Tag Archives: Athlone

Debits & Credits

The cost of relocating to London has caused me manys a sleepless night. Before I even set foot in the office of my new employer, I owe a couple of grand. This unnerves me. To ease the pain of cash flow issues, I decided to apply for a loan from Ulster Bank whom I’ve banked with – but never bank on – for the last six years. I made an early appointment in the Athlone branch one Monday morning.

Helen, the lovely customer advisor, and I sat in her cubby-hole office, equipped with printer and photocopier. I clutched a large coffee and marvelled at the blandness of her small space. Numerous sheets of paper churned through the spool of the printer. Helen highlighted and narrated the legal jargon on each form. I confirmed my personal details and she responded, clicking and tapping on her keyboard, throwing a cursory glance my way.

She paused. “Hmmm, that’s strange,” she said.

I sat up in my chair. “What is?” I asked. Paranoia was evident.

“The system has instantly declined your application”. Line by line, she scrutinised the information on screen. She clicked again. And again. “Have you any financial issues you’d like to tell me?”

Blood rushed up my neck. My cheeks glowed. “I may have missed the odd credit card payment here and there.”

Helen thought for a moment. “That’s not serious. It shouldn’t prompt an instant decline. There must be something wrong with the system.” She shrugged it off. She pulled a glossy blue and white application form from her drawer and reached for a biro. She completed the form on my behalf. “Have you any shares? Have you a car? Do you own any property?”

I answered each question negatively.

Completed form in hand, Helen turned to her computer. “Ah,” she said. “It is as I guessed. The reason you are getting an instant decline is because the system doesn’t like you.”

“What do you mean?”

“It doesn’t like your details. In the interest of being open and upfront, I will talk you through it. Stephen, you are twenty eight years old. You earn quite a good salary. You’ve exceeded your overdraft limit twice in the last six months. You have no savings! Where is your preparation for the long-term? Have you no interest in owning a property?”

I sighed. “Sorry if this offends you, but you now sound like my mother.”

“I often hear this. Your mother is right. What do you have to show for all this expenditure?”

“Helen, I live quite a good life.”

“I bet you do, Stephen.” She laughed. “It’s reflected in your bank balance. You could turn your position around in three months. Set some money aside each month and start saving!”

I endured the remainder of Helen’s lecture before leaving her cubby-hole disheartened. I have never been good with money. I have an amazing ability to rid myself of debt, but like the typical Irish person of the Good Times of Old, I fail to appreciate a bank account with a credit balance; why debit when you can credit? I need to redress my views on finances. Helen’s words echoed through my mind for days. It was, while sorting through clothes for the move, did I come face to face with my problem. Hanging in my wardrobe were jackets and coats, ranging in price from half to a full month’s rent. I felt anger.

Screw you coats and jackets. It’s your fault! Helen is right! I have nothing to show for all that money I spent. I have nothing, but a wardrobe of coats. Exactly how many coats do I need? Who am I, Johnny Fucking Forty Coats?

I left my bedroom sickened by the sight of those tributes to thoughtless frivolity. I visited the kitchen for a glass of water to quench the hot, fiery anger in my belly. Within seconds, I was back in my bedroom.

Sorry, coats and jackets. I caressed their sleeves fondly. I really didn’t mean it. Helen is wrong. She is very wrong. No matter what happens we will always have one another.


Blinded by Bresy

One evening at a party, I got a call from Sarah, asking if I’d come to Oxegen the next day. “I have an extra press pass,” she screamed. “You have to come!”

I never considered myself a festival goer, often preferring to sit at home in comfort with a glass of wine and CD. In my living room there is no moshing or boisterous behaviour. Sarah advised I wouldn’t have to rough it; the press pass guaranteed access to a clean bathroom and luxurious bar. After initial hesitance, I agreed to go. My imagination, and verbal accounts from friends, created an Oxegen full of hundreds of people sloshing about in mud. I remembered the location of my Wellington boots.

On arrival the thud of heavy tempo, somewhere in the distance, registered in my ears. Surprisingly, the day was dry, even sunny at times. My pale skin took a scorching. Unexpectedly, there was no muck; dry, bark chippings littered the ground. My heart raced as we passed the burly security men at the Press Entrance with eight cans of Budweiser in tow.

Sarah instantly recognised people in the Press Area. She schmoozed while her boyfriend Ross and I made chat.

A random girl, packing away a microphone, piped up. “Who are you excited about?” she asked me from behind a large, untrendy pair of glasses.

I was caught off guard. “Eh, Kate Nash. I like Kate Nash.” I hoped this would satisfy her.

“MGMT are on in ten minutes. We are going there now. Do you want to come?”

“Who are MGMT?” I asked.

“Eh, only one of the hottest groups playing today”.  She turned and was gone.

Sarah continued chatting as the numbers in the Press Area, affected by the allure of MGMT, dwindled. Sarah’s boyfriend Ross nudged me now and again to point out an occasional celebrity here and there. I recognised few. I really was a fish out of water.

Moments later, Sarah announced we were to leave. We left the small enclosure of the Press Area and made our way across a type of allotment towards  more oversized security guards.

“Hang on a moment,” instructed Ross. “There’s Bresy!”

I turned to Sarah. “Who is Bresy?” She didn’t hear me.

“Hi Bresy!” called Ross enthusiastically to a tall man about ten or fifteen feet away.

“Hey,” answered Bresy in a friendly tone. Bresy moved towards us.

Sarah and I stood next to Ross. She beamed at Bresy. I assumed he was a friend. I stood there awaiting an introduction. I passed the time by analysing Bresy. He had nice hair, beautiful eyes, good height and a muscular frame. I realised Bresy was in fact very attractive. I drank in the sight of him.

“I heard the new album,” said Ross. “It sounds pretty good. Are you happy with the result?”

“Yeah, we are,” Bresy answered. “It’s about as good as anyone from Mullingar could come up with.”

Why is Ross asking about an album? Who is this guy? I asked myself. I cleared my throat. “I’m from Athlone,” I announced, staring into Bresy’s beautiful eyes.

He looked surprised. “Are you? Oh right.”

Bresy and Ross chatted for a few more minutes. Bresy said goodbye and strolled in the direction of a heavily attended Performer’s Area.

“Who was that?” I asked, a little peeved I received no introduction.

“That’s Niall Breslin,” answered Ross, as we shuffled towards the main concert area.

“Who is he?”

“He’s the lead singer of the Blizzards.”

“The Blizzards? Oh I know them. Oh right. So I randomly informed the lead singer of the Blizzards I am from Athlone?”

“Yep, you did.”

“Fuck, he’s hot though, isn’t he?”

Ross said nothing. Sarah laughed and put her arm around my waist.


Niall "Bresy" Breslin

IT Savvy Mum

I told Emer this story last night at Pinxto, Temple Bar; my new favourite place for snacks. She said I had to blog it.

I bought Mum a laptop for her sixtieth last year. I was concerned whether she would use it much; she is not the most technology savvy. Initially, she spent a lot of time admiring it from a safe distance across the room. One year later, she has surprised us all; she surfs on a daily basis, paying bills, researching holiday destinations and clothes for “middle aged women”.

One weekend, not all too long ago, I returned to the homestead in Athlone. It was around 10.00 on a Saturday morning. I entered the kitchen. I stretched elaborately, feeling refreshed from my shower. Mum busied herself with the blue J-cloth that is permanently in her hand.

I walked towards kettle. I switched it on. “Tea, Mum?”

“No, Stephen,” she replied firmly. “I will have coffee. I allow myself two coffees on a Saturday morning.”

I stood at the window, awaiting the kettle to boil. I blankly looked out onto the garden. The unkempt grass was in abundance.

“Stephen, I was checking the history of the laptop …” Mum turned from the freshly wiped kitchen counter. The cloth marks left circular, wet trails, indicative of Mum’s elbow grease. She looked me in the eye for a moment and motioned towards the laptop.

“History?!” I choked. Do you mean she actually knows how to check the history on a PC?

“Yes, the history …” she confirmed with a nod. “Someone was looking at porn on the laptop.”

Fuck! I had looked at a site on it the night before. I panicked a little. A red flush rose from my waist upwards. I imagined an awkward conversation to follow.

We both stood in front of the laptop that sat on the kitchen counter. Mum fingered the mouse pad and clicked a few times. A detailed history appeared on the screen. I read the names of the sites. They were straight sites – “Sexy Minx”, “Busty Babes” and the likes. I felt instant relief. My blood pressure and temperature dropped.

“Well those sites are straight sites. It definitely was not me. Maybe they came from pop-ups that you get when you log into certain sites?”

“Pop ups?” Mum asked with a slight laugh. “That’s what your Dad used to say when I checked the history on his PC.”

Baby Sitting

I took a spontaneous trip to Athlone on Friday to visit my brother, his girlfriend Melissa and Baby Jack.

Jack is growing so quickly. He has a random assortment of words. His repertoire includes:

  • Who that?
  • Baba
  • Dada
  • Hey ya

On Saturday, I held Jack while his parents cleaned the kitchen. I showed Jack the window, which he apparently loves. We danced around the kitchen with him on my shoulders. I thought I could round off the Nephew-Uncle Bonding session by showing him my juggling skills. I substituted juggling balls with over ripe apples.

Bro. also took two apples from the bowl and attempted a juggle. I informed him he wasn’t juggling properly, “merely passing the apple from one hand to the other”. I took two apples and readied myself for a performance to be rivalled by  Duffy’s circus.

I threw one of the apples in the air. It sailed for a second or so and then came down. I failed to catch it. It bounced off Jack’s head and hurtled to the floor.

“Fuck!” I roared loudly.

Jack did not stir. He felt nothing. I looked up and noticed I was in Melissa’s gaze. Melissa had seen everything.

“I bet you’re reconsidering my offer of babysitting services,” I said.

She laughed.

Fiesta Fiasco

I was home in Athlone last weekend. On Saturday morning, my brother, new born Jack and Jack’s Mum called out to the house. We sat around the kitchen, chatting over tea and biscuits. The conversation was plentiful. The atmosphere was relaxed.

“You’ll never guess what happened to me yesterday after work!” said Mum, holding back a laugh.

“What happened?” asked Bro, smiling.

“Last night, I left work around six o’clock. I left the building and walked towards my car. I stared at the back of the car; something was wrong. The registration plate was damaged. I got down behind the car and examined the number plate.”

“What happened to it?” I asked, naively thinking someone attempted stealing Mum’s registration plate.

“It had been pulled away from the car with force,” explained Mum. “I examined it closely and suddenly it dawned on me that this car registration was not mine. This car was three years older than mine. It wasn’t my car. I stood up and then noticed a woman sitting at the wheel of the car.”

We all laughed.

“I wonder what she thought you were doing inspecting her licence plate,” I said, giggling.

Laughter echoed throughout the kitchen. Mum was visibly embarrassed while recounting the tale.

“What did you do?” enquired Bro.

“Well, I went over to the driver’s side of the car. I tapped on the window. The woman lowered the window. I was very embarrassed. ‘Sorry,’ I said to the woman. ‘I have the exact same car in the same colour. I could have sworn this was my car’.”

The mental image of this scene was hilarious.

“What did the woman in the car say to you?”  I said, choking back laughter.

“She was understanding,” recalled Mum. “She said, ‘oh don’t worry about it. I spent almost ten minutes trying to get into your car.”

This sent us over the edge.

God bless my mother.