The Worshipping of Helena


Part 2

All young lads within my ambit had these dreams and fantasies, and little else. We were still only children – but didn’t believe it. Ted Ryan, one of my closest pals, was a local gossoon, of about my age. He used to sing this ‘song’ he’d made up: “Oh fish in the sea will you listen to me, ‘cause me wife Raileen Murphy has twins to rear!” This girl he referred to was a teacher’s daughter, and as such would forever remain unattainable to lads such as Ted – or me. For just as many reasons as you want to think up, reader. And a few more. Quite apart from the fact that Ted had more spots than Binty the fox tarrier. {They were never ‘terriers’ in those days.}

Incidentally, Ted was destined never to work, toil, or mullock; never bothered, never mustered up any ambitions at all regarding such yokes. He took infinite care not to even get close to the four-letter ‘W’ word. As indicated, he was a martyr to boils and wild forests of blackheads, which left his face a bit like he’d stood too close to an exploding tin-can full of gravel.

But do you know – he ‘pulled’ the most beauteous of birds, no worry!! Married one of them, too – had the jolliest of marriages – the happiest of lives – eleven or twelve kids – {he wasn’t quite sure} – never missed a night in the pub – and not a day’s labour interfered in his good life! We won’t mention the late-night shifts ….

Anyway, back to my own ‘dreamboat.’ I used to watch her, like an owl, to make sure she wasn’t ‘tricking about’ or ‘being unfaithful’ with any other quare fella. Unfortunately, I could only see half of the public bar, so when she went out of sight – I had to run around the back to peer in through a small rear window. But by the time I got there, she’d often be gone back to the main bar! Then I’d have to double back round to that! This constant rushing round the building used to attract amused attention from the ‘prime boys’ hanging about, and I’d invent excuses like ‘incontinence,’ or ‘meeting a lad at the back door.’

However, the biggest problem was my rival. Yes, dear reader, I had one. Lots, really, but this lad was a real danger to my future happiness.

You can see why he created panic and worry in my jealous heart. He was twenty-two, stood to inherit a big farm, and owned a Raleigh bike with a Sturmey-Archer three-speed-gear and dynamo-lamp! Lots of reasons there that could sink me – any one of them! Better keep tabs on this slieveen, or he’d wipe me eye for sure!

So, in order to get a few clues about grown-up romance, I set my cap at making regular shillings, so I could visit the ‘Pictures’ in Callan. That’s the place to get the hang of this romance craic! My visits to school also became even fewer than my pre-obsession days.

Instead, I was off picking stones and cutting thistles for ‘Jack Nail’ – {John O’Neill,} one of the best men I knew. When I told Jack why I wanted to earn the bobs, he reckoned it ‘a sound ambition.’ The fact that I paid dearly in hammerings whenever I deigned to go to school, didn’t matter. The beatings lasted five minutes: set that against the freedom of days out in the wild fields, and trips to the Gaiety Cinema at night – and it was no contest.

My pals were a bit miffed that I was getting to see so many pics. Also, why was I going to the despised ‘Love Stories,’ instead of the much more exciting Westerns? I couldn’t really explain to them that Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey only kissed the girls after they’d wasted good hours slaughtering hundreds of Red Indians – or other cowboys – who stupidly qualified for instant bulletty death by wearing the jinxed and fatal ‘black hat.’ Not many tips about love, either, from old wooden-chops, John Wayne.

Still, in spite of much studying of form in the bird-pulling game, I didn’t pick up a lot I could use. Well, not in my slightly different circumstances. When Ronald Coleman was getting close and very personal {for the days that were in it} with some lady-star or other {none of whom could compare with my Helena!!} – he would murmur: “shall we go back to my suite in the Ritz, my deah, and imbibe some Dom Perignom Champers, my precious, whilst listening to that jolly chap Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata, what-what, old flouwah?”’

This didn’t seem to tie in very well with my somewhat lower position in life; and such posh lingo wouldn’t travel well in Dunnamaggin village.

Then, when I’d spy Clark Gable catching a mot in a rather unusual grip – I knew Helena wouldn’t put up with that craic for a minute! He’d be out on his ‘a’, pronto! No good Catholic girl should have to put up with a maulin’ oul divil like that!

Finally, I was nearly convinced to employ a manly-sounding phrase ‘told to me’ by Humphrey Bogart. Gazing into his loved one’s glimmering violet lamps, he murmured: “Gorgeous, you sure look stunning in that outfit.” But this, too, diidn’t seem quite right.

Trouble was, there was no script that could handle the love of a scrawny schoolboy for a comely demure young woman, in all of her flowering ethereal beauty.

So I took the decision …….. To be continued.

Ned E


The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Kilkenny Observer.

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