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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Writers’ Week

Last month I promised to tell you all (well . . . not all) about Listowel Writers’ Week.

It was opened by Gabriel Byrne, who seemed to attract some of my usual groupies. And the star paid great attention to the MC, Sean Lyons, as he recited his award-wining poem,

“A Middle Aged Man Goes Shopping For Trousers”

I went shopping for trousers the other day.
Though I’m not getting any taller
The waist band on the present slacks
Is definitely getting smaller.
I don’t like shopping as a rule
I find shop assistants snotty
And I feel a tad embarrassed
When they measure my once taut botty.
‘Does Sir dress to the left or right?’
One asked me like a riddle.
When you get to my age, son, I said
‘You leave it in the middle.’
‘Upstairs, sir,’ he remarked,
‘Is for the more ample figure.’
And as I climbed the cursed steps,
I swear I heard him snigger.
I made a super human effort
To hold my beer belly gut in
But even I could not deny
The pressure on the upper button.
The salesman here was another one,
With muscles trim and hard
I cursed again the Mayo cuisine,
The black pudding fried in lard.
I cursed as well the drinking days
When with other knaves and fools,
Instead of running around racing tracks
We vegetated on high stools.
We drank our pints and placed our bets on the races on the telly
Totally oblivious to the time bombs
I was placing in my belly.
Time bombs yes, you heard me right
That clung to my hips like rubber
And reappeared in middle age
As great big blobs of blubber.
By now my face was turning puce
From holding in my breath
When the salesman produced his inch tape
And gave my pride the kiss of death.
‘A forty two sir, I suppose,
Could do you at a pinch.’
With bravery above the call,
I sucked in another inch
But the inch tape doesn’t lie.
It’s much more honest than me
The salesman did a final check,
‘We’ll say a forty three.’
‘A forty three it is,’ says he,
I didn’t say a meg.
He muttered then as he rubbed his chin,
‘We’ll take six inches off the leg.’
The trousers bought, the next dread thought,
Was more than I could bear.
Through gritted teeth, I asked me man:
‘Where’s the underwear?’
That grin again, it crossed his chin,
With the tiniest of flickers.
‘Would Sir prefer the traditional style,
Or this season’s thongs and knickers?’
‘I’ll try the thongs,’ says I, ‘bedad.’
His face paled with the shock.
He handed me a piesheen of silk,
Thin as the second hand of a clock.
”What’s that?’ I cried as I looked down,
At the sliver in his hand.
‘It gives support in work and sport,
For today’s more active man.’
‘Where I come from, young man I said,
We ate butter and drink milk.
And our smalls are made of cotton blend,
Not lace or puncy silk.
And this is more of it as well,
Like miles and pounds and punts
If the Lisbon Treaty’s ever passed,
They’ll ban string vests and Y fronts.
And one thing more,’ I said,
My voice was getting louder.
‘You can keep your under arm deodorant,
I’ll stick with talcum powder.
It served me well in courting days,
Like hair spray and nylon ankle stockings
And I don’t have to take your guff
Or your not so gentle mockings.
So, take your trousers, sir,’ I said,
‘And your fancy fol der dols,
No garment from this shop,
Will ever chafe my walls.’
And with that, I turned my back,
And went down the stairs again,
My heart was light, I was right
Because inside I know I’m thin
But self delusion soon gave way
I realised with dread
I’d gone straight from baby fat
To bloody middle age spread.
The lads were right, their inch tapes true,
No lies, no tittle tattle.
As I left the store, I knew for sure.
The bulge had won the battle.

On Thursday octogenarian Professor of Poetry, John Montague gave a talk, to a packed house, in Saints John’s Theatre. Dr. Ivor Browne was interviewed by Colm Toibin. Dr. Browne is former Professor of Psychiatry at UCD and Chief Psychiatrist with the Eastern Health Board. His book, “Music and Madness” was published last year.

    And on Thursday night there was a special production by the Listowel Players of “Sive” which was first performed in Waslh’s Ballroom, Listowel, on 01st February 1959. It has stood the test of time and the set for this production, which was designed and constructed by Joe Murphy took us back to an authentic 1950s kitchen. The play, written by John B. Keane, tells the tragic tale of a young girl who was married, against her will, to a much older man. .

“Poets’ Corner” an informal get-together of Poets, rhymesters, versifiers and other 8888was hosted by retired Civil-servant George Rowley.

Colourful Irish Sports journalist and author Billy Keane interviewed American Sports journalist and author, George Kimball in the Listowel Arms on the Friday. So we had banter, wit and an exchange of knowledge with these two sports encyclopaedias . .

Book launches were too numerous to mention but I’d like to recommend three of the many works:

    Mary Lavery Carrig’s, “Through an Open Window” was launched by the aforementioned George Rowley in the Seanachie Centre on the Saturday. (Mary is a descendent of John Lavery) .
    Award-winning novelist and short-story writer, Christine Dwyer Hickey -- her “Last Train From Liguria.” .

    And the hilarious, bawdy and un-put-downable “Tomorrow Is a Lovely Day”, the first novel by playwright and ex-Guard Tony Guerin was launched by Billy Keane.

    When Tony was inscribing my copy he wrote only my Christian name and I reminded him that he was the only Guard, ever, not to demand my full name.

    Pictured: Author with Billy Keane>>>

    Because of peasant stereotyping and ingrained traditional thinking it took, in the past, supreme courage for a farmer to admit that he wrote poetry. Thankfully, that has changed. Every year Listowel Writers’ Week sees more farmer/poets in attendance.

    P.J. Kennedy from Belturbet, Co.Cavan has been a regular for years and in 2006 he published a collection of poems, “Shadows On Our Doorstep”. This year he brought another Breffni versifier with him. Patsy McDermott can, in the style of Robert service, immortalise anything from “The Slatted Shed” to “The Irish Mother” in verse. Yes, there are more and more sons of the soil turning their ploughshares into pens.

    There was indeed something for everyone. Gabriel Fitzmaurice gave a reading for children in Listowel Library on the Saturday and 84 year old Thomas P. Gilmartin from the USA read at every open-mike session in the town.

    There were fifteen Workshops on all aspects of writing given by literary luminaries which include Eilis NiDhuine, Carlo Gebler, Sheila O ‘Flanagan, Mary Kenny and Brian Dillon.

    On the Saturday the Literary and Historical tour took in that area of North Kerry beloved of the late John B.Keane. It took in the crossroads at Renagown, the site of Dan Paddy andy O ‘Sullivan’s famous dancehall immortalised by John B. in “ The Man With the Triple Name”.

    Meantime back in Listowel Gerry Jackson, Gerry Jackson, founder of SW Radio Africa, was giving a lecture in the Listowel arms,Tery Jones,writer, film director and performer was strutting his stuff and the Allen Little Theatre group were preparing the stage in saint John’s Theatre for their production of “On Raftery’s Hill.”

    Later in the evening saw the final of the adult Storytelling Competition, “Words and Music” with Louis De Bernieres”, and many more events.

    Sunday was a day packed with events. Lunchtime Theatre had Moby Dick presented by Gare San Lazare Players Ireland. The Historical Walking Tour took in many places of interest in and around Listowel. “Poetic Voices” was in memory of Michael Hartnett. Readings from Paul Perry and Matthew Sweeney in Saint John’s and Carol Drinkwater in the Listowel arms meant a tight schedule before another “Poet’s Corner” in memory of local poet the late Maureen Beasley.

    I couldn’t make the annual prize-giving at “Children’s Poetry Corner” in Finuge where the adjudicator was 890 year old poet/historian Dan Keane.

    Back in the Listowel Asrms Writer/Publisher Dermot Bolger gave a concise explanation for the phenomenal growth of Writers’ Week from a relatively humble beginning in 1971, “The secret of its success is keeping its focus divided between the parochial and the universal.” For more info go to; www.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    And while we’re on matters cultural:
    “There’s Love and There’s Sex and There’s the 46a” a collection of bus-workers’ writings is now available on CD-ROM Price’€10 (including postage.) details from;

    “Sunrise On the Wicklow Hills”, 16 songs and tunes from County Wicklow (with two bonus tracks thanks to Mick Fitzgerald and Alternative Entertainments Arts Group) is now available on CD.
    Price; (including Postage) €10, from M. Lennon, 15 Weston Heights, Weston Park, Lucan, Co.Dublin.

    Editor's Note: click Author's bio for more on this cd at the bottom of the bio.

    “Buses, Trains and Gaelic Games” ( a comprehensive history of Gaelic games in Irish transport) has just been published and is available on the publishers website;
    You can get an autographed copy from the author; John Cassidy, at 4 Ardmore Avenue, Dublin 7.

    Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


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