No Dogs. No Irish.

Garry had been looking for his dad amongst the street drinkers of London for two and a half years now; and he felt he was no closer to finding him than when he first started.
London was to him, a big city full of parks, which in turn were full of drunks.

He had been brought up in a nice comfortable house, in a nice suburb of Newcastle. His mum having remarried a few years after his dad’s disappearance.

His dad lost his job when Swan Hunter’s closed, and couldn’t find any work in the North East. So like generations of Irish immigrants before him he headed towards the capital looking for work.

For a while he sent money back to support Garry and his mother, but the money dried up, and so did the love his mother felt for his father. Distance did not make the heart grow fonder.
Garry couldn’t be sure if that was what had started his father drinking, or his fathers drinking was the cause of it.

Anyhow today was another day, and perhaps this time he’d be lucky.

He saw a group hanging round by the benches; even before he heard their accents, their clothing gave them away as members of the great Gaelic Diaspora; navvies, road menders and building site labourers.
They gravitated to these type of jobs, because that was the only work that a Paddy could get.
His dad had been a time served boiler maker, but what use was that when they took one look at your name, and before you even opened your mouth they said “No work today”; and the next man in the line with the nice English name moved in and got your place.
If you could find lodgings that would take you, most of the time they didn’t let you eat or cook there; or do much else other than sleep.
The pubs had signs outside which said “No dogs. No Irish”, so there was no where to go, and nothing do, other than drink in the parks, and drink on the street. They’d drink to kill time, drink to forget, and drink for the craic.

Garry had heard a lot of life stories in the time he’d been searching for his dad, so he knew that an Irishman in London in the 70’s was as welcome as fresh steaming turd in the middle of your living room carpet.
These men had come searching not for riches, but just a life, or a means to support their families. They had been marginalised by society; pushed into the jobs which no one wanted; kept moving along by the police, cut throat landlords and greedy bosses.

“Come here son, come here. Look I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to show you something.”

Garry put aside his fear and stepped closer to the tall man with the unkempt hair and long heavy winter overcoat.

“Put your hand in my pocket. Go on son it wont bite you”.

He put his hand inside the man’s pocket, and could feel something warm and hairy, and it was moving.
All of a sudden a little head appeared out of the man’s coat pocket.
Garry could not believe his eyes.
Inside the coat pocket was a man who was no more than six inches tall.

The man spoke with a strong County Clare drawl, just like his dad.
“The big fella here tells me you’re looking for your daddy”.

Garry had one of those awful “Does he take sugar” moments, before addressing his response back to the little fella.
“Yes, do you know anything that could help me find him”.

“Son, I know lots of things.
I know truths that other people cannot face, that other people cannot even bare to look at.
I know truths that will turn grown men into blubbering babies, and strong mothers into tear soaked wretches.

Take the big fella here.
When he was about your age he came to London with a brand new first class honours degree, and a passion to show the English that Irish could still write. Trouble was, that he was such a nice boy, from a nice ascendancy class family, that he didn’t have any tales to tell.
He needed some source material, so he decided to spend a year or so getting some callouses on his hands working on the roads, and hanging out in the park with rest with the rest of the people that London didn’t want.
The big fella here got so wrapped up in the lifestyle that he forgot why he was here. That he could walk away from this at any time he wanted, unlike these other poor fuckers.
I met up with him a few years ago, and we have been travelling round together ever since.

I don’t think he’s entirely happy about it, but he hasn’t got much choice.

You see I’ve travelled the world with the Irish, gone to every foreign shore, looked deep into the soul of mankind, and found mankind to be far from kind.

The English might well have ruled the world, but it was the Irish who laid their sewers, dug their roads, and built their ships. We fought in their wars, and died in droves, yet still they look at us like something on the bottom of their shoe.
What chance did your boilermaker daddy have coming here, to a place where they don’t even make boilers. To a place where even if they did, they’d rather take on someone who didn’t know one end a hammer from another, than give a job to a Fuckin’ Paddy.”

“So you do know my dad, otherwise how’d you know he was a boiler maker?”

“Now you see son, this here is a small world. We don’t all know each other, but word gets around.
You’ve’ been looking for your daddy now for two and a half years, and there’s not that many daft wee Geordie laddies who’d do that.
No son, I don’t know your daddy, but if I did happen to see him, is there a message that you’d like me to give him?”

“Just to tell him that I want to see him.”

“And what if he doesn’t want to see you?”

“Well… just tell him that I’d like to meet him.”

“You know son, if your daddy had wanted you to find him, he would have let himself be found by now.
When your mammy shacked up with that English fella, the moment the money started drying up; it damn near broke your daddy’s heart in two.
Your daddy was in a sorry state, heart broken, stopped from seeing his only boy; unemployed, homeless, little wonder he drank; he’d had enough pain in his life.
Your daddy wants to spare you both the pain of seeing him the way he is now. Y’know drink and hard work take their toll on a man even a big strong bull of a fella like your daddy”.

“Okay I understand… I’m not happy with what your telling me… but I think understand. If you see my dad, just tell him I love him, and give him this envelope with some money in it, and my phone number, if he wants to get in touch…”

The little man took the envelope and disappeared back into the big fella’s pocket without a word.

The big fella came back to life as soon as the little fella disappeared back into his coat pocket. It was as if they couldn’t exist within the same time and space.

The big fella turned to Garry and with a gesture more like a shoo than a wave said: “Take care of yourself now lad, and don’t let us become strangers again”

As Garry walked off the big fella repeated his farewell until long after he was out of earshot.

When Garry was finally gone, the big fella put his hand in his pocket and felt the plump envelope. He turned slowly and deliberately to the slightly smaller man with the bog trotter’s haircut, who had been standing behind him all the time. “Paddy; me an’ the little fella think you’re a fuckin’ eedjit; that’s a lovely lad you’ve got there, and you’ve just let him walk away. Still there’s enough in here for a few drinks for the three of us”.

No Dogs. No Irish.

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Artist's Description

My entry for Hail, Fellow
Spherical Scriptings short story competiton based on the the photo by David Malcolmson.

Chapter 2
Chapter 3

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