I have a shameful secret and I can’t hold it in any longer. It goes back quite a while so I need to put it in context. When I was a nipper, we weren’t exactly sent up chimneys to clean them, but unlike today, the labour laws in Ireland were much more third world than they are today. As a result, I literally cannot remember a summer where I didn’t do one kind of work or another.
The year was 1977 and I was working in a well-known national newspaper, delivering papers across Dublin as a ‘helper’ on a van. I hated the job but the money was amazing for a young lad, not that I saw much of it as my mother made sure I wasn’t allowed to live the rock star life on my earnings. She wisely saved it for me, giving me an allowance from it which I mostly spent on going to the pictures – always alone – as I was a shy teenager who despite discovering all the natural yearnings a boy that age has, I had yet to figure out what to do with them. Girls were scary back then.
I’d go to the Adelphi, the Savoy or the Carlton cinema in Dublin city centre and gorge myself on a half-pound box of Milk Tray, a bottle of coke and a pack of popcorn. I worked next door to the cinema during the day and my uncle was the boss of the department so I got the handy numbers. At least once a week, I’d get to deliver the freebies to the newspaper’s neighbours to keep them placated for when our vans blocked up the street. In return, I generally got free tickets to the new releases. I told my mother I had to pay for them so she didn’t question my ridiculous spend on chocolate. I often felt quite sick on the bus home, but never once questioned if it was worth it.
Despite my lack of success with the ladies, largely due to the fact that I was a skinny little thirteen year old boy with absolutely no clue how not to panic when I met a pretty one, I still fancied myself a bit and as I was starting to smell myself, I always made sure to look my best on the bus to town… alone … on a Saturday night. Flared, faded, blue Levi Jeans from O’Connors in Abbey Street, cool as Bejaysus I was, tan or black desert boots, maybe a blue and white check, cheesecloth shirt, with a nice big collar and a Levi denim jacket to top it off. Oooooo yeah… I was the business. Somewhere inside I was a little sparkler. I knew my mother saw it but I just wished real girls would too.
My hair was longer then than it is now, just gone-off blonde, turning fair, flicking past my ears, touching my shoulders, all Leif Garret and David Soul like. Yep I certainly was the business. I’d sit there on the bus, trying to catch the eye of a pretty young girl, then when I did, panicking like a 1970’s version of Dougal from father Ted, not knowing where to look, turning a bright shade of red, desperately trying to compose myself and remain cool, but ultimately knowing I’d blown my cover, looking everywhere but back at her.
I’d get off the bus, walk up O’ Connell Street at the centre of Dublin, pop down to the Adelphi and stand in the queue listening to the psycho busker doing a shit impression of Elvis and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, but enjoying it nonetheless. There were always buskers, mostly the ones who attended the cinema queue had no musical ability and were basically pan handlers with a guitar, but it was great.
I looked about ten years old and would have never even got into a PG movie back then, if it weren’t for the fact that the guys on the door knew me from work. I always felt particularly grown up getting into a 15’s movie. Even on the queue, my hormones would have me scoping for a pretty girl but my cowardice took over the minute one of them smiled at me. Inside the cinema I’d escape into the movie. It was pure magic, sitting there, engulfed in surround sound when I was used to a 19 inch black and white mono television with only one channel at home.
Back outside, afterwards I’d have forgotten my pre-cinema inhibitions. My mind would still be on the movie fresh in my head and I’d be ten again for real not just in appearance, almost skipping to the bus stop, imagining in my quaffed head that I was in the movie I had just watched. Sometimes there would be a more sinister element to my trip home as rougher boys, spoiling for a fight, would clamber on board the bus. But I was always able to dodge that bullet. I grew up surrounded by such danger and while I feared many, they never knew it and for the most part they left me alone. When they didn’t, I generally understood that I only had to make them believe I was tough enough to take them on for them to leave me alone and I was good at that.
Off the bus I’d go and home I’d skip, another Saturday night movie behind me. There would be time for girls yet. I didn’t know that of course, I thought I would be forever afraid to ask one out. Funnily enough in a normal relaxed setting, I was quite the star with the girls. It was only when I fancied one that I’d freak. Somewhere in my head I had it sussed.
If I was ever to kiss a girl, I would have to follow what was clearly the only way to go. First spot one I liked, then work out a plan to be in her generally vicinity as often as possible. Look at her a lot until she looked at me, then panic and look away. Repeat often enough until I built up the confidence not to look away and then chance a smile in her direction. At that stage in my life that was a s far as the plan got. I was still two stages behind the final one here, so I didn’t see the point in trying to evolve the plan any further for fear that my mountain would be too high to climb.
But here I am waffling on and I never told you my filthy secret. Well you see, I have eclectic musical taste. I love all sorts of music, mostly pretty good if I do say so myself. My dirty secret? Well those jeans, desert boots cheesecloth shirts and jackets… Pure David Gates and Bread and my David Soul reference earlier, oh yes… “Come on silver lady take my word, I won’t run out on you again believe me….” Don’t know it? Ask Doctor Google. Better still, let sleeping dogs lie; it was all a long, long time ago and ashamed as I am, we should all be allowed one bad life choice…
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