Matchsticks and memories

The first time these wheels docked in Brady’s after the initial lockdown a quiet tear was shed. There’s nothing unusual about that now. But what many mightn’t cop or understand would be the reason(s). It’s always the simplest things. Now read on…

Actually on reflection, the first evening wasn’t too bad. It being about a week after they’d re-opened it was felt it may not have been too mad. However, evening peak time probably wasn’t the best planning on my part. Not that it mattered because, the lads went above and beyond to look after Susie and I. Same as it ever was.

The piano in the old lounge ended up being my table. Far from the first time that’s happened. In some ways, there was a newfound freedom to it all. With herself more or living in these parts now, being able to give the carers nights off and thus come and go as is desired is the same as it used to be.

It was actually on our second visit back that the floodgates really opened. Two of the three ladies who will be Susie’s lieutenants for a certain big fixture whenever Dr Tony hypnotist allows the country to snap out of the current ongoing chaos. It was entirely my decision to go into ‘Boylan’s Bar. Yes it was a bit of self promotion on my part trying to make a good and lasting impression on the bride-to-be’s confidants-in-chief.

What wasn’t banked on, though, was the ‘Card Table’ being called into active service now that the old haunt is (extremely belatedly) doing food. Now, for the sake of clarity, when I say card table, in reality what it constitutes is a long, heavy-duty table top – made out of pine – which sits detached over two of the ‘normal’ lounge table.

However, it was for another reason entirely the considerably sized piece of pine was originally procured. Namely to easier facilitate the Wednesday night card game which were a permanent fixture in the part of the pub known to most of us as either the Post Office or The Museum. Commencing on the midweek day after the All Ireland SFC final and continuing right through til the Wednesday before Easter.

Sean Nealon Snr : Jan. 8th 1946 – Oct. 11th 2018

The only caveoat pertaining to the weekly card game seemed to be that – with a few exceptions who were granted ‘passports’ – participants seemed to be required to be from Leitrim. Led, of course, by the bossman himself while the other participants came near and far to check in at their county’s weekly reunion. People such as Jim Gallagher, Aidan Prior, Paddy Prior, Sean ‘Breffni’ Flynn, Tom Gilooley and Paddy Earley (RIP) with a couple of locals -Maura Boyd and Joe Murray – kept the flag flying. A couple of Mayo men did try to get through the barricades but their applications were rebuffed.

As much as I was tempted to make overtures towards those on high regarding giving it a go, very quickly it became apparent that it was a seriously competitive environment. So, given that I hadn’t picked up a pack of cards since we used to play Snap at home when I was about 10, it was concluded the prudent thing to do would be to give it a wide berth and just observe. Which was done, every week, without fail. I never did understand what they used the matchsticks for, but the memories will last and be cherished forever.

You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em…

The first time Susie came to Dunboyne for a ‘date’ was September 10th, 2018. We’d been communicating for over four months but hadn’t been able to meet in person properly until then. Many times previously I have made mention of how the concept of having the four walls of a house around me has been absolutely critical to maintaining sustainability when playing against the wind.

Over the years, the make up of the four walls has changed almost completely due to too many of those held nearest and dearest being called to the bar counter above. Though I firmly believe they are still watching over me from afar.

How else to explain that the day Susie and I had our first date was the day on which Sean went into hospital for the last time? Or if that doesn’t convince you, how about this – that she taught me a card game and got me hooked on it on what would have been his 75th birthday.

I will forever been grateful to Susie’s mam Dympna and dad Alex for being so understanding and facilitating her being able to care for me in these strangest and most dangerous of times. Most especially at the moment with the senior bossman currently in sickbay.

The nightly card game is an enshrined ritual in the Kiernan household, so I suppose to go nearly three years without catching the ‘bug’ was good going. Though it shouldn’t be put as such as it’s absolutely no chore. If anything, it’s poignantly fitting. Especially at this time when any means possible of negotiating an avenue through the days will be jumped at.

Now, as was stated earlier, it must have been three decades or damn near it since yours truly was anywhere near a deck of cards. And even at that it was only Snap or 25s – hardly highbrow stuff. It is known, mind you, Cards Leagues and games going from house to house are old, important and treasured traditions in some parts of the country.

To that end, I’d be as far away from there as Leitrim are from lifting the Sam Maguire. The in-laws specialise in a game called 7-Hand-Rummie which as of now is Double Dutch to me. A niche has been found, however, in another department of the card-playing world – Strip Jack.

Relax folks, it has nothing to do with one’s garments. Rather, the deck of cards are split between each player in the game and, basically, whoever has all the cards at the end of game is the winner.

Wouldn’t you know, the beginner’s luck that snares every gambler saw this novice make a winning debut. There’s a certain unforgettable laugh in overdrive up above.

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