Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: The Dubliner, June 2010

“If it didn’t fly in the face of all known social conventions, I’d challenge him to a duel…”

ice cream van
A stranger paid me a compliment the other day. She called me a gentleman. Admittedly, I’d just let her muscle past me in the queue for an ice cream van. (She had two small children. I was a single man in the queue for an ice cream van. Fuck it, she had seniority.) The people behind me grumbled a bit. But I take my compliments where I get them. Later I got to thinking about the concept of the gentleman. You know, the man of honour. It’s a very old fashioned idea now. But it seems to me that – in the days before there were credit cards, penalty points or much in the way of civil law – the notion of ‘honour’ performed a very useful social function.

The gentleman occupied a position of privilege. But if he didn’t pay his debts, or if he punched your auntie or something, his honour was forfeit. Without honour, he might as well have been a common or garden gobshite. If I understand the idea correctly then – and there’s every chance that I don’t – honour operated as the equivalent of a security deposit held against you by society to guarantee good behaviour.

No wonder then that gentlemen were so sensitive to any suggestion of an affront to their honour. I can sympathise. My friend Mick has repeatedly stated his opinion of late that I am secretly in love with the girlfriend of a mutual friend of ours. He’s completely wrong. But I can’t prove a negative and he trusts his instincts. He refuses to withdraw the allegation.

Now he hasn’t libelled me. He hasn’t committed a crime. I don’t even want us to fall out because it’s not that big a deal. But my honour is offended. If it didn’t fly in the face of all known social conventions, I swear to God I’d challenge him to a duel.

Then again, maybe I take these things too seriously. Last weekend, when the photographer Johnny Savage and I were a road trip to Mayo, he shared his own tale of being accused in the wrong. In 2005, Johnny was working as a bicycle courier in Perth, Western Australia. Now there aren’t too many Irish people in Perth, Western Australia. In fact, his landlady admitted he was the first she’d ever met. She seemed wary at first, but warmed to him eventually – often stopping for a chat when she came by to pick up the rent.

One evening, when she was around, she asked Johnny if he’d heard the big news from London. Johnny was out on his bike all day. But he did remember hearing on the radio that morning that London had secured the 2012 Olympics. He told her he’d heard the news. It was fantastic. He was delighted altogether. Unbeknownst to Johnny, since he’d listened to the news that morning, al-Qada had launched a coordinated bomb attack, killing 56 people. He never lived it down.

The landlady exited sharply. From then on, the husband came for the rent. There was no chitchat. Did they ever clear up the misunderstanding, I inquired? He tried, he said. But he was rebuffed. Didn’t that bother him, I asked? Wasn’t he tempted to challenge the old bat to a duel? Not at all, Johnny smiled. Sure what can you do?

We were in Mayo, incidentally, working on a feature about the new series the Hardy Bucks are filming for RTE. It was good to catch up with Martin (a.k.a. Eddie Durkin.) The last time he was in Dublin, he sent me a Facebook message asking if I fancied meeting for a few pints. He was under the impression that he owed me a few. If he did, I’d forgotten about it. We met on Grafton Street and I asked where he fancied heading. He explained that he was skint at the moment. We’d have to go on the knack.

When I didn’t quite understand what he meant, he pointed to the bulge in his rucksack. He’d brought cans. We were going on the knack.

I tried to explain that drinking alcohol on the street wasn’t really the done thing in Dublin. But he insisted. He asked where the best local spots were. I told him there weren’t any. We ended up walking laps around St. Stephen’s Green. I tried to be inconspicuous. But every third or fourth young person that walked past recognised Martin and shouted lines from the show at him.

I told him that, if he preferred, we could go to the pub instead. I didn’t mind paying. No, he insisted he owed me. He was going to pay me back and that was that. It was touching really. What can I say? The man is a gentleman!

June 10th, 2010.

16 Responses to ““If it didn’t fly in the face of all known social conventions, I’d challenge him to a duel…””

  1. cash Says:

    Don’t know the knacking hotspots of Dublin?

    Shame on you!

  2. Eoin Says:

    We were on Grafton Street at night. Seriously, where would you go?

    The only place I could think of was the alleyway behind HMV – but that seems like somewhere you could get killed…

  3. cash Says:

    There’s a lovely little courtyard behind the Unitarian Church on Stephen’s Green, between that and telecom, even shelter if it starts pissing.

    So there’s one place for starters.

    Also plenty of spots in Temple Bar where one can generally avoid the cops, etc.

    Maybe that would be a good blog, knacker drinking hotspots in Dublin. A great community resource.

    Oh, and expect Pavee Point to be on your case now with these references.

  4. Eoin Says:

    Jesus, you really know your stuff there Cash. You’re not homeless by any chance, are you?

  5. cash Says:

    Not the last time I checked.

    Chalk it down to too many years in college, and an alcohol tolerance that would need it’s own mortgage if it were to drink in pubs all the time.

    There’s also a unique thrill to that bit of sly drinking that needs to be indulged in every now and again…

    Having said that, over in London at the moment, and well, if a cop passes you and you’re sitting in the park drinking a can, he’ll just keep walking. If you rock up to a gig venue and finish your can on the street outside, throw your can into the bin when you’re done, you won’t get any grief off the security staff.


  6. Eoin Says:

    Yeah, well I went to college in Galway where a man’s right to drink Buckfast out of a paper bag lying down in the middle of Shop Street a half ten on a Tuesday morning is enshrined in the constitution.

    London is pretty relaxed too. You can always smell weed on the street. I guess the cops have bigger fish to fry.

  7. gueuleton Says:

    Most days I walk along the Liffey boardwalk between a half and a third of the people I walk past are drinking.

    If I pass either of you guys I’ll give you a euro or two.

  8. Dan Says:

    I’m not working right now Eoin but I wouldn’t see you short of the price of a hostel!

  9. gus Says:

    Whats yer weapon Buts– pistol or sword??

  10. Eoin Says:

    @ Gus – I like throwing my shoes at people

  11. D.M Says:

    Touched. What can I say?.

  12. albinicus Says:

    I thought I saw Martin/Eddie last night in South William but wasn’t him. Then I had a dream last night where I was in a bank and you were the teller..weird

  13. Eoin Says:

    @ Deirdre – I never know what to say

    @ albinicus – your account is overdrawn by seven hundred and sixty eight euro, thirty eight cent

  14. albinicus Says:

    @ eoin-your not far off the mark there

  15. Deirdre Says:

    Eoin – I think I’ve just blushed!.

  16. Johnny Says:

    ‘Unbeknownst to Johnny…’

    That sentence has a nice ring to it, I could see it fitting into many situations in my daily life.

    ‘… the rent was due.’

    Nice job.

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