That’s what I was told at the pub on Budget Day. The man in the story ordered his usual. It was a large bottle of stout off the shelf. It was warm like animals on a hot day (livestock is the first milk a cow or goat produces after birth).
The old fellows, mostly from the East, preferred the sparkling, unchilled beer. When I was a boy, some of the old hands stuck the hot poker in the pint porter to warm it up. It was called mulled wine porter.
Another day, desperate because it was too cold to go outside, my mother gave something to one of the old boys who were peeing in the fire. He was weak enough, poor man.
But the mother set standards, and she wouldn’t budge when the rules were broken. Where was I? Ah yes – the boys who drink the pint bottles in the Far East.
The drink price had just gone up five old pence – a huge jump in the 1950s.
The man who loved beer bottles poured his drink into a tall glass. The warm stout foamed like a casserole, but that’s how he liked it. The men wore foam mustaches until the blisters were blown away by licking the lips in case a drop was missed.
The old boy took a deep sip and only then let go. He was visibly upset when he found out about the increase in the price of the pint bottle in Budget.
He banged the bottle on the counter like he had the winning card in a game of 41 or 25, depending on what part of the country you’re playing. The difference is that the five, which is the best trump, is only worth five in the 25 school, while here in Kerry the 5 is worth 11. I’m sure all of this is perfectly clear to those of you who have never been involved in a 25 or 41 action.
John Leahy, the limerick hurling fan who lives just a few doors down from you, was a double star – he could play 25 and 41.
He misses the days of playing turkeys before Christmas.
The pub was divided into several tables of eight. The eight were divided into four seats by partners playing as a team of two, like doubles in tennis.
There were semifinals and quarterfinals. Dad and I were a team. I was pretty smart then. I was ten but I was going to be 21. I often think that I had more sense then than I do now. I was calmer too.
I have to apologize to the poor man who said, “I know you, but you don’t know me.” I was up to 90, guarding the door, trying to make sure none of the few latticos came in and caused a disturbance.
The door is pure torture. The pub will be quiet enough for a while and there you are at Listowel Race Week turning people away because there isn’t room at the inn.
I hate being asked “Who am I?” by someone I know but can’t name. Quite a few people have told me that the three years of Covid have disrupted the flow of encounters and the natural causal refreshment of the name has been lost.
You should just say, “I’m Joe Bloggs, and didn’t we have a great night when Eric Mac won the Kerry National for the third time?” There’s no embarrassment.
I lost it with the man who just said, “I know you, but you don’t know me”. It’s been bothering me ever since.
Dad and I always made sure we were knocked out early. He played an out of turn card or failed to steal the ace or hit a trump and we were summarily kicked out of the game. We couldn’t be seen to win our own turkey.
I once heard someone ask, “How did this man write all these plays when he plays the wrong card every year?”
The bird, as the turkey was called, was a huge win. Today you can buy turkeys all year round for a fraction of the cost.
The old 41 turkeys were free range and the size of a small ostrich. One bird boasted, “She was so big and ferocious that she had to be caught in a net like a tiger.”
My favorite was by Mick Carey, who said in another pub: “Our bird had to be stunned with a tranquilizer dart of the kind used when a lion has a sore tooth that needs repairing.”
The finale was tense and there was not a word. The whole bar was crowded and sometimes there was controversy. The cause of the quarrel could be a wink or a knock under the table. These were illegal signs for your partner. It was like drawing an ace from the bottom in poker rooms where all guns had to stay outside the door. That was a sudden death.
The winner took everything. Dad often bought a second bird to keep the peace and customers. The game was discussed for weeks. Wounds were open, but in the end neighbors and friends were reconciled.
Now the prizes are monetary and the games are held in the GAA club rooms. The turkey has been devalued even more than the pound sterling – butchers are making burgers out of the once prized bird.
The GAA money is badly needed to keep the clubs going, but I miss our turkey shoots.
The man from the East who was about to complain about the price of the beer bottle before I cut him off in press has made his contribution to the budget debate.
“How could you raise a family on the price of drinks?”
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/playing-cards-for-a-turkey-so-big-and-fierce-it-had-to-be-trapped-with-a-net-like-a-tiger-was-a-serious-business-back-in-the-day-42031256.html Playing cards for a turkey that was “so big and ferocious it had to be caught in a net like a tiger” was serious business at the time