“It was most like the Soviet model”

Dylan Moran on Ireland, Twitter, the world, comedy, and other thoughts shared with the inimitable Marc Maron.

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A funny old week

That’s the thrill of going to see comedians from roughly your own age-group (rough being about right) – as well as recognising the struggle of balancing an existential crisis with a box-set hangover, they usually ensure everyone is safely ensconced in bed by 11pm. Except Tommy Tiernan, who was probably only getting going by the verbal jazz of him, and might well have been found wandering the streets muttering to himself hours after we left.

Was that a groan? Not a fan, eh. Time was, sharp intakes of breath at the mere mention of Tommy were the preserve of the religiously devotional and the blue lotional. Now he tends to trigger a broader sweep of non-committal shrugs occasionally trying to pass themselves off as a maybe. Depending, like.

Part of the problem is that the Tommy I’m talking about is unlikely to be the same one you’re thinking of.  Yes, the endless sending-up of our parochial idiosyncrasies isn’t going to cut it on the second or fiftieth hearing. But like the incomprehensible drunk holding court in the town square, if you listen long enough, you’ll hear a passage shot through with enough lucid brilliance to make you pause for thought. Not that Tommy is incomprehensible. Gifted with a majestic turn of phrase, and ability to assemble riffs on an impulse that comes in the shape of a credit card he keeps shoving back into the audience’s sensibilities, it’s as if he’s holding his breath along with the rest of us, waiting for the roll of the notes.  A note of exasperation hangs over the gender wars staring his own family, and there are enough considered prods at masculinity to wonder if being stuck in a lift with him and Michael Harding would be really interesting, or really infuriating. Perhaps he should extend those thoughts further into that newspaper column he has yet to be given, because he shouldn’t feel he has to roar to be taken seriously. Something his contemporary, Dylan Moran, would probably agree with.

Tiernan once revealed that having a conversation with Moran was like trying to catch a frog.  An image that wouldn’t have looked out of place among Moran’s impressively intricate sketches rolling on loop behind him as he addressed the variety of manifestations of our lunacy two days later. Thought-bubbled images twist and turn just like the tracks of his thoughts with an exquisitely constructed sentence passing through every half minute on the minute. Hipsters are scoffed at; he confesses his life-long smoking habit has been surrendered in exchange for buns, and unexpectedly “cuddly eyes” (“interesting European fat, not American fat”). Coffee fetishists, our dedication to Danish drama, and his diminishing credibility among his own family are witheringly unpicked; all the while verbally doodling surreal scenes of a man showing little resistance to lack of enlightenment, and adapting to the various stages of man: “child, failure, old and dead”. Like Tiernan, he is a man increasingly exiled from his naively imagined place in the world, but neither are ever weary enough to risk disguising the affection for who and what they hold dear.

Which is something that even Stewart Lee, stalwart of non-conformist commentary, can’t avoid, however slight the hints. “I’ve nothing going on in my life these days. It’s taken up with looking after these…like..people.. my family, they’re called my family”. He’s in typically mock contemptuous form. It was far from fifteen hundred seater venues his astute observations were reared, so we’re berated for inconsiderately elevating him to some degree of success and facilitating the purchase of his first house at the tender age of 42. A house with a back garden that just happens to have homeless people congregating behind it; homeless people he might invite to live with him… if he were, say, Russell Brand. A back garden with a fence that is the occasional border with sex workers touting for business; sex workers he could probably pay a tenner to for their thoughts on the political ramifications of paternalistic and exploitative practices that obscures the contradictory positions of women in the world. I think that’s what he said. But he knows he can get that for free at home any time without ever asking for it.

StewartLee

How many middle-class self-deprecating alternative comics does it take to pose for this photo?

The format is trademark Lee: pitting sections of the audience against each other as per the natural mixed ability order (and speed) of laughs. Diatribes are woven together with repetition and call-backs; the mechanics of the deliberately drawn-out punch reveal (less line than clever parallels between seemingly disparate ideas) explained as he goes along. Pity the insolence of anyone unable to keep up; woe betide us all if we did. This particular device of deconstructing his approach is characteristically unconventional but tactical. It gives us permission to stick with the three-yarn structure, and allows him to stick it to his self-regarding Guardian reading fan-base without losing one of them. A cultural snipper departs the stage leaving a few scratched heads strewn in his wake. Brave, fresh, and always fascinating.

A fine week for comedy, and that’s without any mention of the Royal Visit, and Gerry Adams flirting with Panti.

WTF is Demis Roussos? The finale

In which the adventures of McGuffin and his grisly cohorts reach a dramatic conclusion.

Part I here

Part II here

*********************************************************************

My memories of the reception are blurred by time. I do recall Grimshaw throwing up into the punch bowl which our generous hosts had provided, and Cosgrove stealing a huge potted plant which he walked out with through the foyer determined to present it to McIlvogue’s poor wife as a token of his undying love. I do recall waking in a house in Glasnevin, the home of Kraut Komrade, UncleRalf. Aine, his long suffering wife served me a triple by-pass breakfast which did the trick however – Amazing Grease – and informed me that the Blefuscu team had hi-jacked a car and taken off back to the Athens of the North. Some of them were actually supposed to work that day. Poor fools. The hired car was outside the door however, and was presumably being paid for, albeit unwittingly, by RTÉ, and there was no sign of the obnoxious TT.

On waking, Ralf insisted that we go down town and get our heads together over a few pints.  I was always weak. By mid-afternoon we were in the dreaded McDaid’s off Stephen’s Green and suffering no pain. We had even formulated a vague plan. Ralf would go off and check up what damage we had done to the Third Policeman and I would take the hired wheels and drive back to Belfast. Baldric might have thought it ‘a cunning plan’ but somehow I knew it was unlikely to be such smooth sailing. For once I was right. Ralf had just left and I was sipping my last bevvie when Tom McGurk entered, spied by large self and slid into the booth. We had not met for over a year and obviously reminiscences and back stabbing were de rigueur. He bought a round. That was a shock. McGurk was notorious as County Tyrone’s meanest man. But, it seemed, now that he was down in Dublin he had landed a newspaper job and was flush.

“What are ye doing tonight,” he asked. “I saw ye making a tit out of that pratt Gaybo last night.” “I better head up the road, Beryl will be waiting.” A daunting thought, as McGurk shrewdly discerned. He’d met the wife. “Here,” McGurk reached into his pocket, “I’ve a few tickets for a free drinks reception tonight. I can’t go, but you might as well use them. It’s in Howth. Sure it’s on your way.”

He left, weaving his way out into a crowded and dreary Dublin dusk, I got on the phone.

It’s no fun drinking alone, besides, I hadn’t had a real chance to pay my respects to Auntie Rita and the nameless but feared. By 8 o’clock I found myself in Cabinteeley. Rita and Mickey were there. They were broke and readily agreed to accompany me to a free drinks reception. We Northerners do not look gift horses in the mouth. Soon we were threading our way around Dublin and heading for Howth.

As we pulled into the car park of the luxurious hotel, perched on Howth head with its garden of tropical palms and plants running down to Dublin Bay, I pulled the invites out of my pocket and handed them to Rita. She took one look and subjected me to her withering gaze – not a pleasant experience – I mean this is a hard woman. “McGuffin, you do realize that this is a reception for Demis Roussos, don’t you?”  I lied. “Of course, but it’s free gargle.” In fact I had stuffed the freebie tickets into my pocket without even looking at them once McGurk had told me where the soiree was to be held.

“Who the fuck’s Demi Roussos?” asked Mickey.

Mickey had recently escaped from one of Her Majesty’s Hotels in our wee Ulcer and consequently his musical listening pleasure for the past five years had been restricted to ‘The Men Behind The Wire’ and the entire repertoire of Eamonn Largey and the Flying Column. “You’ll not like him, Mickey,” said Rita, somewhat snidely I felt. “He’s a big fat eejit like McGuffin here.”

“C’mon,” I retorted, my throat dying to be slaked, “we’ll not even see him. It’s only 9:30, his show at the Olympia or wherever won’t be over for hours.” I parked the wheels and we merry three sauntered up the broad steps and through the august portals of the Howth Majestic. “I don’t like the look of this,” muttered Auntie Rita, “the décor’s the colour of a cancerous lung! And all these flunkies in monkey suits. Just get us a table and some vino collapso quick McGuffin or I’ll turn nasty.” Even Mickey shuddered at that.

“No bother,” I bluffed quickly and hastened forward – all right, I was pushed – towards the maître domo, reaching for the invites. Christ! Rita had left them in the car. The head functionnaire took one look at me and bared his teeth. They were as white as Johnny Winter. “Why Mr. Roussos,” he breathed ingratiatingly, “we’ve been expecting you, what an honour. Come this way, we’ve reserved the best table for you and your party.” He looked at my ‘party’. “These are just two journalists,” I improvised, “the troupe will be along shortly.” He beamed and ushered us into the banquet hall, bumping into two tables on the way. “My apologies, Mr. Roussos, I seem to have displaced my contact lenses.” ‘Thank fuck for that’, I thought.

He seated us underneath the sparkling chandeliers, snapped his fingers imperiously and, miraculously, a bottle of Moet and Chandon’s Premiere arrived. We got stuck in. This was going to have to be a quickie, I figured. While we basked in the opulent splendour and more and more bottles of champagne arrived, members of the staff sidled up to the table and soon I was signing Demis autographs as if to the manor born. Other guests soon filled up the room and not even Mickey demanding ‘a pint of plain’ in a loud voice could spoil the evening. Auntie Rita was most impressed and I felt that for once I had redeemed myself. Even Mickey was enjoying himself.

“Here, here’s a good one! What smells of piss and does the hokey cokey? The Queen Mother!”  He laughed uproariously. I glanced at my watch. Jesus! It was almost midnight. Mickey had already turned into a pumpkin but the fat Greek and his bodyguards were due any minute. I nodded imploringly to Rita. Sound woman that she is, she grabbed Mickey before he could tell his joke about the nun and the sheep and dragged him out to the foyer. “Don’t forget to tip the staff Demis,” she trilled over her shoulder. Bitch! “Must go to the restrooms,” I slurred – five bottles of the old Moet will do that for you – and made my way out, through a politely applauding crowed of Dublin 4 wankers, several of whom even wanted to kiss my hand – and that was only the men.

From the foyer it was a short trot to the car where Rita, only somewhat worse for wear, was standing. I opened the door and proceeded to get in. Suddenly, “Where’s Mickey?” I asked, fear gripping my scrotum. “You shouldn’t have let him out of your sight”. Rita got into the front passenger seat. “Don’t worry, here he comes now, start the engine.” I glanced out the window. Mickey was indeed running towards us across the tarmac, clutching a rake of wine bottles in his arms. “Get in, you Malacca, we’re out of here,” I shouted. He opened the back door and thrust the bottles onto the seat. “McG, I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left. We are the men who stole Trevelyan’s corn.”

“Gotta get more,” he gasped, and stumbled back up the steps. “For God sake, get him, Rita.” She ran after him and back into the Majestic while I nervously tried to keep the engine running. Four minutes later, although it seems an eternity, they both emerged, each laden down with what appeared to be the entire stock of the wine cellar – which, it later transpired, had been conveniently situated underneath the main staircase and left open by some employee who was doubtless fondly going over their Demi Roussos autographed underwear – I tell ye, the things some of these groupies ask you to sign, I feel sorry for that poor Tom Jones. “Andalay, vamanos” I roared as I started to gun the car. “Wait,” bawled Rita, “Mickey’s not in yet.” “Where the fuck is the head-the-ball?” I screamed and then looked in my rear view mirror.

Now I know that objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are, but this was no time for metaphysical speculation about the space time continuum. Leaping out of the car I made a run across the grass where a bedraggled Mickey was engaged in a titantic struggle with an eight foot tall palm tree. “What the fuck are you playing at you brain damaged omadaun?” I bellowed.

“Give us a hand, Mac I have to get this for the Ma. She loves tropical plants”. This was not opportune to remind Mickey that his dear mother lived in a Portakabin near the municipal rubbish dump in Newtownards in the Black North when last heard of and was unlikely to have the necessary facilities for palm cultivation. Between us we dragged the protesting palm to the back of the car and popped the trunk, stuck the roots in, leaving six foot of palm fronds exposed and got the fuck out of Dodge. As I swerved down the driveway, we sideswiped a limo that was coming the other way. There were curtains across the rear windows but I swear to this day that I heard some clown singing ‘Forever and Forever and For fucking Ever’ as we careened off into the mystic.

We were so gargled and exhausted – Mickey had insisted that we plant the poor palm in Rita’s back yard in Cabinteeley lest it die before he could ship it up North to the Ma – that the mattresses actually felt all right. I arose early the next morning and tiptoed out, pausing only to trip over a few champagne bottles, slumped into the car and headed North. Ten miles outside the Pale, on the main road I stopped at a petrol station. I fumbled for some gas money. Only a torn fiver left. Still, it should get me out of the grey mists and back under the blue skies of our beloved statelet.

A grizzled attendant shuffled up and peered in through the window. I flinched. I hadn’t changed my clothes in two days and was suffering from what the grandda used to call ‘the whips and jangles’.

“Come here Mary,” the honest toiler of the soil closet shouted. His wife shuffled out and joined him at the my window. “It is, I tell ye, its him”. Not more Demis fans surely

“He’s thon boyo who called Gay Byrne a wanker on the Late Late last night. Give us your autograph. The wife and me’s being say that for years.”

All together now:

“Gay Byrne is still a wanker!”

The End

gaybyrne

So Gay

(c) John McGuffin

‘Last Orders, Please!’

WTF is Demis Roussos? Part II

In which John McGuffin’s saga of being mistaken for Demi Roussos continues…

Part I here

Part II

I expected a few anodyne remarks from our genial host and was therefore somewhat nonplussed when he brusquely said “loved the book, just what we need for Paddy’s day – by the way, have you ever been a Republican or Anarchist? If so, you can’t appear.” Bit late now, I thought. If his assiduous assistants hadn’t discovered my political and metaphysical form by now I wasn’t about to enlighten them. “No problem, Gaybo, nihil obstat, but can you just answer me one question. I can see why you have a mad pole vaulting Zen Far East, the Yank’s written an important and controversial book, but why on earth have you got the missionary bint on – she says this isn’t her first appearance?” The great one rearranged his vulpine features and essayed what in hindsight I suppose was meant to be a smile. “Ah, but hasn’t she got gorgeous tits!” Well, nothing special I thought, glancing over at Deirdre’s heaving bozooms. “But Gay, she just told me she turned down a part as Helen Keller because she didn’t think she could remember the lines.” Ignoring me the great one swept out and soon the applause of the audience filtered back to the Green Room. The minute Gaybo left, the staff whipped away the complimentary beverages, but Bowart and I, who were due to be on in the second half of the programme, were unfazed. I still had my bottle of West Cork’s finest.

Half an hour later, and feeling no pain, I was ushered onto the set. Peering through the gloom I could see Grimshaw et al.. Better still, Auntie Rita and some heavies had arrived and were obviously enjoying the show. I had watched on the monitor with increasing boredom as the Far East and the lovely Deirdre had sparkled but only woken up when Wally Bowart attempted to explain the nature of the secret mind control experiments which the intelligence services were then conducting in America. Gay, and the audience apparently had trouble with his accent which, I could not help but regret, had perhaps been further obfuscated by my ever generous pouring hand.

Far Easts

I sat down heavily in the seat provided and placed the remnants of the poitin bottle on the table in front of me and Gaybo introduced me to the audience as the author of ‘a wonderful lighthearted book about Poitin which he had enjoyed immensely’. I guess I’ve never been a team player – probably a fatal flaw in the publishing game, but this bastard was really getting on my tits and they weren’t as big or as ‘gorgeous’ as Deirdre’s. “But Gay, you haven’t even read the book. Your researcher only got it two hours ago and you’ve been too busy swilling down the gin and ogling Deirdre’s tits to even look at it. Here, at least have a slug of the good stuff,” I proffered the bottle. Gay was, to say the least, somewhat taken aback, but, experienced trooper that he was laughed gayly – “I hope that’s not any of that illegal stuff.” What the fuck did he think it was! I took a slug and passed the bottle to a grateful Wally Bowart who took a large gulp and vouchsafed “Fuckin’ A, this stuff’s all right.” Gay turned grey and decided that this Northern upstart had better be put in his place. “Look, it is St Patrick’s Day and we all like a but of fun but you are not allowed to drink on this show and certainly not something which I suspect is an illegal substance. Besides, let’s be responsible – poitin can make you go blind.” Ah fuck it. Now or never. Leaning over I took a startled Gaybo’s palm and examined it intently. The superstar hastily withdrew his moist appendage but we irredentists would not be thwarted. “There, Gay,” I continued, “I’m sure when you were a wee boy they told you that certain solitary activities would make you go blind, but I don’t see any hairs on the palm of your hand and you don’t have a white stick and a wee blinkie doggie.”

A sussuration crept around the studio on tiptoe. Surely he wasn’t about to say the ‘W’ word? I didn’t have to. From the second row my hungover fans began to chant, led, as always by the great Grimshaw: “Gay Byrne’s a wanker.” Rita and the team at the back took up the chant. Bewildered elderly ladies turned to their spouses and asked what a ‘wanker’ was, only to emit squeals of horror when informed sheepishly by their consorts. Bowart fell off his seat. Deirdre put her hands over her ears, the Far East squatted and attempted a calming Zen mantra and Gaybo announed a commercial break. As the RTÉ goons escorted myself and Bowart (who’d decided he wanted to join the Lumberjacks) out and joined our fans outside my last sight of Gaybo was him shaking his fist and screaming “you’ll never appear on RTE ever again!” Big deal, Gaybo, we were off to the reception at the Third Police.

To be continued…

Taken from the collection of quaint and gentle yarns, ‘Last Orders, Please!’ by John McGuffin

Who the fuck is Demis Roussos? Part 1

In memory of Demis Roussos who died today.RIP.

What follows is a true story by Northern upstart, anarchist, activist, journalist, and lawyer – John McGuffin (RIP)

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I am a great fan of poor old mad Billy Blake. Indeed, today, as I was reading my Guardian newspaper, I chanced on an article about a visit to London of the immensely fat and untalented Demis Roussos and I was reminded of Blake’s maxim – ‘if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is – infinite’. ‘True, Billy,’ I mused, ‘too fucking true’. But what is truth quoth jesting Pilate. What is real and what is not real? But this is not the place for metaphysical meanderings. According to Demis the greasy Greek, he was once a preacher in ancient Egypt and a Jewish rabbi at the end of the last century. He is Greek Orthodox but loves reading the Koran. He also was, as he modestly admits, ‘a love God in the 1970s in Britain’. The unforgettable ‘Forever and Forever’ is ‘one of the top ten songs of all time’, he proudly proclaims. He denies that he wore oversized maternity dresses, masquerading as ‘kaftans’ because there was an Albanian dwarf secreted underneath licking his balls so he could hit the high notes which drove many a man to drink, my good self included.

In 1985, either as a publicity stunt because his career was floundering or because the Shiites are exceptionally stupid, Demis was allegedly kidnapped by Muslim fundamentalists. He ‘sang’ his way to freedom by subjecting his captors to a few bars of one of his more popular tonsil-torturing oeuvres, causing them to flee in search of the nearest exorcist thus facilitating his escape from durance vile. And it must have been vile for his idiot guards. Demis denies that he ‘ever gave them the pleasure’ of his vocal range and, for all I know, he may be telling the truth. After a lifetime as a serious investigative journalist, I accept that ‘truth is a black cat in a darkened room and justice is a blind bat’, as the late lamented Bert Brecht so aptly put it. But I think the wanker warbled. But enough of this persiflage and enough of cheap shots at one of Europe’s greatest songbirds. What the article triggered off in my few remaining brain synapses was the recollection that although Demis may once have been an Egyptian priest and/or Jewish rabbi, he had never claimed to be a McGuffin and I had once been Demis Roussos.

demis roussos

The late John McGuffin

It all happened in Dublin way back in 1976. Now, I may have mentioned this before, but I do not like Dublin. I am a Blefuscu man, as Wolfie Tonie would have said, and I don’t know of any Belfast or Derry man who does like Dublin. To many of us black Northerners the ‘Celtic Tiger’ resembles nothing more than old Buck Alec’s mangy toothless lion with which he used to scare the weans on the Custom House steps. It’s not just because of W.T. Cosgrave and Mulcahy and Ernie Blythe and Kevin O’Higgins and them freestaters who sold us out in 1922. It’s not just because they don’t know how to make a decent glass of porter, even though the Guinness factory to this day pollutes the Liffey. It’s not just because of the tawdry, plastic, pseudo America ‘Kultur’ and omnipresent Turd Burger franchises. It’s not even, though God knows this would be reason enough, the chi-chi ’boutiques’ and ‘restaurants’ and ‘nite clubs’ that have spread like the bubonic plague through the pestilential place. It’s not just the trendy ‘arts’ community with the likes of Colm Toibin and Rose Mary Doorli et al., and their shameless denial of their history in the ruthless search for the almighty Euro/Yank gravy train.

It’s not just because of their sleazy politicians, their Jack Lynchs and Chuckie Haugheys and their Garrett FitzGeralds and their Smurfits and Reillys. It’s not just because of their shameless hacks like Kevin Myers and Eamonn Dunphy and Eoghan Harris and Ruth Dudley Edwards and the Forsterite revisionists. It’s not just because of the stale buns with begging bowls in the streets. It’s not just because of the heroin junkies vomiting on your feet as they wave Stanley knives in your face. It’s because the banana Republic with no bananas, in the aftermath of the senile Spanish/American mathematician who wanted the boys and girls to dance at the cross roads, was allowed to become infected with the feculent presence and all pervading influence of the anti-Christ himself, Gay Byrne. So I suppose this tale is about Gaybo, and Demis Roussos.

It was the usual damp dark night in Blefuscu when the phone call came to Cobweb Castle, my mean abode off the Malone Road. There were a group of us sitting in front of the fire and using an LP cover (Migod! Could it have been by Demis Roussos – nay, too much synchronicity, get back Jung man) to skin up a joint. The reason for our bonhomie was that I had just published a modest book entitled In Praise of Poitin and we were planning our appearance on Nationwide Television tomorrow afternoon, the 17th of March, the day of sanctified Patrick, where we were to be interviewed by none other than the blessed Valerie Singleton. Why, if one of us played his cards right he might even get onto Blue Peter and have some incontinent wombat piss all over us or learn how to make a totally useless artefact out of used condoms and a string. The ‘hook’ we had sold to the TV was that I, as the first author to a book exclusively on moonshine whiskey in Ireland, aka poitin, had been running all year the great All Ireland Poitin championship which would be decided on air direct from the BBC studios in Blefescu. My co-conspirators were to appear, suitably masked, and be introduced live on air the winner of the title ‘Best Poitin Maker of 1975’. I had procured eight bottles of the finest illegal uisge beatha and labelled them 1-8. My masked experts (masked because poitin is still illegal) would blind taste them (and after tasting them go blind) and pronounce the Island’s winner to a bemused British public. And then the phone rang. It was my publisher, whose name shall never be mentioned in polite company unless accompanied by large ingestions of mouthwash. (Oh all right, since this is the era of name and shame, it was John D. Murphy). He was phoning to tell me that RTE, Potato TV, had just called and wanted me on the Gaybo Late Late Show tomorrow evening to promote my book. Happy days. Fame at last.

The hospitality was splendid. The programme was pre-recorded in mid-afternoon and went without a hitch. Valerie Singleton, over the line from London, was her ineffable charming self. She giggled girlishly and asked us to assure the viewers that ‘we weren’t really drinking that illegal ‘cratur’’ as she called it. Tee hee! What a romp Val. Isn’t this a great St. Patrick’s Day show. Sure aren’t those natives quaint and loveable when they’re not blowing the fuck out of us. Uisge beatha was consumed in immoderate quantities and the masked experts and my good self were wafted out on a cushion and into a motor with a sober driver whose task was to convey us 100 miles down the road to dear old dirty Dublin, there to mix with the Gaybo glitterati on The Late Late Show, which, in those dark days all rural Ireland watched since they couldn’t get the filthy BBC channels.

I seem to recollect a fleeting thought as we wheeled into Dubh linn, the black pool, that all had been going too well. Were we mocking fate? Lumberjacks, as we were, usually don’t get away with having a good time unpunished. That’s why God created Puritans. Still, as the good book says ‘wine is a mocker’ (Proverbs 20:1). Whether this is Aramaic for ‘motherfucker’ I don’t know, my linguistic skills in Essene have been shot to hell since John Allegro gave me those mushrooms. Nonetheless, the journey down had been splendid. More poitin had been consumed, herbal remedies were flowering and flowing, the driver was sober and we even managed to stop just outside Dublin and watch ourselves on TV in the local pub. Not only that, the locals had recognised us as ‘celebrities’ in their midst as they watched bemusedly us appearing in their physical presence and also on the flickering TV screen (the concept of ‘pre-recording’ had apparently not percolated as far south as Balbriggan). Their hospitality was a tribute to Munster. I had, vainly, thought that the locals had recognised me, the only unmasked participant in the programme from my vivacious good looks but this misplaced vanity was banished from my mind when McIlvogue pointed out that McKeown, ever security conscious, had still not removed his balaclava mask.

I have little recollection of my drive to the studio, with TT and the troops unconscious in the back. I had asked the taximan to drive but he just laughed and made a suggestion that was not only extremely vulgar but anatomically impossible, especially for a fat bastard like myself. Fortune favours the bold however, and, 15 minutes before airtime I was ensconced in the Green Room in the Entertainment facility off stage in RTE 1’s flagship. The troops had been shovelled into seats in the audience, which seemed to consist mainly of a cross between Dublin 4’s finest and tweedy culchie ladies with a sprinkling of bespectacled Far Easts and Stale Buns. (Why do most clerics appear to be myopic? Is it the rosary beads?) I was still hoping that Auntie Rita and the troops would arrive and had left tickets for them at the box office. But for now, all I could do was grin, bear it and meet my fellow guests.

In the Green Room we made a merry crew. (Secretly I was hoping for Frankie Vaughan to emerge from behind the shamrock, but, alas, it was not to be.) As I was the last arrival, my fellow panellists all made a point of approaching me and introducing themselves. The first was, not surprisingly, one of God’s anointed. He was not your traditional Far East however. He didn’t offer me a Jehovah sarnie as so many do but warmly shook hands and told me that although he was a priest he was also heavy into Zen Buddhism and had pole vaulted for Ireland at the latest European games. He was dressed in mulfi and glowed with health. He refused my offer of liquid refreshment from the bottle of poitin I had smuggled in. Generously, he offered to help me if I felt overwhelmed by this kosmic karmic moment. As he patronisingly groped my shoulder, he whispered “Just call me Terence, I’m an old stager at this game.” Yeah, Terry baby, later for you, you smug parasitical cocksucker. Next up in the welcome line was a fresh faced forty-something-year-old lady. She had a blank, helpless sort of face – rather like a rose before it is sprayed with pesticide. “Hello, I’m a missionary’s wife. This is the third time I’ve been on the programme. I’ve recently changed my medication….” “Thank you for sharing that, Deirdre,” I responded, discerning her name from the badge pinned upon her ample bosom. Chemical relief of any kind was clearly essential. Ostentatiously I took a slug from the unlabelled bottle. “Got any more of that, Paddy?” It was the third guest. The American. A six foot six long haired hippie. Not only that, and remember that this is well over twenty years ago, he rather startled us by having a pierced nose and an earring. No big deal these days, but back then if the Provos had done it to him they’d have clearly been in breach of any ceasefire. Before we were summoned onto the stage the American, who turned out to be Walter Bowart, former editor of the East Village Other and author of Operation Mind Control, the ultimate conspiracy ‘cryptocracy’ book in those days was happily pissed. But first we had to be welcomed by God himself. Gaybo oozed into the room and smarmed his way through.

To be continued…

Taken from the uproariously irreverent, ‘Last Orders, Please!’ by John McGuffin