Friday 31 July 2009
This colyoom ends here, but ‘This Colyoom...’ will be in the shops soon!
“Jeeze, you're taking it very well, Charlie!”
“Well, I'd be a fool if I was surprised, eh Mike?
We both went silent, nodding knowingly. It's every everywhere out there. Ireland's workforce is shrinking at speed visibly before all our eyes.
And anyway, I wasn't even an employee. He wasn't letting me go, as the disingenuous say these days. Mike was merely telling me that the accountants had done their sums, and the entire Life section of this Noble Rag that you are now holding in your hands has to go.
I'd be a fool to take it personally, and I'm not one, so I don't.
Given the choice, editors would keep this colyoom and Dick Byrne's 'Under My Hat', but it wasn't up to them.
Freelance has disappeared across the board. When I lived in north Mayo a few years ago, I was making a healthy living by writing this colyoom, selling features and a column to the Irish Examiner and flogging the odd feature here and there to the Irish Post.
Lovely jubbly it was, but now the word is 'insourcing', which in the phrase book of Freelance Language means 'you please to go now and please to try to not walk under buses thank bye byes to you.'
Mike was looking so sad.
“Look mate,” I said, “you know I only ever saw it as a weekly gig. To you it might have felt permanent, but to me it was only as good as the last week, and let's face it, some weeks were better than others!”
One of the greatest gifts that my beloved adopted home gave me was the word 'Scribbler'.
The auld fella in my first real Irish pub asked me what I did for a living, forcing out of me the word 'writer'.
I love the word, but hate how most nationalities react to it, and then he spluttered
“Ah sure, isn't everyone a scribbler here so? Doesn't every gobshite have their feckin' novel stashed under the bed?”
So it was back in October 1992 that an unknown uninvited English scribbler first walked into this newsroom, where Mike and I are now trying to make each other feel better.
I'd thrust three double-spaced typed sheets into his hand and asked if he could use a weekly column.
Only a few short weeks after I'd arrived in Galway, I had a column in the newspaper. I knew nothing about the place where I was living, yet was meant to deliver witty insight weekly.
And jeepers creepers, what an Ireland that was in '92! I'd been around the world a couple of times, so forgive me for thinking the country next door might be modern.
It was as if l were stuck in an episode of an Irish version of Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes.
Through a prism life appeared almost like over there in England, but then I discovered that the abortion referendum wasn't a vote of Yes or No, but about whether it was legal to display a telephone helpline for women, or whether they should be legally bound to stay in the country.
What? And What!!!???!!!
Oh, and there was no divorce.
For the first six months my jaw was jammed open with shock.
This was the Ireland of the Beef Tribunal, that young Pat Kenny and buses down Quay Street.
But there was craic aplenty and Connemara, so I had enough to scribble about, but in those days took the sensible precaution of writing under the nom de plume of Andy Prince.
So-called Catholics were keen on sending me used condoms and vile photographs in the mail. Best to remain anonymous while my staggering ignorance of all things Irish was matched only by my enthusiastic arrogance.
Writing this colyoom has been the best freelance gig ever, and to me the best job in the world. Apart from 4 years America from 1995, I'm professionally proud to say I have delivered copy on time every single week since 1992, and having to think, notice, imagine and grump my way into a thousand readable words is a great exercise for the mind.
Well, it's been good for mine, even if it's destroyed yours on a regular basis.
For a scribbler, there can be no better thing in the Universe than to know that those 1,000 words will pay your rent, and in latter days, bills as well. This colyoom has defined the way I see myself a writer. Waffle well and you get a roof.
Life does not get better.
Ever since this colyoom's incarnation in this Life section, with a photo above and the excellent illustrations of my colleague Allan Cavanagh, there have been countless encounters with folk walking by who look at me and wonder 'Now, who the feck is that yoke? Know da face know da face alright, but no idea!'
Be still. I will soon be gone from your memory, and to some of you that will come a blessed relief, while others might wonder where their weekly dose of blather and insanity has gone.
Well, I'll still be out there, and soon a compilation book will be on the shelves, so keep an eye out.
Most important and finally, I need to come over all Grindead Paltrow and Kate Windswept, and say a few million tearful 'Thank Yous'. Trouble is, I haven't won an Oscar.
I've just got the bleedin' boot, but ennyhoodyhoo, I want to thank Mike, Brendan, Dave, Mags, Kathleen and all the other newsroom and downstairs crew who have helped me over the years.
When I returned to Galway after 4 years in America, I popped into the newsroom to say hello.
”Hello!" Mike said, "Are you broke?”
'Do you want your column back?”
Kindness like that I do not forget.
I want to thank Allan whose brilliant drawings have destroyed any sliverish vestige of pride I ever had in my appearance. I want to thank the Snapper, for her patience and many appearances. Also, thanks to the Body, the Guru, Dalooney, Yoda, Angel, Soldier Boy, the Diplomat, Artist in Blue Towel, Grumpy Chef, the Artist formerly known as Snarly, the Waistcoat and the Goat.
Thanks also to the Whispering Giant and Blitz, who didn't make it into the above list in the print edition. What can I say lads, it's either a case of you're out of Connacht, out of mind, or just Charlie out of his mind.
Luvieeess dwarrleeengs, sniff sniff.
Mostly, of course, thanks to you, my loyal colyoomistas, as well as the occasional dippers and online readers. See you around, and thanks for reading this colyoom.