15 December 2005

Squinter - a sideways look at the week


**There are two entries here from Squinter. Both are great! Be sure not to miss the rendition of Dub speak.

Merry fafskg Christmas!

So there’s Squinter in Newry on Saturday afternoon – Christmas shopping, if you must know. Or to be more accurate, mooching about with the big guy while the women Christmas-shopped.

Total insanity, of course. Dodgems in the car park of the Quays Centre, shoulder-to-shoulder in the mall, stress levels rising faster than the traders’ bank accounts, morale dropping faster than the temperature outside.

Relief came briefly in the early afternoon when Squinter managed – by dint of a cock and bull story about the car being wrongly parked – to cross the bridge into the town centre to spend a half-hour in the bookies. Sadly, at racecourses all across these islands they were out with lamps later that evening looking for the horses that Squinter bet, and so he trudged disconsolately back across the canal in the gathering gloom for another few laps of the shopping centre and another dose of Jingle Bell Rock.

It’s not just denizens of Newry, of course, who keep two large shopping centres bunged to the gills at Christmas. There are those from the big smoke, like Squinter, who despise Belfast city centre so comprehensively that they’ll travel to provincial towns to get away from it. There are those from hamlets and townlands the length of counties Down and Armagh who venture in from the sticks for a day out gawping at new-fangled innovations like TVs and Super-Sers. And then there are the Dubs.

Of course, there are Free Staters from Louth and Monaghan, but overwhelmingly the economic migrants to be seen in Newry at this time of year are Dubs. That much is clear not only from their braying accents, audible at fifty paces, but from the fact that a good third of them are happy to assist visual identification by wearing Dublin GAA jerseys. The irony of the fact that they’re a walking advertisement for Arnott’s but have shunned their team’s sponsor in favour of a fifty-mile drive to Newry is apparently lost on them.

In small family groups of four or five they negotiate the corridors and corners, clinging to trollies on which vast mounds of brightly bagged and wrapped goods teeter precariously. They should start giving out ‘Dangerous Load’ signs down there. And in separate trollies they have their drink – case after case of Budweiser, shrink-wrapped trays of WKD, spirit bottles in plastic bags clinking like sleigh bells.

And more power to them, Squinter says. The only way the Rip-Off Republic is going to end the overpricing madness is when citizens start voting with their feet – or in this case with their people carriers.

Just one thing, though. Squinter has written to the NIO asking that they put up a sign at the border that reads ‘Welcome to the North, Please Mind Your Language’. Because – and there’s no way to be subtle or polite about this – Dubs have got some dirty mouths on them. And just in case you think that’s Squinter being judgmental (perish the thought!) it should be pointed out that Squinter can swear along with the best of them. But not when he’s out shopping; not when he’s with the family. You go to any of our local shopping centres and you might hear the odd bit of cursing from young males, but if you heard it from a parent with their children you’d be surprised and disgusted; it might happen, but you’d still be surprised and disgusted. But effing and blinding in front of the children is clearly not the taboo in the capital that it is here – rather, it seems to be obligatory. Because by the time he put the key in the ignition for the 40-minute drive home, Squinter had heard enough “fookin’ jaysus” to last him a lifetime.

• Five-year-old inadvertently wanders in front of the trolley: “Fookin’ jaysus Koiley, will ya watch what yer fookin’ doin’?”

• Wife veers right without using indicators to enter shop: “Chroist Michelle, ha manny fookin’ shops are ya gonna visi’?”

• Husband dawdles and briefly lags behind: “Shane, wouldja get a move on fer fook’s sake ye lazy bastard. You get lost and I’ll fookin’ kill ya.”
Not that the swearing is reserved for occasions of increased stress, far from it.

• “Oh, Theresa – dem boots are fookin’ bewdeeful on ya.”

• “I love dat song. Whaddya call the c**t sings it, Tony?”

• “Is dere a poxy Boorger King abou’ here or wha’? I’m fookin’ starvin’.”

Yes, it’s true, various events have conspired in recent months and years to cool Squinter on this united Ireland thing. But this is not part of a campaign to denigrate the Heineken-drenched, money-mad, forelock-tugging, pinstriped-fleecing, fly-tipping, farmer-jailing, gurrier-promoting gangland shooting gallery that is the Irish Free State. Not a bit of it. It is simply to report what goes on in Newry on a Christmas shopping Saturday.

Squinter can’t say he knows Dublin that well. Matches at Croke Park, spells in the airport or Connolly Station on the way to somewhere else – that’s the sum total of Squinter’s knowledge of the place. Perhaps somebody who lived or worked there for a while can tell Squinter whether this is typical. A big fookin’ £20 note to anyone who can shed a bit of light on the subject.


This is what happened. Squinter doesn’t intend to embellish or adorn this story in any way, shape or form. He relates it only in order to illustrate the way silly decisions can see a perfectly ordinary night spiral out of control.
Squinter wasn’t having much joy in locating a frame for an awkward size picture. Somebody suggested that Budget DIY have a decent selection, and so at teatime on Saturday night there was Squinter rooting around in the picture frame aisle, comparing the measurements in a scrap of paper in his hand with the dimensions printed on the front of the frames. And, joy of joys, he found one that fitted the bill to a tee. £25 later, Squinter was making his way back to the car with the prize under his arm, confident of delivering the framed picture to its destination and getting home in time for the Spanish football on Sky.

Working in the weak yellow triangle of the car’s courtesy light, Squinter used the car keys to prise back the retainers holding the backing in place, but even with the metal fasteners bent back, the thin wooden plate was proving difficult to budge. So Squinter inserted his right index finger, pushing and wiggling until finally he had a bit of a grip. And after a bit more pushing and wiggling the finger had a good grip of the backing and it could only be a matter of time before the backing was off. A bit of

Unfortunately, the picture being turned back to front, Squinter forgot that on the other side of the wooden backing was a pane of glass. And while he believed that it was a piece of wood that he was gently but firmly manipulating with his finger, it was in fact the edge of that pane of glass.
The first indication that Squinter got that something was wrong was when he heard a light but distinct drip, and when he pulled the picture frame back the gearstick of the car was covered in blood. Even at that stage, Squinter didn’t twig, leaving his finger inside the picture frame and looking around, confused and mildly panicked, for the source of the blood. It was only when he decided to put the picture down to investigate further and couldn’t get the gaping flap at the top of his finger out that the penny began to drop. By this time Squinter had a partial view of the other side of the picture frame, and it was like that scene from Pulp Fiction when John Travolta accidentally shoots a guy in the back of a car.

Carefully, using the fingers of his left hand, Squinter managed to free the maimed digit, and when he held it aloft, the blood flowed freely past his wrist and disappeared down the sleeve of his jacket. To be honest, and at the risk of sounding wimpish, Squinter felt a little giddy at this point. Looking frantically around, Squinter couldn’t find anything to staunch the flow, except a pile of receipts in the glove compartment. Grabbing a handful and pressing them firmly around the finger, Squinter awkwardly exited the car and made his way to the nearby Kennedy Centre and Boots the Chemist. Cradling his fingertip in the palm of his hand, Squinter watched the receipts quickly become sodden and red, and his discomfort deepened as he saw the security shutter at Boots descend with a low hum. There was nothing else for it but the toiletry department at Curley’s, but with the petrol receipts not up to the job and his hand now a vivid red mess, Squinter wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it without passing out. There was nothing else for Squinter but to resort to his clothing. The nylon jacket was out of the question, but the polo shirt was an obvious choice. Squinter pulled his shirt tail from the waistband of his trousers, wrapped the cotton round the finger, made a fist and hurried towards the supermarket. Gripping a box of Elastoplast in the ten-items-or-less queue, Squinter watched and weakened as three old-timers with 50 items between them tried to remember what section of their purse they’d put their money in, and once they found it, helpfully offered the exact change as well.

Ten minutes later, as Squinter handed over the plasters to the till girl, his fist wrapped in his bloody shirt tail, it was clear she thought that he was an armed robber who’d been shot in the abdomen, so Squinter paid quickly (not easy with one hand) and fled up the escalator to the toilets on the first floor.
It was a messy clean-up job. Squinter tried to flush away all the bloody tissue, but the cistern wouldn’t fill up quickly enough, so he had to leave it for a while while he went to the sink to examine the wound for the first time, perhaps the most daunting part of the ordeal. It wasn’t pretty. Tracing a crescent across the top of the fingertip was a deep gash which gaped open at every touch and poured more claret down the plughole. And while the wound had been throbbing a bit, the pain was nothing compared to the agony brought about by the running of cold water on the finger.

So there’s Squinter crouched over a bloody sink, dripping into the plughole when in walks a bloke with his six- or seven-year-old daughter by the hand. The man obviously thought a murder was being cleaned up. But if he thought he would find refuge in the toilet cubicle that Squinter had just vacated, he was badly mistaken. Spooked beyond endurance by the bloody tissue in the pan, he exited at speed, daughter in tow. If you’re reading this, fella, sorry about that.

A few minutes later things were looking up considerably. Two plasters around the fingertip were slowly turning pink, it’s true, but the geyser had been corked and Squinter was able to make his way back to the car (leaving the toilets the way he found them, needless to say). And as he drove home, dried blood all over the coat, shirt, trousers, gearstick and floormats, Squinter ruefully chalked it up as one more scar to talk about when the conversation flags in the pub. And as he opened the door and put a foot on the stairs to go upstairs to wash and change, a cheery voice came from the kitchen, “Any luck, love?”

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