Thursday, 20 July 2017

A Beautiful Affair: My Mate Al Gug

My earliest memory of Allen Gogarty is when we are both 12 years of age.  We share questionable short haircuts, very possibly administered by our well-meaning mothers.  Our ‘dos are accentuated by green uniform jumpers and yellow shirts (I kid you not – yellow), that are most unbecoming to Irish teenage skin.  We are standing alone in P3, a prefab where we have English class and the sun is shining  - The salubrious surroundings where Ms Greaney inspires me with her enthusiasm for literature.

Allen and I have some sort of disagreement.  For the life of me, I can’t think about what.  We exchange insults and he calls me ‘Russell’.  It is indeed, hate at first sight.  I want to box him in the head.

After that though, I only remember Allen as one of my best friends.  In the whole world.  Ever.  He gets promoted to the Band of the Chosen Few who are allowed call me 'Lucy'.  Throughout our years in secondary school, he has the unenviable task of being my male ‘go-to’ friend.  He hears my woes and I, his.  Acne, homework, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, art and music.  Teenage angst overload.

Aged 15, we go to see AC/DC in The Point Depot.  We travel to Dublin by bus and are met by Allen’s Sophisticated Older Sister near UCD.   She knows that I am a newbie vegetarian and brings us to a veggie restaurant.   It’s 1989 and vegetarian food in North Co Meath consists of meat with two veg, but without the meat.  In the restaurant, I order a vegetarian strudel, as if I know what I talking about.  There’s puff pastry, cheese, pine nuts and spinach, as exotic as I ever had.  But I don’t reveal the limits of my diet to date, nor do I disclose that I haven’t been on the South Side of the city before, for fear that I’ll show myself up as the culchie I am.  We meet Sophisicated Older Sister’s friend and he enquires, ‘so, you are Allen’s girlfriend then?’  I retort indignantly, ‘No, I’m just his friend who happens to be a girl’.  He smiles and nods amusedly.

Myself and Allen make out way to the front of the hairy, sweaty crowd in The Point and I get squished when the crowd surges forward.  I half-faint and scream out to Allen as a burly security guard scoops me up over a sea of heads and deposits me to the side of the stage, barely batting an eye lid.  Neither of us admitting the fright that we get and retreat to the middle of the arena.  We later lament that we don’t get one of the fake bank notes that drop from the ceiling as the band belt out ‘Money Talk’ as a memento of one of the best nights of our young lives.

Allen loves secondary school so much that he decides to stay on for an extra year.  He is worried that he will have no one to take to the Debs.   I tell him that I will accompany him if he’s stuck.  He’s stuck.  I borrow a dress and off we go.  Our religion teacher tells me that she always thought we would make a lovely couple.  I disappoint her telling her that we aren’t a couple, never were, never will be.  But for the first and only time since I have known him, I get a notion that Allen might actually fancy me  - He’s says, ‘Hey Lucy, are you coming outside?’, which, back-in-the-day means, ‘will you give me a  shift?’ 




I’m stuck for words.  ‘I’ve never thought of you like that before Allen’.  He throws his mop of hair back, laughing.  ‘Jaysus Lucy, I only want a smoke.  I don’t want to kiss ya.  Ya dope’.  We both laugh now and for once, I don’t lecture him about smoking.

We both move to Dublin and man oeuvre in and out of each other’s lives, with mutual friends, who often gathering for Allen’s gigs in Dublin and at home in Meath.  He tells me about the Hot Spanish Flat Mate that has moved in.  He’s wondering whether he should declare his interest to her.  At some point, he does and they are an item.  The Hot Spanish Flat Mate never had a problem with my friendship with Allen and I know she’s the one for him.  She still is.

They move to the States.  There’s marriages and babies for him and me.  I’m proud that he makes a career out of playing his music in New York.  Yet, he takes the time to come home to play music at my wedding.  He chooses ‘Black is the Colour’, as the First Dance song and I am amused now that when I hear that song, I think of Allen, rather than my groom on the day.

The years go by and the meetings are less frequent – the pressure of trying of trying to fit it all in on precious visits home.  Pints have been replaced with cups of tea in our parents’ houses. 

I get a message from Allen last week to arrange a meeting on a flying visit home.  We forget about the Dublin V Kildare football match in Croke Park when we arrange to meet last Sunday in an old haunt, The Palace Bar in Dublin City Centre, in advance of his gig in the Bad Ass Cafe.  My heart sinks as I arrive and the pub is over spilling with fellas in Dublin jerseys. 

He jumps out of a taxi, a wild head on him, with his guitar and music stand, but doesn’t see me amid the sea of blue.  I stand in the middle of the cobbled street and wait until he spots me.  The frown is replaced by the familiar dimpled smile appears and I get a bear hug that I’ve waited three long years for.  He sounds hoarse and tells me not to nag him about smoking the night before.  We retreat to a quieter hotel for a chat.

Later, he sings ‘Beautiful Affair’, by Stockton’s Wing in The Bad Ass Cafe and I want all of Temple Bar to ‘ssshhhh’ and just listen to him.  We will never have enough time to catch up, but it feels so good to see my friend. 

I love ya babe (But only in the platonic sense of course);_ylt=AwrBT4Nqy3BZ9WkAqgtXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0N2Noc21lBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNwaXZz?p=allen+gogarty+beautiful+affair&fr2=piv-web&fr=mcafee#id=1&vid=6008787f3f4d68f1f1edb069fa278c1f&action=view

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