They sauntered into the city-centre café, a couple in their sixties, husband and wife. To an onlooker, they were another typical pair of Dublin shoppers; multiple bulging grocery bags in each of their hands. They had that wilted appearance that one has after a few tiring hours of shopping and is in need of a seat and a cup of tea or coffee. The plastic bags rustled in relief as they were placed on the floor, and the rustic wooden chairs creaked as the couple rested from an afternoon spent walking around the city.
Those light Bewleys’-style chairs, on which the couple sat, put up with so much punishment, day after day, customer after customer, one wonders how they manage to endure?; somehow they seem to survive the constant pressure. Although the chairs may strain, they silently carry out their tedious task until they are replaced. Some do snap – yielding to inevitability – and are quickly removed from the sight of clientele, and identical new ones are brought in to replace them, to be abused in their turn. Anyway, they’re cheap and cheerful, and on the whole, they serve the purpose.
He was a working-class man, a die-hard Dub. He was known for his giant beard, his lump-hammer fists, and his gentleness. He was quietly philosophical, kind, and strong. He was a fan of Ronnie Drew and looked like him too, except he seemed taller and slimmer; his slimness accentuated his height. As a Dubliner, he represented quintessential Dublin, and Dublin represented what he, and the working class generation of which he was a part, had built. It was formed and shaped by people like he and his wife. In their case, it was shaped literally by them. He was a builder by trade, and sometimes, when he was with his grandchildren, he would point out the tall landmarks that he had a hand in constructing to impress them. “I built that” he would say with pride, and the children would be delighted and awestruck, even if they didn’t know exactly what “that” is, and they would tell their friends that their grandad built that “tall thing” every time they passed it for years to come. That part of Dublin was their grandad’s.
What a thing to be able to say, “there is my contribution, that’s the part I’ve played”. Though of course, the construction company bosses or the government ministers of the time will get the credit.
And so, tea, coffee and scones were served as the couple were sitting beside the large upstairs window at the front of the café. The sunlit city street outside projected its happenings through the café’s giant window, like a cinema screen, which influenced pensiveness on those who were distracted by its view.
Almost as a sigh, he remarked, ‘it’s amazing Bette, isn’t it?’.
‘What’s that, Paddy?’, she inquired.
‘Women’s breasts come in so many shapes and sizes…’