Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: Evening Herald, November 20, 2008


Georges Street, Dublin 2

Before I begin this week, I’d like to address a few words to the Garda Traffic Bureau: Officers, lads… I know we’ve had our differences down the years. We’ve both said things that, in the cold light of day, we probably regret. But look what you’ve reduced me to. I’m using public transport. Dear God, hasn’t this madness gone far enough?

Worse again, my train carriage this morning is thronged with old people. What has them out in such numbers? A massive bingo convention? The ladies at my table are poring over the morning’s death notices. Gone very quiet lately, they reckon. Nothing you could really sink your teeth into.

When they tire of that, they turn their attention to me. After some perfunctory whispering, one of them taps me on the arm. She knows who I am. She knows who my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are. She knows their occupations, interests and likely political affiliations.

It’s impressive. Jason Bourne should hop on the Westport-Dublin train some morning. These auld ones would get to the bottom of that mystery in ten seconds flat. (“You’re one of Patsey Bourne’s sons from Derrynacong. Your brother is a quantity surveyor. You’ve a cousin married to one of the Lyonses from Cloontumper…” etc. etc.)

Landing in Heuston, I flag a taxi into town. Aidan wants to meet me in a new bar he’s heard about. It doesn’t have a name. I run it by the taxi driver. It would help if there was a name, he grumbles. But we find our way.

“This is fairly posh,” I tell Aidan when I arrive. “By your standards anyway.”

“What are you talking about?” he says. “Sure, didn’t I have an espresso this morning?”

(Wow, I’m surprised he even knew what an espresso was.)

“To be honest” he continues, “I didn’t even know what an espresso was…”

(I knew it!)

“…I just thought it sounded kinda exciting. And, sure, I was in a hurry. Awful muck altogether!”

We contemplate our surroundings for a moment.

“So this is the new me,” he sez. “A regular man about town.”

“Christ… You weren’t laid off, were you?”

“Not at all,” he laughs. “Still hangin’ in there.”

By the skin of his teeth, I’d say.

“By the way” I tell him. “I met your granny on the train this morning.”

“Oh yeah?”

I take a sip from my drink. I want to savour this.

“She was telling me you’ve been playing for Na Fianna lately. You’re practically player-manager in there, she says. I’m surprised John O’Mahony hasn’t called you up to the Mayo team the way she tells it!”

He turns a deep beetroot red.

“Well, I might have embellished a little.”

“A little? And the arse practically climbing out of your trousers!”

“Arrah, I went to watch them a couple of times. What the hell were you doing on the train anyway?” he demands.

But that’s a whole other story…