‘On you go now! Run, son, like the devil
And tell your mother to try
To find me a bubble for the spirit level
And a new knot for this tie.’
Harry Johnson, Councillor Charlie Casey and A N Other
But still he was glad, I know
When I stood my ground
Putting it on him
With a smile that trumped his smile, and his fool’s errand
Waiting for the next move in the game.
Seamus Heaney … from The Spirit Level (1996)
Famous Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature the previous year. Most of his best poetry, I believe, reflects on his early life and on his relationship with his father.
We have all fallen foul of practical tricksters at one time or another.
I remember my first job – general helper in Henry Thompson’s spirit store in Hill Street – and being sent to Mr Kirk (the manager) or Jimmy or Hughie McInerney (department heads) on such foolish errands.
The first time I was caught.
All the other times I played along, quickly learning how to ingratiate myself with these people. They liked the variety I introduced … A long stand, an extended weight etc. Thus I learned how to reciprocate without causing offence to my superiors.
First lesson of work: never, ever appear smarter than your bosses!