The late Paddy O Furniture
The late Frank Muir, a broadcaster and humorist who didn’t rely on profanity or queasy unease for laughs, voiced a truth. The three happiest days of his life were… “the day I got married, the day I bought my boat and the day I got rid of my boat.” An old friend of mine always celebrated the onset of autumn and the dark nights after Samhain, by enrolling in an evening class. The first time he did so, his father rejoiced. The lad had been a slow starter. The father renewed his hope that this son of his loins would take over the family accountancy business. He did not. At the end of the first year, as the brighter evenings began to creep in and birds began to build in the hedgerows, he proudly produced the fruits of his evening classes–a coffee table. He learned to tie fishing flies, basic motor car maintenance, conversational Spanish, the rudiments of archery and boat building but he never became an accountant. One day he announced that he had made a big decision–no more *!!!**&%$+^**ing evening classes. No more self-improvement. Free at last! Great God in Heaven, free at last! Catharsis. He’s still a very interesting and well-adjusted fellow…no need for improvement.
We went yesterday to the re-cycling centre. We lead a whirlwind social life. All of human life is there. Long ago I towed a trailer loaded with all the things we had once coveted, treasured and admired for years. I got into terrible trouble trying to reverse the damn thing. I have huge admiration for articulated-lorry drivers and of course, articulate lorry drivers. Fascinating chaps, the first genuine Europeans, men of the world. I took another run at it, hoping to come up alongside. The supervisor stopped me. “You’d better wait here a minute. That other oul fella is gettin’ into terrible trouble with his trailer.” Other oul fella? Other oul fella?? Had we reached a point where oul fellas are discarded, reviled, despised, because they jack-knife trailers in re-cycling centres? Does the pit yawn for oul fellas. I’m still useful you know.. Not ready for the dump…Bit o’ spirit left in me yet. I waited my turn, reversed smoothly into place with a graceful flourish and dismounted to unload with a swagger. (That last sentence is largely untrue.)
People throw away exactly what other people want but are not limber enough to retrieve from the pit or the skip. There is an element of shame involved in coveting thy neighbour’s cast-offs. That garden table, discarded yesterday, could have been painted. It could have lasted another winter or two. I even have the paint in my shed, where incidentally, I have other stuff that may come in handy. Or I might dump it. It’s been there for years, untouched by human hand. Anyway, the solar display in the centre of the table, died on its first outing. The ads always depict languid and glamorous couples having a glass of wine in the gloaming (I have never used that word before) or in the dusk, (an even more atmospheric word) sitting on their elegant garden chairs, perhaps enjoying the solar light display that adds a touch of the exotic to the evening. Somewhere far away, a mandolin player is giving it his best. No he isn’t. The solar display from Homecare and More doesn’t work. I can see rust under the glass where it can’ be reached. The sellotape didn’t repel the rain. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Get rid of it. Ronald Reagan joked about the Irishman, Paddy O’ Furniture, patiently standing outside the back door, all winter.. There comes a day when even Paddy has to face the inevitable.
There was a time when we could count thirteen bikes in our house. If you went into the shed in the gloaming, you would bark your shin against a bike or two. It would have been wonderful to have donated them to the building of Spitfires to defeat Naziism, but that day had passed. “Anyway, they’re good bikes. You can’t throw away good things. Those bikes cost money.” One of those bikes was a Carl Lewis exercise bike. You need to be on serious drugs to carry a Carl Lewis bike upstairs. I set it up in front of a television. I attached the heart/blood-pressure monitor. I had still a discernible pulse. I switched on the television. I began to pedal. I clocked up a few kilometres. They’re easier than miles. The television was boring. I free-wheeled for a minute. Usually in cycling, free-wheeling is a joy. You glide down a hill with the wind in your hair.(Hairs, if you’re an oul fella). You experience effortless speed. The tarmac sizzles under you tyres. Fausto Coppi re-born. Carl may have been a considerable athlete, with a weight of gold medals around his neck, but his bike was rubbish. Nothing happens when you free-wheel on a Carl Lewis exercise bike. I got rid of it. I felt better.
Yesterday I saw elegant light-fittings, chandeliers, toys, golf clubs, furniture including coffee tables for barking your shins, paint cans full of hard paint, any number of spavined bikes, cookers and microwaves, dead television sets, fridges standing solemnly like Easter Island statues, batteries that had given up the ghost, good timber planks that could come in handy. There were good things in there too, things that could have a few more years in them, with a lick of paint. Down below, in the bottom of the bottomless pit, I saw a weights bench, a treadmill, some strange static trainer for a bike, the very antithesis of cycling, and a Carl Lewis exercise bike. This prompted several questions. Had the owner of all this equipment reached such a pitch of physical excellence that he could cast all this stuff away as mere dross? Did his biceps ripple as he raised his weights bench aloft to hurl it into the void, or did he creep ignominiously, like some oul fella, and have to get help to lift his dreams over the parapet and let go of them forever? He will never stroll along the beach with a girl on his arm, kicking sand into the faces of bullies, as the chap in the Charles Atlas advertisement did many years ago. That bull-worker didn’t work either. I tried it once. Absolute rubbish.
The man at the entrance has decorated his office with some beautiful dinky toys and model trains. He was most affable. We paid him four Euro for a car-full of freedom. I would have fancied some of his toys but they’re not for sale. We came home with lighter hearts. Frank, by the way, was married to his wife for almost fifty years. Just goes to show….something.