365 DAYS…..day 45

Standard

c/f £437.5 stakes from now on will be £20

running totals….172 lays….131 losers….41 winners…. success rate 76% approx….

Funky Munky 3.40 KL lost + 20 £457.5
Ponmeword 4.50 TH lost + 20 £477.5
Lily Edge 6.00 KM won @ 5/2 – 50 £427.5
Aisa Minor 7.00KM lost + 20 £447.5

And now another extract from my ebook CRICKLEWOOD COWBOYS to while away the time while waiting for your racing fix! All my ebooks, CC, THE SHINY RED HONDA and THE MISSING POSTMAN AND OTHER STORIES are available (for free if you are stingy!) from http://www.smashwords.com

It wasn’t long after this that I was to renew my acquaintance with Bannaher. A chance encounter with Fr Maguire was the catalyst. Hung-over from the previous night’s excesses, I inexplicably found myself in a bed in a room in a ramshackle house on the edge of Wormwood Scrubs. There were also two snoring females in it. I recalled a gaggle of nurses at a party somewhere in the vicinity, but the rest was oblivion. Extricating myself from between the juddering mammaries, I decided that a brisk stagger around the common might be just the thing to clear my head. After a few minutes, however, I concluded that it might not. Unfortunately, Scrubs Lane on a Sunday morning has a lot in common with the outback, so I was forced to walk the mile or so back to civilisation. Nearing the Harrow Road (and the end of my tether), I concluded that the nearby church was as good a place as any to rest my feet. And a few prayers would hardly go amiss…
‘’Terence’, beamed Fr Maguire, from the top of the steps, ‘late as usual, I see…’
My life seemed criss-crossed with paths that always had Fr Maguire standing in the middle.. Like the time I was an altar boy and hit him over the head with the collection box. I had been under the impression that another altar boy was coming into the sacristy and had hid behind the door, intent on scaring him. My surprise when the priest appeared instead, resulted in him having a lump the size of a duck-egg on his bonce and to me losing my prestigious office. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but at every wedding and funeral we took part in several crisp pound notes would be pressed into our sweaty little palms. Hopper McGrath, who had set me up, had to contend with painful goolies for a few days afterwards.
I had many run-ins with him after that; letters that went missing during the spell I had as temporary postman, his greyhounds escaping from their kennels, and, of course, the attempted burning of the school.
Standing on the steps of the little church in Scrubs Lane now, he looked anything but priestly. There was a strong smell of whiskey off him, and a look that suggested a night on the tiles. I knew the feeling.
‘Rough night, Fr?’ I asked.
He laughed. ‘Well, it was lively, anyhow. I’m over for the annual county re-union. I’m surprised you missed it’.
I wasn’t. All the ould fellas and ould wans talking about how good the old country was. If it was that good, why the fuck were they all over here, then?’
He told me how many people had died in the parish in the last year. That seemed to be the main topic of conversation over there. That, and the weather. The first thing people scanned in the paper was the deaths column – to see if there was a funeral they could go to that day. It passed the time I suppose. He also told me that Rasher Rielly had found a vocation and was joining the priesthood. The little shit. I had caught him wanking once into the porridge vats at Drohans Mills – where I was a bag-humper and he was trainee progress chaser – and got the sack for spreading malicious rumours about him. Idly, I wondered where one found a vocation; perhaps it was in the chest of drawers in his bedroom, under his prayer book but on top of the dirty pictures. Or maybe it was in his arse pocket all the time!
‘Been to the White City yet Fr?’ I asked, just to liven up the conversation. He looked blankly at me. ‘The greyhounds, Fr?’
He smiled benignly, not biting.
‘Temptation, Terence. Temptation. God works in mysterious ways, testing us, trying us. The path of righteousness is never an easy one, even for a priest’.
The ould hypocrite. It was rumoured that the Bishop had to bail him out when an irate bookie threatened to go to the papers about his debts.
‘And what state is your immortal soul in, Terence?’ he continued. ‘Have you been practising your faith?
I had done more practising on my guitar in the last year – the one I no longer had – but that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. He seemed satisfied when I told him I went to Mass most Sundays.
‘Never lose the faith, Terence. Too many people who leave our shores cast themselves adrift in this city of sin. The become lost souls wandering aimlessly out of sight of the lord, worshipping false Gods, subjecting themselves to all the temptations of the flesh…’For a moment he got carried away. His voice had risen and some of the church-goers were giving him funny looks. He quickly changed the subject.
‘Do you know where I’m off to now? To try and talk some sense into an eejit who has been living in a coffin in the backyard of a pub in Kilburn. I believe you know him…Mick Duggan?’
‘Dougie?’
‘’The very man’.
I had read something about it in the Willesden Chronicle, but hadn’t realised it was Dougie. From what I could gather, he was planning to spend a month underground for charity in the back garden at Mulligans.
‘It takes a lot of guts’, I said. ‘And, sure, it’s for a good cause’
‘Is that what I’ll tell his mother? That it’s for a good cause? If he wanted to raise money for charity why didn’t he do something normal? Like swimming the Channel or running from John O’Groats to Lands End?’ He was getting quite agitated and I guessed he was under orders to get Dougie out of the coffin
When I suggested I come with him he didn’t object.
‘I might be able to talk some sense into him’.
I didn’t expect he would take a blind bit of notice, but it seemed as good a way as any of putting the Sunday morning down.
Gaining entrance to Mulligans proved no problem. A couple of sharp raps on the side door and we were in. It was officially listed as a hotel, though inside there was little evidence of this. It’s hole-in-the-wall appearance summed it up perfectly.
Even at this early hour there was a sprinkling of dour-faced drinkers at the bars. Hard-jaws by the look of them. A few eyebrows were raised as well as caps as the priest brushed by. We passed straight through the bar and headed for a passage that led to the back garden. Two high stools stood either side of the door with plastic buckets resting on them. Someone had stencilled a lopsided CHARITY LIE-IN on the wall behind. Some lie-in I thought and threw in two shillings.
I could hear muffled singing coming from somewhere in the garden. Looking around, I discovered it emanated from a plastic pipe. This pipe was about six inches in diameter, and was sticking up a similar distance above the ground. Judging by the quality of the singing, it was a fair bet that Dougie was already half-cut.
‘Hello there, Dougie’, I shouted down the pipe. ‘Is that you?’
‘Who the hell do you think it is…Lazarus?’, replied a disembodied voice. ‘Who’s that?’
‘Terry. Terry Byrnes’.
‘I’d ask you to join me but there’s not much room’. His laughter echoed up the pipe.
‘How long do you plan to spend down there?
‘Another few weeks…unless I get to like it’. The laughter continued.
‘Is the pipe your only means of communication?’
‘The only way. Everything comes down and goes back up the same way’.
‘ Everything?’.
‘The whole works, boy’.
I told him he was mad. Then I mentioned the charity bit.
This brought fresh laughter. ‘Charity me hole! I’m not doing it for charity. I’m getting five hundred quid from Bannaher for it’.
‘The subby?’.
‘The very man. He bought this kip a few weeks ago. The charity idea is a gimmick to get some publicity…’
This was too much for the priest, who had been hopping around like a hen on a hot griddle during our exchange. Pushing me out of the way, he bellowed down the pipe.
‘I knew you weren’t doing this out of the goodness of your heart, Duggan. Come up out of there at wance, before you have your mother in an early grave. What you’re doing is a sin, a very grave sin. It’s blasphemy…’
At that moment, Bannaher himself appeared. He was wearing a navy-blue suit, a button-down cream shirt open at the neck and a pair of patent-leather black shoes that you could almost use as toothpicks. I had a healthy dislike of people who managed to look so smooth that early in the morning.
He hadn’t quite managed to steer the priest away from the pipe before the singing started again.
‘Some say the devil is dead, the devil is dead, the devil is dead
Some say the devil is dead, and buried in Killarney
More say he rose again, rose again, rose again
More say he rose again, and joined the British Army.
Fr. Maguire turned several shades of purple.
‘He’s drunk! My God, the man is fluthered!’
‘Ah no. You see…’ Bannaher almost physically dragged him away…It’s the air down there, Fr, it gets a bit bad at times. Makes him ramble a bit. We pump fresh oxygen down every so often and that clears his head‘
The priest sniffed. ‘He sounded drunk to me. And then there’s the question of personal gain. I heard a large sum being mentioned…’
‘Ah no, Fr. He works for me you see, and it’s true I am paying his wages while he is down there, but that’s only fair, isn’t it?’. He paused ‘We’re always told that charity begins at home, aren’t we? Now, when I was home on holiday the nuns at St Camilla’s asked me if I could help out. And when I saw the state of the altar…well I…’
‘I see. Very commendable’.
‘If your own church had anything that needed doing…’
‘Well, there is the sacristy roof…’
‘No sooner said than done. Come into my office and we’ll work out the details…’
Two minutes later he was back. This time on his own. Just as Dougie was breaking into song again.
‘Tell that eejit to shut his row…or I’ll shut it for him’.
As I left, I wondered if Dougie’s five hundred would ever materialise. I sincerely hoped he’d had the sense to ask for cash in advance’,

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