Sunday, 25 August 2019


As my friend told me about his latest motorcycling escapades, my brain drifted off, deep into the past.

“You know who you’d’ve liked, mate? Freebase Kevin!”

Pushing his chin and bottom lip up towards his nose, he frowned and tilted his head to the left.

“Nah, don’t think I’ve ever met him. Was he from Galway, Cha?”

“Well, Freebase did make a few appearances in Galway, but he was first invented when I lived in Cambridge, back in 1981. I’ll fish out some old copies mate. I’m pretty sure you’d like them, if I can find ‘em!”

The people of Cambridge were divided into two spheres: town and gown. Working as a sales rep, I was defined a townie, but my social life was completely student gownie.

Many of my lifetime friends from London were students at various colleges, and as one who worked for a living, I was seduced by their ethereal dream of a lifestyle.

I loitered in their subsidised bars, stuffed my face with luxurious foods at picnics on Midsummer Common, and enjoyed drunken dawn punt rides up the Cam to Grantchester.

Many of the students were intensely irritating and supremely ignorant of what others called the real world.

Their fingernails had experienced neither dirt, nor oil nor grease, and I felt the urge to slag them off, so I started writing a column about a townie, called Freebase Kevin - the drug-crazed biker, letting him ride roughshod over their prissy privileged student existences.

Much to my delight, Freebase’s column started to appear in the Cambridge University Broadsheet.

Apparently at that time I was the first non-student ever to have a regular slot in the student zine. Evidently, to their credit, they enjoyed a good slagging off.

Back home from Galway, I pulled piles of old folders out of the cupboard.

They say a writer should never throw any work away, but I’ve been scribbling my whole life, so ancient stuff gets whittled down, with a little ending up in an ancient brown folder called Old Misc Doings.

At this stage I was well aware I’d strayed from my task of finding Freebase Kevin for my mate. I’d fallen down the rabbit hole of self-indulgence.

You know how it is when you’re looking through an old family photo album, and see pictures of yourself as a young thing. You know it’s you, but find it hard to remember just what that person was like.

Well Old Misc Doings is like that for me, in paper form. 

Crammed with yellow aged paper, from a time when computers only appeared in Bond movies, the pages were either written on typewriters, or drunkenly by hand.

The most mystifying aspect of my time travelling exercise came wondering why I’d kept this drecky love poem, or that semi-illegible scrawl about the scent of London hedges.

There were plays in there, written in the mid 1980s for a girlfriend who was a drama student.

One of them called Tiresias Perceives was a particularly pretentious little number, involving four characters, two of whom were Lil and Albert from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, who spoke only in lines from the poem.

More of my execrable love odes were followed by another play, and then ah, there they were. Episodes 3 and 4 of Freebase Kevin’s adventures in Galway, from 1994.

No sign of 1 and 2, but really, who cares.

Freebase Kevin had stowed away with his bike on a boat that he thought was heading to the Isle of Man TT races, but accidentally ended up in Ireland.

Alongside Double Vision in this noble rag, I was then writing three columns in a Galway paper that I think was called The Bugle, edited by Tuam’s inestimable wordsmith and songwriter, Seamus Ruttledge.

I wrote Pink O’Bum - The Petulant Politico and Swami ben Carpenter - The Muse With the Views, but it was Freebase who lit up the faces of young Galwegians.

Forever up in court, he addressed Galway’s late Judge as “Caravan, your mobilehomeship”, and struggled with the swarms of New Agers offering crystal remedies and rebirthing on Galway’s 90s streets.

But ah, now, here, what was this? 

A torn third of an old yellowed page, with three handwritten notes:

Landlord is undertaker. (have another?)

Courtroom leaks, so it resumes in pub.

“Poitín a bit rough around here!” says the Guard.

As soon as I read those notes, three little windows opened to a time (around 1992) and a place I used to frequent.

Long before Brendan Gleeson’s irreverent lawman hit the screens, I’d met a shamelessly honest uniformed cop at this bar, who told me he had to drink here as the local moonshine wasn’t worth thinkin’ about.

Laughter down the bar grew as the landlord exhorted a decrepit not far from death:

“Go on and have another bloody voddie! Them feckin’ coffins don’t pay for themselves, d’ya know, and I have a shtack of ‘em in there.”

Over in the far corner, a well-dressed group talked earnestly in whispers.

“Tourists?” I asked the Guard.

“No, that’s a wee trial going on there. The rain’s coming down fierce inside the courtroom, y’see, so they’re finishing it off in here.”

I remember well where that was, but do you?

A rare and special DV award will be awarded to the first colyoomista out there who tells me the name of the bar and the village.

©Charlie Adley

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