he had named after him, God love him, and he’d sit himself down on the plush leather upholstery and then stand up in the House and tell people that Charles Stewart Parnell wanted Home Rule and he was on his team, so he’d better get Home Rule, with a parliament set up in Dobbling Village, or there’d be slaps. Each time the bill passed, Disraeli would be sitting in the seat opposite Gladstone across the Commons floor, venting loud farts of fury with his teeth clenched, the grinding of the elderly Conservative’s dentures causing a noise greater than the raging flatulence. The way the shtick worked was, the bill invariably went up to the Lords. The Lords, being of a bluer Tory hue, would send the bill back down. And so it went on for decades. And just when Home Rule got passed around the time of the Titanic – through a clever trick from the Liberals that meant that the Lords could only delay legislation, instead of blocking it entirely – we finally had our Home Rule. Then the entire bloody World War Bloody One broke out. So it bloody did. What a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, bloody war.
Now, at the time of the Great War, Kildare Street – where some of the government offices were located – was mined to the teeth and you couldn’t drive down that street day or night in car or bus without fear of an explosion. Frank stayed in the flat with me until he earned enough money to move out to his own house, which was in fact more of a kind of a prison camp. Then Erskine Childers and Patrick Kavanagh moved in. Erskine took to eating Polish bacon, but this practice was frowned upon, and so he went on the lamb, and not long after that, he went on the lam.
Patrick was always out clubbing, on the piss, so I had the flat to myself for the most part, unless he had a spare pill or two of the morphia, which meant I could go out clubbing too. But if alone in the flat, is when I started exploring my dulcet tones, no more than about seven, I was. And sitting in the flat, practising with my diaphragm, which was important if I wanted to get into radio.
“Hello, good morning folks, this is Homey O’Fire, and welcome to the Homer O’Fire Hour,” I would say in my velvety hued voice to the spoon in my hand in front of the mirror which aided me when I went into television. Homey O’Fire was a name I gave myself. Because it sounded a lot like Gay Byrne, but I don’t mean that in a homonymical way. I don’t go in for that kind of tomfoolery at all, except of course, with Dirty Frank, as I’ve mentioned above. Oh, no. I just mean they were synonyms, so that I would see myself as the top broadcaster of the time, the man who straddled over the entire national broadcasting system for ninety seven years as if atop a Harley. Gay. Byrne.
I did finally feel at home when, one day, while I was returning to my apartment from the bakery shop which I often frequented, a long stretch limousine emerged from the Protestant university through the gates and onto Dame Street and emerged and emerged and continued to emerge, and kept coming out, until it all of it came out, and the car pulled up to the curb on what’s known as Nassau Street today and the window rolled down to reveal a hair-oiled, walrus moustachioed English gentleman with a monocle perched up regally glued above his eyebrow with some sweat’n’snuff in the fashion of the time in the back seat.
“Excuse me, peasant,” he addressed me with the customary courtesy of the typical English gentry. “I beseech thee to grant know-how o’ the means to travel to Dobbling Village, a jolly ho-ho yaw.”
“Dublin City?” says I in response. “Why, that’s just up that street, there.” Pointing up Kildare Street I was, the most heavily-mined street in the town, and so the Englishman departed in the limo, the car turned onto Kildare Street, a loud explosion ensued, and both a hubcap and a monocle rolled back out into Nassau Street from Kildare Street. I allowed myself a little smile, and thereafter considered myself a native Dubliner with a rather thick country accent which I tried to disguise in order to hide my parochial origins and insecurities.
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