Life, Living, Becoming...
Gerry Coughlan

 Hooley *

When the pubs closed on a Saturday night, a large crowd would arrive home with my mom. It happened every once in a while before my dad died but at least once a month after he'd gone to Heaven.

We'd be in bed half-asleep waiting for the reassuring sound of my mom arriving home. The cars would be first; then the voices that mostly had no idea they were shouting.
Mary, have ye the Bacardi?
Who's got me smokes?
Gis a hand with the booze, will ya? SSHH! Stop shouting. I'm right here to help ye aren't I?
Watch the flowers! You'll kill them with that, you will!

Once indoors it was like a military operation. The women descended on the kitchen to make sandwiches of every type and description to feed the multitude. There wouldn't be a scrap left once everyone had had their fill. None of your 12 basket stuff here.

The men sorted out the drink and the glasses, made sure there were plenty of ashtrays and if it was winter during Crete holidays, made sure the fire in the hearth was blazing by the time the sandwiches arrived.

Round about this time, we'd have made our way to the top of the stairs or opened our bedroom doors wide, at the very least. Strangers and relatives would be staggering up the stairs to find the toilet and you always wanted an auntie to see you first. If your ma hadn't had one too many, you might find yourself getting sent back to bed. Otherwise it was down the stairs, one step at a time, on your bum. You just had to sit there all casual like it was perfectly natural for you to spend your evening on the stairs, telling people what you wanted to be when you grew up and that you were perfectly fine, thanks very much or pointing out the toilet to them.

Some kind soul would eventually take us into the front room. You had to arrive looking a bit confused like this guy had woken you up and just brought you in. We'd sit quietly and listen while numerous relatives who, in another lifetime, could've made a career of singing, sang "Four Green Fields", "Kevin Barry" or Frank Sinatra or Johnny Mathis's latest hit.

Eventually, it would be my turn and I'd get to sing "A Nation Once Again" or something I learned in the Scouts, like "The Sash Me Father Wore" which finished off with a yell:
Up the long ladder and down the short rope,
To hell with King Billy and up with the Pope,
If that doesn't do, we'll slice him in two
and send him to heaven in red, white and blue.

Those were the days! The Troubles were new and everything was black & white.
My sister was a big Donny Osmond fan and would usually sing "Too Young". My mam's party piece was "Bridge over Troubled Water" and someone else would sing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" and everyone would join in.
Our pleas of "we're not tired" would eventually fall on deaf ears and we'd head off to bed.

The next morning all the windows would be open for a few hours to get rid of the tobacco and booze smells but it was a small price to pay for a great night socialising!

* Hooley = raucous party with singing and dancing

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© gerry coughlan 1998 - 2012 gerry coughlan